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Headline

Scruton sacked as chair of beauty watchdog over ‘unacceptable comments’

Comment

McKenzie Architects are correct. This is basically oppression of free speech. And we should all know where that slippery slope has lead in the past. Tyrannical regimes that in the last century killed over 250m people. Who is to judge and how are the boundaries between what’s "acceptable" and "unacceptable" defined. That’s a very dangerous one to attempt to answer. This is not hateful speech. His statement about the Muslim Brotherhood is factually correct. His statement about Hungary, Soros and Victor Orban is factually correct. His statement about the Chinese is an amusing personal point of view that can be accepted or discarded without having to be “triggered” or "offended". Freedom of Speech is not just another principle. It's the mechanism by which we keep our psyches and our societies organized, and we have to be unbelievably careful about infringing upon that. The generally negative comments represent an elitist media caste that is obstructing a great populist revolution. This caste is spectacularly ignorant of what constitutes a progressive civilisation. They reduce human interaction to tedious name-calling between the “woke” and the “red-pilled”, awake to the truth of reality. It cannot be said too often that the first amendment to the United States constitution was adopted with the explicit purpose of protecting minority opinion. Though we have no such jurisprudential protection in Britain, and we – like most democratic societies – curtail speech that is libellous, incites imminent violence or whips up racial hatred, our inherited presumption in favour of free expression is more important than ever. A pluralistic, diverse society needs more free speech, not less. It needs fewer safe spaces and bans, and more civility and resilience. Now, I know what some of you are thinking: what right does a white, middle-class, straight, cis male like Scruton have to say anything about this? And the answer is: he should say what he likes, within the law, and so should you. Object that “speech is violence”, and I reply: tell that to the 262 reporters who, according to the Committee To Protect Journalists were imprisoned last year – a record high. It has become fashionable to claim that the wrong kind of words can cause damage to our “neural circuitry”. To which I say – really? Are we really going down the road where speech is included in the same category as fists and batons? Because once you allow that philosophical elision, you essentially ditch the Enlightenment – which, speaking for myself, I still find quite handy to have about the place. Of all the delusions that grip our fractious era, one of the worst is the confident belief that greater restriction of speech will necessarily serve progressive ends. I see no logic in that whatsoever. Everyone finds something objectionable or upsetting. It would be a moment of maximum peril if the primary test applied to expression became its capacity to offend. Why assume that those setting the rules would necessarily support the powerless or the disenfranchised? The injunction “You can’t say that” leads just as plausibly to Margaret Atwood’s Gilead or to Oceania. To be a citizen is to engage, and as an intellectual Scruton is a model of that engagement. Unless you believe that history has a self-evident direction – and it really doesn’t – you must accept that almost all progress is achieved by the hard grind of negotiation, tough debate and busy pluralism. The aphasia of “no-platform” and the bedlam of the digital mob add nothing to the mix. To quote the great African-American scholar Henry Louis Gates: let them talk.

Posted date

10 April, 2019

Posted time

5:27 pm

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