Weekly News Round-Up

Welcome to the Free Speech Union’s weekly newsletter, our round-up of the free speech news of the week. The last week has seen a concerted attack on the academic freedom of a professor of philosophy, with the University and College Union joining in on the side of the censors. Encourage a friend or family member to sign-up today, or help us turn the tide against cancel culture with a donation to our fighting fund.

Professor Kathleen Stock told she needs bodyguards after campaign to oust her

Kathleen Stock, a professor of philosophy at Sussex, has been advised to install CCTV outside her home and told she may need bodyguards if she sets foot back on her university campus following a campaign of bullying and intimidation by a group calling itself Anti-Terf Sussex. Her sin, according to those trying to silence her, is to stand up for sex-based women’s rights, i.e., she doesn’t think transwomen should be treated as if they’re indistinguishable from women in all areas. In the eyes of militant trans activists and their allies, this makes Professor Stock a ‘TERF’ – a trans exclusionary radical feminist.

The students behind the campaign have been widely criticised, including by Baroness Falkner, the Chair of the Equality and Human Rights Commission, and our founder, Toby Young. Writing in the Mail, he described the treatment meted out to Professor Stock as “cancel culture at its absolute worst”. We have written to the Vice-Chancellor of Sussex asking him to defend her, which he has. You can read our letter and his reply here.

There was condemnation of the campaign against the professor from across the political spectrum. Writing in the Telegraph, Suzanne Moore said it was an “almighty relief” to hear the Vice-Chancellor of Sussex University defending the “untrammelled right” of Sussex academics to “say and believe what they think”. An editorial in the Times said the threats to Professor Stock were “intolerable”. In a second article, Moore argued that the issue at stake is not trans rights, but the freedom to express views that criticise current transgender orthodoxy. The Women’s Organisation has called for a public inquiry into the bullying of people who challenge woke dogma on sex and gender.

It’s worth bearing in mind that not all trans people share the hostility of trans activists towards feminists like Professor Stock. Sixteen trans people wrote a letter to the Times defending her right to academic freedom and condemning the student campaign against her. The letter said: “Attacks on the freedom of expression are not progressive and do nothing to fight against actual prejudice or win better services for trans people.”

“When balaclava-clad protestors have forced a female academic to stay off campus under threats of physical violence, what more evidence do you need” that the free speech crisis is real, asked the Universities Minister Michelle Donelan in an article for the Times. Miriam Cates MP – a former biology teacher with a degree in genetics – has written in the Telegraph: “There is nothing tolerant or democratic about activism that results in a respected academic requiring bodyguards to go to work.”

Janice Turner argued in her Times column that the silent majority must defy the militant minority of students who want to silence debate and dissent. She said that “unscientific, magical thinking has become sacrosanct” in the trans debate, with disastrous consequences for scholars like Professor Stock. Josephine Bartosch said in UnHerd that feminist “dinosaurs” – as they were branded by David Lammy MP – are now getting organised. Julie Bindel called on liberals to stand with Professor Stock. Joanna Williams wrote in Spiked that Stock is the only real victim of “hate” in this scenario. She notes that Stock had decided to withdraw from a panel at the Battle of Ideas festival that they would both have spoken on. Susanna Rustin wrote in the Guardian that the escalating rhetoric around trans issues has made reasoned debate increasingly difficult. Addressing trans campaigners she says: “I want to find a way for our different ideas to coexist. But I am very worried by the lack of an equivalent recognition of gender-critical beliefs. And I think the most recent round of attacks on feminists should alarm everyone who cares about pluralism.”

University and College Union failed to defend Stock, and called for investigation into “transphobia”

The Sussex branch of the University and College Union (UCU) has been accused by Stock of effectively ending her career at Sussex after it sent a statement to its members saying that “all trans and non-binary members of our community” should “receive the unequivocal support of the university and its management” and calling for an investigation into transphobia. An open letter for academics, university staff, students and alumni who support Professor Stock is being circulated and has attracted hundreds of signatures, as reported in the Times. But the Shadow Minister for Women and Equalities, Taiwo Owatemi MP, has defended UCU’s statement.

