8 November 2019 | OPINION
I remember listening to a video of Professor Jordan Peterson, who said that whatever happens on University campuses usually translates into wider society a few years later. In recent years, we have seen a new wave of political correctness and censorship on University campuses; safe spaces, trigger warnings and even no-platforming are all too common on the modern-day campus. Words and modes of address that aren’t even remotely offensive are now banned, as they are suddenly seen as a major transgression. A good example of this lunacy is the shenanigans surrounding gender-neutral pronouns. Unfortunately, I do think Professor Jordan Peterson is right about Universities being microcosms of what is to come in wider society, and I do think we are seeing this play out.
In recent days a number of MPs have said they are standing down because of the abuse they have received. I would like to say that I in absolutely no way support MPs or anyone receiving any kind of verbal abuse. I think constituents who incite violence against elected representatives should face legal prosecution. Having said that, in some jobs receiving abuse is just the reality of the job. For example, I worked in sales and marketing, receiving all kinds of abuse from people; if I had complained about it, I would have been shown the door. The truth is, MPs will get stick and if you can’t take it, then you probably shouldn’t be an MP. However, in the era of political correctness and hypersensitivity, “abuse” is a very elastic concept and I can’t help thinking that the crusade against abuse is actually censorship under the guise of benevolence.
For example, Labour MP Paula Sheriff accused Boris Johnsons of using so-called inflammatory language in Parliament. The words Paula Sheriff took issue with were “surrender”, “humbug” and “Turkey”. Former Labour leader Ed Miliband also used this as an opportunity to virtue-signal on Twitter about how awful Boris Johnson’s language was in Parliament. I’m sorry, but if you’re getting offended over words such as “surrender”, “humbug” and “Turkey” then I’m afraid the problem is with Paula Sheriff and Ed Miliband, not Boris Johnson.
This crusade against so-called “abuse” is actually narcissism, engaging in nothing more than phoney outrage to make themselves look like a virtuous hero on social media. However, in the name of virtue-signalling on Twitter about how they are so against abusive and inflammatory language, what MPs are actually doing is absolving themselves of criticism. If the opposition cannot say words like “surrender”, then we might as well wrap duct tape around our mouths. With modern-day PC culture, I can very easily foresee a future in which journalists cannot ask MPs difficult questions, and members of the public cannot criticise their MPs, without being accused of abuse and prosecuted for hate-speech. I can easily foresee a future in which MPs brag about the UK being an open and tolerant nation while also arresting people who criticise them, under the guise they were being intolerant.
MPs who have complained about abuse often refer to the tragic murder of Jo Cox, claiming the language used in Parliament will inevitably lead to another Jo Cox-style murder happening. While a noble intention, it is based on entirely faulty logic. For example, nobody would argue that we should ban people from crossing the road because somebody might get knocked down; what MPs are doing is taking something to its extreme conclusion. This plays into a more dangerous trend in the era of political correctness, which is equating speech with violence. Speech is not violence – speech is an alternative to violence.
I personally want to live in a country where the population are free to criticise the government and their elected representatives. I want to live in a country where the press can scrutinise politicians without being told to watch their language. I want to live in a country where rigorous debates take place. Politicians would be wise to remember that they serve the people, not the other way around. After all, censorship under the guise of benevolence is still censorship.