January 25, 2016
HIGHER EDUCATION BUBBLE UPDATE: Brendan O’Neill: The Violence Of The Safe Space.
The most striking thing about Safe Spaces on campus is how unsafe they are. How hostile and even violent they are towards anyone who has unpopular views, or who simply believes people should have the right to express unpopular views.
Safe Spaces are spreading across campuses in the US and the UK. They’re presented as happy-clappy therapeutic zones in which students, especially minority students, should not be subjected to gruff words or prejudicial ideas.
As one student union in Britain puts it, they’re spaces in which students must be “free from intimidation or judgement” and should always “feel comfortable”. These spaces are justified in inoffensive, Oprah-like language: it’s all about providing a space in which people can be themselves without fear of ridicule.
But in practice, Safe Spaces are ugly, authoritarian places. They’re propped up by menace. They’re fortified by a simmering threat of force against any transgressors of the new cult of psychic safety and moral conformism.