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.

Government pushes back against woke school indoctrination with new guidance for teachers

Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi has released new guidance on political impartiality in schools. It’s part of a welcome bid to tackle political indoctrination in schools and ensure contentious issues are approached in a balanced way, with teachers instructed to avoid pushing biased views. The Education Secretary wrote for the Sun about the proposals earlier in the week. The guidance can be read here. Our Secretary General Toby Young wrote an article about the new guidance for Mail+ and welcomed the proposals in an FSU press release:

The Free Speech Union welcomes this guidance. Schools should not be teaching contested political views as fact. Teachers have a legal obligation to be balanced and impartial when discussing political issues in the classroom, but too many have been ignoring that duty and promoting a left-wing, woke agenda. The result is that schoolchildren with mainstream views often feel demonised and isolated. I hope this new guidance will mean teachers encourage schoolchildren to make up their own minds about controversial issues, tolerate views they disagree with and recognise the importance of free speech.

Gareth Sturdy said politicisation in schools is rife. One anonymous teacher wrote about his experiences for Conservative Woman.

Parents who withdrew their young sons from a school that told them their children would be deemed “transphobic” for expressing confusion about another pupil’s sex change are mounting a legal challenge against the Department for Education. A letter from the school’s headteacher and chair of governors said that an “inability to believe a transgender person is actually a ‘real’ female or male” was transphobic. The Department for Education is defending the claim, the Times reported.

Jo Bartosch wrote in Spiked:

The message that sex matters, and that it cannot be identified out of, has yet to trickle down to schools. Well-intentioned teachers and human resources departments are still embedding policies that frame acknowledging biology as bigotry. And teachers, parents and pupils are still scared to speak out against this.

Meanwhile, teachers have been told to stop children saying “Sir” and “Miss” at a training session funded by the National Education Union in a bid to cleanse classrooms of gendered language. Toby was quoted in the Mail Online, saying that “teaching unions should confine themselves to fighting for better pay and conditions and stop promoting woke gobbledegook. Asking their members to tell children not to call them ‘Sir’ or ‘Miss’ is inappropriate and will make teachers’ lives harder, not easier.” The Government said banning gendered language was “inappropriate and unnecessary”.

Avalanche of critical race theory training in Civil Service and quangos

A whistleblower at an NHS quango was quoted in the Mail on Sunday about the incessant woke training sessions staff are asked to attend. Andrew Scarborough, who is mixed-race, was branded “racist” for objecting to training on “unconscious bias” and “white fragility”. The Civil Service has continued to run mandatory unconscious bias training sessions, despite the Government recommending against the courses a year ago. The Mail Online revealed that the UK’s top-paid diversity commissar is Network Rail’s Director of Diversity and Inclusion, who is paid £164,999 a year – a salary higher than that of Boris Johnson.

Rakib Ehsan wrote that universities are promoting a culture of racial grievance by putting forward “pseudo-academic race theories”. Asra Nomani called for the doctrine of “anti-racism” to be resisted, as schools are now more segregated than they were when she was growing up in the 1970s. Conversations about race must acknowledge different perspectives, wrote Sita Nataraj Slavov.

Volunteer blocked as fosterer for dissenting from trans ideology

Mandy Neeson, a Samaritans volunteer, was blocked from becoming a fosterer by her local authority after expressing gender-critical views to the Aberlour Child Care Trust. A doctor was sacked for refusing to refer to a six-foot bearded man as “Madam”, a decision upheld at an employment tribunal which he is now appealing. Bristol University was in court this week, being sued by PhD student Raquel Rosario-Sanchez for its failure to help defend her against a campaign by militant trans activists. She said the University was too scared of the trans lobby to defend gender-critical feminists. Julie Bindel wrote about Raquel’s struggle against the “two-year hate campaign” targeting the researcher. “We cannot let our universities become seminaries for the priests of preselected social justice causes,” wrote Myles McKnight in National Review.

We wrote to the Vice-Chancellor of Durham University, objecting to a requirement that those applying for the role of Assistant Professor in Durham’s International Relations department provide a statement affirming their commitment to diversity, equity and inclusion. We are concerned that requiring applicants to profess their fealty to a particular belief system could be a breach of the Equality Act 2010, as well as Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights.

Tony Blair told the Times that voters “don’t want a situation where women can’t talk about being women”. Keir Starmer can’t hide from the trans wars forever, said Janice Turner.

Now trans activists are trying to cancel Equality and Human Rights Commission

Trevor Phillips condemned the attempt by trans activists to have the Equality and Human Rights Commission’s status revoked at the UN. He said the modern LGBT+ movement was “preoccupied by the intricacies of a language despotism which has emerged from the faculty lounges of minor North American universities”.

“Is life now so brittle that to ask questions is now, of itself, deemed to be controversial?” asked Baroness Falkner, Chair of the EHRC.

Joanna Williams explained the dominance of Stonewall’s ideology across our institutions:

When our own views reign supreme, we convince ourselves that we exist in the realm of common sense, not politics. When we mix only with the like-minded, we believe not only that we are right but that there is no debate to be had. It’s only the awkward people who disagree who insist on “politicising” issues. In this way, decisions to fly the Pride flag on public buildings, change the text on a historical plaque or leave the word “woman” off an advert for cervical cancer screening are nodded through countless committees before ever confronting opposition. When disagreement comes it feels like an affront. How dare people politicise the bureaucratic march of progress?

