Liberal censorship?

January 21, 2005

I was delighted to see that my letter about Meg Barker had got the Left-liberal thought police snapping at my heels (Letters, January 14).

I would like to make two points in response.

The first relates to Barker's professional responsibilities. Barker is entitled to make the case for polyamory if she wishes; but she must surely recognise that to do so in an academic context is not ethically straightforward. One can easily imagine an impressionable student being so taken with a glamorous young lecturer that she adopts a polyamoristic lifestyle herself, only to discover that she has neither the emotional maturity nor the strength of mind to cope with it. Barker is clearly not the sort of person who would knowingly compromise her students' best interests; but one well-meaning ideologue can often do as much harm as any number of lascivious male lecturers.

My second point relates to Barker's troublingly authoritarian cast of mind. As soon as my letter was published, she seems to have posted a copy of it on a polyamorist website (livejournal.com/community/polyamory/). She then encouraged her fellow polyamorists to write to The Times Higher to denounce me, on the grounds that the paper might then feel obliged to censor views such as mine. (Her exact words were: "The more people write in to say that it's not OK to damn someone for being poly the more The THES will have to consider their policy on this issue.") Barker no doubt regards herself as a frightfully liberal young thing; but her methods are startlingly similar to those of the British National Party. And let's face it - not even the most ardent polyamorist could ever fall in love with a liberal fascist.

Peter Leapman
Canterbury

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