More than words: The identarian left and the manipulation of language.

If you’ve ever read 1984 you will have encountered many slogans used in the book such as; ignorance is strength” or “freedom is slavery”To people observing from the outside these phrases appear simply as contradictory. However, anyone having the misfortune of living with this type of indoctrination day in day out may view them as reminders or part of a spell designed to seep into your sub-conscious, guiding your actions. Social Justice Warriors use words in a similar way primarily to manipulate or create a powerful narrative, here’s a selection you my have heard; “words are violence”, “safe space”, “hate speech”, “invalidating my existence”, “woke”, “problematic”, “my truth”, “creepy”, “microagression”, “toxic masculinity” and “white privilege”.  

Both sides of the political fence routinely use these methods, but for the identarian left it is essential and a major tool of control. This political faction doesn’t revel in the luxury of money and the option of lobbying like the oligarchs of the right or the corporate left. Therefore, social control is imperative in order to implement their ideology. If a group can control the boundaries of acceptable language, this will in turn guide which thoughts are considered acceptable and which are not. In summary the identarian left is very much adept at mind control. More importantly this group ascribe themselves as the morality police, pushing an intolerant and puritanical worldview, based on total subjectivity.

This movement is a belief system that has a religious feel to it. Their churches are college ‘grievance studies’ departments. What is created is a sacred area holding ultimate power over the moral direction of both the academic institution and students alike. Social Justice preachers stand in the pulpit of the church of intersectionality, while delivering their sermons from the gospel of Jean Francois Lyotard or even Michel Foucault. In truth, what we witness are poorly educated Professors, who are graduates of these departments, rising through the ‘ranks of the woke’ while regurgitating a particular set of beliefs.

These gatekeepers of ‘special knowledge’ are held in high regard by often impressionable, young women, who are drawn to this area of study. This can be viewed as a process of confirmation for these disciples, who have convinced themselves that they are victims of a harsh and cruel world, one which should revolve around their every whim. In this sense college operates as no more than a very expensive echo chamber. A place to peddle subjectivity, unfounded beliefs, and an anti-scientific doctrine with no space for critical thinking. Questionable ideas such as Derrida’s deconstructionism, Foucault’s musings on power and Lyotard’s criticism of empirical evidence, have chipped away at any notion of truth, thus the age of ‘lived experience’ is upon us as the gold standard of all knowledge.

Like all powerful groups, what is required to recruit believers and to dupe outsiders is a believable story. As with all good yarns, it has to evoke emotion, reality is not necessary but it is essential to resonate with its target audience. Language embedded within this narrative sets the tone regarding what is considered civilised and indeed allowed within society. What is also crucial is an amplifier, in order to reach as many people as possible with their message. For this they have a willing ally in the form of mainstream media and their billionaire owners, who are keen to use this as distraction to divert attention from the real issues notably neoliberalism. So what is the story that has captivated, mainstream media, government departments, grievance studies students and even Hollywood?

75th Annual Golden Globe Awards - Show

Like many tales it’s simple, or more accurately life has been simplified for the simple minded. Our multi-faceted, complex, highly evolved distinctive features that make us unique, have been whittled down to things we can do nothing about. Our special blend of good, bad and indifferent, abilities and traits formed from a combination of nature and nurture are suddenly reduced to melanin levels and genital configuration. Individual assets, experiences or your contributions to the world in this subjective supposed utopia account for nothing, nada, zip.

If you are a white, heterosexual and male (like me), you are a sinner and there is nothing you can do to secure forgiveness. No amount of saving lives as a healthcare professional or educating our kids or even pulling people from a burning building, as a firefighter can shed the mantle of privilege placed upon your shoulders. You are riddled with “toxic masculinity” and considered a piece of shit by the high moral priestesses of grievance academia and you better just live with it.

To keep the moral sinner on their toes, identarians like many tribes have created their own language, designed to detect, socially isolate and destroy non-believers, often annihilating their careers. These words are also used to excuse identarians from any undesirable actions they may perform, while creating mechanisms to silence dissent. One such mode is the excuse method, principally centred around victimhood, a strategy used extensively by intersectionalists. This generally manifests in a “two wrongs make a right” rule. By announcing certain groups as oppressed based on skin colour or genitalia, regardless of whether they have actually experienced oppression, allows them to decide who is good and who is bad. Ironically identarians use all the tools of stigmatisation to achieve this; othering, labelling and stereotyping. But all in a good cause right?

