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"Free Speech" Complainants Don't Practice It


It is often said in the right wing papers such as the Daily Telegraph, much lampooned as the “Torygraph” that Free Speech as a principle is being abandoned by a new militant leftist generation of students on campus, who are interested only in environmental direct action, Black Lives Matter and transgender rights. There is, we are told, a culture war, with the very democratic principle of Free Speech at risk as well as the right to dissent in any given context. But this week, according to the Guardian, a group that was set up ostensibly to campaign for total “free speech on campus” has been accused of silencing free speech itself. The FSU, which stands for Free Speech Union was the brainchild of cultural critic of Toby Young, who has been notable for his appearances on television this last year criticising government lockdown policy and, according to some, questioning the legitimacy of coronavirus concerns. The FSU was at first billed as welcoming students from the left, centre and right of the political spectrum, from radical anarchists to right wing free market libertarians. What would unite them, was a commitment to free discourse and the right to amicably disagree with each other on any given issue. However, many student local groups have disaffiliated from the FSU saying that the structure has become increasingly top down. Local FSU affiliates that wanted to raise concerns about free speech in countries like Russia or China have been told that this is not a “priority”. Instead, the FSU has become just another group opposing trans and gay rights, misrepresenting Black Lives Matter and indulging in the persecutory fantasies of white, heterosexual males. It has also developed a fixation with Covid19 conspiracy theories and the need to oppose the government's lockdown restrictions.


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