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SHOCKING BLOCKING OF RECOVERY HOPE

June 18, 2022
SAFE BET: Seeking help.
NOT FIT: You have been warned.

THIS CAN BE HEARD AS AN AUDIO PODCAST ON MY ANCHOR PLATFORM.

IMAGINE you are a chronic addict desperately seeking the address and time of the nearest meeting of Gambling Addicts Anonymous to start recovery at a nearby venue by putting that term into a search engine at a Cardiff Library computer.

Overzealous internet regulators at Cardiff City Council – just like many councils and governments across the country – have built in trigger word safety blocks on their public and work computers (effectively a parental filter for children to “keep them safe” though few seem, to me, quite as authoritarian as Cardiff’s) which prevent users from gambling, buying or selling drugs and viewing pornography.

But these trigger word safety blocks also – paradoxically – either actively do or have the potential to prevent users from accessing help in the form of therapy, self-help and 12 Step groups for the addictions they may be facing. If they were suicidal, they would not be able to access details of helplines or talking therapies, either, if the word “suicide”, for instance, is one of their trigger words. There is no doubt in my mind that the commissioning and buying of new books which you can borrow at public libraries is being led by a woke agenda (shelves heaving under the weight of massive tomes on inclusivity, multiculturalism and diversity strategies written by black lesbians but very few on great British historical military victories written by pale male and stale academics).

This is one of the bizarre consequences (including not being able to access a review of the Spike Lee film BlacKKKlansman https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/BlacKkKlansman to help me decide whether or not to see it in a nearby cinema because KKK is a political trigger sequence of letters considered unfit for users of Cardiff Library by the powers at county hall who fear it may influence us to buy white capes and join the Bedwellty branch of the Ku Klux Klan) of an overzealous internet regulator babysitting you like an infant possibly not realising that by applying blanket blocks on all material relating to these trigger words they are also blocking access to possible therapeutic remedies to help you address and talk about an addiction, tendency to self harm or some other personal problem plaguing you.

The current UK government’s “world-first” (why do I always wince inwardly when I read those words?) Online Safety Bill sets out on a similar mission with a particularly prim and proper, virtuous, morally righteous and devout babysitter’s mien (“Don’t worry Mr and Mrs Humanity, the children will be safe with me and I’ll make sure they get to bed early ready for school in the morning”) to protect us mere mortals from “harm” and “hate”.

https://www.gov.uk/government/news/world-first-online-safety-laws-introduced-in-parliament

Suppose you did not have a computer and/or mobile phone of your own and could only access computers at Cardiff Library, as is the case for many of the city’s homeless people, then you would become conditioned to entirely accept trigger word blocks and over time come to see them as perfectly normal and the internet as a parentally controlled “safe space” as of routine because no alternative is available to you. Your use of words in what you write, too, will be radically different because you would know that certain trigger words may be blocked and could mean your blog, for instance, would be blocked. You would, in effect, be conditioned into an online world of censorship and blocking and grow to see it as normal and everyday.

Cardiff Council will consider your request, if you put it in writing officially via a tortuous intensely unresponsive bureaucratic route, to lift one or more of their blocks if you consider one or more unfair or you feel they have made a mistake and unfairly judged something unsuitable. Don’t forget, either, that internet sites which, for instance, contain the letters KKK in the title or feature these letters in one of the posts on, say, a blog like mine can also be blocked by Cardiff Council within this probably algorithmically AI generated programme inbuilt into their digital system and if you write something on, say, addiction to internet gambling sites in one of your posts and mention, say, a widely used and popular bookmaking site, then your blog could be blocked by the council on the grounds that it promotes gambling when you have, in fact, written critical comments about internet gambling but given access to or included the address of a specific gambling site (I noted once that this site was blocked on these grounds and in order to appeal I would have had to deny being an active promoter of bookmaking or gambling).

This entirely paradoxical, illogical, heavy-handed proactive censorship and draconian blocking of material, not at all reactive or interactive, is THE nightmare vision of the future and THE most worryingly frightening consequence of an “internet police” reporting to Ofcom with greater powers to censor and block under the Online Safety Bill.

Your only hope of challenging it is through an unwieldy administrative process led entirely by county hall digital gurus who, ultimately, decide what you can and cannot see, lifting the block only if and when you can make a convincing case for doing so and there is no saying how long that process may take.

This is rather like a police which routinely blocks you from doing things in the hope that being blocked will become routine and normalised so accepted by you as you become meeker and meeker (wasn’t that what happened during lockdown?). They ban you first then review it later if anyone objects, not the more natural and rational truly libertarian and mature alternative approach which, historically, liberal and evolved mature societies like ours confident in their trust in each other and in our responsible and mature autonomy and agency routinely and normally only ever blocked things only if people complained about them or made a case to block.

TV puritan Mary Whitehouse – who campaigned against “filth” on our screens in the seventies to turn all entertainment beamed into our living rooms into “family-friendly” church congregations or prayer meetings by enthusiastically blocking sex and swearing – is now discredited and mocked by this generation but, bizarrely, she would greatly approve of the Online Safety Bill because it appears to me to actively embrace some of her theories about how people need to be protected by parental blocks and censors to prevent “filth” and degenerate influences.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/stories-60556060

This is a disturbing and distressing shift towards fascism and it appears, to me, to be being led by radical feminist Foucauldian permissive trans, eco, BLM neo-Marxists who would have opposed Mary Whitehouse’s Biblical conservative family values which would certainly have branded trans activism, for instance, as offensive both to science and religion yet now are queuing up to take offence themselves at slight slights and tepid trespasses by naming innocuous language “hate speech”.

We enjoy apparently increasing freedom, autonomy and individual agency on devices which are our personal property and can set our own filters which our internet service providers specifically engaged commercially in the open market by us with a contract we sign agreeing to pay them regular payments for a defined period of time are legally mandated to keep private and between us and them though this, under the Online Safety Bill, in my estimation, will radically alter for reasons which I cannot see are fair.

There is no autonomy and freedom on public and employer computers for you to do so, however, because the employer and the council or the government own the devices and set the filters.

Welsh government closed all libraries during the COVID-19 pandemic but they are now open to the public with fewer actual computers and new rules limiting you to three hours at a terminal per day when previously it was 20 hours per week with no daily limit. At Cardiff Library, the one hour limit is applied unless you first arrange with a member of staff to set it for three hours and you have to save your work and log on again after each hour. Camden Council in London allows four hours per day and warns you after 45 minutes that your time will end in 15 minutes then offers you the opportunity of extending by another hour (conveniently saving you from having to save your work and log off) by simply clicking a box on the screen.

I pointed this out to James Gorwill, systems librarian at Cardiff Library on Thursday, and asked him if they could arrange for a similar system. He thanked me for what he called my “feedback” and I now wait to see.

Public bodies are now in the habit of calling all public contributions “feedback” as if we are part of one workforce all working together with identical aims (DEFINITELY NOT). This reached its ludicrous zenith when the National Library of Wales in Aberystwyth recently responded to an e-mail query to confirm my fear that access to many records and documents using a remote online account is considerably less comprehensive and generous than if you physically go there in person (not easy with road and rail links so poor). I was then issued with an e-mail written only in Welsh as if it were the dominant language when it most certainly is not asking me to rate from one to ten the response they had given me. It was a routine minor administrative task, for God’s sake, what is there to rate?

The reduction in the number of computer terminals (which has probably prompted the change in rules) was one measure imposed under health and safety emergency powers to maintain social distance and limit public gathering and proximity by Welsh government. It also enabled them to hold a bizarre election in 2019 while presenting to voters as their personal saviours and protectors under extraordinary circumstances which prevented some candidates from actually visiting people on doorsteps and others to mingle at political rallies or gatherings. This was positively and sinisterly undemocratic and has convinced me that my vote is merely an illusion of accountability and democracy in a country languishing in a permanent unchallenged, unconditional one party stasis.

This story taken from the rampantly Welsh nationalist and Welsh language weaponising so-called “newspaper” The Nation, a Gwynedd-based propaganda platform masquerading as a journalistic outlet by purporting to be “by the people of Wales for the people of Wales” (extreme hard-left Yes Cymru activist people for extreme hard-left Yes Cymru activist people many of whom – such as, famously, Bangor’s genderqueer former Mayor Owen Hurcum were not born in Wales but moved here and is quitting to move back to his native England https://www.itv.com/news/wales/2022-03-11/the-worlds-first-non-binary-mayor-owen-j-hurcum-is-stepping-down) bizarrely was the main option on a Google search. The Welsh Conservatives were trying to eliminate voter fraud by clamping down on who can actually vote but the prevailing Welsh Labour Plaid orthodoxy backed, it appears, by the Electoral Reform Society, is opposed to such moves mainly because it would deny them many votes and have the potential to end the stasis.

Welsh Government must stand up to ‘undemocratic’ mandatory voter ID plans, campaigners say

Crucially, many of these health and safety measures remain in force and, in my opinion, will remain as part of a strict, inhuman regime imposed under emergency powers – even though we are no longer in an emergency – but which, also, has enabled public services (where customer service and personal accountability in commercial settings are never prioritised) staffed by protected unionised public service employees such as library staff to work from home with public buildings closed or open for shorter hours and the services they offer severely curtailed.

