An essay of mine last week on free speech caused a lot of comment, and I had to confess at the end of it that I had been unable to say anything about a new and disturbing attack on free speech that I had referred to at the beginning. So this is that extra contribution, and it has been prompted by news both in the USA and Australia about what is allowed and not allowed within universities.

And I want to start by going back to my own undergraduate period, in the mid 1950s. I don’t think anyone talked about ‘free speech’ in those days. What would have been forbidden? We were supposed to be dealing with the great ideas that had come from the journey of humanity. For many of us, these ideas had only been faintly talked about at school. Now we were tackling them. One of the best courses I did was called ‘Renaissance and Reformation’. Our lecturer was an urbane, well-read man called Ted Tapp. We were dealing with the Reformers, like Luther, Calvin and Knox, the Counter Reformation, with Ignatius Loyola, and the deals between the Church and the Holy Roman Empire. Is it ever OK to kill people in the interests of your religious faith? Tough stuff at a tough time, and lots of people died. Our class included half a dozen nuns from the local convent, all of them studying to be high school teachers (like most of the rest of us). I learned that the nuns had been given a dispensation to listen to what had to be some anti-Catholic stuff, along  with some pretty trenchant stuff on the nastiness of some aspects of the Reformation. Ted Tapp was even-handed.

There were no demonstrations, even though religion rather than politics was the principal cleavage within the study body, not that it was much of a cleavage. No one complained. A few students from other courses came to hear a bit of it, on the ground that it sounded interesting. It never occurred to me that anyone could object. Human history is fascinating, bloody, inspiring, amazing, awful. You need to know the guts of it, not sanctified versions shaped to support a particular agenda. We all entered university a year earlier than today’s students, having had only five years of high school. But all this was good for us, and we needed no protection.

After classes we had four possible places to go: a common room, a men’s common room, a women’s common room and a cafeteria. The men’s common room was dominated by a group of senior students who smoked, told stories, wondered about sporting outcomes, and plotted. The women’s common room was a place of mystery to men students, though we knew it was larger and much more pleasant than ours. The general common room was for playing cards, music and socialising. It all seemed to work. We were virtually all residential students, so we also had rooms to go to, if our residence was on the campus; or we could go into town on the bus. The great majority were the academically proficient kids of white-collar and skilled blue-collar families. We were all poor, and almost no one had a car.

It doesn’t seem to be like that today. In the US, according to a long and disturbing essay by Michael Shermer, there are all sorts of devices to prevent particular students feeling threatened somehow. By other students? Well, not exactly. But by words. Words? Yes, students seem to need to be warned about ‘words’ that might be uttered. To quote from the essayTrigger warnings are supposed to be issued to students before readings, classroom lectures, film screenings, or public speeches on such topics as sex, addiction, bullying, suicide, eating disorders, and the like, involving such supposed prejudices as ableism, homophobia, sizeism, slut shaming, transphobia, victim-blaming, and who-knows-what-else, thereby infantilizing students instead of preparing them for the real world where they most assuredly will not be so shielded. The author says that the very concept of ‘triggering’ is a recipe for censorship. I agree, at least, on the basis of what I have read.

Along with trigger warnings come ‘safe spaces’. I guess some of our women students in 1954 saw the women’s common room as a safe space, but the notion has been expanded to this: A place where anyone can relax and be fully self-expressed, without fear of being made to feel uncomfortable, unwelcome or challenged on account of biological sex, race/ethnicity, sexual orientation, gender identity or expression, cultural background, age, or physical or mental ability; a place where the rules guard each person’s self-respect, dignity and feelings and strongly encourage everyone to respect others.

I find this really extraordinary. Universities, in Western society, are among the safest places there are, anywhere. Isn’t part of a university education the challenge to confront ideas and work through them? As I said in the last essay, we choose whether or not to be offended about things, and what we do about it. I am offended by the vacuity of much advertising, but don’t feel that I need a trigger warning that rubbish is coming, or that the advertsising should be disallowed.

Have you committed a ‘microaggression’ lately? You have if you’ve asked anyone where they’ve come from, or suggest that jobs should go to the best qualified person. I loved this little story: when Asian American students installed an exhibition on microaggressions, other Asian American students claimed that the exhibit was itself a microaggression that triggered negative feelings, leading the president [of Brandeis University] to issue an apology to anyone “triggered or hurt by the content of the microaggressions.”  Oh dear.

Then there is ‘de-inviting’. You invite a well-known personality to give a graduation speech, and receive an honorary degree. The invitation is criticised by students for some reason, and the administration backs down and  cancels the invitation.  In 2014, for example, Ayaan Hirsi Ali was invited to give the commencement speech at Brandies University, where she was to also receive an honorary doctorate. After students protested, citing her criticism of Islam for its mistreatment of women, the administration caved into their demands and Ali was no-platformed (as it is called in England). I’m not aware of that having happened in our country.

Shermer suggests that American society is passing from a culture of honour to a culture of victimhood. The first leads to autonomy, independence self-reliance and self-esteem, while the second leads to dependence and the need for a parent-like figure to solve problems. Oh, and the second also leads to ‘virtue-signalling’ in which members of a movement compete to signal who is the most righteous by (A) recounting all the moral acts one has performed and (B) identifying all the immoral acts others have committed. This leads to an arms-race to signal moral outrage over increasingly diminishing transgressions, such as unapproved Halloween costumes at Yale University… That sounds like an episode from recent Chinese history.

This essay is well worth reading, even if it is centred on what is happening in the USA.  The take-home message for me is his notion that freedom of speech and expression is being sacrificed in the name of ‘tolerance’. He continues: A deeper reason behind the campus problem is a lack of diversity. Not ethnic, race, or gender diversity, but viewpoint diversity, specifically, political viewpoint.

You can see examples of this in the preparedness of some to try to shut up debate on global warming by referring to the questioner as a ‘denier’. And that is in the broader society. How far has this cultural shift permeated Australian universities? I have no idea — they are no longer my working environment. I’ve read a few local op.eds that don’t seem a problem to me — for example, this one. But it usually isn’t long before something in the USA becomes a model for part of our society. I’m not looking forward to its arrival here.

