Monthly Newsletter

Cambridge backtracks over Maoist shaming website

The University of Cambridge took down a website last Monday that would have enabled members of the University to make anonymous complaints about students and staff for “micro-aggressions” and other non-crimes. The published list of offences included giving someone a “backhanded compliment” and referring to a woman as a “girl”. The Free Speech Union wrote to the Canadian Vice-Chancellor, Professor Stephen Toope, threatening legal action. We reproduce, below, an article in the Telegraph about the climbdown.

Cambridge removes website where dons can be reported for “raising an eyebrow”

by Camilla Turner and Pravina Rudra

Cambridge University has taken down a website which said dons could be reported for “raising an eyebrow” at students.

It comes just days after The Telegraph exposed the university’s new anonymous reporting site which stated that academics could be committing a “micro-aggression” if they gave backhanded compliments, turned their backs on certain people or referred to a woman as a girl.

Dons had accused the university of trampling on free speech, saying the reporting system would foster a culture “akin to that of a police state”. Cambridge’s Vice-Chancellor Prof Stephen Toope is also facing a legal challenge over the contents of the website.

Prof Toope said that since the website’s launch last week, “it has come to light that certain ancillary material was included in error”. He explained that the entire website had been taken offline while the material in question was removed, adding that the university had launched an investigation into how it was included in the first place.

“I believe that some of the statements and examples in this material go beyond the approved policy framework and would undermine its impact,” he said.

“The website has been temporarily taken down while that material is removed. I have asked senior staff to look into how this error occurred.”

The row over the website was set to escalate after the Free Speech Union (FSU) threatened to take Prof Toope to court.

Toby Young, general secretary of the FSU, wrote to the Vice-Chancellor claiming that the website and policy “proposed a system of policing speech and everyday interaction” which would be “inconsistent” with its duty to uphold free speech.

He pointed out that section 43 of the Education Act 1986 requires universities to take reasonably practicable steps to secure freedom of speech within the law for employees.

“This policy, as you must be aware, would radically interfere with how your academics teach, argue with and learn from students, as well as how students interact with each other,” Mr Young said.

“It would mean academics and students were under constant threat of being reported and investigated for having committed some wholly innocent but perceived slight, which would inevitably have a chilling effect on interactions that, in a university, should be free and unguarded.” 

Mr Young added that should the policy reappear in anything like its original form, the FSU would “seek to challenge its lawfulness in the High Court”.

Last week, a list of potential offences were published by Cambridge on a new website on which academics and students can anonymously report “inappropriate” behaviour.

The site had been created as part of a “Change the Culture” initiative that includes a series of policies and resources aimed at “clarifying expectations” about behaviour.

The new behaviour resources explained that micro-aggressions are everyday “slights, indignities, put-downs and insults” to which minority groups are subjected.

A list of examples was provided on the website, including asking someone “where are you really from?” and misgendering a person, especially if they have already shared their pronouns.

The site claimed that micro-aggressions also included “behaviours such as a change in body language when responding to those of a particular characteristic, for example, raising eyebrows when a black member of staff or student is speaking, dismissing a staff or student who brings up race and/or racism in a teaching and learning or work setting”.

One Cambridge don told The Telegraph: “My hope is that they have recognised that the regime is at the very least on the borders of lawfulness.

“This is not just about the law. It is about the entire culture. This policy suggests that Cambridge dons and students are not capable of dealing with ordinary interpersonal friction in day-to-day social interactions.

“What kind of message are we sending to the next generation if we say the solution to someone offending you is to run to the authorities and report them anonymously?”

Earlier this month, a new bill on academic freedom was featured in the Queen’s Speech, which Education Secretary Gavin Williamson said will end “the chilling effect of censorship on campus once and for all”. Universities in England could face fines if they fail to protect free speech on campus under tougher legislation.

Cambridge fallout

The proposed new reporting website came in for considerable criticism in the press. Writing in the Telegraph, FSU Director Douglas Murray advised Cambridge alumni to withhold donations until the Vice-Chancellor had resigned. “Permit me to commit a macro-aggression against the Canadian lawyer currently trying to run one of our great universities into the ground,” he wrote. “I would like to ask him – and think more people should join in doing so – ‘Who do you think you are? What right do you think you have to tell people which facial muscles to move? This is a great university, not a playpen filled with your lurid and bizarre phantasms.'”

