Social media is responsible for 'increasing intolerance' of ideas, says Oxford professor

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Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The founder of a journal allowing academics to publish controversial research anonymously has claimed that social media is to blame for an "increasing intolerance" of ideas.

Jeff McMahan, the founder of 'The Journal of Controversial Ideas' and professor of moral philosophy at Oxford University, told Julia Hartley-Brewer that there is now a "tendency" to think opposing viewpoints are "wicked and evil".

"What has been changing is the level of tolerance for views that one disagrees with," he said. "There's a tendency now to think views with which one disagrees are wicked and evil and should be surpressed rather than discussed.



"I do think that social media and the internet has a major role in this increasing intolerance both on the right and on the left. What seems to happen is that someone will read an article or hear a statement that offends them and they will then circulate this on social media to those that agree with them."

Professor McMahan explained he had colleagues who had received death threats for research they had published, which led to the creation of the new journal, which is set to be an annual, peer-reviewed, open-access publication.


'Received numerous death threats'

"My colleague Francesca Minerva, who's helping to found the journal, published an article some years ago in the Journal of Medical Ethics with her partner in which they defended a limited case for the permissability of infanticide in some instances.

"They both received numerous death threats from people for having published this article."

The academic claimed he felt "regret" that a journal offering academics an anonymous platform to publish their work had become necessary.

"Our hope is that it will be needed for a very short period. The shorter we need this journal the better," he said.