Weekly News Round-Up

Welcome to the Free Speech Union’s weekly newsletter. This newsletter is a brief round-up of the free speech news of the week.

Piers Morgan cleared by Ofcom in “finely balanced” decision

Piers Morgan called Ofcom’s decision to clear him a “resounding victory for freedom of speech”. Leading broadcasters welcomed Ofcom’s decision. But ITV has said it has “no plans” to bring Morgan back to “Good Morning Britain”.

FSU founder Toby Young told Talk Radio: “The idea that anyone who criticises Meghan must be racist and that any criticism of her is racist is just ridiculous.” He was also quoted in the Daily Mail and wrote a comment piece about the affair for Mail+.

The Telegraph said in an editorial that the Ofcom judgement was a narrow victory for free speech, and that the regulator’s hesitancy – describing the decision as “finely balanced” – was troubling. The Sun also welcomed the decision.

Meanwhile the Culture Secretary has launched a consultation on having Ofcom regulate streaming providers like Netflix and Amazon Prime to curb “misinformation”.

Nottingham University cancels Catholic Chaplain because of his objections to abortion and euthanasia

Father David Palmer has been blocked from taking up his post as chaplain at Nottingham University after administrators objected to his social media posts opposing abortion and euthanasia. He has only been permitted to conduct Mass as a “guest priest”. The University asked the local bishop to nominate another priest to take the post, but he declined to do so. Father Palmer was made to attend an interview by university officials, at which he was told that he should call euthanasia “end of life care”.

Olivia Utley has drawn attention to the case of Julia Rynkiewicz in the Telegraph, a midwifery student at Nottingham who faced expulsion for her active involvement with a pro-life group. Utley writes: “More than five hundred years after the Reformation and it seems as though, one way or another, Catholics are being hounded out of public life once again.”

Father Palmer is a member of the Free Speech Union and we have written to the Vice-Chancellor of Nottingham University asking her to un-block his appointment.

Marion Millar appears in court over so-called “transphobic” tweets

Feminist activist Marion Millar appeared in court this week but entered no plea to charges relating to her social media posts. She is being represented by the SNP MP Joanna Cherry QC. Cherry said that the complaint was only seen by Millar 10 minutes before the hearing. The prosecutor did not object to scheduling a later hearing in October. A large demonstration took place outside in support of Millar and the Herald reports on growing international support for her. Meanwhile, Scotland’s census will for the first time allow respondents to self-identity their sex, despite opposition from feminist groups.

One protestor who was attending the Millar demonstration asked the police if wearing a t-shirt stating “transwomen are men” would be illegal. The constable said he was free to wear what he liked, but if it offended anybody and a complaint was made he may have committed a hate crime. Odd use of the word “free”.

Separately, a gay man was jeered and booed by a mob of people at Manchester Pride for wearing a t-shirt with the LGB Alliance logo. This group was set up as an alternative campaigning group to Stonewall for lesbians, gays and bisexuals, leaving out the “T”, which has angered many trans activists and their allies. Alexander Bramham spoke to Spiked about the experience, saying: “We need to get people talking – not silence different voices.” Suzanne Moore says the incident shows a pervasive groupthink fuelled by social media, and that “there is now a tyranny of policing ‘correct’ and ‘incorrect’ ways of being homosexual”.

The Virginia Supreme Court has upheld a ruling by a lower court that a Christian gym teacher who was suspended after refusing to use the “preferred pronouns” of trans pupils should be reinstated. Not to do so would violate his religious beliefs.

History Reclaimed

Leading academics, including FSU Chair Nigel Biggar, have launched a new initiative, History Reclaimed, to challenge the retroactive cancellation of historical figures targeted by outrage mobs. Professor Robert Tombs, one of the founders, told the Telegraph: “I think the wokeness is probably coming from a very active minority, but one which is in fact rather influential in academia and in institutions like museums. But I don’t think it has very much public support. The argument has been very one-way. It has been their views imposed on everyone else. This is often based on a very distorted view of history and in a sense it can be seen as a way to undermine the whole of Western civilisation, culture and tradition.” Tombs has written for the Spectator and the Times about the initiative. It was favourably received in a Telegraph editorial and by the Express. Ruth Dudley Edwards welcomed the new organisation in her column, and also praised the Free Speech Union, already on the battlefield, for “saving people’s careers”. She urged readers to join us, which they can do here. You can follow the new project on Twitter @History_Reclaim. Three of our Advisory Council members are involved: James Orr, Andrew Roberts and Doug Stokes.