My opinion is that public sector cutbacks have been partly explained, excused and justified by a health and safety emergency which was deliberately disproportionately magnified to excuse poorer public services with less buses running fewer routes, shorter office hours at libraries, town halls and civic centres and fewer staff available face-to-face to discuss queries.

This reached its climax during the height of the pandemic when Newport City Council had only one employee remotely answering all telephone calls meaning that the vast majority of calls were never answered. This, I believe, remains the case in too many NHS and public sector settings and, alarmingly, has impacted emergency calls and services.

If you want to block “adult content” on your own device you can but the council, the government and your employer, however, will block it for you automatically because they impose upon you their taste and judgement about what constitutes “harm” and “hate” based upon the prevailing political mantras, world-views and philosophies currently in vogue.

The sinister dangers of the Online Safety Bill are manifold and insidious but they all start with the assumption that an interest in the letters KKK in and of itself renders you obviously a racist bigot and attempts to establish malign motives for curiosity and open, engaged investigation and inquiry.

Our internet titans – platforms like You Tube and many others – are being encouraged by the government to do something similar working on the basis that you DO NOT give the public access to everything and anything then let them decide what is “harm” and “hate” for themselves but instead decide first and prevent access to things.

And the consequence of this heavy-handed pro-active blocking and censorship on some public computers in Wales by government-employed digital safety gurus includes self-help and recovery platforms with vital lifelines in the form of meetings which might offer recovery and rehabilitation routes out of deep despair being actively blocked.

The Free Speech Union, which I am a member of, is fighting to protect our rights as citizens against entirely paradoxical, illogical, heavy-handed proactive censorship and draconian blocking like this.

Two factors are uppermost:

1, Who and how will whoever decides differentiate between “regulated” mainstream journalism and what are called citizen journalists and bloggers (Lady Dorrian jailed Craig Murray for covering the Alex Salmond trial in Scotland because he was not regulated. Will the Online Safety Bill do the same?) .

2, Who and how will whoever decides differentiate between “harmful” content like, debatably, pornographic sites, and therapeutic ones which might feature explicit nudity but lead people to helplines and therapeutic resources?

TEENS GET PACK OF UNFILTERED BALONEY

June 9, 2022

IN MOST rampantly liberally permissive settings where free speech is enjoyed by consenting adults in privacy safe from the prying electronic eyes and ears of the thought police, a smoking zone usually helps to promote relaxation, ease, social lubrication and close proximity.

https://www.theguardian.com/society/2022/jun/09/smoking-age-england-should-rise-year-each-year-government-review-says

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anti-tobacco_movement_in_Nazi_Germany

https://tobaccocontrol.bmj.com/content/9/1/95

My school’s smoker’s corner, where we used to drag on stumps discarded by others in conspiratorial, colegiate, convivial closeness behind the gym, was always the safest safe haven for troubled and emotionally scarred souls as a relief from the pressure and tension of the classroom. Without it, many would have suffered terribly from loneliness, mental health issues, stress and anxiety, anger and rage. This is the case in many settings and among all age groups, as doctors, some of whom used to advise some patients to buy a pipe and enjoy the odd pull on some Golden Virginia to chill, know.

The thrill and dangerous enjoyment was very, very considerably heightened when we knew that it was not legal, as it was with alcohol. Going into a pub for a pint and a fag after I turned 18 felt a terrible anti-climax because nobody could punish me.

This is something that the humourless haggard health tzar Chris Whitty, who told us not to exercise during COVID-19 (not exactly a walking talking example of the joys of a smoke-free life) and all the other self-appointed headmasters wielding draconian legal canes with the threat – yet again – of more criminalisation with informers and policing legitimised, will never understand.

Some of our children are being given the vote at 16 by politicians to give the cruel and cynical illusion of engagement and empowerment yet they will not be able to light up like their parents might have done until they’re, oh…about 40 and even then only in the shed with the door double locked from the inside. They should be so angry there should be smoke coming out of their ears.

Politicians are not our parents wagging their fingers warning us against evils and neither are they clerics offering to take our confessions. Stay out of our business and we might stay out of yours, is my message.

What is most noticeable – always – is the massive distance between the legislation made by health fascists and zealots in a bid to make us live longer, whether we want to or not, and the reality on the ground. I see e-scooters whizzing around at frightening speeds illegally every day with no hope of police action and others openly dealing drugs on grimy street corners.

The simple truth is that these virtue signals are pointless tick-box activities which will actively incentivise some to have a go and there is inadequate policing in shops and on the streets to curb and control too many crimes as it is without having to judge if someone is old enough to smoke.

FREE SPEECH UNION NEWS

June 9, 2022

We’ve been engaged in a protracted legal dispute with the University of Essex over its apparent reluctance to update its policies to avoid a repetition of the no-platforming of two feminist law professors. Thankfully, this has now been resolved with the University agreeing to do what it ought to have done some time ago.

Two-and-a-half years ago, Professor Jo Phoenix and Professor Rosa Freedman, both gender critical feminists, were disinvited from two separate events at the University following protests from LGBTQ+ activists who claimed that allowing them to speak would be a breach of various University policies, including one entitled ‘Harassment and Bullying: Our Zero Tolerance Approach’. Among other things, these policies set out the University’s legal duty to protect minority students from being harassed or discriminated against under the Equality Act 2010. The protestors claimed that merely allowing these two gender critical feminists on campus, even if they spoke about something entirely unrelated to trans rights, would be against the law.

This double no-platforming provoked widespread condemnation and the University commissioned the equalities barrister Akua Reindorf to review its policies. She concluded that the University was in breach of its statutory duty to ensure freedom of speech for visiting speakers, as well as its regulatory obligations, duties under charity law and – in all probability – its legal duties as set out in the Equality Act 2010. Reindorf pointedly said that the University’s policies that had been invoked to no-platform Professors Phoenix and Freedman interpreted the law “as Stonewall would prefer it to be, rather than the law as it is”. It goes without saying that Essex is a member of Stonewall’s Diversity Champions programme. (You can read a summary of Reindorf’s report here.)

The report made 28 recommendations, some of them concerning Essex’s policies which, according to Reindorf, were based on a misunderstanding of the Equality Act arising from Stonewall’s flawed legal advice. The University duly apologised to Professors Phoenix and Freedman and agreed to implement Reindorf’s recommendations – but when the LGBTQ+ activists complained that the apology made them feel ‘unsafe’, the University then issued a second apology apologising for the first, which didn’t bode well. Sure enough, it then dragged its feet over making the changes it had promised to make.

We wrote to Essex last November threatening it with a Judicial Review if it didn’t amend its policies to ensure they accurately stated the law and weren’t in breach of the University’s free speech duties. Essex wrote back, agreeing to do some of the things we’d asked, although it claimed it was intending to do them anyway, but disputing that it was legally required to comply with all our demands. We then wrote again, extracting a few more concessions… and on and on it went until, eventually, the University agreed to do more or less everything we’d asked.

Having secured this important victory, we’ve now embarked on a piece of research to determine how many other British universities are making the same mistakes as Essex – particularly those that are members of the Stonewall Diversity Champions programme. We’ve already discovered several malefactors and we intend to write to them pointing out that Essex agreed to correct these mistakes after they’d been alerted to them by Akia Reindorf and given a not-so-gentle push by us. Hopefully, they’ll also fall into line.

Bryn Harris, our Chief Legal Counsel and the mastermind behind this campaign, had the following to say:

The Free Speech Union is delighted that the University of Essex amended its policies in response to legal correspondence from us. We hope other universities will adopt this sensible approach. The Equality Act does not apply in every situation, and where it does apply it doesn’t provide carte blanche for activists to no-platform those whose views they disagree with.

This isn’t an abstract issue. Misunderstanding of the Equality Act and free speech obligations led to unfair treatment of Rosa Freedman and Jo Phoenix. This matters.

Universities need to start getting this right, or they face the likelihood of challenge by the likes of us and, in the future, regulatory intervention and even liability in damages once the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill becomes law.

The Free Speech Union plans to exert continuous pressure on universities that impose unlawful restrictions on the speech of their students, staff and visiting speakers.

An update on the case of FSU member Simon Isherwood

The case of one of our members, Simon Isherwood, was back in the news last month. Among others, the Telegraph, the MailGB NewsReclaim the Net and Zero Hedge reported on the Employment Tribunal hearing of the railway conductor who is suing his former employer after he was sacked when he was caught questioning “black privilege” during video-conference diversity training on “white privilege”. The session in question was attended by around 80 staff members from East Midlands Railway, West Midlands Railway and Mr Isherwood’s former company London Northwestern Railway, which is owned by West Midland Trains. At the end of the session, while staff were thanking the host, Simon accidentally left his microphone on and was overheard telling his wife: “I couldn’t be arsed because I thought, ‘You know what, I’ll just get fucking angry.’ You know what I really wanted to ask?… and I wish I had, ‘Do they have black privilege in other countries?’ So, if you’re in Ghana?…”

After an internal disciplinary probe, West Midlands Trains sacked Mr Isherwood, claiming the comments “caused offence, brought the company into disrepute and breached our equality, diversity and inclusion policy and the code of conduct”.

Speaking to the Telegraph, however, Simon pointed out that he made these comments in his home when he had a reasonable expectation of privacy. “It was a private conversation, I had no idea anyone was listening to me,” he said.