Identarians have created the word “woke” suggesting that they are somehow the enlightened ones. This of course is not supported by any evidence, but rather we are told it is “their truth”, thus immune to any form of critique. Furthermore, by occupying the role of victim it is considered that vitriol and hatred can be administered outwardly without complaint. In a recent article, academic James Lindsay offered that “identarians repeatedly claim the final word, as people who have lived oppression (real or imagined) cannot be questioned or overruled, and their proclaimed truths are, therefore, considered final”. This logic (or lack of), produces another linguistic web, rendering any disagreement impossible. However, if dissention does occur, this subsequently provides further proof for identarians regarding the potency of privilege and oppression.

The Social Justice establishment has created and implemented widely accepted word play, to guard them against criticism and to admonish them from any irrational, violent and frankly thuggish behaviour. One of these linguistic Orwellian snares is the use of the term “microaggressions“. Being called out, verbally flogged, doxed, no-platformed and socially ex-communicated for an overt disagreement with the identarian rhetoric is clearly not enough . Society in their opinion, should now be persecuted for unintentional transgressions against the church of Social Justice. This poses two severe problems; one is the complete reliance on subjectivity, thereby the same alleged microaggression may illicit a very different response dependent on the recipient. Secondly like most of postmodernism, microaggressions completely disregard the issue of intent, while focusing on emotions and feelings of the individual involved.

Identarians see oppression everywhere, an example of a microaggression could be questions such as, “where are you from”? Apparently this line of ‘interrogation’ insinuates that the person being asked is not from around here. Clearly in the world of SJW’s, this question has less to do with natural human inquisitiveness and more about perceived malicious undertones. This form of control extends beyond what the general public are permitted to say, focusing on the implications of what might be said. In effect this is an attack on a individual’s thoughts not on the words uttered per se. Taking this a step further, behaviour such as this clearly opens the door for an Orwellian style thought police. Even more disturbing than monitoring conscious thought, identarians are attempting to adopt the role of judge, jury and executioner of unconscious thought.

To protect this bizarre idea, SJW’s employ yet another ‘booby trap’, thus curtailing any disagreement regarding alleged microaggressions. This is achieved by accusing the micro-aggressor of ‘victim blaming’. And so the game of oppression roulette continues. The intended outcome is to silence all open, inquiring dialogue, making society subservient to the wishes of the Social Justice thought constabulary. This link contains an example of suggested microaggressions and the alleged message it sends. It was published by the UCLA ‘grievance studies’ faculty. It’s fair to say that documents like this highlight how untethered from reality these people really are.

In Social Justice land any hostile language, conflicting words or aforementioned microaggressions are not just considered insulting, but are viewed as violent, contributing to trauma. The phrase “words are violence” is worryingly being accepted in society as a universal truth. This is yet another Social Justice mechanism of coercion, that has gained traction, allowing the church of Social Justice to “strike great vengeance and furious anger” on unsuspecting sinners. This reasoning proposed by psychologist and emotional researcher Lisa Feldman Barrett goes something like this; chronic stress can cause physical damage, no argument there. However, she continues proclaiming, “if words can cause stress and prolonged stress can cause physical harm, words can cause physical harm”. This logic suggest A causes B, B causes C, therefore A causes C. With this in mind her conclusion should be, words cause physical harm, not violence.

This “words are violence” strategy achieves a couple of things; firstly by ‘believing’ this allows identarians to lay claim to reprisals on the basis of self defence. Which is exactly what has occurred in numerous US colleges, a direct physical response to a verbal disagreement. Examples of this were played out at Evergreen State College, Middlebury College and UCLA Berkley. Secondly, the use of a disproportionate and aggressive response to a contrary opinion will likely convince many people to keep their views to themselves in public, effectively closing down free speech.

berkley riots

This silencing of free speech is a classic identarian tactic. Professor of English at New York University Ulrich Baer defended identarians, proclaiming in an article written in the New York Times, “when those views invalidate the humanity of some people, they restrict speech as a public good”. In this piece Baer is proclaiming that speech can invalidate the humanity of entire groups of people, when all the listener has to do is reject the idea and humanity remains whole once again. If somebody punched me in the face, I would undoubtedly label this as an act of violence. In contrast, as uncomfortable as being lambasted may be, they are and always will be words for which do no direct physical harm. The recipient may feel, upset, hurt and some words may have a lasting psychological effect, but it is still does not equate to violence. My suspicion is this conflation is intentional, allowing in the mind of an identarian an opportunity to respond in an heavy handed manner.

