Dear Mike Buchanan,
Welcome to the Free Speech Union’s weekly newsletter. This newsletter is a brief round-up of the free speech news of the week.
An angry group of protesters gathered outside Batley Grammar School in West Yorkshire on Thursday to express outrage that a teacher had allegedly shown cartoons of Muhammed to his pupils in the course of teaching them about the Charlie Hebdo controversy in which 12 people were murdered by Islamist terrorists. The school’s head teacher responded by saying: “Upon investigation, it was clear that the resource used in the lesson was completely inappropriate and had the capacity to cause great offence to members of our school community for which we would like to offer a sincere and full apology.”
The teacher has been suspended pending an investigation. Muslim scholar and director of the Peace Institute Mufti Mohammed Amin Pandor told the crowd that the teacher’s alleged actions were “totally unacceptable and we have made sure that the school understands that”.
The incident comes less than six months after French teacher Samuel Paty was beheaded on the streets of Paris after showing the same cartoons of Muhammed to his class.
The FSU has written to the headteacher of the school to complain about his failure to stand up for free speech, as well as to the local Chief Constable asking him to make sure the teacher is protected from intimidation. In addition, we’ve written to Helen Stephenson, the CEO of the Charity Commission, to complain about the fact that a Muslim charity – the Purpose of Life – named the teacher in a letter demanding he be sacked and then published the letter on Twitter. You can read all three of our letters here.
Toby commented: “We stand in solidarity with the teacher at Batley Grammar who has been suspended at the behest of a censorious religious mob and encourage others to do the same. Schools should be teaching children about the importance of free speech and for the headteacher to give in immediately to the demands of an outrage mob – apologising to them and suspending the teacher concerned – sets a bad example. No one has the right not to be offended.”
Writing in the Guardian earlier in the week, Thomas Frank argued that the Left, and in particular the Democratic Party, have made a strategic error by devoting so much effort to censoring views they disagree with. He says: “In liberal circles these days there is a palpable horror of the uncurated world, of thought spaces flourishing outside the consensus, of unauthorized voices blabbing freely in some arena where there is no moderator to whom someone might be turned in. The remedy for bad speech, we now believe, is not more speech, as per Justice Brandeis’s famous formula, but an ‘extremism expert’ shushing the world.” What was once a tool of the “puritanical right”, according to Frank, is now the weapon of choice for those who describe themselves as liberals. “What all this censorship talk really is, though, is a declaration of defeat,” Frank wrote. “To give up on free speech is to despair of reason itself.” He concluded: “Liberals believe in liberty, I tell myself. This can’t really be happening here in the USA. But, folks, it is happening. And the folly of it all is beyond belief.”
Writing in The Critic, David Martin Jones argues that the “distinction between crime and sin was one of the outstanding achievements of secular, western democracies” but that our current debate over “hate speech” risks blurring that distinction. This is paralleled by a shift away from individual morality toward collectivist morality, which “deals with human beings as featureless resources of an enterprise. It manages, disallows and polices speech it considers harmful to a population composed of oppressed minorities. At the same time, it condones speech acts that undermines the morality of individuality, liberty, and private responsibility.”
Freedom of speech is under threat, according to former Cabinet Minister Liam Fox, in a speech at the Adam Smith Institute on Monday. He called on politicians to defend victims of the cancel culture mob, such as J.K. Rowling, saying: “We must defend the right to disagree. Free speech is everybody’s business. Whether it is online abuse, the bullying mob of the intolerant, the cancel culture, no platforming or unwarranted government intervention, it is up to us all to speak out.”
Poster company J.C. Decaux has refused to run an ad by the anti-lockdown campaign group Time For Recovery on the grounds that it is too political. However, as Guido Fawkes pointed out, J.C. Decaux regularly runs political advertising and has carried a fair proportion of Government advertising over the past year. The ad reads: “End the campaign of fear. Millions now have mental health problems.” Trafford Council also banned the poster on political grounds.
