No words: student calls for LSE free-speech society to be banned

Tom Slater

Tom Slater
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Topics Free Speech

Banning a free-speech society. It’s the kind of move even the most belligerent of campus politicos ought to have enough loaf to avoid. Not so at the London School of Economics, where a student has submitted a motion calling for a new group of campus freedom-fighters to be formally disbanded by the students’ union.

The LSESU Speakeasy, founded by former spiked intern Charlie Parker, hit the headlines last month. Set up in response to LSE’s shocking score in our Free Speech University Rankings, it set out to challenge the stifling campus climate that has led the students’ union to ban newspapers, censor pop songs and clamp down on student societies in the past few years alone. And one glowing profile of the group in the London Evening Standard got one censorious student’s back up.

Maurice Banerjee Palmer penned a piece for the LSE student newspaper, the Beaver, explaining why he had submitted the motion. Insisting ‘I don’t really want to ban the Speakeasy’, burnishing his freedom-loving credentials with reference to his past criticism of LSESU’s attempt to introduce meat-free Mondays, Banerjee Palmer says he is doing it to make ‘a point’.

He calls the Speakeasy ‘ill-informed’ and ‘self-important’, claiming its criticism of restricting hate speech – also known as censorship – shows it is ‘naive’. What’s more, he decries its members’ opposition to Safe Spaces, their rejection of trendy campus causes and their absence during his valiant, aforementioned campaign against enforced vegetarianism. In short, he did it because he doesn’t agree with them. But he definitely doesn’t want to ban them. Honest.

Thankfully, the Speakeasy is undeterred. ‘We first heard about the motion to ban the Speakeasy in a Facebook thread but we really thought it was just a joke or a clever bit of irony’, Speakeasy outreach officer Connor Naylor told spiked. ‘If anything, it’s only strengthened us, and our support as well.’ Society president Charlie Parker said he welcomed the provocation: ‘Obviously, it’s a ludicrous motion, but the fact that there is a motion to ban our society, after just over a week of its existence and before we’ve even held an event, proves the need for this group better than we ever could.’

The motion will be debated at LSESU’s general meeting in a few weeks’ time, where Naylor and Parker will oppose it. They are looking forward to having the opportunity to make their presence felt. ‘As well as combating criticism in student newspapers and outlets, it’s about breaking down the wider culture of self-censorship and showing that the Speakeasy is not just a bunch of white, privileged males out to cause offence for no reason’, Parker said. ‘The debate will provide exactly the platform we need to get our views across.’

More power to their elbow.

Tom Slater is deputy editor at spiked. Follow him on Twitter: @Tom_Slater_

Don’t miss spiked’s free-speech conference, The New Intolerance on Campus, at Conway Hall in London on Wednesday 17 February.

To enquire about republishing spiked’s content, a right to reply or to request a correction, please contact the managing editor, Viv Regan.

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Topics Free Speech

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