It is more than clear that we here at The Burkean have our ideological differences with Trinity’s People Before Profit, as we do with many other students’ societies and communities around the college. We do not dispute PBP’s right to self-expression which they carry out regularly, perhaps most notably by filling up the noticeboards around campus with their posters promoting many of their events and ideas. All of this happens without anyone feeling upset or offended. All of this happens without the need for us or anyone else to tear any of their posters down.
This article is not about the abortion debate, in the sense that we are not attempting to come down on either side of the issue. This article is about the disreputable act of Trinity students attempting to skew an intensely divisive issue by imposing censorship on views with which they disagree.
What PBP did yesterday outside Trinity College is a disgrace. Less than a week ago, a series of posters were placed in public spaces around the campus by a non-profit organisation known as the Life Institute. These posters were inviting people to an event in which women who had been victims of rape or who were conceived in rape would talk about their experiences. Last night, two students belonging to Trinity’s society People Before Profit decided to take the posters down and to put up a post on their Facebook page congratulating themselves in having done so. This is what the full post said:
“2 comrades, 1 pair of scissors, 32 vile anti-choice posters surrounding the campus. A successful evening indeed. F*** the anti-choice brigade and their attempts to intimidate and shame women. We’re fighting for free, safe & legal abortion in the 32 counties.”
The apparent irony of their action appears to be lost upon them. Despite the fact that they were advocating for the woman’s right to choose, it was two men who decided to cut down the posters, two men who impeded upon the woman’s right to chose to hear an alternative view, and it was two men who attempted to intimidate and shame the women who disagreed with them.
For those who may be tempted to celebrate this behaviour, consider the following: As much as you may disagree with the Pro-Life Institute, they have never used this form of response towards you by tearing down your posters. Regardless of their stance or yours on abortion, every single one of their members is carrying out their democratic duty in a better way than you are. They have shown a deep commitment to a truly liberal country by simply valuing decent civil discourse. Despite the fact that they disagree to their very core with what you stand for, they have attempted to keep this debate to the issues.
Those on the far left never hesitate to call conservatives or any other people with whom they disagree fascists, but their praise of political censorship, which is sometimes violent, along with their rejection of truly liberal and democratic norms suggest that it is they, who may have authoritarian tendencies. Perhaps they are just victims of their own radicalism, but if they had any ability to self-examine, they would see that they are the very thing they believe themselves to be fighting. It is they indeed who are becoming the oppressors.
So, what now?
Less than 24 hours later, they have deleted their post. The Burkean Journal understands that reports to the Gardaí are currently being drafted by students from Trinity and by members of the Life Institute.
We are hopeful that the Central Societies Committee (CSC) and the other college authorities will take the right measures to deal with this issue. It beggars belief that a society on campus could commit such an action without being banned or heavily penalised. For our part, we would, in as equally strong a tone, condemn any other group or university society who attempted to censor any other political movement such as LGBT activists, environmentalists, eurosceptics, or even the repeal movement.
University students should and can have conversations about contentious issues without the need to tear posters down, delete comments or block people from their Facebook Page. Unfortunately, it seems, that some in Trinity and across the city of Dublin cannot.
This is a shameful act from any side you look at it. Again, one can either be repeal or pro-life, but none should be in favour of this sort of action. So repeal or pro-life, it doesn’t matter. The normalising of illegal behaviour or political censorship as an instrument of our public discourse has to stop.