Toby Young: We’re Facing A Tsunami Of Censorship

  • Date: 02/07/20
  • Toby Young, The Spectator

It’s open season on mavericks and dissenters at the moment.

If you publicly challenge any of the sacred nostrums of the social justice left and you work in a school, a college, a university, an arts company, a public broadcasting organisation, a tech company, a charity, a local authority or, indeed, Whitehall, you are at risk of being cancelled. How do I know? Because in February I set up the Free Speech Union to protect those being targeted in this way and in the past month we’ve been contacted by people in all of these fields who have either been fired, suspended or are ‘under investigation’ for having said or done something controversial, usually on Facebook or Twitter.

And by ‘controversial’ I don’t mean they’re guilty of hate speech. One person who asked for help was Mike McCulloch, a maths lecturer at Plymouth University, who was being investigated by his employer for having liked a tweet saying ‘All Lives Matter’. Then again, the definition of ‘hate speech’ is so nebulous and broad that it’s increasingly common for mainstream views to be labelled as such. For instance, another FSU member, the feminist campaigner Posey Parker, started a petition on Change.org asking the Oxford English Dictionary to keep its definition of ‘woman’ as ‘adult female human’, and the moderators took it down on the grounds it was ‘hate speech’. J.K. Rowling knows all about that, of course.The authoritarian tide is rising and every time you think things can’t get any worse, the ground goes out from under you

I thought it was bad when I set up the FSU, and it was. According to the Telegraph, the police in England and Wales have investigated and recorded 120,000 ‘non-crime hate incidents’ in the past five years. That’s more than 65 people a day being interviewed by the authorities for precisely the kind of thing Mike McCulloch was investigated for, e.g. liking a tweet that dissents from fashionable left-wing dogma. Once that’s on your record, it shows up on an enhanced DBS check, which means you might not be able to get a job as a teacher or a carer. But things are worse by an order of magnitude since the explosion of the Black Lives Matter movement. At the FSU, we used to get half a dozen requests for help a week. Now we get half a dozen a day. […]

The pro-free speech forces do win the occasional victory — Plymouth has dropped its investigation of Mike McCulloch. But the authoritarian tide is rising and every time you think things can’t get any worse, the ground goes out from under you. We need the government to defend this age-old liberty, but since when has a Conservative government actually conserved anything?

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