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.
Sibyl Ruth – major case update!
Many of you will be familiar with the case of writer, editor and FSU member Sibyl Ruth. Sibyl was effectively terminated by Cornerstones Literary Consultancy without explanation or notice because she tweeted about her gender critical beliefs (Express, Mail, Telegraph, GB News).
The FSU has been supporting Sibyl since she approached us about a year ago – we helped her in the early stages of her dispute with Cornerstones, linked her up with top notch employment solicitor Emma Hamnett of Doyle Clayton and set up a crowdjustice page for her. Sibyl, whom Cornerstones argued was self-employed, was due to go to the Employment Tribunal on September 14th to argue that she was in fact a worker entitled to Equality Act protections. She needed to cross this hurdle to make her case that Cornerstones discriminated against her because of her age and beliefs.
However, we’re now pleased to announce that the case has been settled, and Cornerstones has issued an apology to Sibyl. The apology recognises that Sibyl holds gender critical feminist beliefs, that she is “entitled to these views even if Cornerstones does not share aspects of those views” and that these are “worthy of respect in a democratic society”. The apology goes on to say:
We acknowledge and accept that the way in which her work was brought to an end could have been handled less abruptly. Cornerstones ought to have more firmly encouraged an open dialogue with her before taking any action. It is a matter of regret to us that we advised a client whose manuscript she had begun to work on that she had become unavailable.
We regret that we that we did not encourage the opportunity to subsequently engage in dialogue with her. We accept that our actions must have been distressing to Sibyl. We accept that we were wrong in this regard, and apologise for our actions.
This is an excellent outcome for Sibyl who, after fighting for her right to express her lawful beliefs, can now move forward with her life. The outcome of this case is not just a victory for Sibyl but for all gender critical feminists and it serves as an important reminder to businesses to treat all staff, no matter their age or beliefs, fairly and with respect.
Sibyl has posted an update to her crowdfunder page to share the news of her settlement and apology and to thank the FSU and her legal team for all the work they’ve done on her case. Sibyl writes:
Most of all I am grateful to everyone who donated to this crowdfunder. This outcome would not have been possible without your support and help. The funds from the crowdfunder have been used solely to pay my legal expenses. Any money that is now left will be re-allocated to Gillian Phillip’s crowdfunder (find it here). Like me, Gillian is fighting for free speech protections in the arts world. My hope for the future is that arts organisations will recognise the rights of all precariously employed workers to express their lawful opinions outside the workplace.
FSU Autumn/Winter events programme – book your tickets here!
Our Autumn/Winter events programme kicked off on Wednesday night with Is There a Left Way Back from Woke? – the video of which will be available soon. There are many more events to come, including, for the first time, events in Belfast and Exeter. Full details will be shared soon.
Our next event is on Tuesday 3rd October, when Professor Jeremy Jennings will deliver a guest lecture on the topic Understanding Tyranny and Liberty: Lessons from Alexis de Tocqueville and J.S. Mill, followed by Q and A and discussion, with FSU General Secretary Toby Young in the chair. The event will take place at 7.30pm at the Art Workers’ Guild in London and tickets include a free glass of wine. Places are limited, so book early by clicking here to avoid missing out.
We realise that getting to London is not possible for everyone, so members can also register to join, free of charge, on Zoom by clicking here.
Battle of Ideas Festival 2023 – get your special FSU discount tickets 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 or 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.
With an election likely to come in 2024, but party politics suffering from a vacuum of ideas, this is the festival that goes beyond left and right to bring together critics, thinkers, campaigners and the public itself. The FSU will be there all weekend with our stall and will be partnering on this session on Saturday – Online Censorship: An International Clampdown? – 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.
UK universities spend 214 times as much on EDI as free speech
Our friends at Alumni for Free Speech (AFFS) have submitted FoI requests to Britain’s leading universities to discover how much they’re spending on teaching students about free speech and how much on equity, diversity and inclusion (EDI). We knew it wouldn’t be an equal amount, but even we were shocked by the difference (Evening Standard).
Responses to the FoI requests have revealed a massive disparity.
The 47 universities that provided relevant information employ 515 dedicated EDI staff – that’s an average of 11 each.
The total EDI cost across the 42 universities that provided financial information was £19.5 million: £17.9 million on staff and £1.6 million on external resources.
In contrast, of the 43 universities that provided information about free speech, only two said they employed anyone with specific freedom of speech responsibilities. These two between them employed not more than five people. One reported staffing costs of £71,000, while the other said it spent just over £20,000 on external free speech resources.
Overall, therefore, around 214 times as much money appears to be being spent by our leading universities on EDI as on free speech protection.
Institutional neutrality about arguable and contested issues was once the norm at UK universities. But as AFFS points out, this neutrality has recently been abandoned as EDI departments, which seem to be growing inexorably, push controversial agendas involving gender identity ideology, critical race theory and the need to decolonise curricula.
These agendas are ideologically driven, politically contested, have little basis in fact and science and do not reflect what the majority of people think. They are also often at odds with universities’ obligations to protect free speech.
