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Oct 08 2013

Censoring atheists at LSE is a victory for oppression

Note: Don’t usually cross-post my Guardian Comment is Free pieces, but since I am occasionally reminded that this is a freethought / atheist / secularist blog site, I thought I might as well paste  my latest here too, since it is rather in keeping with the philosophy. More on this story on Alex and Ophelia‘s blogs

 

In Tariq Ali’s autobiography, Street Fighting Years, the veteran radical recalls his culture shock at arriving as a student at Oxford in 1963. His prior education had been under the military dictatorship of Pakistan, where he would not dare to share atheistic thoughts, even in whispers to his closest friends.

 

“When I first saw a pimpled youth, wearing a tattered crimson corduroy jacket standing on a chair in front of a stand at the freshers’ fair and shouting at the top of his voice, ‘Down With God,’ I was both excited and moved. In fact I was a trifle incredulous, which must have explained the fact that I just stood there and stared. Finally, a bit embarrassed, the man in the corduroy jacket stepped down and recruited me to the Oxford University humanist group. I was to discover, much to my surprise, that debates here were much more stimulating than those conducted within the careerist confines of the Labour club.”

 

Fifty years later, almost to the day, student atheist groups have been recruiting once again. At the LSE – an institution that in Ali’s day was notorious for anti-establishment, free-thinking radicalism – Abishek Phadnis and Chris Moos from the atheist society were summarily ejectedfrom their own freshers’ fair by student union staff and security. Their offence was wearing T-shirts featuring cartoons from the hugely popular online comic series Jesus and Mo. They were told that wearing the shirts was creating an “offensive environment”. The students then received a hand-delivered letter from the LSE secretary, asking them to refrain from wearing the T-shirts and warning that the school “reserves the right to consider taking further action if warranted”.

Meanwhile in Reading, this year the atheist, humanist and secularist society has been expelled from the student union altogether. The decision follows a similar row at the 2012 freshers’ fair, when the society decorated their stall with a pineapple, to which they had attached a post-it note bearing the name Mohammed. As the group explained at the time, in services to both historical accuracy and comedy: “After a few minutes, we were told by another member of RUSU staff that ‘either the pineapple goes, or you do’, whereupon they seized the pineapple and tried to leave. However, the pineapple was swiftly returned, and shortly was displayed again, with the name Mohammed changed to that of Jesus.”

A student union, like any institution, is duty bound to protect all its members from hatred, discrimination, intimidation or threats of violence. In neither of these instances is this relevant. Jesus and Mo is anti-religious satire at its best, invariably humane, intelligent and often very funny. The cartoons are miles removed from the grotesque, demeaning caricatures of some of the notorious Jyllands-Posten cartoons of 2005. Meanwhile, calling a pineapple Mohammed (or, for that matter, Jesus) has the approximate intellectual depth of saying “knickers” to the vicar. However when such a gesture is made in solidarity with untold hundreds of people currently imprisoned or facing corporal or even capital punishment for crimes of blasphemy around the world, it is surely considerably more offensive to restrict and punish such expression than it is to utter it in the first place.

Freshers’ fairs at all universities present the first taste of a new life for hundreds of thousands of young people every year. Most leave the confines of the family home and the intellectual limitations of schools. Thousands more arrive from overseas, including many from countries where freedom of religious expression is severely curtailed. Some students arrive with sincere and devout religious conviction, and no one should question their right to retain and exercise their beliefs. But how many others arrive, like the young Tariq Ali, relishing hitherto unimagined freedom of thought and belief? How many would be similarly inspired in their thinking, their political and personal development, to know that British universities are places where religious beliefs can not only be freely exercised, but freely challenged, even mocked?

Grumbling old farts like me often bemoan the diminishing radicalism of students. Often it is unfair – we place expectations on young people from which the rest of us seem exempt. But 50 years after Ali had his moment of revelation, a mere five years after we finally got around to abolishing the blasphemy law in England and Wales, I find it sad and disturbing that students themselves, and the administrators of their institutions, appear to be voluntarily forbidding anti-religious expression.

