The Authoritarian Left reaches rock bottom: The “no-platforming” of Peter Tatchell in the UK

Like the Russian revolutionaries after 1917, the progressive left—including atheists—are beginning to eat their own. I find it infinitely depressing to see people at each other’s throats about issues of semantics, censorship and virtue signaling, while the malfeasance of our opponents—conservatives and repressive religionists—goes unchallenged. I’m not exactly sure why this is happening, but I do know that it’s not only divisive and unseemly, but unproductive and solipsistic.

The latest ridiculous performance in this charade is the “no-platforming” of Peter Tatchell, an LGBT and liberal activist who has spent his entire adult life campaigning for gay rights, gay marriage, and for humanitarian causes like opposing the Iraq war and apartheid. (Read his Wikipedia bio to get an idea of the breadth of his activism.)

But now he’s a victim of the Authoritarian Left, suffering the death of a thousand smears for not hewing to Acceptable Behavior. He’s been “no-platformed” (i.e., subject to a student fatwa to be denied venues to speak) by Britain’s ban-happy National Union of Students (NUS) and its intolerant minions.

What did Tatchell do? Only this: objecting to the “no platforming” of people whom the Authoritarian Left doesn’t like. On Valentine’s Day of last year, he and several dozen others signed a letter to the Guardian decrying the no-platforming of people like Kate Smuthwaite, Julie Bindel, Germaine Greer, and others. The letter, called “We cannot allow censorship and silencing of individuals,” was not an endorsement of the views of these people (often dealing with how we should deal with transgender individuals and sex workers), but merely a call to let them speak. Other signers included Mary Beard and Gia Milinovich. Do read the letter; here are its final two paragraphs:

“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.

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.

I happen to think that transgender individuals should be treated as full members of the sex they feel they are, and that sex work should, properly regulated, be legal, but I am still on the side of the letter’s signatories: there is a real debate to be had here, and one that should not be suppressed. The fastest social progress comes through open debate, not censorship or repression.

Nevertheless, Tatchell has been attacked as a racist and a transphobe, largely for signing that letter. As yesterday’s Torygraph reports:

The well-known activist was due to take part in a debate on tonight with Fran Cowling, a National Union of Students representative for lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender (LGBT) issues, but she pulled out after claiming that he was a bigot.

Miss Cowling, a PhD student at Nottingham University, said she would only take part if Mr Tatchell withdrew from the event, accusing him of having used racist language and signing an open letter supporting the incitement of violence against transgender people.

Cowling claimed she was speaking for the NUS itself, which was apparently untrue, but she clearly reflects the views of that body, which (along with Cowling herself) has refused to be interviewed on the matter. As for those other accusations, Tatchell replied yesterday:

She has every right to do this. But she does not have any right to make false McCarthyite-style smears. When asked to provide evidence of my supposed racism and transphobia, she was not willing to do so. There is none. Privately I tried to get her to withdraw her outrageous, libelous allegations. But she spurned all my attempts to resolve this matter amicably. As a result I have decided to take my case public.

. . . In another email to the LGBT event organiser, Fran made the allegation that she has personally witnessed me using racist language. Untrue. I challenged Fran to produce evidence for this claim. She has failed to produce it – because the accusation is baseless.

. . . Fran also said that I signed a letter to The Observer last year [JAC: same letter to the Guardian] supporting the right of feminists to be “openly transphobic” and to “incite violence” against transgender people. The letter I signed did not say this. Written in support of free speech, it did not express any anti-transgender views or condone anti-transgender violence. For decades, I have opposed feminists such as Germaine Greer who reject and disparage transgender people and their human rights.

Clearly Tatchell is standing up for free expression and debate, not endorsing the views of Germaine Greer. I myself have found no evidence of his “racism” or “transphobia”, and Cowling is clearly lying about that letter, which you can read for yourself (the relevant excerpt is above).

Is this “censorship”? Not in one sense, as Tatchell doesn’t have a right to speak at any private meeting. But in another way it is censorship. If someone is invited to an event and then is disinvited, or someone who’s already agreed to speak at an event withdraws because they don’t like the views of another invited speaker, then that is a kind of censorship, as it constitutes breaking an agreement previously made in an effort to prevent someone’s views from being expressed and heard. “No-platforming” is simply widespread censorship of this form, trying to formalize the banning of speakers in many places. No-platforming as a policy is fascistic, telling everyone that a given speaker is subversive and dangerous. It’s right out of 1984. The NUS has become Big Brother.

This is unconscionable. After all, Tatchell is not Hitler: he’s merely asked for some people—people whose views he opposes!—to be allowed to speak. There are public debates to be had about transgendered people and the legalization of sex work, and why should they not be had? What are people like Cowling afraid of? That their views will lose in an open forum? I don’t think so, for society is increasingly sympathetic, for instance, to the plight of transgendered people. No, the Banning Crowd is trying to stifle its philosophical opponents, and doing it by lying and smearing them. (Cowling’s behavior, by the way, may constitute libel in the UK.)

