The Medico-Stalinist Tyranny in Toronto: Toronto police target protesters holding signs, megaphones at anti-lockdown rally
\When I visit Toronto’s Yonge-Dundas Square or Queen’s Park these days, I can only think of nature films. You know, those videos that document a pride of lions on the African Serengeti, stalking a massive herd of wildebeest. But even for the king of the jungle, a wildebeest makes for a formidable opponent, and so it is that these big cats patiently observe the herd, looking for the old, the young, the sick and the injured. Easy pickings.
And that’s kind of what we’re seeing in Hogtown these days when it comes to anti-lockdown protests, with the demonstrators playing the role of the prey, and the rank and file of the Toronto Police Service in the role of the predators. Except the cops aren’t looking for the sick and the weak — they are cherry-picking those who have big mouths — you know, people carrying signs or barking into megaphones. Those are the demonstrators who tend to get arrested and tossed in paddy wagons, because apparently, being a “big mouth” is strictly verboten in Tyrant Tory’s Toronto, even though it is a Charter right to be vocal.
And so it was that we returned to the snow-covered lawns of Queen’s Park to see which members of the herd would get arrested by those predators wearing police badges. And true to form, those with flags or signs, or who were simply voicing their opinions, were the ones the police descended upon and ticketed and arrested and tossed in paddy wagons.
It was, in a word, disgraceful. Especially considering these very same police officers took part in Black Lives Matter demonstrations last summer by bending the knee in solidarity with the demonstrators. Same place, same virus, same police. But apparently if one espouses a different political mindset, the ‘new normal’ rules when it comes to the Wuhan virus safety protocols do not apply.
Thus, welcome to the hypocritical double standard that now thrives in John Tory’s Toronto in 2021. But please, folks, never forget: “We’re all in this together.”
Travis Patron, Party Leader, Held As Political Prisoner for Over 48 Hours by Gov’t of Saskatchewan
Canadian political leader, Travis Patron, who was arrested on February 15, 2021 allegedly for “hate speech,” has released an official statement about his ordeal. We have transcribed it here for ease of reading. The original statement can be seen below.
Patron Held As Political Prisoner For Over 48 Hours By Government Of Saskatchewan
Thursday, February 18th, 2021
On Monday, February 15th, I was abducted from my place of residence, pulled away from my loved ones, and subjected to conditions of arbitrary containment. I was told I was being arrested for so-called “hate speech”. Yet, I have received no satisfactory response to my objection that the Provincial Government of Saskatchewan has no right to police my speech. Indeed, they lack the jurisdiction to do so and to proceed in these matters as they did was entirely unlawful and perhaps even criminal.
I was held in custody for over 48 hours at the Carlyle RCMP detachment without any ability to communication outside the administration who was responsible for holding me against my will. I, a federal party leader, was denied by my abductors all requests for a pen and paper to write a message in the name of diplomacy. After I specifically asked for the lights to be kept off in my cell so that I could sleep comfortably, the exact opposite was done, and I was shrouded in bright light with a camera pointed at me the entire time. I was told that if I did not agree to their release conditions, I could be held in custody (without trial) for a years time as well as transferred to other locations. Their release conditions included a ridiculously-broad and unjustified stipulation that I cannot “publish anything, directly or indirectly, online.” Obviously, I did not sign anything.
I made it clear that I did not understand why I was being held in custody and against my will. I made it clear that I do not believe I have done anything wrong. I also demanded to someone the Provincial Government Of Saskatchewan considers a Judge, that I be released from unlawful custody immediately. The Provincial Government of Saskatchewan lacks jurisdiction to proceed on these matters and has no right to police our speech.
Interestingly, some of the Royal Canadian Mounted Police (RCMP) officers seemed to be uncomfortable with this whole affair and uncertain as to what offense I had committed or why I was in custody to begin with. It seems there may yet be a remnant of integrity and critical thought left in the force, but it is currently under the heel of a reckless and unconstitutional administration backed by a media propaganda machine that twists the truth and deceives the public in a malicious way.
The mask has now slipped in Canadian society. We clearly do not live in a “free and democratic society.” Let this be a wake up call to many of you who seem unable to see past the lies of your culture. If you do not take a stance now these conditions will quite likely get worse. Fortunately for us, and by the Grace of God, the ability for the satanic Government of Canada to exercise their will against us is limited because we have been granted a degree of jurisdictional independence. Those who think hiding and complying with each new demand is the answer are in for a very rude wake up call and when that time comes (and it quite likely will) our constituency will not act favorably toward those who have neglected our struggle this entire time. Those who watch these developments with apathy should not be surprised when they are judged harshly.
It is my hope that anyone reading this message how understands how dire this situation is for the sake of our freedom. Although I am rather shell-shocked at this whole ordeal, I ultimately recognize it for what it is: a test. This is a test of willpower, faithfulness, and discipline. If I may say so myself, I think I fared quite well.
As far as I understand, no charges have been lawfully made in the matter. We reserve the right to prosecute to the fullest extent of the law those who falsely claim otherwise.
In 1987, Augsburg Publishing House, the publishing arm of the American Lutheran Church which the following year would join with Fortress Press, the publisher of the Lutheran Church in America as part of the merger of the Lutheran bodies into the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, published a book entitled Television and Religion: The Shaping of Faith, Values and Culture. The release of such a book could hardly have been more timely – it went to print just as the various scandals surrounding Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker were breaking. The author of the book was the Reverend William F. Fore, who was the acknowledged expert at the time on the matter of religious broadcasting. For the next couple of years he was a guest on pretty much every major radio and television talk show discussing the scandal and his book. Rev. Fore, who passed away last July, was a minister of the United Methodist Church, and served as the Executive Director of the Communications Department of the National Council of Churches in Christ for a quarter of a century, retiring from this position shortly after his aforementioned book came out. The fifth and sixth chapters of the book address the message and audience respectively of what he called “the electronic church”. He had already been sounding the alarm about this “electronic church” for over a decade.
Indeed, in August of 1978 Fore gave an address by that very title – “The Electronic Church” – to a meeting of the Seventh Day Adventist Broadcasters Council in Oxnard, California, which was published in that denomination’s MinistryMagazine in its January, 1979 issue. In that address he noted some interesting statistics. Gallup had just conducted a survey of the religious views of both the “churched” and the “unchurched” in the United States. “Surprisingly”, Fore commented, “religious beliefs and practices have undergone remarkably little change during the past 25 years.” What made these findings surprising was that while beliefs in doctrines like the deity of Jesus Christ and practices such as daily prayer did not appear to be declining among Americans, even among the “unchurched”, the self-evaluated importance of organized religion in their lives was. Fore suggested that the incongruity between these two things could be, at least partly, explained by the growth of religious broadcasting and that this was cause for concern. He said:
What worries me is whether this electronic church is in fact pulling people away from the local church. Is it substituting an anonymous (and therefore undemanding) commitment for the kind of person-to-person involvement and group commitment that is the essence of the local church?
As we shall shortly see, this was a legitimate concern and there is far more cause for alarm on this front today than there was back then. First, it needs to be noted that there was another, far more obvious, reason why steady belief in such basic Christian truths as the deity of Jesus Christ might coincide with a decline in confidence in organized religion – and a decline in church attendance, for when Fore was speaking and writing about the danger of “the electronic church” we were already several decades into a period of drastic decline in church attendance, one which began shortly after the Second World War and which continues to this day.