Join the discussion 127 Comments

  • whyisitso says:

    Free speech is dependent upon what politically correct or politically incorrect group you belong to. The most politically correct groups today are (in order of virtue):
    Moslems
    Aboriginals
    LGBTI
    Females
    Greens
    Unionists (the more corrupt the better).

    The most politically incorrect groups today are (in order of evil):
    Catholics
    Caucasians, particularly Anglo-Saxons
    Heterosexuals
    Israelis
    Jews
    Non-Catholic Christians
    Males
    Conservatives
    The United States
    Free Market Advocates

    • Ross says:

      Catholics… and non Catholic Christians. I love you whyisthatso.

      • whyisitso says:

        There’s no doubt that Catholics are the most despised religious group among the politically correct – well ahead of the hatred directed at other Christians, who are nevertheless despised but in a less virulent way.

        • Ross says:

          Whyisitso. Your enemies are everywhere, Stay vigilant.

          • whyisitso says:

            Quite so Ross. Very perceptive of you, indeed. I’m in six groups in the non-PC list, and unfortunately in none of the PC groups. I’m going to have to volunteer for re-education before I’m arrested and forced to by your mob. Oops there I go again, using the wrong word (mob). This is cultural misappropriation from one of the PC groups (you know which one, you being sooo ultra-sensitive).

          • David says:

            Whyisitso, you forgot the unreconstructed.

          • whyisitso says:

            Of course, David. You’re sooo much better educated than me. “Unreconstructed” indeed. One must really try harder to learn the proper discourse. With correspondents like you and Ross, I do have a chance, but my lack of basic education means it going to be a hard road.

          • David says:

            Whyisitso its not your education that is the problem, its your unreconstructedness. But nothing that can’t be fixed. But you would need to learn how to smile and be nice to people and stray pets etc.

        • gnome says:

          I dunno- I reckon the SDAs and the jehovah’s witnesses probably get it worse, but then, if you’re a catholic, you’d probably lump them together with the mormons as not-quite-christians, and my guess is you’re a catholic. (It’s hard handling the auto-correct on those denominations, but it can be done.)

          • whyisitso says:

            Actually in the Northern suburbs of Sydney, the Seventh Day Adventists are highly respected. They run the best large hospital in the district.

            No, not a Catholic, but it doesn’t take much observation to notice how detested they are.

          • Ross says:

            Quakers! Have been involved on a few projects with them. Just wonderful people with a marvellous outlook on life and their place in it. Check em, out. Quakers.
            ( I don’t believe in god, but I believe in Quakers).

  • dlb says:

    I daresay if you got up on your soap box in the common room in the 1950s criticising the established church or the monarchy you wouldn’t be too popular.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      If I’d done it in the main street of Armidale I would have been deeply unpopular. But in the common room? I would have been seen as a weirdo, I think. My generation, at that time and in that place, weren’t especially interested in politics.

  • Alan Gould says:

    I think the atmosphere of the University Common Rooms was largely the same in 1968 when I arrived at University as you describe for yourself fourteen years earlier, Don. Indeed, ‘Hyde Park Corner’ exercises were not unusual to try the very perimeters of free speech – I recall Sunday afternoon occasions at Regatta Point.

    But I think the shift from ‘free speech’ (meaning candid speech) and ‘mindfulness of ‘being tolerant’ had started, and while it was not evident broady in University community, it was so in some of the groups. You could not criticise ‘The Working Class’ too candidly in Labour Club or ALP Club circles. Sensibility was tilting toward Establishment America being a gravity trap for critique and indignation….though America was peculiar because it continued to be the chief exporter of fashion, including intellectual fashion…SDS, Port Huron Statement, Moratorium etc.

    One difference between those decades and now must surely be the composition of both the student and academic populations – and this across the English speaking world. I recall the admixture of a few New Guineans among us, a few Colombo Plan. It is a long time since i have belonged to a Campus, but I imagine the presence of SE and SW Asian populations on campuses today would dwarf that foreign element we beheld in our midst in 1954 and 1968. As for the present curricula….You can’t be serious!!

  • Doug Hurst says:

    Some years ago I read a short article suggesting a tolerant society depended on intolerance of some behaviours. I don’t recall precisely what these behaviours were, but I think they included the obvious like using physical violence to make your point (as too many uni students do), the control of what can be said and by whom (as per Hirsi Ali and too many others), and more subtle forms of repression and bullying such as labelling with terms like ‘denier’.

    But it seems the article, which to me made complete sense, went un-noticed in our universities. For example, rather than allow the opposition to Hirsi Ali, I’d have thought all our universities would promote her as a bastion of free thought and expression, who escaped a repressive world, became an MP in her adopted country and is so many ways is a shining example to the young women of the world. They could add, that she so upset her backward opposition she needed a 24/7 armed guard while working as a Dutch MP – which Holland, as a civilised country, provided at no cost to her.

    But none of that happened, and my guess is the majority of Australian university students, having been denied the opportunity to hear her words, have little or no knowledge of Hirsi Ali’s contribution to human freedoms, especially for women, and most especially Islamic women.

    But these facts went largely unspoken and unknown. I have no answers to this nonsense, but say thanks again, Don, for your wise words – hopefully someone able to change things for the better will read them.

    • Mike says:

      If Hirsi Ali was a lapsed Catholic and all that she explains of the terrible things that happened her in her childhood were done by that religion it would be quite different. She would be the darling of the mainstream media and universities would be falling over themselves for her to come and give lectures. Why is that? Have the universities been taken over Islam and/or Islamic sympathisers?

  • Bryan Roberts says:

    “That sounds like an episode from recent Chinese history”
    To me, it sounds more like an episode from the Goon Show. However, having taught professional courses for nearly twenty years now, I have found most such students are relatively uninterested in areas outside their careers. Of course, in my day, Vietnam impinged fairly heavily on people’s careers, and excited considerably more emotion.

  • Ross says:

    Ah, the good old days. No one spoke of politics (really? At a university. In the 50s?? You sure it wasn’t a sheltered workshop and you parents were just being kind?) Everyone was white. And the women, knew their place. You’ll be happy about one thing, Don. Students are still dirt poor.

    • Mike says:

      You really are pathetic you contribute nothing. Stop wasting your time and ours.

