Weekly news round-up

Welcome to the FSU’s weekly newsletter, our round-up of the free speech news of the week. As with all our work, this newsletter depends on the support of our members and donors, so if you’re not already a paying member please sign up today or encourage a friend to join and help turn the tide against cancel culture. You can share our newsletters on social media with the buttons at the bottom of this email. If someone has shared this newsletter with you and you’d like to join the FSU, you can find our website here.

Dis-/misinformation and the freedom to dissent – book your tickets here!

So-called dis- and misinformation have been singled out by many governments, institutions, charities, and commercial businesses as threats to democracy that require widespread censorship. But is this a genuine concern, or just an excuse to suppress dissenting points of view on issues like the Covid lockdowns, the mRNA vaccines, the war in Ukraine, climate change, drag queen story hour and 15-minute cities? And even if the threat is real and the concern is genuine, how can we trust these agencies to accurately identify dis- and misinformation?

The FSU is bringing together a panel of experts to discuss these issues, including the Director of Big Brother Watch Silkie Carlo, writer and broadcaster Timandra Harkness, and two people identified by a 77th Brigade whistleblower as having been flagged for disseminating ‘misinformation’ about the Government’s pandemic response – the journalist Peter Hitchens and our General Secretary, who will be chairing the discussion.

Why not join us to discuss what we can do to dismantle the ‘Censorship-Industrial Complex’ and defend the freedom to dissent?

In-person tickets for the event are now sold out, but you can join the waiting list in case places become available. Alternatively, if you’re an FSU member you can use the Zoom option to attend virtually – please register using the Zoom link supplied in recent emails from FSU events, or by clicking here.

New FSU report reveals police failing to teach officers about free speech

As reported in the Times, the FSU’s latest research briefing has revealed that a majority of police forces conduct next to no training on freedom of speech while a disproportionate amount of police time is spent on Equality, Diversity and Inclusion (EDI) training. Partly as a result, the police have neglected Article 10, as well as common law free speech protections, when investigating and recording ‘non-crime hate incidents’.

The FSU submitted FoI requests to all 41 English and Welsh police forces, excluding the British Transport Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Ministry of Defence Police. Nine forces failed to respond within the statutory deadline or notified us that their response was indefinitely delayed, 10 forces provided partial information, and 22 answered in full.

Based on these responses, we calculated that 78% of the police forces who responded to our requests are providing no training on Article 10, or inadequate training. The remainder did not answer the question.

Thirty-two forces answered a question asking for details of the training carried out in relation to EDI. One force claimed to hold no information on the subject and a further four stated that EDI was so highly integrated into every aspect of their training that it would exceed the cost limit of the Freedom of Information Act to extract the necessary information. Fourteen forces described EDI training as a “golden thread” running through every part of their training or reported that EDI was integral to standard training.

This means that for 56% of the police forces we surveyed, EDI is inextricably embedded in police training.

If Suella Braverman is serious about wanting to rein in the police’s nasty habit of recording NCHIs against anyone accused of saying something politically incorrect, it is essential that England and Wales’s 41 police forces receive proper free speech training.

You can read the FSU’s report by Research Officer Carrie Clark here.

The latest episode of the FSU’s podcast now available

In this week’s episode of That’s Debatable, Ben Jones and Tom Harris, two FSU officers, explore a variety of hot topics, from our new report on the inadequacies of police training to Oxfam’s 92-page ‘inclusive language’ guide.

Join them as they delve into the origins of the term ‘woke’ and revisit the topic of eBooks being censored after you’ve bought them. They also explore the challenges of dealing with misinformation and disinformation and the potential impact of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill.

So, sit back, relax, and embrace your inner alpaca (that concept is taken from an actual police training manual) as these two veterans of the free speech wars tackle these important issues and stimulate some healthy debate. 

Click here to listen to the podcast, and don’t forget to search for ‘That’s Debatable’ on your favourite podcasting app and hit ‘subscribe’ so you don’t miss next week’s episode.

Peer disinvited from university over support for Ricky Gervais trans joke

A peer has been disinvited from a university debating society over her support for a transgender joke made by Ricky Gervais (GB News, Telegraph, Times).

Baroness Claire Fox, the founder of the Institute of Ideas free speech think tank and a member of our Advisory Council, was invited to Royal Holloway, University of London, to speak to students about the importance of debate.

But the University’s debating society claimed it was “strong armed” and “bullied” into cancelling the talk by the students’ union (RHSU), who claimed that inviting Baroness Fox was a breach of the University’s ‘No Platform For Hate Speech’ policy.

