Someone at Spiked took the trouble to email me to promote one of their articles, so I’ll oblige by talking about how predictably Spiked and dopy the article is. It’s about rape and the smothering politically correct consensus that blah blah blah you’re asleep already aren’t you.
LSE hosted a debate titled “Is Rape Different?” The author, Luke Gittos, who is billed as Spiked’s law editor, attended the debate; one of the four participants was another Spiked contributor.
The debate has since provoked predictable ‘there is no debate!’ uproar from people with nothing better to do on Twitter. But such is the hysteria around the discussion of rape and rape laws that the outrage of the Twittersphere has been allowed to spill into the world of academia.
Wait. People with nothing better to do, yet here Luke Gittos is, reporting on it. Well which is it? Is Twitter just a toy for people with nothing better to do? Or is it a serious thing worthy of reporting by a serious website like Spiked? Is “the Twittersphere” silly or is it significant? Has Luke Gittos made up his mind about that, or is he just throwing shit at walls in the usual Spiked fashion? (Spoiler: I think it’s the latter.)
The journal Feminists at Law, based at Kent Law School, has launched a petition for the LSE to ‘ensure that the ideas disseminated [at the debate] do not feed dangerous stereotypes about women being responsible for the sexual violence perpetuated against them’. The petition has been signed by around 85 people.
Wo, 85 whole people! No wonder Spiked is upset and alarmed!
Another journal published something similar, criticising the decision of the LSE to host the debate and saying it was symptomatic of a neoliberal impact agenda in higher education.
What this reaction reveals is a desire to restrict discussion around rape. We are seeing the cult-like elevation of one inalienable ‘truth’ above all others. This ‘truth’ is that we live in an age where rape is part of everyday culture, and where those in power are doing nothing to stop it. Anyone who dares question this prevailing orthodoxy on rape is guilty of a chauvinistic heresy, attributable to their immersion in a controlling patriarchal society.
Oh get a grip. Of course it’s possible to point at something or other and say it reveals a whatever. So what? I like poking fun at pompous bullshit as much as the next person, or in fact more than most people, but I try not to exaggerate the implications of one pompous-bullshit article unless there’s good reason to think that more than six people read it.
It is precisely this climate of ‘you can’t say that’ which universities have traditionally challenged in the name of robust open debate. The LSE took the admirable decision to host the debate entirely in the public realm, even publishing the discussion as a video online. In doing so, it demonstrated a commitment to the traditional role of the university in leading and promoting public discussion.
That’s bullshit. It implies that universities “have traditionally” had no limits whatsoever on what can be robustly debated, and that’s just bullshit. Universities started as religious institutions, and they operated within very narrow limits. And as for this shock-horror about “you can’t say that” – there are actually things people shouldn’t say. An oncologist shouldn’t tell a patient with cancer to use homeopathy or go to the Burzynski clinic, for example. A US president shouldn’t say that atheists are not citizens, for example. A teacher shouldn’t tell students that they’re going to hell unless they subscribe to a particular religion, for example.
But the idea that debates like this should be held in public is anathema to contemporary ‘anti-rape’ (as if anyone is ‘pro-rape’) campaigners, who seem to think that certain arguments are capable of turning almost any member of the great unwashed into a ‘rape sympathiser’.
Welllllll there’s a shining example of privilege at work. He thinks no one is pro-rape? Dude! Lots of people are! Think about it.
Any attempt by journals like Feminists at Law to limit our access to alternative or critical views should be recognised as more than an attack on those making arguments they disagree with: it is an attack on our right to know. So three cheers for the LSE for staging the debate; three cheers for those who took part; and three cheers for those members of the public who attended and fought hard for the ideas they believed in. At a time when hysteria can enforce false orthodoxies in public life, we need these open, interrogative forums more than ever.
Do we? Isn’t the need more for good research than it is for staged debates? The latter have more to do with entertainment than with the search for knowledge. (Note that Gittos used the dog-whistle “hysteria” twice in this short article.)