The free speech debate: social tyranny in action.
Many things have been said about us this week, but we found the outcries boiling down to one thing: “They’ve taken free speech too far”. Aside from the question of whether free speech can ever be taken ‘too far’, we take this as a compliment. A vocal minority in Oxford seems to have forgotten, recently, what the value of free speech is.
A sneering Cherwell editor dismissed free-speech arguments as “those of first-year PPEists”. We would gently remind her that as first-year PPEists we read John Stuart Mill, the man credited with many of the ideas on which the freedom and fairness we enjoy in modern Britain are built. If they’re using his arguments, frankly, we don’t think that’s too bad.
“No-platform” creates a culture that makes people afraid to disagree with certain opinions for fear of the vitriol that may be directed at them. This is especially true in an environment like Oxford, when all too often students make personal attacks on students they disagree with in the way that they would do to public figures. It is all very well to scream loathing and hatred at Brendan O’Neill – we doubt you will ever have to sit in a tutorial with him. But in Oxford you just might. So stop trying to personally destroy and silence those you don’t agree with: argue with them instead.
Regulating who may speak and who may not is not freedom. The legal right to free speech means nothing without a social acceptance of free debate, because social censure can be just as strong – if not stronger – than its legal equivalent.
xoxo Two Girls and a Gay
There was also much talk last week about how our good selves, the founders of Versa, apparently published “misogyny”, “homophobia” and perpetuated the “heterosexual Oxbridge elite”. Or something like that.
The wonderful thing about Versa, though, is that it is full of diversity. We’re almost unique on the Oxford hack scene in that we were both founded by, and currently led by, a team composed of exactly zero straight men. We’ll buy a drink for anyone who can point to an Oxford institution with the same level of clout as Versa which doesn’t and has never counted a straight man among its top 3 or 4 leaders…
It was therefore hilarious for us to observe the social media contributions of various activists, who were in effect telling two women and one gay man that by endorsing the publication of the gentle satire that is AshQ (written, incidentally, by a woman – and not one of the founders) we were offending and mocking ourselves.
Yeah, that’s right: we are mocking ourselves because we don’t take our egos too seriously. We are mocking ourselves because we go to Oxford University, where we are among the most privileged people in the Western world.
Mocking those who preach their opinions is important, whatever your political stripes. It helps us to have a healthy scepticism of those who try to exert influence over our hearts and minds.
We are trying to make Oxford into a place where such characteristics like sexuality and gender don’t matter (except to the people you sleep with) and where having fun and being successful are way more important. It’s not exactly radical politics, but it’s desperately needed. And as #xoxoTwoGirlsAndAGay, we have every right to call for it.
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