We face challenges in 2013 that did not exist 50 years ago. Religious hatred, particularly Islamophobia, is a real and corrosive influence in political and media discourse and it needs to be challenged and resisted. However when such efforts extend to echoing and mirroring the most heavy-handed restraints on freedom of thought and expression, effectively imposing a theocratic, fundamentalist rulebook on believers and non-believers alike, it is a victory not for progressive liberalism but for dogmatic oppression.

39 comments

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  1. 1
    Copyleft

    And let’s not forget speech codes, and anti-hate speech rallies, and professor-policing initiatives. If there’s one place that needs to be shielded from the free and open expression of controversial or even unpleasant thoughts, it’s college.

  2. 2
    JT

    “Sticks and Stones”…………There was a time when we would tell our children to grow a thicker skin. Im of the mind if it is not physically threatening or stalking like verbal behaviour then we should be pretty much be able to say whatever we want. If you dont like it, turn the channel or turn and walk away. Alas, the genie is back out of the bottle and it is now back to curtailing free speech. By the way, I think Islamophobia is a pretty stupid word and just another way to try and curtail someone’s speech. You do have every right to use it though. ;)

  3. 3
    Adiabat

    However when such efforts extend to echoing and mirroring the most heavy-handed restraints on freedom of thought and expression, effectively imposing a theocratic, fundamentalist rulebook on believers and non-believers alike, it is a victory not for progressive liberalism but for dogmatic oppression.

    No offense Ally, but you are about 5 years behind Daily Mail readers here. People have been telling guardian reading, social justice types that this would be the end result of their attempts to silence people based on “harassment”, “hate speech” and “freedom of speech comes with responsibilities” for years.

    So far, you’ve won. Institutions such as universities have been transformed from places where free speech and the free exchange of ideas are paramount to another powerful institution where ‘causing offense’ is grounds to silence someone. Now the same people are complaining because… what? Did it go too far? Did it turn around and bite you in the arse? Did you finally realise that you’ve essentially gave the powers-that-be the power to silence any speech that they don’t like?

    I’m afraid the only people to blame here are people like you.

    P.S I’ve re-worded that last sentence a few times now to try and make it seem ‘nicer’ and less antagonistic. I give up! The problem really has been caused by people with similar political views as yourself.

    P.P.S And “Islamophobia” is not a thing.

  4. 4
    Ally Fogg

    P.P.S And “Islamophobia” is not a thing.

    Right. So that guy currently on trial for plotting to blow up mosques and Islamic centres is what, just confused?

    The people who’ve been dumping pigs heads on the doorsteps of people in Bradford recently have been motivated by love and concern?

  5. 5
    Ally Fogg

    Oh, and I’d be more inclined to take lectures about Daily Mail readers about liberalism if they weren’t fully in favour of imprisoning people who burn poppies and flags.

  6. 6
    Ally Fogg

    Oh, and for good measure, can I ask you to clarify your position on feminists who write “all men are rapists” or “kill all men”? You’re not interested in condemning them, criticising them or denying them a platform I take it?

    All part of the glorious free speech carousel?

  7. 7
    JT

    Right. So that guy currently on trial for plotting to blow up mosques and Islamic centres is what, just confused? (Ally)

    Nope, he obviously hates the religion of Islam, just like some of the Islamic bombers who targeted your subway system hate the west. Not confused or phobic, just hateful.

  8. 8
    Ally Fogg

    Nope, he obviously hates the religion of Islam

    I’d disagree. To want to actually hurt and / or kill people requires one to hate those people, not beliefs. And it should go without saying that many people attending a mosque will have a vast diversity of personalities, characteristics, beliefs etc, the only thing they will have in common is their faith.

    And it is a fallacy (not to mention a very asinine rhetorical point) to suggest that Islamophobia just means fear of Muslims, any more than homophobia means fear of homosexuals.

    The word encompasses a range of any and all disproportionate or irrational fear, hatred, hostility, distrust or whatever.

  9. 9
    JT

    So in countries such as Egypt, when a church is bombed, would that be Christianphobia or a temple in India Hinduphobia?

