Free Speech Union: Intimidation, anti-dialectics and invented legalese

The ideology and the intent of Free Speech Union (FSU) were obvious at its launch.  Its personnel and its description of itself meant there was no ambiguity about its purpose.

In FSU (22nd June 2020) I said its main aim is “to channel funds for legal action to impose yes-platforming of bigotry, to stop action being taken against perpetrators of such bigotry and to shut down oppositional voices.”  

A year ago (8th December 2020) Nafeez Ahmed described the scientific racism and racial eugenics at the core of FSU’s philosophy in Alt-Right Pseudoscience: ‘FREE SPEECH’ & SCIENTIFIC RACISM for Byline Times.  He noted the strong, continuous relationships between prominent members of FSU and other extremists who advocate racism based on false science, particularly eugenics, including Pioneer Fund, a “Nazi endowment specialising in production of justifications for eugenics since 1937” according to Professor Steven J. Rosenthal in The Pioneer Fund: Financier of Fascist Research.

I advise reading Ahmed’s piece to understand what motivates and inspires FSU.

FSU does not state its extreme philosophy openly.  Interviews, statements, essays and articles by its main contributors that promoted racial eugenics are not mentioned or linked to on its website.

The strategy of public presentation of FSU is to assume that its motivation is unknown to most people and to rely on ineptitude of and collusion by broadcasters who fail to explain its ideology when yes-platforming FSU, and to rely on the Tory government to corroborate and collaborate with its fraudulent presentation when members of the government cite the FSU or hire its members as advisers.

Letters of complaint by FSU
FSU publishes letters it sends to various public institutions wherein it complains about actions or lack thereof taken by the institutions.  Many of the institutions are places of education. 

Each letter follows the same pattern

  1. A complaint is stated about a decision taken by the institution
  2. A claim is made that an attendee, employee or customer at the institution contacted FSU for assistance
  3. FSU explains why it thinks the decision is incorrect and should be reversed
  4. Various rules and regulations of the institution and laws are referred to as being breached by the decision taken by the institution
  5. Threats of legal action or other further action by FSU against the institution are issued

The letters are riven with contradictions, wilful misinterpretation, selective quotations of rules, regulations and laws, comical pomposity and ridiculous self-aggrandisement.

Sat beside the ridiculousness is the neon-lit political agenda of FSU.  The issues it complains about are in two categories

  1. An institution has made a decision that promotes fighting against racism and bigotry
  2. An institution has taken action against a person or body as part of the institution’s fight against racism, bigotry and stupidity

The consistent perspective of FSU throughout its letters to institutions is opposition to anything that fights against racism and bigotry.  Its tactics are similar to those of far-right lobby groups Turning Point and Bruges Group and to those of extremist libertarian racists in USA in education.

A key similarity between FSU and USA extremists in education is discourse about “critical race theory” (CRT).  CRT, a “theory” that is not clearly defined, is referenced by far-right legislators and commentators in USA as their enemy because they perceive knowledge of history of racism and knowledge of systemic racism to be threats to their white supremacism.  

Each letter of complaint, written by Toby Young, General Secretary of FSU, begins with an unashamed misrepresentation of FSU with no indication of its true intent: “Free Speech Union [is] a non-partisan mass membership public interest body that stands up for the speech rights of its members and campaigns for free speech more widely.”  He assumes the recipient of each letter will be unaware of his history and that of his colleagues and associates.

In his letters to places of education Young evokes the Tories’ Higher Education (Freedom Of Speech) Bill within his threats of legal action.

Nadhim Zahawi
Education Secretary Nadhim Zahawi

Higher Education (Freedom Of Speech) Bill
Brexit, followed by election success in 2019 general election, allowed Tories to launch a multi-pronged attack on freedoms, rights, liberty and access to knowledge.  One of the tines of their assault on democracy is Higher Education (Freedom Of Speech) Bill the aim of which is to impose far-right libertarian views on students and staff at universities and college while simultaneously banning the impart of knowledge, particularly of racism. 

