Wednesday, 18 February 2015

How the Campbell Letter changed between signing and publication

Key;
  • RED is for parts that have been taken out of the original
  • PURPLE is for parts of the published edition that are different from the original
  • Courier is the original letter
  • Arial is the published letter




"Goldsmith's College in London last month cancelled a performance by the comedian Kate Smurthwaite because of concerns about students' safety. Ms Smurthwaite had previously expressed support for a Scandinavian-style law which would make it illegal to purchase sexual services-a measure which Goldsmith's Feminist Society opposes. Her show's theme, ironically, was freedom of speech (no reference to prostitution), and a majority of FemSoc members voted in favour of allowing it to go ahead. However, the minority who dissented decided to picket the event, and faced with threatened disruption the organizers decided to cancel.

The fate of Kate Smurthwaite’s comedy show, cancelled by Goldsmith’s College in London last month (“What could be more absurd than censorship on campus”, Nick Cohen, Comment)  is part of a worrying pattern of intimidation and silencing of individuals whose views are deemed “transphobic” or “whorephobic”. Most of the people so labelled are feminists or pro-feminist men, some have experience in the sex industry, some are transgender.

This is not an isolated incident. It is part of a worrying pattern of intimidation and silencing of individuals whose views are deemed 'transphobic' or 'whorephobic'. Most of the people so labelled are feminists or pro-feminist men; some of them are themselves transgender people or people with direct experience of working in the sex industry.

Last month, there were calls for the Cambridge Union to withdraw a speaking invitation to Germaine Greer; then the Green party came under pressure to repudiate the philosophy lecturer Rupert Read after he questioned the arguments put forward by some trans-activists. The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been “no-platformed” by the National Union of Students for several years.

Kate Smurthwaite's is the third high-profile case in the last few weeks. Last month, there were calls for the Cambridge Union to withdraw a speaking invitation to Germaine Greer (the Union declined to do so);then the Green Party came under pressure to repudiate the philosophy lecturer Rupert Read after he questioned the arguments put forward by some trans-activists (he was forced to issue an apology.

The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been 'no-platformed' by the National Union of Students for several years, and is now effectively barred from speaking to student audiences on any subject.

'No platforming' used to be a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists and Holocaust deniers, but today it is being used more and more often to prevent the expression of feminist views.

“No platforming” used to be a tactic used against self-proclaimed fascists and Holocaust-deniers. But today it is being used to prevent the expression of feminist arguments critical of the sex industry and of some demands made by trans activists. The feminists who hold these views have never advocated or engaged in violence against any group of people. Yet it is argued that the mere presence of anyone said to hold those views is a threat to a protected minority group’s safety.

The views being targeted are critical of the sex industry, and of some demands made by trans activists, but-unlike the argument that the Holocaust never happened-they fall within the scope of legitimate political debate.The feminists who hold these views have never advocated or engaged in violence against any group of people.

Yet it is argued that their views are 'hate speech', and that the mere presence of anyone who is said to hold those views (even if, like Kate Smurthwaite, they are not actually planning to express them) is a threat to the safety of a protected minority group.  You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics illiberal and undemocratic. What has happened to Julie Bindel, Rupert Read and now Kate Smurthwaite is a warning to anyone who shares their views, or who hasn't made up their mind and wants to explore the arguments further.

It says: 'you are not even allowed to hear the arguments. Either agree with us or keep quiet, because if you don't, you'll pay the price’.

Universities have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of bullying. Freedom of thought and inquiry are central to the mission of a university: allowing a vocal minority to decide in advance which thoughts or arguments should get a hearing is a betrayal of the values academic communities are supposed to uphold.

We call on universities and on other organizations which may be subject to the same pressure, to stand up to attempts at intimidation and affirm their support for the basic principles of democratic political exchange.

You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics illiberal and undemocratic. Universities have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of bullying. We call on universities and other organisations to stand up to attempts at intimidation and affirm their support for the basic principles of democratic political exchange.

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