  10. 10
    Ally Fogg

    So in countries such as Egypt, when a church is bombed, would that be Christianphobia or a temple in India Hinduphobia?

    Well it might be nice to think they have a more elegant word in Arabic or Hindi or whatever, but otherwise yes, exact same principle applies.

  11. 11
    Adiabat

    Ally (4):

    Right. So that guy currently on trial for plotting to blow up mosques and Islamic centres is what, just confused?

    A phobia is by definition irrational. There are many rational reasons to hate Islam, like most religions. That doesn’t make those who commit, or plan to commit, horrible acts justified in doing so, it just means that your special word “isn’t a thing”. It’s just a word you’ve invented to silence people. Why not just say “you hate Islam” to people. I doubt the person you are talking to would have a problem with that, they may even try and given you a reason why. Y’now, it may even facilitate dialogue with the potential to change either of your minds, but no, you prefer to use an emotive term with unjustified connotations to silence them instead. Such is the Guardian way.

    (5):

    Oh, and I’d be more inclined to take lectures about Daily Mail readers about liberalism if they weren’t fully in favour of imprisoning people who burn poppies and flags.

    You both are just two sides of the same coin. You want to silence those you disagree with, give an exception to those ‘on your side’, while criticising the other side for doing the same. I see little difference between the Guardian and the Daily Mail.

    Are you blind to the fact that the Guardians own hypocrisy is used by Mail readers to make the exact same point you’ve just made, but in reverse? Any Mail reader can easily refer to the Guardians own calls for censorship to reject all your claims of ‘liberalism’.

    (6):

    Oh, and for good measure, can I ask you to clarify your position on feminists who write “all men are rapists” or “kill all men”? You’re not interested in condemning them, criticising them or denying them a platform I take it?

    No, only Guardian readers want to restrict platforms for people (the BNP on Question Time comes to mind). Feminists can say whatever they want; it makes my job so much easier.

    I won’t even come up with emotive words with unjustified connotations to describe them, such as a “phobia”, and hope no-one’s noticing that I use that word as an argument in itself; as though simply using that word in reference to someone is enough to discredit any point they make.

    Just noticed your latest post (8):

    To want to actually hurt and / or kill people requires one to hate those people, not beliefs.

    Some people have difficulty separating their hatred of an ideology with their hatred of the people who subscribe to that ideology, in many different variations. If I ever encountered those people I would say that they are fine to hate the religion, but they should recognize that theists pick and choose the bits they like from their religion. So even if a religion is reprehensible it does not follow that all people who say that they follow that religion are reprehensible. Problem solved.

    Or you can just call them “Islamophobes”, I’m sure that’ll change minds /sarcasm

  12. 12
    Adiabat

    Ally (10):

    Well it might be nice to think they have a more elegant word in Arabic or Hindi or whatever, but otherwise yes, exact same principle applies.

    I call bullshit I’m afraid. While I admire your consistency and your willingness to concede that it works both ways, I don’t believe for a second you would actually ever use such an emotive, connotation-bound word to describe an Egyptian who hates Christianity with the eagerness with which you throw “Islamophobe” around?

    Maybe you’ll prove me wrong one day, and I’ll apologise when it happens, but I just don’t believe you’d do that.

  13. 13
    Ally Fogg

    So do you believe there should be no laws against, say, incitement to violence?

    Where is your line on freedom of speech?

  14. 14
    Dunc

    “guardian reading, social justice types” … “people like you”… “people with similar political views”…

    Remind me, what was the HetPat First Directive again? I’m pretty sure it was something about not generalising about large, ill-defined classes of people…

    I’m also not entirely sure that it’s a good idea to generalise from one or two specific organisations (it almost always seems to be the LSE and or Reading SUs in these stories). There are lots of universities in this country, and so far as I’m aware, very few of them have student unions which are behaving like this. It’s probably also worth noting that it’s the student unions we’re talking about here, not the universities themselves, and I’m not entirely convinced that they really count as “powers-that-be”. Student unions are notorious hotbeds of pointless bullshit, and pretty much always have been.

  15. 15
    Ally Fogg

    I don’t believe for a second you would actually ever use such an emotive, connotation-bound word to describe an Egyptian who hates Christianity with the eagerness with which you throw “Islamophobe” around?