    • margaret says:

      Yes, in Australia the universities of the fifties produced choirboys – so in the men’s common room what exactly was the plotting about Don? Meanwhile in the civilised and genteel women’s common room … they were no doubt practicing their wily ways of capturing a husband.

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        Trust a woman to go to the heart of the issue. A very attractive (voluptuous) fellow student cheerfully admitted that her parents had sent her to university for exactly that reason. Her gaze swept over me without a flicker…
        sigh

  • Don Aitkin says:

    I don’t know how old you are, Ross, so I’ll let the insults go through to the keeper. They bespeak ignorance rather than knowledge.

    Women knew their place? About one third of the students were women, all academically proficient and all, or nearly all, preparing to be high school teachers. Given the ratio, they were highly regarded indeed, and marriage was a common outcome of university romances (as in my own case).

    I don’t recall a lot of talk at university about politics at any time in the 1950s. There were religious revivals, like that of the Rev. Canon Bryan Greene, and that drew some numbers. Billy Graham was alive and well at that time, too. A good deal of careful separation of Catholics and Protestants — that was the big division in society as well. Perhaps it was that student numbers were very small. There wasn’t a Labor Club until the late 1950s. Quite a lot of the students came from the bush, and were nascently Country Party. No, our political interest was largely about the university administration and its attempt to control us.

    We were happy to have made it to university, and were most interested in finding out about who we were, what life was for, and, of course, about sex. Real politics came in the 1960s, with conscription and the war in Vietnam. I was aware, as the editor of our student newspaper, that there was a political world out there, and that NUAUS was being fought over by the Left and the Right. But that was for a tiny minority of students at any university. The rest were hard at work trying to pass their exams, get out into the world, and have a car, or get married.

    • margaret says:

      As Ross said – the good old days. I was a decade behind and in the late sixties at teacher’s college protest music was very popular but not much actual protest – some expulsions when either sex were found to have been in each other’s dorms and the college principal even suggesting that the girls should not wear the colour red, for it may inflame masculine helplessness in the presence of feminine pulchritude.

    • Ross says:

      Fair enough, Don. But it still sounds so incredibly… narrow.
      Politics was not discussed, because everyone was from the country party? Poor sods.
      So the ‘Communist Threat’ was all a myth? Unions weren’t wreaking the country?
      The only issues were Uni admin, The Counter reformation (topical) , and copulation.
      Were all the chicks, nuns? (Non politically correct term for all the ‘blokes’) Did you fancy any?
      Perhaps you’re right, and Australia didn’t convert to colour until the 60s
      But I have to say, your confirming for me that nostalgia sure ain’t what it used to be.

      • Doug Hurst says:

        Ross – get over it. Don is simply describing what his times were like. If you weren’t there, you don’t know. I am a few years younger than Don, but old enough to assure you these were very different times. Few actually went on to university and only some finished high school as I did. Where I was, the majority were in the work force by age 15-16. Just earning a living was a bigger priority than today with all its welfare handouts – and your wages bought much less.

        There was little or no political discussion in the papers or on the radio and with no internet or twitterverse the amount of public discourse on such things was tiny compared with today. PM Menzies took time off some years to sail to England for talks and to watch the test cricket and, although he was a towering political force, the country hardly noticed he was away.

        Women were already school teachers – my high school maths teacher was one – and almost all the nurses were female – so much so, in fact, that when men entered the profession it drew considerable comment.

        The biggest changes in my lifetime are technology, especially the 24/7 communications, computer power and the status or women in the workforce and society.

        Compared with today, it was narrow and restricted, but didn’t feel so at the time and most people like me who grew up in the 1940s and 50s have happy memories of those simpler times – and that includes my numerous female cousins.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    I inferred that Ross thought these days were simply imaginary.

    I’m not sure that they were ‘good’ — but that’s the way they were. Australia was recovering from the war, shortages were coming to an end, liquor laws allowed 10 pm trading (1954, I think), the Holden was popular, my father bought his first new car (Standard Vanguard), a book or two and a film or two actually had sex in them, though of course not really explicit, Australia was doing well in sport, there were jobs for everyone, the cultural cringe was slowly going, and so on. It was a time of innocence in some respects. The war in Vietnam would bring all that to an end, as I wrote in Nobody’s Hero.

    • Ross says:

      Snap, Don. Both posts at the same time. Just having a bit of fun, Don.
      I have BA in arts! The only thing more worthless than one of my paintings.
      You live, you lean.

      • Peter Kemmis says:

        Hullo Ross,

        Your last comment really made me smile. I think you’re a bloke I’d be happy to share a meal with, but we’d probably argue good-naturedly while doing so. A BA worthless? Well, I did wonder about the value of mine, for a few years after I had graduated. Fortuitously, I was hired into the IT game, way back in the latter part of the 60s. And while I felt completely flummoxed by the wizardry of those more adept than I in the arcane world of systems programming, that humble BA had helped to equip me to understand and put into context that new world or computing. It helped me to explain to its mystified consumers, what it would do for them, what it meant, and some of how it worked. While today I would have loved also to have done something like Engineering or geology, or some other “hard” discipline with clear vocational opportunities, that simple Arts degree turned out be very useful.

        Not sure what else to add. We oldies might seem fuddy-duddies to the younger ones (and I’m not necessarily including you in that group); however, whenever I notice ad hominem in lieu of the substance of hard data and sound argument, I am tempted to conclude that many of those fuddy-duddy understandings will be shown to be true. There has been a certain amount of ad hominem in comments on these various postings by Don, and that’s a sure sign of weakness.

        Meanwhile, all the best to you.

        • margaret says:

          Peter I think your response to Ross is an example of “I’m alright Jack” despite its avuncular tone. An arts degree is by no means ‘simple’.

      • It was a good idea at the time says:

        I remember some wag in the College (I worked in) had written on the next available sheet on the toilet rolls “Arts Degrees – please take one !”.

  • margaret says:

    Ross, you do know that Australia WAS very narrow last mid century. Now it has puffed itself up beyond all proportion and prides itself on ‘punching above its weight’.
    Also the more tolerant we are expected to become the less tolerant we are – the more bullying policies that are put in place the more bullies there are.
    I don’t know why exactly – Australians have never liked being told what to do and neither have we been particularly expansive or generous – I’m alright Jack is embedded deep in the psyche.
    Someone do tell me I’m just being a disillusioned old lady projecting her disappointments that have probably been magnified because not only do we have our own election coming we’re also subjected to the one over there in the country we have admired from afar.