That reason was simply this – that in this same period of time, a great many of the churches had stopped preaching and teaching the basic Christian truths. For everyone who could still truthfully recite everything in the Apostles’ Creed from “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth” to “The Forgiveness of sins; The Resurrection of the body, And the Life everlasting. Amen”, churches whose ministers taught that Jesus was God’s Son only in the sense that He exemplified the way in which we are all children of God and that He rose again from the dead only in the sense that He lived on in the memory of His disciples, and who similarly explained away everything else in the Creed so as to make its opening “I believe” into an “I don’t believe”, were rapidly losing their appeal. Nor did they have much of an appeal to anybody else. Anybody out there who actually wanted to hear a lecture every week about racial and gender equity, recycling and reducing our carbon footprint, and other such trendy codswallop had plenty of opportunity to do so that did not involve getting up early on Sunday morning. Others have certainly noticed the contribution of this factor to the decline in church attendance and affiliation. Here in the Dominion of Canada, where the decline had been much larger than in the United States, two Anglican priests, George R. Eves, Two Religions: One Church (1998) and Marney Patterson, Suicide – The Decline and Fall of the Anglican Church of Canada (1999), attempted, to little avail, at least with regards to the upper echelons of the ecclesiastical hierarchy, to warn the Anglican Church of Canada that this kind of liberalism was killing the church. Others, such as the eminent Canadian sociologist of religion Reginald W. Bibby, have addressed this factor in a more detached manner. Now, the United Methodist Church and the NCCC were both noted bastions of liberalism. The late Dr. Thomas C. Oden had been well within the mainstream of the United Methodist Church prior to his journey back from theological liberalism and political radicalism to “paleo-orthodoxy” through a study of the great theologians of the Christian tradition beginning with the Church Fathers prompted by a challenge from his Drew University colleague, Will Herberg, who had had to make a similar return to the roots of his own Jewish tradition in the Talmud and Midrash after his own break with his early radicalism. The National Council of Churches in Christ is the American organized expression of ecumenism which, as Joseph Pearce has recently observed, “appears to be the willingness to dilute or delete doctrine in pursuit of a perceived unity among disparate groups of believers (irrespective of what they actually believe)” and thus the opposite of what it originally meant when applied in the early centuries to the General Councils that defined orthodoxy and excluded heresy for the entire church throughout the “whole inhabited world”. My point in bringing this up is not to cast aspersions on the personal orthodoxy of the late William F. Fore but to show that for someone in his position, unless he wished to make waves, he had strong personal reasons to turn a blind eye to the connection between liberalism and declining church attendance and to tie the latter to religious broadcasters who, whatever else they might be legitimately accused of – aggressive and dishonest fundraising, the sacrilege of reducing religion to popular entertainment, etc. – were seldom if ever liberals.
All of that having been said, Fore’s concern that for many people “the electronic church” was taking the place of local churches was a legitimate and valid one. In his address to the Seventh Day Adventists in 1978 he said the following:
Radio and TV – especially TV – tend to produce a substitute for reality that eventually can begin to take the place of reality itself.
He illustrated this point by referring to an article in Broadcasting Magazine that described a television program entitled “Summer Camp” that purported to give kids the “summer camp” experience “without leaving home”, a particularly poignant example as it is difficult to conceive of an experience further removed from that of watching television than summer camp or a greater exercise in missing the point than trying to translate that experience into the television medium. He went on to say:
My point is that exposure to the media tends to separate us from the world of reality, creating for us, in fact, a new reality…The situation, I predict, is going to get worse.
Before we take a look at just how true that prediction has become, let us consider the contrast he drew between the local and the electronic church. He said:
[The purveyors of the electronic church] are building huge audiences that bring them fame, wealth, and power, but which in doing so substitute a phantom, a non-people, an electronic church, for the church of real people, with real needs and real gospel to share in the midst of their real lives.
It is no accident that the local church, the koinonia or community of believers, is such a central part of our Christian faith and life. This is where we find Christ; this is where we confess our sins and find forgiveness and regeneration; this is where we act out our faith and where we shore up one another when we slide back in the faith.
The years since 1978 and now have seen an explosion in the development of electronic communications technology. Personal computers and cellular phones have become more compact and affordable and therefore ubiquitous and, indeed, have now merged into smart phones that place the internet, which itself has evolved rapidly and exponentially in this period, at one’s fingertips wherever one happens to be. The “electronic church” has evolved along with these media and in 2021 the “online church” – services viewed over the internet either while they are occurring through livestream or later if, as is usually the case, recordings of the stream remain available – has become a much larger part of it than the services broadcast on radio and television forty years ago. Indeed, for almost a year now, the “online church” has been the only “church” available throughout most of the world as governments everywhere have used the pretext of the spread of a coronavirus notable more for its novelty than its severity to throw off the shackles of constitutional restraints and protected rights and liberties and conduct an insane social experiment in which they forbade in-person social interaction in an ultimately unsuccessful effort to contain the spread of the virus. The leaders of the churches have, for the most part, opted to obey man rather than God and support this vile experiment by closing their doors and making services available to their parishioners only via the internet. Thus, for the last year, the “electronic church” has more fully and completely replaced the real church, than Rev. Fore would have imagined possible in his worst nightmares back in the eighties.
What is most troubling about this, apart from the whole submitting to godless totalitarianism aspect of it, is that whereas forty years ago, church leaders whether orthodox or liberal, would have largely shared Fore’s concern that for many people the “electronic church” was becoming a substitute for actual churches in which real people meet and worship and fellowship together and would have agreed with him that this was not a good thing, today, the church leaders who are saying “Amen” to the government officials who insist that we must sacrifice the mental and social wellbeing of all members of our communities, and the economic wellbeing of all except the most wealthy, in order to prevent people who are already at the end of their natural lifespans from dying a natural death a very short time earlier than would otherwise be the case, are now developing theological arguments for why the “electronic church” is a real church after all. While the idea of a spiritual fellowship existing between all believers in different places is neither new nor unsound – this is a part of the meaning of “the communion of the saints” in the Creed – it is a different matter entirely to treat the act of praying and singing along, from your own home, while you watch a service that is taking place elsewhere through your computer screen, as if you and those actually participating in the service were somehow together in some virtual “place” that the internet has generated. Doing the latter is far closer to living in the kind of artificial “reality” from which in the movies a “red pill” is required in order to escape than it is to the orthodox doctrine of the “communion of the saints”.
Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn was born in Russia a year after the Bolsheviks, a murderous gang of criminal revolutionaries, fanatically devoted to building what they believed would be an ideal society based upon collective ownership, materialism, science, and atheism regardless of whatever cost in human lives and suffering had to be paid in order to bring this about, seized control of that country, murdered the Tsar and the rest of the royal family, and began its long, but mercifully unsuccessful, war of extirpation against the Russian Orthodox Church. His mother raised him, as best she could, in the Orthodox faith, while the Bolshevik state did its worst to indoctrinate him in its ideology. Ultimately, after Solzhenistyn was arrested while serving in the Red Army in World War II for criticism of Stalin, and sentenced by a secret tribunal of the NKVD to the work camps administered by GULAG, his Orthodox rearing won out, and in his writings he became a fierce critic of the oppression of the Soviet system. While his writings were initially well-received in his home country while Khrushchev was repudiating the legacy of Stalin, when he turned his pen against the Communist system and underlying ideology as a whole, he became persona non grata, and soon his writings had to be published by samizdat in Russian, or smuggled out and published in translation in the West where they helped remove the blinders from the eyes of many who still thought of the Soviet experiment in romantic, idealistic, terms. Eventually, the Soviet regime tired of him and on the twelfth of February, 1974, he was arrested again and sent into exile.
