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.
Police unveil fleet of rainbow-coloured patrol vehicles to combat “hate crime”
Police forces across Britain have begun to replace their patrol cars with “hate crime cars”, which are decorated with rainbow colours and emblazoned with the word “Pride”. The police say they hope the new rainbow cars will encourage more people to report “hate crimes”, such as failing to address a bearded, 6ft 4in biological male who identifies as a woman as “Miss”. In an article for the Mail I explained why, in spite of their clownish appearance, there is something quite sinister about these new unicorn cars:
Only a tiny fraction of reported “hate crimes” end up being prosecuted, but that isn’t because the police cannot catch the perpetrators – tracing social media accounts is easy. It’s because the vast majority of these aren’t crimes at all, but what the police describe as “non-crime hate incidents”.
You might think I’m making that up – it sounds like something out of George Orwell’s 1984 – but I’m not. According to Freedom of Information requests, 120,000 “non-crime hate incidents” were formally recorded by 34 police forces in England and Wales between 2014 and 2019.
Feminist Sacked by Sadiq Khan Fights Back
Joan Smith, the Co-Chair of the Mayor’s Violence Against Women Board who was fired by Sadiq Khan last week after she expressed concern about transwomen being granted access to women’s refuges, has hit back with articles in UnHerd and the Critic. In the latter, she writes:
The speed with which the category of “woman” is being dismantled is astonishing to behold. Earlier this year, peers had to organise a revolt against the government’s Maternity Bill in order to have the word “person” replaced with “mother” or “expectant mother”.
Meanwhile, the police were called to a pub in Edinburgh after a group of feminists refused to leave when told their booking had expired by a transgender member of staff. The bar person objected to stickers a member of the group had left in the ladies lavatory campaigning against the reform of the Gender Recognition Act which will make it easier for people to legally change their gender. The member of staff told the women to leave the pub and take their “hateful” stickers with them – and when they refused, the police were called. Greene King, the owner of the pub, has launched an internal investigation into the incident.
Britain’s greatest post-war poet threatened with cancellation
Writing in the Telegraph, Simon Heffer has expressed concern that next year’s centenary of Philip Larkin’s birth will see the poet being cancelled for his use of the n-word in his private correspondence:
Hull, where he worked as university librarian, is fretting about housing his statue; and Coventry, his birthplace, is being “UK City of Culture 2021” while barely noticing him.
Heffer urges people to distinguish between the poet’s private views and his public works: “Whatever his private opinions, he was the greatest poet in English since Eliot. And that is where we should begin our evaluation of him on his centenary.”
In other literary news, a charity aiming to end violence against women has criticised the much-loved children’s book The Tiger Who Came For Tea. Rachel Adamson of Zero Tolerance told BBC Radio Scotland that the book included “old fashioned” “gender stereotypes” that could lead to women being raped. “We know that gender stereotypes are harmful and they reinforce gender inequality, and that gender inequality is the cause of violence against women and girls, such as domestic abuse, rape and sexual harassment,” she said.
TV shows about cancel culture
Netflix has launched a new TV series about cancel culture at a fictional American university. In The Chair, Sandra Oh plays the new Chair of the English Department at Pembroke University having to deal with a crisis involving a liberal professor who is wrongly accused of being a fascist after a video clip of him doing a mock Nazi salute circulates on social media. Writing in the Times, Gerard DeGroot, emeritus professor of history at the University of St Andrews, says the series rings horribly true. “The real problem lies with a tiny minority of students whose minds have been slammed shut by their rarefied standards of acceptable thought,” he says.
Meanwhile, Channel 4 is planning its own series on cancel culture, this one presented by John Cleese. Called Cancel Me, it will explore why a new “woke” generation is rewriting the rules about what can and can’t be said. The 81-year-old comedian is no fan of censorship, having objected last year to the BBC’s decision to remove an episode of Fawlty Towers from iPlayer because one of the characters (the Major) used racist language. “We were not supporting his views, we were making fun of them,” Cleese said.
