2020: The Year Freedom Died

The ‘woke’ have won – it’s too late for our unis if academics need to hide their views

‘Problematic’ university professors are too afraid to share their views – how about we cancel overly-sensitive students instead?

Opinions. They’re tricky things. “Problematic”, to use the PC buzzword of the day. People have different ones, for a start, which is not ideal. But still more problematic are the side-effects. Opinions make you think, question, evaluate and re-evaluate. They open up your mind and expand your horizons – in a climate when minds should be sealed shut and horizons close enough to touch. No wonder British academics are giving up on them.

Over the past decade, campuses have increasingly put pressure on professors and lecturers to censor themselves and their teaching material, but a You Gov report released yesterday suggests that right wing academics are feeling this pressure most strongly. Whilst both right and left-leaning university faculty members admitted to believing that the airing of political opinions might adversely impact their career prospects (cancel culture doesn’t discriminate), a poll of 820 academics found that nearly a third — 32 per cent — of those with right-wing views had completely stopped airing opinions in either their teaching or research, compared with 13 per cent of those in the centre and on the left. (OK, so it discriminates a bit – but for the greater good).

I was amazed only 32 per cent of these academics were keeping it zipped, until I realised that 336 of those who responded to the poll were retired, and that the real figure was likely to be twice that. After all, every day some public (or private) figure foolish enough to air their views on politics, gender or any other trigger topic has their scalp held up in trophy-hunting-style warning to anyone thinking of doing the same.

These transgressors don’t just lose their jobs either, as the former New York Times journalist Bari Weiss pointed out at the weekend (having herself been ‘cancelled’ for her opinions) but are rendered “radioactive” in an act she called “social murder.”

So what’s in the opinion-airing game for academics? On a good day: nothing. On a bad one, you’d get passed over for a promotion or sacked, have your publisher pull out of every forthcoming book deal, and be forced to walk up and down the country for eternity with the scarlet letter ‘T’ (for ‘toxic’) emblazoned on your back. It’s enough to make anyone think twice about making that casual Brexit quip … Continue reading >>>

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