Comedy wars

The BBC has refused to apologise for a joke Graham Norton made about the Ukraine crisis, the Times reported. Viewers complained that it was offensive, but the corporation said “no subject is off limits” for comedy.

There was a protest against Jimmy Carr’s appearance in Cambridge, and, in response, we stood outside and handed out leaflets defending free speech. Carr said in advance that he would cut Holocaust material from the gig. Jeremy Clarkson lambasted the campaign to cancel Carr.

CNN continues to pursue an “unhinged war on Joe Rogan,” wrote Simon Evans in Spiked.

Gavin Haynes described a “regular pruning of the Overton window by the media–tech complex” in an article for UnHerd:

As with Roman politics, there is a kind of elite double act going on here. The journalists are pleading to YouTube, the enlightened despot who, wringing hands, clutching pearls, dabbing hanky, regretfully accedes to the crowd’s demands. And the cycle will continue on and on until there is very little to discuss at all.

It’s worth reading this Guido Fawkes article on the Online Safety Bill in full. The site warns of the disastrous consequences of the legislation on free speech:

During the pandemic, Big Tech has run riot stifling legitimate debate on the grounds of public health concerns. If this continues and spreads into general censorship it will be disastrous. The problem is that politicians generally are so fed up with the abuse they get on social media they are angry enough to overturn the widely accepted free speech norms of the free world for a more authoritarian approach.

Professor James Chalmers wrote about the recent conviction of Joseph Kelly for an offensive tweet about Captain Sir Tom Moore:

However insulting his tweet might have been – and by the low standards of Twitter it does not seem exceptional – the role of the criminal law is to forestall and punish harm to others, not to enforce politeness. If a remedy is required for tweets like his, it should be through Twitter enforcing its terms of use, not by the state dragging keyboard warriors through the courts.

A black HR manager has lost an employment tribunal case after claiming a reference to the Chimp Paradox was racist.

A woman has been jailed for 11 months for posting antisemitic posts blaming Jews for Grenfell Tower on social media. She was convicted of stirring up hatred.

Culture war chaos emboldens the West’s enemies

Oliver Dowden has given a speech to the Heritage Foundation on woke ideology emboldening the West’s enemies. He said this “pernicious” ideology saw “free speech [as] not a fundamental right necessary to the pursuit of truth”, but as a weapon.

The woke left is destroying the Anglosphere, argued Douglas Carswell in the Telegraph. Andrew Roberts likewise said the West couldn’t afford the “dangerous decadence” of the woke movement.

Paul Kingsnorth said the post-liberal west is becoming unquestioningly more censorious. Ed West compared our current cultural debates to the fate of the last pagan generation in ancient Rome. Eric Kaufmann of our Advisory Council and Brian Anderson spoke about the future of the culture war.

Art and culture

Small publishers are standing up to groupthink, the Telegraph reported. The author Kate Clanchy penned an exposé of sensitivity readers for UnHerd.

The Globe has branded Hamlet racist. The Tate’s restaurant is to close after an ethics committee decided its 1926 mural, which features two black slaves, is racist. Heather Mac Donald said the Metropolitan Museum of Art has redefined its purpose as “overcoming the racism of Western civilization”.

Fashion retailed Boohoo was forced to drop “sexually suggestive” images which the advertising watchdog found were both “irresponsible” and likely to “cause serious offence”. Jennifer Sey wrote about leaving her senior position at Levi’s for the freedom to speak her mind openly.

Popular puzzle game Wordle, now owned by the New York Times, has removed “insensitive” words such as “wench” from the game, the Telegraph reported.

World news

A mob killed a man accused of blasphemy in Pakistan this week. He was said to have burned pages of the Quran. 80 people have been arrested.

Chinese novelist Yan Geling has had her work removed from China’s internet by Communist Party censors after she called President Xi a “human trafficker”. The Times reported that her name had vanished from social media platform Weibo and search engine Baidu.

Justin Trudeau has been criticised for using emergency powers to freeze the bank accounts of protesters. The Economist said his draconian approach to stopping the protest is likely to make things worse. Professor Eric Kaufmann wrote of the situation in Canada:

Cultural liberalism upholds freedom of speech, due process, equal treatment for all and the scientific method. Cultural socialism, which Trudeau promotes, believes that the speech and heritage of historically dominant groups must be restricted so as not to offend minorities.

Book now! Free speech from Socrates to social media

Join us in London for a live public lecture, discussion and book launch on Thursday, March 17, as Jacob Mchangama introduces his new book, Free Speech: A History from Socrates to Social Media. Jacob is an author and lawyer, and 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, a writer and the director of the think tank Cieo, as well as Toby Young, general secretary of the FSU. The discussion will be chaired by Claire Fox, director of the Academy of Ideas. There will then be 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. We recommend booking early—we anticipate selling out! Founder Members should email [email protected] if they would like a complimentary ticket.

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Best wishes,

Benjamin Jones


Case Officer