I asked Grania about “no platforming”, and she sent me an informative reply:

Well, the name certainly appears in an old-ish movement going back to the 80s called No Platform for Racists (it may in fact pre-date this in other forms). It was about not providing a platform for violent fascists and racists of the Neo-Nazi variety at trade union meetings, student meetings and the like. It was the start of the defining of “hate speech”.

Its intentions were noble (although ultimately doomed; see Kenan Malik’s interview, “Why hate speech should not be banned”): to prevent genuine harm or violence to minority or oppressed or vulnerable groups.

In the ensuing 35 years, what constitutes hate speech has, however, become ever more refined to the point of absurdity in some cases.

No-platforming today generally tends to refer to someone being invited and then dis-invited to speak publicly at some event. However, in a broader sense it also involves portraying a person’s character in as negative a light as possible to deter anyone from inviting them to speak (or do business with them, or employ them, or promote them in any way).

It is in effect a 21st-century attempt to excommunicate someone deemed as undesirable. It’s only achievable now (as opposed to 20 years ago) as a result of the Internet turning the world into something of a village again.

The weird thing about the current wave of no-platforming is that the targets tend chiefly to be outspoken advocates of human rights and equality.

Granted, the targets are not exclusively of the Namazie, Tatchell, Dawkins and Hirsi Ali ilk. There are right-wing targets too, like Roosh V (the pickup artist and accused promoter of rape) as well as Dutch politician Geert Wilders.

But the bottom line is that there is a tendency now not to confront ideas that are deemed offensive or troubling. It is more effective to simply shut down those you deem as undesirable. And this is usually achieved by a smear campaign which insinuates that the targets advocate damaging ideas and dangerous actions, regardless of whether those people actually have or not.

I agree with Grania’s thoughtful analysis. What is going on here is not the challenging of ideas, or the promulgation of open debate, but the labeling and smearing of opponents in an attempt to destroy their public reputations. It is ad hominem argumentation. When Cowling says that the letter Tatchell signed is “openly transphobic” and “incites violence against transgenedered people,” she is lying, pure and simple. And it’s easy to find her lies: just read the letter. She’s hoping, I guess, that people either won’t read it or, carried away by their emotions, will say that Tatchell is a transphobe and bigot anyway.

I wonder what these authoritarian Lefists think they are accomplishing. They are not winning the debate in the public eye, for people are not stupid, and—or so I think—view “no-platforming” as unfair and underhanded: a tactic used by privileged crybullies.

And do the no-platform crowd really think that people like Ayaan Hirsi Ali, Maryam Namazie, Peter Tatchell, Germaine Greer and Kate Smurthwaite are dangers to society—so dangerous that their views simply shouldn’t be aired? What kind of trust of public opinion and democracy does that denote? The authoritarians are arrogating to themselves the right to determine which views can be heard and which should be repressed. This is precisely what Christopher Hitchens saw as the danger to free speech: who do you trust to decide what is offensive?

It is a world turned upside down when organizations like the Goldsmiths College Feminists try to prevent Maryam Namazie from speaking, siding with the Goldsmith Islamic Society against a woman who fights the religious oppression of women. In the end, the Authoritarian Left is working against its own interests.

Screen Shot 2016-02-16 at 8.15.11 AM

Peter Tatchell

 

h/t: Grania, Gregory

89 Comments

  1. sensorrhea
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    It is an essential feature of anti-blasphemy laws that criticizing anti-blasphemy laws is also blasphemy. Welcome to SJW Pakistan!

    • Paul Cox
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:55 am | Permalink

      You have perfectly crystallized this absurdity.

  2. TJR
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:30 am | Permalink

    The “no platform” idea was certainly there when I was a student in the 80s, but IIRC it was always leftists trying to no-platform rightists.

    However, given the well-known tendency of leftism to splinter its hardly surprising that leftists are now also no-platforming leftists of the wrong kind. If anything the surprise is that it took so long.

    • Simon Hayward
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:40 am | Permalink

      Yup – my memory too from the late 70’s to early 80s.

      It also seemed to be characteristic of the small group of activists who ran the student union rather than a widespread popular position at least among anyone that I knew.

    • Richard
      Posted February 17, 2016 at 9:16 am | Permalink

      “the well-known tendency of leftism to splinter”

      FRANCIS: Whatever happened to the Popular Front, Reg?
      REG: He’s over there.
      ALL: Splitter!

  3. Heather Hastie
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:35 am | Permalink

    I really despair when I see this kind of thing.

    These people are the worst kind of intellectual bullies. To me though, shutting down a speaker in this way is a sign they’re incapable of presenting a sound argument against them, thereby exposing their own lack of intellect.

    It’s nasty, lazy, petty, and self-righteous. The best way to take down someone with whom you disagree is to have a better argument. Running away or de-platforming is the tactic of a coward.

    • Scott Draper
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      “To me though, shutting down a speaker in this way is a sign they’re incapable of presenting a sound argument against them”

      I suspect they would argue that the audience isn’t smart enough to be persuaded by their superior argumentation. I’ve certainly felt that way. 🙂

      • Posted February 17, 2016 at 11:42 am | Permalink

        And this is perhaps why the most odious in this category have defended the idea that argumentation, science, etc. themselves are to be shunned as “masculine” or “racist” or whatever else. Talk about an “own goal” – if the sports metaphor can be forgiven.

