Nick Cohen has a piece in the Observer on censorship at UK universities. He starts, as he should, with Chris and Abhishek.
On the morning of 3 October, Chris Moos and Abhishek Phadnis put on joke T-shirts, of the kind students wear the world over, and went to man the Atheist, Secularist and Humanist Society stall at the London School of Economics freshers’ fair. The bullying the university authorities visited upon them for the next 36 hours should provoke the most important free speech court case to hit British universities in years. It certainly deserves to.
Both the left and the right complain about censorship, both engage in it, Nick points out.
The Moos and Phadnis case cuts through the hubbub of charge and counter-charge. It shows that authoritarians of all stripes share the same vices, and not just because you know without needing to wait for their careers to “progress” that today’s repressive student union politicians will be tomorrow’s repressive human resources managers and Labour home secretaries.
The students wore Jesus and Mo T-shirts with designs by a wonderfully acid British cartoonist, who wisely never discloses his real name. Jesus and Mo are holding a banner that says: “Stop drawing holy prophets in a disrespectful manner NOW!” Mo also has a placard that reads: “Religion is NOT funny” and is saying: “If this doesn’t work, I say we start BURNING stuff.”
Are you offended? Really? Oh dear that’s a pity, because if you cannot take a satirical reference to real religious censorship, your fragile sensibilities should be your problem and no one else’s.
To fill out the claim a bit more: there is such a thing as religious censorship; it’s active and widespread in the world right now; the cartoon skewers it neatly and economically; it’s a thing worth skewering, and skewering it causes real harm to no one. (What about religious censors?! Spare a thought for them. The cartoon might convince some people that what they do is not a good thing to do. Yes, it might. That form of “harm” is a risk of doing things that are not good things to do.)
The political hacks of LSE’s student union, who are studying at a university that Sidney and Beatrice Webb founded in 1894 to promote “modern” education on “socialist lines,” knew nothing of basic principles. They decided that the modern and socialist thing to do was silence freethinkers.
Student union officials told them to “lose the T-shirts” and pulled atheist literature from the stall. When the young atheists asked why they should submit to this impertinent demand, the hacks replied that the T-shirts were “of course, offensive”. They did not say why. The LSE’s security guards arrived and threatened to expel the atheists. Wearing the T-shirts was an act of “harassment” that could “offend others”, they said.
Student union officials and security guards teaming up against the atheists. Heart-warming, ain’t it.