Free Speech Union – weekly newsletter

Dear Mike Buchanan,

Welcome to the FSU’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 turn the tide against cancel culture. You can share our newsletters on social media with the buttons at the bottom of this email (although not if you’re reading this on a desktop). If someone has shared this newsletter with you and you’d like to join the FSU, you can find our website here.

FSU releases new research briefing on Carbon Literacy Training!

The FSU has just published a research briefing by Thomas Harris, our Director of Data and Impact, on the threat posed to workplace freedom of speech by the rise of carbon literacy training. (You can read it here.)

Carbon literacy training, which is often embedded within an organisation’s broader Environmental, Social and Governance (ESG) strategy, is now spreading rapidly across UK workplaces, with over 67,000 employees certified as ‘carbon literate’ according to the Carbon Literacy Project (CLP), the main organisation behind the initiative.

We’re concerned that it will have a chilling effect on free speech in the same way that unconscious bias training and anti-racism training does, with employees reluctant to challenge the ideas behind it for fear of jeopardising their careers.

While it’s indisputable that average global temperatures have increased since the mid-nineteenth century, people hold a range of views about the causes and severity of climate change and that in turn influences their opinion about the best way to tackle it – or, indeed, whether tackling it is possible or necessary.

Different solutions to the problems thrown up by climate change are informed by different values and recommending one approach over another inevitably involves making a political choice. There is no-such thing as an apolitical, ‘scientific’ solution.

Yet the CLP doesn’t appear to adopt a similarly pluralistic approach, with its training programmes simply taking it for granted that we’re in the midst of a ‘climate emergency’ and recommending that employees embrace various radical solutions, including net zero.

On its website, for instance, CLP has published its Introduction to Carbon Literacy pack. The document explains how we “need to change the culture as well as the technology” if we are “to cut carbon emissions by the kind of reduction targets demanded by science, by 2050”.

The phrase “demanded by science” is worrying, suggesting that the CLP is trying to smuggle a particular ideology into Britain’s workplaces by pretending it aligns with ‘science’, when in fact it aligns with a particular set of political values. A recent article in the New Yorker referred to this rhetorical sleight of hand as ‘moralistic scientism’ and defined it as the pretence that science infallibly validates left-wing moral sensibilities.

We don’t believe that employees should be put under pressure to endorse a particular approach to tackling climate change or threatened with disciplinary action if they fail to adjust their behaviour to follow this approach, particularly outside the workplace.

But there are signs that that is exactly what’s happening.

An FSU member recently contacted us concerned about the consequences for his career after he challenged the content of the training and providing alternative views and different insights on the topic. We believe he was right to be concerned. To secure CLP’s platinum, gold, and silver badges, companies are expected to embed carbon literacy in the annual targets of staff members and evaluate their performance accordingly. This means that employees who don’t subscribe to a particular view on climate change could find themselves missing out on pay awards or promotion unless they self-censor or pretend to hold convictions they don’t have.

Also concerning is the fact that in those companies seeking accreditation as CLOs, up to 80% of staff are expected to become ‘carbon literate’.

Carbon literate accreditation requires employees to embrace a particular view about climate change and identify at least one action they can take to reduce their own carbon footprint, as well as at least one action involving other people.

The FSU fears that employees may be penalised if they refuse to comply with these requirements because they do not share a particular point of view.

Gillian Philip case – show your support here!

FSU member Gillian Philip continues to fight for a woman’s right to state biological facts without fear of losing her job.

Gillian brought an Employment Tribunal claim against publishers Working Partners and HarperCollins, arguing that she was unlawfully discriminated against when her contract to write children’s books was terminated because of her gender critical beliefs.

A preliminary hearing was held to determine whether Gillian’s claim had been filed in time and whether she had rights under the Equality Act 2010 as a worker or employee of Working Partners.

The judge at the Employment Tribunal described Gillian’s situation as unique. (The judgement can be found here.) Gillian won on the trickiest aspect of her case, namely, delay in bringing a claim. The judge found that it was just and equitable to allow her case to be pleaded after the time limit because in the immediate aftermath of her sacking by Working Partners she was depressed following the death of her husband.

However, although Gillian won on the time question, she lost on the worker status question and so she is now appealing that part of the judgement to the Employment Appeal Tribunal.

In launching her appeal, Gillian will once again need your help. You can find out more about the case and donate to her cause here.

Dr Almut Gadow’s legal fundraiser gains significant media traction!

