Censorship. Censorship is my one-word response whenever I state what “hate speech” prohibition policies are intending to accomplish.
In a recent Bournbrook Article written by Columnist William Parker, he discussed the dangers of introducing ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘hate speech’ guidelines into university course curriculums, an issue brought to light by a recent attempt to pass a motion through the Oxford University Student Union which imposes these illiberal policies on the campus ecosystem. In a response, I declared that the reasons given for wanting to regulate and monitor the exchange of ideas in modern academic discourse (in the form of “hate speech” guidelines) is nothing but a façade.
Their justification of ‘protecting many students who are particular vulnerable to hate speech’ (the actual excuse recently deployed at Oxford University) exists to disguise the tiger as a stuffed toy animal to conceal its teeth and carnivorous instinct.
To illustrate why this is the case, I mentioned that some of the international students I interact with at my university’s public speaking society hail from dictatorships, where they must snap their mouth shut if they notice their mind sprinting ahead of their vocal cords. If anyone can at least tolerate these “hate speech” policies, it would be these students because they have grown up with having their thoughts and actions monitored and inspected constantly; but these are also the students who can most easily see “hate speech” policies for what they are (once again – because they’ve grown up with them).
The act of self-censorship for these students can become instinctual, woven into the very fabric of their DNA as a survival trait – which it is. So, when they reach the safety of a university located in the liberal democracies of the Western World, the culture shock can be overwhelming. Some society members have publicly aired certain viewpoints that would buy them a ride in a blacked-out police van back at home.
To them, the difference between freedom of expression and a crime against the state can be as little as a six-hour flight home to see their family, and the self-censorship gene re-activates upon arrival. What I perceive as nothing more than a student expressing their views can easily be turned from something trivial into act of rebellion in totalitartian countries.
The citizenry knows that it is being fed lies. No criticism of government officials, the police, the military or the Supreme Leader is allowed to inhabit the newspapers, be broadcast on television, or displayed in popular culture, but do you think this means that the people think their overlords are completely flawless? Humble angels on Earth?
Tyrannical regimes acknowledge that the propaganda dished out daily is not going to be believed by anyone (other than fanatical supporters of the regime), therefore the propaganda only has to be accepted. All one has to do is not to question this in any way and carry on with their lives – or else!
As a result, the citizenry is not fooled by whatever justification is specified by the regime for implementing its repressive policies. Censorship is usually legitimised through an altruistic goal of preserving the ‘collective health of the nation-state and its people’, along with its accompanying social order. This social order, whether it is the Mohammedan theocracies of the Middle East to uphold Islam or the eternal reign of the Communist Party in China, Cuba, and North Korea to continue the proletarian revolution, the common thread running through these two systems is that they are moulded around a universal, dogmatic truth about what is best. It is why dissenters of the regime are often branded ‘terrorists’ or imprisoned for being ‘counter-revolutionaries’.
Nevertheless, the uniting theme around all dictatorships regarding censorship is that its fundamental purpose is to safeguard the small and elitist group who command the reins of power; in other words, to defend the status-quo. Free speech is often described as the catalyst of progress, with the abolishment of slavery and the Suffrage movement being cited as notable examples, as without it, new ideas are unable to break into the public domain to overthrow the established order.
So how do the seemingly innocent and enticing policies of policing “hate speech” pair with some of the most abhorrent regimes in the world? I am confident that those reading this who have a basic grasp on what “hate speech” prohibition is, particularly within a university context, will have already noticed the comparisons as they have read through the paragraphs above.
If anything, “hate speech” rules are designed to be altruistic in appearance, claiming to secure the well-being of the down-trodden and ‘systematically oppressed’. But this is only to roll the Trojan Horse right through the gates of modern universities.
Although “hate speech” laws are increasingly seizing vast aspects of public life, it is within the university setting where they have become fully embedded. Everyone with a simple grasp of the ideological structure of a modern university knows that right wing political views are most unorthodox, both amongst the faculty and student population. The post-modernist, far-left belief system, centred around ‘structural oppression’ and ‘social constructs’ is the status-quo.
Framing “hate speech” legislation so that these set of beliefs cannot be discussed or challenged mirrors that of the various doctrines set out by dictatorships to uphold the ‘social order’.
“Hate speech” regulators and real-world dictatorships also cherish using intimidation against their opponents – anyone who speaks out against the status-quo must face the consequences. Of course, the numerous punishments applied in dictatorships is frighteningly more severe than any penalty pertaining to the violation of “hate speech” laws, but intimidation is still there even if it is a slap-on the-wrist in comparison.
Free thinkers are not handed a prison term but are instead exiled to the realm of social outcasts. Any critique of their worldview is labelled as racist/sexist/transphobic/ad infinitum, depending on which oppressed characteristic has been violated the most by what has been said. Reputations are ruined to discourage others from speaking up and debates held on these issues are deemed to be too ‘dangerous’ to take place. ‘Speech is violence’, they cry.
Lastly, I would like to ask the university students situated in the shunned ideological minority whether they’ve noticed that the proponents of “hate speech” legislation do not care about their feelings? The call to stop feelings from being hurt is actually a prejudicial proposition, because in order to establish what opinions are hurtful involves a great deal of discrimination to decide which opinions and emotions are worthy of protection. When “hate speech” rules are on their side, they take the liberty to be as passionate about their own views as possible, don’t they? But it is you who must stay quiet.
Photo by genericface on Flickr.