    • Diana MacPherson
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

      And in shutting these people down, they distract them from doing the good work they normally do. The productivity cost is huge as those victimized by such libel must spend large numbers of hours defending themselves against unfounded accusations.

      • Heather Hastie
        Posted February 17, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

        Yes, and that further dissuades people as well, because they can’t afford the litigation, or are reluctant to deal with the pressure that would come with it.

        And, a social media hate campaign is the last thing anybody needs.

  4. GM
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:36 am | Permalink

    There is a term that I would like to see used a lot more often and which describes the situation in both the case of 20th century communists and the intersectional third wave feminists now — “secular religion”.

    Both phenomena meet all the criteria for being labelled with that term, and can only be fully understood once it has been taken into account.

    Also, I am not sure that you have dug sufficiently deeply into the insanity that surrounds the transsexual issue, if you had, you would be pulling your hair in despair just as much, if not more than you do when creationists say something stupid. The level of craziness is fairly similar.

    The feminists start from the core ideological postulate/secular religious revelation that first, gender and sex are completely different things, and second, that gender is an entirely social construction. Gender might be a social construct to an extent, the problem is that they confuse it with sex themselves, so we end up in a situation where biological sex is also treated as a social construct (in the finest postmodern tradition of everything being a social construct).

    The end result is that someone who has been male for 30-40 years and then decides to “transition” has to be considered just as much a female as female with fully functioning ovaries, the corresponding plumbing, and everything else. And if you do not agree, even if you are a feminist, you are labelled “TERF” (Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist), which is very bad and means that you are a transphobe and not ideologically pure.

    Needless to say, if you are a biologist, who dares point out that even the premises behind all of this are completely false and that in fact gender and sex are mostly the same thing and there are really only two of them, then you are not just a transphone, but a chauvinist pig, misogynist, etc.

    Note that the “you are fully female if you think so, genes and development be damned” position extends even to things such as MTF transgender persons being treated as females when they want to compete in athletic events, fight sports, etc….

    • Sastra
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:51 am | Permalink

      Yes, my understanding is that even a nuanced exploration of how different it would be to be a female who was raised male (and therefore imbibed male privilege) is taboo. The whole backlash directed against Ophelia Benson, for example, really surprised me, since she’s always been a sort of liberal feminist role model of philosophical thoughtfulness. Something is wrong here.

      • Posted February 16, 2016 at 3:11 pm | Permalink

        Didn’t surprise most other observers. The whole thing is geared towards ideological purity due to a complex set of beliefs, incentive structures, thought terminating clichés and social dynamics. It coukd have also happen over her views on Islam (aka “Islamophobia”). Argueably, she only survived that long because of the threat narrative and alleged bigger enemies at the gates that kept the Herd together. When it turned out that this was mostly fabrication, the whole thing began to implode.

        The real astonishing thing is that seemingly smart people are so easily affected by this. I find this most disturbing about this. The whole authoritarian nonsense is also practially THE (US) Secular Movement, too. That’s the scary part.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:53 am | Permalink

      I have seen the argument you are describing being used on other web sites. It is amazing to claim that in humans gender is a social construct, while ignoring that it is decidedly not a social construct in any other animal species with two sexes. This includes all other primates.

      • GM
        Posted February 16, 2016 at 11:02 am | Permalink

        Yes, and this is really scary, because it means that it is only a matter of time before biology, especially the parts of it that concern sexual dimorphism and its evolution, and evolution of behavior in general, comes under attack. Not just the people who speak on such topics, but the science itself.

        You don’t see that much because we only get to hear about the movement when someone gets deplatformed for some silly reason or fake outrage gets generated over something completely innocuous. But there is an underlying ideology behind it, and that ideology denies the biological basis of sexual dimorphism, sex and gender in humans, and also, that behavior can be influenced by genetics (the denial of the former us due to the postmodernist origins of modern feminism, of the latter is because it is a leftist movement).

        The end result is a thoroughly anti-scientific ideology, that, however, enjoys a privilege creationism never had — it has whole university departments behind it, it has a very aggressive activist movement, and it hides behind sacred labels and phrases nobody can attack without discrediting themselves, which is inevitable because the space for reasoned, level-headed discussion based on rational arguments, logic and facts has disappeared a long time ago, and misunderstanding and emotions rule now.

        • Pliny the in Between
          Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

          It’s fascinating to me how in the weeks immediately following Obergefell v Hodges, the argument changed from calling attention to a biologic or inborn origin for human sexuality to what would appear to be an almost wholesale rejection of the same premise.

        • Mark Sturtevant
          Posted February 16, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

          My wife and I both teach various biology classes at our university. One class she teaches is a Human Biology class, which is for non-bio majors. In her lectures on human genetics, she would naturally have lots of examples of crosses between two parents and the children they produce. Only she chose to describe the parents as a ‘married couple’, or as a ‘man and his wife’, etc.
          She was immediately pounced on by two older, cranky female students who objected to the presumption that the couple had to be married. She did that to try to avoid objection from students from the religious right. But I had to explain to her that she was now in the crosshairs of people from the far left.
          The two students continued to glare at her thru all remaining classes, frowning and with their arms crossed. And they gave her negative and nearly identical evaluations later.
          Nice.