Unsurprisingly, the effect of the sacking has been devastating for Simon. “I’ve lost my job, my income, my reputation, my health is absolutely shot to pieces,” he said. “I’d worked there for 11 and a half years and never had anything but promotion, praise and awards and even now I can’t believe it.”

Simon’s hearing was on 5th and 6th May before Judge Wyeth in the Watford Employment Tribunal. As expected, Simon was an honest and compelling witness, and stood up to cross-examination with aplomb. We drafted in leading civil liberties barrister Paul Diamond to represent him. Paul has fought landmark cases in the Supreme Court and the European Court of Human Rights, and, as you might expect from someone of that caliber, was unrelenting in picking apart the holes in the other side’s evidence. He also successfully convinced the judge that the freedom of speech issues in this particular case require close attention. Indeed, it’s for that reason that the judge reserved judgment, rather than giving it extempore. The timescale is uncertain, but we hope Simon will receive the judgment this month. If Simon wins his case, the remedy hearing, where the size of his award will be decided, is scheduled for 19th September.

The FSU’s packed summer schedule

Now that we really are ‘back to normal’, the FSU has great pleasure in unveiling our packed programme of summer events. We have two Online Speakeasies coming up: How Woke Won with Dr Joanna Williams on Wednesday 15th June and Trans – When Ideology Hits Reality with Helen Joyce on Tuesday 12th July. If you are a member, look out for emails inviting you to register so that you can receive the Zoom links.

In addition, we’re launching a series of Regional Speakeasies. Some of you may have already come along to our in-person meet-ups in pubs and bars, where members can socialise while exploring free speech issues. During late June and July, Regional Speakeasies will be happening in Birmingham, Brighton, Cambridge, Cardiff, Edinburgh, Manchester and Oxford. Dates and details will be emailed to all members next week, with links to register on Eventbrite. Members are welcome to bring guests, particularly those likely to join the FSU!

London members, many of whom came to our packed meet-up in March, are encouraged to get tickets to our Summer Special Comedy Night on Wednesday 29 June, where there will be plenty of opportunities to meet other members and the FSU’s staff. This extravaganza of comedy and music is being held in association with Comedy Unleashed – the home of free-thinking comedy. The MC for the night will be FSU favourite Dominic Frisby – who you can watch talking about the event here – and Dominic will also be performing a special set of comedy hits with his band the Gilets Jaunes. Also on the bill is comedy crooner and ubermeister of lounge, Frank Sanazi, described in Chortle as “the extravagantly offensive love-child of Adolf Hitler and Frank Sinatra”. Frank will be accompanied by his legendary friends Dean Stalin, Spliff Richard and Tom Mones. As this event is also a fund-raiser it is open to the public – you can get your tickets here.

You can see all our upcoming events on our new Events page and get tickets to some events, such as the London comedy night. If you’re not yet a member, take a look and find out what you are missing or if are a member it’s a good way of persuading a friend to join.

Academic removed from academic event for “disruptive” questions

Dr Jon Pike is a member of the FSU. He’s also a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University. His specialism is the philosophy and ethics of sport, and he’s also a global expert in issues surrounding transgender inclusion in women’s sport. On 16th May Dr Pike attended an online event at Loughborough University entitled ‘IAS Festival of Ideas: Transitions – Festival and Book Launch Gender Diversity and Sport: Interdisciplinary perspectives on increasing inclusivity’. This topic was well within the parameters of his research and expertise, but he was removed from the event for asking questions about the fairness of allowing biological men to compete against female athletes. Dr Pike later received a terse email from Loughborough University’s Institute of Advanced Studies informing him that his removal had been necessary “due to the disruptive nature of [his] questioning”. The Free Speech Union has written to Loughborough University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Nick Jennings, to express its concern. We think this to be a failure of the University to discharge its duty to uphold free speech on campus, and an act of discrimination against Dr Pike on the grounds of his gender critical beliefs. The full text of the FSU’s letter is available here. We are currently awaiting the University’s response.

Douglas Murray Speakeasy best attended yet

Last month’s Speakeasy with FSU Director and best-selling author Douglas Murray was attended by over 500 members, making it the most popular one we’ve held so far. After a short interview with me, Douglas answered questions from our members about his new book The War on the West. You can watch the whole thing on our YouTube channel here. And don’t forget to subscribe – once we’ve reached a certain number of subscribers we can start selling ads on the channel.

NCHIs – a request for members in Greater London to get in touch

As many of you will know, in December of last year, the former police officer Harry Miller won a landmark legal battle against the recording of NCHIs, and the College of Policing guidelines were ruled unlawful. The Free Speech Union was proud to back Harry in that case. Had he lost and had to pay the other side’s costs, we’d pledged to help with that bill. There is, however, plenty of work for the FSU to do. That’s because police forces in England and Wales aren’t required to notify someone if an NCHI is recorded against their name – and for all we know, the police are continuing to log ‘non crimes’ in the same way. Given that an estimated 250,000 NCHIs have been recorded since 2014, it’s likely that hundreds of thousands of people still unwittingly carry one around on their records.

At the moment we’re really keen for members to come forward if they’ve been given an NCHI from the Metropolitan Police, or if they think they might have been. The Met’s jurisdiction, by the way, covers the 32 boroughs within Greater London, excluding the City of London. You can find a map here.

So please do ask around friends, colleagues and family members. You can reach our case team on help@freespeechunion.org, or drop us an initial direct message via our Twitter page (@SpeechUnion), our Facebook page (@SpeechUnion), our LinkedIn page (Free Speech Union) or our Instagram page (@FreeSpeechUnion). Of course, if you think you might have received an NCHI from a force other than the Met, then do also get in touch via the same channels. The FSU’s FAQs on how to find out if you have an NCHI recorded against your name is here.

Forcing children to use the preferred gender pronouns of their classmates is against the law

In the US, the Foundation Against Intolerance & Racism (FAIR) has written to the principal of a Middle School in Wisconsin in response to an ‘incident report’ submitted through their transparency website (which you can access here). The details are scarcely believable:

A Wisconsin school district has filed sexual harassment complaints against three middle schoolers for calling a trans classmate by the wrong gender pronoun. The school district in Kiel has charged the three eight-graders at the Kiel Middle School with sexual harassment after an incident in April in which the students refused to use “they” to refer to a classmate who had switched pronouns a month before the alleged incident.

As FAIR concede, “it may be polite for students to use the preferred pronouns of their classmates”, but in the US, “punishing them if they do not” is to “disregard their First Amendment rights”.

Just as forcing American schoolchildren to use the preferred gender pronouns of their trans classmates would be a breach of their First Amendment rights, so forcing British schoolchildren to do likewise would be unlawful under Article 10 of the European Convention on Human Rights – or so we believe. If any of our members have children (or grandchildren) who are being forced to do this – not asked to do it because it’s polite, but threatened with a punishment if they don’t – please get in touch. We would be happy to write to the school in question pointing out that insisting on this is probably unlawful.

General fighting fund

This month we’ve helped people from all walks of life, with cases ranging from people being kicked off social media for questioning trans ideology, to members losing their jobs and livelihoods for comments made outside of work. People contact us every week who never imagined they’d need our support. Help us to help them: if you can, please donate to our general fighting fund.

DO. WE. NEED. POLICE. AND. PRISONS?

June 5, 2022

THE TWO seemingly young white female police officers seated in a car parked in front of Cardiff Library had to wind down the blackened window of the intimidating squat marked armed response vehicle when I stood alongside the front door hoping to engage with the occupants.

Why, I wondered, is a car with guns the officers could deploy parked menacingly in the middle of a pedestrian plaza in the centre of a Welsh city in broad daylight on a pleasantly warm and sunny Thursday morning when I and everyone else appeared to be ambling along peacefully minding our own business, there was absolutely no scent of a disturbance and nobody had been seen rampaging the streets armed with guns and spraying bullets for the past, oh…… hundred years?

Why were they not patrolling the streets on foot as eyes and ears on the ground and would they come out of their vehicle to assist me, I also wondered, if I was to report to them desperately that I had been mugged by thieves who had made off with my wallet, especially if I was able to point the offenders out as they ran off?

There’s nothing like passing the time of day with a pleasant chat in the open air with one of our boys, girls, non-gendered or non-binaries in blue as they go about their business building up intelligence with the crucial help and support of the public, who give them consent to police and, of course, help to pay their wages.

But this was nothing like a pleasant chat in the open air (the driver called me “mate” after electronically winding down the screen. Never a good start.) and I seriously doubt if they would have assisted me to catch any muggers making off with my wallet. Engagement with the public appears, to me, to be nowhere on their list of priorities currently unless it is at gay Pride or at Mardi Gras in a procession led by Jeff Cuthbert and Adam Price decked out in pink sombreros, silver sashes and carrying truncheon-like black plastic sex toys.

Quite the opposite, in fact, the disturbing scenes of French police pepper spraying Liverpool fans aggressively outside the Stade de France at the Champions League final is becoming more and more common as an appropriate vision of modern policing.

Later efforts to access CCTV footage to help track the thieves down might also come up against barriers and I might find that they were switched off or that bizarre rules and regulations prevented public bodies from releasing them to me.