On the day of his arrest he released a notable essay, advising that in the face of a violent, oppressive, totalitarian ideology such as that which then ruled in Russia, the least that people could do was refuse to participate in the lies by which the totalitarian ideology of the state covered its violence.
“And this is the way”, Solzhenitsyn wrote, “to break out of the imaginary encirclement of our inertness, the easiest way for us and the most devastating for the lies. For when people renounce lies, lies simply cease to exist”.
The title of Solzhenitsyn’s essay, “Live not by Lies”, was borrowed last year by Rod Dreher, for a book advising Christians about how to live in the face of a new soft totalitarianism. While Dreher admirably strained out many of the totalitarian gnats of “woke” ideology, he swallowed in its entirety the camel of masks and lockdowns and public health orders.
We can and must do better than that.
Sadly, I expect that very few of our church leaders will be willing to show the same faith and obedience to God rather than man as Pastor James Coates of GraceLife Church in Edmonton, Alberta, who was arrested by the RCMP last week for holding regular church services and remains in police custody as of the time of this writing, or Pastor Tim Stephens of Fairview Baptist Church in Calgary, who held a service last weekend in solidarity with Pastor Coates. While Coates’ arrest demonstrates beyond a reasonable doubt that I have been right in everything I have been saying since last March about how these public health orders are the latest manifestation of the anti-Christian, anti-freedom, atheistic and materialistic, spirit of Communist oppression and are utterly out of place in a Commonwealth Realm in which the basic rights and freedoms these orders treat as inconsequential are supposed to be the guaranteed Common Law property of citizens as Her Majesty’s free subjects, this is not really my point here. If most Christian leaders can’t find the balls to do what Pastors Coates and Stephens have done, a rather predictable consequence of the widespread ordination of women due to a previous generation’s departure from the clear teachings of the Scriptures and church tradition on that subject, then the least they can do, to borrow Solzhenitsyn’s language, is to refuse to participate in the lies covering up the totalitarian violence and oppression of the lockdown measures. Specifically, they can reject the lie that the “electronic church” of today is somehow different and better than the “electronic church” of forty years ago, because it is online rather than on television. This lie rests upon the underlying notion that the internet is an actual space where people can really meet and actively participate in something together rather than the mere passive viewing which is all that the voyeurism of television makes available. I am inclined to say that this notion, too, is a lie, although it contains the element of truth that the internet has an interactional element that was not there in television. Along with that element of truth, however, it contains the assumption that this is an improvement rather than something that moves us closer to the dystopia of the Matrix. That assumption, I would say, is at the very least, highly dubious. Posted by Gerry T. Neal at 5:55 AM Labels: Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn, COVID-19, Electronic Church, George R. Eves, James Coates, Joseph Pearce, Marney Patterson, Reginald W. Bibby, Rod Dreher, Thomas C. Oden, Tim Stephens, Will Herberg, William F. Fore
Hello freedom lovers!! This is Shawn Jason from Druthers. I’d like to share a few things with you all pertaining to this crazy, awesome project called Druthers. =========== 1. 200,000 Copies on March 2nd 2. Help Distribute in Your Neighbourhood 3. Subscribe for Home Delivery 4. Fundraiser Update 5. Gratitude 6. Ways to Help ===========
1.) 200,000 Copies on March 2nd We did it, again!! Well, almost, but I am confident we will reach the goal before the end of the month so we are placing the order for 200,000 copies of the March issue of Druthers this week.
The print run has doubled each month since this project began in December with 25,000 copies. I think we can confidently say we all have made Druthers into Canada’s fastest growing newspaper! Wowee 🙂
We have another great issue coming and I am excited for you to see it. I hope you love it too.
—– 2.) Help Distribute in Your Neighbourhood There are a whole lot of copies of Druthers coming and your help with distributing them will be much appreciated! Wherever you are across Canada, please hit reply and let me know if you would like some bundles to pass out freely in your community too. Let’s wake up the neighbours 😉 HIT REPLY and tell us your city, province & how many bundles of papers you would like to distribute. We’ll put you in touch with the nearest distribution hub in your area.
—– 3.) Subscribe for Home Delivery You can now subscribe for home delivery anywhere in the world. Ensure you get your Druthers each month while also supporting the growth of this project. See the options and sign up here: www.druthers.net/subscribe
—– 4.) Fundraiser Update Together, for the 4th month in a row, you made it happen. The fundraiser is about to reach its goal and 200,000 copies will be printed and freely distributed all across Canada. It is incredible to see this paper growing so fast!
www.druthers.net/donate At just 10 cents per copy, donations are effectively invested into bringing real, honest news and information to more Canadians. No salaries or overhead is ever taken from donations. 100% of it goes to printing and distribution. If we exceed this month’s funding goal, overages will be rolled over into next month’s fundraiser, with which we will be aiming for an even bigger, 300,000 copies!!! So please keep it coming.
—– 5.) Gratitude I just want to say, I knew this paper would be well received, but I had no idea just how much and how quickly it would be embraced, loved and supported by so many of our family of freedom lovers all across Canada.
Druthers is taking on a life of its own in cities across Canada. People are coming togther and working together to bring truthful information to the people of their communities. And what a beautiful thing it is.
As I see it, nothing matters more at this time than to plant seeds of thought that will hopefully encourage people to question things more deeply. To stop blindly believing what is being fed to us on the tv, and to start looking more closely at the world around us. For one thing is certain… almost nothing presented to us in this world is as it appears.
—– 6.) Ways to Help Would you like to help Druthers grow bigger and deeper reaching more quickly? Do you have time, skills, abilities or other resources you can bring to the table? I’d really love to hear from you. Let me know how you see helping things along.
What is of particular interest right now:
a.) Website developers / designers. We could really use some pro help with rebuilding the website and getting it better set up for more digital content, which is coming soon.
b.) Content creators: videographers, photographers, reporters, writers, video editors, etc. If you make content and would like to lend some of your skills toward growing Druthers, let’s talk.
c.) Social media team. Use your voice and your reach to bring more awareness to Druthers. Talk about Druthers and share links from Druthers everywhere you can. Below you will find our main social profiles. Connect with them and share the posts you find there.
A shocking audio of a Canadian European student called on the carpet for criticizing the anti-White hatred spread in a Canadian Sociology class. Your tax dollars at work — teaching Whites to hate themselves.
Rogers — Another Big Corporation Promotes Black History Month. What Does It Do for Europeans?
Keeping you connected to the things that matter most
Hello Paul, we hope you and your family are keeping well. In more ways than one, Rogers is working to empower, support, and help keep our customers safe and connected this winter. We’d like to share some of the great things we’re doing that are available to you.