Charles Moore, the former editor of the Telegraph, also weighed in. “Prof Toope, who has made repeated speeches in praise of Xi Jinping’s China, is developing methods of denunciation of which the People’s Republic would be proud,” he wrote.

In addition, 25 leading Cambridge academics, including members of the FSU’s Advisory Council, wrote a letter to the Telegraph demanding that whatever replaces the website must be “fully compatible with the right to unfettered freedom of speech and expression within the law as well as with the university’s core commitment to the free and fearless discussion of ideas”.

Fraser Myers, an Assistant Editor of Spiked, warned that “woke politics has been so enthusiastically embraced by our elite institutions and the authorities, sitting out of the culture wars is not an option.”

The reporting website has now been put back up, but it’s a pale shadow of the original. The list of reportable offences has disappeared, it doesn’t accept anonymous complaints and – critically – the site doesn’t ask people to name the person they’re complaining about. That’s a good outcome and all those who raised the alarm deserve credit. It shows that attacks on free speech can be repelled provided we act quickly, decisively and in unison. It’s now time to turn out attention to other universities that have created snitching portals, of which there are several. More news on that soon.

Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill Briefing

A few weeks ago we produced a briefing paper on the Online Safety Bill, and we’ve just created another on the Higher Education Bill. We are not so keen on the former, but very much in favour of the latter.

The Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill will strengthen protections for free speech and academic freedom in English universities by imposing more robust legal duties on Higher Education Providers and Student Unions. These include the duty to take reasonably practicable steps to protect the free speech of academic staff, non-academic staff, students and visitors to universities; to actively promote freedom of speech; and to protect academics’ freedom to question and test received wisdom, put forward new ideas and express controversial opinions.

There are already several laws protecting academic free speech on the statute books, but they are more honoured in the breach than the observance and this Bill will create some practical mechanisms for enforcing those laws, including allowing civil claims to be brought against Higher Education Providers and Student Unions, as well as creating an avenue of complaint through the Office for Students via a new ‘Free Speech Champion’. These are positive steps that will further protect freedom of speech on campus.

In the briefing, we’ve summarised the evidence that has already been compiled that free speech is in crisis in Britain’s universities, citing research by the University and College Union, Policy Exchange and ADF International, and we’ve added to this by drawing on the FSU’s case files. Of the 500 or so free speech cases we’ve been involved in over the past year, about 100 have involved university students or academics. We’ve highlighted some of the most significant of these in the appendix to the briefing.

We also consider some of the most common criticisms of the Bill and do our best to rebut them. You can find the new briefing document here.

Trainee teacher spared after FSU intervention over Mohammed cartoons

We’re delighted to report that the trainee teacher at Manchester Metropolitan University who was disciplined for criticising the teaching profession for not standing up for the teacher in Batley who was forced into hiding after showing his students a cartoon of Mohammed will face no further action. After expressing this sentiment in an email to his course supervisor, in which he also said he’d have no hesitation in showing his students a cartoon of Mohammed, he was placed under investigation and threatened with referral to a “fitness to practise” panel, which could have resulted in him being banned from teaching. He is a member of the FSU and asked for our help, and we took up his case, which included writing to the head of the Teacher Education School and accompanying him to a hearing. The University has now decided not to refer him to a “fitness to practise” panel. In an email to us afterwards, he wrote: “Thanks to the FSU I am not going to be disciplined by MMU for blasphemy. I won’t ever forget the only friends I had when it really counted.”

Victory in Kent

We’ve achieved another success, this time at Kent University. A first year student and member of the FSU was placed under investigation after classmates complained about comments he’d made in the course of a debate about George Floyd and Black Lives Matter. Nothing he said was remotely inflammatory or unreasonable; he just didn’t toe the progressive line. We wrote to the University reminding them of their obligation to uphold freedom of speech and the student will now face no further action.

