It was a revelation this month to discover that calling for tougher curbs on smoking, made me a Nazi. Strike that, it was a surprise when my (admittedly provocative) Huffington Post article received a slew of 'she's a Nazi' comments, when my twitter account was inundated with trolls, when I received hate E-mail...
The debate over group rights is contested, but what shouldn't be, is the fact that calling for instant and somewhat arbitrary retributive action against a single MP candidate, who has exercised a right afforded to everyone else, just isn't a convincing way to invite this debate into the public domain. Neither is it just or democratic.
No-platform policies are not a form of Orewellian censorship - they are a reasonable concept encouraging self-regulation. Rather than 'banning' individuals outright, we as students must place significant pressure on the relevant authorities to withhold the right of certain individuals to speak at certain times on campus.
Anything that forces people to think twice before resorting to the laziest, least free form of 'free' speech that is the default knee-jerk Nazi comparison has to be a positive innovation. A properly-legislated version of Godwin's Law would only give more power to humanity's exercise of freedom of expression.
By signing so much dissent-strangling legislation, by playing to the most reactionary elements in Russian society, by crushing popular protest and by harassing civil society, Putin is dragging Russia away from its obligations under the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights to respect freedom of opinion and expression.
It should be noted that SU's have only 'banned' The Sun to the extent that their shops will no longer stock the newspaper. The world will not cave-in because a minuscule number of people have to find a local off-licence for their daily fix instead. But it is part of a wider trend: 2013 has seen a wave of trivial, but worrying, censorship encroach on student-life.
Whether you agreed or disagreed with Brand's call-for-a-revolution speech, the point I'm making is this - young people DO care about politics. Brand's anti-politics rant struck a chord with young people because he echoed the underlying feeling of a generation frustrated with a political system that they feel 'doesn't represent or care about them'. But that doesn't mean they don't care...
You might also think I'm a bit of a nuisance. But surely annoyance and nuisance isn't a police matter. Well, it's about to be. The Government is introducing a sweeping new anti-social behaviour law, with a very low threshold indeed. It's one of those threats to free speech which unites fierce opponents (even you and me).
Nick's book is perhaps one of the best I've read all year. Inside you'll find his research will both disgust and enlighten; you might even cry, you may throw up, but you certainly won't be cheerful. Cohen has successfully lifted the veil on the myth of free speech and as a result, he's perfectly revealed all the mendacity of those that claim we have it.