The bill’s intent was devised by members of and associates of FSU.  On 10th December 2021 Nafeez Ahmed exposed connections between FSU (and its associates in Peter Thiel’s network of libertarian academics) and the development of the bill.  The bill seeks to create exactly the same political control of speech and of education as that demanded by FSU.

Young uses Higher Education (Freedom Of Speech) Bill in his letters to say “if you don’t like what I’m demanding then tough because the government will soon make it law to do exactly what I’m demanding.”

Intimidation of universities
Young wrote to several universities to respond to various actions taken by them as part of their polices to fight against racism.

EXETER: On 15th June 2021 he wrote to University of Exeter to say he was “concerned the College Of Social Sciences and International Studies requires academics who propose new or revised courses to integrate content that moves away from white Eurocentric curriculum.”

A reasonable person would wonder why someone would object to a university asking for a more balanced education, both in terms of race and geographically.  The university asked for non-white Eurocentric content to be “integrated,” not to replace current content.  It would be absurd and objectionable if a university did not pursue such an intent.  The only reason to oppose the university’s intent would be to preserve bias in favour of superiority of white Eurocentrism.

Young’s legal threats to University of Essex were twofold.  “This requirement is, in our view, vulnerable to legal challenge under employment law.”  He claimed the instruction to staff contradicted an written Agreement between the university and the University And College Union.  “The university’s backsliding on the Agreement exposes it to legal challenge.”  “We believe the university should also seek legal advice on whether the requirements constitute a breach of its contracts with individual academics.”

The second legal threat was a claim that if the university ignored its Agreement then it could be in breach of Human Rights Law.  The contortions Young and his legal advisers adopted to reach their conclusion on legality were twisted and knotted.

Echoing the philosophy of the most extreme commentators on race, such as David Duke, Anders Breivik and Stephen Yaxley-Lennon, Young said the quiet part out loud.

There is an established history at Exeter of what seems to be casual anti-white racism.”

Young felt confident to express his extremism because of government policy backing up his stance.  He warned that “the university should consider that the new obligations proposed in the Higher Education (Freedom Of Speech) Bill are highly likely to result in regulatory intervention unless there is a change of course.”

He ended the letter in a sinister tone.  “The Free Speech Union will support any academic at Exeter who challenges this policy.  However, an adversarial approach is not the only way forward.  We are willing to work with you in any way we can, without cost, to enable you to get ready for the new legal regime that will soon be in place.”

That is, he said the university should do what FSU tells it to do, with FSU directly involved, or else “the new legal regime” will deal with it “adversarially.”

Young displayed constructed confidence that government policy will agree with FSU’s political agenda, and he positioned FSU as spurious authority.  Such confidence and positioning are standard features of far-right strategy and presentation, resembling strategies of Steve Bannon, Charlie Kirk, Candace Owens, Dominique Samuels, Tom Harwood, Daniel Hannan, Matthew Elliott, etc., and have been features of Young’s methodology throughout his career as a Git.

KirkOwens
Candace Owens (left) and Charlie Kirk

CAMBRIDGE: In July 2021 the Faculty Of Classics at University Of Cambridge published an Action Plan to address a lack of diversity in the Faculty and wrote a response to an open letter on anti-racism it received a year earlier that asked several questions about the Faculty’s responsibilities.

The Action Plan and the explanation of the Faculty’s responses were not controversial or problematic.  The former listed standard policies for the Faculty to follow to attempt better diversity, to address any staff and students’ concerns correctly and not dismissively, and to be aware of problems with some texts and context in course material.

On 26th August 2021 Young wrote to the Chair of the Faculty Board Professor Robin Osborne and said “we are concerned that the Faculty’s Action Plan fails to take any account of the University Statement on Freedom Of Speech and may, without remedial action, constitute an unlawful inhibition of academic freedom.”

The Action Plan asked the Faculty to “increase diversity of seminar speakers and topics.”  Young said that request should “be subject to convenor’s [organiser of seminar] discretion to invite speakers best qualified to speak according to their own judgement.”  His response was unnecessary because the Action Plan did not preclude “best qualified” speakers.  He insulted the intelligence of Professor Osborne.  Young, who failed to achieve sufficient qualifications to attend University Of Oxford but was accepted due to an administrative error, decided he had to explain simple logic to a professor of classics.

