When did the stupid become so powerful?

A few occasions this week which galled – firstly the villainisation of Dr Matt Taylor, the man who landed a robot on a comet. Not a man who landed a robot on a comet. The man. The only man to have ever done so. The Neil Armstrong of comet based robotics and to those with enough nouse to comprehend what kind of an undertaking this was for our species and for the people endeavouring to encapsulate the best that it has to offer, a worthy hero in a desperately cynical world.

He wore a shirt with some playboy-esque cartoon models embroidered into the blank canvas of oppression that is cotton, bought for him, so it was reported, by his friend Elly Prizeman as a birthday present. Following the mass hysteria of people who ought to know better and have more important things to be doing with their lives, Dr Taylor had to undertake the 21st century humiliation ceremony which is genuflecting in front of the ‘offended’ and offering your most dear and sincere apologies.

The man cried! People filmed the man cry! The argument bleated forth was that his shirt demeaned women, particularly women in science. I don’t think the kind of person, man or woman, who isn’t inspired by Dr Taylor’s comet based activities on the basis of a shirt, is the sort of person we need as a scientist anyway.  They can run Tumblr blogs about how unhappy they are about everything instead, while the rest of the world enjoys the marvel of comet-centric robotics. Did I mention this is a robot on a comet we’re talking about here? Come on people!

Secondly, in news which reached my newsfeed via my school alumni in the Oxford camp, but which soon escalated into national debate (ironically), a group of young women managed to cancel an debate being held on the matter of ‘abortion culture’ on the grounds that it was being undertaken by two men. Heterosexual men, our esteemed censors thought it worthwhile specifying, as if this is Germany before the war and a person’s opinion is tainted because of their Jewishness. They didn’t decide to come and comment after the debate, in the manner of say, a debate. Rather, they managed to have the planned debate banned. Extinguished. The debate ceased to be. It became an ex-debate. Pining for the Fjords, where freedom of speech is rather more prevalent than in Oxford. Etc etc.

Here’s an analogy for you. Imagine two non diabetics hold a debate on whether or not I, enervated of pancreas as I sadly am, should be entitled to free prescriptions. A reasonable thing for them to do – they pay their taxes which pays for my medicine, there’s a moral and intellectual argument to be had here that’s of relevance to more than one party and which can set intellectual precedent in other areas. Now, what I don’t do is try and have the thing stopped, having the pancreatically able silenced, on the grounds of their being healthy.

That would be fascism. And I’m not tritely throwing that one out there – I’m perfectly aware of the notion of Reductio ad Hitlerum, but if you try to stop people having opinions on matters that differ from your own on the grounds of who they are, that makes you a fascist. Like when Castro banned shirts with Disney characters on them. Sound familiar? Why should it be that if Putin quashes public debate, he’s a villain for our time, but if young students in affluent universities do it, they’re liberals looking out for the best interests of the oppressed?  It’s more than a bit banal to suggest that this is the reason we bother learning about the history of early 20th century Europe at school, but it is, and the purpose of studying it to university level is to develop the critical capacity and intellectual courage to call people out on it. Damn them. You study English so you can do exactly the same thing (and use words like banal to internally make up for our lack of knowledge pertaining to the intricacies of comet based robotics).

Two stories of unwarranted outrage in which the outraged have triumphed over the callous, unfeeling, despicable men involved. Unwarranted I say! If you can’t deal with a Pamela Anderson lookalike on a shirt worn by a man who lands robots on comets for a living in the name of the propagation of human achievement, but you can deal with Kim Kardashian’s arse, you’re insane. If you can’t deal with either, keep it to yourself – you’re more than entitled to be offended in the same way that I’m more than entitled to think you’re a pusillanimous moron. You shouldn’t be entitled to try and destroy those who offend you, in the vein of the great tyrants of the last century, though it seems the powers that be seem content to let them try.

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Michael Carr

Deputy Editor and co-Arts Editor 2014/15, ex-Music Editor. Lover of all things Beatles, paisley and Simpsons related. Occasional tweetings here: https://twitter.com/M_J_Carr