The ultimate game-plan for the identarian left is to prevent anyone opposing their puritanical version of morality. The jewel in the crown for identarians is the development of the concept “hate speech” and furthermore declaring themselves as moral arbiters. This restriction of free speech may have, at one time been used to curtail bigotry and bullying, now it is primarily used to stifle any hint of dissention. Identarians invariably weaponize these regulations to shut down disagreeable speakers, destroy careers and at times justify violence. Even the laws around hate crime in places such as the UK are so vague and malleable that it effectively allows anything to be viewed as such. The Crime Prosecution Service in the UK defines a hate crime as;

“any offense that is perceived by the victim, or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice based on a person of disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; or someone who is transgender or is perceived to be transgender”.

What ideas of hate crime and indeed hate speech suffer from is “concept creep“. It is argued that notions such as; bullying, trauma, mental disorders, addiction and prejudice, now encompasses a much wider range of phenomena. In effect what is observed is an expansion of meaning, reflecting an ever increasing sensitivity to harm. Nick Haslam Professor of Psychology at Melbourne University proposes that the broadening of terms used to explain events is known as horizontal creep. Whereby, the behaviour qualifying an incident as abuse has become over time less extreme, this is referred to as vertical creep. In no way is this to condone any form of abuse, but to acknowledge that the boundaries have become elastic, vague and potentially unhelpful.

As an example we’ll use bullying, the meaning has expanded into; online behaviour, workplace conduct and forms of social exclusion that doesn’t actually target the victim with hurtful actions. Being excluded from a group of friends in this sense can now be described as bullying. Behaviour that was considered less extreme than once typical acts of bullying, now lie within these new boundaries. Haslam calls this vertical creep,  stating that this behaviour does not need to be intentional or repeated, nor is it required to occur in the context of a power imbalance.

Descriptions of trauma are also detaching themselves from any form of objectivity, as the recipient is now sole determiner of the meaning, thus providing further evidence of moral relativism. Trauma now encompasses a multitude of events from distress following wartime experiences, through to childbirth, sexual harassment and even a relationship breakup. Here’s a definition from the US Government’s Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration;

“Individual trauma results from an event, series of events, or set of circumstances that is experienced by an individual as physically or emotionally harmful or threatening and that has lasting adverse effects on the individual’s functioning and physical, social, emotional, or spiritual well-being”.

My issue is certainly not to contest that these events can be difficult and contribute to mental health distress, but rather there is a distinct lack of spectrum or a rational to refer to. Here postmodernism rears it’s ugly head yet again. All trauma from the most mild all the way to life shattering events are now considered on a equal footing, as severity is now decided upon by the recipient. Through this lens, objectivity is seen as archaic and subjectivity holds sway. With all this in mind; a traumatic event does not need to be a discrete moment, it has no requirement to be a threat to life or limb and does need to manifest to the extent where it would cause marked distress on almost everyone. Neither does this event have to be outside normal experience or cause significant distress within the traumatised person, who merely has to register it as “harmful”. This type of postmodern “word salad” renders any definition of trauma as pointless and begins to strip words of any remaining substance.

Within this piece, I’ve attempted to uncover the linguistic rules and games that most of us are required or forced to play by. They are created to trap, cajole, manipulate, silence, shame and mould society into complying with the moral fundamentalist minority. Here stands a group of people possessing a myopic viewpoint, with limited life experiences and no tolerance for diversity of thought or indeed freedom of speech. To counter this, these puritans only hold power if we indulge them in their stupid, infantile activities and enter into this charade. This is why it is vital to fight for free speech, while resisting any invitation to tread into a murky world, whereby words hold very little meaning, while emotion and subjectivity conquers all.

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In defence of free speech, before it’s too late.

In a world of polarised politics and widely differing moral opinions, free speech is taking a battering and yet it is essential for democracy. On a daily basis you can witness on social media, people shutting down debate with words such as misogynist and racist, as soon as discourse veers from their comfort zone. Both sides left and right claim that their political opposites are constantly abusing free speech. ‘Black Life Matters’ supporters upset the right, but no more than how Milo Yiannopoulos continuously offends the left.