    The eagerness with which I throw Islamophobia around?

    How often have you ever heard me use it as an accusation against others? How often have you ever seen me trying to silence or stifle criticism of religion or cultural practices?

    Internal religious bigotry in Egypt is not something I know about or write about very often, I’ll admit but I’m vociferously opposed to religious hatred and sectarian hatred whether it happens in Glasgow, Cairo or Tel Aviv, just as I’m vociferously opposed to racism wherever and whenever it arises.

  16. 16
    Adiabat

    Ally (15): Being opposed to something and using a term that dismisses any concerns they have as “irrational” are two different things.

    I oppose the violence between Israel and Palestine, on both sides, but I don’t feel a need to invent a term that dismisses any greivances either side have and renders their views as automatically invalid.

    Dunc (14): I’d like to think “people with similar political views” is differentiating enough to avoid the HetPat directive, as it specifies the views that must be held to be included.

    Does anyone really deny that the excuses of “offense” to shut people up comes anywhere other than from “Social Justice”? Or are you just instinctively defending your group, because obviously they can’t do anything wrong, or spread memes that have any negative effect? I now of no other group that uses such reasons to silence people. Maybe historically you could blame various “puritanical” groups wishing to protect the sensibilities of the public but that hardly washes nowadays.

  17. 17
    Adiabat

    Ally (13): That’s a good question, though I haven’t got time now to give it the reply it deserves.

    Hopefully you don’t mind if I reply tomorrow.

  18. 18
    Gjenganger

    @Ally Fogg

    And it is a fallacy (not to mention a very asinine rhetorical point) to suggest that Islamophobia just means fear of Muslims, any more than homophobia means fear of homosexuals.
    The word encompasses a range of any and all disproportionate or irrational fear, hatred, hostility, distrust or whatever.

    The central point – which is being challenged – is that anyone moved by a ‘phobia, misogyny, racism, antisemitism etc. is by definition irrational and has no sane arguments or motivation. That usage is wrong on two counts:
    - It serves to dismiss and demonize perfectly rational people whose opinions are inconvenient
    - It assumes that people like Anders Bering Breivik, or whoever was trying to blow up mosques can only be moved by irrational motives (unlike Osama Bin Laden, Ulrike Meinhof, or Pol Pot?)

  19. 19
    JT

    @Ally

    So do you believe there should be no laws against, say, incitement to violence?

    Where is your line on freedom of speech?

    I think it is as easy as A or B

    A. I hate Muslims.

    B. I hate Muslims, go beat or kill them.

  20. 20
    Ally Fogg

    Where is your line on freedom of speech?

    I think it is as easy as A or B

    A. I hate Muslims.

    B. I hate Muslims, go beat or kill them.

    A Marks you out as a prejudiced and ignorant bigot.

    B Marks you out as a criminally liable prejudiced, ignorant bigot.

    On the other hand

    C. “I hate the Islamic religion” is a perfectly legitimate point of view.

    and

    D. “I hate political Islam and Islamic fundamentalism” is a rather admirable point of view.

  21. 21
    jemima2013

    I am a Christian and I love Jesus and Mo, but far more important than the feelings of any individual is the right of people to hold dissenting views, so long as those views do not harm another person. I think this has been a massive fail on the part of the School, however it is not the first time they have stood against free speech and freedom of expression. (The silcott years and disinvestment in SA occupations come to mind)
    People tend to assume the School is a hot bed of free thought, the court of govenors has never looked favorably on the radicalism of the students though. The removal of the atheists is not the first, and will not be the last time something like this happens at the LSE.

  22. 22
    Ally Fogg

    Gjenganger

    The central point – which is being challenged – is that anyone moved by a ‘phobia, misogyny, racism, antisemitism etc. is by definition irrational and has no sane arguments or motivation.

    Leave sanity out of it, I would never bring that into this debate, but otherwise pretty much, yes.

    Anyone who is prejudiced, discriminatory or hateful to others based on nothing more than the person’s cultural, religious, ethnic, racial or national identity, their sexuality or gender is in the wrong, ethically and politically and is a socially harmful presence.

