Weekly News Round-Up

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

Seven-year-olds to be taught they are not “racially innocent” under Brighton Council plans

Brighton and Hove City Council has been accused of indoctrination over its plans to embed “anti-racism” in its schools. Under the plan, children as young as seven would be told that they are not “racially innocent”. All teachers would have to undergo “anti-racism” training, and slides seen by the Telegraph teach trainee teachers that children as young as three “learn to attach value to skin colour; white at the top of the hierarchy and black at the bottom”. Former Minister for Education Sir John Hayes called on the Government to introduce guidance forbidding such divisive lessons about race in schools, and new guidance is expected soon. The Council is spending £100,000 on the project, which was launched following the death of George Floyd.

Tom Leonard reviewed Woke Racism: How a New Religion Has Betrayed Black America by John McWhorter in the Daily Mail. He noted: “McWhorter writes mainly about the US, but many of his points are readily applicable to the UK, where only three months ago the Department for Education had to warn schools not to teach the concept of ‘white privilege’ as fact.”

Captain Tom tweet prosecution should never have happened

Joseph Kelly was found guilty under the Communications Act for sending a “grossly offensive” message about Captain Sir Tom Moore, a decision that has attracted widespread criticism. The FSU has called for the section of the Act under which Kelly was charged and convicted to be repealed.

Sending a mean tweet shouldn’t be a crime, said Stephen Daisley in the Spectator and Madeline Grant in the Telegraph. In Spiked, Ian O’Doherty said free speech is for idiots like Kelly, too.

Online trolls could face two years in prison if their messages are deemed “likely to cause harm”, the Government has said. Ministers are planning to repeal some communications offences and replace them with a new offence based on likely psychological harm in the Online Harms Bill.

Spotify “content warnings” are “not enough”, claim censorious artists trying to remove Joe Rogan’s podcast

The campaign to get Joe Rogan’s podcast removed from Spotify continued this week. Harry and Meghan have expressed “concerns” to Spotify about Rogan’s podcast, and Joni Mitchell joined Neil Young in having her music removed from the platform while the podcast remains on it. Although Spotify hasn’t yet complied, our founder Toby Young warned in the Spectator that the company’s “track record on free speech isn’t great”, and that many other podcasts have been removed from the platform during the pandemic. Likewise, Stephen Armstrong wrote that the pandemic had been a nightmare for free speech. Spotify has announced it will apply “content warnings” to podcasts discussing the pandemic, a decision decried by Ella Whelan in the Telegraph. The White House has urged Spotify to go further and the comedian Stewart Lee has added his voice to those calling for Rogan to be no-platformed.

Writing for UnHerd, Ben Sixsmith criticised those whose “instinctive response to hearing opinions they disagree with is to want them silenced”. Also writing for UnHerd, Jarryd Bartle said the calls to boycott Spotify over the podcast were a troubling case study in the new breed of online activism that centres around “the urge to censor”. Don’t boycott Neil Young in revenge, argued Darragh McManus – and Ross Clark in the Spectator agreed. “The day we banish people from spouting unpopular opinions, even nutty ideas, is the day that we submit to being ruled by a tyranny of officially sanctioned experts,” he wrote. Winston Marshall wrote about the new age of artist-driven censorship.

Medics speak out against bullying tactics in trans debate

Former nurse Rachel Meade risks losing her job after having expressed her concern for women’s safety if men are able to access women-only spaces under gender self-identification proposals. She’s crowdfunding to challenge the decision of Social Work England to sanction her. Please do support her if you can.

Despite an open letter from 719 nurses and midwives calling on the Nursing and Midwives Council to disaffiliate from Stonewall, the regulator has refused to do so. Concerns have again been raised about the public health implications of replacing words such as mum with birth giver. Writing in the Telegraph, Suzanne Moore argued against the continuing elimination of words like mother and breastfeeding.

The EHRC is right to warn about the dangers of an overly broad ban on conversion therapy, argued Julie Bindel in the Spectator. The FSU has submitted its response to the government’s consultation on banning conversion therapy and took a similar line to Julie – under the proposals, it could be unlawful for a clinician to refer a child presenting with gender dysphoria to a psychotherapist, which cannot be right.

Police clamp down on opposition to trans ideology

Congratulations to barrister Sarah Phillimore, who has succeeded after 453 days in getting the police to delete a “non-crime hate incident” recorded against her name for tweets critical of trans ideology and organised religion. We are continuing to assist FSU members in doing the same and will shortly publish an FAQs on our website advising people how to get NCHIs recorded against their names removed.

A mother of three was questioned under caution for having raised safeguarding concerns to Girlguiding UK about the role of Girl Guide Commissioner Monica Sulley, a transwoman who had previously posed online with a rifle and posted pictures to social media dressed as a dominatrix.

Meanwhile, a charity founder had the police turn up at her house to “ascertain her thinking” after her charity posted a statement cutting ties with the “trans-inclusive” Edinburgh Rape Crisis Centre. Joana Cherry MP said the police’s actions were “the stuff of totalitarianism”. A formal complaint has been made by Fair Play for Women about the police’s actions. Brendan O’Neill said that Orwell tropes are overused, but the actions of the police in this case really were like those of the thought police. Jo Bartosch wrote in Spiked that the police seem more interested in silencing gender-critical views than stopping violent crime.