    • Don Aitkin says:

      Margaret,

      You are not a disillusioned old lady— at least, I don’t think so. Australia in the 1950s was beginning to break through a narrow conformist view of the world in which the King, the Commonwealth of Nations and the Americans were goodies, and Communists and evil people in unions were the baddies.

      We are actually a most generous and voluntarist society — probably lead the world in these respects. Ross Gittin and Rod Tiffen’s How Australia Compares (I hope that’s the proper title) showed that. It’s the plus side of what others would call our not having a cradle-to-grave social welfare system.

      • margaret says:

        Maybe that is true – but I think for a lot of older Australians it’s actually a luxury to choose a cause for voluntary work – many, especially women are busy enough helping out with childcare.
        And Ross Gittins has also written:
        ” … something bad has happened to Australians over the years: we’ve become a nation of graspers. There was a time when the comfortably off were too proud to put their hand out for the pension. “The pension is for those people who need it. I don’t need it, so I won’t be joining the queue at Centrelink, thanks.”

        http://www.canberratimes.com.au/comment/weve-become-a-nation-of-graspers-20150608-ghji47

        • Don Aitkin says:

          Yes. The two judgments are not contradictory, because he might be talking about rather different sets of people. And its surely a bit exaggerated (‘a nation of graspers’ presumably does not include you, or me, or indeed anyone I know). And then again he might have changed his mind since he wrote that book ten or more years ago. But we are still conspicuous as a nation in both widespread philanthropy (ordinary people giving small amounts to charities) and in membership of community organisations whose purpose is largely to help others.

          • margaret says:

            I have read that the ‘big end of town’ has rather deep pockets when it comes to philanthropy. Meanwhile ‘ordinary Australians’ (read potential swinging votes that might come our way), dig into their purse to donate to whichever worthy cause they believe in – while it says a lot for their hearts and characters the practice of raising money by rattling a tin actually doesn’t achieve much more than a feel good sensation.

  • Don Aitkin says:

    Keep going, by all means. You make me look hard at what I write, to ensure that I did get it right.

    Another factor. I started at university at 16 1/2, as did others. We did not have the right to vote until 21, so ‘real world politics’ was some way ahead of us. We were cutting our teeth on wrangles with the university administration. Yes, we were aware of the ‘Communist threat’, and all of us (boys) did national service, usually in our second year, keeping that up until we had discharged the obligation (six months) in the CMF. That was good for me too, no matter how little I liked the army at the time.

    Was it ‘narrow’? Only in comparison to the present. Australia is more than three times more populous than it was then, four times wealthier and very much more diverse. Calling it narrow misses the point — it’s an apples and oranges judgment. If you did some history in your BA you ought to have come across the matter of standpoint somewhere along the line.

    • Ross says:

      You’d think wouldn’t you?
      Fact is, Don, your recollection of your uni days is A LOT clearer than mine.
      Your recollections are actually, quite interesting in both a personal and social history context.
      If I seem disparaging, it”s probably just the green eyed monster talking about your very good memory.
      Come to think of it I do have a memory of a green eyed monster! But then again, I went to art school. Nuff said (blush).

  • Don Aitkin says:

    Ross, I was trained to be a good historian, so I have both a good memory and a lot of material from that period. And I have written about it before, too.

  • David says:

    Don you keep saying there is nothing abnormal about Canberra’s temperatures. Another day another record. Quiggers is correct. Turn off the AC and go outside for a walk.

    http://www.canberratimes.com.au/act-news/canberra-headed-for-31-degrees-and-hottest-april-day-in-30-years-20160405-gnzcbg.html

    • David says:

      but don’t forget the sunblock

    • Don Aitkin says:

      These are troll-like comments. Please refrain. First of all, a record for one day is weather, unless you have a theory and can show how what happens in Canberra tells us about the rest of the world. Second, it’s not even a record, since there was a hotter day thirty years ago. Third, we didn’t have AC on because 31 is not particularly hot. Fourth, we had our usual walk, and it was not especially hot — indeed the cool change came in the afternoon: it was 31 for an hour or so.

      This stuff shows you not as a humorist or as someone with a real contribution to make, but as a snark on the edge of a discussion.

      OK, no response by me to anything you say for the rest of the month. I might miss something useful, but that’s the cost. I don’t like banning people, and haven’t done so, but you do give cause.

      • David says:

        “…unless you have a theory and can show how what happens in Canberra tells us about the rest of the world.”
        Theories:
        (i) AGW
        (ii) Fourier’s Law

      • BB says:

        Canberra is yet to exceed the hottest April day on record which was on 12/04/1968. That day was 32.6 Celsius. So after 48 years and a rise in CO2 of 70 ppm that is 18% the record still hasn’t been exceeded.

  • Neville says:

    Don you’ll never change people who need to cling to their religious beliefs. The data doesn’t support their theory so they must resort to ridicule to mask their silly cult
    There were terrible heatwaves in Sydney in the 1790s and at other times during the 19th century . There were also very hot periods during the fed and 1940s droughts and a number of years in the 1930s were very hot as well.
    The cool PDO occurred between about 1945 and 1976 and global temp cooled slightly despite an increase in co2 after WW2. Perhaps we’ve had some AGW since 1950 but it seems to be slight and masked by NATURAL variability. But look at their icons since 1950 and it is very difficult to be alarmed. More R&D and adaptation is the answer and in the future we will have much more knowledge, technology and communications to cushion the inevitable NATURAL disasters.

    • margaret says:

      Do you cling to Catholicism Neville? Religious beliefs require faith not data.

      • Neville says:

        Margaret I’m not a Catholic or any other religion. I have friends who are Christians and they are very decent people, but they know my views about religion. But I don’t deny the charity work these people carry out and I admire them for it.

        • margaret says:

          Me too Neville – I think that if religion/faith helps one to be a better person – a kind, tolerant and considerate one, it’s a good thing. People like that abound, whether they are religious or atheist. They’re usually quiet about broadcasting it to all and sundry – it’s just evident in their interactions with others of different beliefs.