General Data Protection rules might later be wielded against me in a routine shutdown of transparency and openness to ensure that none of my questions are answered. GDPR is too often an evil curse mistakenly brandished by those who want to destroy and deny access to data – often for sinister political motives – we should be able to access as a matter of course and now increasingly it threatens to ban us from even asking for that information.

Officers I might engage with about the mugging back at the station in one of those fiercely frightening oppressive small rectangular rooms may adopt that ever-so-familiar passive aggressive defensive tone suspecting me of being a racist, sexist, white supremacist bigot and, perversely, warning me not to physically challenge the perpetrators of the crime myself at any time if I spotted them on the street, perhaps using my credit cards to splash out on luxuries I cannot afford, because of the potential physical danger to me. They will give me a crime number and I will get a text message from Victim Support but will never hear again from the police because huge numbers of crimes are now not being investigated and our police officers are too rarely Dixon of Dock Green-style approachable and amenable friendly allies.

So, if an increasingly politicised and paramilitarised increasingly armed police answerable more to political commissioners with an organisational agenda to control disproportionately magnified heightened fears of terrorism and civil disorder and actively punishing us for associating freely and travelling during a pandemic far more than they are answerable to us mere mortals, who might more reasonably fear silly little things like being mugged at knifepoint or having our house burgled while we sleep peacefully at dead of night, is not engaging with us and not really helping us, do we really need them any more?

We definitely don’t need them and we don’t need the carceral state they legitimise and feed – one which expands the fast-growing state-sanctioned and subsidised surveillance, penalise and punish sector with inevitable bigger and bigger prison populations worsened considerably by education classes in crime and terrorism in captive feral networks, goes the central message in Abolition. Feminism. Now. (their full stops, not mine, I’ll explain later) written by Angela Y. Davis, Gina Dent, Erica R. Meiners and Beth E. Richie (Hamish Hamilton, 2022).

In order to change the world, we must first change the oppressively imperialistic and colonialist language and the way we use it, Michel Foucault and the French philosophers who challenged conservative values perhaps best in the 1960s recommended in texts on white supremacist colonialist oppression that most modern radical feminist approaches are firmly built on and which our entire education system appears, now, to be firmly founded in, whether we like it or not.

Hence the full stops after every word in this book and a “both/and” world-view to replace a limiting “either/or” according to a radical feminist “women of colour” (white, of course, is not a colour in their limited lexicon) approach which appears to rely on the instances of rogue police officers like the killer of Sarah Everard on Clapham Common to depict all as male rapists and the George Floyd murder in America as an instance of racist aggression by a white policeman (which I don’t think it was) to deliberately ramp up the potential danger to us posed by mainly white male police officers.

“Could we discretely mark what was ‘feminist’ about ‘abolition’ or ‘abolitionist’ about ‘feminism’? How does abolitionist feminism take up the political questions that are germane but often obscured in the rendering of both concepts, considering racial capitalism, heteropatriarchy, internationalism, and transphobia as examples? Because these and other questions continue to play generative roles without demanding reductionist responses, we punctuate each word in the title with a full stop to signify that each of these concepts, with their own singular histories, frames this project,” they write.

Prisons, too, serve no practical purpose other than to consolidate and build upon already acquired criminal tendencies and anti-social mindsets with an experienced older group naturally educating and leading younger new-entrants in captivity into ever more sophisticated future criminal and anti-social behaviour.

This band of four academic American sisters (though they would assuredly criticise me for making insulting assumptions about them on gender) believe that mass incarceration is driven by racism and are ideologically knitted to a worldwide INCITE! movement led mainly by “women of colour” rather than (as I would call them) “black women” dedicated to abolishing police and prisons and replacing it with a brave new world free of gender and sexual violence by replacing our punitive justice system with a completely and radically different social justice system relying on better educated, better invested citizens with a better stake in the neighbourhoods they inhabit taking restorative or community-centred responsible action and re-defining crime and criminal behaviour with the decriminalisation of a wide array of offences to rid us of more and more crime and the necessity to call people criminals.

In essence, people police their own streets and enforce their own justice without weapons and threats of jails in a utopian dream future where “mothering” and “sistering” – building on our most precious fertile female life-giving and life-nourishing capacities and powers to naturally protect and preserve – is set against and opposed to “fathering” and “brothering” – smashing our most naturally dysfunctionally aggressive and destructive sexually predatory and lust for conquest male behaviour and approaches once and for all.

Crucially for me, as a white middle-aged male with a history of stereotypically predatory behaviour which I saw as normal and which was naturally reinforced by my peers, there is little to no positive life-affirming depictions of or opinions of white male contributions, values and qualities in this utopian dream future where artificial insemination introduces the concept of routine and normal fatherlessness, destroying the nuclear family and leaving men – the possessors of the dreaded genitalia now considered so threatening to peace and harmony – redundant and powerless pathetic people without roles or responsibilities reporting to “women of colour” leading to many of them taking their own lives in huge numbers, particularly young white males, easily, now, the most naturally disadvantaged with so many lagging behind in schools.

Indeed, heteropatriarchy (a ruling fatherhood of masculine mainly white men with penises capable of emitting life-giving sperm) and transphobia (the refusal to reject the biological and biblical fundamental certainty that gender is assigned at birth with a penis or a vagina and can only be altered cosmetically but not biologically) is THE real reason for sexual and gender violence, contributing massively to overcrowding in our prisons, assert the four sisters, all professors of subjects ranging from History of Consciousness and feminist studies to Criminology, law and justice and black studies, sociology, gender and women’s studies at the Universities of California, Northeastern Illinois and the University of Illinois.

I assume, for instance, that had my wallet actually been stolen at knifepoint in Cardiff city centre then these sisters would have recommended a justice system by perhaps comparing my wealth to that of the person or persons who deprived me of some of it and may have concluded that in that very act, they may have exacted some form of social justice by redistributing wealth more equitably along neo-Marxist lines. I may then be challenged by them to play an active part in the rehabilitation of the mugger(s) by helping to educate and “empower” them, possibly even taking them in to my property if they are homeless and arranging for them to visit food banks and arranging health care.

This, rightly, introduces the concept that crime is a collective not an individual responsibility and concentrates not on individual rights, freedoms and liberties but collective responsibility for each other, spiritual and faith-based forgiveness and altruism and a service-based “giving” rather than a “taking” disposition which HM The Queen is presently trying to promote for better interconnectedness and community cohesion.

I must report to the sisters of colour that community cohesion and mutual trust took a downward dive during COVID-19 – which for the first time legitimised the view that it may be more appropriate to fear than to love your neighbour as they may be contagious carriers of a killer virus – and has never recovered with suspicion and remoteness now normalised and even sanctioned (I see this every day in the way people now constantly avoid and evade engaging with each other in surgeries, shops and streets).

And where it goes wrong, hopelessly and harmfully, is if the mugger(s) introduced into my home by me then turn it into a cannabis factory for personal use and deal drugs for money from it against my wishes, stock some of my rooms with knives and guns and try to radicalise me into doing the same because a heteropatriarchal and transphobic state is against me and the only way to deal with it is to remove the justice system, police and prisons. That is when I need an enforcing state either inside or outside an ARV parked outside Cardiff library. That is when I need force and legal legitimacy to evict from my home people who do not have my best interests at heart and pose a danger to me.

“Abolition demands that we answer to communities that want meaningful, affirming, and accessible services, including health care and housing, but not when these are annexed to punishment,” they write.

Much too often in our Welsh NHS community mental health teams decisions about the prioritising of rationed care and treatment (which, of course, could include incarceration in a mental hospital) to citizens is inextricably linked to their history of or their likelihood of engaging in violence, ant-social behaviour and crime. Personal assessments carried out with service users by health professionals are naturally biased to advantage most those who are perceived as the most threatening and damaging to others and to civil peace and order, meaning that those whose needs are complex and demanding but who have little or no history of or likelihood of violence, antisocial behaviour and crime are always disadvantaged and neglected.

The way to get good therapy is to either get very rich so you can afford to pay for it privately or commit crime so the state is then obligated to provide it for you.

“The disability rights movement has had to challenge the stigma of pathologization and likewise demonstrate that disability rights are essential to human rights, and thus occupy a central place on social justice agendas,” they write.

“In 2019, a Los Angeles coalition of organisations including Dignity and Power Now and Critical Resistance defeated, for now, the proposed four-thousand-bed jail-like ‘treatment centre’ that clearly was not, as advertised, a ‘care-first’ facility. L.A. had proposed this new ‘mental health facility’ as a replacement for the crumbling Men’s Central Jail and awarded a $2.2 billion contract to a for-profit corporation with a track record of building jails.”

The radical feminist sisters of colour are just self-aware enough to realise that their mission is a desperately difficult one to sell to a centuries old worldwide sceptical establishment naturally in fear of crime and disorder, mainly perpetrated by “people of colour”.

“A political misalignment that had been simmering just below the surface was, once again, on display. Carceral policy makers, law enforcement organizations, conservative funders, mainstream service providers, and many academic researchers were, for the most part, unwilling to acknowledge that programs targeting gender violence should be concerned with advancing racial justice and were reluctant to consider that survivors of gender violence might be harmed , rather than helped, by police.”

They go on to instance negative press coverage in the USA which criticised abolitionist demands and claimed that “survivors do not support defunding the police”.

