I love political opponents. Being able to argue with people on the other side of the political spectrum is much more fun than just surrounding yourself with people who always agree with you. While we virtually never agree on anything, I respect people on the Left when they are open to rational discussion and free exchange of views. What I can’t stand, however, are the hypocrisy and the double standards of many Oxford left-wingers.
The government’s recent plan to introduce a new counter-terrorism bill has been subject to a lot of criticism from the radical Left in Oxford. It enables the government to shut down debates and mandates universities not to draw students to extremism. Practically speaking this means that they must avoid inviting radical speakers. Our university is based on free exchange of views and opinions and those nasty Tories, in particular their draconic Home Secretary Theresa May, want to shut down free debate.
And it seems that this is one of the rare occasions when I find myself in agreement with the student Left. The State should not tell us what views we are allowed to listen to. When a group of people tries to shield you from unsavoury views because they want to ‘keep you safe’, it stinks of paternalism and eventually of outright authoritarian rule. Though I understand why she did it – to appeal to the old fashioned right-wingers in the party – I think Theresa May got this one wrong.
It’s called double standards, and I suspect the reader already knows where I’m going with this.
This bill was drafted to fight the threat of militant Islamists coming from the Islamic State into the UK. For this reason, the whole debate has been centred around militant Islamists addressing students. While the Oxford Left believes that it is absolutely outrageous that the government prohibits radical Islamic speakers from campuses, it is absolutely fine to shut down a debate on abortion because it makes people feel unsafe. It is totally justified to try to stop Marine Le Pen from speaking to us, in the process putting us in physical danger. I’m not very keen on the particulars of this bill, but if you believe in ‘no platforming’, you should have a poster of Theresa May in your room.
Isn’t it just marvelous? The student Left mocks free speech by likening it to frozen fruit, by saying it’s not important to our society and that other considerations – like offence or emotional comfort – are more important. Yet when the government tries to stop militant Islamists from spreading their poison in the UK, they all of the sudden become staunch defenders of freedom of expression.
George Orwell nailed it when he realized the power of “holding two contradictory beliefs in one’s mind simultaneously, and accepting both of them”. Some Oxford students, it would seem, have mastered the art of ‘doublethink’.