Tolerance means shutting people up

Debate will wither away

Intellectual freedom, writes Dalrymple, is

in retreat in liberal democracies, curtailed not so much by tyrannical governments as by the action of the class of person who one might have supposed was most attached to it, the intelligentsia. In institutions such as universities, freedom of opinion (if the reports I read are true; I do not frequent them myself, not even by disinvitation) has receded because diversity means uniformity.

The kind of arguments used by students and others to justify the attack on free speech in universities is

of the form that the Soviet Union employed in casting doubt on the reality and sincerity of the Western world’s commitment to rights. What use was it to have the right to free speech if the media were owned by the capitalist class, and there was no assured right to housing, healthcare, education and so on, which the bourgeoisie appropriated to itself? The freedom of expression in such circumstances was formal rather than real. There could be genuine freedom only after social equality had been brought about. Until then, freedom of expression was a snare and a delusion, a covert way of maintaining the hegemony of the privileged.

Although, says Dalrymple,

this argument was bogus (otherwise it could hardly even have been made in the West), and was merely a tool or instrument in the struggle, it entered the soul of the West. Now, nearly thirty years after the demise of the Soviet Union, one often hears that it is right to stifle free speech to redress the balance of power between traditionally privileged and unprivileged groups.

Dalrymple points to an article he has just read in the Guardian newspaper inveighing against public debate, not only because it is often trivial in content and trivialising in format, but because it offers advantages to ‘posh boys’ and is ‘structurally biased in favour of conservative bromides’. The existence of debate

is evidence that it is at best pointless and at worst harmful, insofar as it reinforces hierarchies of power. Once the proper radical reforms have been undertaken, there will be no need for it because everything will be so perfect. Debate will, like the State, wither away.

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  • G.  On June 25, 2019 at 09:08

    They cannot reason or use critical thinking and make good arguments for their liberal nonsense so they have to ridicule or shout down or exclude all those who oppose their viewpoint.

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