Following the FSU’s report on Stonewall, the LGBTQ+ campaigning organisation continues to experience difficulties. Earlier this week, the actor Simon Callow accused Stonewall of taking a “tyrannical” turn and indulging in “extraordinarily unproductive militancy”. “This is just tyranny and that’s what we’ve fought against all our lives, people saying, ‘this cannot be discussed’,” he told the Times. “Yes, it can be discussed. Everything can be discussed.”
The latest organisation to withdraw from Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme is Ofcom, the broadcast regulator. On Wednesday, it announced it would be following the Equality and Human Rights Commission and the Cabinet Office out of the scheme. “As the communications regulator, an important part of our responsibility [is] to ensure we remain impartial and independent at all times,” an Ofcom spokesperson told the Guardian. “Stepping back from the diversity champions programme, in light of this, is the right thing to do.”
Classics too white
The Cambridge University Classics Faculty will be placing signs underneath plaster casts of Roman and Greek figures in the local archaeology museum explaining that the whiteness of the plaster is not supposed to signify that the ancient world was populated entirely by white people. This move is part of an “Action Plan” unveiled by the Classics Faculty in response to a letter sent to the Faculty last year complaining about the subject’s “whiteness”. Other components of the same plan include making sure all members of staff receive “implicit bias training” and that students feel comfortable about reporting “microaggressions”.
“You might just about understand this coming from a student, but the idea that this has been approved by the Faculty is as terrifying as it is comical,” a Cambridge academic told the Telegraph.
The Free Speech Union has written to the Chair of the Classics Faculty pointing out that some aspects of its Action Plan – such as its insistence that all students graduating from Cambridge with a degree in Classics leave with “an appreciation of… the role of Classics in support of racist and imperialist structure and discourse” – are incompatible with the University’s legal duty to uphold freedom of thought and expression.
Meanwhile, Education Scotland, the Scottish Government’s education department, has urged teachers north of the border to “decolonise” the Scottish curriculum and invited them to take a “white privilege test”. In addition, Scottish teachers are urged to consider the role of “white fragility”, which it says “upholds white privilege”.
Similar initiatives are underway in Brighton, where the Council is urging schools to tackle racism using concepts rooted in critical race theory. According to council documents, teachers will be advised that the colour-blind society envisioned by Martin Luther King is a naïve impossibility, and children will be taught to categorise themselves and their peers according to skin colour. White children will be taught that they have unearned “privilege” that “oppresses” their black friends, while black students will learn that British society is systematically rigged against them.
Don’t Divide Us, a pro-free speech organisation, has started a petition opposing this reverse racism which you can sign here. Don’t Divide Us is inviting residents of Brighton who want to be part of a genuine movement for equality of treatment, one that values humanism and free speech, to join their Brighton group and hold the Council to account. Email [email protected] to find out more.
Lawyer fined for tweet defending free speech
Barrister Jon Holbrook, who parted company with his chambers earlier this year following a controversial tweet, has been fined £500 by the Bar Standards Board for another tweet, this one responding to a demand from a Muslim to shut down Charlie Hebdo, the satirical French magazine. “Free speech is dying and Islamists and other Muslims are playing a central role,” Holbrook said. “Who will lead the struggle to reinstate free speech as the foundation of all other freedoms?” In justification of its fine, the BSB said that the tweet “would not only cause offence but could promote hostility towards Muslims as a group”.
Writing in the Conservative Woman, Holbrook, who is appealing the decision, says: “Free speech can die in many ways, whether at the hand of terrorists spreading fear, keyboard activists seeking cancellation or administrators imposing unjust fines. None of them must be allowed to succeed.”
Hope Not Hate
Last month, the FSU wrote to all the advertisers who’d been browbeaten into boycotting GB News by Hope Not Hate, a left-wing campaigning organisation. Now, 10 Conservative MPs have written to Kwasi Kwarteng, the Business Secretary, calling for an investigation into the group. They point out that it is registered as a Community Interest Company, a type of firm intended to “benefit the community” and which must not be formed “for political purposes”.
“We are concerned that since 2017 the campaign group Stop Funding Hate has been exploiting the prestige that is afforded by CIC status, and the privileged access that CICs have to many grants of taxpayers’ money, for overtly political means,” says the letter.
I wish I’d thought of that!
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