Defending Free Speech At the University of Abertay

Lisa Keogh, final year law student at Abertay University. She voiced her opinion during an online discussion on gender, feminism and the law and was reported to the University by her fellow students for saying, among other things, that women were not as physically strong as men. Pic shows Lisa at Lunan Bay, Angus. Photographer: Paul Reid

We’ve been busy defending Lisa Keogh, a member of the Free Speech Union and a fourth year law student at Abertay University in Dundee. During a seminar on gender, feminism and the law, she expressed the opinion that women aren’t as strong as men and, for that reason, trans women shouldn’t be able to compete against biological women in mixed martial arts tournaments. Lisa is a mature student and a mother-of-two – as well as the first person in her family to go to university – and wasn’t aware that this common-sense view is considered “hate speech” by woke students. She was duly reported to the university authorities, who placed her under investigation, even though she was in the midst of her final exams.

You can read about Lisa’s case in MailOnline, as well as read an interview with Lisa in Femail and listen to an interview she did on Woman’s Hour. She has attracted widespread support, both in the media – see this piece by Fraser Hudghton, our Case Management Director, and this piece by Jim Spence, a former Rector of Dundee University – and in the House of Commons, where the SNP MP Joanna Cherry has spoken out in her defence. We hoped that Abertay would dismiss Lisa’s case after a preliminary investigation, but instead the University has referred it to a student board, with the hearing due to take place on June 7th.

This is a genuinely shocking example of someone being punished for exercising their lawful right to free speech – and, moreover, for expressing an opinion that the vast majority of people would agree with. As Fraser Myers wrote in the Spectator, “The next time someone tells you campus censorship is a myth, made up by right-wing tabloids and leapt upon by a Tory government keen to wage a ‘culture war’ against the left, tell them to Google ‘Lisa Keogh’.”

Free Speech Champions

In case you missed it, the Free Speech Champions – a joint initiative overseen by the FSU and the Battle of Ideas – organised a great online discussion between some top journalists – Bari Weiss, Helen Lewis, Katie Herzog and Mick Hume – about why journalists working for elite newspapers and broadcasters are becoming less concerned with uncovering the truth and holding the powerful to account and more interested in using their platforms to advance the cause of social justice. You can watch a video recording of that conversation here.

In addition, the Champions have been hard at work defending free speech. You can read articles by them in Areo magazine here, here and here.

And if you want to watch me interviewing Quentin Letts about his new book – Stop Bloody Bossing Me About – in our first online ‘Speakeasy’ you can do that on our YouTube channel here.

Join the FSU Today

We hope you’ve enjoyed this monthly newsletter. We’re proud of the work we do, and we think our work is important. Your support is also vital, and memberships start at just £2.49 a month, so please help us to carry on this fight by becoming a member and by spreading the word to friends and family, and sharing this newsletter on social media by. Click here to sign up today.

We currently have about 8,200 members, but we want to get to 10,000 by the end of the year. We also hope to open affiliate groups across the Anglosphere – and you can see the website of our New Zealand affiliate here. The United States will be next.

Kind regards,

Toby Young

Monthly Newsletter

Home Secretary: ‘Non-crime hate incidents’ should not be included on police records

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Following the publication of our Free Speech Union Manifesto last month, we were delighted to see Home Secretary Priti Patel ask the College of Policing to drop its guidance telling officers to record ‘non-crime hate incidents’ on people’s police records. Scrapping this Orwellian practice was the first point in our manifesto. A Home Office source said, “These so-called ‘non-crime hate incidents’ have a chilling effect on free speech and potentially stop people expressing views legally and legitimately. If people are found to have done nothing wrong the police shouldn’t punish them.”

Our Director of Research Dr Radomir Tylecote called for their removal in March, describing how anonymous denunciation was leading to people losing jobs or job offers on the basis of ‘non-crimes’ being placed on their police records as they show-up in enhanced criminal record checks. Case in point: Douglas Kedge, an 85-year-old retired teacher, was told by police that his politely written letter to an anti-abortion campaigner had been recorded as a ‘non-crime hate incident’ after the campaigner filed a complaint against him. He is now concerned he will be prevented from volunteering at his local primary school where he’d planned to help children catchup on the work they’ve missed during the pandemic.

