Tuesday, 6 December 2016

Silencing Dissent

Ian Hislop, the editor of Private Eye magazine, delivered this year's 2016 George Orwell lecture which has been re-published in The New Statesman under the strapline 'The Age of Outrage'.

The geniuses at Strathclyde University behind the ban on a 'pro-life' group could benefit from reading Ian Hislop's's thoughtful piece which is against this knee-jerk 'no platforming' of groups you happen to disagree with.   

The students association at Strathclyde tried to justify their decision by claiming that the 'pro-life' group's mere presence contravened equal opportunities and that their activities might harass other students, albeit without any evidence to back up their ridiculous stance.

Now I'm pro-choice, but I can see where the 'pro-lifers' are coming from - all I would ask is that they recognise other people's rights and choices and don't try to impose their religious views on me.

The Strathclyde students scored an own goal by handing the 'pro-lifers' press coverage they could only dream of along with a huge propaganda victory, when they should be prepared to argue and debate these issues in a grown up way.   

Read the full Strathclyde story in the link below to The Herald which is followed by a link to Ian Hislop's fine piece of writing for the New Statesman magazine.


The Herald


Pro-life students from Strathclyde University banned from becoming an official club

Pro-life students from Strathclyde University hold a protest after being refused affiliation to the student association as an official club

By Andrew Denholm - The Herald

CONCERNS over the restriction of freedom of speech on university campuses across the UK have emerged in Scotland.

The student association at Strathclyde University has banned pro-life supporters from setting up an official group affiliated to the union.

The move means students who support anti-abortion views cannot obtain university funding for promotional events or to attend conferences.

The New Statesman


The age of outrage

Why are we so quick to take offence? The Private Eye editor on Orwell, Trump and the death of debate in post-truth politics.

BY IAN HISLOP - The New Statesman

Anyone who thinks that “post-truth politics” is anything new needs to be reminded that George Orwell was writing about this phenomenon 70 years before Donald Trump.

Audiences listening to President-Elect Trump’s extraordinary disregard for anything resembling objective truth – and his astonishing ability to proclaim the absolute opposite today of what he said yesterday – will be forcibly reminded of the slogans that George Orwell gave to his political ­dictators: Black is White, War is Peace, ­Freedom is Slavery, Ignorance is Strength (the last of which turned out to be true in the US election). But any journalist trying to work out what the speeches actually mean, amidst the mad syntax and all the repetition (“gonna happen, gonna happen”), cannot help but fall back on Orwell’s contention that “political chaos is connected with the decay of language”. And the sight of Trump praising Secretary Clinton for her years of public service in his post-election victory speech while the crowd was still chanting his campaign catchphrase of “Lock her up” was surely a perfect example of Doublethink.

No wonder Trump is an admirer of Vladimir Putin, who is an admirer of the Soviet strongmen whom Orwell satirised so well. These echoes from the past are very strong in America at present but there are plenty of them reverberating through British and European politics as well. Our Foreign Secretary managed to accuse other European leaders of a “whinge-o-rama” when they issued qualified statements of congratulation to the new president-elect, even though he himself had previously accused Trump of being “nuts”. Black is White, Remain is Leave, a Wall is a Fence, two plus two equals five: but Brexit means Brexit.

You may find this reassuring, in that we have been here before and survived – or distressing to think that we are regressing to a grimmer Orwellian age. But one of the worrying developments attached to these “post-truth” political figures is the increasing intolerance in public debate of dissent – or even disagreement – about what objective truth might be.