“The report’s broad claims about the role of policing in creating safety for those who experience gender violence blatantly ignores what many women and nonbinary people of colour have been asserting for years: because systemic racism drives the criminal legal system, it is not only not protective for those survivors who are not part of the mainstream, it also endangers them.”

There is a cruelly contorted artificial feel to the weaponised language in this book (reading it feels like being slapped mildly about the face by a group of women) and, crucially, the way it is brandished unilaterally like a hammer over your head without regard to or for others (frequently offending against grammatical rules designed for perfectly valid reasons) which hints at a paramilitaristic, menacingly, maniacally militant radical feminist, racial justice freedom force which could, in time, prove to be even worse than our police.

But the direction of travel, most assuredly, is very firmly in the sisters’ direction, from the British Library, which hectors and harangues us for our colonialist, imperialist past so that you leave the building feeling deflated and depressed about historical victories and flourishes which should engender pride after they re-engineer and re-position literature to reflect the disapproval and disgust of people like these four academics rather than to accurately convey the meaning of the original writer to less imposing places like clubs and pubs, where everyday speech is now much, much more unnaturally self-censored, self-policed and self-aware almost apologetically and in automatic avoidance of conflict and confrontation (horror of horrors!), now positioned as mere meek meagre “micro-aggressions”, superficial slights and tepid trespasses suddenly depicted for political motives as offensive hate.

Not far away from Cardiff library proudly standing guard outside the swish new Blatantly Biased Corporation headquarters is a statue of Betty Campbell, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Betty_Campbell a black teacher from what used to be called Tiger Bay currently being hailed for just doing her job but in a neighbourhood which attracted disadvantaged “people of colour” like her directly emigrating from Africa for a new life or the descendants of others, many of whom suffered massively from routine institutionalised racism by South Wales Police, led, inevitably, in the disgraceful and deeply distressing investigation into the murder of prostitute Lynette White – when five black men were wrongly jailed on fabricated and furiously fictional evidence – by rogue white men in a miscarriage of justice which the city has and possibly never will recover from.

https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-wales-58490038

The details of the investigation – the men were not in the wrong place at the wrong time but were actively put there by police who conscripted “witnesses” who agreed to say so in front of a jury – make for grim and deeply disturbing reading and still serve as the best possible evidence that life without police and prisons might be better and fairer.

Money spent on paying bent cops and keeping them in rich retirement would be better spent on “free and subsidised services like safe permanent housing, education, accessible health and mental health care, high-quality childcare and job training and employment placement in addition to collective and environmental assets such as neighbourhood services that promote health and well-being, safe parks, healthy food options cultural and arts activism and mutual projects.

“We must be reminded right now of how rape, battering, stalking, criminalized sex work, targeted violence towards trans people, removal of children from their families is ruining lives. Rather than offering the now as the end point – as in “at last” – we offer it as a critical and joyful starting point.

“We are particularly energized by the proliferation of an expanding virtual world as we wrote this book – Zoom calls with people in prison, virtual convenings and webinars, Snapchat threads, FaceTime calls in cars and along public transit, this surge of connectivity continues to create and strengthen rebellious inter and intra-movement abolition feminist modalities.

“Networks are rapidly producing tools and workshops in response to the FAQs abolitionists frequently engage. Revolution is not a one-time event, as Audre Lorde reminds, and these networks are making the world we need, now.”

The problem lies in establishing just how covertly ingrained and embedded this political philosophy is now in Welsh politics because mainstream political parties like Labour and Plaid Cymru – in an Overton Window moving ever farther to the left and, crucially, with the collapse of Abolish the Welsh Assembly and UKIP and a crippled Conservative Party, with no apparent future alternative – are still unlikely to align themselves overtly with radical feminist people of colour who want to abolish police and prisons because it never wins votes.

But for how much longer?

GETTING LOST IN TRANSLATION

May 27, 2022

TWO dysfunctional unions went to war with each other after the Brexit vote in 2016 when the European Union busily conscripted republicans in Ireland and Scotland in a bid to break up the United Kingdom as a negotiating tactic.

Their field marshal Michel Barnier built on his fellow French hero General Charles de Gaulle’s love of Ireland and apparent affinity with people in its republican southern rump to punish English, Welsh, Scottish and northern Irish unionists by dividing UK negotiators bidding for a fair and thorough agreement on the UK’s exit from the Brussels-based Eurocracy.

Again and again, Barnier tells us in a humourless and self-satisfied tone in his book My Secret Brexit Diary, Polity Press, translated from French, that he did not set out to punish and penalise us for voting OUT when we finally had the chance then again and again he contradicts himself in the agonised, seemingly endless furiously fraught four years’ of talks to 2020 by maintaining a typically French intense and crippling ideological rigidity, unhelpful indignant and disapproving deeply judgemental mien and tone with an undisguised bias against anyone who did not proudly fly the EU’s pathetic pseudo flag and its concocted collaboration and consensus deliberately designed to trap everyone in a bizarre self-certifying artificial bubble with little to no real appreciation of what life was really like for ordinary mainland European citizens.

Citizens like the two teenaged girls from Murcia, Spain, who told me recently how low their minimum wage is compared to other countries’ and how high the level of financial corruption is among their politicians and royals, forcing them like many others to relocate here.

Barnier bought a walking stick for Tory David Davis in a carefully rehearsed and formulaic charm offensive by giving a present at the outset as the two locked horns before Davis resigned as Theresa May steered repeatedly straight into walls in a suicidal ride but he doesn’t tell us if he paid for it or if it came out of the EU’s budget. Similarly, exactly where the proceeds of sales of his book are going is not explained, either. This is a clear indication that he was shielded from harsh economic realities, as were all his “sherpas” who do not pay national income tax as part of their contracts with the EU and live a life of luxury jetting from one European city to another to maintain the myth of a united front.

Davis was an elected representative who could and did resign from his post and faced an electorate who could kick him out but Barnier, like the Eurocrats around him, was in a job for life totally unelected and free of accountability.

Wales had four members who were elected by an infinitesimal sliver of the total population in elections hardly anyone bothered to vote in, trousering massive pay and perks on the Brussels gravy train but on the one occasion when I needed them (a Spanish hospital sent me a bill even though I had told them I had a valid European health card) they were ineffective. What, I wondered, was the point of them and, indeed, of it.

https://www.walesonline.co.uk/news/politics/european-elections-2019-candidates-wales-16160826

The concept of universal rights to free health care for all EU citizens was one of the benefits of membership but in countries where private arrangements predominate or there is a two-tier system, a toothless EU was still trumped by hospital accountants and powerless to act.

Not enough was ever done by Barnier et al to convince us of the merits of membership and even now I vividly remember most their memorable stiffness and painful inability to innovate creatively, properly engage and sell their vision of happy, profitable harmony in a mutually beneficial trade and customs market which could have worked for most but appeared to be only for a select few, endlessly emphasising barriers, regulated borders and strict quotas as, again, an apparent direct contradiction of openness and freedom which was supposed to be behind the experiment.

This “functioning” alliance was deliberately set against his completely certain idea of the UK as a dysfunctional outlier whose colonialist past allied to natural suspicion of Johnny Foreigner he clearly detested and whose stubborn resistance to single currencies, single markets and, indeed, anything single sourced in Brussels, he clearly never fully was able to accept as being a valid or properly mature response for the British to hold or, indeed, any other sceptical citizens languishing under strict controls and high fees in other European countries to fund an ever expanding self congratulatory and self-certifying political experiment like the Welsh government.

Barnier – tall, dry and angular like de Gaulle, who, of course crushed our bid to join in 1967 because of ideological differences with France and Germany – was a strange choice by EU president Jean-Claude Junker to head a team of Brussels’s best brains in the Brexit negotiations in 2017 because he clearly had a very poor grasp of Britishness and the British.

The truth, of course, was that Barnier was a convenient front for the true decision makers German leader Angela Merkel and French leader Emmanuel Macron – who both refused to take calls from Boris Johnson in the crucial final stages of talks, instead using Barnier as a stick with which to beat the British – and a useful political symbol of mainland European loyalty, solidarity and interdependence, which he reinforced by visiting leaders of member states for responsibly sourced, sustainable and health standard certified organic wine and canape parties at glittering palaces and government edifices far from the madding crowds.

His favourite was the Irish republic’s Leo Varadkar and he noted that wee Nicola Sturgeon was the first to arrive in his office offering help and support in 2017 “a likeable woman who knows what she wants” closely followed by Carwyn Jones of Wales (remember him? no, I don’t either) “the jovial and very direct Labour leader” and Theresa May and Olly Robbins earned his respect for tenacity and stubborness in the abysmal first set of negotiations when he hoped he could pull the wool over our eyes and have us sign away our future prosperity meekly.

War criminal Tony Blair – who writes a promotional puff calling Barnier “one of the most experienced  and intelligent leaders in the world” on the back cover – is also lauded.

Other figures like Davis, David Frost, Dominic Raab (who seemed to incense him the most) Boris Johnson and, obviously anybody in the UKIP party, with the highest number of members, he reserved a particularly frosty reception for, offering them instead publicly grudging respect and privately insulting criticisms and supercilious headmasterly disapproval.

His apparent lack of self-awareness, irony, humour, self-doubt and psychological self-exploration or questioning  – not surprising in most gangsters without guns high-profile politicians – is evident on most pages of this book and after the irritation wears off becomes quite comical.

