You might be a devout follower of Nietzsche's teachings, or you might have no idea who he is and think Zarathustra is a horse-riding royal; but if you're interested in the ethics of free speech then you might be interested to know that the UCL have banned its Nietzsche club.
It all started fairly innocently when the Nietzsche club, originally founded as the "Traditional Society", declared that they were committed to "traditionalist art and philosophy". But then the society put up posters around UCL campus bearing suspicious slogans such as "Equality is a false god". Another asked: "Is there too much political correctness?"
According to the motion passed at the student union, the group is "aimed at promoting a far-right, fascist ideology at UCL" and may have potential links to "wider fascist movement and other organised groups". This was enough for the SU to bar the club from hosting events on campus and putting up any more flyers.
Admittedly, Mussolini was a big fan of Nietzsche's philosophy, but some political theorists argue that accusing Nietzsche himself of fascism springs from a fundamental misinterpretation of his work. And while we can't vouch for the fact that the society isn't a secret cabal of National Front members, banning the Nietzsche club at UCL seems pretty at odds with a university ethos of discussion and debate.
Tom Slater runs a campaign called Free Speech Now!, which aims to promote open dialogue within the university. Speaking to the Daily Beast, he said: "Not only does this censorship undermine the very ideal of a university as a place where even the most abhorrent ideas are aired and contested, but it projects a lowly view of students. The notion that one wacky reading group could somehow pose a direct threat to ‘student safety’ just shows how little the union believes in the mental capacity of its members to take part in the cut and thrust of politics and debate."
So is the ban good or bad? According to Nietzsche, such polarised meanings of morality are redundant – so in honour of the late philosopher, we'll leave it open-ended. What do you think?
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