In my previous blog I outlined the methods employed by the SJWs. First they attempt to silence opposing voices, as they did quite literally in the case of Professor Jordan B Peterson at the Universiry of Toronto, where a white noise machine was used so he could not state his position on controversial Bill C-16 which would grant legal protection to gender expression and gender identity in Canada. When that fails, the SJW will attempt to remove the platform of the person that they disagree with. In the case of Peterson, SJWs put pressure on university administrators to silence him by making a list of demands signed by various student groups. Also, separately, they had the Canadian Union of Public Employees (Queer Caucus) contact administration with unspecified threats of “acting accordingly” should Peterson not be muted. But this is a common tactic among those of the extreme left.
Across British universities it is now common to hear the term “no-platforming”. The National Union of Students (NUS) in the UK has adopted a policy of refusing the right to speak for persons or organisations that they deem offensive. Essentially, student unions can shut down any debate that they feel goes against their opinions. It creates an SJW bubble or echo-chamber in universities, once places of ideological debate and difference, where students only hear the thoughts and ideas that reinforce their positions. And power of veto is invariably used by the NUS as a political tool to silence opposition. In 2015, SJWs at the University of Cardiff attempted to have a lecture by feminist Germaine Greer cancelled because she dared offer the opinion that post-operative transgender women are not actual women (though this had nothing to do with the lecture she was invited to deliver). Similar controversies have erupted at Durham University and at Canterbury Christ Church University where Nick Lowles of Hope Not Hate, by any measure a liberal organisation that promotes an inclusive Britain, was accused of Islamophobia for daring to speak out against Islamists and Asian paedophile gangs in Britain. This is also happening in universities across the USA where a similar collective of SJWs are shutting down talks that they deem “offensive” by blocking access to seminar halls where the talks are scheduled and by storming the stage to disrupt proceedings. The most consistent target of this has been the provocative Milo Yiannopoulos. All of this serves to silence any opposition so that SJWs can live in a world where only those who reinforce their beliefs are given a voice and those who do not are no-platformed – forcefully if need be.
While the decline of intellectualism on university campuses is worrying, where SJW methods of silencing opposition becomes truly sinister is when, having failed to silence or remove the platform of opposing views, they move to professionally and economically destroy the individuals who dare oppose them. This is the definition of totalitarianism and what is increasingly worrying is that this method is bleeding into mainstream liberalism where it is casually and opportunistically being employed to silence political debate.
In October 2016 at the University of California, Berkeley, SJW students blocked access to campus for white students as part of a demonstration that demanded “safe spaces” for the LGBTQ+ community as well as “spaces of colour”. Aside from the racist nature of the protest and the simply bad idea of demanding a return to racial segregation, the actions of the protestors marks a new normal in protest culture. The Berkeley students, as you can see in the video below, moved their protest to the student store where they again blocked access and posted threatening letters. The students demanded that the proprietors of the store vacate the premises so that the students could have it for their own offices. Why? Because they were unhappy with their current office space and that, to them, was reason enough. An “eviction notice” that students posted on the premises read “You are hereby notified by the students of the University of California, Berkeley to vacate the premises immediately…If you fail to vacate immediately, community action will continue to escalate with the goal of eliminating any revenue generation.” That is a sinister and totalitarian threat. Bow to our demands or we will destroy your business and the livelihoods of anyone who works here.
I mention this to illustrate the point that an extreme minority can, in our current political and intellectual climate, wield disproportionate influence. And I have no doubt, just as in the case of Jordan B Peterson of Toronto, that when these SJW students bring their case to university administration, rather than being admonished for their actions, they will be negotiated with and they will be granted favourable terms which will only embolden them more and cause deeper resentment towards them from the wider student population.
In case one were inclined to dismiss the above example as simply being the actions of a politically active and youthful minority, an anecdote if you will, one need only look at the current tactics of some in the Remain camp after the recent “Brexit” EU Referendum in the UK. At the time of the referendum, which resulted in a decision to leave the EU, I wrote about the dishonest coverage of the referendum by the liberal media and you can read that here. In November of 2016, a panel of three judges in Britain’s High Court ruled that the government would have to gain Parliamentary approval, putting the result of the popular vote in jeopardy. This ruling has again resulted in heated debate on social media. In most cases, both sides passionately argue their viewpoints, which is social media at its best. However the hashtag that gained most traction after the High Court decision was #StopFundingHate.
At first glance, it is difficult to understand the connection between #StopFundingHate and the Remain camp because it is fair to say that a great many Remain supporters are centrist or centre-left liberals, not extremists. @StopFundingHate was founded on twitter in July 2016 with the expressed mission to “take on the divisive hate campaigns of The Sun, Daily Mail and Daily Express – three right-leaning tabloid daily newspapers. Prior to the November ruling by the High Court, @StopFundingHate was a little-known movement. That is most likely because it employs the same extremist methods as the Berkeley SJWs. The objective of this movement is to publish the names of any companies that advertise in each of these papers and to get as many people, through the power of social media (and group-think), to demand that they stop advertising in them with the ultimate aim of cutting off the paper’s revenue streams. The organiser(s) claim that it does not wish to close these papers but to “change the media” from focusing on “hate”. In reality, their methods are more ugly than their mission.
In the aftermath of the High Court ruling, the Daily Mail published an article on its front page that read “Enemies of the People”, alluding to the High Court overruling the popular referendum vote. The article was seized upon by Remain voters who, desperate to justify and protect the ruling that had gone in their favour, were quick to interpret the article as an attack on the judicial system. This soon became the focus of intense social media debate. Again, this is social media at its best and to be expected of a healthy democracy. However, things took an ugly turn when @StopFundingHate began encouraging angry Remain voters to start petitioning advertisers in the Daily Mail to withdraw their advertising money. The trend quickly took off and @StopFundingHate began publishing the names of companies that advertised there. These names were widely retweeted and many contacted the companies directly to demand they stop advertising with these papers. Here is a selection of some of the tweets directed at these companies.
Though the @StopFundingHate group claims to simply exert pressure on the media to be more responsible they encouraged Remain voters to boycott those companies that sponsored these papers knowing that without sponsorship through advertising these papers cannot survive. And even if they were true to their mission, the result is no less worrying: they would demand, under threat of financial ruin, that these papers print what they say is ok. Many on the left happily promoted this agenda. But it is important to think about the implications of this movement. Companies are being told to remove funding from papers, something which would shut them down. That means that an unknown number of people would lose their jobs. People with children, with mortgages, with debt and other financial obligations. These are people who simply work for a paper and are happy, after a prolonged recession, to have a job. @StopFundingHate would have these people lose their livelihood for the crime of working for a company that they disagree with politically. But worse, by calling on people to boycott major companies such as British Airways, Costa Coffee, Currys/PC World, Tesco, Waitrose and many, many more, @StopFundingHate would feel justified if literally thousands of workers were laid off, not because of the marketing strategies of their companies as they would have you believe, but because someone somewhere (in this case a newspaper) does not think as they do. Again, that is totalitarianism and it is wrong.
As mentioned in a previous post there is now a considerable liberal bias in education, in the media and on social media. Should mainstream liberalism begin to use the tools of the totalitarian left more frequently, we can expect to see the rise of a generation of bullying, intellectually dishonest fascists bent on destroying anyone they deem guilty of wrongthink.
The good news is that as educators we have a unique opportunity to foster individuality in place of identity politics, critical-thinking in place of groupthink and communication skills in place of no-platforming. In this post I suggest ways to promote critical-thinking skills in the classroom.