Deliriously and deliciously unaware of his own pomposity and remoteness safely surrounded by a constantly unconditionally supportive and combative highly capable and skilled multi-national team of English speaking (it was the fact that they were speaking English all the time that irked me most) aides and officials busying themselves at all hours drafting and re-drafting laws and rules in luxury hotels in London, Barnier frequently makes comments rich in comic appeal to evidence his bunker mentality.

“This negotiation certainly calls for flexibility and adaptation. The British are incapable of planning things in advance,” he writes (if only he could  have listened  to himself).

On the pompous prig John Bercow, disgraced former speaker of the House of Commons, “British parliamentary debate will certainly be all the poorer for the loss of his voice, colourful ties and, above all, his great  competence in the role”.  

A second negotiation begins in 2020 with an emboldened Boris boosted by a massive  majority.

In deeds, nothing really cooks until Boris links with German politician Ursula von der Layen, with more natural affinity to and familiarity with London and a more practical, upbeat approach, in the final weeks, days and minutes to December 24, 2020, when the UK prised open previously locked doors to win new last minute concessions.”The British want us to believe they are not afraid of a no deal. On one point we all agreee: they have opted against working towards a rational and constructive agreement.”

Tensions were ramped up and tempers flared with a sea border on the island of Ireland again raising temperatures beyond boiling point. Barnier writes  on September 8, 2020: “The truth is that by acting in this way, the British government is doing nothing less than political filibustering. The threat is a betrayal of their word. It seems they will stop at nothing. Perhaps most seriously for me, I do not feel that the team currently in 10 Downing Street is equal to the challenges of Brexit and what is at stake in it, nor to the responsibility they bear for having brought Brexit upon themselves. I simply don’t trust them any more and we need trust to make a deal on our future  relationship.”

Barnier became marginalised and sidelined by Merkel and Macron’s favoured few and now history will judge him as a tone deaf Eorocratic non-entity whose spectacular failure to switch from red stop signs to an orange glow in advance of a possible green for go will serve as an effective motif for the institution he served, frozen still in principled precaution and punishment and a million miles away from real people’s concerns.

FREE SPEECH UNION NEWS

May 27, 2022

Academic freedom and the FSU’s defence of Dr Abhijit Sarkar

The Times Higher Education ran a story about Professor Nigel Biggar, the FSU’s Chairman, defending academic free speech at Taking the Politics out of University Teaching, an event hosted by the thinktank Politeia. “There was,” Nigel said, “a rising tendency in universities not to argue with positions but to attack the persons who hold them, smearing them as racist or white supremacist, or transphobic, and clamouring that their research be shut down, and that they be disciplined or even dismissed” – a tendency all too obviously exemplified this week by what Quillette described as Princeton University’s “disgraceful” decision to fire Professor Joshua Katz. What would help dampen this tendency, Nigel argued, was “a revision of the Equality Act 2010, so that it cannot be argued, normally, that [people holding] a point of view you disagree with constitutes a form of harassment”.

The fact that ideologically motivated academics are policing the thoughts and actions of colleagues and students is bad enough, but as Dr Arif Ahmed pointed out in Spiked, universities’ attempts to win the approval of bodies like Advance HE are having a similarly ‘chilling’ effect on academic freedom and free speech. For a university to win Advance HE’s Athena SWAN award, for instance, it must show commitment to certain ‘principles’. Back in 2015, those principles included “tackling the discriminatory treatment often experienced by trans people”. Now, however, an institution must agree to “fostering collective understanding that individuals have the right to determine their own gender identity”. Is it the job of a university to “foster collective understanding” about the rightness of a particular ideological position, or to facilitate open debate? To Arif, a member of the FSU’s Advisory Council, this looks uncomfortably like a move away from tackling discrimination and into the realm of thought policing.

Similar issues were raised during Parliament’s ‘Freedom of Speech in Education’ debate this week, with Sir John Hayes calling for a review of universities’ free speech policies prior to the Higher Education (Freedom of Speech) Bill reaching the statue book. The review was necessary, he argued, because “universities continue to use the Equality Act 2010 to elevate the fear of disturbance or distress above free speech’s ability to inspire, enthral and to move the academic agenda forward”. While making his case, Sir John cited the “sad, but by no means exceptional” case of FSU member Dr Abhijit Sarkar. The FSU defended Sarkar following Oxford University’s failure to protect his academic freedom. We’re now helping a group of senior academics petition Oxford to reform its policies and protect free speech and academic freedom in accordance with law.

The FSU endorses Sir John’s demand that universities get their policies in order now, before the Bill becomes law. Our view is that the Bill cannot be passed too soon (although we’d like to see some amendments to strengthen its free speech protections). We’ve intervened in many cases involving students or academics, and in almost every instance those individuals would have been in a stronger position had the new law been in place. Our briefing on the Bill can be found here.

Speakeasy with Dr Joanna Williams – book your place now!

Following the FSU’s successful online event with Douglas Murray on Wednesday, our next Speakeasy will be on Wednesday 15 June, 6:30pm BST. General Secretary Toby Young will be joined by the Head of Education and Culture at Policy Exchange, Dr Joanna Williams, to discuss her new book: How Woke Won: The Elitist Movement That Threatens Democracy, Tolerance and Reason. Joanna is one of Britain’s sharpest and most eloquent writers on the phenomenon of ‘woke’. In How Woke Won, she forensically exposes how the ‘woke’ culture war has exploded into our schools, workplaces, media and politics – and why we need to fight back against this threat to our values and freedoms. Please register here to receive the Zoom link. 

Academic removed from an academic event for “disruptive” questions

Dr Jon Pike is a member of the FSU. He’s also a Senior Lecturer in Philosophy at the Open University. His specialism is the philosophy and ethics of sport, and he’s also a world-leading expert in issues surrounding transgender inclusion in women’s sport. On 16 May 2022 Dr Pike attended an online event at Loughborough University entitled IAS Festival of Ideas: Transitions – Festival and Book Launch Gender Diversity and Sport: Interdisciplinary perspectives on increasing inclusivity. This topic was well within the parameters of his research and expertise, but he was removed from the event for asking questions about the fairness of allowing biological men to compete against women athletes. Dr Pike later received a terse email from Loughborough University’s Institute of Advanced Studies informing him that his removal had been necessary “due to the disruptive nature of [his] questioning”. The Free Speech Union has written to Loughborough University’s Vice Chancellor, Professor Nick Jennings, to express its concern. We consider this to be a failure of the University to uphold its obligations to uphold free speech on campus, and an act of discrimination against Dr Pike on the grounds of his gender critical beliefs. The full text of the FSU’s letter is available here.

The Living Freedom Summer School open for applications until Sunday 29 May 

The applications deadline for the Living Freedom Summer School taking place in London this summer is Sunday 29 May. Organised in partnership with the Free Speech Champions project, the Summer School is a fantastic opportunity for young, critical thinkers to meet one another and debate the key freedom issues of our times. The full programme is now available. Speakers include the FSU’s own Toby Young and Karolien Celie, former cop and free speech campaigner Harry Miller, James Esses, writer and campaigner Caroline ffiske, Professor Frank Furedi, journalist Bruno Waterfield, Professor Arif Ahmed, writer Ella Whelan, author Dr Joanna Williams, journalist and historian Dr Zoe Strimpel… and many more.

The FSU’s schedule of events this summer

We have a packed schedule of events – online and in-person – over the coming months. You can keep up to date and check what’s going on at a glance thanks to our website’s brand new Events page. As most of our events are members-only, you won’t be able to book tickets from that public page, but our Events team will be sending out regular emails with full details and booking links, so do keep an eye out for them. If you don’t receive those emails, please let us know and we’ll make sure you’re on the mailing list (and if you’re on the mailing list and you still aren’t receiving those emails, then please check your junk mail inbox).

FSU Summer Comedy Night – tickets available now!

FSU members are warmly invited to round up their family and friends for the FSU Summer Special on Wednesday 29 June. This one night only extravaganza of comedy and music is being held in association with Comedy Unleashed – the home of free-thinking comedy. The MC for the night will be FSU favourite Dominic Frisby, and Dominic will also be performing a special set of comedy hits, old and new, with his amazing band The Gilets Jaunes. Also on the bill is comedy crooner and ubermeister of lounge, Frank Sanazi, described in Chortle as “the extravagantly offensive love-child of Adolf Hitler and Frank Sinatra… flamboyantly executed”. Frank will be bringing the glamour of Das Vegas to the stage with his legendary friends Dean Stalin, Spliff Richard and TomMones. Book your tickets here to join the fun with the whole FSU team and 100s of FSU members. 

Free Speech Champions launch the new issue of TNT

The Free Speech Champions are going from strength to strength. The organisation packed out a London pub last Saturday to launch the second issue of their magazine The New Taboo, which aims to showcase a wide array of exciting new voices and promote free thinking for a new generation. You can read it online here or pick up a print copy at any of the FSU’s forthcoming events. Congratulations to all the contributors and especially to editor Daniel J Sharp and designer Izzi Jones!

The Parliamentary return of the Online Safety Bill

The Online Safety Bill, which has reached the Committee stage of its journey through Parliament, is attracting more and more criticism. The Economist warned of its potential to “change the face of the internet” and “incentivise” tech firms to censor their users en masse. Writing for The Critic, Toby Young agreed, describing the Bill as a “censors’ charter” and “the most serious threat to free speech since the proposal to force state regulation on the press in the aftermath of Leveson”.