    • David says:

      Denialists have a whole list of specious reasons as to why data predating 1979 is not valid, except of course when they need to trawl back through the Grey literature to point to some person who complained of feeling “frightfully hot” in 1793.

      • Bryan Roberts says:

        It is really hard to comprehend why someone would post something so inane. Vague, ad hominem aspersions, fatuous terms like “specious”, and “Grey” literature. I don’t know what the comment was intended to convey (a sense of superiority?) , but I know what it didn’t.

        • margaret says:

          Remember Bryan you are not supposed to talk to David for a month.

          • Bryan Roberts says:

            margaret, I am not talking to him. I am talking about a piece of nonsense that he claims as his own, although I have no idea why he would be bothered. It’s customary to smile in an embarrassed fashion when you step on a turd, even if it belongs to your own dog.

          • Ross says:

            Thankyou Bryon. You always paint a lovely word picture for us all to enjoy.

          • margaret says:

            Bryan you do have a way with the (English) language I’ve noticed.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Margaret,

            I picked this one up rather late. I have no objection to others responding to David if they feel they must. The veto applies only to myself.

            If people make a valid point or criticism about something I have written I try to respond to it. But I don’t respond to snark, or irrelevance, or those asking me to do their own homework. Life is too short. And perhaps I should make the point again that while there are quite a few commenters there are something like fifty or so people who read and don’t comment for each commenter. I wrote for a wide readership, mostly Australian, but leo from all over the world.

          • margaret says:

            It was a joke Don – I was a primary school teacher in another life and your veto seemed old-school. It’s interesting to me that your readership is so much larger than those who comment. So rather than a modern day salon as in say French cafes of old, your column functions more as a newspaper or journal that is read but silently. Spooky.

          • Don Aitkin says:

            Why is it spooky? Newspapers have thousands of readers but only a few letters to the editor — probably twice to three times as many as they publish. Websites like mine are a new kind of newspaper — or if you like a return to a very old form, when the newspaper was the editor and his (yes it was his) views and selection of news were just that — his.

            And while there are perhaps two dozen commenters who comment almost on a daily basis, there have been about two hundred in all, most only commenting once. Newspapers are a bit like that too.

          • margaret says:

            Yes, I expect it’s only spooky to me – your sole regular (in spurts), woman commenter.

          • margaret says:

            Mind you, I would expect that your readership is wider than your commenters anyway, so I really do base my ‘spooky’ comment on the lack of women voices.

          • margaret says:

            From the fiction book I’m reading – “1898 was among the driest years on record as I remember. We felt the drought even in our damp corner of the country. Grass, having been parched brown by the sun, was then nibbled to its roots. Bleached earth crumbled under the hoof. That track we had cleared to the new creek helped our animals, but they were still desperately short of feed and in dire condition. The whole district lived on edge with worry.” (A hypothetical farming district in NSW).
            All of us know that we live in a hot dry continent and that ‘droughts and flooding rains’ as Dorothea Mackellar wrote, are what to expect but that’s not what AGW is about – AGW is about how mankind’s activities have in the last two hundred years changed the natural conditions (and despite the proponents of CO2 is ‘good for us’ )- I think it’s time to arrest our onslaught. No, sorry, no data to back this up folks.

          • margaret says:

            The skeptics are no match for the orthodoxy in capturing of the minds of the average intelligent interested non scientific reader.
            I’m not captive but I’m getting older, not necessarily wiser.
            http://climate.nasa.gov/causes/

          • Don Aitkin says:

            I don’t know when the book you are reading was written, Margaret, but 1896, a couple of years earlier, was probably the most dreadful year experienced in NSW since 1788.

            You say this at the end: ‘AGW is about how mankind’s activities have in the last two hundred years changed the natural conditions (and despite the proponents of CO2 is ‘good for us’ )- I think it’s time to arrest our onslaught. No, sorry, no data to back this up folks.’

            Why do you believe this if you don’t have any data to back it up.The whole point of this discussion is to test statements like the one you’ve made against what passes for data. Without it, all you are saying is that you feel gloomy, and that what you hear about AGW worries you. If you looked at the data, and I’ve provided quite a bit of it, you’d at least have some some confidence to offset your gloom!

          • margaret says:

            It was written in 1988 and one reason I’m gloomy is it’s an historical novel about pioneers who murdered each other and if it wasn’t for my book group I wouldn’t have read it! But also Don I’m not able to absorb scientific data, I even found weather maps very difficult when I was young. It’s my brain – but unlike some here I can see the wood for the trees.

  • IRFM says:

    There was a good reason why there was never any soap box activity at UNE and environs – it was often too bloody cold along Beardy Street to contemplate such activity. A few years after Don, I enjoyed the cloisters of Wright College and other aspects of University life. By this time, the Colombo Plan was in full swing and the university body benefited greatly from the large numbers of very personable students who took up residency. NUAUS was going through its leftist phase and I well remember a chap by the name of Spigelman coming along on a regular basis. I believe he went on to a legal career soon after. Like Don that is where I met my wife. This small University has thrown up quality personnel such as the good Don himself, Dean Brown who went on to be Premier of South Australia and now the redoubtable Barnaby Joyce – well after our times. Unlike Don I was slow through the cloisters but grew to revere the place by the time I finally left. For those who are interested in a microcosm of undergraduate self reflections I would draw your attention to the Annual “Martlett”, editor one Hugh Crago. A search of the net will pick it up.

  • dasher says:

    An interesting subject Don and one I have following. I read Shermer’s essay on tip from Curry’s excellent blog. I find the infantilising of modern university students worrying after all they are supposed to be the leaders of tomorrow and yet they need protecting from things we were taught in primary school. It is also a worry when any left wing ratbag (and I mean ratbag as opposed to sensible lefties) can get a respectful audience but the opposition leader (Tony Abbott in the case of the prestigious ANU) or Julie Bishop are security risks and cannot appear. Where are the people running these institutions? as Shermer says they are the product of the start of this demented nonsense. Unfortunately most of these people have no concept whatsoever of the practical application of true freedom of expression even though it was once the left who championed the cause..go figure. One example.. we in the west have banned holocaust deniers…is there any thing in history easier to debunk than this nonsense? Mind you there are a rising number of cosseted lawyers and so called scientists and their hangers on who are proposing that we suspend democracy and ban those who challenge the orthodoxy of climate change opinion (an orthodoxy I sense is changing in the skeptical (true meaning of the word) direction which is very healthy. Watch out Don you would be first on the list. I believe in freedom of expression BUT….its what follows the BUT thats should catch our attention.