So, where do we start when discussing this thorny subject of free speech and free expression? We could start as far back as Socrates, but I guess the Magna Carta is as good a place as any. This was a ‘charter of liberties’ signed in Runneymede, England in 1215, reluctantly by King John (more accurately he used his royal seal). King John succumbed to this document primarily to stave off a rebellion from the country’s powerful barons, following a spate of unsuccessful foreign policies and heavy tax demands.

The Magna Carta was effectively the first written constitution in European history, but it primarily only benefitted the elites at the time. Two further acts; the ‘Petition of Right‘ (1628) referring to clause 39 of the Magna Carta, which states; “no free man shall be…imprisoned or dispossessed, except by the lawful judgement of his peers” and clause 40, the ‘Habeas Corpus Act‘ (1679), “to no one will we sell, to no one will we deny or delay rights or justice” had huge implications on future legal systems in both UK and the US. As far as other legal documents go the ‘Bill of Rights‘ (UK, 1689), the ‘Declaration of the Rights of Man‘ (France, 1789) and the ‘First Amendment of the US bill of rights‘ (US, 1791), were all influenced by the Magna Carta. These were all attempts to secure freedom of speech and expression under the umbrella of human rights.

In a speech given at the University of Toronto in 2006, Christopher Hitchens debating in favour of freedom of speech, paraphrased three great thinkers to summarise the concept. John Milton, John Stuart Mill and Thomas Paine collectively suggesting that; “it’s not the right of the speaker to be heard, it is the right of everyone in the audience to listen and to hear. And every time you silence somebody, you make yourself a prisoner of your own action, because you deny yourself the right to hear something”. 

Economist, philosopher and socialist revolutionary Rosa Luxemburg surmised that freedom of speech is meaningless unless it means the freedom of a person’s view who thinks differently”. Noam Chomsky, renowned linguistic Professor and distinguished Libertarian Socialist declared; “Goebbels was in favour of free speech he liked. So was Stalin. If you’re in favour of free speech, then you are in favour of free speech precisely for views you despise”.

So why is free speech so precious? Freedom of expression for which free speech is a part of, is a fundamental human right. Our ability to express an opinion and to speak freely is essential for any society to move forward. It is imperative that in a free society we have an open exchange of ideas and that these opinions are tested and challenged. The most effective way to defeat bad ideas is by the promotion of good ones, utilising ethics and reason, rather than bans and censorship. The other important element, is the ability to listen and to hear other people’s perspectives. The only way we can test our assumptions and ideas is through discourse with people offering a differing view. Furthermore, the weight of public opinion should not be used to decide what may or may not be heard.

Many ideas in the past have been ridiculed initially, only to be proved correct; Galileo Galilei championed heliocentrism while Darwin promoted the theory of evolution. John Stuart Mill wrote in ‘On Liberty‘; “If all of mankind minus one, were of one opinion, and only one person were of the contrary opinion, mankind would be no more justified in silencing that one person, than he, if he had the power, would be justified in silencing mankind”. 

The philosopher Karl Popper talked about testing your ideas through “conjecture and refutation“. An individual offers a notion about the nature of reality and this is then tested against reality. This process allows the world to falsify the mistaken ones. The “conjecture” part of this process is the use of free speech. These opinions are offered not knowing if they are correct. It is only by witnessing which ideas withstand being refuted do we attain knowledge.

So given the perceived importance, why is freedom of speech being attacked and eroded? Well contrary to popular belief this isn’t purely a SJW endeavour, the right also use free speech as a political football. Although to be fair to the illiberal left, they do seem to have got the suppression of speech part down to an art form and that’s not a compliment. Free speech on both sides appears to be defined as speech they agree with. Moral psychologist Jonathan Haidt portrayed perceptions of free speech in the graphic seen below.

free hate speech

Recently the left have used an array of puritanical actions such as; disinviting speakers, censoring artwork and disciplining wrongdoers of arbitrarily constructed cultural appropriation rules. This behaviour has been justified by suggesting it’s done to make other speakers feel safe. I would propose that by other they mean speakers they agree with. As mentioned, the right play games too; there was an incident when a student secretly filmed Professor Olga Perez Stable Cox referring to Donald Trump in class as a white supremacist. This video was propelled across the internet where she received death threats.

