Higher education minister Jo Johnson says institutions that fail to protect freedom of speech could be fined. He explained in a speech:
A university is the quintessential liberal institution. Not liberal in a narrow party political
sense, but in the true liberal of free and rigorous inquiry, of liberty and of tolerance.
The liberal tradition is a noble and important one; but today it finds itself under threat. Liberal politics are under threat from national
and populist parties around the world. Economic liberalism is under threat from those who turn to protectionism for quick-fix solutions to complex problems.
Our universities, rather like the Festival we
are today, should be places that open minds not close them, where ideas can be freely challenged and prejudices exposed.
But in universities in America and increasingly in the United Kingdom, there are countervailing forces of
censorship, where groups have sought to stifle those who do not agree with them in every way under the banner of safe spaces or no-platforming.
However well-intentioned, the proliferation of such safe spaces, the rise of
no-platforming, the removal of offensive books from libraries and the drawing up of ever more extensive lists of banned trigger words are undermining the principle of free speech in our universities.
Without that basic liberal
principle, our universities will be compromised.
Shield young people from controversial opinions, views that challenge their most profoundly held beliefs or simply make them uncomfortable, and you are
on the slippery slope that ends up with a society less able to make scientific breakthroughs, to be innovative and to resist injustice.
That's why the government is taking action now.
As part of our reforms to higher education, we have set up a new regulator, the Office for Students (OfS), which, as its name suggests, will regulate the university sector in a way that puts the interests of students first.
Created by the Higher Education & Research Act 2017, the OfS will come into being next week.
Promoting freedom of speech within the law will be at the heart of its approach to the regulation of our higher
The OfS will go further than its predecessor in promoting freedom of speech.
In the Act, we extended the existing statutory duty on universities to secure free speech in the Education
(No.2) Act 1986 so that it will apply to all providers of higher education registered with the OfS.
Furthermore, as a condition of registration with the new regulator, we are proposing that all universities benefitting from public
money must demonstrate a clear commitment to free speech in their governance documents.
And the OfS will in turn use its regulatory powers to hold them to account for ensuring that lawful freedom of speech is upheld by their staff
And I want to be clear about this: attempts to silence opinions that one disagrees with have no place in the English university system. Academics and students alike must not allow a
culture to take hold where silence is preferable to a dissenting voice.
If we want our universities to thrive, we must defend the liberal values of freedom of speech and diversity of opinion on which they depend.
Freedom of speech within the law must prevail in our society, with only the narrowest necessary exceptions justified by specific countervailing public policies.
London's Royal Court has backed out of its initial decision to ban a touring production of the play Rita, Sue and Bob Too . Political correctness was the reason for the censorship on the basis that staging a play about an older man having sex
with two teenage girls would be highly conflictual in the post-Weinstein era. The theatre also cited allegations of sexual misconduct made against the touring company's founder, Max Stafford-Clark (who no longer works fro the company).
statement artistic director Vicky Featherstone announced that she had invited the production back to the theatre for its run. She apologised for her arbitrary censorship decision saying:
The Royal Court was nothing
without the voices and trust of our writers. This is the guiding principle on which the theatre was founded and on which it continues to be run.
I have therefore been rocked to the core by accusations of censorship and the banning
of a working-class female voice. For that reason, I have invited the current Out of Joint production of Rita, Sue and Bob Too back to the Royal Court for its run. As a result of this helpful public debate we are now confident that the context with which
Andrea Dunbar's play will be viewed will be an invitation for new conversations.
Arts writer David Barnett pointed out that cancelling Rita, Sue and Bob Too is a grim joke. It is precisely because of men like Max Stafford Clark that
this play should be staged.
The play was written when Andrea Dunbar was 18 and became notorious for its opening scene where two schoolgirl babysitters take it in turns to have sex with their employer in the back of his car.
New rule to ban harmful gender stereotypes next year
Ella Smillie from the Committees of Advertising Practice (CAP, the rule writing arm of ASA), announced that a new rule will be introduced in the UK Advertising Codes next year to ban what it
claims as harmful gender stereotyping in advertising.
The review by the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) on claimed harmful gender stereotyping in advertising, Depictions, Perceptions and Harm , published last summer, proposed
stronger censorship of ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics including ads which mock people for not conforming to gender stereotypes.
Ella Smillie said:
Following the review, we
committed to developing new standards on ads that feature stereotypical gender roles or characteristics. We are now developing a new rule and guidance on the depiction of gender stereotypes in ads, which we will consult on in spring, 2018.
The review claimed that harmful stereotypes can restrict the choices, aspirations and opportunities of children, young people and adults. These stereotypes can be reinforced by some advertising, which therefore plays a part in unequal
gender outcomes, with costs for individuals, the economy and society. The review welcomed the ASA's track record of banning ads on grounds of objectification, inappropriate sexualisation and for normalising unhealthily thin body images, but claimed that
more needs to be done on gender stereotypical roles and characteristics portrayed in ads.
