Blocking the door to the marketplace of ideas
Jan 8, 2015
Bishop Hill in Civil liberties, Greens

There are people who are willing to tough it out in the marketplace of ideas and there are people who are not. Charlie Hebdo and the violent attempts to silence dissent apart, in recent days I've noticed other bits and pieces that touch upon the same issues, albeit in a less violent way, but perhaps in a more insidious one as well. 

A couple of days ago I noticed a geography teacher asking for help in finding someone to put the pro-fracking case in a school debate - the chief executive of iGas had dropped out. The panel already featured no less than three greens as well as an academic (with no particular expertise in unconventional oil and gas), so I raised an eyebrow at a reply from Chris Vernon, a PhD student and one-time contributor to the Oil Drum blog.


@KESWGEOGRAPHY @Profiainstewart Why need for a 'pro' view at all? Balanced speakers better. Most pro voices linked to private profit anyway.

— Chris Vernon (@clv101) January 5, 2015


As an example of the sort of casual, unthinking challenge to the free exchange of ideas it's hard to beat. Three environmentalists seem perfectly acceptable to Vernon, but the idea that someone should speak up for the interests of their shareholders is anathema. And has he considered that the livelihoods of some of the other (green) speakers are a function of their positions on fracking? Presumably he also thinks that if someone were to consider throwing him off his PhD course we should ignore his protests on the grounds that he was motivated only by money.

Then there is the Green Party's outrage today that they have not been awarded "big party" status by the Ofcom and will not therefore be able to take part in televised debates. The more opportunities there are to expose the insanity of the Greens the better as far as I am concerned, but it's still hard to have much sympathy with Ms Bennett et al, who have worked pretty hard to ensure that their opponents' arguments are never heard at all. Purges of those who hold dissenting views and their removal from the airwaves, as advocated by the Green Party, are just Vernon's casual intolerance writ large.

This behaviour is familiar. I certainly can't forget Lord Deben's complaints about my being allowed airtime on the BBC. It's pervasive in academia too. We read that nearly one in four social scientists would not recruit someone of conservative views to their department. We have people like Bob Ward trying to ensure "consequences" for those who disagree with him on a daily basis.

So at a time when we are all reeling in horror from violent attacks against free speech and attempts to stifle the free exchange of ideas, it's worth noting that there are plenty of other people blocking the door to the marketplace of ideas. Their use of less violent methods does not excuse them.

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