The Times welcomed the Home Secretary’s move with an editorial arguing that “officers should not be tasked with policing the boundaries of public debate”. The news was hailed as a triumph for free speech by our Deputy Director of Research Emma Webb and welcomed by me in the Mail.

Professor Andrew Tettenborn of our Legal Advisory Council wrote in the Spectator, “There is something very creepy about the state demanding that the police log permanently anything people say, however lawful, merely because someone has complained about it.” Gathering intelligence about implicit threats of violence is a legitimate aim, but the existing policy went far beyond that, as the case of Mr Kedge illustrates.

As our supporters will know, we are assisting the ex-policeman Harry Miller in his attempt to have the policy of recording non-crime hate incidents be declared illegal. He is currently awaiting the verdict of the Court of Appeal, having failed to persuade the High Court to declare NCHIs unlawful, as he explained in the Critic. Thanks to all those who’ve contributed to our fighting fund.

Warning over Welsh Government’s Race Equality Action Plan

Earlier this week, Professor Tettenborn wrote on our behalf to Welsh First Minister Mark Drakeford to object to proposals contained in the Welsh Government’s Race Equality Action Plan, which is the subject of an ongoing consultation.

We registered our concern about plans for children in Welsh schools to be taught an explicitly ideological approach to race, with concepts like ‘white privilege’ and the existence of pervasive institutional racism in the UK to be taught as fact. These concepts should be rigorously scrutinised and debated, with more than one perspective being taught.

Among other things, the plan pledges to make “acts of micro-aggression” a “thing of the past” by 2030. This, we said, was an ill-defined term and likely to have a seriously detrimental effect on free speech in Wales.

You can read Professor Tettenborn’s letter here. The First Minister’s office has acknowledged our letter and promised to respond shortly.

Success! Ofcom declines to investigate Julia Hartley-Brewer

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We wrote to Ofcom earlier this month, urging them to take account of Julia Hartley-Brewer’s right to free speech in its investigation of the 203 complaints it has received about her appearance on ITV’s This Morning on 15 April. Her sin was to make fun of Meghan Merkle, the Duchess of Sussex. (You can read about the brouhaha in the Mail.) Happily, Ofcom replied to our letter saying it had decided not to investigate the matter any further. We will strike that up as another victory for the FSU.

Good luck to the New Zealand Free Speech Union!

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We’re pleased to see the launch of an affiliate group in New Zealand – the first of many, we hope. Our sister group’s mission is to “fight for, protect, and expand New Zealanders’ rights for freedom of speech, of conscience, and of intellectual inquiry. We envision a flourishing New Zealand civil society that values and protects vigorous debate, dissenting ideas, and freedom of speech as cultural cornerstones.”

The mission statement continues:

“As a trade union, we will promote members’ collective employment interests with a particular focus on the protection of their freedom of speech from employer interference. If you feel that your job could be placed in jeopardy because of thoughts or opinions you express in your private life, or if you simply want the reassurance of having the support of a community dedicated to defending free speech, then become a member today.”

If you think there’s no need for a Free Speech Union in New Zealand, think again. The Mail on Sunday revealed this week that the Wairarapa book festival has decided to drop its annual Harry Potter children’s quiz following J.K. Rowling’s expression of gender critical views last year. If the creator of our most successful export since James Bond can be declared persona non grata, anyone can.

FSU helps member being investigated by Chartered Insurance Institute

One of our members, an insurance broker, recently became embroiled in a Twitter spat with a woman who’d had a miscarriage and whom he felt was neglecting the impact that losing an unborn child can have on expectant fathers. Complaints were made and he was placed under investigation by the Chartered Insurance Institute. Had his professional body kicked him out, he wouldn’t have been able to earn a living. He reached out to us and we helped him make peace with the offended party, after which the investigation was dropped.

Another minor victory – Leeds drops investigation of FSU member

The University of Leeds has dropped charges against a student and FSU member who was critical of Black Lives Matter in an online class. Other students were offended by his criticism – even though they were mild and expressed politely – and complained to the University, which responded by investigating him for a non-summary offence. If found guilty, the third-year student faced possible expulsion. The FSU wrote a letter to the University on his behalf and, with the help of FSU Legal Advisory Council member Rebecca Butler, the student was fully exonerated after a disciplinary hearing. In its letter to the student informing him of the outcome of the investigation, Leeds affirmed its commitment to free speech and freedom of expression within the law.

