Totalitarian movements always, but always, rise up in rebellion against the liberal values of the West. That is their purpose.
Jamie Glazov, United in Hate: The Left’s Romance with Tyranny and Terror
From Alice in Wonderland
Peter Tatchell has always been something of a hero of mine. He is the fearless gay and human rights campaigner who, among other acts of cultural and literal bravery, has been beaten up while trying to arrest Robert Mugabe in Paris, beaten up (to the extent of suffering brain damage) demonstrating against homophobic laws in Russia, and threatened with more than a beating by members of a Music of Black Origin audience incensed at Tatchell’s stand against homophobic lyrics in various sub-genres of black music. I may not always agree with everything Tatchell says or everyone he defends, but I don’t require uniformity of thought between myself and my heroes. There are some, however, who do require uniformity of thought. Worryingly, they increasingly infest Western places of higher education.
Fran Cowling is a chemistry PhD student at Nottingham University. She has ‘no-platformed’ Tatchell, to use one of many ludicrous phrases beloved of the student body, for the twin heresies of racism and transphobia. She will now no longer speak at a conference at which Tatchell is also scheduled to speak. When the Western world has recovered from the loss of Ms. Cowling’s expertise, it may want to ask itself what this extraordinary spat tells us about the state of our universities.
This storm in a tea-cup (or should that be an LGBT cup?) seems innocuous, but it is indicative of a wider tendency that can have nothing good to offer. Mr. Tatchell’s transgression was to have signed a letter defending free speech - that quaint, archaic old phrase – from people like Fran Cowling, who would like ‘free speech’ to be a purely titular affair, a sort of ceremonial title which refers to nothing still in existence. For Ms. Cowling and her ilk, they may not agree with what you say, but they will defend to the death their right to silence you should you say it.
Fran Cowling is one of a new breed of student agitator which has found their new enemy not to be men, or the system, or capitalism, or fascism, but freedom of speech. Peter Tatchell would defend the ongoing erosion of that right. This is where the new Left will begin to encounter white water. Just as Orwell, in Homage to Catalonia, was bemused and irritated to find various anti-Franco, Communist sects at war with one another more than with their common enemy, so too the new Left’s wild cats are beginning to turn on one another.
Any self-respecting and united Left would be proud and humble to have a man of the calibre of Peter Tatchell avowedly among its ranks. Instead, a new Left is emerging, a doctrinaire, authoritarian, intolerant rabble of shouted slogans and short-eyed lack of imagination. Ms. Cowling is exemplary among these new, anti-Enlightenment shock troops. And yet how well, exactly, does she compare with Peter Tatchell? Tatchell was beaten unconscious demonstrating in Moscow against homophobia. Cowling, according to her grudge-ridden CV, ‘Helped organise campaigns and protests including All I Want for Christmas is Equal Marriage and SportsGay outside the Russian Embassy.’ Outside the Russian Embassy. Not in Moscow. Ms. Cowling has also ‘Run workshops… including: campaigning, feminism and LGBT history.’ As Alexei Sayle, himself rabidly Left-wing, once quipped; If you go to a workshop and there are no spanners, it’s not a workshop.
It is worth reading Fran Cowling’s CV, or resumé, and you can do so here. It is a pity that, if free speech is indeed under attack – and I believe it is unquestionable that it is - that the enemy is not a more worthy one.