(Writer's note, this is part one of a two ((maybe three)) part series, in which I tackle the thorny issue of freedom of speech, enjoy!)
Firstly, straight off the bat, I appreciate the irony of me, a white middle-class male, writing a blog (while sipping my herbal tea) on my nice expensive laptop, after a long hard day of being at a good uni, commenting on freedom of speech and how it's actually quite restrictive. I understand the irony, I do.
But I'd like to introduce a caveat. This is partly about freedom of speech on campus, and about how the popular Western concept of freedom of speech is so unreal and back-slapping. I am at Uni, and I witness this concept of freedom of speech every day.
And it's starting to get on my nerves.
There seems to be a wrong and naive attitude on many social media platforms about freedom of speech, and it centres on a quote by Voltaire's biographer, Evelyn Beatrice Hall. That is of course, the famous quote, "I may disapprove of what you say, but I'll defend to the death your right to say it".
In the last few weeks, Germaine Greer was supposed to attend my University and speak on her achievements and Women in the 20th Century in a lecture. Previously she has said some naive and wrong things regarding transgender people. In no way am I approving of what she said. But as a result of that, there was a petition passed around, and in no time at all, it was being mentioned by the Guardian. Germaine Greer cancelled her lecture, citing her age and an unwillingness to be subject to abuse throughout her lecture.
It sounds like an awful day-time TV show - a world-renowned thinker and feminist meets the students of a Russell Group University, a centre of learning and broadening minds; guess who comes off worse?
FIND OUT, AFTER THE BREAK.
And then the shock of everyone comfy in their comfy blue sofa, popcorn suspended in their hand, mouth agape, when they realise that it's the students coming off worse. It's the students looking silly, because they're so delicate that they can't listen to an opinion from nasty Germaine Greer without feeling insulted by her views on something totally different.
It's become some form of horrible social policing. If someone has an opinion that differs from my own, or indeed the social norm, then they can't engage in dialogue with me without me getting offended.
Voltaire's misattributed quote reads more like "If your opinion fits into a particular category of opinion that somewhat mirrors my own, then I'll defend to the death your right to say it".
Don't get me wrong here, in this article, I am not supporting Germaine Greer's views on Transgender people. Personally I view them as wrong. But I am strongly supporting her (and indeed anyone's!) right to come to a great University, supposed sanctuary of open thought and fresh minds, and state views, no matter how radical, in what I once thought was the best medium for them.
Without exposure to views different to your own, it is very difficult to form your own opinion.
I thought the University campus was the best medium for different and radical views to be heard, and fresh and exciting opinions be made.
It seems clear that I was wrong.
( I was also going to do an article on the rise of the trigger warning at University, but decided against it, for the sake of my laptop screen, and my fist )