Notoriously, the bill will force companies to remove “legal but harmful” content from their platforms. The fact that the largest firms could be fined up to 10% of their annual global turnover for failing to do so will inevitably create an incentive to remove anything remotely contentious. Might that have a chilling effect on free speech? Not according to Nadine Dorries, Secretary of State at DCMS. She believes the bill will strike a blow for freedom of expression. In his capacity as FSU General Secretary, Toby has met with DCMS ministers and officials who’ve also sought to reassure him that there’s nothing in the Bill requiring social media companies to remove “legal but harmful” content. The Cabinet minister responsible for the Bill, Chris Philp, even authored a piece for The Timesthis week in which the same claim appeared: “There is”, he wrote, “no requirement in the Bill at all to censor legal content.”

Toby describes this as a “sleight of hand”. The bill will “require the Secretary of State to bring forward secondary legislation in the form of a statutory instrument to identify ‘priority’ harms that providers will be under a particular obligation to protect us from”, he writes. So it will be the secondary legislation, and not the Bill per se, that identifies “legal but harmful” content. In other words, although the Bill won’t specify the “legal but harmful” subject matter that social media companies need to remove, it will nonetheless create a general obligation to remove it once it has been identified in a statutory instrument.

What worries Toby is that the press release accompanying the Bill cites “harassment” as an example of the type of “legal but harmful” content that will be included in the statutory instrument. Not that he’s a harassment enthusiast, of course; it’s just that it isn’t difficult to “imagine Parliament approving this secondary legislation, and activist groups then petitioning platforms to remove any content they find disagreeable on the grounds that it amounts to ‘harassment’ of the victims they claim to be representing”.

At this late stage, our “best hope” for averting this danger is to “persuade the Government to ditch the worst parts of the Bill – like the ‘legal but harmful’ stuff — and try to improve the rest as it passes through Parliament”, he says. The FSU currently has nine amendments it’s hoping to push through, and over the coming weeks we’re looking forward to engaging with allies in both houses of Parliament to ensure that the final version of the Bill better protects online freedom of speech.

The ‘woke’ capture of relationships and sex education

During Parliament’s ‘Political impartiality in schools’ debate this week, Gareth Bacon asked the Secretary of State for Education, Nadhim Zahawi, whether he was concerned that “children were at risk of being indoctrinated by political activists masquerading as teachers?” It was a timely question. As the Mailreported this week, schools are increasingly outsourcing Relationships and Sex Education classes to “unregulated providers pushing a ‘woke’ agenda”. In response to Bacon’s question, Zahawi referenced the “clear, comprehensive guidance” his Department had published to help schools tackle these “sensitive issues”. But is this guidance being observed? Not according to The Critic’s Shonagh Dillon. “In reality”, she argued, “many RSE providers are not following the guidelines, and schools are not asking the questions they should of the material being used.” That was why, as she went on to point out, RSE provision had become “a wild west of competing providers, each vying to be more ‘edgy’ and ‘cool’ than their rivals, with little regard for safeguarding or child development”. Dillon’s research into RSE provision uncovered teaching content aimed at children and teenagers that promoted “bondage and discipline + sadism and masochism” (BDSM), explained what a swinger was and celebrated “sex toy day” with hyperlinks to sites selling toys like “anal training sets” (or ‘butt plugs’, as they’re known in the porn industry). One provider had posters featuring friendly aliens that asked children “which pronouns do you want to use?” Another posted publicly accessible images to its Instagram account that declared: “Virginity benefits no one.”

Just as concerning from a free speech perspective was the Mail’s assertion that the content of lessons delivered by these providers is in some cases being obscured from parents. A child’s primary school in Lambeth, South London, for example, reportedly signed a contract with an external provider agreeing not to distribute teaching materials to parents. A mother who subsequently became worried about the content of the course – which allegedly involved a mixed sex group of 10 year-olds discussing masturbation in pairs – sent the school a freedom of information request, only to be informed that, “after consultation with both [the provider] and legal specialists, [the school] were unable to allow her to see the course materials”. 

Ricky Gervais vs transactivists: seconds out, round one…

The outrage over Ricky Gervais’s new stand-up special for Netflix was, as Ella Whelan pointed out in the Telegraph, “all too predictable”. Particular fury seems to have been roused by a section in which Gervais mocked trans activists. US LGBTQ rights group Glaad denounced the jokes as “dangerous”, the National Centre for Transgender Equality in the US condemned them as “dehumanising” and the Director of Communications at Stonewall, Robbie de Santos, felt it was “disappointing that Ricky has once again chosen to use his global platform to make fun of trans people – punching down is never funny”. In the new woke lexicon, this is apparently the greatest crime a modern comedian can commit – to “punch down” is to make fun of any person or group who is in some way deemed to be less “privileged” than the comedian.

Writing in the Telegraph, Michael Deacon wondered whether critics like de Santos might not have misunderstood at whom Gervais’s jokes were targeted. The supposedly offensive part of the show, as Deacon explains, imagines an exchange between a woman and a hard line transactivist. The woman is nervous about someone with a penis entering the ladies’ loos. “What if he rapes me,” she asks. “What if she rapes you, you f***ing TERF whore!” the enraged activist screams back. To be sure, the joke is crude. “But it isn’t bullying,” points out Deacon. “It’s about bullying: the bullying of women by aggressive activists. The sort of activists who hounded Prof Kathleen Stock, the feminist academic, out of her job at Sussex University and constantly send threats and abuse to JK Rowling.” Surely, Deacon concludes, “by mocking bullies on behalf of their victims, Ricky Gervais is actually punching up, not down?”

Then again, was Gervais actually punching anyone at all? It’s certainly interesting the way de Santos’s woke metaphor forces us to personify humour’s intended targets, rendering the comedian either as an abuser (i.e., ‘punching down’) or a progressive campaigner (i.e., ‘punching up’). But what if Gervais was actually swinging away at an abstract set of ideas? His own explanation of his routine, offered to the Spectator, certainly suggests just such a possibility: “My target wasn’t trans folk, but trans activist ideology. I’ve always confronted dogma that oppresses people and limits freedom of expression.” The Spectator’s Debbie Hayton certainly felt it was time someone gave it the sort of satirical, no-holds barred thrashing that every other form of political ideology has had to endure since the European Enlightenment. And why not? “Trans activist ideology” is, after all, mixing it with the big boys now – capitalism, feminism, liberalism – having “shaken the foundations of our society and challenged the meaning of such fundamental concepts as men and women”.

Feliks Kwiatkowski fundraiser – show your support

Our member, Feliks Kwiatkowski, needs your help. After four decades as a barrister, his statutory regulator, the Bar Standards Board (“BSB”), brought charges against him for saying something a female colleague found offensive. Feliks was prosecuted, tried in public, fined and reprimanded. His unblemished professional reputation, built over 40 years, was tarnished. He seeks your help in appealing to the High Court, where his public hearing has been listed in the Administrative Court for 21 and 22 June this year. This case is about protecting the right to discuss and express views that some people may find offensive. It is about our right to disagree, which is being gradually eroded by professional bodies using their power as gate-keepers to suppress opinions that some people find disagreeable. This is suffocating freedom of speech in our free, or supposedly free, society. You can find out more and pledge your support here.

DON’T CALL US, WE WON’T CALL YOU

May 23, 2022

GETTING through to a real live living, breathing human being on the end of a telephone line is getting harder and harder.

In order to reliably and accurately measure, I will telephone numbers from time to time to establish exactly HOW LONG.

The Probate Registry of Wales is an 02920 474373 number based at Cardiff Magistrates Court.

They record all telephone calls to monitor and improve quality, I am told by an automated feminine sounding voice at the outset. Good, I think I’ll do the same.

A numerical keypad is essential to first decide if you are a professional or not (I press ONE in the hope that it will speed up the response time) but there is no option to speak Welsh. I press FOUR for
“anything else” in the hope, again, that a friendly real human voice will help me.

Piped classical music starts up only interrupted by recorded messages saying “Did you know you can send your query by e-mail” or to try “web chat” (I thought that was an indictable offence).

I just want a real, live chat with a real, live human being. That’s not a lot to ask for, is it?

My call takes a total of 47 minutes and 45 seconds and is diverted to a call centre in Leicestershire, where Sam tells me “they haven’t got the capability to speak to the public” when I ask why it took so long for an answer and wonder why it is not a Caerdiff-sounding voice.

Cardiff magistrates court staff simply DO NOT answer telephone calls so the local number you call is totally immaterial as the call gets diverted in a computerised queueing system. My guess is that appearing in person at the building will offer no better solutions as the response is likely to be the same because unless fully masked, carrying a passport and proof of vaccines as well as official correspondence, you are likely to be viewed as a potential terrorist by black-clad heavies waving invasive scanners at you.

Some incoming calling systems or programmes will enable you to stay within their loop system indefinitely while others will automatically end your call and advise you to try again.

Some will issue you with information to indicate where you are in the queue from first to fiftieth so you can plan whether or not to read War and Peace or watch a feature film on DVD as you keep it on speaker phone and others, like this number, will give you no indication whatsoever.