New FSU Case Officer – Benjamin Jones

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Ben has joined us from a communications job at the University of Oxford. In addition to working on our case team supporting our members, he writes the weekly newsletter and runs our social media accounts. He is completing a PhD on ex-Muslim campaigners in the UK, a group for whom free speech is absolutely critical – and very much under threat.

We’ve had a busy month. In addition to dealing with daily queries from our members, we’ve published a briefing paper on the Government’s forthcoming Online Safety Bill – which we think poses a major threat to free speech – and fired off several letters that you can read in our Blog

Kind regards,

Signature: Toby Young

Toby Young

The Inexorable Rise of Cancel Culture

March has been a bad month for free speech. The Scottish Parliament passed a new censorious hate crime law, whose shortcomings we drew attention to in this submission to the Justice Committee of the Scottish Parliament last year and which the Law Commission of England and Wales would like to see replicated in Westminster. Numerous public figures got cancelled, including three people who had the temerity to challenge Meghan Markle’s claims about the Royal Family and the British media in her Oprah Winfrey interview. Piers Morgan lost his job on Good Morning Britain after he refused to apologise for saying he didn’t believe a word she said – something we complained about in a letter to the CEO of ITV. Ian Murray was forced to resign as executive director of the Society of Editors after issuing a statement headlined: “UK media not bigoted.” And Sharon Osbourne was axed from an American chat show after telling her co-presenter she doesn’t think Piers Morgan is a racist just because he doesn’t like Meghan.

And that doesn’t begin to scratch the surface. March also saw the cancellation of children’s author Dr Seuss, the banjo player for Mumford and Sons (for praising a book by a centre-right journalist), Gordon Beattie, the founder of PR company Beattie Communications, James Moore, an employee of NHS Wales, Keith Hann, director of corporate affairs at Iceland (for making disparaging remarks about the Welsh language), Alexi McCammond, the 27 year-old editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue, who was forced to step down when faintly inappropriate tweets she’d written as a 17-year-old came to light, and Elizabeth Heverin, a 19 year-old student at Aberdeen University who was banned from her students union after saying the words “Rule Britannia”. No wonder Nobel laureate Sir Kazuo Ishiguro told journalists he was concerned for the next generation of writers who will have to self-censor in case an “anonymous lynch mob will turn up online and make their lives a misery”.

The Free Speech Union is One Year Old

Trevor Phillips speaks at the FSU’s launch party a year ago

The launch party for the Free Speech Union took place on 26th February last year, making the FSU almost exactly a year old. In its first year, the FSU has helped hundreds of members push back against efforts to punish them for exercising their lawful right to free speech, including bus drivers, social workers, council employees, civil servants, police officers, fire fighters, gender-critical feminists, students, teachers and academics. It has also published several briefing documents, submitted responses to numerous consultations and organised a couple of comedy nights in the brief window when we were allowed out of our homes last year. We’ve now got 12 employees, nearly 8,000 members, and are talking to free speech activists all over the world about opening overseas branches. I don’t think it could have gone much better.

This month, I’m delighted to report on a string of victories.

Inaya Folarin Iman Launches the Free Speech Champions

Inaya Folarin Iman

Inaya Folarin Iman, a Founding Director of the Free Speech Union, is launching a new venture today called the Free Speech Champions Project, along with a group of students and recent graduates. (The Mail on Sunday ran a story about it yesterday.) Below is an extract from the press release.

The Free Speech Champions Project is an exciting new initiative which aims to inspire the next generation about the importance of free speech. It has been set up by a socially and politically diverse group of university students and recent graduates to create a space for challenging thinking. It will do this by creating a network of young ‘free speech champions’ across the country who will host events on free speech, support and encourage the development of free speech societies, and develop the information, ideas and arguments about free speech needed to inspire the next generation. The Champions will collaborate with individuals, groups and organisations who share their commitment to free speech.

The Free Speech Champions Project is led by Inaya Folarin Iman, a 24-year-old graduate of the University of Leeds, and developed in collaboration with the Free Speech Union and the Battle of Ideas charity.

