Reading Mein Kampf, Misreading Education

On 21 November 2017, it was reported that The Langton Grammar School for Boys in Kent will be creating an ‘unsafe space’ forum for its sixth form students. The teacher responsible, James Soderholm, argued that this is a ‘much-needed forum for debate’. It is described as ‘an antidote to the poison of political correctness’, designed to examine ‘the most beautifully disturbed and disturbing ideas, all of them presented without trigger warnings’. ‘Beautiful’ ideas such as those articulated in Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, one of the assigned readings. It is clear from the terms, framing and rationale used that the project is an attempt for the school to participate in the wider right-wing and libertarian ‘free speech’ backlash against the alleged dominance of ‘political correctness’ (PC), ‘safe spaces’, ‘trigger warnings’ and ‘no platforming’ on university campuses, where undoubtedly, many of these sixth formers will go upon graduation.

Examples of this backlash include campaigns by Spiked! and its ‘Free Speech Now!’, ‘Free Speech University Rankings’ and ‘Down with Campus Censorship’ campaigns. In the US, there is the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education (FIRE) and their Campus Rights initiative, as well as Campus Reform and Professor Watchlist. In the UK, the focus of such campaigns has included the National Union of Students (NUS) no-platform policy which has targeted, amongst others, Germaine Greer, Julie Bindel and Milo Yiannopoulos, as well as Rhodes Must Fall protests.

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Charlie Hebdo, Republican Secularism and Islamophobia


The events of January 2015 took place in a context where Islamophobia has become increasingly prevalent. The French far right, and the Front National in particular, found in the stigmatisation of the Muslim community (however loosely defined) an invaluable way to distance itself from its traditional and ideological reliance on crude biological racism, through the use of more insidious forms of culturalism. While their Islamophobia often took an illiberal shape, a more mainstream, acceptable and accepted form has become commonplace within the political discourse of 21st century France. This chapter will examine trends of Islamophobia in France and their global reach and influences. It will then put them in the context of the Charlie Hebdo events and the debate surrounding freedom of speech, bringing reactions to the events from France, Europe and the United States to highlight the discrepancies in understanding what has been the most potent ideological signifier in binding liberals and illiberals together in the aftermath of the attacks.
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