          • GM
            Posted February 16, 2016 at 5:25 pm | Permalink

            Well, at least you weren’t reported for a microaggression.

            But this is precisely the thing I am talking about.

            And it is still a relatively mild case, imagine what would happen to this guy:

            Maybe even today, but certainly in a few years from now if the current trajectory persists.

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 1:27 pm | Permalink

      “secular religion” is close, but “cult” is my term of choice.

      • Posted February 16, 2016 at 3:28 pm | Permalink

        Yep, we have many terms but this fits often. Also “Koolaid Kultist”, since we operate with fantasy terms for now, until they bother to name themselves (or scholars do).

        I encounter nowadays a denial that they are even “a thing”. They claim this was a right wing etc conspiracy and neither term, not “Social Justice Warrior” nor “Regressive Left” were valid as the thing, the referent, doesn’t exist. It’s a new kind of inanity that reminds me of Andrew Ross of Social Text (pranked by Sokal), who also asserted back then that it is just that critics hate progressives, the left.

        Chomsky, I assume half mockingly, referred to this as the “so-called left”. I don’t regard what I see as left, either, for too many features are no longer typically left and stuff like sexuality-control and major concern with safety (as in safe spaces), outrage-offense, politics of fear and so on are very right-wingish. Also, the personality traits look too much like so called “right wing authoritarisnism”. Horseshoe theory in action.

    • Posted February 16, 2016 at 9:48 pm | Permalink

      And be careful, Prof. CC, you appear to have made a huge mistake above by adding the suffix “-ed” to the word “transgender.” It’s only a matter of time before some keyboard warrior shows up to tell you that you are literally erasing that person by using language that constitutes actual violence against them, you disgusting, transphobic, bigot. (Yes, I’ve seen this happen.) And if you don’t know that the proper term is “transgender” and not (NOT!) “transgendered” well, it’s not their job to teach you. Check your priviledge, straight white cis man.

    • agender
      Posted February 17, 2016 at 4:39 am | Permalink

      So you deny that I exist?
      Like the churches?
      That I fought against abortionforbidding laws to have no children – idea came up a bit in the 1920, and for most people the 1970s.
      Against rape to never again be touched by anyone – mid-1980s; the more precise idea of consent only now.
      You would state that I have to breed like a rabbit, instead coping with my genetic diseases better alone than to have statistically 50% of each within a brood?
      Deny the fact that I have FEARED and DESPISED the legal situation in Catholistan (a.k.a. Christian womanhood)?
      O.K., the Darwin award is only for unplanned die-outs. Fair enough for something without legal pressure or effects.
      The binaries exist – many, who would be better off with their pubety delayed, and then have the physical one (including a few unsuspecting mosaics), and some who need to have some surgery – both of which have not been possible until recently. There are also individuals more to the middle of the continuum – re heigt, re hormones, etc, naturally infertiles and surgically ones.
      Lesbian bonobos, gay penguins, and a wide range of humans with this preplanning brain have a much better life than the selfish gene (EACH one) would allow us – and do you really say that I have to WISH for being part of the overpopulation, instead of dreading my foremothers´ “fate of the woman” and “valley of tears” with no choice?!?

      • agender
        Posted February 17, 2016 at 6:39 am | Permalink

        sorry, this should have been next to comment 4 and its first answers

  5. Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:39 am | Permalink

    It just amazes me how brittle and self-righteous these people are. But people often work against their own interests as shown by the number of people who are poor, blame unions, and support Republicans in the US because of, you know, God.

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:54 am | Permalink

      God and the mouthpieces of the Koch Bros on FOX newz.

    • Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

      The GOP has used the four “Gs”: God, Guns, Gays, and blacks as their grip.

      It’s amazing.

      Obama had a moment of direct honesty when he talked about them clinging to their guns and religion.

    • Craw
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:46 pm | Permalink

      Right. The real problem is always the Republicans isn’t it? Complaining about close minded authoritarianism amongst left-wing students just distracts from the true enemy: people who disagree with you.

      • Achrachno
        Posted February 16, 2016 at 9:13 pm | Permalink

        Supposedly left-wing students who start acting like Republicans, islamists, or other religious authoritarians are a problem. Yes, in the US the republicans are among the biggest problems we have, and it’s not just because I disagree with them. It’s because they’re loony obstructionists.

        • Posted February 17, 2016 at 12:36 am | Permalink

          If I understand correctly, the political polarization in the USA has reached a stage in which a substantial part of citizens would not vote for one of the two major parties under any circumstances, i.e. they are psychologically living in a one-party system.

          • Posted February 17, 2016 at 10:42 am | Permalink

            While I am sure that there are a large number of people who hate both parties, I don’t think there is enough of that to swing elections by their voting. More by their not voting.

            Some have done some studies that show that we no longer vote for our parties, we vote against the other party. I suppose that’s a “mine is bad, that one is way worse” view.

