As a result of the disturbing tendency to shut down debate and prevent contrarian ideas that deviate from the mainstream being aired, we organised a special debate with a formidable line-up of speakers.
There is an increasing tendency to close down debate through censorship of those with views that contradict one’s own by branding them offensive. Recent examples include the threatened “no-platforming” by university students of the feminist writer, Germaine Greer, for comments she made about transgender individuals which were deemed unacceptable. Where has this increasing sensitivity come from? Who decides what is allowable in discussion and what is off-limits? Is it right for contrarian views to be curtailed just because they differ from the established consensus?
People appear to be hiding behind the shield of identity-politics to close down legitimate questions being asked of belief systems, religious or otherwise. There is much talk of “hate speech” and “safe spaces”, but what exactly do these terms mean? What are the boundaries of freedom of speech and is the concept itself relevant anymore? Are we simply solidifying groupthink? Would we have ever made the progress we have in so many areas, including women’s rights, if the prevailing consensus had not been challenged?
The British public recently voted to leave the EU against the settled position of the majority of the British establishment. But how have people who took this contrarian view been treated? How did a view that was against the grain become mainstream?
These questions and more were explored by a formidable panel of speakers at the Contrarian Prize debate on Wednesday 30 November 2016 at Cass Business School at 6pm. The discussion was followed by a reception and book signing.
• Gisela Stuart –MP and Chair of Change Britain
• Peter Tatchell – Human rights campaigner, Director - Peter Tatchell Foundation
• Sir Simon Wessely – President of the Royal College of Psychiatrists
• Sarah Gavron – Film Director (directed the film 'Suffragette')
• Ed Husain – Director of Strategy at the Tony Blair Faith Foundation
• Chair: Claire Fox - Director of the Institute of Ideas