It’s heartening to see so many people making contributions to former law lecturer and FSU member Dr Almut Gadow’s legal crowdfunder. (Click here to take a look at the supportive comments that donors have been leaving on Dr Gadow’s page.)

Similarly encouraging is the fact that this case has gained traction both in the print press (GB News, Mail, Telegraph, Spiked) and the broadcast media (GBNews, Sky News Australia, TalkTV).

Supported by the FSU, Dr Gadow is bringing a case against the Open University (OU), arguing that she was harassed, discriminated against, and unfairly dismissed because she rejects gender identity ideology, and this breached human rights protections for academic freedom.

Almut’s claim is that she was sacked by the OU after questioning requirements to embed gender identity within the institution’s law curriculum.

During academic year 2021-22, the university’s equality, diversity and inclusion team announced plans to “incorporate its political ideologies” across the curriculum. The “liberating the curriculum” policy that resulted was, Almut says, “effectively a checklist of ideological compliance”.

Dr Gadow raised concerns about various requirements, including introducing diverse gender identities into the curriculum and teaching students to use offenders’ preferred pronouns.

She argued that a criminal lawyer’s role “is to present facts” and that “sex is a relevant fact for offences involving perpetrators’ and/or victims’ bodies”.

Dr Gadow also made the case that “no offender should be allowed to dictate the language of his case in a way which masks relevant facts”.

To her disbelief, managers who spotted these forum posts described her requests for engagement as “serious insubordination” and accused her of creating an environment not “inclusive, trans-friendly or respectful”. Months later, her posts would be cited as reasons for her dismissal.

This is the FSU’s most ambitious crowdfunder yet, and for good reason: not only does Almut deserve justice for the egregious way she’s been treated, but this case provides the best opportunity yet to establish a strong legal precedent in favour of academic free expression that will protect all UK academics, especially those who believe in the reality of biological sex.

We’re now over halfway to the initial target of £70,000, which will cover the cost of the preliminary hearing, disclosure of documents and preparation of a trial bundle. But there’s still a long way to go.

Click here to read Almut’s legal Crowdfunder statement – and if you can, please share the page, and make a donation. It’s a hugely important case.

Royal Navy Officers told to declare preferred pronouns, attack white privilege

Amid escalating Chinese belligerence in the disputed waters of the South China Sea, the threat to international shipping posed by piracy in the Indian Ocean, near daily incursions into British maritime waters by Russian submarines, and a sharp rise in the number of gangs involved in people smuggling across the English Channel, the British Navy’s top brass has decided to really let rip, flex its muscles, and remind the country’s enemies exactly who it is that rules the waves… by issuing new guidance to officers on preferred pronoun usage, the integration of critical race theory into leadership, and how the pathology of ‘white privilege’ can be overcome.

The Express carried news of Navy HQ’s new ‘Divisional Officers and Troop Commanders Briefing Notes’ this week, courtesy of a tip-off from the FSU.

Issued earlier this summer, the Briefing Notes urge officers to “routinely share” their chosen pronouns, suggesting this could be an “act of allyship”.

The document also advises officers to avoid saying “good morning, guys”, instead using the gender neutral ‘everyone’ or ‘team’.

Elsewhere, the document explains the importance of a concept drawn from critical race theory: ‘lived experience’, that great incontestable of the woke age, in which the engagement with day-to-day life of certain pre-identified groups is filtered through a pre-written script of systemic oppression.

Navy officers are told they need to understand how race, class, gender and other badges of victimhood impact on a person’s identity and “to recognise and appreciate the lived experience” of the oppressed guys in their team.

“Before you voice your opinion on another person,” officers in command of sailors aboard commissioned ships operating in fast-paced, high-risk environments are told, “you should stop to think about whether you have the right to speak about them from a position of no direct expertise and consider whether your behaviour is contributing to or alleviating their existing disadvantage.”

As if the image thus conjured of Blighty’s new generation of nerveless, amphibious killing machines wasn’t already enough to fill the hearts of Vladmir Putin’s inner circle with terror, the Briefing Notes go on to address the issue of ‘white privilege’, and how it impacts Navy officer themselves, the vast majority of whom are white males.

“The term ‘white privilege’ has been talked about in the context of the Black Lives Matter protests,” the document says, adding: “It refers to the idea that skin colour can affect your lived experience such that it can either give you an advantage or be a barrier to almost all areas of life.

