by Tom Crew
Monday, 15
June 2020
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11:00

Safetyism: The new university doctrine

The irrational aversion to risk is rooted in the place it ought to be challenged
by Tom Crew
Cambridge University. Credit: Graeme Robertson/Getty Images

A university without a library is like a home without a roof. And so, despite the insistence of many universities that their libraries remain “open online”, higher education has all but come to an end in the UK. A sector that remained open during the Second World War and provided a home to dissidents and the otherwise persecuted — from Theodor W. Adorno to Sir Ludwig Guttmann — has closed itself as quickly and as meekly as the church.

The University of Cambridge, where I am a doctoral student and which, in 1933, helped form the Council for At-Risk Academics (CARA), seems to be leading the retreat: declaring an end to group lectures for the whole of the next academic year and generally falling over itself in eager deference to government “advice”.

Speaking at the Albert Hall at an event organized by CARA in 1933, Albert Einstein urged the audience to “resist the powers which threaten to suppress intellectual and individual freedom”. As contentious as references to the 1930s might be, when in our entire history has “intellectual and individual freedom” been as besieged as it is today?

While the encroachment on individual freedom might seem clear enough, the situation for intellectual freedom is not much better. Aside from the now everyday phenomenon of censorship, it seems generally accepted that freedom of expression must yield to the demand for “safety”, as though the free exchange of ideas is a luxury reserved only for stable conditions.

The continued closure of university campuses and the dearth of dissenting voices from within their ranks suggest that this attitude — the irrational aversion to risk and the attendant need for control — is deeply rooted in the very place where it ought to be challenged. For who decides what counts as safe? And even then: might the apparent eradication of risk not harbour its own hidden dangers? There are clearly serious problems with the elevation of safety and security to the pinnacle of our hierarchy of values.

Indeed, beyond its potential for abuse, as well as its tendency for unintended consequences, it is doubtful whether maximal safety can ever constitute a desirable aim. “For believe me!”, as Nietzsche writes, “the secret for harvesting from existence the greatest fruitfulness and the greatest enjoyment is: to live dangerously!” The alternative can only ever be a variation of the dystopian hygiene of Huxley’s Brave New World — a world as bereft of risk as it is of meaning.

Universities are supposed to be the guardians of our intellectual liberty. During these times of crisis we might expect them to defend this principle more eloquently and forcefully than ever before. Their readiness to shut themselves down begs the question whether they believe in — or even understand — their own purpose.

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Stephen Follows
Stephen Follows
2 years ago

‘A university without a library is like a home without a roof.’

Indeed. Which is presumably why Queen Mary’s are now planning to censor any book in their library which doesn’t meet the highest standards of wokedom. Let’s hope they own some good umbrellas.

Robin P
Robin P
2 years ago

There are also numerous very important books IN libraries but which no-one ever reads. These include:
A Study of History – Arnold Toynbee.
Psychoticism – HJ Eysenck
Various books on identifying mushrooms, many thousands of people died to learn the info in those books.

Vicki Robinson
Vicki Robinson
2 years ago

A university is a robust space where students are challenged. If it is unwilling or unable to challenge, then it isn’t really a university.

rosalindmayo
rosalindmayo
2 years ago
Reply to  Vicki Robinson

I dont think universities are any longer places where the main idea is not, accumulating grades, but learning to think for yourself, not the functionalist utilitarian, left sided brain activity, that dominates to bring in more money for chancellors and the colleges and providing baby care to students who need to learn to grow up.

Adrian Smith
Adrian Smith
2 years ago

There is no such thing as safe and unsafe. Risks are either broadly acceptable, tolerable if reduced to as low as reasonably practicable or unacceptable. The risks to the student population from Covid are so small as to be laughable. The risks to the older professors is more significant but it cannot be beyond the wit of these great sages to mitigate them to a tolerable level.

rosalindmayo
rosalindmayo
2 years ago

Thank you for pointing this out without this careful scrutiny of what actually is said, or written, the media particularly the BBC and Ch 4,
and academia will continue to distort and deliberately reinterpret what is said or written , on the BLM subject, and numerous others(identity politics) Our universities need an almighty shake up, from its functionality approach to education (exams – grades- accumulation of knowledge at the expense, or absence of developing thinking and thoughtfulness, and its neurotic protection of their ‘woke’ students, and their utter snobbery and contempt for ordinary lives.

