It is increasingly fashionable among self-identified progressives and left-wingers, particularly within academic environments, to promote the idea of “safe spaces” – places where the normal right to free speech is heavily curtailed in order to protect designated minorities and victim groups from encountering words and ideas that might cause them mental discomfort.
This blog finds the idea of such “safe spaces” utterly repellent, and a prime symptom of the infantilisation of many students in Britain and America – a generation of cosseted idealists who interpret any political disagreement as a sinister attempt to “invalidate their experiences”, who are unable to tolerate even polite dissent and who are lightning-quick to call for authority figures to come crashing down upon the heads of those who question their “dearly and closely held beliefs”.
But put aside the childishness of the “safe space” and the potentially chilling implication of such policies on the fundamental right to freedom of expression. Put aside the fact that protecting certain ideas from scrutiny, however noble they may be, leads to intellectual atrophy and erodes our democracy in just the same way it undermines the core purpose of a university.
What is really shocking is the double-standard at play. Those designated victim groups and their advocates on the left are free to say and do anything they please, empowered and protected by the perceived righteousness of their cause, while those outside this bien pensant collective have no right to hold their own opinions, let alone to express them or to campaign for them politically.
It is this double-standard which allows a mob of young anti-UKIP protesters to invade a London pub far from the campaign trail where UKIP leader Nigel Farage was quietly enjoying lunch with his family, to harass and intimidate Farage’s family to the extent that his young children fled and were separated from their parents, and to jump on the bonnet of his car as he attempted to drive away – and still come away feeling as though it were they, the mob, who had taken a stand for freedom, tolerance and decency.
From the Telegraph’s report: