Cancelled, Again

We must go bravely to the barricades in defense of our beliefs


Justice Politics

The Dawson Centre’s call for Colloquium papers includes the following statement: “School children are taught to believe that girls can be boys, that boys can be girls, and that grown-ups should be punished for denying it.” Someone subsequently asked me for evidence that any “grown-up” is ever actually penalized for denying such things. It wasn’t difficult to name several jurisdictions in the English-speaking world that have already passed or are planning legislation to criminalize words or actions that seek to dissuade young people from “transitioning,” but a very concrete example of repression came my way when a local college, Jane Franklin Hall, advised me that it is no longer willing to host our colloquium, apparently because of the words quoted above.

I have some sympathy for the college’s administration because I know them well and admire their work. I understand that they want to protect transitioning students from possible hurt, but I radically disagree with that strategy. I believe that such people do not need and should not expect the silencing of opinions that conflict with their own. Do not cocoon them in cotton wool! In fact, if one believes that too many young people are making life-changing decisions too readily, without weighing all the evidence, and if one believes that the post-war generation and the one that followed have been remiss in the responsibilities of leadership, then one is bound in conscience to speak up.

This cancellation has been a bitter disappointment to me, for I lived at Jane as its principal for nearly two decades, and since that time have delighted in holding our colloquia and summer schools in that very pleasant environment.

But that door is now closed and our Colloquium scheduled for July 8 must look for a new home. We would welcome suggestions or offers of an alternative site, not only for this year’s colloquium but for all future functions, for we cannot contemplate a situation in which the Centre’s activities must each be subjected to an external imprimatur.

This looks like a reprise of the Ian Plimer case last year. Few people know more about climate than Prof. Plimer, but our invitation to have him speak outraged many. Three publicans declined to allow him to speak in their pubs, showing extraordinary zeal for the mental safety of their clientele. Thankfully the Maypole agreed to take us on, though on the condition that rioting would not ensue. It didn’t. Some of our readers also took great exception to our choice of speaker, a difference of opinion that, though unresolved, was usually managed with courtesy by both sides.

So-called Freedom of Speech is actually problematic. The facile view that some people (usually styled liberals) are for it and others (conservatives? right-wingers?) are against it is too silly to be taken seriously. The fact is that nobody, simply nobody, believes in complete freedom of speech. All the world agrees on that, though some may be more reluctant than others to admit it. That said, huge differences arise over deciding precisely what should be allowed and what restricted.

Currently that amorphous group commonly known as The Left holds most of the power in politics and public opinion, and radical reform of society focusing on such areas as race, gender, identity, religion, and climate is dear to their hearts. Naturally opponents of their plans are viewed with mistrust; their opinions are often labelled misinformation, and they risk being silenced.

Are we “conservatives” any better? Sadly, probably not. Frankly if we get the upper hand, we are inclined to use it just as ruthlessly as anybody else. Examples of historical misuse of power are legion, on both sides of the progressive/conservative divide. It is both honest and wise to be conscious of this. Perhaps recognizing this shared human inclination to block opposing opinions should heighten our respect for at least some of the motives of those who would silence us, and also make us less inclined passively to bewail our own victimhood and more willing to go bravely to the barricades in defense of our beliefs. Many whose livelihoods are dependent on government and corporate employment are often afraid to speak up on matters of principle, but older people must take a lead in speaking out against bullying. If we think that the compulsory posting of pronouns, for example (a requirement for some employees), has gone beyond stupid, we should damned well say so, loud and often!

But we might find common ground with our opponents. A recent book, Sex Dolls, Robots and Woman Hating: the Case for Resistance, exposes an unspeakably ugly seam on the underbelly of society that should be called out. True liberals, whether “woke” or conservative, can agree to draw a line without compunction and ban dehumanizing practices that demean women, children, and men too.


David Daintree was President of Campion College (Australia’s only Catholic liberal arts college) from 2008 to 2012. In 2013 he founded and is now Director of the Christopher Dawson Centre for Cultural Studies, under the patronage of the Archbishop of Hobart.

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