The government is appointing a ‘Free Speech Champion’ for universities. Presumably the traditional naming convention of these type of appointees, calling them a ‘czar’, was vetoed after someone picked up a Russian History book.
I spent a lot of my own time at university involved in debating societies, and this interminable discourse around campus free speech has made clear that debating societies are srs bsns, k?
With that in mind, I thought I’d offer up my hard-won expertise. Here are some clarifications for the UK government on some mistakes that they commonly make on this issue.
Free speech is not;
- The right to be invited onto BBC news.
- The right to have people respect the terrible opinions that you get printed in a major broadsheet newspaper.
- The right to be invited to speak at a university student society.
- The right to have young people agree with your social and cultural viewpoints.
- A tool for conservatives to distract the public from the UK’s shamefully bad record on the pandemic.
- A stand in for an editorial policy for the Telegraph and The Times, who alternate between discriminating against transgender people and worrying about Young People’s communist tendencies.
- The right to not be made fun of by Australians on weird twitter.
- The right for bad comedians to get gigs at SU bars.
- The right to have your opinions validated and laundered by the prestige that is granted by association when you work with major organs of learning or the press.
- The right for weird middle-aged men to debate the validity of women’s rights and bodily autonomy in front of an audience of bemused and upset university students.
- The right for a debating societies’ committee, themselves skewed to the political right of their membership, to not face criticism for holding bad debates and inviting intentionally controversial speakers.
- The right for Right wing historians to not be embarrassed when their colleagues publicly discuss the uninformed things they say about empire and colonisation.
- On a related note, free speech is not the right for former imperial powers to not have to learn about the bad things they did in the colonies
- The right for Toby Young to have people listen to him. Under the current interpretation of the European Charter for Human Rights, Toby Young’s views cannot be forced on anyone. Praise God.
Hopefully this list has proved useful for our confused and frazzled rulers. If the governments free speech champion/czar/commissar/enforcer/clown would like some further consultation or advice, I am available for hire either on an ad-hoc or permanent basis.