He objected to the Action Plan’s request that “staff refresh Implicit Bias training every three years.”

Again, he said the quiet part out loud:

Where Implicit Bias training involves demonising people of particular ethnicities, (e.g. white British), it is potentially unlawful.”

Any training that relies on ‘whiteness’ and ‘white privilege’ and holds all people of a particular race of ethnicity responsible for the suffering experienced by people of another race or ethnicity might open the University to claims of harassment and/or discrimination under the Equality Act 2010.”

The intelligent response to such malicious contortions of reality, logic, history and morality uttered by Young is obvious, and is a response that has been made many times before by many people when faced with acute mendacity from opponents of anti-racism.

Young is proud, or Proud, to be ridiculous.  He wallows in a pit of fetidity.  He doesn’t care if his comments are clear endorsement of white supremacism.  Every “classical liberal” is worried about the decline of superiority of white European hegemony.

His comments quoted above were not primarily for the reading pleasure of Professor Osborne.  Young knows an intelligent academic won’t be misled by base ultra-simplistic extremist drivel.  The letters FSU send are published on its website, and press releases advertise their existence; his comments are for general propaganda.

The Action Plan asked for increased “awareness of harassment and microaggressions” to which Young replied “there is no basis to believe that microaggressions can ever constitute harassment without the law.”   He claimed harassment is a matter for the law and, so, if the Faculty takes action because it deems harassment results from microaggressions but also doesn’t think law has been broken, then, Young argued, “the Faculty may be acting unlawfully if it attempts to inhibit staff and students’ right to speak freely in an effort to prevent microaggressions.”

His patter included a reference to the government’s proposed change to the law designed to stop universities from not inviting objectionable speakers.  “In light of upcoming new legislation on free speech at English universities, we suggest the Faculty urgently revisit the Action Plan.”

The Action Plan asked the Faculty to “ensure that the Tripos gives due prominence to addressing and engaging with the often uncomfortable place Classics has had with and continues to have in the world” including “tackling the role of Classics in support of racist and imperialist structures and discourse.”  Such a request is reasonable and necessary.  It would be odd to study Classics without the considerations that the Action Plan asked for.

Young disapproved.  He said, wrongly, that “the desired outcome is an attempt to steer the Faculty’s staff and students to take a particular side in an ongoing debate.”  He looked for a problem that didn’t exist because he was so annoyed that the Faculty wanted students to acquire full rounded knowledge.  Another legal threat followed.  “We suggest the faculty strike out this section of the Action Plan entirely on the grounds that it constitutes an unlawful infringement of academic freedom.”

Note that I am not choosing the daftest sentences from Young to quote as an attempt to create a negative perspective of his intelligence.  I could have chosen any of his sentences randomly with similar impressions.

Young mentioned Human Rights Act and European Convention On Human Rights as tools that a member of staff could use against the University regarding the Action plan but he admitted that “it may well be that such legal action by staff is unlikely.”  Instead, he talked about the University’s “reputation.”  That is, Toby Young expressed concern about somebody else’s reputation.

After a further mention of the Higher Education (Freedom Of Speech) Bill he said “in the event the Faculty fails to amend the Action Plan, the Free Speech Union will consider all options open to it, including taking legal action in its own right.”

Why should administrators or senior academic staff take any notice of grifting preposterousness Toby Young, or of any of his FSU associates like Douglas Murray, Alison Pearson, Lionel Shriver, etc?  They shouldn’t waste their time responding to FSU’s misrepresentation of law or FSU’s invented corollaries and consequences of a university’s actions.

