If you’re thinking of making an off-colour joke in modern Britain you’d be better off joining ISIS writes Douglas Murray in the Spectator.
The point he makes is a good one. Whenever some idiot gets it into their head that it’s the right and proper thing to do to go and join an Islamist death cult in Somalia, Syria or Iraq – fully aware of the brutality that this will entail and of the innocents they may well be required hideously and ruthlessly to murder – we are expected to indulge them as hapless, brainwashed victims: nice, warm, caring, wouldn’t-hurt-a-fly types who were just led astray.
When, on the other hand, you’re a Nobel-prize-winning professor and you happen to venture a very mildly risque aside – what used to be known as a “joke” – at a science conference, the only culturally acceptable response, apparently, is instant career death.
To give you a flavour of the Taliban-like zeal with which the righteous are justifying the hounding of Professor Tim Hunt, here is a charming blog post from one of his fellow scientists.
Chris Chambers is a psychologist and neuroscientist at the School of Psychology at Cardiff University, Wales. Here are some of his considered views:
1 – Hunt’s comments were unacceptable and stupid. He has yet to offer a full apology, which just shows how little recognition he has of sexism in science. Oh but he’s old, right, so that’s ok? Fuck that. My dad is the same age as Hunt, has one less Nobel prize, grew up in 1950s Australia (AKA Betty Crocker Central) and could teach him a thing or two about equality.
2 – the prompted resignations from UCL, Royal Society, and the ERC were appropriate. Some have criticised them for being too quick. Bullshit. They were fast because the case was clear. They did the right thing and I applaud them.
3 – there has been no witch hunt, no lynch mob, no burnings or beheadings. Just people, including lots of women scientists, expressing their displeasure with Tim Hunt’s comments on social media. And often with great humour.
4 – I am deeply disappointed by some of the defences of Hunt emerging from various Establishment figures, publicly and in private. A lot of these defences are being expressed behind the scenes and consist of “He’s a nice guy; he has no media training and was lost at sea; I’ve never seen any evidence of him behaving in a sexist manner so everything is fine”. Many of these people are sending these messages in the hope that the recipients will use their influence to defend him on their behalf. Stop it. If you want to defend Tim Hunt, at least have the spine to do it yourself.
5 – To those calling for more evidence of wrongdoing before “condemning” Hunt, just stop. The comments are evidence enough that he is not fit to hold ambassadorial roles in science. Being a great scientist does not justify being a purveyor of 1950s sexism.
Cheery Chris goes on to offer a range of solutions to the terrible problem of rampant sexism in the world of science.
Call out teachers who tell girls they can’t/shouldn’t do maths, physics etc;
Don’t let the bold (male or female) monopolise the conversation in the classroom or the apparatus in the laboratory, at the expense of the timid (female or male);
Nominate women for prizes, fellowships etc;
Tap women on the shoulder to encourage them to apply for opportunities they otherwise would be unaware of or feel they were not qualified for;
Sounds like a form of harrassment to me, this tapping innocent women on the shoulder and driving them like cattle towards careers to which they may be unsuited and which could ultimately cause them much needless unhappiness.
Really, a man as zealous as Chris seems far too high-minded to be wasted in Cardiff.
Are there any openings, you wonder, in the School of Psychology at the University of Raqqa?