Weekly News Round-Up

Welcome to the Free Speech Union’s weekly newsletter, our round-up of the free speech news of the week.

Former nurse and social worker who questioned Gender Recognition Act reform may lose her job

Rachel Meade was suspended from her job at Social Work England for posts on her personal Facebook page questioning reform to the Gender Recognition Act. She raised concerns about the effect of self-ID on women’s rights, particularly because it would permit men and boys who “identify as female” to access women’s and girls’ changing rooms.

Screenshots of these posts were given to her employer, and she now faces a disciplinary process which may end in her dismissal.

She is challenging Social Work England for discriminating against her because of her views, and standing up for the right of all of us to question ideological dogma. You can help her fight her legal battle here. Please donate if you can, and share widely.

Coal Authority continues to shovel taxpayers’ money over to Stonewall’s language police

Taxpayers’ money is still being funnelled to Stonewall’s Diversity Champions scheme. Caroline Ffiske reported in the Critic that the Coal Authority continues to pay for membership to the programme, and has been advised to avoid using such gendered language as “husband” and “wife”.

Meanwhile, Robert Gordon University and the Universities of Edinburgh, Glasgow, and the West of Scotland have declined to participate in Stonewall’s equality league table, according to the Telegraph. The news was also reported in the Times.

Kellie-Jay Keen – the activist known as Posie Parker – told Spiked she has no intention of relinquishing the word “woman”, despite the efforts of Stonewall and other trans activists to stigmatise it.

Michael Deacon asked what smear trans activists will try to tar JK Rowling with next, after last week’s attempt to paint her as an anti-Semite.

Comparisons between the current trans debate and Section 28 are false, wrote Josephine Bartosch in the Critic. Rather, “those accused of ‘misgendering’ risk a police record and parents live in fear of being reported to social services if they fail to affirm the identities of their offspring. Arguably, there is a new era of state repression and intolerance, but trans people are not its victims.”

BBC editorial director vows to oppose cancel culture

The BBC does not subscribe to cancel culture and must give a platform for “all different sorts of perspectives”, said the corporation’s editorial director David Jordan. He said staff need to put up with views they don’t like. But Radio 4 quiz show host Nigel Rees has quit the BBC, where he’s worked for 46 years, after a “diversity drive” saw him pressured into inviting “diverse” speakers onto Quote Unquote, even though they were not necessarily the most suitable guests.

LBC has ended its association with presenter Maajid Nawaz, terminating his employment before his contract expired. His colleague Iain Dale had accused him of sending “dangerously irresponsible” tweets and posting “deranged rubbish” about vaccines.

Writers and directors in Hollywood have voiced their fears about speaking out against progressive orthodoxies because of the damage it would inflict on their careers. One producer said discrimination against white men in Hollywood was “going to end in a giant class-action lawsuit”.

Free speech meet-ups

Local meet-ups are rolling out around the country in the coming weeks. If you live within travelling distance of Cambridge, Brighton, Birmingham, Edinburgh, London or Cardiff and haven’t already received an invitation to join the local mailing list, please get in touch with [email protected].

Members in and around Leeds and Manchester should also hear from us very soon. And if you would like to get meet-ups going in your area, please email Dr Jan Macvarish, Education and Events Director, at [email protected].

Politics For All Twitter ban: a sign of growing big tech censorship

Jim Waterson wrote in the Guardian about the rise and sudden decline of Politics For All, the Twitter account abruptly banned by the social media company without warning. You can sign our petition to get Politics For All reinstated here. It’s already got over 5,000 signatures.

GB News presenter Andrew Doyle, a member of our Advisory Council, spoke to Nick Moar, the creator of Politics For All, about the Twitter ban on his programme Free Speech Nation. Charlotte Gill wrote in the Critic about the danger of tech monopolies being allowed to police which ideas are deemed permissible.

End of the road for ‘gay cake’ case

Janice Turner has welcomed the end of the long-running case against Ashers, the Christian-owned bakery that declined to spell out the following message in icing on a cake: “Support gay marriage”. Last week the European Court of Human Rights dismissed as inadmissible the claim of gay rights activist Gareth Lee that his human rights had been violated during the incident. Turner wrote in the Times: “The ‘gay cake’ case now stands as a victory against compelled speech. Lawyers say it may also set a precedent to dismay Stonewall.”

In other confectionery news, Marks and Spencer is renaming Midget Gems after a campaigner described the name as hate speech against people with dwarfism.

