Weekly News Round-Up

Welcome to the Free Speech Union’s weekly newsletter, our round-up of the free speech news of the week. Like all of 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 us turn the tide against cancel culture.

Kathleen Stock resigns from Sussex University

Professor Kathleen Stock has resigned after a vitriolic campaign against her by a group of trans activists. The University has issued a statement thanking her for her contributions and promising to ensure that “Universities must remain places where everyone – staff or student – has the right to, and benefits from, lawful freedom of speech.” As Michelle Donelan, the Universities Minister, tweeted, the defenestration of a feminist professor of philosophy because of her belief in the reality of biological sex demonstrates why the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill is so urgently needed.

Government warns schools against teaching white privilege as fact

We have welcomed a warning from Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi to schools that they must not teach ‘white privilege’ as an incontrovertible ‘fact’ or promote partisan political ideas in the classroom. Contested theories should be treated in a balanced way, he said. Officials at the Department for Education are drawing up new guidance to ensure that schools “understand their duties” when teaching about controversial and contested ideas. Dr Rakib Ehsan welcomed the Government’s action in a column for Mail+.

An AQA-approved A-level textbook has been withdrawn after complaints over a question which asked: “To what extent do you believe the treatment of Native Americans has been exaggerated?”

Prosecutors drop “hate” case against Marion Millar

Prosecutors have moved to discontinue the case against Marion Millar, who was charged over supposedly “transphobic” social media posts. Joanna Cherry QC, the SNP MP who is representing Millar, has said she is delighted with the outcome. The Crown Office has discontinued proceedings in the case, but there will still be a review with the “victims” of the tweets. A continuation of the prosecution is therefore unlikely, Tom Gordon reported for the Herald. Sarah Phillimore wrote in the Critic that once again the process itself had been the punishment.

Maya Forstater has warned in the Critic that trans activists are training judges to misapply the law. She took legal action against the Judicial College, Ministry of Justice and the Information Commissioner’s Office to reveal details of judicial training and is now waiting for the verdict.

Donna Jones, of the Association of Police and Crime Commissioners, has said the growing focus on hate crimes is distracting police from solving serious violent crimes, including rape and murder. An amendment to the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill that would make the recording of non-crime hate incidents by the police unlawful – backed by several distinguished peers, including three QCs and a former Director of Public Prosecutions and due to be debated on Monday – has our full support.

The SNP has yet to formally implement the Hate Crime and Public Order Act. The legislation passed eight months ago despite strong opposition, including from us. Let’s hope it’s never implemented.

Left-wing news site Novara Media removed by YouTube

For two hours this week the YouTube channel of left-wing outlet Novara Media was offline, removed by YouTube without explanation. Only after an outcry on social media was the channel put back online. Spiked wrote an editorial defending the channel’s right to operate: “Free speech is for cringey pseuds, too. We at Spiked may disagree with their identitarian, jargon-laden word salads, but we will defend to the death their right to say them.”

Novara writer Ash Sarkar spoke to UnHerd after the channel was restored and said: “What was really great is that support came from all sides of the political spectrum. Because it doesn’t matter where you are on some of the big issues of the day, we can all agree that an unaccountable American tech company having this much control of whether a fully regulated, British journalistic outfit is allowed to operate – that’s an incredibly sinister thing.” She also said that it could not be denied that there has been “a censorious turn to the left”.

We are delighted that Ms Sarkar and her colleagues have finally woken up to the free speech crisis. Until recently, Ms Sarkar was sceptical about the existence of cancel culture.

Police investigate fans over anti-Saudi banner

Our founder Toby Young wrote in the Mail on Sunday about the “educational workshops” being offered to Newcastle fans who dressed up in Arab robes and headdresses to celebrate the Saudi takeover of the club. Toby wrote: “It might seem surprising that Kick It Out, which campaigns for equity and inclusion in football, has had nothing to say about the takeover of the club by the Saudi Public Investment Fund, a group chaired by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. He, of course, is the unelected ruler of an authoritarian regime that murders dissident journalists, jails women’s rights activists and tortures political opponents.”

Police investigated a banner hoisted by Crystal Palace fans that drew attention to Saudi Arabia’s dismal human rights record on the grounds that it was “offensive”. The investigation was dropped after officers concluded that no criminal offence had been committed. We said the police should never have been involved in the first place, as reported here.

Simon Heffer has written in the Telegraph in defence of South African cricketer Quinton de Kock, who has declined to take the knee at the start of games and been widely condemned for it.

Continued calls to end online anonymity

Culture Secretary Nadine Dorries has vowed to end anonymous online abuse, but it is unclear if the Government will try to prevent all anonymous internet use. Fifty Tory MPs have called on social media firms to introduce mandatory ID checks on users.

Toby discussed online anonymity with comedian and FSU Advisory Council member Andrew Doyle on GB News. Owen Jones wrote in the Guardian: “There are many legitimate reasons why a citizen may not feel comfortable posting their opinion or sharing information under their own identity.”

MPs have been warned against a “knee-jerk” reaction to the murder of Sir David Amess, and the Henry Jackson Society has said that instead of banning online anonymity the Government should deal with the political correctness that the Society says is paralysing the Prevent programme.

Matthew Lesh – who co-authored a briefing for us on the Online Safety Bill – argued in the Critic that the greatest threat to free speech still comes from the state, not tech companies like Facebook and YouTube. Twitter has criticised the Online Safety Bill for being vague and unclear.

Council worker sacked for comments at protest wins back job

A council worker sacked after 17 years’ employment over anti-Zionist comments he made at a protest has won his job back and £70,000 in damages. The Employment Tribunal judge warned against the curtailing of the freedom of speech of employees, saying: “If it was within the range of reasonable responses of a reasonable employer to dismiss an employee in circumstances where they have lawfully exercised their rights to freedom of expression and freedom of assembly, unconnected in any way to the workplace, without using language which was personally abusive, insulting or obscene, and when their views and opinions have, without their consent, been published and caused offence to some, or indeed many people, then there is a very great risk of dismissal to any person who expresses their lawful political views outside the workplace.”

