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 (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.

EHRC Head Baroness Falkner’s job safe after trans activist witch-hunt

The head of Britain’s equality watchdog has been told she is safe in her job after trans activists tried to “hound her out of office” (Telegraph, Times).

Baroness Falkner had faced an investigation after 12 current or former staff members at the Equality and Human Rights Commission (EHRC) made dozens of allegations against her.

The dossier of allegations bemoaned “a lack of psychological safety” in the office. One complaint took issue with someone rolling their eyes, while another alleged Baroness Falkner referred to a trans activist as a “bloke in lipstick” [disinformation alert: she uttered that phrase while describing the abuse of trans people].

Baroness Falkner’s supporters believe these “ideological” and “vexatious” complaints were sparked by the position the EHRC has taken on the complex question of how to balance trans rights against women’s rights.

Trans activists and their allies in the civil service are incensed by her attempts to probe whether women’s sex-based rights need greater legal protection as more trans-identifying men are demanding access to single sex women’s spaces like toilets and changing rooms.

Last year, the EHRC wrote to the Scottish government asking it to pause plans to simplify the legal process whereby males can get their gender changed to female and vice versa.

And it has also published guidance saying that transgender people can legitimately be excluded from single-sex services if doing so is “justifiable and proportionate”.

As Chairwoman of the EHRC’s board, Lady Falkner also suggested changing the Equality Act 2010, so that the protected characteristic of ‘sex’ means biological sex rather than the gender that trans-identifying men claim to be.

Earlier this week, the EHRC revealed the inquiry had been terminated and that Lady Falkner would continue in her position.

The FSU’s first South West Speakeasy – tickets now available!

We are delighted to announce the details of our first Regional Speakeasy in the South West of England. FSU members and the wider public are invited to gather for a debate and a drink in Exeter on Wednesday 29th November. You can get your tickets here.

Our speakers will be Professor Doug Stokes of the University of Exeter and Dr Alka Sehgal Cuthbert, the director of campaign group Don’t Divide Us. They’ll discuss what the campaign to ‘decolonise’ really means and consider its implications for truth-seeking, equality and freedom of expression.

We do hope that large numbers of members will be able to get to Exeter for this event, which will include a stimulating discussion and the chance to meet other free speech enthusiasts from the region. There will be a pay bar at the venue.

P.S. Members in the Cambridge area are invited to attend a gathering on Thursday 16th November of the Free Speech Cambridge group, where the special guest will be author and campaigner Laura Dodsworth. Tickets are free, but you must reserve a spot here.

Cambridge University Library compiling new Index Librorum Prohibitorum

The University of Cambridge’s national library has been accused of blacklisting books in a “sinister, Orwellian and alarming” new decolonisation drive, after officials asked lecturers to flag “problematic” books that might be “offensive/harmful”.

Examples of “problematic” books are being sought from across the university’s colleges, with officials planning to draw up guidance for librarians and readers on how to cope with them.

In a memo sent to college librarians, the University Library said: “We would like to hear from colleagues across Cambridge about any books you have had flagged to you as problematic (for any reason, not just in connection with decolonisation issues), so that we can compile a list of examples on the Cambridge Librarians intranet and think the problem through in more detail on the basis of that list.”

The memo also called for “anything you are already doing in your library to address this or similar issues” to be sent to a special “decolonisation” email address.

One of those to pass on the message to dons was Pembroke College, who told staff in an email on Tuesday: “The University Library is currently compiling examples of offensive/harmful books and has asked me to circulate this. The intention is to put together some guidance for supporting librarians obliged to work with such materials, as well as working to better support readers.”

Prof David Abulafia, a leading historian at Gonville and Caius College, said: “Identifying books because they are seen as problematic itself has a very problematic history – witness bibliographies in the Nazi period where books by Jewish authors are marked with a star.”

Another don warned it was “sinister, Orwellian and alarming” and said the books were being “blacklisted”.

Dr James Orr, a lecturer in divinity at Cambridge, said: “Research libraries should not be joining the culture wars. Institutional neutrality matters now more than ever, because without it academics will feel less free to dissent from the fashionable orthodoxies influencing the decolonisation movement.”

Christmas Comedy Benefit – tickets now available!

Our annual Comedy Benefit will take place just before Christmas on Wednesday 20th December. Our MC for the evening is FSU favourite 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 here.

X refuses MPs request to demonetise Russell Brand, upholds “free expression”

X (formerly Twitter) will continue to allow Russell Brand to make money on the social network despite a Conservative MP using her powerful position to urge Big Tech companies to demonetise the comic following serious allegations against him of sexual assault, rape and abuse (Telegraph, Reclaim the Net).

X said it would not take action against accounts unless they broke Twitter rules or local laws.

In a written response to Dame Caroline Dinenage MP, the chair of the Commons Culture, Media and Sport committee, Elon Musk’s company said that its policies were “essential to protect free expression”.

Dame Caroline had written to Linda Yaccarino, Twitter’s chief executive, as well as a variety of other social media platforms, asking them if they planned to follow YouTube’s lead and crush Russell Brand’s ability to make a living, even though he denies the allegations made against him, and they have not been subject to any sort of trial.

On committee letterhead, Dame Caroline expressed the committee’s concern that Brand will not be able to make money on the platform and thereby “undermine the welfare of victims of inappropriate and potentially illegal behaviour”.

In a letter responding to Dame Caroline, signed simply by ‘X’ rather than Ms Yaccarino or any other executives, the company said: “X is not able to provide confidential commercial information relating to individual accounts, including for privacy reasons.”