Nonetheless, these agendas, often involving participation in programmes promoted by external campaign groups like Stonewall and Advance HE, are sanctioned at the highest management levels. So-called training for both students and staff often requires agreement with the contested views embedded in the EDI agenda.
Small wonder, then, that a recent report from Policy Exchange shows that self-censorship in British academia is over twice as high among conservative academics in the social sciences and humanities (50%) as among those on the Left (23%).
You can read the report from AFFS, and sign up to support the vital work they do standing up for academic freedom, on their website – the link is here!
BBC axes Roisin Murphy from 6 Music special after singer commits wrongthink
The BBC, whose Director General Tim Davie told staff back in 2021 that “it’s a serious issue if [we are] perceived as transphobic”, has been forced to deny blacklisting Roisin Murphy after she was mobbed by trans activists following comments on her private Facebook account criticising the practice of giving puberty blockers to children (Telegraph, Times).
In an attempt to reassure licence-fee payers that the public service broadcaster takes its duty to impartiality seriously, an insider has insisted that the corporation “does not ban artists”, and that the decision to axe a tribute to her had nothing to do with her ‘gender critical’ views.
The Irish singer has had several gigs cancelled, and all marketing and promotion of her long-awaited new album halted by her record company after saying that puberty blockers are “f***ed, absolutely desolate” and that they should not be used on “little mixed-up kids” who are “vulnerable” and “need to be protected”.
As the mob erected its latest stake and busied itself searching for kindling, Murphy felt she had little option but to apologise for “stepping out of line”, with comments that may have been “hurtful to many of you”.
As Kathleen Stock remarked on Times Radio, Roisin was merely stating the current policy of NHS England, which has pulled back on the use of puberty blockers for children with gender dysphoria over concerns about the physical and psychological side effects of the treatment, including depression and weaker bones.
Archive interviews and highlights from the singer’s live shows were set to air on BBC 6 Music on September 26th following the release of her new album, but these were suddenly replaced by a selection of appearances by the rapper Little Simz.
An insider at the public service broadcaster, which has previously been accused of giving its LGBT staff network “unwarranted influence” over content, insisted that the corporation “does not ban artists”.
Archive materials are “regularly on rotation”, explained the spokesperson for an organisation where editors recently attended training seminars hosted by the trans lobby group behind the disputed ‘Genderbread person’ graphic, before adding that scheduled items “frequently change to reflect station-wide initiatives as they get confirmed”.
A follow-up statement from the corporation, which critics argue has long since been captured by gender ideology, appeared to suggest that this was why Little Simz’s archive performances had suddenly been added to the station’s annual, long since confirmed poetry-themed Way With Words initiative, and that there was “no other reason” for cancelling Roisin Murphy.
If that’s the corporation’s story, then no doubt it’s wise to stick to it. But it doesn’t explain why 6 Music, as a radio station that previously featured Ms Murphy’s tracks on a regular basis, hasn’t found time to play anything from her back catalogue since September 1st, three days after her private Facebook comments were first leaked to the press (Mail).
On a happier note, Murphy’s album went straight into the British album charts at number two, suggesting attempts to cancel her have failed. If you feel like supporting the Irish singer, you can buy her album here.
We’re not interested in white, abled-bodied stories, literary agents tell aspiring authors
Literary agencies are choosing people of colour, disabled or LGBTQ+ writers while others are becoming “ostracised” due to their perceived “privilege”, according to the Telegraph.
An investigation by the paper has found examples of literary agencies making clear their preference for authors deemed under-represented or marginalised – normally meaning people of colour, disabled writers and those from the LGBTQ+ community – prompting concern that authors who do not meet the criteria are becoming “ostracised”.
Ash Literary, an agency looking “for extraordinary stories for children that reflect and celebrate the diversity of our world”, states on its submissions page: “We are not interested in stories about white able-bodied WW2 evacuees but would welcome that story from a disabled, LGBTQ+ or BIPOC [black, indigenous, and other people of colour] perspective.”
It adds: “If your book is about an identity that is not yours, we will not be a good fit. This includes books based [sic] the experiences of family members and friends.”
On Ms Wishlist, a website in which literary agents state the types of literature they’re after, one writes that “BIPOC, queer and minority groups are always the most welcome”, and another said that he is “specifically looking for [works] written by LGBTQIA + and/or BIPOC authors”.
Commenting on the Telegraph’s revelations, Toby Young said: “It seems the ideal client from the point of view of these literary agencies is a non-binary person of colour with a disability and a trust fund. Whether or not they can write seems largely immaterial.”
The stultifyingly pale, male and stale author of How to Lose Friends and Alienate People continued: “The problem is, the book-buying public knows when they pick up a book by an unknown author from an ‘under-represented group’ that, nine times out 10, it’s been published because of the identity boxes the author ticks and not because it’s any good. Consequently, they’re unlikely to buy it. I worry that if the woke capture of the UK publishing industry continues unabated, the UK won’t have a publishing industry left in about 10 years.”