One thing that seems clear, at least to me, is that Scotland is woker than England, for you see more stuff like this happening to the North of Blighty than from its south. But even if you disagree with my assessment, it’s hard to approve of the bad behavior of academics from the University of Edinburgh who are calling for the banning of a book on sex and gender. The article below comes is from the Times of London; click below to read, and if it’s paywalled you can find it archived here.
Academics at the University of Edinburgh have been accused of an “horrific” and “nonsensical attack” on free speech after calling for the launch of a book about gender politics to be cancelled.
Members of the University and College Union have written to an estimated 2,000 staff and research students calling for a protest at the event on Wednesday and told Sir Peter Mathieson, the university principal, it should be scrapped.
The union branch said essays in the book, Sex and Gender: A Contemporary Reader, reduce “trans people to an abstract anomaly or sinister cabal” and breached the Equality Act.
It told union members in a mass mailing of its “concerns about the launch of a transphobic book on campus” and said it would be holding a protest at the event. The claims were rejected out of hand by contributors to the book and by other academics.
UCU Edinburgh was previously criticised for preventing free speech after it twice supported demonstrations and stopped the screening of the documentary Adult Human Female, billed as a critique of “transgender ideology”.
Shereen Benjamin, a senior lecturer in primary education, and a contributor to the book, said the UCU’s claims were “outrageous”, adding that she was horrified by the email to academic colleagues.
Benjamin said: “The individuals in charge of the branch have used their position to try to suppress legitimate academic discussion where it challenges views they personally hold, by exploiting policies intended to make the university a decent, fair environment, and smearing anyone who disagrees with them.”
. . .In its letter to Mathieson, the UCU accused Benjamin, a founder of the Edinburgh branch of Academics for Academic Freedom, of “debunking” the rights of trans people.
I haven’t found the email from the Union, which is a student group, but the UCU Edinburgh is clearly deeply Pecksniffian, having stopped the screening of a movie that, while you may disagree with it, makes some good points and certainly doesn’t deserve banning. (You can see the whole movie free on Youtube.)
Of course if you say anything that’s not 100% in agreement with the assertions of trans activists, you’re going to get labeled a “transphobe”, even if you simply disagree with the right of trans women to compete in women’s athletics. The way the ideologues control discourse is to make their opponents so fearful of being called names that the opponents shut up (it’s worked with critics of “indigenous ways of knowing” in New Zealand). If that fails, try to ban their books.
A form of this banning is the refusal of scientific journals to publish criticism of weak papers. One example occurred when Colin Wright wrote to the editors of Integrative and Comparative Biology asking if several of us could submit a critique of a dreadful paper they published, “Multimodal models of animal sex: breaking binaries leads to a better understanding of ecology and evolution” (see here and here for some criticisms). Colin never got a response after writing the editors several times. This is reprehensible behavior on their part, and, worse, it’s their attempt to promulgate dubious science by simply censoring its opponents. They want to avoid social media criticism: what a great excuse for suppressing scientific discourse!
But I digress. Edinburgh Uni has issued a statement saying what’s below, which is a bit self-contradictory:
Edinburgh University said it attached great importance to freedom of expression and academic freedom and “would not seek to influence any lawful events held on our campus”.
A spokeswoman added: “Given the size of our community, it is inevitable that there will be differing views and opinions. We always encourage respectful debate and discussion, and we remain steadfast in our determination to facilitate a safe environment where challenging topics can be explored. We also firmly uphold the right of people to take part in peaceful and lawful protest.
But an environment that explores challenging topics will be perforce deemed UNSAFE, so how do they deal with that? But I do trust that Edinburgh Uni will take no steps to censor or ban this book. It’s always the students who make all the noise.
But is the book “transphobic”? Have a look at the description of the book and title page here:
The title page:
I don’t see anything obviously transphobic here, but of course the Pecksniffs can find something in this lineup of sex and gender criminals to foster banning the book. Where is ACLU lawyer Chase Strangio when we need him? Sadly, he can’t stop the circulation of this book, because the kerfuffle is in the U.K.
Here is an ACLU lawyer saying their goal is to stop the circulation of books and ideas…
In case you were wondering how free speech is doing. pic.twitter.com/jIGhCSEAbZ
— Wokal Distance (@wokal_distance) November 13, 2020