The new rule will not ban all forms of gender stereotypes. There will not be a ban on ads depicting a woman cleaning or a man doing DIY tasks. But, subject
to context and content considerations, however ASA would ban an ad which depicts family members creating a mess while a woman has sole responsibility for cleaning it up, or an ad that features a man trying and failing to undertake simple parental or
household tasks because of stereotypes associated with his gender.
Ella Smillie, Committees of Advertising Practice, said:
Some gender stereotypes in ads can contribute to harm for adults and children by
limiting how people see themselves, how others see them, and potentially restricting the life decisions they take. The introduction of a new advertising rule from 2018 will help advertisers to know where to draw the line on the use of acceptable and
We'll set out our proposed new standards in Spring 2018 and openly consult on them.
A strip club advertisement has been banned from one of Brisbane's busiest train stations after the advert censor found it debased women (with thin crusts) comparing pizzas to breasts.
The poster shows two pizzas with pepperoni clustered in their
centres under the words: Pizzas or Jugs? Grab both for just $25.
The owner of The Grosvenor topless bar and strip club, Jasmine Robson, responded:
Now I think this is political correctness/censorship gone
absolutely mad. I am shocked that the ASB would determine that this ad is exploitative or demeaning to women in any way, especially considering there isn't even a woman on the billboard.
However the advert censors of the Advertising
Standards Bureau upheld complaints including that the ad condoned and suggests sexual harassment of women by suggesting that people can grab 'jugs' at the bar'.
In their ruling, the ASB noted the image used in the ad was of a picture of
pizzas with strategically placed pepperoni for the purpose of creating the impression of breasts with pronounced nipples. The Board considered the use of the term pizzas or jugs and noted that the colloquial definition for jugs can include breasts.
The ASB found that the representation of womens' breasts as pizzas did reduce women to an object which was exploitative by way of purposefully debasing women. In addition, the promotion of being able to grab the deal at a bargain price was degrading
by lowering in character and quality women in general, the ASB found.
A PC extremist from Newcastle has called on her son's infant school to ban the classic fairy tale from teh school's reading list.
Sarah Hall claimed the timeless tale, in which an unconscious princess is kissed by a prince to wake her from a
curse, features an inappropriate sexual message about a lack of consent. She contends the fairytale teaches children it's OK to kiss a women while she's asleep.
Hall told the Newcastle Chronicle:
I think it's a
specific issue in the Sleeping Beauty story about sexual behavior and consent. It's about saying, 'Is this still relevant? Is it appropriate? In today's society, it isn't appropriate, my son is only six, he absorbs everything he sees.
She said her call for the book to be banned only refers to younger kids, saying the tale could be a great resource for older children to encourage discussions on consent and how the Princess might feel.
Offsite Comment: Okay, now feminists have gone too far
There is so much that is wrong with these arguments. There's the suggestion that parents won't be able to explain the difference between fiction and real life to their kids. Or that sexual consent is something six-year-olds need to worry about. Or that
as kids get older they will think back to the fictional tales they read when they were six to work out how to proceed with budding sexual relationships. Or that there is something wrong in the first place with imagining a beautiful princess being saved
by a kiss; that there's something wrong with the life of the imagination itself.
Twitter announced yesterday that it would begin removing verification badges for famous tweeters that it does not approve of. Not for what is tweeted, but for offline behaviour Twitter does not like.
The key phrase in Twitter's policy update is this
one: Reasons for removal may reflect behaviors on and off Twitter. Before yesterday, the rules explicitly applied only to behavior on Twitter. From now on, holders of verified badges will be held accountable for their behavior in the real world as well.
Twitter has promised further information about the new censorship policy in due course.
Many questions remain unanswered. What will the company's review consist of? How will it examine users' offline behavior? Will it simply respond to reports, or
will it actively look for violations? Will it handle the work with its existing team, or will it expand its trust and safety team?
Twitter has immediately rescinded blue tick verification from accounts belonging to far-right activists, including
Jason Kessler, a US white supremacist, and Tommy Robinson, founder of the English Defence League.
Offsite Comment: Twitter has turned its back on free speech
The platform plans to exercise ideological control over its users.
The Runnymede Trust is a campaign group seeking racial equality in the UK. It describes its approach as:
In order to effectively overcome racial inequality in our society, we believe that our democratic dialogue, policy,
and practice, should all be based on reliable evidence from rigorous research and thorough analysis.
The group has just issued a report on a range of issues that it gathers together under the title of Islamophobia. It notes
that the term has a wide range of meanings but proposes a new and more tightly defined pair of definitions:
Short definition: Islamophobia is anti-Muslim racism.
Longer definition: Islamophobia is any distinction, exclusion, or restriction towards, or preference against, Muslims (or those perceived to be Muslims) that has the purpose or
effect of nullifying or impairing the recognition, enjoyment or exercise, on an equal footing, of human rights and fundamental freedoms in the political, economic, social, cultural or any other field of public life.
It is interesting to consider the concept of massively changing the meaning of a word to suit the purposes of a political campaign group. The meaning of words belong to the people that use them, not to the dictates of a political campaign group.