But, the legal threats, though entirely based on misinterpretation, ludicrous extrapolation and fantasy, are not ephemeral.  The threats can succeed, not because of any likelihood that legal action would prevail in FSU’s favour but because prohibitive cost of defending a legal action persuades the body being threatened by FSU to agree, at least partially, to its demands.  FSU is in a position where they can issue legal threats (with next to no possibility of winning any legal case) because its funding is substantial.  Universities, under tight budget control, cannot compete financially with cash-rich corporate entities, think-tanks and lobby groups that bankroll FSU via dark money networks.

SOMERVILLE, OXFORD: On 13th February 2021 Young wrote to Somerville College at University Of Oxford to complain about an unconscious bias training course students must take that concludes with a test. 

An e-mail to students from the college said “a vital step in addressing these injustices [racism, homophobia, transphobia and disability discrimination] is for each of us to become more aware of our unconscious biases as a necessary first step toward avoiding actions driven by unconscious prejudices.”  Such knowledge is inamiable to FSU’s philosophy.

Young focussed on the college’s requirement “you will be required to achieve a mark of 100% in the assessment at the end of the course” but he chose to assume students would not have more than one opportunity to achieve 100%.

He followed the FSU template.  He over-stated the importance of and misreported the details of the training course, quoted a single study of the effectiveness (or not) of unconscious bias training, and referenced acts of law (Human Rights Act and Equality Act), “contractual” obligations to students and the Somerville College’s ‘Freedom Of Speech Policy.’  He positioned his complaint as supportive of a “member of FSU” who is a student at Somerville.  It was a lot of fuss about very little but it was entirely within FSU’s reason for existing: Oppose anti-racism.

ST. ANDREWS: On a similar theme to the letter to Somerville, Young wrote to Vice-Chancellor of University Of St. Andrews on 21st October 2021 to complain about a training course that is a necessary part of matriculation for all students and includes a “diversity training” module wherein students must achieve a pass rate of fifteen correct answers to seventeen questions.

Just like his complaint to Somerville, Young chose to assume students would have only one opportunity to attain the required pass rate.

Young’s usual “we believe that this demand may be in breach of Human Rights Act, Equality Act and charity law” was followed by similar deceitful arguments used in the Somerville letter if “a student may disagree” with any expected answer to the diversity training’s questions.

He claimed an FSU member at St. Andrews “contacted” FSU (just like at Somerville), and he claimed CRT is unreliable because the Tories’ Commission On Race And Ethnic Disparities had said so.

On the issue of charity law Young’s complaint was driven by his political perspective that it is debatable that racism should be fought against.  “An educational charity may promote uncontroversial ethical truths but it may not promote propositions that are the subject of reasonable disagreement.”

OXFORD, STUDENTS’ UNION: On 25th June 2021 Young wrote to Oxford University Students’ Union (OUSU) to object to its creation of Student Consultancy Of Sensitivity Readers (SCSR) and the latter’s effect on Oxford Student, an OUSU newspaper. 

He said “any use it [Oxford Student] makes of the new service [SCSR] will be, ostensibly or actually, an act of obedience to its overly powerful owner – OUSU.”  Young’s wilful misunderstanding of how students’ unions operate encouraged him to complain about the effect on Oxford Student’s “editorial independence” and he noted “the safeguards on the Oxford Student’s independence are threadbare.”  He called OUSU the “proprietor” of Oxford Student and compared the relationship between the two to a national newspaper’s editorial relationship with an owner.  The newspaper is the OUSU newspaper but the OUSU is not the “owner” of the newspaper.  His argument was drivel. 

Young dug deeper in his hole by talking about his editorship of a newspaper at university.  “I would not have welcomed this kind of interference.  Nor would it have been helpful when it came to preparing me for a career as a journalist and editor.”  (Young has never had an independent idea in his life and has always done what his paymasters desired.)

His threats followed with another reference to the Higher Education (Free Speech) Bill.  “OUSU could face regulatory action by Office For Students,” (a deceptive quango invented by the Tories to interfere in education), “or even a claim for damages in the courts.  Should an Oxford journalist,” (that is, a student writing for the students’ union newspaper), “believe their speech rights have been breached by OUSU, we [FSU] would of course support them.”