Inaya said: “Freedom of speech is essential for open enquiry to flourish. Social and human progress depends on courageous individuals who are prepared to think for themselves. Too often, the places where free speech should be valued most highly – universities and online spaces – are where it is in most jeopardy. We need to re-articulate why free speech matters, especially to young people.”

A 2020 survey carried out by ADF International revealed that 40% of students self-censor out of concern for their future careers.

Inaya said: “A lot of attention has been paid to the problem of explicit censorship on campus – no-platforming of speakers, the closing down of debates. It is a good sign that a lot of people instinctively feel that this is wrong. However, a more subtle pressure to self-censor has also become far too prevalent in places of education. This is not about being ‘polite’. Too many young people are holding themselves back from exploring ideas because they fear the potentially negative consequences of using the wrong words or of honestly sharing what is on their minds.”

The Free Speech Champions Project will go to where young people most need the space to think and speak freely – schools, universities and online communities – and inspire support for freedom of speech.

Toby Young, the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union, said: “The Free Speech Union is delighted to be supporting this project, along with the Battle of Ideas charity. If free speech is going to endure it’s essential that young people understand why it matters and needs to be defended.”

You can find out more about the Free Speech Champions Project by visiting its website. And if you’re a student or recent graduate who would like to get involved, please fill out the form on this page.

Fighting Back in 2020

This is the final newsletter of 2020 – and what a year it’s been! When I launched the Free Speech Union with a group of likeminded people in February I said free speech had never been in greater peril than at any time since the Second World War. But in the past 10 months it’s become significantly more imperilled. The coronavirus pandemic and the Black Lives Matter movement have combined to produce a kind of lockdown of the mind. If you challenge the prevailing orthodoxy in either of these areas you risk losing your livelihood – and many good people have. Forget the Second World War. It’s hard to think of a time in Britain or America in the last 200 years when there was less tolerance for dissenting voices.

Luckily, the Free Speech Union has been able to stand up for a few of these mavericks. In this newsletter I’ve highlighted a few of our success stories.

Another Triumph for the Free Speech Union

Professor Dorian Abbot

The Free Speech Union can chalk up another victory.

Last week, we launched a petition in defence of Professor Dorian Abbot, a tenured faculty member in the Department of Geophysical Sciences at the University of Chicago, who had come under attack from students and postdocs in his department for a series of videos he posted to YouTube expressing his reservations about the way Diversity, Equity and Inclusion (DEI) efforts have been discussed and implemented on campus.

In these videos – since taken down – Prof Abbot raised several misgivings about DEI efforts and expressed concern that a climate of fear is “making it extremely difficult for people with dissenting viewpoints to voice their opinions”. The slides for each of Prof Abbot’s videos can be found here, and his own account of events and his opinions can be found here. Nowhere in these materials does Prof Abbot offer any opinion that a reasonable person would consider to be hateful or otherwise offensive.

Shortly after uploading the videos, Abbot’s concerns were confirmed when 58 students and postdocs of the Department of Geophysical Sciences, and 71 other graduate students and postdocs from other University of Chicago departments, posted a letter saying that Prof Abbot’s opinions “threaten the safety and belonging of all underrepresented groups within the [Geophysical Sciences] department” and “represent an aggressive act” towards research and teaching communities. The letter also made 11 demands, many of which would serve to ostracise and shame Prof Abbot, while stripping him of departmental titles, courses, and privileges.

Another Victory for the Free Speech Union

On 7th October, the journalist and Brexit campaigner Darren Grimes received an email from a Metropolitan Police officer notifying him that he was being investigated for the crime of stirring up racial hatred under the Public Order Act 1986 and asking him to submit himself for an interview at Kingston Police Station under caution. This was because of a broadcast interview Darren had done with Dr David Starkey at the end of June in which the historian had used the phrase “damn blacks”.

