Professor of natural law and legal philosophy John Finnis managed to hang on to his Oxford job by the skin of his teeth.
Frankly I’m amazed at the forbearance shown by Oxford University in the name of academic freedom. For 350 students signed a petition to sack Prof. Finnis and, since students these days are seen as paying customers, their wishes are usually universities’ commands.
What incensed the youngsters was Prof. Finnis’s Collected Essays, in which he allegedly expressed discriminatory views against “the LGBTQ community”, and I’m getting terribly confused with all those initials piling up.
No sooner had I learned what LGBT means than another letter is added to the ‘community’. What on earth does the Q stand for? Queer? Surely not. And they also have Q+ – the mind boggles, as Oxford students say nowadays.
Anyway, in his essay published when most of his accusers were pre-teenagers, the offensive academic argued that homosexuality is “never a valid, humanly acceptable choice and form of life”.
And in another essay, written when most of his accusers weren’t even born, the good professor saw fit to write that “copulation of humans with animals is repudiated because it treats human sexual activity and satisfaction as something appropriately sought in a manner that, like the coupling of animals, is divorced from the expressing of an intelligible common good – and so treats human bodily life, in one of its most intense activities, as merely animal. The deliberate genital coupling of persons of the same sex is repudiated for a very similar reason.”
Now I myself once got in trouble by drawing a parallel between homosexuality and bestiality. I was attacked for not understanding how different those activities are.
But I do. Yet I, and presumably Prof. Finnis, also see a taxonomic similarity. For example, murder and mugging are very different crimes, yet they’re both crimes. And, though homosexuality and bestiality differ in many ways, they’re both perversions.
Actually, given the choice between a nice, fluffy Welsh sheep and, say, Sir Elton John, I’d probably choose… well, neither actually – Penelope needn’t worry. But the taciturn sheep would hold a definite advantage for not pronouncing on political matters, nor banging out awful songs.
Prof. Finnis courageously defended himself by saying that “I stand by all these writings. There is not a ‘phobic’ sentence in them. The 1994 essay promotes a classical and strictly philosophical moral critique of all non-marital sex acts…”
How he didn’t get lynched after that escapes me. Turns out he opposes not only unnatural sex acts, but also the freedom to ‘hook up’, hard-won on the barricades of the ‘60s sex wars and since then enshrined even in official laws.
It’s hard not to notice that the student bodies of British universities are beginning to resemble the student Red Guards during Mao’s Cultural Revolution. Those youngsters called for smashing ‘the dog’s heads’ of those professors who didn’t meet their standards of political correctness.
Those standards were somewhat different from Prof. Finnis’s detractors’, and many of those professorial heads did get smashed in China, while those at Oxford are still in one piece. But one can definitely detect convergence.
Since I’m a sucker for parallels, it’s fun to compare today’s censorship by the mob in Britain to that by church and state in nineteenth-century Russia.
For example, Russian censors routinely redacted the word ‘cornerstone’ from secular texts, explaining that “the cornerstone is Christ; hence this epithet cannot be applied to anything else.”
Also, no Frenchman could be called good because there could be no good people in a commonwealth formed by a regicide revolution.
Branded immoral was any literary work portraying a Jew as a virtuous man because “kikes cannot be virtuous.”
An article mentioning that mushrooms may cause harm was once banned because “mushrooms are the Lenten food of the Orthodox, and thus writing about their harmfulness means undermining faith and spreading faithlessness.”
Also redacted were adjectives like ‘heavenly’, ‘angelic’ and ‘divine’ when used as general terms of praise.
Words like ‘kissed’ and ‘loved’ were off-limits. Instead of “he kissed her”, the censor recommended “he looked at her”, while rather than loving a woman a man was supposed to marry her first.
No emperor, not even Julius Caesar, could be described as murdered lest the readers might get the idea that murdering an emperor was a possibility. Hence Paul I, assassinated in 1801, was officially regarded as having died of a stroke.
Lions couldn’t be described as ‘kings of the jungle’, and no animal kingdom was allowed to exist. In Russian those words are cognates of ‘tsar’, and… well, you know.
One could argue that, while the gap is narrowing, the tsarist censorship was marginally more stringent than that imposed by the modern British mob with the acquiescence, and often active support, of the government.
But then Russia was at the time called ‘the prison of nations’ and ‘the gendarme of Europe’, while Britain is still referred to as a free country, mostly, one suspects, for old times’ sake.
Yet the new totem of political correctness is worshipped with ever-increasing piety, while apostasy is punished with ever-increasing rigour. And not just in matters of sex, race and ‘equality’ all around.
The dictatorship of ‘you can’t say that’ manifests itself in all sorts of areas. Speaking of Oxford, back in 1995 I was an observer at the Byelorussian elections.
One of my co-observers was a professor (reader at the time) who specialised in Eastern Europe, and has since acquired an administrative post reflecting his expertise.
Speaking of Russia, I mentioned casually that, though the windows are dressed differently, the house remained essentially the same, and the much-vaunted glasnost and perestroika merely amounted to the transition of power from the Party to the KGB.
The academic cast a furtive look around, just as Russians did when discussing politics. “You can’t say that,” he whispered. “The most you’re allowed is expressing a regret that democracy in Russia is a bit slower in arriving than we’d like.”
Allowed by whom exactly? The chaps who have since then been regularly inviting the academic to appear on RT? But, unless I’m very much mistaken, they don’t yet have jurisdiction in Britain.
The censoring authority was of course public opinion, or rather those few hundred people who these days decide what public opinion should be and then steer it there. For the sake of brevity, I refer to them as the mob.