  23. 23
    JT

    A Marks you out as a prejudiced and ignorant bigot.

    B Marks you out as a criminally liable prejudiced, ignorant bigot.

    Ally, exactly my point, one is ignorant and prejudiced but legal. The other was illegal. C and D were very good too. :)

  24. 24
    Paul

    Religious hatred, particularly Islamophobia, is a real and corrosive influence in political and media discourse and it needs to be challenged and resisted

    I agree with the above just as i largely agree with the main thrust of this article.However those too quick to brand people as bigots are just as oppressive as those who censored the atheists at the LSE

    There is a legitimate debate to be had about the growing conservatism in some sectors of the Christian Jewish and Muslim faiths in this country.And the intolerence this can encourage also needs to be challenged and resisted.

  25. 25
    bugmaster

    @Ally #6:

    Oh, and for good measure, can I ask you to clarify your position on feminists who write “all men are rapists” or “kill all men”?

    I think that, in the long run, it is quite beneficial to foster a culture where fundamentalist feminists are free to say stuff like “all men are rapists”, side by side with the Westborough Baptist Church types who say that “god hates fags”. Once they say it, their ideas can get the attention (read: ridicule) they deserve, and, hopefully, relegated to the dustbin of history where they belong.

    Yes, it is very tempting to suppress such vile and offensive speech, and yes, I agree that it does cause tangible harm. The problem is, who decides what is “vile and offensive” ? Is it you ? Or is it the Christian majority, who believe that saying “god hates fags” is a bit in poor taste, but saying “god does not exist” is a blasphemous abomination that must be silenced ?

    I agree that policing speech can be an effective strategy for advancing a social agenda, but the collateral damage is too great, and the risk of abuse is too high. Note that the modern Atheist movement owes its very existence to the fact that our culture permits many kinds of speech that a large segment of the population find offensive.

    On the other hand, saying stuff like “kill all men” is an incitement to violence, as you said; AFAIK it’s a criminal offence, and should remain so. We are in agreement there.

  26. 26
    Thil

    @Ally Fogg @20

    So to be clear you think “A” is repugnant but should be covered but freedom of speech regardless?

  27. 27
    Thil

    26 Thil

    “by” not “but”

  28. 28
    Jupp

    Ally Fogg:

    Their offence was wearing T-shirts featuring cartoons from the hugely popular online comic series Jesus and Mo. They were told that wearing the shirts was creating an “offensive environment”.

    If you want to discuss people taking offense at harmless T-shirts, you don’t need to look far, you can talk to some of the freethoughtbloggers, who took offense at a woman wearing a T-shirt which said “I feel safe and welcome at TAM” and “I’m a skeptic, not a ‘skepchick’, not a ‘woman skeptic’, just a skeptic”.

    22. Ally Fogg:

    Anyone who is prejudiced, discriminatory or hateful to others based on nothing more than the person’s cultural, religious, ethnic, racial or national identity, their sexuality or gender is in the wrong, ethically and politically and is a socially harmful presence.

    I think most people are discriminatory and hateful against pedophiles. So, according to you, most people are in the wrong and a socially harmful presence.

  29. 29
    Thil

    @Jupp @28

    “person’s cultural, religious, ethnic, racial or national identity”

    he didn’t list choices or personal morality. pedophiles are hated because they choose to rape children and/or think that’s an acceptable thing to do.

  30. 30
    Jupp

    Thil,
    a pedophile is an adult who is primarily sexually attracted to prepubescent children.
    Your comment was hateful against pedophiles, hence you are “a socially harmul presence”/s.

  31. 31
    Thil

    @Jupp

    ok Firstly you and I both know “pedophile” is commonly taken to mean an adult who sexually asults someone under 13 (as there is no other way to sexually engage with such an individual) regardless or sexual desires, even if the strict definition is something else. Secondly to my Knowledge there’s never been an instance where the public knew someone was a paedophile (according to your definition), without out also knowing they defiantly hadn’t also actually gone through with raping a child so there’s no control for this? thirdly, Believe it or not I actually have a lot of sympathy for such people.

