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 (although not if you’re reading this on a desktop). If someone has shared this newsletter with you and you’d like to join the FSU, you can find our website here.
Sometimes a flare goes up
FSU General Secretary Toby Young has issued a statement on the invasion of the State of Israel by Hamas terrorists – you can read it by clicking here.
As Toby says, the abduction, slaughter and rape of over a thousand Israeli men, women and children should be universally condemned by every university, college, museum, Whitehall department, football club, institution, in England. The fact that it hasn’t reveals the double standards of those who are normally so keen to penalise people for exercising their right to lawful free speech on the alleged basis that words may wound and ideas can kill.
Take the higher education sector. At the FSU, we’re constantly being assured that no-platforming visitors to universities with heterodox opinions is justified because allowing them to speak will make vulnerable people feel ‘unsafe’.
Yet the same activist staff and students who are so quick to silence others in the name of ‘psychological safety’ have been openly celebrating the terrorist attacks on Israel.
Addressing a pro-Hamas rally in Brighton on the night of the massacre, the Women’s Officer of Sussex University Students’ Union described the abductions, the killings, the gang rape and subsequent parading around Gaza City of young, heavily bleeding Israeli women, as “beautiful” and “inspiring”.
Elsewhere, in reference to the peace festival close to the Gaza border where at least 260 young people were executed by Hamas, a senior lecturer at Birkbeck commented on X: “Sometimes partying on stolen land next to a concentration camp where a million people are starved has consequences.”
“Decolonisation is not a metaphor,” an Assistant Professor at the LSE reminded her followers on X as the internet filled with images of unspeakable horror from the country’s southern towns and kibbutzim, before casually urging them to get out on the streets and join the various protests against Israel then taking place in the UK.
Not much concern in any of this, one feels, for the safety – psychological or otherwise – of Jewish students.
As one of our directors, Douglas Murray, said of last Saturday’s attack: “Sometimes a flare goes up, and you see exactly where everyone is.”
Exactly right. In its illumination, we see more clearly than ever before that the attack on free speech in the name of protecting the vulnerable from harm – ‘hate speech is not free speech’, ‘misinformation costs lives’, ‘freedom of speech is not freedom to offend’ – is little more than a rhetorical smokescreen. With apologies to those whose ‘psychological safety’ our language is about to put at risk, what it’s really about is forcing anyone you disagree with to… shut the f*** up.
FSU General Secretary to give Contrarian Prize lecture!
Our General Secretary will be delivering the Contrarian Prize lecture at Bayes Business School on Wednesday 1st November. In his lecture, entitled ‘Freedom of Speech and Censorship: Examining the Tensions between open discourse and harmful content’, Toby will argue that efforts to suppress misinformation, disinformation and ‘hate speech’ nearly always backfire and undermine democratic discourse.
Responding to the lecture will be Dr Mark Honigsbaum, Senior Lecturer in Journalism at City, University of London, and Jemima Kelly, columnist at the Financial Times. The event will be chaired by Cindy Yu, Assistant Editor of the Spectator.
This is a public conversation, so there will be plenty of time for audience questions to really engage in a meaningful dialogue. Attendance is free but requires registration, so if you’d like to attend please click here to find out more.
FSU Autumn events news!
Members have exclusive access here to the video of our latest event, a conversation between Toby Young and Nigel Farage, held on Monday night at the Hippodrome in Leicester Square – many thanks to the staff for hosting us.
The video from the previous week’s fascinating guest lecture ‘On Liberty and Tyranny’ by Professor Jeremy Jennings is available here.
If you’re in the Manchester area and interested in art, then why not check out FSU member Rob Kellner’s regular meet-up group, ‘Cancelling Cancel Culture’. This Sunday (15th October) they will be hearing from guest speaker Dr Caroline Kaye on ‘The Woke War on Art’. You can find out more here.
A few in-person tickets remain for Monday night’s replatforming of Don’t Divide Us’s Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert. Alka will be joined by an expert panel to discuss ‘What is indoctrination in education and how can it be avoided?’ You can buy in-person tickets here or join via Zoom here.
All the big issues of the day will be up for debate at the Battle of Ideas Festival on Saturday 28th and Sunday 29th October in London, including the FSU Session ‘Online Censorship: An International Clampdown?’ featuring Toby Young, Konstantin Kisin, Silkie Carlo, Norman Lewis and Thomas Fazi. Discount tickets are available using this link.
A heads-up to FSU Members in the South West of England. We’ll be holding our first FSU Speakeasy in Exeter on Wednesday 29th November with speakers Professor Doug Stokes and Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert. They will be discussing how the ‘decolonisation’ agenda narrows rather than expands our knowledge of the world. Full details of how to get tickets will be released very soon, but if any members in the region would like to help out with advance promotions or on the night, do get in touch, by emailing [email protected]
Our annual Comedy Benefit will take place just before Christmas, on Wednesday 20th December. Our MC for the evening is Dominic Frisby, and he will be joined on stage by a fantastic line-up: Francis Foster, Daniel O’Reilly, Tania Edwards and Alistair Williams. Come and let your hair down with the FSU staff as we celebrate another successful year defending free speech. Tickets are available here.
Polish musician cancelled for criticising gender ideology
An award-winning Polish electronic musician is facing a concerted, well-organised cancellation campaign targeting her career, reputation and livelihood (Reduxx). Her ‘crime’? Expressing perfectly lawful concerns about gender identity ideology’s impact on women’s sex-based rights, and showing public support for ‘gender critical’ figures like JK Rowling and Kathleen Stock.