René Descartes
René Descartes
2 years ago

Interesting topic – thanks Tom.
Everything we do entails risk, as does not doing things. What I find dispiriting about the government’s phobia about salvaging what’s left of the economy by relaxing the 2 metre distancing rule, among other things, is the way they say they don’t want to take risks with people’s lives, with the implicit assumption that the only risk worth considering is the risk of covid-19 infection.
Somehow they don’t seem to have noticed the risks they are continuing to take (as a result of the partial closure of the NHS) of having more people die from heart disease, cancer, diabetes etc, not to mention deaths from suicide and diseases associated with lockdown-induced poverty.
They keep saying they are “following the science”. Nonsense – all they are folowing is the part of the science they can see through their coronaphobic tunnel vision.

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
2 years ago

So true. Not to mention the risks of an untested mRNA vaccine.
A whopping twenty 20% of the first human test group for the covi vaccine had to be hospitalised unable to continue with self care.
That’s what happens when you try to “speed up science”, which is a ludicrous statement.

Michael Whittock
Michael Whittock
2 years ago

Thankyou Tom for Albert Einstein’s quote. I presume he was referring to Fascism and Communism, but it’s very apposite to the situation in our universities today. They have become hotbeds of intolerance and closed thinking all in the name of diversity and “progressive”thought. It reminds me of the Soviet habit of setting the KGB on the people in the name of the workers State.
The question in my mind is how indeed can we resist the powers Einstein talks about? How can we stop this negative and dangerous trend of closing down learning, research and debate in our universities simply because it questions currently prevailing orthodoxies, especially in the social sciences, and may upset the feelings of the “snowflakes”.
It would need government action to:
1. demand that universities cease no-platforming and ensure that no point of view is excluded in teaching, research and debate, except incitement to violence.
2. insist on diversity of thought in all the liberal arts and social sciences, and total freedom in all areas of research.
Large fines or withdrawal of funds for non-compliance.

opop anax
opop anax
2 years ago

The Dead Crab
by Andrew Young

A rosy shield upon its back,
That not the hardest storm could crack,
From whose sharp edge projected out
Black pin-point eyes staring about;
Beneath, the well-knit cote-armure
That gave to its weak belly power;
The clustered legs with plated joints
That ended in stiletto points;
The claws like mouths it held outside:
I cannot think this creature died
By storm or fish or sea-fowl harmed
Walking the sea so heavily armed;
Or does it make for death to be
Oneself a living armoury?

opop anax
opop anax
2 years ago

No doubt this comment will, as usual be subject to the clock of death and the message “Hold on: this comment is waiting to be removed by Diqus”.

“The Dead Crab
by Andrew Young

A rosy shield upon its back,
That not the hardest storm could crack,
From whose sharp edge projected out
Black pin-point eyes staring about;
Beneath, the well-knit cote-armure
That gave to its weak belly power;
The clustered legs with plated joints
That ended in stiletto points;
The claws like mouths it held outside:
I cannot think this creature died
By storm or fish or sea-fowl harmed
Walking the sea so heavily armed;
Or does it make for death to be
Oneself a living armoury?”

I did want to share it, as it impressed me as a child and seems apposite. This is my second attempt).

Robin P
Robin P
2 years ago

Precisely zero social commentators understand what has caused the rise of the snowflake / safe spaces / “words are violence” mentality. Before telling you that causation I will preface here….That lack of understanding is partly because “expertise” has become far too divided into separate (and artificial) boxes, with an inability to engage between boxes. But to properly understand society you have to understand behaviour, and to understand behaviour you have to understand the brain, and the various chemicals that impact on the brain, and the changes of uses of chemicals. “What nonsense, everything is a social construct!” Anyway….

The system of scientific expertise has become catastrophically dysfunctional due to changing from independent amateurs to institutionalised career bureaucrats. Money cannot buy truth and honesty. It is certainly buying lies and dishonesty, and so we now have what some call the “Crisis of Science”. Some documentation of that can be found in this Chapter 1 (pdf). (NOTE: If you comment hereon without first reading these linked documents there is a risk that your comments will amount only to your own public exhibition of incompetence.)