ASTON: On 7th October 2021 Young wrote to Professor Alec Cameron, Vice-Chancellor of Aston University, Birmingham, regarding School Of Social Sciences And Humanities’ ‘Student Guide For Undergraduate Programmes In Sociology And Policy.’

The guide states which words and phrases students should seek to avoid in order not to offend.  It is a guide but Young presented it as a list of demands by the School.  He claimed “the document consists of clear and unambiguous demands.”  It doesn’t do so.  He added “students risk falling foul of this guidance by using a term whose meaning has changed since the guide was issued or which is retroactively deemed to be problematic.”  The students have no such risk.

Young’s overly dramatic account of how students might be affected by the guide was embellished by “we have been contacted by a first-year student at Aston” who “did not feel able to broach their concerns with the School or university directly, for fear of reprisals, and came to us to make representations on their behalf.”

Having created a fantasy of a scared student who just happened to have heard of FSU, Young revealed his real concern.  He objected to the School’s guide’s observation that “black refers to those who have a shared history of European colonialism, neo-colonialism, imperialism, ethnocentrism and racism” which he described as “not an impartial view.”

Young’s politics require absolute denial of the existence of systemic racism and of state racism.  He is opposed to factual descriptions of colonialism and imperialism, partly because he supports new colonialism and imperialism where perpetrators are international corporations and financial backers rather than nineteenth century state actors.

In response to the guide’s statement that “we strongly believe in Black Lives Matter” he chose to assume that meant “an expression of support for the BLM movement and its wider ideology.”  The guide did not mean what he chose to assume it meant, but, if it had, so what?

He mentioned the Higher Education (Freedom Of Speech) Bill.  “Given that the bill will soon become law, we find it extraordinary that Aston university should engage is such ideological thought policing.”  He prefers thought policing to be solely within the remit of libertarians.

DOWNING, CAMBRIDGE: The worst example of FSU’s opposition to anti-racism was its reaction to Downing College’s ‘Report Racism Guidance’ (DRR).  (Downing College is part of University of Cambridge.)  On 12th November 2021 Young wrote to Alan Bookbinder, Master at Downing College.

A tactic used by racists to try to smear anti-racists is to claim that anti-racism, particularly Black Lives Matter, is antisemitic.  The concocted reasoning of the racists includes opposition to the use of anything that promotes people of colour or that criticises “white supremacism” or similar because the racists claim it discriminates against Jewish people.  The fact that many Jewish people are black is a fact the racists sidestep.  

The tactic described above is one of the most nefarious political tricks in use.  Anyone who uses it displays their racism brightly and displays their antisemitism.  It is precisely the tactic used by Young in his letter to Bookbinder.

DDR noted that racism is “an ideology and a set of practices based on ideas of inherited white superiority that normalises control, domination and over people of colour, while legitimising privilege and oppression.”  That is a strong political description of racism.  It is also an accurate description of how racism is encountered and is an accurate analysis of the purpose of racism.

FSU is focussed on denying the intent of racism and on absolving the main perpetrators.  It supports fully the effects of racism, “legitimising privilege and oppression” as DDR said, because it supports fully the beneficiaries of such oppression, the wealthy elite.  Thus, FSU opposes forcefully any attempt to educate, impart knowledge or debate the true nature and meaning of racism.

Young said DDR’s definition of racism “is not the standard definition of racism.  It is a highly contentious definition rooted in Critical Race Theory (CRT).”  The definition is “highly contentious” among libertarian right-wing conservatives who fear any decline in white superiority.  He tried to back up his statement by stating that the Tories’ Commission On Race And Ethnic Disparities “recently criticised” CRT.

Young’s frequent use of Tory government’s opinions and policies as support for or proof of his assertions shows he and FSU have no interest in a philosophy of “free speech” but are driven entirely by a political stance they are confident is backed by the Tories.

He claimed DDR’s definition “violates the Equality Act” and that it “excludes anyone who has experienced racism by people of colour.”  FSU’s philosophy is to deny the reality of racism because the economic politics it supports requires racism as a tool of division and control.  In particular, it promotes relentlessly the denial of systemic racism.

