I had the opportunity to sit down and get coffee with the founder of Stirling University’s newest political society: Stuart McLuckie is the interim president and the driving force behind the Stirling University Libertarian Society.
Libertarianism is a concept that I’m not hugely familiar with, it’s one of those words that is often only mentioned in the context of American politics. I find this idea of the society particularly interesting.
McLuckie said: “It was at that point we knew, something’s wrong here”.
The idea to start a society, Stuart tells me, came from witnessing universities across the globe demonise students who think differently.
Often times on campus if you don’t think a certain way, your voice won’t be heard. He cites the recent neutrality motion as an example, submitted at a Stir it Up meeting.
This was a motion designed to take politics out of the Student Union.
Instead, McLuckie said, it resulted in people getting shut down and called names before the meeting even started, and when the meeting did start it culminated in ignoring those who thought differently.
Stuart goes on to say that ironically accusations of bigotry and extremism were levelled at people trying to pass a neutrality motion of all things.
He said: “These people are so used to having their own way, they are not used to hearing the other side of the argument, that becomes extreme.”
Libertarianism at its heart is an idea devoted to promoting freedom of speech and the free market, however, this is not the only objective of the society.
Stuart’s goal is to create a “support network” for people who have views that don’t satisfy the campus norm. Stuart explains that people are being discouraged from speaking up, through fear of being shouted down.
He said: “There’s a lot of ideologues who do things not because it’s fair, not because it’s right but because it benefits their point of view more.”
Despite his previous comments, Stuart is positive about the Union and the role they play on campus. Already he says that the Union is moving more towards the centre-ground; a step in the right direction.
This is largely down to the Union President, who he credits highly in shifting the approach of the student body.
There is more to be done, he says. With paltry turnout at elections and Stir it Up meetings, more needs to be done to engage students effectively.
I do however think some people will boil this all down to a left vs right argument.
You can feel this vibe around campus – we’re surrounded by everyone flying their political and ideological flags high. That said, wouldn’t it be a chronic disservice to misinterpret the message that Stuart and the society are trying to promote?
Stuart mentioned as a matter of fact that on the interim committee he has members from across the political spectrum, including members of both the Greens and the SNP.
This was surprising, as until this moment I had thought this was a right of centre movement.
I soon learnt that I was wrong. This society is not a movement anchored in the traditional political conflict.
Rather it is a movement that is open and forward about free speech, a free market and above all defence of democracy.
I for one am excited to see where this society goes and how they impact university politics.
You can get in touch by emailing Stuart personally on: firstname.lastname@example.org or the society’s official email: email@example.com
In Response to Anonymous March 21, 2017 at 2:39 pm
You know it would be great if you would actually explain what you mean by vague terms like a ‘certain way of thinking’ which supposedly holds sway over university students excluding yourselves of course.
It would also be great if you could explain for readers precisely what views it is your society holds which supposedly you are being ‘chastised, oppressed, shut down, physically or verbally abused for’.
I am sure you know as well as I do that the right including people such as Milo Yiannopoulos have advanced racist, transphobic and misogynistic views and have proclaimed freedom of speech in order to advance these views. So that when people like this have attempted to speak at universities, students have organised against them in self defence against such violent and harmful views, and have prevented the allowance of a platform for them. And so people like Yiannopoulous then proclaim just like you do that they have been chastised, marginalised oppressed and so on, that they are the victims here, when actually they have more ability to express their views publicly than a lot of people do.
I argue that there is a difference between censorship and no platforming. Censorship is specifically state prevention of people voicing their ideas, no platforming is when individuals tired of someone’s spewing of hate and bigotry organise to tell that person where to go. And in the case of Milo he spewed a lot of hate and bigotry including threating to out trans students and undocumented students, which is an act of violence against trans and migrants. He was not however censored, he was prevented from speaking in a particular place by individuals who decided they did not want him there.
I think it is right that people organise in self defence against that. But I suppose your society exists in shock and horror at this very idea and see it as a supposed threat to ‘free speech’. People like Milo are spewing hate and bigotry against people who very much are marginalised and oppressed, and then claiming that they themselves are being marginalised and oppressed when people organise to prevent them doing so.
If it’s the position of your society to defend people like this, even if you don’t agree with what they are saying, but purely out of belief that all views need to be heard and that all views should be allowed a platform then you don’t even care about ideas at all, only in enabling absolutely anyone to have a platform to express whatever idiotic, hateful, damaging and bigoted ideas they have.
And again I’d really like to know what vague terms like a ‘certain way of thinking’ mean. I’ve already said it sounds eerily similar to accusations of ‘cultural Marxism’ levelled against universities by the right – and for the benefit of reader’s cultural Marxism is a right wing anti-Semitic conspiracy theory believing that the Frankfurt school viewed as being predominantly Jewish developed a theory of Marxism which would eventually erode away capitalism through the spreading of social justice and feminist values particularly through universities.