Ewa Justka’s ordeal began on 1st July, when she posted multiple screenshots to her Instagram, including one with the definition of ‘lesbian’ as a ‘female homosexual’, and another of a Telegraph article which denounced the term ‘TERF’ as “the ultimate slur against women”.
“Are you a woman who experiences sex-based discrimination?” she began her post. “Have you been cancelled for expressing your views regarding hatred towards feminists, and other brave women having the balls (metaphoric ones) to speak out?” Ewa than asked women who fit that description to contact her.
Shortly after the post was uploaded, Ewa received hate mail in her direct messages and emails, angry comments on her post, and removal from a pending compilation album.
One of the private messages Ewa received included a threat from music journalist, Peter Kirn. “Tell you what, Ewa – we’ll beat you,” he said. “I’ll do my best to absolutely make sure no one works with you.
“So you want to see the power of this patriarchal system you’re so upset about? Watch me,” he added, like a portly old cowboy suddenly remembering a corny snippet of dialogue from a walk-on part he’d once played in a 1970s B-movie Western, and struggling in vain to recapture the brittle masculinity of his hot youth.
Workshops and gigs were also cancelled, including one show at The Old Hairdressers in Glasgow. Another local establishment, Stereo, even refused her service due to her views allegedly making patrons “feel unsafe”.
A provisional offer to lecture at the University of the Arts in London has since been retracted, along with other offers of work.
Ewa was one of the artists due to perform at the Gulbenkian Art Centre in Canterbury this month, in an event associated with the prestigious Oram Awards. However, when the Oram Awards committee heard what had happened, they too cancelled her. “It has become clear that we can no longer work with you,” the organisation which claims to fight for women’s rights in the music industry told her. “The invitation to participate in our event at the Gulbenkian has been revoked.”
New Free Speech Tsar for English Universities now in post!
There are “persistent and widespread concerns” that many in higher education are being silenced, “either by the activity of the university or by its inactivity”, the new freedom of speech champion for English universities, Prof Arif Ahmed, has warned (Telegraph, Times, Unherd).
In his first major speech as Director for Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom at the Office for Students, Professor Ahmed set out his priorities for the role.
“Freedom of speech and academic freedom are fundamental to higher education,” he said, adding that: “The core mission of universities and colleges is the pursuit of knowledge, and the principles of free speech and academic freedom are fundamental to this purpose.
“But there are now persistent and widespread concerns that many in higher education are being silenced, either by the activity of the university or by its inactivity.”
Prof Ahmed also said his team at the OfS will take a “broadly viewpoint neutral approach” and will protect the “lawful speech rights of speakers at universities”.
“It makes no difference at all,” he continued, “whether you are in favour of Brexit or against it, what side you take on statues or pronouns or colonialism, or abortion or animal rights, or Ulez – if you do it within the law.”
It’s great news that Prof Ahmed is now in post. His appointment by the Government earlier this year followed the passage into law of the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Act.
The legislation created an enforcement mechanism to uphold and promote free speech.
The appointment of a Director of Freedom of Speech and Academic Freedom to the Office for Students – i.e., the role Prof Ahmed now holds – creates a ‘first port of call’ for students and academics who believe their speech rights have been breached.
In situations where the OfS route fails to resolve any given case satisfactorily, a new statutory tort was also introduced, whereby students and academics will be able to sue universities in the County Court if their speech rights are breached.
This vital piece of legislation is something the FSU campaigned for over the past three years. We lobbied for the Bill when the Government was weighing up whether it was needed, advised the Government on what to include in it, defended it from critics in both Houses of Parliament, helped to amend it and, finally, mobilised our allies in Parliament to get it over the line.
About 20% of the 2,000+ cases we’ve dealt with in the past three years have involved universities, and we believe that in almost every one the student or academic who’s got into trouble would have been in a stronger position if this new law had been on the statute books.
FSU member Mike Fairclough’s legal crowdfunder – show your support!
Former headteacher and FSU member Mike Fairclough is taking his ex-employer to the Employment Tribunal after he claims he was discriminated against, harassed and bullied simply for exercising his right to lawful free speech and speaking out against the impact of Covid restrictions on young people.
Mr Fairclough, who the Mail describes as “Britain’s most outspoken headmaster” – or, if you’re in the market for something a little more roguish, the “hunky head” – says the local authority commissioned three separate investigations into his conduct after he publicly questioned lockdown policies and the Covid vaccine rollout to children.
Despite being cleared of wrongdoing on each occasion, the council has since refused to confirm that he will not be subject to further investigations if the same complaint is raised in the future. The process becoming the punishment prompted Mr Fairclough to tender his resignation on the basis that he considered himself to be constructively dismissed. This was, he said, “a deliberate attempt to silence ‘disapproved of views’ using the complaints procedure”.
With the help of the FSU and civil liberties barrister Paul Diamond, Mr Fairclough is bringing his claim in the Employment Tribunal. Now he needs your help. If you can, please support this case, which raises substantive issues on freedom of speech the State suppression of opposing views. The link to the crowdfunder is here.
Mr Fairclough joined the hosts of the Telegraph’s Planet Normal podcast, Allison Pearson and Liam Halligan, to discuss his case recently – the link to the episode is available here.