A student magazine founded on the principles of free speech called No Offence has been banned from the University of Oxford fresher’s fair because the Student Union deemed it “offensive.” The satirical magazine was supposed to “challenge the mainstream view” in student politics and open up debate on campus.
“There were lots of articles that were arguing against the received wisdom in student politics. That was the general theme of it,” said co-editor Jacob Williams, speaking exclusively to Breitbart London.
The first edition of the No Offence, which has strong links to the popular Open Oxford Facebook group, was completed this Monday by Williams and Oxford local Lulie Tanett.
However it was prohibited from being distributed at the fair by officials from Oxford University Student Union (OUSU), who employed section 13 of their stallholder’s regulation, which states: “OUSU reserves the right to remove any materials, or prevent any activity, that may cause offence.”
“This is the only time it’s been reported that Regulation 13 has been used at all in my time at Oxford,” a recent Oxford graduate told Breitbart London.
He added: “In the Fresher’s Fair lineup, we have the Oxford Marxists, RS21 [Revolutionary Socialism In The 21st Century] and the SWP Student Wing in attendance – organisations that are bound to offend people given their apologism and advocacy for communism.
“Yet, a magazine designed to promote free speech is being banned from the best opportunity for its ideas to be disseminated.”
Four of the specific parts of the publication that were highlighted as “offensive” were entirely satirical; an article entitled “Dickly Living,” mocking the infamous hard-left intersectional feminist Facebook group “C*ntry Living,” and a column mocking so-call “lad culture” and a lack of concern for sexual consent.
“The column was actually mocking misogynistic attitudes,” said Williams, however, the OUSU appear not to have gotten the joke, presumably taking the material as serious.
The third was a satirical “Letters to the Editor” section, which featured an author called “Les B Anne” ranting about men, saying, “all of the assaults are done by them, all of the rapes, all of the murders.”
“They also highlighted an article which they said was a celebration of colonialism,” explained Williams.
“This article was actually a discussion about comparing the record of the colonial government of Rhodesia with the post-colonial one of Zimbabwe, and arguing that the simplistic view that everything the Empire did was an unmitigated evil doesn’t hold up – not at all a defence of colonialism per se, or a celebration of it.”
“I must reiterate,” added Williams, “that it wasn’t really because of any of those things that they claimed they had banned it. They did so because they didn’t like the views expressed in the substantive material.”
“I offered to redact any jokes or satire they felt was offensive, and certainly we don’t advocate violence directly, or make outright, needless slurs for example,” added Williams, explaining that the magazine aimed to uphold a comparatively mild conception of free speech.
“However, we believe a university should be a place were any real viewpoint can be discussed openly,” he said.
Explaining why the magazine was set up, Williams said: “There is a real climate at Oxford – and at other universities – of not just overt acts of censorship or pseudo-censorship, like the closing down of the abortion debate and the whole ‘Stepford students’ scandal that that triggered, but also on a smaller scale of low level intimidation.
“I mean, people have literally come up to me… and told me that are conservative, but don’t dare to admit it for fear of being socially ostracised. And there are people who have to conceal what newspapers they read.
“Nobody with any sort of view that challenges the mainstream student one on feminism, LGBT and racial politics, say, would ever dare publicly argue about that on the whole. Its just a really, profoundly unhealthy climate for freedom of expression and healthy debate.”
“[The censorship] comes from the students themselves,” explained Williams. “Students have always been of the ‘progressive’ side of politics. They have always been prone to idealism, abstract ideas and to fighting the status quo – and I think that has just sort of cannibalised.
“They have adopted a lot of ideas from various new-left philosophers from the 60s and 70s, who talk about how people are structurally oppressed and how discourse shouldn’t really be viewed as just debate, but as shaping society.
“They ran away with that and its not really been challenged.
“I think the lack of any passionate students on the other side of this debate is really what allowed the radical social progressives to begin to lose sight of the meaning of free speech, and education, really.
“There was never any challenge, so they’ve been allowed to convince university authorities that their opponents are either mad or evil, and must be silenced.”
Brown explained how the censorious OUSU had, “previously saw fit to pass a motion mandating the ex-President to e-mail every student to encourage them… to join a violent protest against their fellow students for wanting to hear Marine Le Pen speak.”
When I asked Williams about recent protests against the appearance of Le Pen, the Israeli ambassador and Tommy Robinson at the Oxford Union, he said: “I support their right to protest whatever they want. But, I can’t support the violence of some of the protests; for example some of the people who tried to clime over the wall of the Oxford Union during the Marie Le Pen debate.
“And I absolutely don’t support the intention of the protest, which is often to intimidate people into not going to the events or the events to close. And I don’t think it’s a healthy thing to protest the mere fact that someone you disagree with is speaking – but they have the right to be there if they want.”
Williams said he is not deterred, however, and they are going to publish No Offence online and in print. “But we can not give details of the exact plan yet,” he said. “And we will draw people’s attention to how this has been restricted and continue to challenge current student discourse,” he concluded.