Twenty minutes and forty seconds into the call, I started to wonder about the charge on my phone and if it would take the strain as the minutes slowly ticked by and threatened to turn into hours. In days gone by, of course, it would be the charge on my bill for the call itself.

Everything has been “CENTRALISED” so many local numbers only appear local because now everything has to be rationalised and prioritised.

What is the real reason for civil servants no longer having the capability to speak to us and are emergency calls now being dealt with in the same way?

SEAL THOSE LEAKY GAS TAPS

May 21, 2022

IF JEMIMA Bloggs is now paying £200 a week for gas when she used to pay £50 there is something radically wrong……

Tory convert from Labour Lee Anderson appears, to me, to be attempting to establish specific and particular truths about Jemima in a bid to help her rather than trot out old generic and universal ones about capitalism lazily to help a political cause.

https://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-10808891/Tory-Lee-Anderson-says-throwing-money-ay-foodbanks-not-solution-poor-learn-cook.html?fr=operanews

The Blatantly Biased Corporation alongside the Islington and Cowbridge radical feminist, progressive trans eco BLM neo-Marxist intelligentsia are not targeting energy companies perched in the lotus position on their chic saffron meditatation Zabutons (trendy Japanese cushions), they are targeting their old enemy Brexit-backing capitalism without adding personal accountability into their mix.

Jemima may be misusing her gas through no fault of her own due to some leak, she may not realise that someone is leaving it on all through the night, she may not fully understand the tariff she is on nor the way it is being counted so is not making best use of energy generally.

Those are charitable and generous assumptions rather than others such as Jemima being wantonly wasteful and totally irresponsible in her energy usage (plain speaking like that can now be filed under “hate” laws).

Meaningful education and hands-on help to organise her finances, more sensibly manage usage and work out a better deal, possibly with a new energy provider and a tariff better suited to her usage patterns which she can negotiate armed with improved resources and telephone negotiation skills (degree courses should be offered on that now) will be much, much more useful than a Cost of Living payment for £150 which the Welsh government has given me.

Advocacy and a caring councillor or counsellor NOT cash is going to be most useful in the medium to long run but all roads now lead towards a universal income – particularly in least well off areas like Wales – supervised by a neo-Marxist cabal aiming for wealth equality (what is that if it is not Marxism?)

If the difference between a deserving and thrifty poor and an undeserving wantonly wasteful poor is not allowed to be addressed, partly to establish better stewardship and education in the latter group and to raise the former, you end up with incentivised wanton wastefulness being subsidised by big state handouts.

Caring councillors and counsellors are now as rare as hens’ teeth.

Throw into the mix a Labour administration which traditionally relies most on the people who benefit from these handouts and you have dependence on Mark Drakeford and Adam Price for life.

DRILLING THE CLASS OF 2022

May 20, 2022

PRIMARY education used to be a lovely little sinecure for ex-servicemen who extended their service pensions by taking a teaching post at the local school where they could bark orders and shepherd children in much the same way that officers used to order and shepherd them.

Former Private Jones or Able Seaman Williams would share the occasional treasured memory from real or fantasy battle exploits and offer you basic instruction in maths and English broadly as if you and they were on drill parade in the classroom to instil discipline and order but outside you were largely left to your own devices to play British Bulldog or fight.

Messrs Jones and Williams treasured the free meals, long summer holidays, short days and warm, convivial atmosphere in the staff room where they could smoke and drink tea after meeting first in Assembly, where the singing of hymns and the saying of prayers set a tone of blind obedience and fear of a judgemental God meant to keep you on the straight and narrow.

Not today.

Primary education – like primary care in the NHS – has now been radically disciplined in a radically different way without the fear of God or the militaristic modelling of children by a bare complement of redundant servicemen.

Peer into the grounds of one of these schools at playtime and you now see a vast army of yellow high-viz – but not, significantly, masked – relatively young formidable “teaching assistants” supervising activities rather too stridently working to a template set by Welsh government which will almost certainly produce a radically different future generation.

But what kind of a generation will we get with so much active supervision (I imagine that all classrooms now contain a teacher and a large complement of assistants) and so many ideological templates?

My class of 1967 was parochial, crime-free, unaffected and untainted by politics, dependent upon the Church in Wales and local dignitaries as governors who fought broadly to keep things the same for as long as possible to maintain and reinforce the myth of a restrictive and defining prosperous, progressing people under one God and a headmaster’s cane.

Boys were all similar white sons of tradesmen and blue-collar workers with limited horizons and opportunities who would depend more on local networks for future employment than on the education they received and girls were all similar white daughters who would mainly seek a good marriage with one of the boys rather than a good career and an independent life.

Children in the class of 2022 may not have changed very much and their horizons and opportunities may not have but everything around them has.

To make sense of it all, teachers and school staff offer them their only hope outside a home which may have been converted into a cannabis factory or is housing desperate stealers, dealers and reelers.

But what, I wonder, are these new playground paragons actually doing so stridently and what is the desired outcome of all this marshalling of minds?

Are they being conditioned to obey rules and regulations rather like we all were forced to during COVID-19 when the adults were suddenly infantilised – hypnotised into clapping a woefully inadequate NHS which they were to be banned from using – and treated like naughty tots or are they being encouraged to fight back with spirit and spunk?

HOME BREWING IN A ROUNDABOUT WAY

May 16, 2022
TRAFFIC JAB: Passing cars halted by The Light

A NEW form of hysteria is fomenting like a dangerously concocted full-bodied stout matured and aged in total darkness by rural rudimentary bright sparks using a basic home brew kit to whip up a creamy head and a wildly intoxicating body of mind altering and potent beer.

Fear of death from COVID-19 has been converted in double-quick time to fear of death from taking the vaccines without proper informed consent.

“They are out to kill us and our children,” is the message being proudly and perplexingly persistently promulgated by protestors who perch on a roundabout on a Sunday in Newport in all weathers to distribute The Light, a free newspaper proclaiming to tell “The uncensored truth” and, this Sunday, some worrying Pfizer figures about the threat of side effects which could kill and anyway the vaccines have depressingly low efficacy.

Getting off the bus and carefully navigating my way onto the grass in the centre of a new highway planner’s idea of progress but my idea of unmitigated needless traffic light madness, I ventured out in search of elevated, educated, insightful and improving discussion and debate using my customary tactic of appearing to the interviewee to totally disagree with whatever they stood for (part years of journalistic training part a natural disposition to not agree because of my natural fear of the consequences of congregations and of group-think) to generate authentic face-to-face debate and dispute in the hope of real light and truth.

I focused on the eldest male and began what I hoped would be a meeting of minds by introducing myself and explaining that I was a fully trained journalist with qualifications and a member of the Free Speech Union, mentioning its chair Toby Young, who is a lockdown and vaccine sceptic with his own Sceptical website https://dailysceptic.org/, pointing to my own natural suspicions and deep distress about the issue and broad agreement that something has gone seriously wrong.

It started badly, as meetings in the centre of a roundabout on a blustery Sunday in Newport – a converted rundown town not naturally noted for depth of debate – might always be expected to.

“You might be lucky,” he said, after I volunteered the information about my vaccines, “you might have had the placebo.”

So, I was more or less forced under great pressure and duress to have a life-saving vaccine which was not a vaccine but a watery substance containing nothing by a political, scientific and medical elite I always thought had my best interests in mind (silly me!).

This was where my rudimentary knowledge of science and biotechnology based upon what I had read and researched was set against, rather than with, his and the five or six other bright sparks venturing out dangerously onto a busy road to bring The Light into the vehicles of passing motorists while enjoying the occasional hoots of horny motorists halted by red lights (never an ideal way to start a conversation, in my experience).

These are zealots latching on to the Stand in the Park organisation https://www.astandinthepark.org/ who meet at Tredegar House at 10am on Sunday then process onto the roundabout to evangelise armed only with free newspapers and a set of beliefs, strong and sometimes bizarre beliefs.

Our political elite have not had the vaccine for some mysterious reason, Pfizer have banned anyone from knowing the truth, people are falling over dead from strokes and heart attacks because of being jabbed, and they were always jabbed first and given information about the possible side-effects of mRNA technology after, Sir Christopher Chope, the Tory MP, has been given the cold shoulder when trying to pursue compensation for all those millions negatively affected by BioNTech, Moderna and AstraZeneca jabs.

Zealots are terribly difficult to talk to – especially while racing to and fro on a roundabout rabble-rousing exercise – because they choose one side of an issue and unilaterally arm themselves only with anything and everything which confirms their beliefs while discarding or destroying anything which contradicts them.

Searching for reason and some forensic rigour to prevent it deteriorating into a full gospel meeting where I am removed by my hair for expressing doubts that God exists at all then burned as a heretic at the stake, I started out by trying to sound authoritative and informed and opened with the undoubted success of biotechnology in the treatment of some AIDS and cancer sufferers.

That didn’t seem to register.

So I tried the obvious line about all prescribed drugs carrying the risk of possible side-effects and the undisputed truth that life expectancy has gone up not down since the advent of modern medicine with biotech discoveries first tested on animals working well on humans so actively saving lives.

That, again, provoked rather than placated and there was a robust and slightly rampant response about side-effects being hidden in the small print.

It ended with him sidling off to have a smoke and me gingerly stepping off the roundabout to catch the next bus clutching my copy of The Light, still desperately seeking it anywhere but on a roundabout in Newport.