    • Neville says:

      Good comment Dasher, but Andrew Bolt would be number one on their list. Don would also be up there near the top. Let’s hope it never happens, but looking at the scum who invaded a Liberal party function last night you have to think about it. As the Bolter often says about the Left and violence” what would these people do if they ever had real power.” With morons at the Libs function last night who knows what they would do.

      • dasher says:

        It is a real concern that someone like Bolt (whatever one thinks of his opinions) is silenced by a court from discussing matters that are openly debated in aboriginal circles, it was even the subject of an Insight program on SBS where there was heated comment from aboriginals in the audience about those who claim to be indigenous based on a tiny proportion of bloodline. Bolt would not be able to participate or comment. The left should realise as Sir Thomas Moore said “and when the last law was down, and the Devil turned ’round on you’ , where would you hide Roper, the laws all being flat?” Google it folks and reflect on the wisdom of man from centuries ago.

      • David says:

        Nev, I suggest you water down the red cordial before you post. Its pretty OTT.

  • Ross says:

    “Left wing ratbags, cosseted lawyers, so called scientists , hangers on. All out to suspend democracy and ban those who challenge the orthodoxy of climate change.”
    Don’t worry, Don? I pretty sure your safe.
    Though Dasher may want to keep an eye out for men in white.

    • dasher says:

      So Ross I presume by your comment that you support those who would silence discussion on climate change that dies not suit their view of the subject..too serious to be left to skeptics no doubt?

      • Neville says:

        The trouble is their view of their CAGW is a fantasy. When even the father of CAGW tells them that Paris COP 21 was just BS and a fraud you know their arguments about mitigation are absurd. OECD emissions flat- lining and non OECD booming, just simple maths and science.
        But you can talk all day, every day to some cultists and they never wake up. In fact they can’t wake up because data is always ignored and their belief is everything.

        • Ross says:

          ‘They’ being all those ‘so called’ scientists and governments (so called). I can see why you are frustrated, Nev. Time to leave the world of bloggery and publish your findings in a peer reviewed science journal of some kind. The world deserves to share in your wisdom. How else are you going to change things? Right ,Neville?

          • Neville says:

            Ross here’s my comment from Jo Nova’s site yesterday. Just to show how little of the world’s TOTAL energy is produced by geo, solar and wind. Have a look at the chart and see why Hansen says it’s BS and a fraud . My comment——–

            BTW here is the pie chart for World TOTAL primary energy generated supply.
            Oil, gas and coal is 81.4%, Biofuels and waste is 10.2% and Geothermal, Solar and Wind is 1.2%.
            Amazing that after decades of pouring money down the drain Germany has only increased their percentage of renewables by 1.2% more than the entire world.
            Of course no change possible for climate change or SLR or extreme weather events or those poor polar bears or Greenland, Antarctic ice or the GBR or MDB or floods or droughts or…………

            http://www.iea.org/stats/WebGraphs/WORLD4.pdf

      • Ross says:

        Errr… No, dasher. Just keep a check the paranoia, is all.

        • dasher says:

          So Ross what do you think about these people trying to silence their critics through legal means? I presume you have a view.

          • Ross says:

            Are you talking about Bolt, Dasher? He lied. That often gets big mouths into trouble.
            Read his blog at lately? Still seems to go pretty hard at Indigenous Australians, as far as I can tell (not a nice man, in my opinion).
            Students protest cuts to education funding?? Shock and bloody horror, eh? Movie at 11.
            I seem to remember one Joe Hockey doing something rather similar as a student. Probably a communist.
            I ‘m not aware of anyone being taken to court over their opinions on Global Warming, but I’m okay for you to point a few out to me.

  • Ross says:

    ‘Don’t worry Don. I’m pretty sure your safe.’ Dammit.

    • Dasher says:

      Ross

      Whatever you think about Bolt taking him to court for racial vilification is not the way to go…if he defamed someone sue him. We are now in the absurd situation where people can discuss aboriginality openly but Bolt cannot ( the subject was even on SBS Insight with people being at least as aggressive as Bolt). Ross the idea is to debate our differences not silence people through the courts , which also has a chilling effect on freedom of expression. Oh and whether Bolt is a nice guy or not is irrelevant. Regarding global warming, I cannot give you names of people brought before a court for being “deniers” but there are too many people who should know better who think they should be…….what is your view on this as a concept?

  • Neville says:

    Another top post from Prof Philip Lloyd checking out some of the icons of their CAGW. He uses the latest data and finds little evidence that anything above climate variability has changed the climate since 1950.
    No acceleration in SLR, no hot spot above the tropics, no change in extreme weather events no unusual temp change compared to paleo- records etc. But they still believe, just a pity about the data.

    https://wattsupwiththat.com/2016/04/08/five-points-about-climate-change/

  • David says:

    Why would any pro AGW organisation ever want to silence Don.
    The quality of comments from WhyisitsoNevillDasherGnomeMikeBryanRobertsDoug sell AGW better than any publication in Nature ever could.

  • Neville says:

    I think Don is correct. He’s written a very good summary ( in fact a number of posts) pointing out how weak the case is for any CAGW and all he gets is pathetic , smart alec comments. I think he should consider ignoring more of these lightweight comments until they’re able to argue their case.
    Appealing to authority or so called consensus or fools like upside down Mann just shows how weak their case is. Unfortunately for them the data shows there is nothing unusual about the world’s climate since 1950.

    • David says:

      Neville the Earth’s 2015 surface temperatures were the warmest since modern record keeping began in 1880, according to independent analyses by NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA).

      http://www.nasa.gov/press-release/nasa-noaa-analyses-reveal-record-shattering-global-warm-temperatures-in-2015

      So Neville, how many rockets have you landed on the Moon?