No, I said that the Libertarian Society (for ease I’ll use the abbreviation LS) wish to create a platform for anyone to voice an opinion. This doesn’t necessarily mean that anyone has to listen, as long as the opinion is allowed to be voiced. At no point did I say that the LS have “no right to be heard”, I did say that it is up to each individual if they wish to listen to what they have to say.
I also didn’t “demand” anything. I did say that one of the aims of the society was to ensure that there is a platform for anyone to voice an opinion – never once did I say that the LS are demanding this. It is something to which the LS will look to pursue – as it is fundamental to Liberty, to be able to express an opinion without reprimand.
You see the difference? The LS will pursue having a platform for anyone to express an opinion, it is then up to each individual if they wish to listen to the opinion being expressed. Also, the platform to express an opinion would never be limited to the LS. It would be freely open to anyone who wishes to use it. Including members of societies which do not share the same belief system as the LS and even individual free thinkers which do not conform to attach themselves to any specific ideology.
Finally, I don’t believe the LS are “playing victims”. In fact, there was no point in my above statement which suggested that the LS was victim to anything. I did express, however, that there are views/opinions which are depressed/oppressed because it doesn’t conform to a certain way of thinking in many modern day Universities. Regardless if this is ‘right-wing’ opinion, or ‘left-wing’ opinion, the LS believe that there should be a platform to express these opinions and, for debate and discussion if individuals wish to partake in such.
This is in response to ‘Anonymous’ post on March 19, 2017 at 2:29 pm.
You’ve no right to be able to express an opinion and not be reprimanded for that opinion. It seems you support free speech until people aren’t willing to listen to you, or voice their disagreement with your views, at which point you start crying that your being oppressed and your views not being allowed.
The only ‘certain way of thinking’ among university students is very loosely support for social justice and those marginalised by society – women, migrants, LGBT, and even then there are still arseholes opposed to this. Beyond that political views are very diverse, there are liberals, socialists, Marxists, anarchists and if you think we all get along and think alike then you are mistaken, and if you think the university is a bastion of left wing ideas “cultural Marxism” I guess you would probably call it, then again you would be mistaken – if anything its a right wing neoliberal institution.
Again, not true. The whole idea of what the LS aim to achieve is the freedom to express an opinion. When I say “reprimand”, I do not mean that the LS, or any other society or individual for that matter, should not be challenged or debated on their beliefs, I mean that they should not be prevented from expressing that belief, nor should they be physically or verbally abused or oppressed for doing so.
You argument that the LS “support free speech until people aren’t willing to listen to you, or voice their disagreement with your views” is absolutely what we stand against. So, it would make no sense for myself to be arguing the opposite. I think you may be confused. Again, as I have said (more than once), the LS wish to create an environment which allows anyone to express an opinion, without being chastised/oppressed/shut down/physically or verbally abused. The LS are not aiming to create an environment whereby people must listen to what is being said and respect it. The subjugation of free speech is something that the LS wish to eradicate on campus.
Well, I’m happy that you have an opinion on this matter. Evidently, I share a different opinion and the fact that we are voicing these opinions is a good thing.
and as a side note the right have appropriated the word ‘libertarian’ from the left where it always meant socialism and more specifically social anarchism. Anyone interested in a much richer history and a much deeper meaning of that term should check out the Libertarian Socialist society.
I went to that union neutrality vote Mr McLuckie, and for the whole night you spoke down to the audience like you were the head master and us naughty school children, as if the only reason we disagreed with you is because we were incapable of understanding one as esteemed as yourself.
Here’s the thing, your views and political ideology do not in themselves demand any respect. No one has any obligation to listen to it, to ‘hear you out’ and give your views any space. This is not an impediment to your free speech. You’re free to sprout whatever nonsense you wish, just as much as myself and the 129 others that turned up to the neutrality vote are free to tell you where to shove it.
Ryan, your comments about Stuart and his political position are exactly what the Libertarian Society aim to achieve. You have voiced an opinion about Stuart and the Libertarian Society and you are absolutely entitled to that opinion. However, unfortunately, there are too many instances where debate is shut down or a certain opinion is chastised purely because it does not conform to the modern ‘norms’ of a university campus.
You do not have to respect Stuart, or the ideology, nor do you have to respect or listen to the views of the society – again, you are absolutely entitled to that. However, what the Libertarian Society aims to do is to ensure that anyone can use a platform to voice their opinion, without being shut down/oppressed by their peers just because it isn’t the popular opinion.
Evelyn Beatrice Hall once wrote: “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it”. Whilst the Libertarian Society hold certain values and ideals, they hold the value of Liberty higher than all. That is Freedom of Speech/Freedom of Expression.
Whilst I am sure Stuart will disagree of your analysis of his demeanour, I am sure he will appreciate you voicing an opinion and highlight that you are in the rightful position to do so.
Your post is utter nonsense, your agreeing that you have no right to be heard and at the same time demanding a platform to voice your opinions. You lot should quit playing victims, you are certainly not being ‘oppressed’.