Young said Downing’s “guidance” will exclude “Jewish, Irish and Polish staff and students.”  He chose to assume that there are no Jewish people of colour, or Irish or Polish; his own ingrained racism guided his point.

The process of FSU’s complaints often includes an individual complainant on whose behalf they claim they are acting.  For the complaint to Downing, Young said “one of our members is in a state of distress having stumbled upon” DDR “which they [the member] describe as essentially anti-Semitic in what is implied about anti-Jewish hatred not constituting racism.”  In scenarios where FSU acts on an individual’s behalf the person is always an FSU member first and a complainant second, chronologically.  The “stumbling upon” was, without doubt, an inaccurate description.

Of course, DDR does not imply what the FSU “member” said it did, and there is nothing antisemitic about the guidance from Downing.

Young said that some of Downing’s guidance “fuels discrimination and encourages suspicion against students and staff, particularly those who don’t identify as people of colour.”  He is so concerned about “white fragility.”

His main occupation in his professional life is to make extremism into mainstream policy.  This includes not only extremism being part of government policy but also replacing any other policy.  The slight, but significant, drift of Tory policy since 2016 toward shameless, reckless, anti-freedom, anti-society free-racketeering has been directed by well-connected nodes of libertarianism, and members thereof acquired positions as MPs and as members of the government.

Among the tools needed by Tories to achieve their aim are tools of division and of othering.  Young, and his colleagues at FSU (Murray, Shriver, Biggar, etc.), are very experienced in adept use of those tools, and they are very keen on extreme libertarian economic philosophy.  In isolation from the government, FSU could be dismissed with disdain, but the government is entirely in agreement.  Young’s repeated references to Higher Education (Freedom Of Speech) Bill in his letters to universities shows he is confident his intimidation can succeed.

Alongside Equality Act Young mentioned Human Rights Act and European Convention Of Human Rights in his threats to Downing.  A further threat noted Downing College’s charitable status.  “In presenting the highly controversial theory of CRT as indisputable fact your guidance does not present any type of balance and, therefore, does not adhere to the standard it is expected to hold according to charity law.  Indisputably, CRT presents an overt and social and political agenda.”

His contorted analysis of CRT quoted above was a very politically-biased analysis.  Tory government has taken several steps to prevent charities from telling the truth.  That policy sits beside hard-right libertarian think-tanks existing, fraudulently, as charities whose members are infested in government: Institute Of Economic Affairs, Tax-Payers’ Alliance, Centre For Policy Studies, Adam Smith Institute, Initiative For Free Trade, etc.

Having erroneously affirmed that his political agenda (fighting anti-racism) equates with law, Young warned “in order [for Downing[ to remain within the law, CRT should be presented as a theory for discussion only alongside material that offers alternative perspectives.”  His demand fell within the far-right perspective that wants racism to be a debatable topic.

Young concluded his nonsense with a threat preceded by sarcasm.

Sarcasm: “I can only assume these was some governance failure within Downing College that allowed this guidance to slip through.  I expect it will be remedied with urgency and in good faith.”
Threat: “Be aware that, if necessary, the FSU is prepared to take legal action, including the launching of judicial review proceedings, should this not be the case.”

OXFORD: On 6th March 2020 Young wrote to Proctor’s Office of Oxford University to complain about a decision to cancel an invitation to speak that was issued to the organiser of the racist attack against people who had emigrated to UK decades ago on the Windrush ship, namely former Home Secretary Amber Rudd.

As Young noted in his letter, the invitation was revoked by the same society – UNWomen Oxford UK Student Society (UNW) – that issued the invitation.  After quoting and mentioning some university “codes of practice” he made the arbitrary statement that “while the UNW is under no obligation to invite anyone to speak at its events, once it has extended an invitation to a particular speaker it is under an obligation not to rescind that invitation.”  That is, he made stuff up.