Celebrating Black History Month
Rogers is proud to partner with Sportsnet to amplify voices in Canada’s Black community by creating space for an all-star lineup of Black writers, photographers and filmmakers to tell the stories that matter most to them. Click below to learn more.
Free expression or permitted opinion: that is the choice
‘And though all the winds of doctrine were let loose upon the earth, so truth be in the field [and] we do injuriously by licensing and prohibiting to misdoubt her strength. Let her and falsehood grapple; who ever knew truth put to the worse, in a free and open encounter…’ [Milton – Areogapitica].
Milton’s words perhaps contain more significance than he realised, for a society only becomes wholeheartedly tyrannical when censorship allows no effective opposition. To take a most dramatic instance, if the Nazis had been forced by frequently expressed contrary public opinion to explain their policy of genocide to the German people, it is highly improbable that the whole grisly business would have been mooted, for we know that even without any serious public opposition the Nazis went to considerable lengths, in the midst of a most tremendous war, to persuade the mass of Germans that Jews were simply being resettled or, at worst, used as forced labour.
Without free expression, democracy cannot function because the whole purpose of democracy is to allow any view to be put forward for public acceptance or rejection.
But although free expression is a golden prize, it is also one of the hardest things for men (of all political stamps) to practise, there being the most magnetic temptation for anyone to engage in the self-serving delusion that the suppression of contrary opinion is not an abrogation of free expression but the legitimate exclusion of dangerous ideas. Milton himself fell prey to this temptation once his political “side” gained the ascendancy during the Commonwealth and Protectorate.
The idea that free expression can exist whilst restrictions on what may be said are in force is a literal nonsense because free expression is indivisible. Its essence is that it is not a negotiable quality; you either have it or a range of permitted opinion which may be altered at any point by the ruling elite, the mass media, unelected pressure groups, terrorists and the Mob.
Britain a free country?
It is often claimed – perhaps never more frequently than at present by our political elite – that Britain is a free country where a man may say what he wants. This has always been less than the truth and the limits of free expression are growing ever narrower both through pernicious effect of political correctness which insists, like all totalitarian creeds, that the only permissible view is that of political correctness, and the ever expanding legal limitations through legislation and the judgements of judges especially in privacy cases.
A surprising number of laws restricting free speech now exist in Britain. It is presently circumscribed by the laws relating to libel, slander, confidence, blasphemy, obscenity, official secrets, equal opportunities and race/ethnic relations. Government departments and agencies, local municipalities, private corporate bodies and private citizens may also obtain injunctions to prevent both the expression of views and physical demonstrations. In addition, the police have practically unlimited powers to prevent a man speaking if it is judged that the words uttered are ‘likely to cause a breach of the peace’ and may limit public demonstrations almost at will.
There are laws which are not immediately obvious to the public as being restricted of free expression. The Race Relations Amendment Act (2000) forces all taxpayer funded bodies to prove they are not engaged in discrimination even unwittingly. The Prevention of Harassment Act (1997) makes contact with someone potentially illegal if they do it more than once after someone has said they do not want contact with you (this covers disputes with companies and officialdom as well as individuals). The Public Order Act (1986) reiterates and strengthens the provisions against inciting racial hatred in the Race Relations Act (1976, but also has a broad definition of harassment in a public place:
“5 Harassment, alarm or distress.
(1)A person is guilty of an offence if he—.
(a)uses threatening, abusive or insulting words or behaviour, or disorderly behaviour, or.
The there is the Malicious Communications Act (1988. This deals with any communication by post, phone or other electronic media:
“1 Offence of sending letters etc. with intent to cause distress or anxiety..
(1)Any person who sends to another person—.
(a)a [F1letter, electronic communication or article of any description] which conveys—.
(i)a message which is indecent or grossly offensive;.
(ii)a threat; or.
(iii)information which is false and known or believed to be false by the sender; or.
(b)any [F2article or electronic communication] which is, in whole or part, of an indecent or grossly offensive nature,is guilty of an offence if his purpose, or one of his purposes, in sending it is that it should, so far as falling within paragraph (a) or (b) above, cause distress or anxiety to the recipient or to any other person to whom he intends that it or its contents or nature should be communicated.” (http://www.legislation.gov.uk/ukpga/1988/27/section/1)
The other Acts which indirectly restrict free expression because they provide for increased police powers of arrest and powers of search. These are:
To these legal barriers must be added the voluntary code of practice which is policed by the Press Complaints Commission. This contains such widely drawn and imprecise restrictions as:
“The Press should avoid prejudicial or pejorative references to a person’s race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation or to any physical or mental illness or handicap.”
“It should avoid publishing details of a person’s race, colour, religion, sex or sexual orientation, unless these are directly relevant to the story.”
Nor is free expression guaranteed more securely by international treaty. The 1951 European Convention on Human Rights states in Article 10 (now incorporated directly into English law in the Human Rights Act) that:
“Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information and ideas without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers….
All fine and dandy. But this is followed by:
The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals [my emphasis], for the protection of the reputation of the reputation or rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the judiciary.”
Which caveats allow the state to do virtually anything by way of censorship.
The Human Rights Act (HRA) has also had a directly pernicious effect on free expression because clause 8 which runs:
“Everyone has the right to respect for his private and family life, his home and his correspondence.
“There shall be no interference by a public authority with the exercise of this right except such as is in accordance with the law and is necessary in a democratic society in the interests of national security, public safety or the economic well-being of the country, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the protection of health or morals, or for the protection of the rights and freedoms of others.”
Goodwin had an affair with a subordinate at RBS who was twice promoted after the affair began; Marr laid himself open to a charge of gross hypocrisy on two counts: he spends his working life quizzing politicians and other public figures about their private lives and misdemeanours and the fact that he is a journalist means he who should defend free expression not engage in censorship.
Such injunctions are obnoxious both because of the censorship and because they are only available, as with libel and slander actions, to the rich. Happily their potential for mischief has been much reduced by the impossibility of preventing the information protected by the injunctions being put on the web in one way or another – Twitter was the main agency used in recent months. However, there will be injunctions whose details are known only to a few which will never appear in public because those who know either have vested interest in keeping quiet or do so out of fear.
Below the super-injunctions come ordinary injunctions and under them the use of confidentiality clauses in contracts and agreements to settle disputes between two or more parties. Confidentiality clauses keep a great deal of important information of genuine public interest from the public. Take the case of Andrea Hill, the chief executive of Suffolk County Council. She has sanctioned “payouts for 13 employees which cost the authority £405,665.90” with confidentiality clauses allegedly to keep silent employees with complaints about the council. (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/politics/8525969/Council-chief-spent-405000-on-gagging-orders.html). Such clauses may hide more matters of public interest than super-injunctions.
The restraints of custom and ideology
But perhaps more potent than formal laws and treaties – for they are unlimited and cannot be challenged in the courts – are the restraints imposed by custom and ideology.
Although we have never had freedom of expression, for most of the past century and a half the range of permitted opinion has been broad and the restrictions on what might be said have had more of a social content than a political one. Fifty years ago bad language and mention of matters such as illegitimacy and homosexuality were considered to be impolite, but the idea that whole areas of political discourse should be ruled out of public discussion was alien to the British.
