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Rohan Banerjee

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Helena Horton and The Liberal Orthodoxy

Posted: 23/02/2013 15:08

I've refrained from publishing this in my own student newspaper, on the off chance that it might offend someone. I've posted it on here however, because I really don't care.

In the latest spate of leftist madness at The University of York, Helena Horton, a first year Philosophy undergraduate, has called on students to request "offensive publications" no longer be sold in the union's campus shop.

The campaign was born out of outrage at The Sun's recent coverage of Reeva Steenkamp's death, wherein the late super model was pictured glossily in her bikini.

The indignation has subsequently snowballed, with Horton also lambasting stocks of Zoo, Nuts and other laddish paraphernalia. And she has since deemed herself the moral arbiter of campus media.

But in doing so, this riled up fresher, is actually as far away from her perceived liberal roots as I am from winning America's Next Top Model.

The very idea of banning of something just because it doesn't fit in with your way of thinking is incredibly authoritarian, while Horton's own flagrant hypocrisy is a staunch case for minority rule - less than 50 students attended her principle debate.

If this campaign does make referendum, which with the backing of YUSU officer Bob Hughes, it just might; I do wonder where York will draw the line. Will vegetarians be able to call for meat stocks to be removed on account that they don't eat meat? Or can I try to disband the university cricket team because they didn't select me?

Helena Horton's pious project is not a defence of moral integrity, or even a commitment to quality journalism, but rather the blusters of another easily exasperated student with far too much time on their hands.

Sadly, these acts of unwarranted self importance are not just typical of York, but generally in a number of British Universities, plagued by a fascinatingly misguided status quo - that is to say, being "right" is wrong.

Certainly, just as it is the agenda of traditional religious seminaries to produce devout Christians and Jews, it seems that the modern university has its own desired archetype - left wing, secularist disciples, whose convictions have been shaped in no small part, by ideologically charged syllabi and ill-advised campus zeitgeists that say everything is offensive.

Moreover, while Horton's hysteria is not necessarily unexpected, it ignores the numerous students who don't buy into the liberal orthodoxy, but just aren't as vocal about it.

There are left-wing students at York, just as there are at any university, but the number is not so great to justify the myopias of campus politics or indeed the curriculum.

Two weeks into my first year and tasked with writing a paper comparing, but notably not contrasting, the aspects of conservatism and fascism, I began to wonder if my voting Tory six months previously might hinder my chances of a decent mark. One experimental essay and a 2.2 later, I had my answer.

But the charge that all students are raving radicals, bent on correcting the wrongs of Western oppression, is fundamentally flawed, evidenced not least by the number of similar students to myself, who spend the majority of their course arguing against something they might actually agree with.

And that's exactly the problem. Unlike Horton and her band of activists, we keep quiet.

In 2013, The University of York has its fair share of Tory tykes, the undecided and unaffiliated who clearly prove that the entire student body is not left-wing, yet Horton's campaign, despite its modesty in numbers, will continue to be entertained unless those who aren't offended by these publications can bring themselves to speak up.

So, epiphany had, let me get the ball rolling. I've always been perplexed by this "objectification" argument when talking about page 3 or other such media, on the grounds that these women actually choose to pose for them. Furthermore, none of the models have in fact come out and said that they feel objectified, so where does this charge come from? Is it possible to feel objectified on behalf of someone else?

I don't read The Sun and I'm pretty sure Horton doesn't either; but I exercise my right not to buy it on a daily basis, which in itself should be indicative enough of my feelings towards it. It's not my place to judge others for their unforgivably bad decisions.

I'm not asking for a paradigm shift, a sudden right wing overture or for York and the other sixties universities to stop teaching Marx. I'm asking for a fairer representation of the student populous politically. For this to happen, curriculums must be revised, freedom of choice must be upheld and the student right must overcome its hitherto inaction in order to match the opposition's ambition.

I suppose my being against Horton's referendum might sound a tad hypocritical after all that, but as Scott Lishak (the campaign's online administrator) was quoted in a campus newspaper as saying, "It shouldn't even need a referendum. It's not policy. It's common sense." I have to say I agree.

 

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