“Therefore, if you are ‘white’, whatever situation you are in, it is almost always the case that the outcome has not been affected by your skin colour” – a statement that will no doubt one day be of great comfort to the Captain of a lone British frigate locked in a tense stand-off with a fleet of Chinese warships as they begin manoeuvring themselves into an attack formation a few miles off the disputed Spratly and Paracel Islands in the South China Sea.

An anonymous serviceman told the Express: “Many service personnel are angry, confused and insulted although few will formally complain as this language has become commonplace.”

FSU General Secretary Toby Young said: “The woke mind virus has infected every branch of Britain’s armed forces, including the Royal Navy. It won’t be long before the White Ensign is replaced with a Pride flag, and HMS Queen Elizabeth is renamed HMS Meghan Markle. If I was a Falkland Islander, I’d be thinking very seriously about relocating.”

Latest episode of the FSU’s weekly podcast is out now!

Thank you to everyone who has helped That’s Debatable! reach the important milestone this week of 10,000 downloads!

On the latest episode, hosts Tom and Ben are delighted to be joined by writer, editor and FSU member Sibyl Ruth.

As many of our members will know, Sibyl lost her job for tweeting that a man claiming to be a woman had a five o’clock shadow and is hoping to take her former employer to the Employment Tribunal in September.

As Sibyl recounts during the podcast, she had had been working for Cornerstones Literary Agency as one of their Core Editors without issue when “really suddenly” the company stopped sending her work in spite of positive feedback.

First, management told her a client she had been working for no longer required her services. Then, when she decided to tweak her profile on the company’s website, she realised she’d been “disappeared” from the editors’ page. Finally, she was told it was “unlikely” that any more projects would come her way.

Thanks to a Subject Access Request (SAR) which we urged her to submit, Sibyl discovered that a member of staff had objected to her expressing gender critical beliefs on Twitter. Sadly, by the time Sibyl received these details, it was too late – Cornerstones had already stopped all her work and effectively terminated her.

The link to listen and download the podcast – for free – is here. And if you can, please join the fight and donate to Sibyl’s crowdfunder here.

PM urged to intervene over threat to free speech and media plurality

Nearly 50 Conservative MPs and Peers have written to the Prime Minister, urging the government to distance itself from the Conscious Advertising Network (CAN), an organisation “with a history of partisan behaviour” that has links to activists who orchestrate boycotts of centre-Right news outlets (Express, Mail, Telegraph, Times)

The Parliamentarians intervened after a consultation document issued by the Department for Culture, Media and Sport (DCMS) praised CAN as an organisation that helps to “protect brand safety through stopping advertising abuse and ensuring the supply chain uses good practice”.

Responding to the DCMS’s praise, the MPs, including former Home Secretary Priti Patel and ex-Prime Minister Liz Truss, said that CAN’s approach “is having a chilling effect on free speech and media plurality. As more and more companies feel that they have no choice but to bend the knee to [CAN] activists, we will be left with a media that does not reflect the diversity of views of modern Britain.”

Another signatory, the former Brexit secretary David Davis, told the Telegraph: “It is not for officials at DCMS to encourage a proxy cancel culture by nominating private agencies like CAN as arbiters of vague and misleading concepts like ‘brand safety’ – particularly if those agencies have a history of partisan behaviour.”

One of CAN’s co-founders, Jake Dubbins, was an “unpaid advisor” to Stop Funding Hate, and the pressure group helped to draft CAN’s code on hate speech.

Stop Funding Hate has led boycotts against right-of-centre news outlets such as the Daily Mail, the Daily Express and the Sun. Back in 2021, Stop Funding Hate called on advertisers to boycott GB News before the channel had even launched, leading to an excoriating riposte from the channel’s then Chairman, Andrew Neil, in which he criticised businesses that “took the knee and cowed” to these “far-Left agitators and cranks”, and suggested they were turning themselves into the “useful idiots” of “bigots bent on censorship”.

The network counts the UK’s five biggest advertising agencies among its members, while other household names in its ranks include Virgin Media, O2, British Gas and Innocent.

In their letter, the Parliamentarians describe CAN as employing “the same insidious tactics as Stonewall” – where the latter seeks to influence corporate behaviour through its Diversity Champions Scheme and Workplace Equality Index, CAN has seven “manifestos” that it requires members to include in “all agency briefs and requests for proposals”.

The manifesto on ‘mis/disinformation’ is particularly noteworthy from a free speech perspective. Having told advertisers that they “can play a key role in defunding dis/misinformation and promoting quality journalism”, the manifesto then warns: “The differentiation between subjective, partisan journalism and fake, irresponsible, and low-quality journalism is not clear-cut, and subjective decisions will have to be made.”