Josephine Bartosch mentioned our work in an article in the Critic on the failure of unions to defend free speech. Toby told her: “One of the original purposes of trade unions in the 19th century was to defend the speech rights of workers so they could criticise their bosses without being fired. Unfortunately, the vast majority of unions have lost sight of that in the past 25 years, with the UCU being the most egregious example. I would urge any academic concerned about their intellectual freedom to join the Free Speech Union instead. It’s much cheaper and we will actually stand up for the speech rights of our members.” The union’s betrayal of Professor Stock and academic freedom “signals the death of solidarity”, said Timandra Harkness in UnHerd.

Historian Dominic Sandbrook said in the Mail that Stock is an unlikely freedom fighter but now “at our universities, unfortunately, it’s the radical activists who set the tone, denouncing doubters in the most violent terms” as trade unions abandon their members and academic freedom. He said UCU head Jo Grady is “either extremely stupid or extremely disingenuous” to deny that there is a threat to academic freedom. He wrote: “We should ask ourselves what kind of country we want to live in. One ruled by an intolerant minority of cranks and obsessives? Or one that defends to the death a clever woman’s right to think what she likes?”

Joan Smith wrote in UnHerd: “Trades unions are meant to stand up for people who are being bullied at work. But that clearly doesn’t apply to the University and College Union, an organisation so steeped in extreme gender ideology that its Sussex branch has decided to join in the attacks on a philosophy lecturer.” The Guardian reported on the failure of the UCU to unequivocally defend Stock. Meanwhile the Edinburgh branch of UCU has said its members can “self-identify” as “black, disabled, LGBT+ or women”.

Professor Matthew Goodwin of our Advisory Council said of the Stock case on Twitter: “It is line in the sand time. If you are an academic with a public profile on social media & you are not calling out abuse, bullying & harassment of other academics – even if you disagree with their views – then you are enabling it. We either believe in academic freedom or we don’t.” If you need our support doing just that, you can contact us.

The Cambridge Students Union, meanwhile, has launched a witch hunter-style “Terf-spotting” guide which tells students to “keep an eye out” for people who believe sex is binary.

Human rights scholar fled home following Islamic Society campaign against him

We’re also helping Steven Greer, a law professor at Bristol. He and his wife had to flee their home for several days after a “vicious” campaign by the University Islamic Society targeting him for highlighting the treatment of women under sharia. Professor Greer spoke to the Mail on Sunday about the ordeal and expressed his concern that going public could potentially put him in danger again.

We were contacted by a student at Aston University about a guide given to all first-year students in the social sciences and humanities that contained a lengthy list of proscribed words and phrases, including “manmade”, “mixed race” and even the word British. We wrote to the Vice-Chancellor in protest and our letter was reported in the Times. The story was also reported in the Daily Mail and by Breitbart.

Sophie Corcoran, a first year student at Durham, said in Country Squire that she “never quite realised how bad” left-wing indoctrination in universities was going to be until she had to undergo compulsory “training” on white privilege, unconscious bias and colonialism in a compulsory induction course for freshers which nobody present was able to question.

Meanwhile, students at Edinburgh are being paid £15 an hour to vet course materials “through the lenses of equality, diversity and inclusion”. The job advert for the post said applicants should have “an interest in decolonising the curriculum” and a “a strong commitment to equality, diversity and inclusion”. Stuart Waiton wrote that Scottish universities are failing the test when it comes to free thinking and free expression.

A new plaque accompanying the Cecil Rhodes statue at Oriel College has “distorted” his legacy, critics have said. Toby weighed in on this controversy in his Spectator column this week.

School bans the words “good” and “bad”

Toby also appeared on TalkRadio to warn of the “totalitarian direction” society was heading in as more and more words and phrases end up on the banned list. The latest example he cited was a school that has banned teachers from using the words “good” and “bad” when appraising pupils’ homework. His comments were reported in the Express.

