Happy New Year, and welcome to the Free Speech Union’s first weekly newsletter of 2022.
Protecting Freedom of Speech: Is it time to revisit the Equality Act?
A quick reminder to register here for our FSU Online In-Depth on Tuesday 11 January. Note: Protecting Freedom of Speech: Is it time to revisit the Equality Act? will start at 6.30pm, 30 minutes earlier than usual.
Toby will be joined by a panel of legal experts to discuss whether laws designed to protect against discrimination now pose a threat to freedom of expression.
If you haven’t been to one of our online events, do come along and find out what you’ve been missing. You can also catch up on past events on our YouTube channel.
At our interactive events, members may come on camera to put their questions and comments directly to the panellists. If you’d rather remain off-screen, you can still take part in the chat and submit your questions. Recordings of events are published on YouTube, with audience faces and names edited out.
A further date for your diaries: our next Online Speakeasy will be held on Tuesday 25 January with a very special guest. Full details to be revealed by the end of this week.
Politics for All permanently banned by Twitter
The popular news aggregator account Politics for All has been permanently banned by Twitter for “violating rules on platform manipulation and spam”. One of the account’s handlers said: “The fact Twitter will allow the Taliban on their platform but not a simple news aggregator is quite something. We will be appealing this decision.”
Writing in Spiked, Fraser Myers said the decision “should be a big wake-up call”, and that “Big Tech censorship is growing more ruthless and arbitrary by the day”.
“The truth is not something that can be delivered to you from on high. Rather, truth is arrived at through free inquiry, debate and discussion – through people making claims and presenting data and letting others have at them in public,” Tom Slater wrote in Spiked of the latest spate of social media “suspensions”, which are often permanent.
We’ve started a petition asking Twitter to reinstate Politics For All. Please do sign it. You can find it here.
Meanwhile, Barclays has terminated the accounts of two Christian initiatives after Stonewall-aligned activists complained the bank was facilitating “conversion therapy” by providing the accounts. “A bank must not be allowed to set itself up to enforce a political or religious viewpoint”, wrote Mike Davidson in the Critic.
Norman Mailer falls victim to woke publishing cancellation
Random House has cancelled a planned collection of Norman Mailer’s essays after a complaint from a junior staffer about the writer’s essay The White Negro.
“Controversy kills. Or, anyway, life is too short, the times too weird, and profit too fleeting, to suffer for it. This has essentially become corporate policy throughout the creative industries, unspoken and unwritten. But hardly secret,” wrote Michael Wolff of the cancellation in the Ankler. Tomiwa Owolade, writing in UnHerd, said of our current cultural moment: “Some contemporary figures are cancelled because they openly believe in biological sex, while some historical figures who promoted sex with children are celebrated.”
“Mailer chose to ride the shark of anti-whiteness, so his estate shouldn’t be surprised when it turns on him,” said Professor Eric Kaufmann of our Advisory Council, writing in UnHerd.
Ben Lawrence asked in the Telegraph where the pugnacious controversialists are in modern Britain. Too afraid of being cancelled, he concluded.
But Jess De Wahls, who survived a cancellation attempt last year, wrote in UnHerd: “Heretical artists are finding new ways to exhibit work and bypass gatekeepers. That is the lesson of the past year. Finally, the tide is turning. We have not been silenced, let alone defeated.”
Professor Kathleen Stock has said that students are often just taking a cue from academics when they join campaigns to oust dissident thinkers. She said that trans ideology means many academics have “built their careers on sand”, and that they have a “vested interest” in silencing debate about trans issues.
At Durham in December, FSU member Professor Tim Luckhurst, Principal of South College, faced a student campaign to oust him after he defended freedom of speech. Looking back on the event, Celia Walden wrote in the Telegraph that students have placed emotional safety and protecting their supposedly fragile mental health above all else, with claims of “emotional offence” trumping the right to free speech.
Lake Superior University in Michigan has added the phrase “no worries” to the top of a list of proscribed terms because, as one student explained, “If I’m not worried, I don’t want anyone telling me not to worry. If I am upset, I want to discuss being upset.”
Victory in non-crime hate incident court battle
The Economist wrote about last month’s landmark victory for former policeman Harry Miller. The case, backed by the FSU, opposed the insidious practice of the police recording “non-crime hate incidents” against innocent people for utterances that are lawful but deemed to have nevertheless constituted “hate”. Thanks to Harry’s courage in fighting the case, “there will be less need to bite your tongue on controversial issues”.
European Court of Human Rights rejects gay marriage cake appeal
The European Court of Human Rights has declined to hear the appeal of Gareth Lee, a gay rights activist who complained after the Christian-owned Ashers Bakery declined to bake a cake with the message “Support Gay Marriage” on it. The UK Supreme Court had overruled lower courts and decided in favour of Ashers, upholding the bakery’s right not to be made to print a message the bakers disagreed with.
Caroline Ffiske asked if 2022 will be the year when the seemingly unstoppable growth of the equality, diversity and inclusion industry will finally be reversed. Writing in the Critic, she welcomed a recent intervention by Equalities Minister Kemi Badenoch to try and bring some common sense to the topic.
JK Rowling under renewed assault
Yet another school has removed JK Rowling’s name from one of its houses because her views on the trans debate do not represent “school beliefs”. The school did not bother to consider what her views actually were, argued James Kirkup, as now merely raising questions about the aggressive way trans dogma is enforced is seen as proof of guilt. Dan Wootton praised Rowling’s courage in defying the worst of the trans Taliban.
“In real life, men cannot turn into women; but after expressing that truth, Rowling has been separated from the world she created,” wrote trans journalist Debbie Hayton on the glaring absence of JK Rowling from a recent documentary on the Harry Potter films.
Posie Parker was told by talkRADIO host James Max that she should be “cancelled” for her views on trans issues and biological sex. She wrote about the heated interview for the Spectator: “I am afraid of what is yet to come if we continue to accept such terrible lies as truth. Max even went so far as to say that perhaps I should be ‘cancelled’ for arguing that biological sex is real. So much for the ‘home of free speech’.”
Feminist groups have said they are being ignored by the SNP in a consultation on reforms to the Gender Recognition Act. Frank Furedi described the ongoing struggle between women’s rights and the demands of trans activists as an “elite war on biological sex”.
Social media celebrity Elle Darby has apologised for “racist” and “fat-phobic” tweets she posted when she was a teenager.
Belgian cosmetic surgeon Jeff Hoeyberghs has been jailed for 10 months after complaining that women were “hysterical, lazy, weak, stupid” and “dirty creatures, who seek money and protection from men to whom they owe sex”. He refused to apologise for the remarks.
Call for “consequences” for Americans who spread COVID misinformation
Not everything is like shouting fire in a crowded theatre, wrote Jeff Kosseff in the Atlantic, after the director of the National Institutes of Health called for people who share COVID “misinformation” to face “consequences”.
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