Online anonymity protects dissidents

Our founder Toby Young was quoted in the News Letter defending online anonymity. He said: “The argument for online anonymity, which was set out by the joint parliamentary committee which recently published its report on the Online Safety Bill, is that it provides marginalised, vulnerable people, as well as whistleblowers, with the cover they need to speak out.”

Andrew Hunt wrote in the Critic about how the struggle for clicks turned the early internet into a “front line in a full-scale war on language”.

Classic Blyton story to be retold with lessons on sexism

Enid Blyton’s children’s story The Magic Faraway Tree is to be retold by Jacqueline Wilson, this time incorporating a modern lesson about sexism. We were quoted in the MailOnline and Express on the rewriting of the classic book:

Classic works of children’s literature should not be rewritten to make them more politically correct. What’s next? Is Jacqueline Wilson going to rewrite Lord of the Flies and change Piggy’s name to Percy to avoid fat-shaming? They are of their time and teaching children that previous generations thought differently to them is a more valuable lesson than shoehorning in woke platitudes about gender equality.

Culture war

Our director Douglas Murray accused Boris Johnson of failing to follow through on his anti-woke rhetoric.

Brendan O’Neill said the new Sex and the City film is a hectoring, woke mess.

Evesham Council is considering cancelling a Jim Davidson performance at a council-run venue over concerns about “racism” and “sexism”. The BBC has admitted cutting “offensive” scenes from comedy repeats to “avoid offending modern audiences”, the Times reported.

The Pope has condemned the cancellation of historical figures as “one-track thinking” designed to constrain history.

We have lost the ability to argue, wrote Dorian Lynskey in UnHerd.

Race and hate crime

Cambridge academic Priyamvada Gopal has alleged that use of the word “eloquent” is racist after historian David Abulafia described Professor David Olusoga as “eloquent”. In response, Samuel Rubinstein asked in Varsity what would have happened to Gopal if the policy she supported—which would have required people to “respect” others’ views (a motion that was defeated and replaced with “tolerate” instead)—had passed, given the tone of her own tweets. Jawad Iqbal said her views were bewildering.

Opponents of the renaming of the Linlithgow pub The Black Bitch have received racist messages, the Times reported.

Richard Norrie and Hardeep Singh have written in the Critic about the “SAGE of hate crime” – The Independent Advisory Group, which advises the Home Office on hate crime legislation and boasts representatives from Stonewall and Tell MAMA among its members. Attendees of our most recent event may be interested in Wanjiru Njoya’s book on the tension between freedom and social justice.

Higher education: the roots of cancel culture, trigger warnings and thought crimes

Bruno Maçães wrote in the New Statesman:

On university campuses today, the unconventional thinkers are the old cranks, nearing retirement and saved from being “cancelled” by tenures awarded to them in a previous age. As for the students, many organise to surveil and denounce the thought crimes committed by the dons. It’s not only that students today have all the right beliefs, but also that they think these beliefs need the tools of official authority to protect them from danger.

Stephen James called for the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill to be pushed through quickly. Adam Habib, director of SOAS, has criticised the legislation, and called instead for vice-chancellors to show “courage” and ensure debates on controversial issues can take place on campus.

Ed West wrote about the postmodern roots of cancel culture, and how woke ideology spread through higher education thereafter.

The King’s College London university chair named after Cecil Rhodes is to be renamed after lobbying by the post’s current holder, who is sympathetic to the Rhodes Must Fall campaign.

The University of Salford has given a trigger warning to students reading Jane Eyre.

Online Speakeasy: Toby Young in conversation with Harry Miller, Free Speech Warrior

Register today for our first Online Speakeasy of 2022, on Tuesday 25 January at 6.30pm on Zoom. Our guest is Harry Miller.  

Harry Miller is a businessman and former police officer from Lincolnshire. In 2019 he was investigated by Humberside Police for retweeting a comic verse taking the Mickey out of trans women. The visiting constable told him: “We need to check your thinking.” Harry decided to not take this lying down. He challenged Humberside Police’s decision to record the incident as a “non-crime hate incident” and took his case against Humberside Police and the College of Policing to the High Court. Harry then took the College of Policing to the Court of Appeal to challenge their “Hate Crime Operational Guidance” and won a significant victory for free speech in December 2021. 

Join Toby and Harry to discuss the story behind his determination to stand up for free speech, and the importance of these legal judgments for future free speech campaigns.

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Best wishes,

Benjamin Jones


Case Officer