  6. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:43 am | Permalink

    During the 90s when I attended Kent State, I saw no-platforming considered and rejected. It occurs intermittently though inconsistently in many Unitarian churches. I was especially disconcerted by the Northeast Conference on Science and Skepticism disinviting Richard Dawkins.

    No-platforming absolutely feeds and vindicates the right-wing.

    I have thoroughly enjoyed Germaine Greer’s writings on Shakespeare, and am especially discouraged to see her among disinvitees.

    Heck when JAC got the Censor of the Year award, he actually had suggested a different platform.

    =-=-=

    I don’t know why disclaimers isn’t a solution. “Our invitation to [insert name] isn’t an endorsement of…”.
    (This is what Harvard Divinity School did when it invited Jerry Falwell in the 1980s. Falwell, in return, opened his presentation with saying “My agreeing to speak here is not an endorsement of HDS.”)

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 7:21 pm | Permalink

      That’s a pretty good line by Falwell — must’ve come from the part of him that would’ve filled up a matchbox if he’d have been buried after having received an enema.

  7. Sastra
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:44 am | Permalink

    I think Wendy Kaminer makes an excellent point when she links the repressive political and academic tactics coming from what we’re now apparently calling the Authoritarian Left to the self-protective psychological and therapeutic culture of the late 20th century. What began as self-empowerment and self-esteem slowly turned into self-entitlement and an over-sensitive reaction to criticism, any criticism. Nobody is allowed to tell anyone else they’re wrong: that’s wrong.

    The universalism, rational debate,and self-criticism inherent in the values of the Enlightenment start morphing into hurt tribes practicing shunning. Some of these protests against controversial speakers remind me a bit of pop psychology advice to cut dysfunctional, toxic people right out of your life. No more. They are dead to you. Not even a Christmas card or passing the salt at table.

    I wonder how many of the Authoritarian Left personally have a tendency to refuse to speak to people they’re angry with.

    • reasonshark
      Posted February 17, 2016 at 10:38 am | Permalink

      What began as self-empowerment and self-esteem slowly turned into self-entitlement and an over-sensitive reaction to criticism, any criticism. Nobody is allowed to tell anyone else they’re wrong: that’s wrong.

      It’s wrong to tell people they’re wrong. Oh the sweet, hilarious sound of self-contradiction at work. You just can’t beat it. 🙂

  8. JohnE
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:58 am | Permalink

    The concept behind the First Amendment was the belief that it is ultimately beneficial to the social order if you let people “vent” their ideas, no matter how crazy they might be. The extremists who are granted a public forum in which to vent their anger, and who discover that there is little sympathy or support for their ideas, are likely to lose their zeal and might even come around to the view that maybe they’re wrong. In contrast, preventing extremists from airing their ideas and their anger is akin to plugging the vent on a steam kettle, with potentially explosive results.

    • Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:42 pm | Permalink

      Well, and you can’t protect all the other key freedoms of a free society without free speech to watchdog those in power.

  9. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 11:07 am | Permalink

    Some of the patterns here remind me of tactics used by the C/ID crowd to attempt to discredit scientists by mis-representing them. But I think that it is rare for them to censor their opponents.

    • GM
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 11:13 am | Permalink

      It is not really rare, they censor all the time. As do the SJWs. The two places where you will reliably find closed comments sections and disabled ratings are creationist and SJW blogs and YouTube channels. The behavioral patterns are pretty much the same.

      There are two main reasons creationists do not deplatform:

      1) They do not have the power to do so because they are largely out of the university. In contrast, SJWs do have that power because they have taken over many campuses

      2) Creationists have largely delineated their positions a long time ago, thus their venues do not invite anyone who they can potentially disinvite later. The process of ideological purification among secularists is still in process right now, which is why it regularly happens that someone who has been invited suddenly becomes impure and the movement has to be ritually cleansed from yet another bad apple/

  10. veroxitatis
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    The raison d’etre for this insane development of recent years, so it is said, is to “create safe spaces” so that students will not feel offended, harassed or victimised. In short, it seems an attempt to avoid controversy and the hearing of challenging opinions. I thought that was a major purpose of a university. I do sometimes wonder how students who have these attitudes manage to participate in any meaningful way in tutorial groups in subjects where reasoned confrontation was encouraged. Perhaps things have changed fundamentally?

    • Steve Pollard
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

      Not to mention how on earth they are going to get on in the big bad world when they eventually grow up and have to go and earn a living. Perhaps they think they won’t ever have to.

      As an aside, it’s just worth noting that the meeting went ahead without Cowling, who in effect no-platformed herself. It seems to have gone very well.

  11. Mike Herron
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 11:10 am | Permalink

    No mention of Dawkins and New England Skeptics?

    • Mark Sturtevant
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 1:30 pm | Permalink

      What little I had read on that included that they canceled him as an immediate reaction to one of his Tw**ts. So that is a good example of deplatforming. I had also read that they later walked it back because they did not follow their own procedures for cancelling someone. Rather than seek discussion and clarification, they had acted without due process. And so now he is invited back, and they plan to include a discussion around the matter at the meeting.
      I am not sure if that is the truth, but that is an account that i had read online.