The group responsible for this, the Orange Coast County Republicans stated that removing commentary like ‘hers’ was necessary to ensure the college’s commitment to “diversity, equity and inclusivity”. If this narrative sounds eerily familiar, it will be because it is the same language often used by the illiberal left. Studies in the US suggest that Republican students are just as likely to agree with the restriction of campus speech that is offensive or upsetting to certain groups, as the Democrats. Which brings us full circle to Haidt’s representation above. As an aside, however, it is twice as likely for Republican’s to support book bans.

Countless speakers who have differing ideas to illiberal left orthodoxy have been regularly disinvited from an array of places in the English speaking world, such as; Ben Shapiro, Germaine Greer, Kate Smurthwaite, Milo Yiannopoulos, Steve Bannon, Christina Hoff Sommers, Dave Rubin and Nigel Farage. Browsing the database for disinvited speakers on FIRE’s website (Foundation of Individual Rights in Education), I thought it would be interesting to work out which side of the political fence censors speakers the most.

I was unsurprised to find that since the beginning of 2017 the left had disapproved of speakers leading to what the UK call no-platforming on 19 occasions, while the right spat their dummy out just 5 times. The main issues for the left were race, gender and sexual orientation. While on the right, it was primarily sexual orientation and Chelsea Manning for criminal misconduct. It would make sense at this point to investigate why this is happening particularly on campus and what are the implications.

It would appear that over the last few years there has been a campaign to sanitise college campuses in an endeavour to make them clean from words, ideas and subjects that may offend or cause discomfort. This has altered the way professors teach, and the content is often shrouded in trigger warnings. Plus any one of us could be easily accused of a microaggression, such as using phrases that appear to be innocuous like, “I believe the most qualified person should get the job”. All this sounds distinctly Orwellian, but Jonathan Haidt a moral psychologist, suggests this is primarily about emotional wellbeing and the protection of students from emotional harm.

It is a move to turn a college campus into a ‘safe space’ and they will punish anyone who stands in their way. The problem, he suggests is, it ill equips students for the real world, which often requires intellectual engagement with people one may well disagree with. It is also thought that this culture of censorship and the punishment of speakers could lead students to thinking patterns that could conceivably be described in cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) terms as pathological. Thinking styles including; black and white thinking, catastrophising, fortune telling, overgeneralising and mental filtering. Haidt claims that all this further contributes to anxiety and depression. So where did these ideas come from, how did this illiberal attitude to free speech evolve and where is it going?

cotton wool kid

Haidt calls this punitive lack of tolerance “vindictive protectiveness”, he states that Baby Boomers and Generation Xers had more of a free range childhood, spending a greater time looking after themselves. This style of parenting became less popular in the 80’s and 90’s, as parents became more fearful. In turn, this gave rise to the ‘helicopter parent‘ or the ‘cotton wool mum’, who started to micromanage their kids during every waking moment. This was despite evidence proving that incidences of abduction, robbery, assault and homicide remained relatively stable throughout the English speaking world.

What has changed over this time is an increase in varying media outlets and the attention that is drawn to such cases. It is thought that this cultivates the feeling that there is more crime than is actually occurring. Contrary to this, unsupervised play which previous generations experienced while growing up declined from the early 90’s. This type of play allowed kids to explore the world, while making their own friends and at times enemies. They learnt how to get in and out of trouble, to test their limits and negotiate with other kids, all without being overlooked by their parents. These valuable times, that most of us just refer to as being a kid, provided a vital training ground for survival in the real world.

A study by University College London found that children who had more unsupervised time were more sociable and more active. It is believed that the decline in unsupervised play has been matched by a decrease in empathy and a rise in narcissism. This is considered hardly surprising in an environment where children have little chance to play socially. It is argued that schools cannot replace this time, as this environment is more authoritarian and non democratic, meaning that it is not conducive to learning skills such as co-operation. On top of this, these kids are also growing up in an age of increased political polarisation.

Think of what happened recently in the US election or Brexit. This isn’t helped by social media, which doesn’t often provide the conduit for robust debate. Interactions on this medium usually consist of allies providing an echo chamber or an enemy to yell at or a dissenter to discredit. Civil discourse on these platforms are a rare thing to behold. With all this in mind it isn’t surprising that when young adults arrive on campus they seem to require more protection, while being hostile to people with ideological and philosophical differences.

