NOT AS SIMPLE AS R/A/G – THE FREEDOM OF SPEECH UNI RANKINGS 2018

by Lewis Martin

Content warning: mentions sexual harassment

This month, Spiked launched their newest Freedom of Speech University Rankings for 2018. The fourth edition of the rankings, which started in 2015, are an ‘assessment’ of freedom of speech on our campuses. Spiked’s methodology is simplistic. They look at the policies and actions of both universities and their students’ unions (SUs), ranging from the no-platforming of controversial speakers to their codes of conduct. They then give each uni and each SU a rank of red, amber or green, and give an overall ranking to each institution based on these two scores.

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ENGINEERING UTOPIA: CHINA’S PROJECT FOR DESIGNING ‘TRUSTWORTHINESS’

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by Justin Reynolds

Visions of a great civilisation enjoying ‘peace under heaven’ have haunted the Chinese imagination from the time of the sages to today, when President Xi Jingping’s ‘China Dream’ of a prosperous ordered nation is propagated ceaselessly by the state-controlled media.

Here hypermodernity is filtered through ancient virtues. China’s gleaming new cities, high-speed rail links and technology parks are studded with billboards urging honesty, modesty and filial piety. Its vast wired economy is screened for decadent Western influences, blocking Facebook, Google and YouTube, and magazines infatuated with celebrity gossip or ‘crude language’. This year the ‘Great Firewall of China’ was reinforced when the state banned VPN services used by millions to break through to the global web.

Now China is finetuning the ultimate technological fix for designing a virtuous society: a ‘Social Credit System’ that will use the data produced by a population of some 1.4 billion citizens in the course of their daily interactions with digital services to rank them according to ‘trustworthiness’.Continue Reading

TRADING FREEDOMS – THE OFFICE FOR STUDENTS PROPOSALS

by Lewis Martin

CW: mentions transphobia

Universities must bring back freedom of speech!’ That was the premise of various headlines surrounding Jo Johnson’s announcement last week of proposed powers for the Office for Students (OfS). One of those proposals is that universities and student unions that don’t conform to Johnson and the OfS’ concept of ‘freedom of speech’ could receive sanctions in the form of fines. While the powers of OfS are still only at the consultation stage, this announcement gives us a rather concerning insight into the plans and aims that Johnson has for the newly formed office.

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WHAT IS CENSORSHIP? BOOKHIVEGATE, FOR FUCK’S SAKE

by  Zoe Harding

Content warning: Strong language, sexual assault, Nazi imagery, hazardous levels of idiocy. The following is the author’s opinion.

So this is happening. Now, like most people, I’m obviously not in favour of censorship. Or state-sanctioned drone strikes firing missiles entirely filled with out-of-date shrimp, for that matter. I believe everyone has the right to say whatever the hell they like, and everyone else has the right to punch them in the face if that speech advocates fucking genocide. Hello again, assorted term-searching wank sandwiches.

But sometimes, sometimes, I find myself out back filling a hollowed-out Hellfire with 2014’s prawns, because sometimes the story is a respected author picking a fight with a bookshop she’s apparently never been to because they don’t stock books by some random orange fascist cunt in a different country, and that, somehow, is ‘censorship.’Continue Reading

THE GOVERNMENT KNOWS YOU’RE READING THIS

by Zoe Harding

CW: pornography

Just a heads-up: The government knows you’re reading this.

Literally. Amidst the endless torrents of nonsense spewing from the ongoing Brexit negotiations (update: Theresa May throws up hands, announces ‘Fuck it all, God will sort it out’) and the dawn of a new chapter in the great story of democracy, the government the British people did not elect and didn’t really ask for passed some of the most intrusive legislation a British government has ever passed. The Investigatory Powers Bill, also known as the ‘Snooper’s Charter’, is due to be signed into law in a couple of weeks, and it manages what can only be called a very British Government feat in being both poorly-worded and terrifying.

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SAFE SPACES, HUMAN KINDNESS AND THE RE-CREATION OF ADULTHOOD

By Rowan Gavin

Several months since the safe spaces debate reached the public eye, I’m sure most of you are by now overly familiar with the arguments being made on both sides. Likely you have had the misfortune of hearing someone say that, instead of attempting to exercise some control about when and how they are exposed to traumatic material, students should just ‘man up’ and ‘soldier through it’ like a certain group of people did ‘back in the day’. Recently, I heard academic John Gray on BBC radio 4’s ‘A Point of View’ making his case against safe spaces, and noticed a worrying number of parallels between his apparently sophisticated arguments and those that start with the command to ‘grow a pair’. I hope that deconstructing Gray’s 9-minute monologue can reveal a bit about how these kinds of substanceless arguments and the prejudices that motivate them attempt to veil themselves with legitimacy.

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NO, HATE CRIME LAWS AREN’T CENSORSHIP – AND HERE’S WHY

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by Paige Selby-Green

I was disappointed but not surprised to see Concrete publish this article last week about how hate crime laws are supposedly on par with censorship. I wish I was more surprised, but the simple fact is that this opinion isn’t uncommon even though it is eye-wateringly ignorant. It boils down to people flailing their arms and squawking about free speech and the right to an opinion. Well, I’ve got a question for all you believers – why is it more important to you to protect an opinion than it is to protect actual people?

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