  12. Ken Phelps
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 11:14 am | Permalink

    “Authoritarian Left reaches rock bottom…”

    I admire your optimism.

    • Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:25 pm | Permalink

      + 1

    • GBJames
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:26 pm | Permalink

      Heh.

    • gluonspring
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 9:04 pm | Permalink

      +++

    • Posted February 16, 2016 at 9:31 pm | Permalink

      Well done.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 17, 2016 at 2:29 am | Permalink

      Good point. You’d be unlikely to lose money shorting the stock of the Authoritarian Left. There’s always room for a lower low.

  13. Historian
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    People, regardless of their political ideology, who wish to ban free speech do so for one or both of the following reasons:

    1. They are insecure in the validity or wisdom of their own ideas and fear that their opponents may actually have better ideas.
    2. They have an abiding distrust of the masses, who they believe can easily be swayed by the false or demagogic views of their opponents. The masses cannot be exposed to “bad” ideas because since they lack rational faculties, who knows what they may be incited to do.

    Those who oppose censorship are generally secure in their views and believe through the free market place of ideas that theirs will ultimately prevail. They believe that the masses have the capability, through rational judgment, to accept the “good” ideas over the “bad” ones.

    This debate over the limits of free speech is perpetual and will not be resolved any time soon. For example, until recently the post-World War II German governments banned the publication of Mein Kampf within the country. They obviously feared that Hitler’s writings would influence all too many people, resulting in the rise of more fascistic organizations. Were these governments wrong? I think so, but I think it legitimate to debate whether under certain conditions and in certain countries, particularly those without a democratic tradition, censorship can be justified to prevent the rise of anti-democratic extremism. As in most areas of life, there are no simple solutions to complex problems. For those countries with a long tradition of democracy, the calls for banning of free speech as discussed in the post are totally unjustified.

    • Geoffrey Howe
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 2:16 pm | Permalink

      I think we’re meeting a new reason for censorship. They find it offensive. They just can’t stand to here people disagree with them, not because they think they might be wrong or that foolish regular people will buy into it. But because it hurts their feelings.

      Given the UN talk about “Cyber-Violence” (i.e. people being rude to you on the internet), it’s possible they are really censoring people just to ‘protect’ themselves.

    • Ken Kukec
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

      I certainly understand whence arises the German desire to ban Mein Kampf and holocaust-denial. Yet I still must oppose it. Who do you trust to decide what speech the masses are unfit to consume or when those masses will finally be fit to consume it?

      • Posted February 17, 2016 at 12:44 am | Permalink

        I think that after WWII, Germany was given a wrong diagnosis. It was thought that the German people was racist, antisemitic, xenophobic and outright genocidal, and therefore should be kept in check for indefinite time and isolated from ideas such as those expressed by Hitler in Mein Kampf.
        I think that, while there were indeed too many extreme antisemites and xenophobes in inter-war Germany, it was more important that (1) those Germans who had other views were banned from political participation and even from expressing their opinions and (2) Germans have a tradition of blind obedience to those in power.

  14. Posted February 16, 2016 at 11:31 am | Permalink

    Incidents similar to this seem to be happening almost daily, and I’m sure in small ways they actually are, but I keep hearing from many of my progressive friends that it’s irrelevant in the grand scheme, and the open exchange of ideas is not truly in danger. They argue it’s a tempest in a teapot compared with the importance of the social justice movement, and the attention we’re bringing to them is hindering that fight, and giving the right ammunition with which to criticize reasonable social justice advocates.
    Now while that is the latter is almost certainly true to a degree, I don’t have the faith, or foresight to believe this is not a dangerous trend that needs to be addressed before it gets completely out of control.

  15. Jonathan Wallace
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    Tatchell has been an immensely courageous campaigner for LGBT rights for decades and has, for example, taken on the Russian government and Robert Mugabe of Zimbabwe in support of LBGT rights in those countries and has been badly beaten up as a result. Cowling’s accusations are ridiculous and demonstrably false. These childish tactics will surely be counter productive in the end.

  16. Rob
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    In some streams of Christianity, if someone doesn’t believe exactly like me, they are not a true Christian, but a despicable sinner going to hell.

    In the regressive left movement, if someone does not believe exactly like me, they are a horrible person, worthy only of public shaming.

    Black and white thinking. No one can be worthy of respect unless ALL their ideas perfectly align with a predetermined dogma.

    • Craw
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:57 pm | Permalink

      Hofstaedter called it the 100% mind. But I think there is more going on here. This is at least in part competition for a positional good: only 1% can be the 1% most [virtuous/anti-racist/green/transphilic/etc]. You score more points by asserting your superiority to someone high up in the positional ranking than someone lower down. Hence the ever greater levels of purity. Any schnook can find something to bash Ted Cruz anti-gay, but you need to be special to find Tatchell too anti-gay to touch. The princess and the pea.

      • Mark Sturtevant
        Posted February 16, 2016 at 1:35 pm | Permalink

        That rings true to me, in that I have seen a couple bloggers evolve in that direction. They started out as a pretty regular liberal, then gradually decided to reject this group of liberal skeptics, that liberal person, and so on. Always moving farther and farther to the left in a pattern of repressing more and more ‘freeze peach’, as they say.