  32. 32
    Ally Fogg

    Pedophilia is not a sexuality, Jupp, it’s a crime.

  33. 33
    Tamen

    Pedophilia is not a crime, by most definitions it’s a psychiatric disorder – which by itself is not a crime. A pedophilic act – in other words sexual abuse of children are very much a crime.

    I think one of the dangers of mixing these two things is that not all perpetrators for childhood sexual abuse are pedophiles (have a sexual attraction towards prepubescent children), but have other reasons for sexually abusing a child.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pedophilia
    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Child_sexual_abuse#Pedophilia

  34. 34
    Adiabat

    Ally (15):

    The eagerness with which I throw Islamophobia around? How often have you ever heard me use it as an accusation against others? How often have you ever seen me trying to silence or stifle criticism of religion or cultural practices?

    By defending the term as a valid criticism you are enabling the silencing of genuine criticism of Islam. This is exactly the type of thing I’m referring to when I say that people who share your views are largely responsible for what happened in the OP. You seem to have little regard for the inevitable end consequences of your views. When “Islamophobia” started being used anyone with any foresight could predict that the OP was going to happen eventually, but you pressed ahead with it anyway. Even if there was a purpose for the label once, now it is just being used to silence, even oppress, people and it would be time to abandon it.

    If you really want to fight for the validity of the term then you need to police it as well, and that includes policing Muslims and others who use the term in response to any criticism of their religion. I don’t think it is possible for you to this, but that isn’t exactly my problem, as I’m happy to just reject the term as not valid. (You might say that that’s not your responsibility, but if you want people to accept your term then it is.)

    As it stands now when someone points to someone else and says “He is an Islamphobe!” that tells me absolutely nothing. I don’t know whether they are hating all Muslims regardless of their actual views, whether they are secret racists using Islam as an excuse (and the accuser can read minds) or whether they just pointed out a problematic part of Islam. I don’t know whether they are being rational or irrational, whether the use of “phobia” is justified or just silencing. And if I question the accuser to find out more detail I usually just get called a bigot. For all intents and purposes the term “Islamophobe”, as used in the real world, includes people who hate Islam for very rational reasons. That is why it’s not a thing.

  35. 35
    Adiabat

    And as promised, even though the discussion has moved on a bit:

    Ally (13):

    So do you believe there should be no laws against, say, incitement to violence?

    Not really. My reasons are twofold:

    The first ties into the previous couple of your posts and the arguments you made. If someone commits a crime the blame ultimately rests with them; blaming their environment or saying “he told me to” is no excuse. (Exception of course apply, usually to do with relative power and coercion. And of course offering bounties etc).

    Incitements to violence only work when the people you are inciting are already prepared to commit violence. You can’t make someone do something they didn’t want to do. That’s why the CPS chased everyone involved in the London riots, not just the ones inciting the violence. If people are angry about something and want to do something about it I find it unfair to punish the person who simply articulate what they are all thinking.

    The second reason is that I can imagine circumstances where I would support an incitement to violence, because I feel the cause is just and alternative means have been ineffective or suppressed. The American Declaration of Independence for example. Likewise with the French Revolution. If you ban the first guy down the pub to say “we are oppressed, and we have no recourse but to fight!” based on “incitement to violence” laws, and do likewise with all the people afterwards who repeat the message, you give corrupt governments the power to smash dissent and continue oppression. Like I said, the incitement will only work if people already agree. Punishing the results of free speech is fine or preventing those results from happening is also fine, that’s what the police are for, but not punishing the speech itself.

    The complication comes from the fact that I’m in no position to be official arbiter of which causes are just and which are not, neither is anyone else, including those in government. If I try to restrict others’ free speech because I don’t think their cause is just but allow those I agree with I become no better than the Guardian or the Daily Mail. If I had the power to actually restrict free speech based on nothing but my personal views on whether the cause is just, and I did so, I become an oppressor.

