An Oxford University blog has come under fire this week after publishing an article criticised for “anti-Conservative bias”.
Dr Rebecca Roache’s article, entitled “If You’re a Conservative, I’m Not Your Friend”, was published by the Oxford University Practical Ethics blog on Friday. In the piece, Roache, a Royal Holloway Philosophy Lecturer based in Oxford, described how she had “unfriended” Conservative Party supporters on Facebook following the results of the General Election.
The article has since been criticised by Tory-supporting academics for showing an “anti-Conservative bias”. Within the piece, Roach stated: “life is too short, I thought, to hang out with people who hold abhorrent political views, even if it’s just online”, and described how she unfriended Facebook friends who had “liked” the Conservative Party Facebook page.
Roache went onto conclude that in this environment, “shy Tories” thrived, and to openly express support for the Conservatives on Facebook or otherwise was “as objectionable as expressing racist, sexist, or homophobic views”.
She went on to say that such “objectionable’ views” encourage individuals to lose “friends and respect”.
Some of Dr Roache’s academic colleagues have reacted angrily. Jim Everett, an Oxford social psychologist who identifies himself as a “gay, disabled, working-class Conservative”, said that the piece appeared to justify the view “that it’s OK [to express] the idea that Conservatives are evil and therefore they are intellectually and morally inferior…As an academic, I find that worrying… I personally wouldn’t like to see her face disciplinary action.
“What I do think she should do is apologise and modify her statement. She’s obviously very clever, but far too biased and not applying the same rational standards of thinking that she usually does.”
The article also prompted a wave of negative online comments on the blog itself, with some users labelling it “needlessly rude” and accusing Roache of being unable to construct a “coherent argument”.
Within the bulk of the article, Roach pre-empted some of the criticism over her views, stating: “I am attracted by the view that we should all keep the debate open, discuss our political views, take other people’s views into account, and revise and improve our own as we all benefit from this dialogue. I’m attracted by the view that there is such a thing as progress in politics.”
Dr Roache’s work at Royal Holloway, University of London, specialises in modern philosophy, logic and practical ethics.
She is also the Associate Editor of ‘The Journal of Medical Ethics’ and a frequent writer for the blog ‘Practical Ethics: Ethics in the News’.
Numerous Oxford students rushed to defend Roache, however. One second-year English student said Roache’s words were “probably not intended to be taken seriously”, adding: “I completely agree about de-friending Tories. I’ve removed a lot of them since Thursday night. They are fundamentally self-interested people and have no place in my life or my friendship circle.” Another humanities undergradudate agreed, commenting: “To talk of an anti-Conservative bias is absurd. Perhaps Mr Everett should consider whether academics are just more left-leaning as a result of their intelligence and thoughtfullness.”