Friday, 12 October 2007

Witch Hunt of the Day

From the Lancashire Evening Post:
A young Tory student leader has been expelled from the party and suspended by the University of Central Lancashire for making vile homophobic comments online.

"Vile", they say! What an excellent example of fair and unbiased reporting! Still, it's only the local press: I doubt many journalists on regional papers can even spell 'impartiality', let alone put it into practice.

Fergus Bowman, a second-year politics and religion student from Lancashire, resigned as chairman of the Conservative Future society at UCLan's Students' Union when the comments, on social networking site Facebook, came to light.

He has since been thrown out of the Tory party by national officials.

Mr Bowman, 22, who lives in Catterall near Garstang, has also been banned from the Students' Union while the university investigates. He has apologised to a student newspaper for his comments.

The comments have now been removed from Facebook, but copies seen by the Lancashire Evening Post show Bowman was listed as the head of a group called "Homos burn in hell".

Its homepage featured a picture of a hooded Klu Klux Klan [sic - what was I just saying about standards among representatives of the local press?] member beside a burning cross and the remark "everyone knows homosexuality is against God's wishes".

So, Mr - or should I say, Grand Wizard - Bowman is clearly an out-and-out Nazi. Either that or the picture of a KKK member and the over-the-top language indicates that this group is a bit of a joke.

Mr Bowman went on to make a reference to the link between homosexuals and the AIDS virus.

On another webpage, showing an obscene picture of a man exposing his private parts, Bowman wrote: "And people wonder why I'm anti-semetic."

Again, is this more likely to be an admission that he curls up at night with a copy of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion, or a joke (possibly one in poor taste, but a joke nonetheless)?

And he branded members of Garstang Country Hotel and Golf Club, which is near his home, as "semi-civilized, illiterate degenerates" on another forum.

The Conservative Party and student leaders have united to condemn Mr Bowman's comments, some of which were made on webpages which anyone could access freely.

A Tory spokesman said: "Fergus Bowman's comments are appalling and we condemn them absolutely.

"He has been expelled from the Conservative party. There's no place for homophobia in today's Britain.

"The Conservative party actively support gay rights."

Students' Union president Chris Lowden said: "We are committed to equal opportunities.

"Fergus's comments breached our constitution. We cannot and will not tolerate such material coming out from one of our members."

A UCLan spokesman confirmed Bowman had been suspended from university while an internal investigation is held. It is expected to take two to three weeks.

Personally, I think that the Tory Party, the university, and the students' union are all guilty of a gross overreaction. It seems quite clear that Bowman was, at worst, guilty of making jokes in somewhat poor taste. Well, so what? Since when were undergraduates expected to behave like paragons of virtue? And, in any event, it's not like he was inciting murder, is it?

But if the Tory Party want to expel him, then I suppose that that is their right. True, doing so may make them look like a bunch of humourless, censorious, liberals, but as an independent political party they have a right to choose who they do, and who they do not, want as their members.

The actions of the University of Central Lancashire give cause for far greater concern, however. Universities are supposed to be bastions of free speech. They are supposed to be places in which the open expression of opinions is encouraged, no matter how vulgar, distasteful, or offensive they may be. It is deeply disturbing that a student can now be suspended, and possibly face expulsion, from a university, simply for making jokes that might cause offence to members of designated victim groups. And the decision to suspend Bowman is not without recent precedent, either: remember the Cambridge Motoons saga? It seems that genuine free speech is becoming an increasingly rare commodity at our universities.

Still, I suppose that Fergus Bowman should just be grateful that Jack Straw's wonderful new anti-thought crime laws aren't in place yet. If they were, he could be looking at seven years in chokey...

5 comments:

Anonymous said...

Hi, I am a member of the Conservative Future Society of which Fergus was our late Chairman. Fergus' comments were tasteless and offensive and have done great damage to our standing and that of the Conservative Party. For this reason, he has rightly been expelled. It is neither expedient, nor right that we should have someone in our group who expresses views that are so utterly against the principles for which the Conservative Party stands for, especially when they were in an official position as Fergus was.
HOWEVER, in my, and pretty much every one else within our branch of CF's mind those, and the inevitable social osctracisation his comments have invited, should be the limit of his punishment. Talk of him being expelled from the University is a step too far, never mind the idea that he should be investigated by the Police for expressing less than favourable comments about certain groups.
I can also vouch for the fact that Fergus is not the foaming-at-the-mouth nazi he has allowed himself to be potrayed as, but has a very tasteless sense of humour that has led to his downfall, part of which is deserved, but part of which is starting to go way out of hand.
I wish I could come out and defend his right to freedom of speech without being seen to endorse his comments, but unfortunately, I doubt people would be able to see past the idea that we are defending someone who has made what are frankly abomnible comments about Jews and Homosexuals, rather than the principle that people should not be criminalised for expressing horrible opinions, or even tasteless 'jokes' as was the case here...

JuliaM said...

"I wish I could come out and defend his right to freedom of speech without being seen to endorse his comments, but unfortunately, I doubt people would be able to see past the idea ....the principle that people should not be criminalised for expressing horrible opinions, or even tasteless 'jokes' as was the case here..."

And as long as you & others like you act on those doubts, this will keep happening! Have the courage of your convictions instead of always pandering to the politically-correct crowd.

Anonymous said...

You are right. He was an idiot for saying what he did, but there is now talk in the media of him being prosecuted for a 'hate crime' for his remarks. On principle alone this cannot go undefended.
I just hope we can make the distinction clear that we are defending liberty and freedom of speech and not homophobia and anti-semetism. Fergus deserved to suffer certain consequences for his actions, but the consequences are too much, and the law shouldn't be anywhere near this.

AgainsTTheWall said...

People with a sense of humour lacking in refinement are now in the position queers were a couple of generations ago ie to mix in polite society they have to pretend to be other than they are else they must frequent dark haunts where like-minded fellows gather to gossip freely.

White heterosexual males are the new kulaks.

A Free Man said...

Homosexuality is a holy sacrament of the left, one can't insult the new state religion without being punished, blasphemy after all is illegal!!!