Check out these arses. Not just any old arses, either, but proper, educated Cambridge University arses. On a miserable, cold day in which I have been laid low with man flu, these pert buttocks have restored my faith in the future of Britain. (Especially – though I do not wish to prejudice your voting – the splendid pair belonging to Katie from Sidney Sussex.)
Can naked bottoms really be that socio-politically significant? Oh very much so, I’d say. Especially to anyone who has just read the quite monumentally depressing cover story from this week’s Spectator by Brendan O’Neill. His argument is that political correctness has become so heavily entrenched in academe that our seats of learning are in serious danger of abandoning perhaps their most important function: opening up developing minds to new ideas and experiences.
If your go-to image of a student is someone who’s free-spirited and open-minded, who loves having a pop at orthodoxies, then you urgently need to update your mind’s picture bank. Students are now pretty much the opposite of that. It’s hard to think of any other section of society that has undergone as epic a transformation as students have. From freewheelin’ to ban-happy, from askers of awkward questions to suppressors of offensive speech, in the space of a generation.
This was certainly the impression I got the other day from the mostly university-age audience on that car-crash BBC debate programme Free Speech. What struck me forcibly was that these young people had given up on the ability to “think” in any useful or meaningful way. Not only did they lack the core knowledge base (history, current affairs) which might have informed their identikit, off-the-shelf opinions.
But they all appeared reluctant to offer any view that wasn’t “safe” – ie one that hadn’t been extensively pre-validated by the groupthink herd. No one, for example, was prepared to question the premise that Muslims were blameless victims of “Islamophobia” nor that Britain, nay the world, is currently in the grip of something called “rape culture.”
Brendan O’Neill, who speaks on university campuses more often than I do, has noticed similar problems.
I’ve been jeered at by students at the University of Cork for criticising gay marriage; cornered and branded a ‘denier’ by students at University College London for suggesting industrial development in Africa should take precedence over combating climate change; lambasted by students at Cambridge (again) for saying it’s bad to boycott Israeli goods. In each case, it wasn’t the fact the students disagreed with me that I found alarming — disagreement is great! — it was that they were so plainly shocked that I could have uttered such things, that I had failed to conform to what they assume to be right, that I had sought to contaminate their campuses and their fragile grey matter with offensive ideas.
Where once students might have allowed their eyes and ears to be bombarded by everything from risqué political propaganda to raunchy rock, now they insulate themselves from anything that might dent their self-esteem and, crime of crimes, make them feel ‘uncomfortable’. Student groups insist that online articles should have ‘trigger warnings’ in case their subject matter might cause offence.The ‘no platform’ policy of various student unions is forever being expanded to keep off campus pretty much anyone whose views don’t chime perfectly with the prevailing groupthink.
Where once it was only far-right rabble-rousers who were no-platformed, now everyone from Zionists to feminists who hold the wrong opinions on transgender issues to ‘rape deniers’ (anyone who questions the idea that modern Britain is in the grip of a ‘rape culture’) has found themselves shunned from the uni-sphere. My Oxford experience suggests pro-life societies could be next. In September the students’ union at Dundee banned the Society for the Protection of Unborn Children from the freshers’ fair on the basis that its campaign material is ‘highly offensive’.
This is what is so great about those Cambridge arse photos. Yes, it’s quite true: one of the reasons I chose to write about them is because I wanted to run a photograph of Katie from Sidney Sussex’s bottom and this seemed like a half-way decent excuse.
But it’s also true that I believe that news features like this, run in Britain’s most popular online student newspaper The Tab, may be all that stands between today’s student generation and the eradication of the Western intellectual tradition by the kill-joy forces of cultural Marxism.
Already, I’ve no doubt, bitter groupuscules of angry, left-wing inadequates with unformed frontal lobes are preparing their hashtag campaigns against Tab features like this one, presumably on the grounds that they are degrading and demeaning or some such nonsense.
But so long as there are Cambridge undergraduates prepared to throw caution and political correctness to the wind by baring their buttocks in this way, and so long as there is a ready market of Tab readers who think that this photo feature is a great idea and that there should be more please, this time involving photos from Oxford so we can see how the Dark Blue arses compare, then there remains hope for Western civilisation yet.