Watch: Dr Benny Peiser on free speech


The Party told you to reject the evidence of your eyes and ears. It was their final, most essential command. His heart sank as he thought of the enormous power arrayed against him, the ease with which any Party intellectual would overthrow him in debate, the subtle arguments which he would not be able to understand, much less answer. And yet he was in the right! They were wrong and he was right. …With the feeling that he was speaking to O’Brien, and also that he was setting forth an important axiom, he wrote:

The Party sucks

So went George Orwell’s original manuscript for 1984, before he decided that the world he was portraying of very subtle, softly-censoring marginalisation (where the proles could say what they liked so long as it was through a weird form of messaging, but only to each other, while global platforms of goodthink blithely continued to arrange the world to their own ends) was too sophisticatedly totalitarian to be believable.

Not really, of course. But if Orwell’s masterwork had taken this line it’s arguable that many more of us would now be yelling a lot louder about what things have come to. On Twitter and Facebook, for example, saying ‘you suck’ or similar will get you suspended for ‘harrassment’; criticising the religion of Islam, or questioning immigration policy will also see your social media use curtailed; and dipping a sceptical toe into ‘intersectional’ feminism, which seeks to acknowledge a hierarchy of grievance – so a black, transgender lesbian is more oppressed than a white, middle-class feminist, for example – will see even feminists and gay rights activists given the cold shoulder and ‘no-platformed’.

As climate sceptics you’ll be no strangers to the idea of institutional authority clamping its hand over unwelcome mouths. The softly-sabotaging tactics now applied to Peter Tatchell and Germaine Greer are what critics of climate change alarmism have faced over many years. Fancy debating all this? Forget it: I won’t dignify your argument by even sharing a stage with you.

It was no surprise, then, to see Dr Benny Peiser at a recent debate on the growth of these speech-muffling tendencies. The debate was organised by online magazine Spiked and focussed on the growing popularity of ‘safe spaces’ on university campuses – that is, spaces where students can gather safe in the knowledge that their views won’t be challenged. As Dr Peiser points out, building a safe space is nothing new: academics and scientists, especially climate scientists, have been into the idea much longer than the current student body.

 

dividing-stripes


Transcript by Alex Cull

IW: So we’re here at the Spiked conference on free speech and safe spaces – what relevance does this have to climate, the climate debate, do you think?

BP: Well, climate issues obviously are part of the taboo issues that can’t be discussed freely on campus, the problem not just limited to students and their activists trying to prevent a debate, but the scientific community itself creating a space where the debate cannot occur. So we are concerned, not just what’s happening among the student body but also among academics themselves, and you could argue that the students are essentially copying the tactics of some of the scientists who have prevented critical speakers and sceptical speakers from voicing their opinion or asking questions. So it goes much deeper than just the student body.

IW: So the kind of – the whole thing is a lot older than – it goes back generations, this encroachment on… free speech.

BP: Yes, of course it goes back much longer, but it has been very successful. And that was one of the things I wasn’t too happy with speakers here saying if – you know, even if you prevent speakers from speaking, they will then make their views noticeable on the web, or so.

IW: Yeah.

BP: I think this is a very successful strategy in shutting down views you don’t like. The climate debate shows how you can intimidate all society in not speaking freely. It works, unfortunately, and unless we learn the lessons of how the stifling and the intimidation and the demonisation of certain topics actually not only stifles debate but intimidates a whole group of people, this will be used by activists as a very strong tool to force down their views. It’s not about preventing debate, it’s about really enforcing what is acceptable and what isn’t.

IW: Yeah. Yeah, um, so the pursuit of knowledge becomes secondary to um, sort of, policing an industry, a career, a whole…

BP: It is about not the pursuit of knowledge but the enforcement of what people deem as acceptable knowledge. There is acceptable knowledge and there is unacceptable knowledge, and students and the academics who think that there is some knowledge that is simply not acceptable, not tolerable, think it should never be mentioned, it should not be raised in public. And that’s the simplest way to an un-free society, which we had in the Middle Ages.

IW: We’d better get back in. Thank you, thanks very much.


 

The Victoria Derbyshire Show (BBC1) were also at the conference – see their report here.

 

15 thoughts on “Watch: Dr Benny Peiser on free speech

  1. Thank you for this post. The mystery of the astonishing success of CO2 Alarmism is gradually being solved. You draw attention to what seems to be part of the explanation: the totalitarian tendencies to be found within universities – the scope for massive levels of societal control that the Alarm provides was probably spotted early on (e.g. within UNEP – see McLean’s paper on the early days of the IPCC, ‘Climate Science Corrupted’), and clearly has appeal for those inclined to the oppression of others.

    This remark from Benny Peiser stood out for me: ‘And that’s the simplest way to an un-free society, which we had in the Middle Ages. ‘. It brought to mind a remark by Geoff in a comment on another post: ‘Our intellectual and cultural history since the Middle Ages is nothing more or less than a colossal effort to chuck out the chicken’s entrails. But somehow they keep coming back. ‘.

    So, two threats: the rise of intolerance, and the resurgence of superstition. Mutually supportive I suppose.