Relatively recently phrases such as, “words are violence”, “invalidating my existence” or “my truth” particularly on college campuses have entered our vernacular. These comments are what is collectively called ‘concept creep‘ and are generally used to shut down debate. To expand on this, here are a couple of real examples of concept creep; a mother leaves her son in the car while she pops into a store and is charged with contributing to his delinquency, or a statue of a man in his underpants causes emotional trauma. The question we should be asking is, how the hell did we get here and who is reinforcing these concepts? Professor of psychology Nick Haslam argues that terms like abuse, bullying, trauma, mental disorders and addiction have all expanded their meanings (horizontal creep). Additionally the threshold of behaviour qualifying for one of these terms has been steadily lowered (vertical creep).

It is declared that these changes reflect an increased sensitivity to harm. Lisa Feldman Barrett a psychologist from Northeastern University has endeavoured to defend the words=violence equation. Her hypothesis proposes, if words can cause stress (which they can), and if prolonged stress can cause physical harm (and it can), then it seems that certain types of speech can be a form of violence”. This suggests, ‘A’ causes ‘B’, ‘B’ causes ‘C’, and therefore ‘A’ causes ‘C’. With this in mind, insert the phrase “gossiping about a rival” and try again, yes it can cause stress, but that doesn’t turn it into violence.

George-Orwell-Quotes-3

An English Professor at New York University, Ulrich Baer, justifies shutting down speech of speakers some students might not like, by saying, “When those views invalidate the humanity of some people, they restrict speech as a public good”. One could argue that rejecting an idea that has been proposed would be more than sufficient to maintain an individual’s humanity. So how are words violence? Violence is a physical act, if someone punches me in the face, I can feel a physical force. That’s not the same as being berated by a combination of words, no matter how forceful. It is suggested that much of this has roots in 1960’s postmodernist philosophy that was studied extensively in the 80’s and 90’s. In our case we can refer to Lyotard’s idea of mini-narratives over meta-narratives. Which in short, argues that personal experiences are more important than empirical evidence.

Using a similar phrase from a previous paragraph, which we hear in debates, “who is anyone to deny my truth and what I feel”. Alarm bells should be ringing at “my truth”, it’s either truth or opinion, there is no such thing as “my truth”, that is as erroneous as “alternative facts”. But according to some academics and their students, there appears no such thing as one truth. It is posited that this is no more than a construct of the Euro-west and is a myth. These postmodern ideas are in stark contrast to science and the Enlightenment, that they despise and that I am rather fond of. The Enlightenment period stressed the value of; reason, logic, criticism and freedom of thought, as opposed to dogma, blind faith and superstition. Worryingly we seem, particularly in academia to be regressing away from logic, reason and science.

Given all this, it’s not surprising that students, with minimal life experience, who have been overprotected at home, exposed to questionable ideas such as postmodernism, while engaging in self-indulgent, narcissistic identity politics would be so afraid of free speech and open debate. It would be foolish, however, to think an attack on free speech exists purely within academic institutions. We have seen more and more laws in varying countries clamping down on so called ‘hate speech’. Hate speech is a difficult one to pin down, mainly because, who sets the parameters of what ‘hate speech’ actually is. In the US, most freedoms of expression are protected by the 1st Amendment and this largely includes hate speech.

There are times when hate speech falls into a current 1st Amendment exception, such as; a particular racist may speak to incite imminent violence on a particular group or may be interpreted as immediate threat to do harm. But generally it works quite well, however, some countries have specific hate speech laws. Lets take the UK as an example. So what is defined as a hate crime? Well, according to the Crown Prosecution Service a hate crime can be; “verbal abuse, intimidation, harassment, threats, assault and bullying, as well as damage to property”.

They go on to say, “any offense that is perceived by the victim, or any other person, to be motivated by hostility or prejudice, based on a person of disability or perceived disability; race or perceived race; religion or perceived religion; or sexual orientation or perceived sexual orientation; or a person who is transgender or is perceived to be transgender”. There seems to be a lot of perceptions here and a distinct lack of facts, which indicates a hate crime could be pretty much anything, both real or imagined.

