This February it is LGBT History Month. The theme for this year is Peace, Activism and Reconciliation. However, due to the celebrations this month a Sunday Mail columnist, Peter Hitchens, who was due to speak at the Portsmouth Students’ Union this month, has been asked to reschedule his talk.
The Students’ Union supposedly received multiple messages from students expressing concerns over the published views of Hitchens on the LGBT community. Hitchens was meant to be debating and speaking on a number of topics, but due to these concerns, the Union opted to reschedule his appearance to another week, outside of LGBT History Month.
Speaking of the decision, the Union President, Violet Karapaseva, issued a statement saying, “We are committed to ensuring freedom of speech on the University of Portsmouth campus, however recognise that the timing of the scheduled event and the speaker’s previously published views do not align with our current celebration of the LGBT+ community.”
Hitchens has taken to Twitter and his blog to express his annoyance at the cancellation of his talk.
Referring to the Union as ‘weasels’ and cautioning his readers that society is ‘breeding a generation
of Thought Police’, Hitchens has made it clear that he views the decision as an example of the
younger generation not being able to handle opinions different from their own.
The University of Portsmouth has a proud LGBTQ+ Society and have scheduled a number of events
to celebrate the History Month. The Union’s decision to reschedule the talk was to support the
community against potential prejudice and offensive speeches. Indeed, the response from Hitchens on the matter reveals how he takes to jabbing angry responses into his keyboard through Twitter when backed into a corner. Referring to the students as his ‘attackers’ and ‘self-important zealots’ perhaps lends an insight into the exaggerative lengths that Hitchens is willing to go to when trying to prove his point and gain a momentum of support online.
After such a reaction, it is clear to see why the Union felt that Hitchens would impose little control
over his rhetoric and spark a negative reaction with the LGBT student community here at
Portsmouth. Waiting until the celebratory month was over seems like a tactful move by the Union
representatives to avoid a clattering of opinions that would leave a negative mark on the history of
university speakers here at Portsmouth. Whatever the true reasoning behind the decision, Hitchens has made it clear that he has no plans to talk at the University of Portsmouth any time soon.
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