  36. 36
    Gjenganger

    @Adiabat 34.
    I very strongly agree with you. I would just add that ‘islamophobic’ is not the only problematic term. We get exactly the same mechanisms for ‘misogynist’, ‘homophobe’, ‘racist’, ‘transphobic’, … Admittedly e.g. homophobes are real and common in a way that ‘islamophobes’ are not, but here too the accusation is more common that the reality.

  37. 37
    Gjenganger

    @Ally Fogg 22

    Anyone who is prejudiced, discriminatory or hateful to others based on nothing more than the person\u2019s cultural, religious, ethnic, racial or national identity, their sexuality or gender is in the wrong, ethically and politically and is a socially harmful presence.

    That is a perfectly reasonable opinion, but your use of ‘islamophobic’ (‘racist’, ‘misogynist’, …) still extremely bad for debate.

    Essentially your usage is conflating four different things:
    - That people’s motives are irrational and not worthy of consideration.
    - That their actions are harmful
    - That they deserve strong moral condemnation
    - That they disagree with your political views more than you find acceptable.
    Quite likely you think that the four go together, but that is exactly what a political discussion should explore. The net result is that anyone who disagrees with you on these points is by definition ‘mad, bad and dangerous to have around’. Even if that is your sincere opinion, it is still not good enough for a debate outside the inner circle of your friends.

    First it replaces analysis with moral judgement. People with the wrong opinions are ‘islamophobic’, which means they are evil, irrational, and harmful, full stop. That makes it impossible (and even morally suspect) to consider their actual motives and grievances, if any. It is not very different from the way right-wingers use ‘terrorist’ to banish groups they do not like from consideration. The net result is more righteousness and less information. It doees not help that the badwords generally had a fairly precise negative meaning before they were taken over by progressives. If you can no longer distinguish between ‘has an irrational psychotic distaste for muslims’ and ‘disagrees with common left-wing views on multiculturalism’ it is not only political debate tha gets confused.

    Second it makes open debate impossible outside the inner circle. The price for admission to the discussion is to agree with your terms, like ‘islamophobic’ – in other words to accept your judgements and worldview. People who actually disagree with you are then excluded. You might score some points off those who are unused to hair-splitting (or under the misapprehension that this is an honest debate), but you will never convince anybody, nor learn anything about the thoughts and grievances of your opponents. What you will get is pointless name calling and lots of sterile semantics (‘I am not a racist!’. ‘I cannot be, because Islam is not a race!’, ‘That is not what ‘islamophobic means!’). All because your choice of terms has made it impossible to discuss the real issues.

    Finally, as Adiabat points out, it encourages a kind of tribal thinking that makes it hard to criticise the failings of groups that have been accepted as good guys. It is hard to be critical of muslims and their organisations witout being seen as (or seeing yourself as) ‘islamophobic’ , and smart people will make full use of the free passes this gets them.

    To be sure, this kind of word games have been politically effective. Essentially it means using your strong position in the cultural and educational elite to establish your views as unquestionably right and dissenting views as socially unacceptable. It is not up to me to advise you whether the gains from this strategy outweigh the frustration and rage it engenders in the people you might, in theory, want to convince.

    But it does seem strange. What is the point of being open and tolerant in debate, of respecting the truth, of going to great lengths to invite in all kinds of dissenting and disagreeable views like mine – as you notorously do – and then to run the debate in terms that surreptiously exclude anybody who does not agree?

  38. 38
    Jupp

    Thil:

    ok Firstly you and I both know “pedophile” is commonly taken to mean an adult who sexually asults someone under 13…

    Et voila, we have an example of common hateful behaviour against pedophiles and if you don’t see it then “your gay”.
    Secondly, I concede that I have no solid scientific proof, but you can google yourself to find out peoples reactions to people they believe are pedophiles. Also I think, that the reason, that paedophiles stay closeted is, because pedophiles are commonly hated. (you can try it out and convince some people you are a pedophile).

  39. 39
    Thil

    >If a woman is pregnant and not of extensive independent wealth, and her boyfriend refuses to commit to supporting the child, what is she meant to do?

    I would imagine mike would suggest she should have practiced abstinence in the first place.

    incidentally I think parents should be able to demand DNA tests on their kids at anytime, and be allowed to cut off child support in exchange for loosing any parental rights

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