Netflix apology over Dave Chappelle

The furore over comedian Dave Chapelle continues and Netflix Chief Content Officer Ted Sarandos has apologised for the company’s handling of internal complaints. Chapelle said: “You said you want a safe working environment at Netflix. Well it seems like I’m the only one that can’t go to the office anymore.” Charlotte Runcie asked in the Telegraph if Fawlty Towers would get made today.

Frank Furedi, who spoke to FSU members at our Speakeasy on Monday, has written for Spiked about the power play of young media employees trying to “out-woke those running their companies”.

University updates

Julian Vigo has written in the Critic about the University College Union’s failure to defend its members in free speech cases.

Glasgow University has been accused of undermining academic freedom after it apologised for the publication of a paper which critics said was antisemitic.

Alan Sokal of the famous Sokal hoax compared the political tests being administered to new students at Kent and other universities to catechism classes. Joseph Keegin wrote in the Tablet about the religious origin of the “woke” movement.

Imperial College London has been advised to remove a sculpture of slavery abolitionist Thomas Henry Huxley on the grounds that he “might now be called a racist”. Professor Doug Stokes, a member of our Advisory Council, has written a piece in the Telegraph about the recommendation of the Edinburgh Slavery and Colonialism Legacy Review group to remove a statue of William Pitt, Britain’s youngest ever Prime Minister, in spite of Pitt being firmly opposed to slavery.

Remember, if you’re a working academic and haven’t yet joined the Free Speech Union, we’ve put a special offer in place whereby you can claim a £10 rebate on your joining fee. To be eligible, you have to join for the full annual amount of £49.95 and select ‘Academic’ in the drop-down menu asking what profession you’re in. Offer ends on 20th December.

Culture War

Another raft of classic children’s books have been singled-out for criticism by woke activists after the Cambridge University archive added “trigger warnings” to books deemed “harmful”. Books including The Handmaid’s Tale, To Kill A Mockingbird and Lord of the Flies have been removed by Canadian schools. A new wave of “woke” children’s books have taken over the shelves at Waterstones – amusingly Andrew Doyle’s satire, My First Little Book of Intersectional Activism, was included by bookshop staff at one store, presumably because they didn’t realise it was a parody. You can buy his book here.

Ella Whelan has welcomed a new report by Trevor Phillips and Policy Exchange which aims to help cultural institutions survive the culture wars without giving-in to outrage mobs. But she warns: “Until we start questioning our contemporary culture of offence, in which subjective emotions are accepted as the basis for huge public and cultural change, we won’t be saved by all the consultations in the world.”

Cornelia van der Poll has urged people who have left the National Trust in protest at its various woke initiatives to come back and vote for the Restore Trust group in the AGM. She said one volunteer had finally had enough after mandatory “inclusivity” training in which attendees were supposed to apologise for the sins of the past. The volunteer’s past included “losing her two brothers in the war”.

BBC accused of “transphobia” for article on lesbians being pressured into sex by male-bodied “trans women”

A BBC article on lesbians who have been pressured into having sex with “transgender women” who are biologically male has resulted in accusations of “transphobia” against the broadcaster. Gareth Roberts on UnHerd said the report showed the BBC was finally starting to stand-up to gender ideologues who want to shut down debate.

An event to raise awareness of the danger of drink spiking has changed its name from “Girls Night In” because the title is not “inclusive”. The organisers released a grovelling statement apologising that their campaign to protect young women from attack had “not been explicitly intersectional” and apologising for “any harm our campaign has caused”.

Oxfam has removed a board game called Wonder Woman Bingo which celebrates inspirational women out of concern for “our transgender and non-binary colleagues”. George Galloway said he would no longer support Oxfam and told viewers of his televisionprogramme: “I have had enough of cancel culture, haven’t you?” (Meanwhile the UK Government has congratulated journalist Dmitry Muratov on winning the Nobel Peace Prize for his efforts defending freedom of expression in Russia.)

Trans activists have vowed to boycott Tunnock’s after the teacake makers sent free treats to the LGB Alliance conference – on the grounds that the LGB Alliance is “transphobic” for refusing to include trans within the remit of gay and lesbian rights

Andrew Sullivan told Spiked that the LGBT movement had abandoned liberalism with its “no debate” stance on trans issues, and that it hounds and bullies its opponents. Frank Furedi argued that the entire movement was about “coercion and control”.

Republican Congressman Jim Banks has been suspended from Twitter after “misgendering” Dr Rachel Levine, the transgender official at the top of the US Department of Health and Human Services.

US Free Speech Union

Benjamin Schwarz, the President and CEO of the US Free Speech Union, has written a powerful open letter to the heads of MIT about their feeble attempts to justify the no-platforming of Dorian Abbot, the Professor of Geophysics whose public lecture was cancelled at the behest of a woke outrage mob. You can read the letter here and subscribe to the US FSU’s substack account here.

Are we free to disagree?

Our founding director Inaya Folarin Iman is hosting a Free Speech Champions event on Tuesday 2nd November at 7pm via Zoom on the state of free speech on campus. Everyone is welcome to attend.

Forthcoming comedy nights

We are delighted to 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! We’re about to open our comedy nights up to the public, at which point they’ll sell out quickly, so if you’d like a ticket you should book now.

Sharing the Newsletter

You can share our newsletters on social media with the buttons below to help us spread the word. If someone has shared this newsletter with you and you’d like to join the FSU, you can find our website here.

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


Case Officer