        • Pliny the in Between
          Posted February 16, 2016 at 2:10 pm | Permalink

          The real problem is that in olden times, assholes had a pretty limited vocal range that limited their constituency to a local crowd which might also contain someone who could kick their ass. The Internet put an end to those checks and balances.

          • infiniteimprobabilit
            Posted February 16, 2016 at 9:37 pm | Permalink

            “assholes had a pretty limited vocal range”

            [Wiping coffee off keyboard]

            I’m sorry, I *must* stop taking these figures of speech literally…

            cr

  17. Dermot C
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:03 pm | Permalink

    Tatchell is a lifelong Socialist whose public career began with a shafting by MSM and and it looks like it may be coming to an end with a pile-in from social media.

    Back in 1983, PT stood for Labour in the Bermondsey by-election: the hustings made Tammany Hall look like Gandhi. I know because I canvassed for him.

    Simon Hughes, the Liberal Party candidate, leaked to the press that PT was gay and all hell broke loose: Tatchell was vilified, undermined by Foot, the leader of the Labour Party, and a safe Labour seat was won by Hughes. Who is gay. But in the closet in ’83. What a principled man.

    As you don’t have to be a socialist to support transgender rights, I don’t think it will do to blame socialism or the left wing for the totally ungrateful treatment of a tireless and dignified campaigner like PT. This has more to do with the assumptions and tendencies within identity politics.

    The whole point about socialistic class analyses is that they recognize different tendencies and politics within classes or groups. Identity politics by definition tend to deny those differences: meaning that there is nothing and nobody to debate. x

    • TJR
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:38 pm | Permalink

      Is that a deliberate use of “MSM”, given that it has two quite different meanings?

      • Dermot C
        Posted February 16, 2016 at 1:54 pm | Permalink

        Erm, no, TJR: mainstream media is what I meant. I suppose you must mean ‘men who have sex with men’? I’ve only just found out about that along with the 91 other meanings of MSM here. Oops. x

        http://www.acronymfinder.com/MSM.html

        • Ken Phelps
          Posted February 16, 2016 at 1:57 pm | Permalink

          And here I was, figuring out how you could be shafted by a quack dietary supplement…

        • infiniteimprobabilit
          Posted February 16, 2016 at 9:33 pm | Permalink

          … and the third one down the list is ‘Master of Science in Management’.

          … which I guess just confirms what we suspected about Management all along…

          cr

  18. rickflick
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:05 pm | Permalink

    On the plus side, Richard Dawkins, who was dis-invited to speak at the NECSS conference has be re-invited. He can’t attend, though, for health reasons, but it is a sign that a reactionary move can be reversed. Let’s hope this correction is contagious.

  19. Stephen Zeoli
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:08 pm | Permalink

    Well, I guess they are entitled to invite whom they would like, but if they only have speakers who are in 100% agreement with their views, the whole exercise will be mental masturbation.

  20. Mal
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    Just to point out that Tatchell has not been disinvited from the event and therefore Cowling has effectively no-platformed herself.

  21. Geoffrey Howe
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:23 pm | Permalink

    It’s worth noting the possibility that Cowling is not intentionally decieving people, and is herself carried away by her emotions.

    For these people, allowing certain people to speak, is like allowing terrorist to have guns. By not stopping them, you are promoting the violence they do against others.

    And I’m not exaggerating or being metaphorical when I use the word Violence. I’ve seen these kind of people refer to offensive speech as “Violence”. They think that having your feelings hurt is the same as being physically assaulted.

    So, yah. Cowling may very well honestly and sincerely believe that allowing people to say things she doesn’t like is the same thing as being a supporter of those views. And that’s both the scariest part, and the most heartening part. Because the more these kind of absurdities come to light, the more people are going to reject them.

    • Scott Draper
      Posted February 16, 2016 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

      “They think that having your feelings hurt is the same as being physically assaulted.”

      Hence the use of the term “microaggression”, which attaches the word “aggression” even to innocent statements by well-meaning people that have at least one possible interpretation that is offensive.

  22. Randy Schenck
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:35 pm | Permalink

    What makes this so disgusting and dangerous is what the professor has been saying often. This is not the right wing nuts, it’s the liberal left, so-called and it is one segment eating another. Something in current politics in the U.S. is similar to this.

    We know the republicans are blowing the party apart and with luck, maybe they will accomplish it. But on the other side, something similar is appearing with Bernie leading one part and Clinton the other. Eating your own seems to be increasing in popularity. Who wants to be the biggest loser?

  23. Posted February 16, 2016 at 12:48 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  24. JonLynnHarvey
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

    Perhaps a bit too trite, but I feel compelled to post this video of the Beatles singing “We Can Work It Out”

  25. Ken Kukec
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 1:58 pm | Permalink

    Like the Russian revolutionaries after 1917, the progressive left—including atheists—are beginning to eat their own.