In the past half century the range of what is not acceptable in “polite” company has shifted very much to the political. Gradually what has become known as political correctness has restricted public discourse on a large swathe of centrally important political questions to very narrow limits. Most particularly, anyone in public life or in the public eye, knows that it is death to their careers if not worse, to fail to pay at least lip service to the credo of the unholy trinity of political correctness: race, gay rights and sexual equality. To this “Trinity” may be added the more minor non-PC sins such as not being “green”, opposing any attempt to make society “safer” by passing laws which are sinister in their effects and generally unenforceable, or the advocacy of any idea which is not ostensibly directed towards the end of an undefined general equality.
But it is not only those that have a degree of celebrity or enhanced status within the public realm who need fear. Political correctness is by its nature totalitarian – the only acceptable view on any pc subject being the pc one – and all must heed its demands. Hence, all public employees, no matter how humble, must not only endure the humiliation of race awareness courses and sexual equality seminars, but live in fear of demotion at best and dismissal at worst if they are deemed to have shown non-pc behaviour or displayed non-pc thoughts. What applies to public service is mimicked increasingly by private businesses, especially the larger ones.
It is not that a person need be racist, homophobic or misogynist in any meaningful sense known to past generations to incur the wrath of the pc police. The politically correct have reduced the definition of what it is to be racist, homophobic and misogynist to such a narrow condition that any human being is in danger of falling foul of those who would cry bigot in the enthusiastic manner of the competing sides in the Reformation who cried heretic. Express a preference for one culture or nation over another and the speaker is racist. Let a pub landlord dare to mention that he prefers to employ good-looking girls as barmaids, and he is sexist. Mention that the legal approval of sexual acts by Gays in public lavatories might not be in the public interest and wait to be called homophobic.
Ironically, many members of the “protected” groups see that such behaviour is not to their advantage because it is both unreasonable in itself and likely to inflame prejudice against them. However, they have great difficulty in speaking out because not only do they face the usual abuse directed at anyone who stands against political correctness, but also attack from the most fanatical of activists from within their own minority group for being in effect Uncle Toms.
Revolutions notoriously devour their own. Just as the religious in the time of the Reformation had to go to ever greater extremes to prove their orthodoxy, so do the practitioners of political correctness become ever more extreme, some from a desire to be the most advanced and others from a fear of having their “soundness” questioned if they remain behind the ideological leaders.
The “right” sort of discrimination
The obnoxious contraction of what is permitted has a further danger for the unwary. Although the dictates of political correctness are in theory universal in practice they are applied with vastly greater enthusiasm against certain groups than others. In 2001 the television presenter Anne Robinson made what was obviously a joke about the Welsh on a programme entitled Room 101. The idea of the programme was for those appearing to consign something or someone to Room 101, the place in George Orwell’s 1984 where “the most terrible thing in the world happens”. Anne Robinson consigned the Welsh with the comment “What are they for?”
A day or so after the programme she became the subject of a police investigation for inciting racial hatred and a file was sent to the Crown Prosecution Service. Some weeks after it was quietly announced that she would not be prosecuted. (http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/wales/1205551.stm).
As the law stands, the statement is unambiguously racist because Mr Dyke is making a claim about a recognised racial group and the use of the word “hideously” is highly inflammatory. The extremely unpleasant nature of it can be seen by substituting black or Asian for white: “hideously black”, “hideously Asian”. Its effect can only be to incite racial hatred against whites. The severity of the offence is greatly magnified by Mr Dyke’s then position as the head of our state funded broadcaster.
To test the pc water I made a complaint to the Metropolitan police. They refused to act, despite the fact that Dyke’s comment was not a joke and his public position is a very important one. I tested the Metropolitan police a second time shortly afterwards with a complaint against a Welsh Nationalist politician called John Elfed Jones who had charmingly described the English who moved into Wales as a “disease” and likened them to foot and mouth http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/2001/aug/08/race.wales). Mr Jones is a man of some public standing in Wales. He is a former chief of HTV and Welsh Water, has held office in the Welsh Language Society and was involved in the creation of the Welsh Assembly. He is a member of Plaid Cwmru. Thus, his remarks have more than ordinary public significance.
Again the police refused to act, despite the fact that Jones’ political position gave his words considerable significance in a part of the UK where firebomb attacks on the homes of English settlers are part of the political landscape. From the refusal to act in these two strong cases of clear racial incitement, it is reasonable to conclude that only the “right” type of racial incitement complaint is acceptable to the police. Complaints to the Commission for Racial Equality on the Dyke and Jones cases met with a similar refusal to act.
This form of oppressive and partial behaviour by the police has steadily grown. Two years after the Dyke case, on 9 November 2003, Cheshire Police acted with the greatest haste on a complaint from “a member of the public” after the Bishop of Chester, Dr Peter Forster, suggested that homosexuals seek psychiatric help to reorientate their sexuality.(http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-201684/Police-quiz-bishop-gay-comments.html)
A day or so later (11 October 2003) they were forced to announce that Dr Forster had committed no offence – as any sane person knew – because the 1986 Public Order Act does not cover “hate crimes” based on sexuality. However, the Chief Constable of the force, Peter Fahy, expressed regret at Dr Forster’s comments and said that it was the duty of everyone in an influential position to celebrate diversity, viz: “We need to be very aware of the position of minorities in the county and make sure diversity is celebrated. Vulnerable minorities should feel they are protected.”
The obvious response to that statement is since when have the police had political comment as part of their brief? The answer appears to be from now on virtually anything goes. Nor does it need a particular crime to provoke such comment. Here is Chief superintendent Paul Pearce of the Sussex force speaking in 2003:
“Recent events in the police service have highlighted the continual need for a positive anti-racist and anti-discrimination stance.
Equally worrying is the attempt by certain police forces to give quasi-official approval of a law which does not exist. The Public Order Act 1986 covers so-called hate crimes, which the Metropolitan Police define as “abusing people because of their race, faith, religion or disability – or because they are lesbian, gay, bisexual or transsexual” (Daily Telegraph 10 11 03). In fact, the Act does not include any crime which is committed for reasons other than racial hatred.
In 2005 prosecutions were brought against the BNP leader Nick Griffin and BNP member Mark Collett for inciting racial hatred with evidence provided by the BBC (this from an organisation which initially refused to hand over film of IRA killings of two British servicemen in Northern Ireland). The BBC secretly filmed a closed BNP meeting in which Islam was represented as a menace to British society. (http://www.independent.co.uk/news/uk/politics/police-investigate-bnp-documentary-over-violence-claim-553351.html). The attempts at prosecution (there were two trials after the first one resulted in a hung jury on three charges and acquittals on others), failed to convict, but sent out a clear message of the extent to which those with power in Britain are willing to suppress free expression. It is not necessary to have any sympathy with the BNP to see the dangers in allowing politicians (and it required a politician, the attorney-general, to sanction the prosecution) to initiate criminal prosecutions against members of other political parties.
Sometimes the police enthusiasm to be pc makes them the object of ridicule. In 2007 a Lancashire shopkeeper found himself threatened with a public order offence for displaying golliwogs in his shop window. The police seized the golliwogs (doubtless for interrogation)and the shop keeper had to endure the suspense of what would happen next. This turned out to be nothing because the police admitted no crime had been committed. (http://www.thisislondon.co.uk/news/article-23389075-police-seize-golliwogs-in-racism-probe.do).
