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Stasi and Snitch.


IT’S UNLIKELY THAT most of the students at our universities who are so keen to snitch on their classmates and lecturers for wrongthink, wrongspeak or wrongtweet have heard of the Stasi or the Securitate. That’s a pity, because a brief acquaintance with those two institutions of modern totalitarianism may, just a smidgin, introduce a spark of self-awareness into their smug little minds. On the other hand they may pick up a few tips from their practices.

It will not have occurred to them that the ease with which their outrage against all the isms and phobias of our age is ignited, and the fact that they unquestioningly act in a mob-like manner, both on and offline, are indications of an absence of independent thought accompanied by an abundance of bovine docility. I bet they all know Miller’s The Crucible and believe that they would not have fallen for the hysteria the play portrays. No, not them. And yet here they are, in universities up and down the country, accusing, denouncing, demanding apologies and screaming for the imposition of silence on heretics.

At no point will any of the social-justice types think of the personal effects of their actions on the people they target.

They are now the witch hunters, but instead of condemning you, as the victim, to imprisonment, torture or death, you’re banished to the soft gulag of shame, unemployment and the destruction of your reputation and career. At no point will any of the social-justice types think of the personal effects of their actions on the people they target. They’ll batter away on their keyboards, hyperventialte on social media, send off emails to whoever is mummy and daddy in authority, demanding they stop the naughty man or woman from saying upsetting things.Then they’ll go back to gossiping about who’s having sex with whom and who threw up in the club at the weekend after too many Jagermeister bombs.

What is truly awful is they do this voluntarily, without coercion or the promise of remuneration. How the Stasi and Securitate would have loved them! Perhaps they think they are rebels standing up for the underdog, ‘speaking truth to power’, as that cheap, clapped-out slogan has it. Or they think they’re confronting the state when really they’re reinforcing the status quo.

There are a number of reasons this kind of hysteria works well in universities. Student unions are as virulent a breeding ground for wannabe leftist politicos and activists as they were in my day (when they had the hots for the IRA and the PLO). These days you get your collective virtuous rocks off on transgenderism, feminism, Islamophobia or whatever. Take your pick, there’s a veritable smorgasbord of outrage available. Unlike the silent majority of individual students, who don’t give a damn about the politics, unions have both a voice and power which they are not afraid to exercise.

The indoctrination into this kind of groupthink has been going on throughout the education system before students arrive at university, and is constantly reinforced by the echo chamber of social media. Lecturers are overwhelmingly on the left and thus unlikely to provide any counterpoint to what is now received opinion. They’re happy to make critical comments about the bogey men of the right such as Trump and Farage but are unlikely to speak up when a witch hunt is in progress against a member of their own faculty.

The predominance of females in the humanities plays a significant part as well. I believe they’re more susceptible than males to being taken in by the current varieties of identity politics, especially as these are weighted in favour of women’s issues and tilted against men; and because they are easily swayed by the fake compassion under which these issues are promoted. Not to forget that in terms of group behaviour they’re more likely to indulge in character and reputation assassination than males.

As Peter Hitchens points out, this behaviour is not an irrelevance just because it happens in the universities:

…the students who impose these bans will all too soon be the civil servants, MPs, lawyers, police officers, journalists and above all teachers of tomorrow.

We are breeding a generation of Thought Policemen. They have been taught what to think, not how to think. Disagreement makes them frightened and angry.

We already have a generation of older clones in positions of power and authority, ready to enforce the PC agenda. The National Trust a couple of years ago caused a rumpus with its Pride campaign when it thought it was a good idea to promote homosexuality to its visitors. The following year it annoyed people by having statues of men at Cragside in Northumberland covered up to highlight “the lack of female representation in art”.

It’s now a running joke that various police forces are more likely to turn up to grill you for naughty tweets or nasty blogposts than to chase the scum who burgled your house.

And as for those pinnacles of British university education, Oxford and Cambridge, you can forget about them. Plans are afoot to make the Oxford Classics degree easier for the girls because not enough of them are getting Firsts. We can’t have another gender gap, can we? Over at Cambridge, Dame Sally Davies has been made Trinity’s college master (“master” – surely some sexist mistake?). Dame Sally made a name for herself as a prominent prodnose when she was the country’s Chief Medical Officer, busily calling for taxes on sugary foods, bans and warnings and whatnot. Proper nanny.

With people like this in place and the universities processing each student cohort into activists ready to follow them, the situation can only get worse. I saw the inevitability of the social justice movement gaining ground a few years ago, with its jargon about trigger warnings and “privilege”. The campuses are already prickly with oversensitive but aggressive types eager to police everyone’s thoughts. There’s only one delicious irony to savour in the firestorm that’s coming – those lecturers who think their leftist credentials guarantee them immunity from the Stasi and snitch mob are mistaken. Some of them are in for a shock. They would have my sympathy if they weren’t a big part of the problem.

suxcoverCurrente Calamo columnist, poet and writer Michael Blackburn lives in Lincolnshire. A Royal Literary Fund Fellow at Lincoln University (2005 – 2008), his poetry has appeared in numerous publications and anthologies over the years, including Being Alive (Bloodaxe) and Something Happens, Sometimes Here (Five Leaves Press). His most recent book is Albion Days (perennisperegrinator press). Sucks to Your Revolution is a collection of his Fortnightly columns.

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