Pressure to conform fuels cancel culture

The historian Anne Applebaum has compared cancel culture to life in the Soviet bloc in a magisterial essay on the subject for the Atlantic:

Much of the political conformism of the early Communist period was the result not of violence or direct state coercion, but rather of intense peer pressure. Even without a clear risk to their life, people felt obliged – not just for the sake of their career but for their children, their friends, their spouse – to repeat slogans that they didn’t believe, or to perform acts of public obeisance to a political party they privately scorned.

High culture has been devastated by the culture war, says Heather Mac Donald in Spiked, while Laura Freeman has written for the Times opposing the cancelling of great male artists. Ben Lawrence argues in the Telegraph that Tom Stoppard would never break through now, because of his “unfashionable” politics and championing of individualism.

Veteran comedian Roy “Chubby” Brown has had his show axed by Sheffield City Council on the grounds that the show was “unlikely to reflect Sheffield’s inclusive values”. A counter-petition calling on him to be allowed to perform quickly attracted thousands of signatures. You can find it here.

Conservative comedian Geoff Norcott asks viewers to give The Mash Report (which is being resurrected on Dave as Late Night Mash) a second chance. In an article for the Telegraph he says: “People assume it’s hard to be a right-wing comedian in Britain at the moment, but I’d say the opposite. My left-wing colleagues are much more at risk of a pile-on than me – people on the Left are under more pressure from people on the Left. If you step out of line or if you have the wrong opinions on hot button issues, they’ll get told off. The Left do have a tendency to devour their own.” Left-wing comedians would, of course, be welcome to join the FSU.

A report from the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education has found that three in four smear campaigns against academics result in them being punished, with a quarter of them ending up being fired. Times Higher Education reported the findings. Oxford vice-chancellor Professor Louise Richardson has said universities will lose support without more “ideological diversity”.

The outrage mob has turned its ire on the popular children’s programme Paw Patrol for its sympathetic portrayal of animals involved in law enforcement, hoping to muzzle the cartoon police dog Chase. Outraged social media users have claimed the programme is “copaganda” for its pro-police stance.

Police called to investigate “racist” totem pole

A pensioner has repainted the black face on a totem pole in his garden after a neighbour claimed that the 10ft structure was “racist”. A complaint was made to the police, who decided upon inspecting the totem police that it did not constitute a hate crime.

Woke capital, woke unions

Matthew Lynn has written a piece in the Telegraph about the woke unions challenging Silicon Valley companies – we shouldn’t count on them to defend workers’ right to free speech, he says. Roslyn Fuller reviews Woke, Inc., a new book about woke capitalism, in Spiked.

Legal matters

Charlie Peters writes in defence of “free speech for scumbags” in Spiked, arguing that people should not be dragged through the courts for saying obnoxious or offensive things: “We are in dangerous territory when people are being dragged through the courts for being stupid, drunk or both.”

Rangers supporters who sang the sectarian “Famine Song”, which asks why Irish Catholics don’t “go home”, may face prosecution. Alex Massie says in the Times that football fans should be at liberty to sing sectarian songs: “Liberalism means accepting that others may parade their illiberalism, recognising that the price of liberty is someone else abusing it. It requires the toleration of things one would rather not be required to tolerate.” The historian Sir Tom Devine says claims that sectarianism remains a significant problem in Scotland are “manifest nonsense”. Peter Hughes explains in the Spectator why some football fans are still booing players who take the knee.

A 21-year-old Nazi sympathiser has been spared jail on the proviso that he expands his reading beyond neo-Nazi propaganda and reads some classic literature. The judge gave Ben John a 24-month sentence, suspended for two years, for possessing “information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism”. John will be tested on his reading, which includes the work of Jane Austen, Charles Dickens, Thomas Hardy and William Shakespeare, by the judge every four months.

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Best wishes,

Benjamin Jones

Case Officer