Farcical as the circumstances of this episode were, it is typical of many of these police “investigations” into what they classify as hate crimes: the police investigated but no prosecution or caution resulted. The effect of this behaviour, whether intended or not, is to intimidate the native British who now commonly think they dare not say anything critical about any ethnic minority, nation other than England, women or gays for fear of feeling the heavy hand of the constabulary.
Two final recent examples of this type of thing, both involving Islam. In April 2011, Andrew Ryan was convicted of a public order offence for burning a Koran in public. For this he was sentenced to 70 days imprisonment at Carlisle Magistrates’ Court. The sentencing judge, District Judge Gerald Chalk seems to have invented a new legal concept for he described Ryan’s behaviour as “a case of theatrical bigotry.” (http://www.telegraph.co.uk/news/religion/8459965/Man-who-burned-Koran-jailed-for-theatrical-bigotry.html). Whether one is in favour of burning books or not, it is difficult to see what meaningful crime Ryan had committed. He burnt a book considered holy by Muslims, but so what? The Christian religion is routinely publicly insulted without a flicker of interest from the police. Effectively, a new legal status has been given to Islam, a status not sanctioned by Parliament. It is worth adding that Carlisle, in the far North-West of England, has very few Muslims and few ethnic minorities of any sort. It is doubtful whether many, if any, of the local population took offence.
The second case is even more interesting. To begin with it involves a Muslim, Mohammed Hasnath. Until the bombings of 7/7 Muslims were allowed to say and write virtually without police intervention. Since 7/7 there have been occasional prosecutions of Muslims for violent words, prosecutions one suspects which are conducted to give a specious appearance of even-handedness in the administration of the law.
The opportunities for prosecutions based on racial hatred have been greatly widened to include not merely incitement to racial hatred but to punish more heavily any crime deemed to have a racial motive. As racism is defined ever more widely to include virtually any distinction between peoples, the courts and the police have a very great opportunity to include a racial motive in a prosecution. In addition, there are growing calls for laws to extend to the areas which the police , and especially the Metropolitan police, fondly fantasise are already covered.
Secrecy is the obverse of the censorship coin. To be actively prevented from knowing something is a form of censorship. Most particularly it eats away at democratic control. Unless an electorate has the right to know what the state is doing in any aspect of its work, unlimited mischief can be perpetrated. Justice can be perverted, crimes commissioned, treason committed, political policies subverted, elections manipulated and the lives of individuals maliciously ruined, all with little chance of discovery and next to no chance of prosecution even where the public does find out about the wrongdoing. The most enraging document I have ever read is the Hansard report of the Commons debate the day before war was declared in 1914 and Britain entered the most disastrous conflict in its and Europe’s history. It is clear from Hansard that the grave and novel dangers of entering into a war with modern technology were understood by many MPs. Worse, from the pathetic evasions of the Foreign Secretary, Sir Edward Grey, it is clear that Parliament and consequently the British people had been kept in the dark over secret agreements between the British and French Governments, which obligated Britain to go to war if France was attacked. So off Britain went to war, ostensibly because of an 1839 treaty Britain had signed guaranteeing Belgium’s sovereignty, but in reality because the British elite of the time had committed itself to the French elite without any Parliamentary oversight or agreement.
It is absolutely important to understand that free expression and a free media are an integral part of democracy, but they can formally exist and yet be restricted greatly if secrecy is practised by government. Democracy and openness of government go hand in hand. Take away openness and democracy is breached.
Democracy and freedom of expression
Opposition in the modern world means reasonable access to the various mass media. Without that free expression is an empty shell for, as wise dictators have always known, two shepherds on a hillside defaming the government is nothing, while a hundred thousand people demonstrating in the capital city or a television station broadcasting criticism of government is much. But our public life, including politics, is currently rigidly controlled, on all matters except perhaps the economy, by those who broadly subscribe to a left/liberal programme – what might be termed The Liberal Ascendency. Think, for example, of what educationalists did to sabotage Tory attempts to right the decline in educational standards between 1979 and 1997.
The only true democracy lies in freedom of expression, which requires both the absence of restrictive laws and the statutory guarantee of its exercise to be meaningful. Unless the current embargo on views contrary to those of the Liberal Ascendency is broken, Britain’s claim to political liberty is a sham. It is, indeed, a strange kind of freedom which is so hemmed by law and circumstance.
The idea which is the bedrock of western morality, the primacy of the individual, is a fragile psychological edifice which can only be guaranteed by free expression. Moreover, it is an idea which is constantly under threat because the primacy of the individual is little valued by most societies and its social corollary – a practical concern for individual liberty – is an even rarer cultural artefact. Indeed, it is scarcely an exaggeration to say that only in English society, and those societies deriving from it, is the notion of individual liberty built into the social fabric. The English have been free not primarily because of legal rights, but because it is their evolved social nature. They accept liberty because it seems natural to them. But that freedom has always rested on the willingness of the Public Class to both behave in a reasonable fashion and to allow criticism. Hayek, coming to England as a foreigner between the Wars noted both the special quality of English life and the threat to its continuance:
“…it is one of the most disheartening spectacles of our time to see to what extent some of the most precious things which England has given to the world are now held in contempt in England herself. The English hardly know to what degree they differ from most other people in that they all, irrespective of party, hold, to a greater or less extent, the ideas which in their most pronounced form are known as liberalism…[Road To Serfdom 1944 chapter X1V. Hayek, of course, used liberalism in its uncorrupted individualistic sense.]
Freedom of expression is every man’s best guarantee of freedom.
How to safeguard freedom of expression
We should begin with a bonfire of most of the legal restraints. Libel and slander may be replaced by a statutory right of reply; the equal opportunities and race-related statutes should be repealed completely for they not only restrict free expression but practically abrogate the principle of equality before the law; blasphemy and obscenity should depart on the grounds that no group has the right to constrain another simply on the grounds that views are offensive to one side. Legal restrictions relating to confidence and the Official Secrets Act could be replaced by a law of contractual confidence which clearly states any obligations placed on the person accepting an overt (not implied) contract of employment. No other law of confidence should exist.
A really potent freedom of information act is needed (the present one is an insult to the intelligence with its manifold exemptions and the inability of the Information Commissioner to act within a reasonable time against recalcitrant public bodies who refuse to provide information – at present it takes around two years to get the Commissioner to issue a judgement). allows access to all government and municipal papers of general interest – that is everything which is not related to a particular individual – except papers concerned with limited and clearly defined military matters such as battle plans, equipment specifications and computer codes relating to such things as the launch of nuclear missiles. The stipulation of papers relating only to matters of a general interest would prevent public prying into such records as individual tax returns. The passing of such an act would also place severe limits to the contractual limitations on free expression placed on public servants.
The mention of freedom of information acts always brings knowing scoffing from the self-identified political sophisticates of politics and the mass media. Faced with such a proposal they nudge one another and sigh with a resigned, patronising smile before saying that all that would happen is that politicians would decide things privately whilst dissembling in public. I should be most interested to know exactly how such duplicitous behaviour could be translated into practical measures. If, for example, the present Cabinet secretly wished to re-nationalise the railways whilst publicly supporting privatisation, it could not carry the denationalisation through and expect no one to notice.
