I see that law students at Oxford University were told that if they found the contents of a lecture on rape and sexual assault ‘distressing’, they would be permitted to absent themselves. This is an interesting approach for future lawyers and barristers. Perhaps, further down the line, they will excuse themselves in court when the evidence is a bit gamey and go to a safe space for a good cry. Or should we be more concerned about those students who remained in the lecture theatre because they did not find the contents remotely distressing, but actually ‘a bit of a hoot’ or ‘bloody hilarious — especially that bit with the Rohypnol!’
Either way, this is supposedly the first ‘trigger warning’ issued as part of the curriculum by a British university, and it accords with the incalculably infantile and borderline fascistic concept of safe spaces and no-platforming held dear by the student body, and particularly the NUS. Feminists banned from campus because they disagree with a transgendered man’s ‘right’ to call himself a nice lady (despite the chromosomes and the soon-to-be-lopped-off todger). Gay campaigners discriminated against because they are that most awful of all things, white and male. Sombreros banned because they might annoy Mexicans. Fancy-dress costumes banned because they might offend someone, anyone.
I wrote about all this quite recently for the Sunday Times and came to the conclusion that the excellent lesbian feminist writer Julie Bindel got it right when she said this terror of divergent views came from the fact that the students were, as she put it, middle-class tossers who had never been gainsaid in their lives, never challenged in their views. I still think that is largely right, but one thing I missed from the Sunday Times article was the role of the universities themselves in perpetuating a left-liberal monoculture in an arena where a plethora of opinion should be encouraged. They are as mortified by the prospect of diverse opinion as the students.
Let me mention a couple of names to you: Alan Rusbridger and Yasmin Alibhai-Brown. One is the former editor of the Guardian, the latter a columnist at the Independent until it went digital, and read by almost nobody, anywhere. Between them they are or have been honorary visiting professors at four universities — Nuffield Oxford, Queen Mary, Cardiff and Lincoln, and possess honorary doctorates from four more. I know this because I hate both of them and regularly check what they are up to. I also know that no journalists whatsoever from what you might call an even mildly socially conservative viewpoint have ever been asked to be visiting professors anywhere in Britain. Not the editors of the Sunday Times, the Times, The Spectator, the Sun, nor I believe the colossus of them all, Paul Dacre at the Daily Mail. Nor any of their journos and columnists — not Dominic Lawson, not Melanie Phillips, and so on and so on. It seems that one rousing column denouncing the evil Zionist persecution of the poor Palestinians will get you a professorship at some tenth-rate poly: almost every leftie scribe has one. Even the palpably idiotic Owen Jones, aged 14 and three-quarters, has an honorary degree up his sleeve. And it is in this way that a political monoculture is preserved on campus: only those who toe a certain line are allowed in.
But it’s not just the universities. The same people are on the boards of everything else. Everything paid for by the public purse. Quangos. Directorships of all the artistic institutions. Take the recently departed director of Liberty, Shami Chakrabarti — honorary associations/professorships at eight universities and also a former governor of the British Film Institute. Why? Because she likes a night out at the flicks? You can do this thing with quangos — play six degrees of Shami Chakrabarti. Because the same people keep cropping up and you can always trace them back very quickly to Shami — they’ll share a boardship, if that’s what you call it, somewhere. They all have the same views; identical, middle-class liberal views. Thousands of these quangos and the same hundred or so people running them who all agree with each other. About everything. (And especially Palestine.)
And so it is with the BBC. At the recent puke-inducing Bafta awards ceremony, a lot of attention was paid to an impassioned and even tearful diatribe by one of the winners, the film director Peter Kosminsky. Peter won his award for the period bodice-ripping sludgefest that was Wolf Hall, which always induced in me a coma as soon as the title was sonorously announced by the continuity monkeys. So allow for a bit of private payback. An archetypal luvvie leftie, public school-educated, well-heeled and impeccably liberal, Kosminsky used his speech to lambast the government’s supposed proposals for ‘eviscerating’ the BBC — and, in particular, for announcing an intention to directly appoint the members of the corporation’s board. It will end up like the sort of media service you get in North Korea, Kosminsky wailed, while dressed in what appeared to be a quilted smoking jacket.
Au contraire, Pete. It will be the opposite of that. Right now it’s a bit like that, isn’t it? Where the senior panjandrums of the quango-cracy cheerfully appoint people with views identical to their own to run every-thing in the country. Show me a social conservative on the BBC’s board right now, Pete. Show me someone who thinks Israel is perhaps a victim as well as an aggressor, or that gay people shouldn’t marry in church or that we have already let in too many migrants, or that a transgendered person’s gender at birth is more definitive than the one which he or she has subsequently assumed. What the Culture Media and Sport Secretary, John Whittingdale, proposes will increase diversity of opinion within the BBC. Hell, who knows, this openness may even be reflected, one day, in the Ten O’Clock News.