Toby Young on the Free Speech Union and Legislation Needed to Protect Free Speech

I am very definitely not a fan of Toby Young. He’s a very right-wing Tory with nasty eugenicist views. I think he’s part of the Spectator crew and something of a sleazeball, as Hill Street Blues’ officer Mick Belcher would describe him. If memory serves me right, he was one of the people behind a proposed free university, which collapsed a few years ago. Tweezer appointed him to the body that’s supposed to represent Britain’s students, despite the fact that it’s been at least a couple of decades since he was one. He got into Private Eye a few years ago for attending a eugenics conference at one of the London universities. Along with him were members of various American far right groups, who believed that race really did define intelligence and Blacks were biologically less bright than the rest of us. They also weren’t in favour of the welfare state, for the old, old reason that it’s a waste a money supporting people who can’t fend for themselves. In other words, some of the people there could be reasonably described as Nazis.

And his attitude to women leaves much to be desired. A few years ago he managed to cause mass disgust on Twitter or one of the social media platforms by describing how he watched female MPs on TV, commenting on their busts. Back in the 90s he wrote a piece for GQ about how he had been a ‘lesbian for a day’. He then revealed in the article that he’d dressed up in drag and then decided to go trolling through New York’s lesbian bars looking for a snog. He had successfully passed himself off as gay woman in two of them, before he was discovered in a third and had to beat a hasty retreat. Or been thrown out. Whatever. This is the kind of antics many lesbians are complaining about from trans-identified men, or possibly straight men claiming to be trans. They object to clearly biological men demanding romance or sex from them because they claim to be trans. There have been transwomen giving presentations on ‘Breaking the cotton ceiling’, which means getting into lesbians’ cotton underwear. Graham Linehan, formerly the writer behind Father Ted and now an anti-Trans activist, has remarked that one of the lesbian dating sites is actually full of bearded men, who are about as feminine as he is, all claiming to be trans. Well, Tobes tried this trick decades ago. But I wouldn’t like to see him as any kind of trans pioneer.

But his Free Speech Union does have a point.

Young and the others set this up to protect people from persecution because of their views. These are mostly individuals, whose views or comments are deemed offensive because of racism, sexism, homophobia or anti-trans. He appeared on a video on GB News talking about the work the Free Speech Union had done defending two such individuals. One was a railway worker, who’d been sacked because of a comment he’d posted on social media. He lived in one of the towns up north with a large Muslim community. After the lockdown was lifted, he posted that it was a relief no longer having to live in an alcohol-free Muslim caliphate. Someone complained to the company, and he was sacked. The Free Speech Union, however, took up his case, and an industrial tribunal declared in his favour that he was a victim of unfair dismissal and awarded him damages. The second case was a Christian woman, who offended woke sensibilities by stating that the Christian ideal of marriage should be the heterosexual one of a man and woman. Now I’d say that this was perfectly correct and normal, and that holding such a view doesn’t mean that you automatically hate gays or people in same-sex marriages. I’m absolutely sure you can hold such a traditional view of marriage, while recognising that gays also have the right to marry and for their marriages to be respected. But this traditional view was too much for someone, and she suffered because of it.

Now I realise that many people do disagree with these views, and particularly with the railway worker’s comments. It is islamophobic. But that’s the point. For free speech to mean anything, it has to include offensive or unpleasant speech. Free speech that only permits approved speech whether by the authorities or the populace, is no such thing. I’m not a free speech absolutist. There have to be limits, which in my opinion includes holocaust denial, the promotion of paedophilia or which urges people to commit other crimes, like incitement to riot. I’d also include real incitement to racial hatred, though my fear is that such reasonable legislation has been broadened too far to include comments which someone simply finds offensive, rather than which genuinely threatens the safety of Blacks and other people of colour. The guy’s remark is offensive and tasteless but not, I think, really worth his job.

Young explained that the Union would like to pass legislation protecting people from being sacked for their views, if they expressed them as private individuals and not as work or representatives of a company or organisation. He also talked about getting the trade unions to back such legislation, considering that the trade unions were founded to protect workers talking about their companies’ pay and conditions. Well, it was a bit more than that. They were founded to fight for workers’ pay and conditions, but yes, opposing victimisation for one’s views is part of that.