It is true, of course, that legislation may be presented as something it is not, but that is a present evil without the existence of a freedom of meaningful freedom of information act. With such an act misrepresentation would be, in principle, subject to greater and more informed scrutiny and consequently open to fiercer pressure for amendment. Nor do I believe that politicians would be able to dissemble successfully in public all of the time.
Injunctions to prevent the expression of views and physical demonstrations are a problem for they are a potent weapon of suppression in the hands of the influential and powerful, especially if those hands form the government of the day – In addition, the police have practically unlimited powers to prevent a man speaking if it is judged that the words uttered are ‘likely to cause a breach of the peace’ and may limit public demonstrations virtually at will.
As for the customary restraints, a statutory right of reply would go a long way to ensuring fair play for the individual in their relations with the press. There would remain a problem in the case of books and pamphlets, but rarely is someone attacked in a book or pamphlet with a wide circulation who does not have access to the media.
Broadcasts present a different problem from printed matter because their numbers are practically limited with current technology, in the case of terrestrial national channels severely limited. There is also a considerable difference between writing a letter or article for publication, which most people should either be able to do or to find someone who is willing to write on their behalf, and broadcasting a coherent reply, which would be beyond many people. However, many would be able to cope with the demands of a pre-recorded broadcast and those who could not cope could have a written statement read on their behalf.
The great problem is that of a general bias within the elite, especially the mainstream media. In the case of broadcasters there are already formal restraints on bias, but these are honoured almost entirely in the breach. To a degree bias is mitigated by the internet, but we are still a very long way from an equality of readership or prestige between the mass media and the Internet. A right to reply would further shift the balance towards fairness, but there would still be a massive advantage for those who share the liberal internationalist ideology currently favoured by our elite.
There is an obvious danger in governments becoming directly or even indirectly involved in controlling what the media should publish. Nonetheless, the danger of government censorship and propaganda can be largely obviated if a law places the regulation of the media in the hands of the ordinary citizen through a mechanism which contains two facets. The first is that the obligations it places on the media must be properly defined. For example, the law must not merely state that balance must be achieved, which it does in connection with broadcasting already, it must clearly define what balance means in practice. This could mean that in any television or radio debate on a contentious subject the participants in the debate must be balanced in numbers as well as views – goodbye to the beloved BBC “balanced” interview of three liberal internationalists “debating” a subject.
The second facet is that the enforcement of the law must be free of government influence such as one will invariably get in the appointment of a regulatory authority. Such a mechanism could be the right of any individual to challenge imbalance in the courts not as a matter of judicial review which is expensive and contentious in its application, but through a relatively cheap and simple procedure, such as exists in the application for an injunction.
To prevent political restrictions on free expression, we need a written constitution which explicitly guards the right to free expression. To do that it must forbid any government from introducing either laws which restricts it or practices such as codes of conduct for public servants which gag them from exposing bad behaviour in public bodies or force them to promote political views, such as happens now with the practitioners of political correctness.
The constitution should also contain provisions to ensure that the police (1) do not abuse their powers to harass and intimidate those whose views do not meet with the approval of those with power and influence and (2) apply the law equally to all, something they manifestly do not do at present in politically inconvenient cases.
At present we have a very restricted range of permitted opinion, which is becoming ever narrower through new laws and the tightening grip of political correctness. The fact that public figures bleat ever more frenetically of our “right to free expression” reminds me irresistibly of the lines:
‘The more he spoke of his honour,
The faster we counted our spoons’
The dangerous truth is that we are moving towards a situation where we shall not only have no free speech spoons to count, we shall not even be allowed to mention their loss. If we wish to preserve our freedom, we must realise that such liberty as we enjoy is an ineffably hard won and fragile right which has been won over four centuries or more and that what was gained so slowly may be lost in a day if a government has the tyrannical urge.Freedom of expression is an absolutely necessary condition for a free society. It is the fulcrum of freedom because he intellectual point at which a society may place a moral lever to lift it above tyranny. https://www.telegraph.co.uk/politics/2021/02/16/turning-tide-cancel-culture-will-start-universities-respecting/?li_source=LI&li_medium=liftigniter-onward-journey
Turning the tide on cancel culture will start with universities respecting free thought
Coming legislation will broaden the legal duties of educational institutions, meaning they must actively promote freedom of speech on campusGAVIN WILLIAMSONEDUCATION SECRETARY16 February 2021 • 6:00am
Last year, I warned our vice-chancellors and leaders of the very real and alarming threat of censorship and a ‘cancel culture’ within our universities.
I made very clear where I, and the rest of the Government, stood on the matter; that we were on the side of lawful free speech and academic freedom, and that we would back this commitment in law if we had to.
Under this rising intolerance, students have found themselves wrongfully expelled from their courses, academics fired and others forced to live under a threat of violence. And I was shocked by the findings of a recent study by King’s College London, that found a quarter of students believed violence was an acceptable response to some forms of speech.
When you add this worrying finding to the high profile cases of guest speakers being no-platformed, it becomes very apparent that further action must be taken.
That is why, today, I am making good on that promise and introducing our new, landmark plans to stamp out this rising threat.
To ensure they do so, this new duty will be reflected in a new condition for registration with the Office for Students, who will be able to impose sanctions on universities that breach it.
Students’ unions, previously exempt from free speech duties, would for the first time have a direct legal duty to take steps to ensure lawful free speech for their members and others, including guest speakers. Like universities, they will be fined if they do not uphold this new duty.
Meanwhile, individuals, whether academic staff or students, would be able to seek compensation through the courts if they feel they have suffered due to a breach and our new Champion would also be able to recommend individual redress.
Globally speaking, these measures are vital in protecting our longstanding reputation for providing a world-class, academically diverse higher education.
Some of the most fundamental beliefs in our world view have evolved from British universities. Our students believe, rightfully so, that when they embark on their own journey to higher education, they too will have the freedom to make up their own mind, think independently, and perhaps even come up with their own new world view.
It is this freedom which makes our higher education truly world-renowned, a place where free thinking academics push back the boundaries of knowledge, and it is this freedom that this legislation will strive to protect.
Though the problems we face are undoubtedly serious, now there is real cause for optimism. We have witnessed the bravery of students, academics and leaders alike, who have stood up courageously for free speech and academic freedom in the face of vocal opposition.
This fills me with hope that the tide is turning, and that together the Government and our higher education community can continue our longstanding tradition of respecting and protecting the right of speech and ensure our universities remain the bastions of free thought and intellectual debate, for which they have long been celebrated.
Academics will be able to sue universities if their free speech is violated
Universities will be given a new legal duty to actively promote free speech on campus, following a raft of ‘deplatforming’ incidentsByCamilla Turner, EDUCATION EDITOR16 February 2021 • 6:00am
Writing for The Telegraph, the Education Secretary Gavin Williamson warned of the ‘real and alarming threat’ of censorship at British universities, and remains ‘greatly concerned’ to hear a growing number of reports of a ‘silencing of voices and a chilling effect of censorship on campus’ CREDIT: Wiktor Szymanowicz/Barcroft Studios
Academics will be able to sue if their free speech is violated, as part of a ‘cancel culture’ crackdown due to be unveiled by the Government on Tuesday.
