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.
Children Accused of Non-Crime Hate Incidents
The Telegraphs has revealed that more 2000 non-crime hate incidents (NCHIs) have been recorded against children under the age of 17 since 2014. Conservative MP Sir John Hayes commented: “Nobody should be condemned for every quip, joke or comment they have made through their young or adult lives. Non-crime hate incidents are an extremely worrying trend, a huge draw on police resources and, at its worst, are incompatible with the right to alarm, shock and inspire which are all components of a free society.”
You can read the FSU’s paper on NCHIs, An Orwellian Society, here. The FSU is supporting the efforts of Harry Miller to get the Court of Appeal to say the recording of NCHIs by the police is unlawful and will be helping him pay his costs if he loses. You can contribute to our Fighting Fund here.
In the recent ruling in President Joe Biden v. Knight First Amendment Institute at Columbia University, US Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas outlined the “principal legal difficulty that surrounds digital platforms, namely, that applying old doctrines to new digital platforms is rarely straightforward”. He then went on to describe the problem of censorship presented by the dominance of a few social media giants, with guidance on how it might be addressed. He said: “It changes nothing that these platforms are not the sole means for distributing speech or information. But in assessing whether a company exercises substantial market power, what matters is whether the alternatives are comparable. For many of today’s digital platforms, nothing is.”
Allegedly offensive WhatsApp messages sent by ten doctors between 2014 and 2016 that have not been made public have nonetheless brought the medical profession into disrepute, according to Health Education England, which referred the matter to the General Medical Council. The case has now been referred to the Medical Practitioners Tribunal Service, despite a petition to the High Court arguing that the action was an infringement on private communications. The judge said: “It is unarguable that a professional body must be entitled to seek to uphold proper standards with the profession, even in relation to what would otherwise constitute private conduct.” The tribunal has the power to suspend the doctors or ban them from the medical profession.
Journalist Andy Ngo has had an invitation to speak at an Evangelical Christian conference in Nashville, Tennessee rescinded. The Q Ideas conference had invited Ngo to give a talk entitled “What is Fascism?” but changed its minds after Jason Petty, a rapper, urged the festival to disinvite Ngo. Petty said: “A healthy culture needs to hear a variety of ideas, however this dude is, in my opinion trolling the right wing of our country then hitting them in their wallets.” Ngo tweeted: “I was uninvited from this conference in a terse email after a friend of one of the organizers urged him to drop me.” One of the reasons Ngo has become a bogey man for members of the progressive left is because the Portland Mercury published a smear about him in 2019 which has since been rebutted.
Piers Morgan spoke with Tucker Carlson on Fox News in the first interview he’s given since his departure from Good Morning Britain over his criticism of Meghan Markle. He told Carlson that “if we lose the right to have an opinion, the right to respect other opinions, then ultimately democracy dies. It’s the bedrock of democracy. You then become something different, you become a totalitarian state run by an illiberal mob, who are the new fascists. Is that what anybody wants? Do liberals want that? I don’t want that, I’m a liberal.”
Think tank Civitas has released a report by FSU Advisory Council member Joanna Williams entitled Rethinking Race: A critique of contemporary anti-racism programmes. British society is less racist than at any time in its history, she argues, but a modern anti-racism industry, grounded in Critical Race Theory, has given us new terms like “systemic racism, unconscious bias, white privilege and cultural appropriation” and insists that “not being racist is no longer sufficient: we must all be actively anti-racist”. She explores whether the move away from civil rights to “anti-racism” is actually breathing “new life back into racial thinking” and calls for greater viewpoint diversity.
FSU General Secretary Toby Young has defended last week’s report of the Commission on Racial and Ethnic Disparities in this week’s Spectator.
Kieran Bhattacharya, a medical student at the University of Virginia, is suing the University for violating his First Amendment rights after he was banned from campus for asking a question about microaggressions. During a panel discussion on microaggressions he asked whether one had to be a member of a marginalised group in order to be a victim and was told no, which contradicted the definition given in the presentation. After he pointed this out and engaged in a discussion, Assistant Professor Nora Kern filed a “professionalism concern card” about him, which led to a requirement to undergo a psychological assessment before returning to classes and eventually a suspension for “aggressive and inappropriate interactions in multiple situations”.
Campaign group Don’t Divide Us has organised a panel discussion tonight at 7pm – “Islamophobia – The Accusation that Silences Dissent”. Hosted by Dr Rakib Ehsan, the event will explore the theme of Islamophobia, analysing what it is and how the term is used as a political weapon. It is free to attend. Register here.
“Does Mill still matter?” a free virtual event hosted by The Heterodox Academy and The Sphere Education Initiative will take place on 22nd April at 7pm Eastern Standard Time, midnight in the UK. The evening marks the release of the second edition of All Minus One, based on the second chapter of Mill’s On Liberty, and will feature editors Jonathan Haidt and Richard Reeves, and illustrator Dave Cicirelli.
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