    It’s beginning to resemble even more the Soviet purges of the 1930s. This is what happens once you start down the road of censorship. The test for ideological purity grows ever more narrow, until there are none left but those mouthing the established faith.

    The authoritarian left’s impulse is essentially Stalinist. Imagine if they had the power of the state behind them — a henchman like Lavrentiy Beria, a secret police force like the NKVD. Dissenters would be disappeared from the intellectual landscape, if not disappeared physically. If Peter Tatchell is ever forced into exile in Mexico City, he should beware of operatives bearing ice-axes.

  26. jay
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 2:57 pm | Permalink

    Not sure if you’ve posted this, but an Israeli LGBT group attacked by anti-Israel lefties.

    Like many of the claims for freedom on the left, they only mean freedom on thier terms.

    http://www.washingtonblade.com/2016/01/23/protesters-disrupt-reception-with-israeli-activists-at-lgbt-conference/

  27. Posted February 16, 2016 at 3:06 pm | Permalink

    If you really want to discredit people with odious ideas let them speak, then rip their ideas to shreds in public.
    Here in the UK the start of our Neo-Fascist British National Party’s crash and burn came when their leader Nick Griffin was allowed on ‘Question Time’. ( A programme where a panel of, generally, politicians of all shades field questions from the audience)
    Nick Griffin on Question Time
    He was shown to be the racist and fascist that he is as the other panel members took him apart.
    That is how to do it. Trying to shut down the debate implies that you are not sure that your arguments stack up.

    • jeremyp
      Posted February 17, 2016 at 4:59 am | Permalink

      I saw that Question Time when it was first broadcast, it was excruciatingly awful and against all the odds Nick Griffin came out as the only panelist with his reputation enhanced.

      The other panelists had obviously gone in there with the mind set of “here’s an easy target, I can’t lose by ripping into him” which is fine except that it was so obvious. The nadir came when Jack Straw responded to an audience question by reading out a speech he had obviously prepared in advance condemning Griffin and the BNP and totally ignoring the question that was asked.

      I agree that the BNP withered as a result of exposure of their ideas as being thoroughly revolting but that Question Time episode was not part of it. I would also argue that UKIP invaded their space with an easier to sell version of the same message and ate their lunch.

  28. scottoest
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 7:17 pm | Permalink

    Does a person pulling out of a debate count as “no platforming” their opponent? I suppose if her pulling out leads the hosts to cancel the entire event it sort-of would.

    It’d be humorous if they just turned the event into a talk by Tatchell instead. Not the outcome I imagine Cowling would be hoping for.

  29. infiniteimprobabilit
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 9:22 pm | Permalink

    Yes it is effectively a form of attempted censorship. (I’ve got into shitfights before now with people who insist that “Only governments can censor, it isn’t censorship if Youboob or PuffHo or NYT do it” – which strikes me as similar to “Only white people can be racist”).

    I think it stems from a subconscious feeling of inferiority on the part of the wannabe no-platformers – “What happens if their argument is more compelling than ours? Oh noes! Mustn’t risk that!”

    cr

  30. KD
    Posted February 16, 2016 at 10:17 pm | Permalink

    This movement is about power, not truth, and since there can only be one lord of the ring, it can only fracture into competing sects, at least so long as no one gets control of the NKVD and the Gulags and manages to purge all the others. One ring to rule them all and in the darkness bind them.

  31. Posted February 17, 2016 at 1:32 am | Permalink

    All very good, but please, that “LGBT” acronym has to go. It doesn’t represent me. It matters only to lobbyists and gay identity politicos who decide which letters and in what order they’re put. I tweeted as such and Tatchell liked it. And where will it end? What will happen when they run out of letters? Surely, sexual plurality is what is important, and this would include like-minded heterosexuals from whom this acronym separates us.

    • Posted February 17, 2016 at 4:26 am | Permalink

      Thank you for your language policing and telling me which acronyms are acceptable and which are not. I used it because the newspapers and Wikipedia used it. Are you the arbiter of which names we should use? Do you want to tell me what words or acronyms are acceptable TO YOU.

      No, on second thought, just go and tell some other bloggers what represents you and what they’re allowed to use.

  32. Mike
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 6:48 am | Permalink

    Not be long before they’re burning Books, depressing.

  33. aljones909
    Posted February 17, 2016 at 8:07 am | Permalink

    This video, “Institutions of Higher Indoctrination”, features Professor Janice Fiamengo, University of Ottawa. The style is very calm and sober but will still leave you seething at the self righteousness idiocy on display.
    youtube.com watch?v=-jEQYHAFfjg

  34. KD
    Posted February 20, 2016 at 9:49 pm | Permalink

    I think it might be said that the Left undergoing a purge, the “authoritarian Left” is the winners, and the non-authoritarian Left is the losers.

    If you look at college professors, they are almost universally liberal, which means from a friends/enemies analysis, they have to divide themselves up and wage war on themselves. So, of course, they are eating themselves, there is no one else to eat anymore.

    It is unfortunate for colleges that the skill set that promotes centralization of power (charismatic leaders and zealous followers and rigid truth squads) and effective dispatch of enemies is not the skill set or the institutional culture that promotes the generation of new knowledge.


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