Jonathan Gullis MP has said that teachers who use the term “white privilege” should face a disciplinary investigation or even be referred to Prevent. He said: “The classroom is a place to impart knowledge, not to impart political ideology of the teacher standing in front of you.” Michael Deacon writes that the MP, in his zeal to end cancel culture, is in danger of advocating the cancellation of teachers whom he disagrees with.

Stonewall investigated by the BBC

BBC journalist Stephen Nolan has carried out an investigation into Stonewall’s vast influence, including its hold over the BBC via the Stonewall Champions scheme in which taxpayer-funded organisations pay Stonewall to rate their LGBT policies. We published a report into the scheme earlier this year. Robin Aitken asks in the Critic why the BBC ever gave money to the lobby group in the first place.

Cervical cancer awareness campaign undermined by refusal to say “women”

The Scottish government has been told that a cervical cancer public health campaign has been undermined by its refusal to use the word “women”. Despite almost half of women polled in 2017 being unable to identify the cervix as the neck of the womb, the campaign refers only to “anyone with a cervix” instead of addressing women directly.

Female prisoners can be punished for refusing to call biologically male prisoners by “correct” pronouns under new government policy

Women prisoners could face extra jail time if they use the wrong pronouns to refer to transgender prisoners, a justice minister has said. Lord Wolfson said an “honest mistake” would probably not result in disciplinary action but deliberate refusal to use a trans prisoner’s preferred pronouns would. Dr Kate Coleman has pointed out that these rules could mean a female prisoner who suffered sexual harassment or violence from a male prisoner who self-identified as a woman would be obliged to describe her attacker as “her” or “she”.

Meanwhile, the Government is being sued over its transgender guidelines for schools by a couple who felt they had no choice but to withdraw their children from a Church of England school for its insistence on affirming the decision of a six-year-old to wear a dress and identify as a girl. We can confirm that this is not the same child who appears in the latest John Lewis ad which, bizarrely, has upset ultra-woke viewers.

The Ministry of Defence has published an “inclusive language guide”. It says civil servants should not label colleagues as “slow” but rather “have compassion for different working styles”, that sex is “assigned at birth” (referring staff to Stonewall for more information) and that “his or her” should be replaced with “their”. In other news, the Home Office has cancelled a forthcoming Black History Month talk by Cambridge academic Dr Priyamvada Gopal after Guido Fawkes pointed out she’d accused Priti Patel of harbouring “ferociously anti-black attitudes” in a tweet comparing her to a colonial administrator. Dr Gopal now claims to be the victim of cancel culture, even though, up until now, she’s adamantly maintained that cancel culture is an invention of the far right. She is welcome to reach out to the Free Speech Union if she’d like our help.

The Government has specified that the Pride flag, which can be flown from public buildings, must consist of six vertical coloured stripes, and not the “the super-woke LGBTQIBLMA+ flag”, reports Guido Fawkes.

British Airways is to drop the term “ladies and gentlemen” from its announcements in case the phrase offends trans people.

The constant “quiet cancellations”

Instagram has censored a post by biologist and Quillette editor Colin Wright that highlighted scientific evidence that men are, on average, stronger than women. Julie Bindel has highlighted the constant “quite cancellations” of women and girls in the current “fearful climate of cancel culture”. Ella Whelan said in a book review in Spiked: “Unlike radical movements of the past, the trans activism [Shon Faye] promotes has less to do with convincing people to come round to her point of view and more to do with characterising all dissent as a form of emotional abuse.”

TV, art, culture, comedy

Telegraph cartoonist Bob Moran has been sacked for a Twitter post that seemed to encourage people to verbally abuse the NHS doctor and lockdown advocate Rachel Clarke, comments for which he subsequently apologised. He posted a lengthy personal statement on Twitter about the events leading up to his outburst. If you would like to work with Bob you can contact him on bob@bobmoran.co.uk.

Kevin Maher has written about the “cultural quagmire” that prevents male novelists from writing about women. Jane Shilling said the idea that novelists should “stay in their lane” is a non-starter, with the real issue being how convincing their efforts are. Another artist attacked for not having the relevant “lived experience” is the actor Eddie Redmayne who got into trouble for deciding to play a “queer” character in Cabaret in spite of being heterosexual.