    Liked by 3 people

  2. Pingback: Benny Peiser On Free Speech & The Climate Of Intolerence | The Global Warming Policy Forum (GWPF)

  3. Can you give an example of this “unacceptable knowledge” as the term relates to climate?

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  4. RAFF
    Unacceptable knowledge as the term relates to climate:
    1) Today from Tallbloke:
    https://tallbloke.wordpress.com/2016/03/08/rss-satellite-temperature-update-consolidates-with-uah/#more-26132
    UAH and RSS satellite measurements both give temperature rise 1980-2015 at 0.13°C/decade.
    2) Today from Bishop Hill:
    http://bishophill.squarespace.com/blog/2016/3/8/facebook-the-greens-pet-censor.htm
    Film maker’s Facebook account closed for 24 hours due to protests from green pressure groups.
    I wouldn’t be allowed to cite these two examples at the Conversation, a website financed by British Universities, since they changed their moderation rules and now reserve the right to remove comments that cite “unreliable” (i.e. climate sceptic) sites.

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  5. Geoff, I don’t see your point. What makes (1) a misreporting of RSS changes or (2) a court case (one that in English law would I think be sub judice) such good examples? Is it that The Conversation (TC) would not allow them because they are unreliable sources, or that there is something in particular about these examples?

    TC wouldn’t be blocking “unacceptable knowledge” in (1) because the blog post plots RSS TLT and discusses updates to RSS that apply to TMT. The fact that the TLT plots match is because UAH updated their algorithm to v6.0 (beta) months ago and in the process matched RSS more closely, not because RSS just published RSS 4.0. You may not know that, but the author of the post should and has taken you for a ride. The word ‘unreliable’ seems entirely justified.

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  6. RAFF
    I didn’t make myself clear. There are two separate points.
    1) The Conversation removed a comment of mine because it linked to WattsUpWithThat, and produced after the fact the justification of banning links to “unreliable” sources. A pretty strong reaction concerning the world’s most popular scientific website.
    2) A film maker having his Facebook account blocked because of criticisms from pressure groups is a newsworthy story. So is 35 years of temperature measurements giving a trend of 0.13°C/decade, even if you’re correct about the match being to the earlier, and flatter, RSS version. But you won’t read about these stories in the press that covers climate matters, either the Conversation or Guardian Environment. You may well read about RSS 4.0, because it’s a story with the right spin on it.
    It’s not exactly censorship, but it’s what Ian is talking about in his introduction to the Peiser interview.

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  7. Geoff, WUWT isn’t the most popular scientific website. http://www.ebizmba.com/articles/science-websites

    I think the general view is that there is no chance of the lay reader finding reliable science at WUWT and that much, if not most, of what is posted is wrong. There are or have been numerous websites taking the piss out of the non-science at WUWT – that happens for a reason. Allowing links to such an unreliable source would be a derreliction of duty for any site that aims to inform readers.

    The facebook blocking isn’t “unacceptable knowledge”, it is just an event – it was blocked for a while, it was unblocked, people heard about it, nothing has been hidden. And the RSS/UAH trends are common knowledge to those who know the difference between TMT and TLT, RSS and UAH, which is very few (and doesn’t include Tallbloke or you, it seems). The press might not mention it, but since they probably don’t understand the differences either, why woud I be surprised? But why would anybody consider it “unacceptable”?

    So far you have presented no examples of unacceptable knowledge. Maybe Peiser can help, if he reads here.

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  8. RAFF: “there is no chance of the lay reader finding reliable science at WUWT and that much, if not most, of what is posted is wrong”

    Absolute bollocks.

    Stop making stuff up.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. RAFF
    “Allowing links to such an unreliable source would be a dereliction of duty..”

    OK, you’re for censorship. In fact the absence of censorship is a “dereliction of duty” for you. It’s an interesting position, which I’m sure you could defend, provided you can find an outlet that doesn’t apply the principle you defend.

    “… those who know the difference between TMT and TLT, RSS and UAH, which is very few (and doesn’t include Tallbloke or you, it seems).”

    That isn’t an interesting position. It’s false of course, and typical of the tactics of the kind of opponent I have no interest in discussing with. It dates back to an era when you could close an argument with a quote in Latin from the scriptures. Please don’t try it here.

    Liked by 2 people

  10. Censorship, in the sense of maintaining a standard, yes. cliscep is not averse to that, even it you personally don’t. I imagine if you had an attack of the Doug Cottons, you’d start snipping too.

    I was wondering last night about why people like you post such to WUWT. A thought struck me that, if it had occurred to me before at all, I had never taken seriously: you actually believe what they write! Despite there being a wealth of information available to you in the net, despite the sites that point out the myriad errors and distortions at WUWT, despite it being disallowed as a reference by various site, you still chose to believe that it is a valid source of information.

    That isn’t an interesting position. It’s false of course,…

    It wasn’t a position, it was half a sentence. It might be like quoting latin, but only in the sense of a reply to your own latin incantation. The article you quoted might as well have been latin, greek or klingon as you didn’t understand it well enough to see it was wrong. If you (or Tallbloke) are going to quote (or plot) graphs of “satellite” temperatures, you should know what they show. Tallbloke doesn’t know or understand what he plotted (even now long after his error has been pointed out he hasn’t acknowledged it). He is another unreliable source.

    I’m still hoping to see you or someone else present an example of “unacceptable knowledge” as the term relates to climate. So far, you haven’t.

    Like

  11. RAFF: “those who know the difference between TMT and TLT, RSS and UAH, which is very few (and doesn’t include Tallbloke or you, it seems)”

    And very definitely not you.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. Pingback: Post-Modern Science: Academics ‘Regularly Lie To Get Research Grants’ | Atlas Monitor

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