Censorship and liberty

Two articles at Quadrant Online subject the furore surrounding Christopher Monckton, a mathematician, and his choice of images last week, to ironical analysis.

The first, “Academics Declare War on Free Speech” by Bill Muehlenberg (Quadrant Online, June 30, 2011), observed that recent background to intolerance of different views that has characterised too much of university life both here and in the US in recent years. Curiously the author forgot the censorship by students and others at the University of Adelaide some time in the 1970s (if memory serves) of the psychologist H. J. Eysenk. Controversy followed Eysenk like a love-sick puppy:

By far the most acrimonious of the debates has been that over the role of genetics in IQ differences, which led to Eysenck famously being punched on the nose by a female protestor during a talk at the London School of Economics.

Eysenk never spoke in Adelaide; censorship ruled. By stifling debate, authorities, happily or otherwise, avoided difficult controversy and defending principles fundamental to liberal society.

And so it continues among the great and good, as Michael Connor tells it in “Silence of the gods” (Quadrant Online, July 6, 2011). PEN is his particular target, probably a good a source of hypocrisy as any. PEN, itself, claims that its primary purpose is to:

be an authoritative source on matters of free expression in Australia and internationally[.]

Connor observed that PEN abides by that principle as and when it suits. Clearly efforts to silence Monckton do not fit their remit. Nor, Connor noted, does the legal plight of Andrew Bolt. Helen Garner’s name appears on a list called ‘Writers Panel’. One might have hoped for better from one with Garner’s experience of intolerance. Well, in Oz, perhaps not. After in Oz, science is about consensus, not dissent.


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