The comedian Dave Chappelle is “cancel-proof”, said Dominic Cavendish in the Telegraph. Brendan O’Neill said Chappelle’s lack of nerves when joking about trans issues was “unnerving” in the current cultural climate. Trans writer Debbie Hayton argued in the Spectator that Chappelle is not “transphobic”. Sir Billy Connolly thinks he’d be cancelled if he was just starting out now. Dominic Maxwell has written about the difficulty of being a comedian in the woke age.

Generation Z have abandoned the BBC, argued James Innes-Smith in the Spectator, in part because its efforts to reach “young people” amount to an obsession with “gender, race, sexuality, identity and the environment”.

Miscellany

Jamie Gillies has called on the government to bring in age verification for internet porn under the provisions in the Digital Economy Act. He has also criticised the forthcoming Online Safety Bill, claiming its concept of “online harms” is too broad and, as a consequence, is likely to imperil free speech, not to mention fail to protect children from extreme pornography.

Amazon has agreed to publish a book by a Nazi-sympathiser in a deal that gives the retail giant 85% of the profits.

The leadership of the National Trust is being challenged by an anti-woke internal campaign group called the Restore Trust, according to the Times.

Rampant cancel culture in US universities

Music professor Bright Sheng may have survived China’s Cultural Revolution, but he’s been laid low by the woke mob. His sin was to show the 1965 version of Othello, in which Laurence Olivier wore blackface. He has been forced to resign from his post at the University of Michigan. Brendan O’Neill says the cultural revolution is out of control.

Professor Dorian Abbot, a geophysicist at the University of Chicago, had an invitation to speak at MIT rescinded after a student campaign because he had the temerity to argue that academic appointments should be based solely on merit. Yascha Mounk has written about this episode in the Atlantic, saying the no-platforming shows how censorship is “continuing to morph and expand”. The Academic Freedom Alliance, a pro-free speech group of academics, arranged for him to give his speech at Princeton instead and it went ahead to a packed auditorium. We launched a successful petition to help Professor Abbot last year when activists at Chicago tried to cancel him.

Australian scientist loses High Court case

Dr Peter Ridd – sacked from James Cook University in 2018 for claiming the Great Barrier Reef was not in imminent danger because of global warming – has lost a High Court battle against his former employers in Australia. You can read his statement here.

FSU support for blocked chaplain noted

Our support for Father David Palmer was mentioned in the National Catholic Register. He was blocked by Nottingham University from taking up his post at chaplain because of his social media posts opposing abortion and euthanasia, but the decision was reversed following our intervention.

Forthcoming comedy nights

We are delighted to announce that we’ll be hosting two comedy nights in association with Comedy Unleashed, the home of free-thinking comedy. Join us in London on Wednesday 10th November and Wednesday 15th December, when the line-ups will include the brilliant Leo Kearse, Nick Dixon, Tania Edwards, Tony Law, Dominic Frisby, Mark Dolan, Vanity Von Glow and many more. The line-ups are different on each night, so feel free to come to both!

Booking details were emailed to FSU members earlier this week. Tickets are sure to sell out, so join the FSU now before it’s too late!

“Wokus Dei: The Cult That Conquered the West” with Professor Frank Furedi

Also exclusive to FSU members, join us on Monday 25th October for our fourth Online Speakeasy, when Dr Jan Macvarish, our Education and Events Director, will be in conversation with prolific author, sociologist and cultural commentator Professor Frank Furedi, exploring the ‘woke’ cult. How did it acquire such velocity in such a short time and capture so many of our most prestigious institutions? Booking details for “Wokus Dei: The Cult That Conquered the West” will be emailed soon to members. If you want to take part in this discussion, join the FSU today.

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If you know of someone who’s been penalised for exercising their lawful right to free speech, or been discouraged from doing so by a school, university or employer, please get in touch with our case team here.

Best wishes,

Benjamin Jones

@BenBarryJones

Case Officer