Responding to UNW’s apology to students for the initial invite to Rudd, Young spoke of power being given to “groups of activists and protesters” who “disapprove of her past behaviour.”  Rudd organised the scheme, designed by Theresa May, that denied the right-to-work, right to welfare, right to healthcare and the right to live in UK for thousands of people who moved to UK in 1950s, some of them as young children, causing loss of livelihoods, savings and, in many cases, lives, but Young called it “her past behaviour” opposed by “groups of activists and protesters.”  Rudd should be in a prison cell.

Just like an American Karen demanding to see the manager, Young exclaimed “I would like to lodge a formal complaint with the Proctor’s Office about the behaviour of the student officers who run UNW and ask that the decision to no-platform her be investigated as a possible breach of the university’s Code Of Discipline.  I do not believe the officers of the UNW are absolved because they extended the invitation to Rudd in the first place.”

Whether or not tax-dodging bankrupt Rudd is able to speak at a university is not important.  Young’s contorted argument was full of holes.  His reason for intervention is he saw students taking a stance against someone who had enacted a deliberate racist and illegal policy that destroyed many lives.

Other letters of complaint
Some of Young’s letters are sent to non-educational bodies.  The motivation for sending them, their structure and their intent are similar to the university letters.

OFCOM: On 30th April 2021 Young wrote to Ofcom to pre-empt any possible action it might take following complaints to it from viewers regarding race-related comments about Duchess Of Sussex by FSU Media Advisory Council member Julia Hartley-Brewer on This Morning show on ITV earlier in the month.  There was never any possibility that Ofcom would take any action against ITV and, so, Young’s letter was unnecessary, and it was also an insult to Ofcom because he assumed it would not have been able to decide how to respond to the viewers’ complaints without the assistance of the General Secretary of the Free Speech Union.

He quoted the Broadcasting Code and European Convention On Human Rights, selectively.

Most pertinently, Young included in his letter his own views that he presented as facts.  He declared that Hartley-Brewer was “was not making light of the issue of racism.”   However, a sentence earlier Young put the word “racism” in quotes: “We understand that some complaints to Ofcom have accused Ms. Hartley-Brewer of laughing at or joking about ‘racism’.”  He described Hartley-Brewer as a “journalist and broadcaster.”

It was a daft letter but its purpose was to support the right of The Gits to exclaim offensively whenever they want.  He claimed, wrongly, broadcasting rules and human rights prevented TV and radio from making decisions to exclude offensive comments.

IKEA: On 21st June 2021 Young wrote to IKEA regarding its decision to stop advertising on far-right, anti-vaccine, anti-lockdown, anti-knowledge, anti-fact, libertarian-owned, pseudo news channel GB News.  Several companies withdrew their advertising from GB News after a successful and informative campaign by anti-racist organisation Stop Funding Hate (SFH).  The campaign began ahead of the launch of GB News as the latter’s political position was clear due to the identity of its owners and staff and due to comments by its (now departed) chair Andrew Neil who emphasised proudly how “anti-woke” (i.e. racist) GB News would be.

Young’s description of GB News was expectedly biased.  He claimed “nothing GB News has broadcast has been remotely, racist, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic or anything else” and described it as a “politically independent” TV channel.  He went further and, as a response to comparisons between GB News and Fox News, said “the Murdoch-owned television network (Fox) may be right-of-centre but there’s nothing racist about it.”

Most of his letter to IKEA was denigration of SFH. whom he called “a left-wing lobby group” that “targets mainstream publications and broadcasters whose political views it disagrees with” and “a left-wing anti-free speech lobby group that seeks to silence opponents by whipping up outrage mobs on social media.”  He accused SFH of using “underhand tactics,” of having a “hard-left ideology” and whose “campaigns involve just a handful of hashtag activists.”  Young’s emotive language was a ham-fisted attempt to plant the idea in the minds of anyone reading the letter of SFH being unreliable as complainants.

There was a very telling feature of his letter to IKEA.  He said SFH aimed to “panic low-level employees [of IKEA or other businesses] such as the people operating the social media account.  SFH banks on the fact that once these decisions [to agree to boycott] have been made public, even though they’ve usually been made without consulting the CEO, let alone the Board, companies will then stick to them to avoid embarrassment.”

