Writing for The Guardian, Martha Gill shows exactly how not to make a convincing case that claims that free speech is endangered on college campuses are overblown.
But is free speech really under threat? The first thing to say is that the scale of the problem in universities has been exaggerated. The practice of denying people speaking slots over their views has rightly caused concern, but every single instance has also attracted vast coverage in national papers, giving the impression of an epidemic. They are not reflective of the feelings of most students.
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Free speech advocates also misunderstand the motivation of those who might want to shut down a debate: they see this as a surefire mark of intolerance. But some debates should be shut down. For public dialogue to make any progress, it is important to recognise when a particular debate has been won and leave it there.
Even the most passionate free speech advocate might not wish to reopen the debate into whether women should be tried for witchcraft, or whether ethnic minorities should be allowed to go to university, or whether the Earth is flat. No-platformers are not scared – they simply think certain debates are over. You may disagree, but it does not mean they are against free speech.
It is not that some people are against free speech, but rather that some people think some speech simply should not be allowed. Got it.
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