However, it added: “We do not take action on accounts where they have not violated our own rules or local laws. This is essential to protect free expression on the service.

“In order to ensure that all people can participate in the public conversation freely and safely, all content on X, including monetised content, is subject to our User Agreement and the X Rules.”

Video site Rumble, where Mr Brand regularly posts videos, responded to Dame Caroline’s missive with a very public rebuke, saying: “We regard it as deeply inappropriate and dangerous that the UK Parliament would attempt to control who is allowed to speak on our platform or to earn a living from doing so.

“Although it may be politically and socially easier for Rumble to join a cancel culture mob, doing so would be a violation of our company’s values and mission. We emphatically reject the UK Parliament’s demands.”

FSU’s weekly podcast now available!

The latest episode of the FSU’s weekly podcast, That’s Debatable! is now available to download for free – click here to listen to the episode in full.

This week’s talking points include Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Mark Rowley being called in by the Home Secretary for what civil servants used to call “a meeting without coffee” to explain his force’s light-touch policing of pro-Palestinian protests on the streets of London, where calls for “Muslim armies” to commence “Jihad” against Israel were clearly audible.

Hosts Tom and Ben also discuss the Westminster Declaration, which was signed by over a hundred academics, historians and journalists (including the FSU’s General Secretary, Toby Young), and warns Prime Minister Rishi Sunak that censorious public, private and third sector organisations are increasingly using vague, entirely subjective terms such as ‘mis-’, ‘dis-’, and ‘mal-information’ to silence free speech and memory-hole perfectly lawful opinions that their employees happen not to like for ideological reasons.

In addition, they review some of the latest trends from the FSU’s casework dataset – over the past three years we’ve taken on 2,250 cases of people who’ve been penalised for their views, so our case files constitute arguably the most complete and compelling evidence yet compiled on the phenomenon of cancel culture in an advanced Western liberal democracy.

National Trust – voting is now open!

Are you a member of the National Trust? AGM voting is now open. You may be interested to know that Restore Trust, a grass roots organisation started by members who object to the woke capture of the NT, recommends Philip Gibbs, Andrew Gimson, Violet Manners, Philip Merricks and Jonathan Sumption for election to the Council and has put forward resolutions calling for the abolition of the undemocratic Quick Vote and the restoration of Clandon Park, still a ruin after the fire of 2015. Find out more by clicking here.

“What if… everyone was cancelled?”

FSU General Secretary Toby Young and fellow guest, HR Director Neil Morrison, joined Jenny Roper for the latest episode of People Management’s What if…? podcast.

Is calling for an individual or institution to be boycotted ever justified? Or do we just need to grow thicker skins against offensive comments if we want to protect free speech? And what about those from less privileged, diverse backgrounds trying to avoid triggering content? Jenny put these questions to Toby and Neil during a fascination discussion. Well worth a listen – the link is here.

Ahmad Malik crowdfunder – show your support!

Medical doctor and surgeon Ahmad Malik has been suspended without pay for daring to challenge the UK Government’s narrative on Covid vaccines. Last December, he posted a video on Twitter that raised several issues, including the issue of significant adverse events from the Covid experimental shots, safety concerns being covered up, and asked for a suspension of the vaccines to ensure a thorough investigation.

However, following various complaints, he was suspended by his hospital and referred to the General Medical Council (GMC). As a result of this suspension, Dr Malik says he has lost most of his work and income, his reputation is being damaged, and his professional practice is diminished with every day the suspension continues.

Dr Malik has started legal proceedings against his employer, and now he needs your help. The legal issues are complex, but what is fundamentally at stake, he says, is patient safety and freedom of speech: if there is no freedom of speech without threat of censure and repercussions, there can be no patient safety.

Click here to find out more and show your support for Dr Malik. All funds raised will be used for legal costs only and if there are any left over they will be donated to a fund for the vaccine injured or in support of other doctors fighting for medical free speech.

Don’t push hatred underground; expose it, says FSU New Zealand activist

In the wake of Hamas’s terrorist attack on Israeli on Saturday October 7th, Massey University Dean’s Chair of Communications, Mohan Dutta, took to X, formerly Twitter, to tell his followers that Hamas had every right to “retake the land”. Prof Dutta’s Tweet struck former-council member of the FSU New Zealand Dane Giraud as particularly callous, not least because the murder, rape, mutilation and beheading of Israeli civilians was still taking place.

Writing in a blog post for the organisation, he recounts how an online spat ensued, with the state-funded academic at one point levelling accusations of “racism” against Giraud, before going on to describe Hamas’s actions as “a powerful exemplar of decolonising resistance” (the IDF recently released body cam footage of the “decolonising resistance” filmed by Hamas terrorists, the details of which Andrew Neil summarised here).

Enraged, Giraud then tagged Dutta’s employer in his subsequent post, and asked them how it could possibly be that someone supporting Hamas’s brutal murder, rape and abduction of civilians could be working for them and why the Australian taxpayer was paying for him.

It didn’t take long, however, before he says he was “feeling ashamed and mad at myself that this man had made him compromise my values”. After “feeling the very human impulse to cancel someone and working through it”, he says, he would “defend Mohan Dutta’s right to free speech; indeed it is vital, because sunlight will always be the best disinfectant for troubling ideas, while bacteria grows in society’s moist, dark corners.”

“To censor is a very human impulse, but it doesn’t make us safer,” he continues. “If there are bigots, or extremists, or even terrorists out there, we need to know. Don’t make the mistake I did and give them legitimacy or validation by trying to suppress them.”

Kind regards,

Freddie Attenborough

Communications Officer