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On the 18th November Germaine Greer is booked to give a lecture at Cardiff University entitled ‘Women In Power’.

Someone called Payton Quinn is seeking to have Ms. Greer ‘no platformed’. In other words, put pressure upon the University authorities to cancel the engagement. To deny her the right to speak.

Why?

Ms. Greer is accused, as I understand it, of inciting violence against trans-gender people – an interpretation Ms. Quinn bases upon comments Ms. Greer has made in the past to the effect that M to F trans-genders, whether pre-op. or post op., are not real women: that they neither look nor think like women – that the operation is not always the success it is claimed to be.

Now I may or may not agree with Ms. Greer and I have no personal opinion on trans-gender issues, but I would aver that she is a distinguished advocate of gender equality, that she has propitiated the interests of women throughout her life, and I am sure that any opinions she voices are well researched even if I remain unconvinced by them. But I deeply and profoundly resent anyone who wishes to stifle those opinions. I am at least entitled to hear them for myself, to form my own judgment.

Payton Quinn herself claims to be gender neutral, despite the inescapable femininity that plagues her photographs. She is 24 years old, and has seized this very public stage for herself at the expense of everyone interested in Ms. Greer’s lecture and will, no doubt, capitalize in due course. The clichés ‘attention-seeking’ and ‘self-publicizing’ spring to mind.

Quinn claims she wants to gag Ms. Greer because her opinions constitute ‘Hate Speech’. She quotes Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights (a clause intended to control people who willfully incite the populace to violence – pages 10 and 11 if you’re interested), thus somewhat aligning Ms. Greer with Abu Hamsa.

Now I am uneasy about anything which tries to quantify a fundamental right like freedom of speech, but I am certainly gravely concerned when it is used to stifle opinion; especially when anyone who wishes may freely challenge that opinion and – importantly – make their argument heard. In fact, through reading some of the vitriol on Ms. Quinn’s Twitter pages, I can only conclude that the ‘hate speech’ is from her side, directed at Ms. Greer.

I hope the wiser heads at Cardiff University will resist pressure to cancel this lecture, if only because I see it as the thin end of a very dangerous wedge. Can any activist minority group seek to stifle free speech in this way? Whatever happened to: ‘I may not like the things he says, but I will defend to the death his right to say them’?

Zealots always seek to quash opposition. They refuse to brook contrary opinion – they merely see it as dangerous. But when you come to think of it, freedom to express opinion is all we have – all that separates us from tyranny and the One-Party State. Universities are meant to be places of learning and reason, where the higher, more challenging matters of existence are debated; a department in which they may have fallen short in recent years.  Perhaps its time to redress the balance.

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