      • Neville says:

        Well David many of the men who journeyed to the moon and back have little confidence in NASA’s temp record. Many have spoken out and if you use only the best rural temp sites in the USA temps drop by at least 50%. The rest is mostly UHIE.
        Even so there is only about 0.8 c of warming over the last 100 years and this slight increase comes at the end of one of the coldest periods for thousands of years. Of course none of this always correlates with increases in co2 as explained in the Lloyd and other studies. Lloyd also found that the average deviation per century over the last 8,000 years was about 1 C. So you’ve proved nothing, in fact the slight warming since 1850 is easily accounted for, coming after the end of the LIA.
        Here’s a few more PR studies from Greenland showing strong warming in the earlier 20th ( little co2 increase) century and later cooling.
        http://www.co2science.org/subject/n/summaries/northamericagreenland.php

    • Ross says:

      Because all the ‘data’ you choose to use backs up your case 100%. Any data that doesn’t is merely the tool of ‘so called scientists’, and therefore, wrong. I expect you can even link us to one of them ‘blog sites’ to back up your ‘claims’. As I keep saying, Nev, clearly reblogging is not working, for the skeptics. Get your data out in the real scientific world. Become famous!

    • BB says:

      There is no point in feeding the trolls David and Ross. If we don’t they may go back under the bridge.

  • Neville says:

    Here’s another good summary from Co2 Science about deaths from warmer or colder weather in Australia’s capital Cities. This Huang et al 2015 study shows the benefits of any slight warming recently in OZ.
    Risks of Dying from Unusually Hot or Cold Weather in Australia

    Paper Reviewed
    Huang, C., Chu, C., Wang, X. and Barnett, A.G. 2015. Unusually cold and dry winters increase mortality in Australia. Environmental Research 136: 1-7.

    In a study involving five major cities in Australia — Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane, Perth and Adelaide — Huang et al. (2015) split “seasonal patterns in temperature, humidity and mortality into their stationary (seasonal) and non-stationary (unseasonal) parts,” where “a stationary seasonal pattern is consistent from year-to-year, and a non-stationary pattern varies from year-to-year,” with the aim to determine “how unseasonal patterns in temperature and humidity in winter and summer were associated with unseasonal patterns in death.”

    Working with daily mortality data from 1 January 1988 to 31 December 2009 for each city — which totaled more than 1.5 million deaths — the four researchers found there were “far more deaths in winter,” such that “death rates were 20-30% higher in a winter than a summer” (see figure below) And they add that “this seasonal pattern is consistent across much of the world, and many countries suffer 10% to 30% excess deaths in winter,” citing the studies of Healy (2003) and Falagas et al. (2009).

    Stationary seasonal patterns of mortality (standardized to January) in the five Australian cities studied (1988–2009). Adapted from Huang et al. (2015).

    Also of note, Huang et al. report that winters that were colder or drier than a typical winter had significantly increased death risks, whereas “summers that were warmer or more humid than average showed no increase in death risks.” And, therefore, we continue to find ever more evidence that warming of the globe actually leads to fewer deaths from all causes combined than does maintaining the thermal status quo.

    • David says:

      Neville, I think you should post your insights to NASA. I have copied their postal address for you below.

      NASA Headquarters
      300 E. Street SW, Suite 5R30
      Washington, DC 20546
      (202) 358-0001 (Office)
      (202) 358-4338 (Fax)

      • David says:

        If you should get no reply, perhaps you could given them a phone call.

        • dlb says:

          David that is a legitimate paper in a legitimate journal. You totally refuse to comment on it because it is research which is contrary to your world view. It is easily understood and appears not to obfuscate with sophisticated analysis. Instead you indulge in childish antics which completely lowers the tone of this blog. Perhaps I’m wrong and you didn’t look at it all, and just relied on your pathetic prejudices.

          • David says:

            dlb, I have looked at “stuff’ Neville has posted in the past and I have found that he invariably misinterprets results. This paper is no different.

            Huanga et al examine seasonal effect of weather on mortality rates. They report mortality rates are higher in winter than in summer. However, the authors DO NOT draw any conclusions for global warming, which would be looking at the effect that a change in the mean temperature might have on mortality.

            Neville’s conclusion
            “And, therefore, we continue to find ever more evidence that warming of the globe actually leads to fewer deaths from all causes combined than does maintaining the thermal status quo.” totally misses the mark as usual!.

            The authors write this

            “The strongest increase in deaths for a colder winter was in Brisbane, the city with the warmest climate, which reflects the greater vulnerability of Brisbane residents to cold despite Brisbane having the mildest winter of any of the five cities (Table 2). This is in line with previous literature showing that warmer climates have stronger associations between cold and health than cooler climates (Anderson and Bell, 2009 and Curriero et al., 2002). In Brisbane, we believe this is because most homes are designed to lose heat in summer, which also allows cold outdoor air to get inside homes during winter.”

            If anything this suggests global warming might increase the seasonal variation in mortality rates. But this is only a hypothesis that would require further investigation.

            As an interesting aside the last author of this paper is Professor Adrian Barnett, from QUT. Barnett is a high quality statistician and has co-authored an excellent book on Time series analysis.

          • David says:

            DLB, I spent a bit of time reading and commenting on the paper Nev posted because you know,… you asked me to. I presume you meant to post something like;

            DLB
            “Thanks David. What a great post. Once you explained it to me, it is now so obvious why Neville was wrong. What was I thinking?”

            David
            “No worries DLB, don’t mention it”

  • Neville says:

    Here is a link to that study that shows the graph for those deaths in our capital cities. The graph tells the story of deaths since 1988 and the months they occurred. But of course Lomborg has studies in his book “Cool It ” from all over the world from the UN and WHO that show a similar trend. Now backed up by the huge, recent UK Lancet study.

    http://www.co2science.org/articles/V18/apr/a18.php

    • David says:

      NASA Headquarters
      300 E. Street SW, Suite 5R30
      Washington, DC 20546
      (202) 358-0001 (Office)
      (202) 358-4338 (Fax)

  • dlb says:

    Very interesting Neville, I suppose colds and influenza impact the elderly and infirm during the cooler months. Most intriguing that warmer than average summer months show no increase in death rates, contrary to what we are always hearing in the media.

    • BB says:

      Usually it is harder and more expensive to counter the cold also instances of people getting colds and flu et cetera is more. Obviously because they are in close proximity to each other. I grew up in a relatively cold climate in winter. Maybe it seems that way because the only means we had to keep warm were open wood fires and lots of blankets. Summer however was hot and there were very few medical complaints in summer. Most of us in the family acquired complaints during winter.