The solution? Crossmatching any in-house list of ‘mis/disinformation’ sites against lists “such as those maintained by The Global Disinformation Index” (GDI), an organisation which offers advice to large, media-buying companies about which news publishing sites are ‘safe’ for their clients to advertise on – or, as DCMS might put it, which sites will “protect brand safety”.

GDI’s advice comes in the form of a “dynamic exclusion list” – or ‘blocklist’ – of publications, which it feeds to advertisers with the aim of defunding them and shutting them down. So what type of brand safety information might UK-based members of CAN be receiving from the GDI?

What we know for sure is that publications on the GDI’s list of the 10 ‘riskiest’ news publishing sites in the U.S. include the American Spectator, Breitbart, the Daily Wire, the Federalist, American Conservative, Real Clear Politics, the New York Post and Reason. As will no doubt immediately be obvious, these ‘risky’ sites are right-of-centre with the exception of Reason, one of the few prominent press critics of organised censorship, while the New York Post was of course the only mainstream newspaper in the U.S. to publicise the Hunter Biden laptop story ahead of the 2020 U.S. presidential election.

Needless to say, the news publishing sites ranked the most reliable by GDI were, with one exception, left-of-centre: NPR, The Associated Press, the New York Times, ProPublica, Insider, USA Today, the Washington Post, BuzzFeed News, the Wall Street Journal, and the Huffington Post.

Is there a left way back from woke? Online tickets still available!

In-person tickets have now sold out for our next event, ‘Is there a left way back from woke?’, with Professor Umut Özkirimli on Wednesday 13th September in London. But if you’d like to attend virtually, you can still do so – watching the event online is free for FSU members. The link to register for the Zoom link is here.

In his provocative new book, Cancelled: The Left Way Back from Woke, Professor Özkirimli describes how the Left has been sucked into a spiral of toxic hatred and outrage-mongering, retreating from the democratic ideals of freedom, tolerance and pluralism that it purports to represent.

Professor Özkirimli will be joined in conversation by two eminent public intellectuals. Professor Alice Sullivan has been instrumental in providing evidence that clarifies the need to preserve sex-based social categories in data-collection and policy-making, while Dr Ashley Frawley is one of the most interesting contemporary critics of identity politics.

Battle of Ideas Festival 2023 – special FSU discounted tickets on sale now!

The Battle of Ideas festival returns to Church House, Westminster on 28th and 29th October. As ever the festival motto is: “Free speech allowed, free thinkers welcome.”

There’s plenty to discuss, from the cultural and corporate wars on free speech to the rise of apocalyptic thinking around climate change and artificial intelligence. There will be debates on the continuing upsurges in populism and the crises in the arts world and schools – plus much more across 100+ sessions.

We’ll be there all weekend with our stall and will be partnering on a session on Saturday as part of the Free Speech Strand. FSU members can get 20% off weekend standard, weekend concession, one-day standard and one-day concession tickets by clicking here.

SLAPPs – join the fightback and show your support for two crowdfunders

The UK government is increasingly concerned that Strategic Lawsuits Against Public Participation – or ‘Slapps’ as they are more commonly known – represent a growing threat to free speech. And with good reason. According to the Times, Britain is now the “global capital for Slapps, with more court cases initiated here than in America and the European Union combined”.

The complicated acronym in fact hides a remarkably simple tactic. According to the Ministry of Justice’s recent consultation on the challenges presented by the increasing use of this form of litigation, Slapps are libel or privacy cases brought by wealthy companies or individuals where the primary objective is not to win the legal action – which may in fact be all but guaranteed to fail – but to “harass, intimidate and financially and psychologically exhaust one’s opponent via improper means”.

It’s in this context that the FSU has decided to share details of legal crowdfunders set up by two separate parties – Andrew Burgess and Vanessa Warwick. Both Andrew and Vanessa are currently being sued by the same person for defamation in what look like Slapp cases. The person bringing the lawsuits is Samuel Leeds, a businessman behind Property Investors, a company that was the subject of a recent BBC ‘Inside Out’ investigation.

While we do not necessarily accept either defendant’s view of their respective cases – that is a matter for the Court – we believe that they should be able to defend themselves. To find out more about each case and to show your support should you want to give it, click here and here.

Kind regards,

Freddie Attenborough

Communications Officer

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