Contrarian Prize Debate 2022

Cass Business School

Contrarian Prize 10th anniversary debate Bayes Business School

Is it becoming impossible to be contrarian?

Wednesday 19 October

Freedom of expression may be under threat. The fashion for closing down discussion with anyone who does not share a particular view appears to have emanated from university campuses in America and there are claims that this has now infiltrated many of our own in the UK.

The intellectual lethargy displayed by supressing those you disagree with rather than engaging with and challenging them has now moved beyond universities and infected the great institutions of liberal democracy, most notably the media. It is no longer enough to silence those whose views are considered objectionable; they must be “cancelled” - rounded on, bullied and harassed until the baying mob has satisfied itself by destroying reputations and individual careers.

But who makes these rules and who decides what is and is not fair play in the realm of public discourse? If diversity of thought is subjugated by tribalism and identity politics, is the Enlightenment ideal of rational thinking and the ability to explore and analyse critically thorny subjects in good faith now redundant? Is it possible to be contrarian in such an environment or are we condemned to? What does it even mean to be contrarian today and who is trying to cancel who?

The Contrarian Prize was established in 2012 to recognise the independence, courage and sacrifice of British public figures whose ideas challenge the status quo. To celebrate its 10th anniversary we looked back at the rationale for establishing the prize, how contrarianism has evolved over the past decade and whether it can survive.

The panel comprised:
Baroness (Claire) Fox – founder of the Academy of Ideas (Chair)
Peter Tatchell – Humans right campaigner, Peter Tatchell Foundation
Sunetra Gupta – Professor in Epidemiology at the University of Oxford
Michael Woodford – Former CEO of Olympus Corporation (first CEO in history to blow the whistle on his own company for fraud)
Michael Crick – journalist and author
Andre Spicer – Dean of Bayes Business School

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