This was an unprecedented attack on the freedom of the press. Dr Starkey’s remarks didn’t come anywhere near meeting the threshold for stirring up racial hatred – he was using the word “damn” for emphasis, not to condemn black people, and he praised the contributions BAME people had made to British society in the same interview. But even if they did meet the threshold, that’s no reason to investigate Darren. Are journalists now going to be held criminally responsible if the people they interview say something potentially unlawful? On 2nd February, I appeared on Good Morning Britain to debate Kehinde Andrews, a Professor of Black Studies at Birmingham University. In the course of that debate, he said “the British Empire did more harm than the Nazis” and whiteness was a form of “psychosis”. Are the Metropolitan Police now going to arrest Piers Morgan for interviewing Professor Andrews on the grounds that his remarks could have stirred up hatred against white people?

Luckily, Darren is a member of the Free Speech Union so I was able to find him a top criminal solicitor in the form of Luke Gittos. In addition, I helped Darren publicise his case and before long he’d attracted support from across the political spectrum, including Sajid Javid, the ex-Home Secretary, Tim Farron, the former leader of the Lib Dems, and Ash Sarkar, the left-wing activist.

Three Petitions

Apologies for the irregular form of this mini-newsletter, but I wanted to alert you to three petitions in defence of free speech.

The first is a petition expressing support for Bruce Gilley, a professor of political science at Portland State, who has been cancelled for the second time in three years. In 2017, the editors of Third World Quarterly, an academic journal, started getting death threats after publishing an essay by Professor Gilley called “The Case For Colonialism” and promptly deleted it from their website. Now, the same thing’s happened again. He has written a book about Sir Alan Burns, a post-war colonial governor who argued that Britain was decolonising too quickly, that was due to be published by Rowman & Littlefield this month. However, the publishers have now decided not to go ahead after a petition objecting to the book was started by Joshua Moufawad-Paul, a self-described “Maoist”. Even though the petition hasn’t even managed to scrape up 1,000 signatures, it was too much for the panty-waists at Rowman & Littlefield. Professor Gilley has written about the episode for the Wall St Journal. Please sign the petition to show your solidarity with him.

The second is a petition in support of Mark Crispin Miller, a professor in NYU’s Department of Media, Culture and Communication, who got into trouble for urging his students to review all the scientific studies on the effectiveness of wearing masks, including those suggesting they’re ineffective that Google has shadow-banned. This was for a class he teaches on propaganda. One of his students made a flurry of complaints, claiming he was endangering public health, and as a result the university has asked him not to teach his propaganda class next term. Please sign this petition to express your support for academic freedom.

Finally, a petition has been started urging The Hist, a society at Trinity College, Dublin, to reissue its invitation to the biologist Richard Dawkins after he was no-platformed last month. The College Historical Society – known as the Hist – recently disinvited Professor Richard Dawkins on the grounds that things he’d said on Twitter about Islam and sexual assault would make the members feel uncomfortable. I wrote a letter to the head of the Hist on 30th September, urging her to honour the original invitation, but so far she hasn’t replied. Please sign this petition, which makes the same request.

Kind regards,

Signature: Toby Young

Toby Young

Unconscious Bias Training: Social Lubricant or Snake Oil?

Many of our members have asked us what to do if they find themselves at odds with their employers about how best to tackle prejudice and discrimination in the workplace. As I’m sure most of you will be aware, employers, as well as schools and universities, have introduced a raft of new “anti-racism” initiatives in the wake of the Black Lives Matter protests, from circulating suggested reading lists (Why I’m No Longer Talking to White People About Race) to introducing mandatory unconscious bias training. Is your company or university legally entitled to put your through a disciplinary process for expressing reservations about these initiatives – circulating an alternative reading list that includes Douglas Murray’s Madness of Crowds, for instance – or for refusing to undergo diversity training? Is there a way of expressing your reservations about these initiatives that means your employer cannot legally punish you for doing so? What are the legal limits on what an employer can do to force you to assent to the “woke” orthodoxy on this issue?

Because we were getting so many questions along those lines, and dealing with so many cases of people who are being punished for dissenting from the BLM narrative, we thought it would be helpful to publish some Frequently Asked Questions on this topic. You can read them here. These will be the first in a series of FAQs we intend to publish, with the next set being about the social media policies of companies and universities and what the law says about how far they can legitimately restrict what you can say on social media, even when you make it clear you’re speaking in a purely private capacity. If you have any suggestions about other topics we should cover, please email me here.