January 28th 2017

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Articles from this issue:

COVER STORY Company tax proposal just made for Trump

EDITORIAL Trump installed but the left refuses to accept it

CANBERRA OBSERVED Greens' footprints all over travel claims

U.S. POLITICS Team Trump to implement new President's agenda

INTELLIGENCE Lame report on Russian interference in U.S. poll

ENVIRONMENT The scientific myth within the Murray-Darling Basin Plan

EUTHANASIA Case for assisted suicide "not made": Daniel Mulino

OPINION Submission is the fit word, Tim, not humility

OBITUARY WA loses NCC founding member, Frank Malone

GENDER POLITICS Safe Schools Coalition versus child safe schools

RURAL LIFE Sandalwood a balm for forgotten farmers

MUSIC Swing low and deep: it don't mean a thing if it don't have that

BOOK REVIEW The tyranny of the offended

BOOK REVIEW Not quite perfect but worth a revisit

Books promotion page

The tyranny of the offended

News Weekly, January 28, 2017



by Claire Fox


Biteback Publishing, London
Hardcover: 179 pages
ISBN: 9781849549813
Price: AUD $19.99

Reviewed by John Young


In a talk to senior schoolgirls Claire Fox remarked, quoting Germaine Greer, that rape is not necessarily the worst thing that can happen to an individual.

“The room erupted," Fox writes. "The audience shrieked. A teacher yelled out, ‘you can’t say that.’ Girls were hugging each other for comfort. The majority seemed shell-shocked. Even posing this viewpoint was a step too far, it seemed. I was told that I was dangerous, irresponsible and offensive.”

Fox is the director of the Institute of Ideas in England, which she established in 2000 to create a public space where ideas can be contested without constraint. She is regularly invited to comment on developments in culture, education and the media on television and radio programs.

This short, clearly written book is based on her widespread involvement in these areas, paying particular attention to the extreme sensitivity found among young people at the present time whenever their views are contradicted.

We are living at a time when, instead of considering the pros and cons of disputed questions and arguing rationally, emotion and prejudice push aside reason and the person with unacceptable views is subjected to emotional abuse.

An element in this is what the author calls “toxic victimhood”. Some people are given permission to speak, others are not. “Asserting your especially hurt feelings as a victim can usually allow your opinion to go unchallenged.”

If you can claim that it is as a female or a person of colour or a homosexual that you feel hurt, this is a way of silencing criticism.

Teachers are on the front line of affront

Teachers, whether within school or university, find themselves hampered by arbitrary rules that allow students to claim that they were affronted by something a teacher might have said.

Fox writes: “There is pressure on staff to conform to student-centred speech codes, anti-harassment policies and safe space initiatives. How to teach ideas, let alone challenge ideas, in such an atmosphere?”

Safe spaces have become a threat to free speech, with the discussion of controversial views being banned on the grounds that some students will find the discussion uncomfortable.

In the wider community there is an increasing repression of views likely to offend those groups that have victim status. And this is leading to grave injustices.

“An unwillingness to criticise migrants has chilled discussion and paralysed intervention in instances such as the orchestrated sexual exploitation of young girls in Rotherham and Oldham. It also seems to have been a factor in the Swedish authorities’ cover-up of widespread sexual assaults by immigrant gangs at a Stockholm music festival in 2015.”

Claire Fox rightly blames an older generation for this situation. Young people have been scared with an endless list of fears, making them overly anxious about their own bodies and about abuse from adults and peers. The assumption is that they need to be protected in order to be safe.

“At the same time, we have shielded them from criticism, suspended our critical judgement to massage their self-esteem, privileged and fawned over their student voice (at the expense of our own adult authority), and adapted education around their desires and interests,” Fox writes.

The blame for this new totalitarianism lies within the educational establishment.

As Fox tells the young people: “You occupy an academy rotting from within.”

She points out that there has been a recent backlash, and she encourages young people to help in leading the charge. To do this, she points out, “you need to be armed with philosophy, the wisdom of the ages”.

I believe that last observation is crucial. Today’s anti-intellectualism didn’t just happen: its foundations lie in philosophical errors that have become prominent over the last 400 years.

An empiricism which claims that human knowledge can’t get beyond what our five senses tell us cuts us off from any knowledge of spiritual realities, including God, and from unchangeable moral laws. Man is seen as essentially no different from other animals, while the whole universe is assumed to have arisen by blind chance.

Fox does not go into the philosophical underpinnings of today’s intellectual tyranny, but her book is an excellent survey of this dire situation, with advice about how to remedy it. Young people in particular are encouraged to take the initiative and think for themselves.

Purchase this book at the bookshop:


All you need to know about
the wider impact of transgenderism on society.
TRANSGENDER: one shade of grey, 353pp, $39.99

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Last Modified:
April 4, 2018, 6:45 pm