Ministers are proposing a raft of new laws to bolster free speech at universities, amid concerns about the rise of “silencing and censoring” both academics and students on campus.
Writing for The Telegraph, the Education Secretary warned of the “real and alarming threat” of censorship at British universities.
One of the major legislative changes the Government plans to introduce would enable academics and students to seek compensation through the courts if their free speech has been impinged on.
This would give a new, legal recourse to students who have been expelled from their course, academics who have been dismissed from their posts, or speakers who have been “no-platformed” over their views.
Gavin Williamson said he is “greatly concerned” to hear a growing number of reports of a “silencing of voices and a chilling effect of censorship on campus”.
Writing for The Telegraph, he said: “Last year, I warned our vice-chancellors and leaders of the very real and alarming threat of censorship and a ‘cancel culture’ within our universities.
“Under this rising intolerance, students have found themselves wrongfully expelled from their courses, academics fired and others forced to live under a threat of violence.”
Under existing legislation, there is no specific right for individuals to seek compensation for breach of the freedom of speech duty.
While anyone could seek a judicial review of a university’s decision, this does not establish any private law rights. This means academics and students have no recourse to justice when institutions breach their duty to uphold free speech, under section 43 of the Education Act.
This has led to concerns among officials that current laws do not go far enough to protect those whose free speech rights are violated.
In 2019, the Court of Appeal ruled in favour of a student who was expelled from an MA in social work at Sheffield University after making a series of Facebook posts that labelled homosexuality as a “sin” and “wicked”.
A group of academics warned that had the university’s changes gone through, they may have led to academics being disciplined or even fired for failing to “respect” other people’s views.
Mr Williamson also announced that universities which stifle free speech will be fined and a new ‘Free Speech Champion’ will be given powers to defend free speech and academic freedom on campuses.
Other proposed changes to the law will ensure student unions, as well as universities, are subject to the duties to promote free speech.
Universities will be given a new legal duty to actively promote free speech on campus, and this will become a new condition of registration with the higher education watchdog, the Office for Students (OfS). Any institutions which fail to uphold free speech could be fined or sanctioned by the regulator.
On Monday night, vice-chancellors warned that any plans to introduce new legislation should be “proportionate” and have “due care to institutional autonomy”.
A spokesman for the Russell Group, which represents the country’s leading universities including Oxford and Cambridge, said that ministers should help and support institutions to maintain free speech rather than add “unnecessary and burdensome bureaucracy”.
Exclusive: Universities face fines as part of ‘twin assault’ on cancel culture
The twin assault on ‘cancel culture’ comes amid concern at senior levels in the Government over attempts to rewrite Britain’s pastByChristopher Hope, CHIEF POLITICAL CORRESPONDENT13 February 2021 • 9:30pm
J K Rowling was ‘cancelled’ on social media for speaking her mind on transgender rights CREDIT: Joel C Ryan/AP
Ministers will fine universities which stifle freedom of speech and tell heritage groups “public funds must never be used for political purposes” in a major new bid to torpedo efforts at rewriting Britain’s history, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
Gavin Williamson, the Education secretary, will announce this week that a ‘Free Speech Champion’ will be given powers to defend free speech and academic freedom on campuses.
Colleges or student bodies that try to cancel, dismiss or demote people over their views will be sanctioned in a major Government escalation on the ‘war on woke’.
Separately, Culture secretary Oliver Dowden has summoned 25 of the UK’s biggest heritage bodies and charities to a summit next week where they will be told “to defend our culture and history from the noisy minority of activists constantly trying to do Britain down”.
The Government’s twin assault on the so-called ‘cancel culture’ comes amid concern at senior levels in the Government over attempts to rewrite Britain’s past.
In a further assault on alleged wing bias, the Government has tasked the new head of Ofcom with ensuring broadcasters report with “due impartiality”, according to an advert for the role seen by this newspaper.
It comes as MPs today accused broadcasters like the BBC and Channel 4 of trying to “appeal to a narrow band of north London metropolitan virtue signalling politically correct lefties.”
Last night Sir John Hayes, the chairman of the Common Sense Group, welcomed the measures by the Government to tackle so-called ‘cancel culture’.
He said: “It is absolutely right that the Government steps in to defend free speech. Without the ability to speak freely soon we will not have the ability to think freely.”
He added that while “universities ought to be places where ideas are to be a fulcrum for devising and testing ideas to be places of imaginings”, debate was being closed down to new ideas by “the thought police”.
Mr Dowden was right to remind “organisations that have strayed from their purpose that protecting and promoting our heritage is about making people proud, not making them feel guilty about being British”, he said.
Mr Williamson will announce on Tuesday that new measures to strengthen the existing legal protections for free speech in higher education, The Sunday Telegraph can disclose.
Changes to the law will ensure student unions, as well as universities, are subject to the duties to promote free speech.
A new ‘Free Speech Champion’ will be set up to work from the Office for Students, the student regulator.
They will be given powers to champion free speech and academic freedom, impose fines on providers or student unions that restrict speech unlawfully and order redress if individuals have been dismissed or demoted for their views.
A source told The Telegraph: “Free speech underpins our democratic society and our universities have a long and proud history of being places where students and academics can express themselves freely, challenge views and cultivate an open, inquiring mind.
“Unacceptable silencing and censoring on campuses is having a chilling effect and that is why we must strengthen free speech in higher education, by bolstering the existing legal duties and ensuring strong, robust action is taken if these are breached.”
Separately, Mr Dowden and Heritage minister Nigel Huddleston have asked 25 of the UK’s biggest heritage charities, museums and art galleries to a round table meeting in Whitehall on Tuesday next week where they will be told to stop trying to “airbrush” history.
Attendees will include the leaders of the National Trust, Historic England, the National Lottery Heritage Fund, Arts Council England, the National History Museum, the British Museum and the Imperial War Museum will be told to put into practice the Government’s “retain and explain” towards heritage.
Mr Dowden stepped in after The Sunday Telegraph disclosed that £150,000 of public and lottery money had been used to pay for a ‘Colonial Countryside’ review of the links between the National Trust and historic slavery.
In a letter to the Common Sense Group of Conservative MPs, Mr Dowden said: “Whilst I agree that we should use heritage to educate people about Britain’s rich and complex history, this work should never be driven by ideology.”
Further bids for public money to cover the cost of the Colonial Countryside project would be turned down. “I have been consistently clear that public funds must never be used for political purposes,” he said.
Mr Dowden is also concerned after Historic England – the Government’s official “adviser on the historic environment” – branded villages as “part of the transatlantic slavery economy” in a review of halls, churches and pubs.
Mr Dowden has now ordered his civil servants to work with Historic England to ensure that it understands the Government’s “retain and explain” approach to contested history.
Mr Dowden said in the letter, seen by The Sunday Telegraph: “Proud and confident nations face their past squarely; they do not seek to run from or airbrush the history upon which they are founded.
“History is ridden with moral complexity and interpreting Britain’s past should not be an excuse to tell an overly-simplistic version of our national story, in which we damn the faults of previous generations whilst forgetting their many great achievements.Purging uncomfortable elements of our past does nothing but dama