Newly appointed editor-in-chief of Teen Vogue Alexi McCammond has been sacked for tweets she wrote when she was 17 that were deemed anti-Asian and homophobic. McCammond responded: “I should not have tweeted what I did and I have taken full responsibility for that.” Stan Duncan, the “chief people officer” of the magazine’s publisher Condé Nast called the move “the best path forward so as not to overshadow Teen Vogue’s work to become more equitable and inclusive”. According to Ben Fenton in the Telegraph, the ordeal is indicative of society’s inability to forgive people for silly things they’ve said on Twitter.
It later emerged that one of Alexi McCammond’s accusers – Christine Davitt, the magazine’s senior social media manager – had used the N-word in a tweet she sent 11 years ago.
Writing in the Critic, James Gillies takes aim at the Scottish Hate Crime Bill, saying: “It’s evident that our political leaders see citizens outside the parameters of the Holyrood Bubble as a sinister bunch. We are perpetually in need of nannying and educating.” He points out the serious risk “that speech which is merely offensive to some people but which would not ordinarily meet the threshold for criminality will be reported and investigated as an offence under the new law”. Scotland has always treated freedom of speech and expression generously, he argues, but “the new hate crime legislation is out of step with this proud tradition”.
An amendment to the Domestic Abuse Bill was accepted last week which, when the Bill is passed, will require police to record crimes that are motivated by hatred of the victim’s sex or gender. This is widely considered to be the first step towards making misogyny a hate crime.
According to Zoe Strimpel, writing in the Telegraph, treating misogyny as a hate crime will result in “more paperwork, more virtue signalling and more opportunities to exploit dubious laws. And very little of what we actually need: which is for the police to actually turn up and do their job.”
After MPs voted through the Police, Crime, Sentencing and Courts Bill last week, a ‘Kill the Bill’ protest in Bristol turned into a riot, which Home Secretary Priti Patel described as “thuggery and disorder by a minority”. Police vehicles were destroyed, and some police officers were injured. The most controversial section of the Bill gives police the power to place restrictions on public protests and allows activists to be prosecuted for causing “serious annoyance”. DUP MP Gavin Robinson warns that the scope of the Bill is so “incredibly loose” that it could result in the banning of Christian street preachers.
Robert Hoogland, the Canadian father of a 14-year old who was born female but who now identifies as transgender, has been jailed in British Columbia for “misgendering” his daughter. The child was “socially transitioned” without parental consent at the instigation of school counsellors and given testosterone under the direction of “gender ideologue psychologist” Wallace Wong, before undergoing other complex medical procedures. The British Columbia Supreme Court ordered both parents “to affirm their daughter’s new gender identity”. Hoogland was found in contempt of court after a judge issued a court order prohibiting him from using the pronouns “she” and “her” to refer to his child. The ruling did allow Hoogland to “think thoughts” contrary to the ruling, but to voice those thoughts would be to commit “family violence”, said the judge. Dr Jordan Peterson, who rose to fame amidst his opposition to Bill C-16, which enforced the use of preferred gender pronouns in Canada, tweeted: “This could never happen, said those who called my stance against Bill C-16 alarmist. I read the law and saw that it was, to the contrary, inevitable.”
Canadian news site Rebel Media has been demonetised by YouTube, which founder Ezra Levant claims will cost the company $400,000 a year. The reason for the decision, according to YouTube, was “repeated violations of YouTube’s ad-friendly guidelines, including those related to harmful and dangerous acts, along with other channel monetisation policies”. Levant responded in a video, saying: “If we stop criticising the lockdown, they say we can reapply in 30 days and possibly get our ads back but we would have to stop saying what we say. We’d have to say what they want us to say.”
Evolutionary behavioural scientist Dr Gad Saad – author of The Parasitic Mind: How Infections Ideas Are Killing Common Sense and a professor at Concordia University – has released a video explaining how sharing an email he received with the subject line “Dirty Jew” got him suspended from Facebook for “hate speech”. Saad, who is Jewish, summed up: “There is some overseer who has decided that me sharing genocidal hate targeting me is a form of hate speech and that’s it. Shut up. Wear your two masks.”
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