The reason? In an email to the debating society, Maia Jarvis, RHSU’s president, explained how “Claire Fox re-tweets and praises this video of Ricky Gervais being overtly transphobic”.

The tweet she cited was a 60-second clip of a stand-up routine in which the comedian joked about “the old-fashioned women, you know, the ones with wombs” and “the new ones we’ve been seeing lately with beards and cocks”. Baroness Fox, a non-affiliated life peer, had tweeted her support for how the video “skewered… trans-identity ideology”, adding: “I laughed. Kudos to @rickygervais for this.”

Ms Jarvis added in her email to the society: “I wonder if you have thought about the impact of bringing a person who is an advocate for hate towards trans people and publicly ridicules them.” Six other student societies also demanded the talk be cancelled because of Baroness Fox’s “transphobic views”.

It prompted Adam Ryan-Self, the debating society president, to axe the event. In a letter to Baroness Fox he explained: “After back and forth with the SU, it seems that they will find any way to make your visit onto campus an issue of student safety and wellbeing. I see it as nothing less than bullying.”

Addressing the incident during the House of Lords debate on the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill on Tuesday, Baroness Fox said that “one of the most dispiriting aspects of this sorry affair was the response of Royal Holloway’s principal, Professor Julie Sanders, who, in a reply to the FSU, which took up the case… effectively said, ‘Nothing to see here’ – a real abdication of responsibility with an ‘all procedures were followed’ response”.

In light of the University’s response, the FSU will provide every assistance to the organisers should they wish to ‘safeguard’ free speech, freedom of expression and viewpoint diversity at Royal Holloway by inviting Baroness Fox again.

Meanwhile, the battle to stop the Higher Education Bill being neutered by university lobbyists in the House of Lords continues. At the conclusion of the debate on Tuesday, the Government accepted an amendment to the Bill which will mean the new statutory tort, whereby academics and students whose speech rights have been breached can sue universities in the crown court, can only be used as a last resort. We are now working with MPs to make sure the tort is strengthened when the Bill returns to the Commons next week.

Online Speakeasy with Simon Fanshawe – special offer for FSU members!

On Tuesday 18th April our General Secretary, Toby Young, will be joined in conversation at an exclusive, members-only Online Speakeasy with writer and broadcaster Simon Fanshawe OBE.

If you’re an FSU member, Zoom registration is free – click here to book your place.

Simon has had a career that stretches from being an award-winning comic (Perrier Award 1989) to a Sunday Times feature writer, as well as a broadcaster and columnist. He is the author of the best-selling book The Power of Differencewhich has just been awarded Management Book of the Year 2022. In the book, Simon brings together his own experiences and the latest research to explain why inclusion is more than just being nice to people, why unconscious bias training isn’t the fix we need and why listening to all individual voices, not assuming that different groups of people have a single homogenous viewpoint, is key. (We’ve arranged a special offer on The Power of Difference for FSU members – click here and use the discount code ‘FHR20’ to receive a 20% discount on the paperback, hardback, eBook or paperback/eBook bundle.)

Simon co-founded Diversity by Design in 2010 and is Number 2 on HR Magazine’s 2022 list of most original thinkers. As a consultant he works with companies to celebrate difference and create true inclusion. But he is a diversity dissident. He thinks it’s a remarkable irony that ‘diversity’ is too often used as a tool of conformity, enforced by the weaponizing of offence.  Inclusion, he says, has been turned inside out and now seems to mean that “you have to think like this, speak like this and behave like this. And if you don’t, we’ll exclude you.”

He is also now “the wrong kind of gay”. Not only does he think that biological sex matters and you can’t make good law based on subjective feelings but, having been one of the six co-founders of Stonewall, he has been publicly critical of their ‘no debate’ approach which he believes dishonours the legacy of the way equality for lesbians and gays was achieved between 1989 and 2014. 

Stuart Waiton in conversation with author Lionel Shriver – register here!

Acclaimed American author Lionel Shriver will be talking to Stuart Waiton from the Scottish Union for Education about the importance of developing and understanding character and the apparent modern change to ‘identity affirmation’. The event is free, but you will need to register here.

Comedy Unleashed in Leeds – discounted tickets available to FSU members!

If you can get to Leeds on Friday 7th April, we are offering FSU members a special discount for a fabulous night of comedy with FSU Advisory Council member Andrew Doyle and others. Having consistently sold out shows in London for the past five years, Comedy Unleashed is bringing its refreshing brand of politically incorrect stand-up to The HiFi Club in Leeds. For tickets, click here and enter the discount code ‘SAMIZDAT’.