      I must say that if you go back to look at the newspaper records in trove will find that is a period around 1986 where the heat in New South Wales was devastating. Telling support to this is the fact that the train carrying dead into Rookwood Cemetery was increased from 1 to 3 times a day.

      By the way don’t feed trolls.

      • Peter Kemmis says:

        Hi BB

        I think that was meant to be 1896; ( frequently I have the same finger trouble.)

        There has been some additional discussion on trolls in the comments above. Negative comments in my view are welcome; where they are trivial, they leave me to conclude that their authors have no case they wish to pursue. One of the above in previous discussions I have challenged very nicely on a few occasions to respond to particular questions relating to AGW and the sceptic case, but he never did. His defence of the AGW case rested almost wholly on the appeal to authority, and I note still does. It is interesting, because I know from some of his responses that he is well educated, thorough and can read carefully, as indicated by his comment above on deaths from cold in warmer climates. So were he to overcome his conviction that the world is going to hell in an AGW handbasket, and use his training and capabilities to look at both sides with some care, he may well come to a different conclusion.

        Meanwhile, there are many readers of blogs who never comment, who can read the “AGW sceptic” argument with its underpinning substance, as well as observe the quality of pro-AGW response, and draw their own conclusions. Trolls (which I think is an unfortunate and pejorative term) are the important hecklers at the back of the auditorium, whose challenges can be pertinent and valuable, provoking clear and specific replies from the speaker (should the speaker have a genuine case).

        • BB says:

          Curious I corrected the error an hour before you commented on it. I will comment on trolls in a little while and I do not believe the term is unfortunate. This pair are the grunge on this blog contribute little and any intelligent comment comes from them feeding back to us what has already been said.

          • margaret says:

            But it seems to me BB that if these ‘trolls’ disappeared and doubtless only gallantry prevents that label applying to myself, the commenters on this blog would all be of like minds and there would be little disagreement on which the ‘growth of knowledge depends’

          • dlb says:

            Margaret nothing wrong with people disagreeing, it is childish stirring and tit for tat point scoring I dislike.

        • dlb says:

          Peter, the definition of a troll is largely in the eye of the beholder. If I were to go over to SkS (washes hands 10 times just at the thought) I’m sure I would be labelled a troll by the commenters by just having a point of view different from the majority. Some here might even call supporters of AGW trolls, but I wouldn’t call people like Bobo a troll as he / she offers reasoned arguments for the AGW side. Then there are the persistent stirrers and time wasters who I would call trolls.

          • margaret says:

            Well you can only hope dlb that Bobo returns with al guns blazing.

          • David says:

            Who would you call a troll on the skeptical side of the debate, from this site?

          • David says:

            dlb I would argue that Don sets the standard. If he has not had an opportunity to “kick the cat” his own posts can be full of unnecessary vitriol. How does posting a article on AGW with a heading “Is a ‘prat’ the same as a ‘ratbag’? not Troll like? Go back and have a look at some of the comments on Aboriginal Australians or homosexuals that have been posted on this site and then get back to me. Some of those comments are disgusting. Don never objects, because the insults are not directed at him. But Ross and I give a bit back to him and he throws teddy from the cot.

          • dlb says:

            David, I would not consider anyone on the sceptic side that post here to be trolls. Perhaps Neville might be a bit of a pain with off topic posts, but I certainly would not call him a troll. As for the so called delcons that post here I certainly disagree with many things they say and same goes for people like yourself and Margaret. It is not their and your views that makes you a troll, but how you say it.
            I am surprised at your disgust, have you ever thought your views are equally disgusting to some people?

            I’m good you’re bad, all very childish really.

  • BB says:

    Obviously not 1986 but 1896 sorry about that!

  • Neville says:

    David as usual you’ve got it wrong. The words you attributed to me are from the scientists at Co2 Science. I wrote the first paragraph and nothing else. The sensible ADAPTATION for cities everywhere is to insulate homes etc and then in the winter you will have a warmer house to begin with.
    Just simple logic and reason, in fact very easy to understand. Cold spells kill much higher number than heatwaves. Here is the 2015 Lancer study, the largest so far. This study found that heatwaves are not the problem. Most deaths occur during cold spells and even milder cooler weather. And moderately warmer weather showed more deaths than heatwaves. This covered countries all over the world and about 74 million deaths were studied. Live and learn.

    https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2015/05/150520193831.htm

    • David says:

      Neville if you want to attribute these words

      “And, therefore, we continue to find ever more evidence that warming of the globe actually leads to fewer deaths from all causes combined than does . . maintaining the thermal status quo.”

      to CO2 science you need to say so. And if they are a direct quote it is customary to enclose them in quotation marks

      Regardless, they do not accord with Huanga et al.

      As for “simple logic”, I will leave that to you. Its your forte.

  • BB says:

    An internet troll is a person who sows discord on the Internet by starting arguments or upsetting people, by posting inflammatory, extraneous, or off-topic messages in a blog with the deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion, often for their own amusement. Our trolls on this blog and this thread are guilty they fit the definition very well. Something that is not mentioned is the dominance they have achieved. David and Ross combined are 33% of the comments that is far too much for anyone. More than that if you take the number of times they are mentioned in other comments as well 60% of the comments on this thread involve David and Ross. They are taking over with inane insulting comments. Don started this thread about his early days in university it devolved into non-productive discussion about climate change. It was Ross that started the off topic discussion, it wasn’t a transition it was a deliberate move to break away the discussion to something Ross wanted, it worked. Personally I would say David and Ross are the same person that that doesn’t really matter is what’s happening to this blog that matters I urge Don to get rid of them all together.

  • David says:

    Definition of a Troll
    “…deliberate intent of provoking readers into an emotional response or of otherwise disrupting normal on-topic discussion.

    Would that be posting an essay titled “Is a ‘prat’ the same as a ‘ratbag’? meet that definition.?

  • David says:

    Expelled to the naughty corner for “off-message” comments on a blog entitled “Free speech on university campuses”. I think that is called irony.

  • David says:

    dlb
    “I am surprised at your disgust, have you ever thought your views are equally disgusting to some people?” Yes.

    dlb, I do respect your opinion. So tell me which posts of mine do you think have been appalling?

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