Young’s insults toward “low-level employees” were embellished and countered by fawning ego-stroking of senior personnel.  “I assume that you [Jesper Brodin, Chair and CEO of Ingka Group, to whom the letter was addressed] were not consulted about this decision, and nor was Peter Jekelby, the CEO of IKEA UK, because you would, I’m sure, have advised against such a move that risks alienating large swathes of your customers.”

What young did was to describe an invented difference, of importance and of worth, between, on the one hand, “low-level employees,” a grassroots campaign group and members of the public, and, on the other (unduly elevated) hand, senior executive personnel and General Secretary of the Free Speech Union Toby Young.  He displayed obsequiousness toward executives while positioning himself on their level.

Do Young’s ridiculous and threatening letters succeed?
Responses to his letters varied.  Some recipients, particularly some of the universities, chose to follow his demands, partly because the issues he raised were not the most important part of students’ education and partly because legal action could be prohibitively expensive for the universities; others responded with polite acknowledgement but did not alter their plans because they were (rightly) confident that Young’s bluster was not grounded in reality; a few ignored him.

The correct response to a Young FSU letter of complaint is a three-step procedure.

  1. Wipe one’s backside on the letter;
  2. Flush it;
  3. Get on with your life.

If and when Higher Education (Freedom Of Speech) Bill becomes law, FSU will be demanding its use relentlessly.  It will be a battle between true educators who desire full rounded knowledge against extremists like FSU who are intent on censoring knowledge.

Like all far-right libertarians, FSU turns reality on its head.  Its claim to be in support of free speech is countered by its actions to supress knowledge.  It opposes efforts to fight racism while complaining about “anti-white racism.”  It opposes any attempts to help people of colour but whines about its members being “in a state of distress.”

FSU should not have any influence on anything.  However, combination of bottomless supply of dark money funding and full collaboration of like-minded Tory government means it can coerce places of education and others into restricting their attempts to report, teach and speak openly and fully.

As Nafeez Ahmed showed, FSU’s political philosophy is monstrous.

YoungGuiliani
Two peas in a pod: Toby Young (left) and Rudy Guiliani

Some words from a human perspective
On 5th December 2021 actor George Takei spoke about his experience in internment in USA during WWII and spoke about the need to learn all history.

“These days, a premium is being placed on whether white kids might feel bad about their own heritage after learning about things like American genocide, slavery or internment.  But no one asks what it’s like for minority kids to learn about these things.

When I was growing up inside internment camps, my parents tried to shield me from the horror of what was happening.  I even recited the Pledge of Allegiance daily from a classroom inside the barbed wire. ‘With liberty and justice for all,’ I said, not grasping the irony.

It wasn’t until I was older that I began to question what had happened.  It made me very angry, not only at the country that did this to us without cause, but against my own father.  ‘You led us like sheep to slaughter!’ I cried.  He was silent.  ‘Maybe we did,’ was all he said.

That tore at my family.  No one wanted to talk about how painful those years had been, not in our household, not in most Japanese American households.  To do so was to relive that very real pain. But the truth has a way of pulling you back into it.

I spent the latter half of my life telling our truth, however painful it was.  The truth matters because without it we cannot ever truly heal.  Without it, we cannot ever learn from our horrific mistakes.  To avoid the truth is to avoid our sacred obligation.

When the right tells white parents that their children are being made to feel bad about our history, remember first that this isn’t just about white children.  It is about all of us.  Japanese American children, Black, Native and Latino children.  We owe them the truth, too.

We need to reframe the current debate around truth, not around kids’ assumed fragility.  I lived through years of internment and still didn’t know the truth until I came to ask the right questions.  Our experience should be more than a thrown away paragraph in a history book.

Without a full accounting of our true history, we cannot ever break the cycle of denial and recurrence.  The same system that produced the horrors of the past cannot be reformed without painful examination under the lens of truth.  That is what we must demand and teach.”

Sulu

Be like George.

Don’t be like Toby.

Free Speech Union: Intimidation, anti-dialectics and invented legalese