One problem with this is, the CPS draws parallels between online abuse and actions taking place in person. This is another example of ‘concept creep’ and fails to acknowledge the differences between an angry tweet and someone shouting at you in the street, or physical abuse. Alison Saunders (Director of Public Prosecutions, CPS) talks about countering extreme views. The problem is, who decides what constitutes as an extreme view. Obviously according to the CPS it appears it’s the ‘receiver’ of said abuse. Furthermore, the offense only has to be perceived by the victim, or somebody else for that matter, with no actual evidence required.

This suggests a pretty low threshold for pinning the tag of hate crime onto someone because they have conflicting views. Most sane minded people would agree that hatred of people because of skin colour or genitalia is abhorrent. But policing hatred often ends up in censorship and the problem doesn’t actually go away. In contrast, there are hundreds of examples of civilians defending victims of abuse in public and shaming racists. Tackling hatred in the public domain is a better way of dealing with despicable ideas, but this can only occur in a society where free and open debate is allowed.

Sadly, I only foresee the strangulation of free speech increasing. This trend chiefly started in academia and has now seeped into the workplace and everyday interactions. Not only this, but in several colleges the illiberal left have been involved in episodes of violence. One such incident took place at Middlebury College Vermont 2017, when students were intent on closing down a lecture given by conservative speaker Charles Murray. When Murray approached the podium he was shouted down by protesters reciting a pre-prepared script who then proceeded to turn their backs. They chanted until the event was moved to a private venue, but this too was disrupted. The physical incident that irrupted caused the injury of a liberal speaker who was there in opposition to Charles Murray, but was shielding him from the attack.

What’s important to recognise is, in a piece published in the New York Times, the authors tested Charles Murray’s alleged offensive content by sending the material anonymously to 70 university professors to rate it. The scale was from 1 to 9, 1 being liberal, 9 conservative, while 5 denoting middle of the road. From the 57 academics who replied, the mean score was 5.05, indicating the material from Murray was ‘middle of the road’. Two other similar studies were performed, neither suggesting that what Charles Murray was proposing was either offensive or hugely conservative. The article also concluded that some of these protesters had never even read any of his work.

In the same year people were punched and beaten by masked protesters from the illiberal left during a Milo Yiannopoulos speech at UC Berkley. Astoundingly these actions were supported in certain quarters. An Op Ed written after the event by one of the students stated “asking people to maintain peaceful dialogue, with those who legitimately do not think their lives matter is a violent act”. This is suggesting that they are justified in punching people and pepper spraying them, even if all they did was voice some words. This is where the “words are violence” phrase becomes dangerous, because it is utilised to justify countering words with a violent action and then passing it off as self-defence. Unsurprisingly this violence from the illiberal left, led to counter violence and this cycle will surely continue. Below is some video footage from the Middlebury debacle.

The group who seem the keenest on stifling free speech are what is termed iGen (short for internet generation). These are students born after 1994 according to social psychologist Jean Twenge. Twenge found that iGen had higher rates of anxiety, depression, loneliness and suicide. Although Twenge offers that much of this is due to smart phones, social media and changing social interactions, Jonathan Haidt adds that some of this may well be a lack of resilience. He advises that students are now arriving at college with a distinct inability to cope with; offensive ideas, insensitive professors, and maybe rude racist and sexist peers. Previous generations often learned to deal with such challenges, without having to reconstruct society to accommodate their world views. These obstacles prepared individuals for success and the rigors of life outside the gates of academia.

A poll in the US of 3000 students confirmed that they generally agreed with the idea of free speech and allowing a variety of viewpoints. This is, until these other ideas start to infringe on their values, then they are more likely to support policies to limit speech. Putting it bluntly, they don’t support free speech at all. Also in the same poll 37% thought it was OK to shout down opposing speakers, while 10% stated it was acceptable to use violence to prevent someone from speaking. In an effort to understand which people are against free speech, a further poll was published by the New York Times. When asked what they thought was more important ‘free speech’ or ‘inclusion and diversity’, the results were 53% to 46% in favour of ‘inclusion and diversity’.

Additionally men and women were asked who was in favour of ‘freedom of speech,’ 61% of men said yes compared to just 36% of women. Given that 60% of the student population are now women, all this doesn’t bode well for the fate of free speech on campus. It must be stressed that ‘freedom of speech’ is the ultimate radical idea. It is the notion that individuals should try to settle their differences through debate and discussion, using evidence and persuasion rather than coercive power. At this current moment free speech is in mortal danger, just when it is needed more than ever.