Matt Ridley’s fine recent Times column was hardly the first to raise the alarm about the pseudo-Soviet intolerance of the left emerging from university campuses. Yet he began with arresting statistics: ‘38 per cent of Britons and 70 per cent of Germans think the government should be able to prevent speech that is offensive to minorities.’ Given that any populace can be subdivided into a veritably infinite number of minorities, with equally infinite sensitivities, the perceived bruising of which we only encourage, pretty soon none of us may be allowed to say an ever-loving thing.
Accordingly, the young casually assume not only that they’re the cutting-edge, trend-setting arbiters of the acceptable now, but that they always will be. The students running campuses like re-education camps aren’t afraid of being muzzled, because they imagine they will always be the ones doing the muzzling — the ones dictating what words we can use (cis, not heterosexual), what books we can read (Tom Sawyer is out), what practices we can embrace (white people may not wear dreadlocks). These millennials don’t fear censorship because they plan on doing all the censoring.