Welcome to the Free Speech Union’s weekly newsletter. This newsletter is a brief round-up of the free speech news of the week.
Bristol punishes academic after he criticises treatment of women under sharia
Human rights scholar Professor Steven Greer was subjected to a five-month-long investigation by authorities at Bristol University after a prolonged campaign by the University’s Islamic Society to oust him. He’d raised the treatment of women under sharia in a module he teaches on human rights in the law school every year and was branded an “Islamophobe”. The University investigated a complaint lodged against him by the Islamic Society, cleared him, and then scrapped his module in case it provoked more complaints. The University said it had to act as “guardians of [students’] welfare”. We were quoted in the Mail on Sunday about this latest attack on free speech. Our founder Toby Young told the paper: “Bristol’s treatment of Prof Greer is outrageous. By kowtowing to the Islamic Society, the university has issued a gold-embossed invitation to activists to submit vexatious complaints about its employees.” Professor Greer wrote about his ordeal in the Conservative Woman. He said “the social, economic, political, legal and moral implications of any faith or ideology must be open to debate by everyone, especially in universities. Islam is no exception.”
Professor Peter Boghossian has given an interview to the Times about his resignation from Portland State University because of its complete capture by the woke left, and warned of the decline of campus freedom in the UK.
Congratulations to Dr Arif Ahmed of our Advisory Council for winning the Index on Censorship Freedom of Expression Award.
Policy Exchange has made recommendations about reforming the Equality Act to protect university speakers with unfashionable views.
Chinese company Huawei has been accused of infiltrating a Cambridge University research centre.
25 MPs led by Sir John Hayes, Chairman of the Common Sense Group of Conservative MPs, have urged the Prime Minister to “take a stand” against the “dangerous modern hysteria” of cancel culture. Nadine Dorries’ opposition to cancel culture and support for free speech was noted in the Spectator and the Telegraph following her appointment as Culture Secretary in the reshuffle.
Michael Gove faced calls to resign after recordings of un-PC jokes he made in his student days surfaced in the Independent. Ruth Dudley Edwards, writing about the recordings, was optimistic about the future of student debating societies: “I’m delighted that there are still young people who want to be part of a debating society with a great tradition, and as an inveterate optimist I believe that one day the thought police will be overthrown and students will once again discover the pleasure of playing with ideas, rebelling against fashionable opinion and offending each other just for the hell of it.”
Earlier in the week the now ex-Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden explained the Government’s plans to refocus charities on their core objectives, rather than spending their time on “woke” social justice obsessions. The government is looking for a new Chair of the Charity Commission to pursue this agenda.
Self-censorship and cancel culture
David Aaronovitch has written in the Times about the “creeping menace” of self-censorship across society. He says it arises “from a fear of reprisal. Of repercussions. Of losing our livelihoods, disadvantaging our families, or of not succeeding.” This chilling climate has spread beyond monocultural universities into workplaces.
In his Spectator column Douglas Murray says that two decades on from 9/11 society is failing more than ever to talk about Islamism: “We still lack even the vocabulary to describe the problem. So two decades after the most famous Islamist attack of recent decades, we don’t appear to be much closer to even naming the ideology that sparked it. If anything, rather less so.”
TalkRADIO released a one-off TV show, Cancel Countdown, featuring the top 10 strangest examples of cancel culture. TalkTV, a new channel featuring many of talkRADIO’s presenters, will be launching next year.
Jennifer Aniston and Reese Witherspoon, stars of the upcoming Season 2 of The Morning Show, have talked about cancel culture in an interview with the Independent.
Heretical children’s books burnt by social justice mob
A literal book burning was held by social justice activists in Canada. It has emerged that a “fire purification” ceremony was held in 2019, at which 30 books were removed from Ontario school libraries and burnt. The ashes were used to plant a tree. (Woke tree?) 4,700 books were removed in total. Tim Stanley has written about this appalling episode in the Telegraph, and wonders how much potential art has been snuffed out by the pervading climate of fear. Patrick West says the burning shows that wokeness is a puritanical cult.
Trainee therapist expelled for concerns about trans ideology forced on vulnerable children
James Esses was summarily expelled from his psychotherapy training institute after he voiced concerns about aspects of transgender ideology. There was no procedure whatsoever — he was just booted out. He’s now mounting an ambitious legal battle and we’re helping him crowdfund. You can support his effort here.
Meanwhile Labour MP Rosie Duffield will be missing the Labour Party conference due to concerns for her safety. She’s been hounded ever since she stated “only women have a cervix”, offending transgender ideologues. Suzanne Moore asks why Labour, the LibDems, Greens, SNP and even the Women’s Equality Party are failing to protect women and the rights of gender critical feminists.
The trans head of Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre has said women opposed to gender reform are “fascists who want to eliminate trans people”.
Harry Miller criticises Leicestershire Constabulary’s “flying squad”, pictured wearing LGBT rainbow-coloured wings, and their tactical support unit which posed for pictures with riot shields painted in the colours of the trans flag. The force added that a member of the public who carried a riot shield painted in the colours of the suffragettes — as opposed to a rainbow — would be considered to have committed a public order offence as it would be an offensive weapon.
Following Andrew Neil’s resignation from GB News, Robin Aitken says the channel only stands a chance if it becomes a populist Fox News-style outfit. Stephen Armstrong isn’t so sure and has said in the Telegraph that while Brits don’t like political correctness and feel “woke” has gone too far, our culture war isn’t as intense as America’s. Daniel Finkelstein criticised the station in the Times for cancelling Guto Harri.
The BBC has appointed Jess Brammar as an executive news editor despite concerns about her left-wing bias. Paddy Hannam has written for Spiked about the BBC’s fixation on a certain type of “diversity”, where people come from different backgrounds but think the same about controversial topics. The Government has restated its commitment to ensuring the BBC and ITV produce more distinctively British shows.
Misha Glenny urges the European Union to act against member states which restrict press freedom.
Texas Governor Greg Abbott signed into law legislation that restricts the ability of social media platforms to block and remove accounts. He said the law was to “fight back against big tech political censorship”.
Annelise Butler has written for the Daily Signal about moves by banks to close accounts of Republican officials on the grounds of “reputational risk”.
Facebook has been criticised for keeping secret its research showing the harmful effects of Instagram on teenage girls.
The hacking group Anonymous claims to have hacked Epik, a web registration company known for hosting American conservative social media networks.
FSU at Battle of Ideas Festival
The FSU will be out in force at this year’s Battle of Ideas Festival at Church House in Westminster on the weekend of the 9th and 10th of October. We’ll be organising a session, chaired by our founder Toby Young, called “The FSU Files: How to Fight ‘Cancel Culture’ and Win” in which we’ll hear from individuals who’ve experienced first-hand what it’s like to be cancelled. But these particular individuals also have something else in common: with our help, they’ve all fought back. We will hear from them about what the most effective ways are of surviving an online assassination attempt, as well as more general advice on how to persuade people that free speech is a cause worth defending.
Across the weekend there are numerous other sessions on free speech issues that should be of interest to FSU supporters, including “Hate, Heresy and the Fight for Free Speech”, “From GB News to Ben & Jerry’s: Boycotts or Censorship?”, “Publish and Be Damned?”, “The History Wars”, “The Social Justice March through the Institutions”, “Has Coronavirus Changed Us?” and “Can Culture Survive the Culture Wars?”
Most of our staff will be there encouraging others to join the FSU, so come and find us at our stall and say hello. Buy tickets here. Members were sent a discount code in the last monthly newsletter.
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