He also proposed having a two-year limit on what could be used to attack someone from their web history. Here I definitely agree with him. There have been a number of cases where politicos, celebrities and ordinary mortals have been embroiled in scandals because of something they said online a few years ago, sometimes when they were much younger. Quite often it’s people, who’ve said something unpleasant or bigoted about people from ethnic minorities and gays, sometimes when they were very young. Private Eye has done this several times. Quite often they’ve printed pieces showing that whatever such a politician, industrialist or media figure thinks now, back in the day he or she had very different views. Sometimes very far back, like in the ’80s or ’90s. People change, and don’t necessarily hold the same views they had when they were in their teens or twenties.

But another reason I’m prepared to give such legislation my approval is because it might stop some of the persecution by the witch hunters. The stock in trade of persecutory groups like the woefully misnamed Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and David Collier and the GnasherJew troll farm is going through their targets’ internet history looking for anything they can misrepresent as anti-Semitism. They’ve done it to a lot of people, many of them Jews and firm opponents of anti-Semitism. They did it to the great Jackie Walker, a self-respecting Jew by faith and blood and a very committed anti-racist activist. Jackie had been discussing the involvement of Jewish financiers – who she explicitly stated were members of her own people – in the slave trade. This is historic fact, and Jackie, as a proper historian and academic, has produced an enormous amount of mainstream scholarship by respected and respectable historians to support it. She has also made the obvious point that these financiers were working for Christian, European kings and states, with whom the ultimate responsibility lies. Again, perfectly correct. But she left out a word, which allowed the CAAS to misrepresent her grotesquely as an anti-Semite. That, and the Jewish Labour Movement secretly recording some of her perfectly reasonable comments about commemorating other groups’ holocausts, like the slave trade, during a workshop on commemorating the Holocaust, has led to her being expelled from the Labour party and receiving the most horrific abuse.

Another victim of the witch hunters was a perfectly innocent Jewish lady in Devon. She was mentioned in an online film Mike and other Corbyn-supporting peeps appeared on promoting a documentary refuting the accusation that Jeremy Corbyn is an anti-Semite. That film opened with a group of venerable rabbis in long beards, dark coats and broad-brimmed hats stating very clearly that Corbyn was no such thing. Many of the speakers, including Mike himself, were victims of the witch hunt and what looks to yours truly as gross libel. One of these wretched witch hunting groups had posted a map of the locations of anti-Semites, and this lady and her address were on it. As a result, she not only received abuse but her car was firebombed.

This is what is called ‘stochastic terrorism’.

This is the name given to the type of online activism when someone deliberately posts comments that will rile people up against a particular group or individual to the point where they may physically attack them. But the remarks that provoke and encourage the assault are carefully phrased so that the person making them can always disavow responsibility: ‘T’wasn’t anything I said, your honour. It’s nothing to do with me and I didn’t intend anything like it should happen.’ Except, of course, they did. As in my view was the case with this lady.

Toby Young is a Tory with deeply unpleasant views. But I do think the Free Speech Union has a point and deserves support.

Especially if it prevents malign witch hunters doxing innocent people, leading to attacks on them and their property.

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2 Responses to “Toby Young on the Free Speech Union and Legislation Needed to Protect Free Speech”

  1. Mark Pattie Says:

    Toby Young does have a point about freedom of speech, and does seem to genuinely stick to those principles (he defended Steve Bray for instance) unlike some of his comrades. I do find it strange that Glinner got hounded off Twitter for his trans-sceptic views, when others with far more dangerous views still have blue ticks (PJW and, I think, Nick “has-been fascist windbag” Griffin). That being said, I do think his Free Speech Union is a grift more than anything.

  2. Jim Round Says:

    I do wonder if the person in question who lost his job would have the support of Young if Jews would have been the subject.
    Tim Fenton over at Zelo Street has many posts on Toby Young.
    As I mentioned about Mahyar Tousi, they have a habit of giving just one side of the story, usually anyone pointing this out gets deleted (free speech eh….)
    I wonder if Toby Young supports the right to strike?
    As the previous commenter says, I also think this is a grift as a short while ago, an academic was allegedly stopped from discussing Churchill’s faults somewhere, I believe Toby Young was informed but was not interested.

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