In many ways, what follows is an argument against interest. After all, it is indisputable that those of us who generally dissent from the political and cultural consensus in Ireland would be vastly better off if university professors and lecturers were banned from speaking on political topics altogether. Were that the case, for example, Ivana Bacik would today be a little known law professor in Trinity College, rather than a Labour Party icon. Rory Hearne would be an associate professor in Maynooth University, and not the nation’s foremost advocate for terrible housing policy. ISAG/Zero Covid would not exist, and nobody would know who Tomás Ryan is, or who Anthony Staines is. Dr. Ebun Joseph would not be the nation’s leading advocate of critical race theory.
The list goes on, and is practically endless. Irish universities are full to the brim with employees who, in their spare time, moonlight as left wing activists. Mark Humphrys, of DCU, is a vanishingly rare example – perhaps the only example – of an Irish academic who regularly writes from a perspective which takes the contrary political view on a range of issues to that of the majority of his colleagues.
He is pro-Israel. He is sceptical of Black Lives Matter. He loudly proclaims that Islamic extremism is a problem. Perhaps most heretically of all, he considers himself a fan of Ronald Reagan. He is unapologetic about those views, and presents them, regularly, in stark terms.
For example, in the aftermath of the George Floyd shooting in Minnesota, Mark wrote that the deceased was “a black career criminal (armed robber), (who) was stopped by police after using forged money while high on drugs. He physically resisted arrest and was held to the ground where he died.”
For this, and his other views, student activists want him fired. The media coverage has been, as one might expect, inflammatory, highlighting that one sentence on a blog which Mark has been running for almost thirty years. The University, for its part, has issued a statement:
Statement from DCU pic.twitter.com/26RQUae9oP
— Dublin City University (@DCU) November 23, 2021
As has Mark:
23 Nov 2021 pic.twitter.com/CPBxpKW0dl
— Mark Humphrys (@markhumphrys) November 23, 2021
Surely it is time, now, to draw a line in the sand? What we have here, make no mistake about it, is a politically driven witch hunt. Had Mark Humphrys called the Minnesota Police Department a gang of racist murderers – language no less inflammatory that that which he used – does anybody for one moment think that there would be calls for him to be fired? Making inflammatory statements will not hurt you, in Irish academia, so long as they are the correct inflammatory statements. Call Boris Johnson a dangerous buffoon, and you will be invited onto the television and the radio. Say that anti-vaxxers are killing people, and should be locked up, and you will get pats on the back. But to say, truthfully, that George Floyd was a career criminal? Well, that, apparently, is unacceptable.
One of the things that is most strikingly dangerous about hate speech legislation is this: Those who support it simply do not believe that they, themselves, are capable of hate, or inciting hate. Therefore, we get this double standard: Your inflammatory language incites hate, but my inflammatory language righteously denounces those who are doing wrong. When institutions, like universities, end up full of these self-righteous people, purges like this one follow.
The message, if Mark Humphrys is fired or sanctioned, will be clear and simple: That there is no space in Irish academia for those who robustly challenge a progressive narrative. Mark, though he probably does not feel this way himself, is not really the target. He is the example. The point is not really to silence Mark Humphrys, who has been writing and arguing under his own name without causing or inciting any harm for years. The point is pour encourager les autres: If you are a young academic – toe the line, or else.
Meanwhile, irony of ironies, those who are pursuing him are not so clean themselves. The charge against Humphrys was ignited by a tweet from a student who posts on twitter under the handle Ekun Fawazz. This post is completely dishonest, by the way: Mark Humphrys did not, at any time, use the phrase “the blacks”. But that did not stop it being shared thousands of times:
— Freddo㊗️ (@EkunFawwaz) November 22, 2021
The same individual behind that post, incidentally, has no issue using language that would generally be considered homophobic, when it suits him:
— Freddo㊗️ (@EkunFawwaz) January 17, 2020
The bottom line here is this: Mark Humphrys has been writing about politics and social issues consistently for decades, always under his own name. Those who wish to challenge him are free, and have always been free, to do so. He has never shied away from a debate. That is how it should be.
The idea that his job should be under threat for expressing political views is absurd, and insane. Irish academia is full of people who regularly express views which many people consider to be offensive, and wrong, and certainly do not reflect the views of their students, or university management. We understand entirely in those circumstances that they are speaking for themselves.
What we have here is a political persecution. Those pursuing Mark Humphrys do not, in truth, really care what he said, or says. What they want is to send a signal about their own views: Agree with us, or else.
They must not, under any circumstances, be permitted to prevail.