A college in the United Kingdom has banned a student organization devoted to the 19th-century philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche:
The Nietzsche Club was barred from holding meetings at University College London after a ruling that discussions about right-wing philosophers could encourage fascism and endanger the student body. As well as Nietzsche, a favorite of Benito Mussolini, the philosophers to be studied included Julius Evola and Martin Heidegger, who have been cited as inspiration by far-right politicians.
The student society was never allowed to hold a public meeting after a series of posters advertising the new group appeared on campus. One asked if there was “too much political correctness?” Another claimed: “Equality is a false God.”
Before those ideas could be explored on university property, the student union stepped in. The fledgling group was banned after the Union Council approved a motion arguing that “there is no meaningful distinction to be made between a far-right and a fascist ideology” and that “fascism is directly threatening to the safety of the UCL student body.”
Nietzsche — who vied with Søren Kierkegaard for the title of hardest-to-spell philosopher until Slavoj Žižek came along — has influenced thinkers and creators ranging from the composer Richard Strauss to Superman creators Jerry Siegel and Joe Shuster. First (and last?) Objectivist Ayn Rand denied influence from any philosopher other than Aristotle; but Rand’s early writings, at least, bear convincing Nietzschean marks.
The Daily Beast’s Nico Hines focuses on Italian Duce Benito Mussolini’s Nietzsche connections, but he allows that “many political scientists have since argued that any links to fascism resulted from a fundamental misreading of the German philosopher’s writings.”
Mussolini, as Jonah Goldberg notes in his book Liberal Fascism, was also steeped in the works of Karl Marx (another philosopher who has been misread, apparently by 100 percent of his readers), Immanuel Kant, and Arthur Schopenhauer. In addition to being a contributor to Cosmopolitan magazine, Mussolini wrote numerous socialist tracts, edited the Italian Socialist Party journal La Lotta di Classe (Class War), and eventually organized Italian industry and agriculture according to strictly socialist models.
The U.K. (which is never called “The U.Q.,” even though it has been ruled by a queen for more than half a century and its two most successful monarchs since the Middle Ages have been women) has lately become a hotbed for this kind of speech-policing, an activist tells Hines. “In the U.K. over the past year alone, we’ve seen everything from Robin Thicke’s ‘Blurred Lines’ to tabloid newspapers like The Sun and The Daily Star banned by scores of student unions on just as tenuous grounds,” says Tom Slater of the “Free Speech Now” movement.