Douglas Murray

Beware the modern-day heretic hunters

Beware the modern-day heretic hunters
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One of the most sinister noises in the world is that of dumb officialdom groping around to find some reason for a verdict that has already been arrived at. A Canadian university has just given the world a particularly fine example of the genre.

Wilfrid Laurier is a university in Ontario, Canada with a surprisingly high employment rate among its graduates. Surprising because the university’s authorities would appear to be working hard to make their students utterly unemployable. Earlier this month, the university censured a 22-year old graduate teaching assistant called Lindsay Shepherd. Ms Shepherd’s crime had been to show a video of the Canadian Professor Jordan Peterson debating the issue of gender pronouns. This was in a class on ‘Canadian communication in context.’

As anyone who has read his work or watched videos of him lecturing will know, Jordan Peterson is a very good communicator. He may in fact be one of the only Canadians who is internationally known for an ability to communicate, as well as think. Nevertheless, he holds what are currently deemed the ‘wrong’ views on gender pronouns for Trans people (rules which were only invented a few minutes ago but have now become dogma). And so for the crime of showing a brief video of Peterson speaking, Shepherd was hauled before her superiors, including her supervising professor, one Nathan Rambukkana. Needless to say, and as the tape shows, Rambukkana is not a celebrated communicator.

However, the rules of the inquisition currently sit very much on his side.  And so, as you can hear from listening to the exchange, it is Rambukkana and a colleague who can interrogate Shepherd on her thought-crime.  Everybody should listen to the secretly recorded exchange, because every growing totalitarianism of thought of our time is here. 

Like all great Stasi institutions, the university will not explain the exact crime. Nor reveal exactly what the accused is accused of. Nor reveal who the complainant is. Shepherd is not allowed to be told whether one student has complained. Or many. Or all. But she is informed that showing a viewpoint that is contrary to the currently prevailing dogma is akin to an act of violence. This, in turn, is against the Ontario Human Rights Code. All the current torture-terms are there. Things are ‘problematic’. Shepherd is guilty of ‘targeting’. Her actions are ‘discriminatory’ and make people feel ‘unsafe’. One of the apparatchiks even uses the term ‘positionality’ where the word ‘position’ would be perfectly adequate. Presumably because in his particular bubble there is no point in using the correct word when an elongated (and incorrect) one could give off an air of greater authority, the better to intimidate underlings with.

As I say, it really is worth hearing the above in full because it includes several classic examples of modern heresy-hunting. Such as the response to Shepherd’s insistence that ‘In a university all perspectives are valid’. After a brief pause her inquisitor replies, ‘That’s not necessarily true.’

Having tried to tar her as a ‘Transphobe’ there is an inevitable effort also to portray Shepherd as a ‘white supremacist’. This is done by the insistence that there is an effort currently underway to ethnically cleanse the north American states of everybody who is not white. Would she agree with that?  The hope is clearly that Shepherd will walk into the laid trap and expose herself as a white supremacist. This she does not do.

They do, however, manage to throw in one of the other great tools of the modern inquisition, which is to claim that Jordan Peterson has engaged in ‘doxing’. This is the practise – high on the list of modern inquisition heresy-claims – of publishing the personal details of somebody online. There is no evidence that Peterson has ever done any such thing. But the Wilfrid Laurier team are keen to grab whatever torture device they have to hand.

Eventually an audibly tearful, upset and intimidated Shepherd begs to know what crime she has committed. And the authorities finally arrive at their answer. By showing a brief video featuring a non-currently orthodox point of view she has violated the ‘Gender and sexual violence policy'.  The apparatchiks grasp around and eventually – amid a lot of umming and ah-ing – pass sentence. They declare that she has carried out ‘Gender-based violence. Transphobia. Causing harm to Trans students by bringing their identity as invalid or their pronouns as potentially invalid.’ They declare these in contravention of the law as well as university policy.

Why should this matter? After all, who had ever heard of Wilfrid Laurier University? It’s not even among the top universities in Canada. The problem is that in institutions like it across the world the idiots and bullies now think that they have right on their side because they have co-opted the language of ‘tolerance’ and ‘non-offence’. If this ugly tide is to be stopped then it will have to be stopped wherever it promises to swell, however obscure the place and however unknown its inquisitors and victims.

Written byDouglas Murray

Douglas Murray is associate editor of The Spectator and author of The Madness of Crowds: Gender, Race and Identity, among other books.

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