As mentioned therein, a massive aspect of this crisis is that the so-called peer-review system constantly prevents proper publication of the most important discoveries, those that most challenge current ignorances. And all the more when they are rightly showing that hugely profitable industries are guilty of causing huge harm. Thus you will not have heard the truth of the major catastrophes which are fully documented in this Chapter 3 (pdf).

Here is another key fact which most social commentators will be unaware of. Getting violently (i mean physically violently) angry at people merely because they say something you disagree with is…..A Classic Mercury Poisoning Symptom.

((By this point, some readers will have become violently angry at my mention of the evidence that mercury can cause autism. Highly “offensive” supposedly. But why? I have also published (Clarke 2015) (pdf) the confirmation of my prediction that mercury would cause raised IQ (“Rising”“falling mercury pollution causing the rising”“falling IQ of the Lynn”“Flynn effect, as predicted by the antiinnatia theory of autism and IQ”) (pdf)

So high-IQ people had better be offended too, by this absurd irrational sense of “offense”. Anyway….))

So we have huge increases of autism and adult mercury poisoning happening from 1976 onwards, as shown in that Chapter 3 linked above. And wow! what a surprise, we also have loads of people developing the “words are violence” classic symptom of mercury poisoning. (Sticks and stones no longer break our bones!)

After thinking this thought, I happened to mention it to Rebecca Samancini, an associate of Andrew Hall Cutler who had written the classic book Amalgam Illness. She mentioned that AHC had also come to that same conclusion, that the snowflake problem was caused by the same dental mercury poisoning. Two fools thinking alike?

The toxic mercury vapour can also be understood to have caused the growth of Sudden Infant Death Syndrome, as the infant gets suffocated by its mother’s toxic breath. And also mercury has been found to cause birds to become homosexual (Milton 2010; Frederick & Jayasena 2010). So it is reasonable to suspect that much else, not least all the current rise of concern about gender variations, has also been caused by the disgraceful change to non-gamma-2 dental amalgams with NEVER ANY SAFETY TESTING and a whole system of disinformation (as detailed in that Chapter 3). The only study EVER of the health effects of non-gamma-2 dental amalgams (the modern standard, in millions of teeth especially of American Black people) is that Chapter 3 which has been suppressed from publication by the cheap unaccountable anonymous lies you can read for yourself in Chapters 4 and 5.

Anyway, I mentioned those boxes into which the different species of “proper expertise” must be fitted. The paragraphs above here fit properly into none. And so many will reject them merely for failing that test. How dare a mercury researcher reckon to teach us about social change! Or a social change researcher reckon to teach us about dental mercury toxicity! And needless to say my words here have been far too “violent”.

Mark Corby
Mark Corby
2 years ago
Reply to  Robin P

This reminds me of the controversy that has been raging for years as to whether Ancient Rome was inadvertently subjected to lead poisoning via the plumbing system. If I recall correctly, it was the elite who may have suffered the worst!

Paul Carline
Paul Carline
2 years ago

Was expecting to see the famous Benjamin Franklin quote – but since no-one else has offered it, here it is: “Those who would give up essential Liberty to purchase a little temporary Safety deserve neither Liberty nor Safety”. If people casually forfeit their most precious gift of individual freedom, or, even worse, deny that it exists at all (as those do who reduce our status to that of mere ‘clever animals’ – apes with big brains) for the sake of a ‘peaceful life’ or for far less worthy motives (going along with the system because it pays well), they will offer no resistance to the drivers of the new technocratic agenda of centralised global control and a vastly reduced global population. This is very far from being wild conspiracy theory. Two of the sanest and best-informed people on the planet are Catherine Austin Fitts and James Corbett. Anyone who wants to know what is really happening – facilitated by Covid-19 – should watch their enormously important conversation at https://www.youtube.com/wat….

Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
Dr Leah Remeika-Dugan
2 years ago

Spot on Tom!

Dougie Undersub
Dougie Undersub
2 years ago

The university sector desperately needs wholesale reform. I’m hoping that the Covid-19 pandemic will result in a catastrophic collapse in the number of overseas students such that the ensuing financial crisis will trigger radical change.