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8 Oct, 2021 09:01

Hate campaign at UK university shows how appeasing trans ideology encourages mob rule

Hate campaign at UK university shows how appeasing trans ideology encourages mob rule

The time for equivocation in the trans debate is over. Militant activists viciously campaigning to oust a professor at the University of Sussex have been emboldened by the words of politicians who really should know better.

Kathleen Stock, professor of philosophy at the University of Sussex, is currently being targeted by an angry mob of trans activists determined to get her sacked. Posters have been stuck up around campus and on the streets and subways leading to the university. One says: “Kathleen Stock makes trans students unsafe. Sussex still pays her.” Another reads: “It’s Not A Debate. It’s Not Feminism. It’s Not Philosophy. It’s just transphobia and it’s not on. Fire Kathleen Stock.” A third states: “We’re not paying £9250 a year for transphobia. Fire Kathleen Stock.

Professor Stock is a gender critical feminist and the author of the excellent book, ‘Material Girls: Why Reality Matters for Feminism’. She believes that although people should be free to dress however they please and call themselves by any names or pronouns they choose, sex is real and immutable. In 2021, believing that you’re a woman if you have a vagina and if you have a penis then you’re a man is all it takes for people to campaign for you to lose your job, your income and your title.

And what an utterly despicable, vile campaign it is. The posters have been shared on an Instagram account called ‘AntiTerfSussex’. Another picture on the same account shows masked protesters standing on top of the University of Sussex campus entrance point, holding a sign saying ‘Stock Out’. Blue flares have been set off and smoke can be seen.  

The group behind all this sets out its goals in a statement entitled: Anti-Stock Action 2021. They declare themselves to be “an anonymous, unaffiliated group of queer, trans and non-binary students who will not allow our community to be slandered and harmed by someone who’s [sic] salary comes from our pockets.” 

No wonder they choose to remain anonymous. Their mission statement, peppered with grammatical inaccuracies and spelling mistakes, is as defamatory as it is illiterate. They complain that the “University of Sussex have continued to employ Stock whilst her rhetoric has contributed to the dire state of unsafety for trans people in this colonial sh*t-hole, whilst she profits from transphobia, and whilst students here have been resigned to stomach the influence and impact of her transphobia. This university is actively enabling and encouraging her transphobia by not firing her, which whilst not surprising, has continued for far too long.”

Calling for university managers to fire a professor because of her work is a clear and direct attack on academic freedom. Above all else, academic freedom means the right to research, teach and speak in public about issues that some may find offensive. It’s what gave scientists the right to teach the theory of evolution, despite religious university funders wishing they wouldn’t, and it’s what has allowed every subsequent advance in knowledge to occur. 

If professors are only free to tell people what they want to hear, or are only allowed to research topics that have been pre-approved, then they do not have academic freedom but a permission slip. Calling for academics who spark outrage to be sacked will not further debate, it will not aid the pursuit of knowledge and it will not encourage anyone to think differently or see things from a fresh perspective.  

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Some might retort that those behind Anti-Stock Action 2021 are simply exercising their right to free speech. And this would be true if the protesters were indeed engaging with Stock’s work or taking up her arguments. But they are not. They are just calling for her to be sacked. They want her removed, silenced, disappeared. And they are promising to wage a campaign of intimidation until they are successful. This is not exercising free speech but the exact opposite – it is a demand for censorship from a tyrannical mob.

The students behind Anti-Stock Action 2021 are behaving appallingly. But, shockingly, they are supported by older academics and activists who should know better. One of Stock’s colleagues took to Twitter to say he agreed with the posters calling for her to be fired. So much for workplace solidarity. 

More broadly, as we have seen recently at the University of St Andrews and the University of Kent, it is academics and managers who have turned universities into woke emissaries with students having to pass purity tests before they can graduate. If your time as a student begins with the instruction that complex moral and political issues have clear right and wrong answers, then you are likely to feel confident in waging a hate-filled campaign to root out a professor you have labelled a ‘transphobe’.

It’s not just universities that lend support to aggressively woke and censorious students. The trans activists waging a campaign of intimidation against Professor Stock are emboldened by the words of the prime minister and the leader of the Labour Party. When Boris Johnson was asked this week if only women have a cervix, the best response he could muster was: “Biology is very important, but…” When faced with the same question, Sir Keir Starmer was more emphatic, “It is something that shouldn’t be said. It’s not right.”

This equivocation only empowers the thugs who think that acting on behalf of transgender people gives them the right to ride roughshod over academic freedom and to intimidate people into silence. We need to stand up to cowardly lecturers and politicians and defend academic freedom. Right now, this means defending Kathleen Stock’s right to work without harassment and intimidation.

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The statements, views and opinions expressed in this column are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of RT.