Women refuse to be silenced by trans activists

Labour MP Rosie Duffield has said she might be forced to quit over the abuse she has received for speaking out in the trans debate. Last year she was unable to attend the party’s conference over safety concerns. She said: “It is obsessive harassment. Neither the Labour Party nor the former or current leader or the whips’ office have done anything at all to stop it, to offer me any support, help or legal assistance.” The MP was praised by Joanna Williams in Spiked for her commitment to continue arguing for women’s sex-based rights. Joan Smith asked why Keir Starmer won’t speak up to defend Duffield.

Natalie Bird, the Lib Dem candidate expelled from the party for having worn a T-shirt bearing the phrase “woman: adult human female” asked in the Critic what’s so controversial about the statement.

University of Bristol student Rosario Sánchez will be in court this month to sue the University for victimisation, indirect sex discrimination, and sexual harassment for its failure to protect her from being harassed by militant trans activists who have been targeting her.

Institutional capture in woke British Library and Civil Service

Staff at the British Library are to be asked to wear “pronoun badges”.

Civil servants are undertaking training on trans and intersex inclusion during working time, reported Guido Fawkes.

Cancel culture

Author Kate Clanchy has a new publisher. She has been taken on by Swift Press after Pan Macmillan severed relations with her following a row about politically incorrect language in her most recent book. Clanchy told the Sunday Times the experience of being targeted by a Twitchfork mob pushed her to the edge. Melanie Phillips lambasted the literary world for betraying her and failing to defend artistic freedom.

Kenan Malik urged Guardian readers to remember that freedom of speech has protected the powerless throughout history. Juliet Samuel said the case of UUP leader Doug Beattie was a rare example of forgiveness amid the cancel culture frenzy. Davina McCall spoke of her fear of being cancelled. Cancel culture has no rhyme or reason, argued Michael Deacon, questioning why some artists were seemingly too big to be erased while others were singled out for punishment.

Sir Tom Devine: “racist gang” smear was defamation

Sir Tom Devine has received legal advice that he was defamed by Sir Geoff Palmer, who described him as being part of a “racist gang”. Sir Tom does not, however, intend to sue. He also said that the two universities he is affiliated with didn’t do enough in response to the completely baseless accusation. We wrote to the University of Edinburgh raising Sir Tom’s case and urging the institution to act. Our letter and the Vice-Chancellor’s response can be read here. Meanwhile, Sir Geoff has criticised plans to rename Linlithgow pub The Black Bitch. Its owners fear the name has racist connotations, even though the name refers to a dog.

Oliver Twist is the latest classic to be given a trigger warning by a university. Jacob Rees-Mogg said students at Royal Holloway should grow up.


FIRE has released its rankings of the 10 worst universities for free speech. Pano Kanelos, President of the new non-woke University of Austin, spoke to the Wall Street Journal about his mission to remake higher education in America. Meanwhile, Georgetown students are demanding Ilya Shapiro be fired for tweets criticising Biden’s decision to limit his choice of Supreme Court Justice to black women.

There has been a surge in book-banning campaigns in libraries across America, the Times reported, as parents campaign against schools displaying texts on gender identity.

Whoopi Goldberg was suspended for two weeks by ABC for her comments about the Holocaust and subsequent botched apology. Read a blog post by the CEO of the US Free Speech Union Benjamin Schwarz about why she should not have been suspended.

Islamic blasphemy laws

Journalist Ophélie Meunier is living under police protection following the release of a documentary she made about the impact of radical Islam in France.

Wasiq Wasiq wrote for Spiked about the case of Aneeqa Ateeq, the Pakistani woman sentenced to death for supposedly “blasphemous” WhatsApp messages.

Forthcoming lecture: free speech from Socrates to social media

Join us in London for a live public lecture, discussion, and book launch on 17 March. Jacob Mchangama will be introducing his new book, Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media. Jacon is an author and lawyer, as well as the founder and director of Justitia, a Copenhagen-based think tank focusing on human rights, freedom of speech and the rule of law.

Following a short lecture, Jacob will be joined in conversation by Dr Joanna Williams, writer and director of Cieo, and Toby Young. The panel will be chaired by Baroness Fox, director of the Academy of Ideas.

The discussion will be followed by a wine reception, hosted by Basic Books. Tickets are £10 /£5, with special rates for FSU members who use this link or enter the promo code FSUmember. Please book early, as we anticipate selling out. Founder members should email [email protected] in the next seven days if they would like a complimentary ticket.

You can watch our recent Speakeasy with free speech warrior Harry Miller here.

We’re hiring!

If you’d like to get involved in our work, we currently have three new posts available. Join our communications team as our Director of Digital Content and Marketing, or as our Communications Officer. We’re also seeking a Director of Data and Impact to help expand our membership base. We’re keen to fill the positions quickly, so will begin the interview process on a rolling basis.

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Best wishes,

Benjamin Jones


Case Officer