Political correctness tries to impose a lot of 'correct' terms for people, or groups of people. But language has a lot of defences against unnatural imposition. Words can be intonated to add 'quotes' to imply ironic usage. Also out of place words
prompt the listener to ask 'why was that unexpected formal word being used'? What are they getting at?. Perhaps it could mean a telling off for previous wrong speak in the conversation, or perhaps it is a warning that PC sensitive issues would be
And of course if a formally imposed polite word eventually becomes the norm it loses the politeness of formality, and can then be used in a disparaging way, and so we have to start work evolving a new polite word.
political correctness demands that the word 'Islamophobia' is used as an accusation of racism, then surely the word will forever be used in quotes to show that people consider this an accusation too far. And of course it is not beyond the wit of
man to dream up a few new words to replace it, maybe even a more positive term meaning reasonable criticism of Islam.
Bosses of Knox College in Illinois have banned a student play in the name of political correctness. A few easily offended students had whinged about a performance of Bertolt Brecht's The Good Person of Szechwan, saying that it was too white
and racially insensitive.
Peter Bailley, a Knox College spokesman said that campus leaders are proud of the open dialog between our students and faculty.
The play, which is about a Chinese sex worker who seeks to do good deeds, drew complaints
that it stereotypes Asian women and that it engages in whitewashing because whites would be cast in nonwhite roles.
The Knox Student newspaper editorial board calling the play racist and the department very white ... like many departments at Knox.
The editorial continued:
The theatre department ... needs to acknowledge that they are coming from a place of privilege and prejudice. They need to listen to their students when they voice their concerns about not only
the plays the department produces, but interactions with insensitive faculty and problematic syllabi,
[I can now see where the US counter campaign is coming from with its posters proclaiming simply: It's OK to be white].
A Swedish daycare centre's trip to the local library in Borås took an unexpected turn recently and ended in a police report being filled over racial agitation.
According to GT, Expressen, the daycare children were listening to a CD of various
Pippi Longstocking stories when another library user became 'offended' by the description of Pippi's father as a 'Negro king' and ludicrously filed a formal complaint with police. It was noted that there were children of various ethnic backgrounds among
the daycare group.
The head of the daycare institute, Marie Gerdin, described the incident as "sad" and said she had assumed that the library materials were appropriate for children.
After the police report was referred to the
chancellor of justice, it was sensibly determined that there would be no further action.
The first four Pippi books were published between 1945 and 1948 and in addition to the description of Pippi's father as a "Negro king", the titular
character is also at times referred to as a "Negro princess". The title was earned in the originals when Pippi's father proved a hit amongst natives during an adventure in the South Seas. English translations have 'translated' the father's
title to the 'fat white chief' and refer to Pippi as the 'fat white chief's daughter'.
Students have taken aim at King's College London after it was revealed that the university was employing 'safe space marshals' to patrol events that could cause controversy.
A job advert on the university's student union website is offering
£11.89 an hour for someone to patrol and monitor events which have been risk assessed as having potential for a Safe Space breech.
Jack Emsley, editor of The 1828, the Conservative Association Journal spoke about a political talk on Facebook:
Massive thanks to KCLSU for providing a fantastic safe space yesterday!
I know that without the five Safe Space Marshals working tirelessly, I definitely couldn't have listened to Jacob Rees-Mogg
without having my feelings seriously hurt. Definitely not a waste of paper, manpower or our money!
A King's College London spokesman told the MailOnline:
Universities have a unique challenge to
create environments in which open and uncensored debate from all sides on issues of political, scientific, moral, ethical and religious significance can take place without fear of intimidation and within the framework of the law.
The scheme, which enables monitors to eject attendees and even speakers, was launched in 2015, but has only just come to light now.
Toxicity marshals form an orderly queue for the job
If Blizzard wants Overwatch to be an inclusive shooter, it needs to deal with the game's toxic players.
Just two months after Overwatch's massive launch, Blizzard acknowledged that its game had a
toxicity problem. Since Competitive has been live, we've been doing some under the hood tuning and tweaking on [the report function] to be more aggressive about handling toxic behavior, Overwatch game director Jeff Kaplan said at the time. But [toxicity]
is not just in Competitive Play. I think as the game ages a little bit, people's dark sides tend to come out a little bit more. 15 months later, the company's attempts to address the situation have proved painfully slow and ultimately ineffectual.
Blizzard's most recent acknowledgement is a developer update video entitled Play Nice, Play Fair, which celebrated the release of player reporting on consoles, a feature that should have been present from the start. In the 15 months
it took to implement, more than 480,000 PC players were hit with disciplinary actions by Blizzard -- 340,000 of those the direct result of player reporting -- more than a thousand per day.
Toxicity is a
nebulous term, but today it's a container for all the ways that other players can make a multiplayer game a miserable experience. It's hardly an issue unique to Overwatch, but the difference in this case is that from the start Blizzard has consistently
presented the game as the inclusive shooter. The game's diverse cast of characters, though certainly not perfect, seems to have succeeded in netting a wider audience than most FPSes -- twice as many women play it than the genre average, for example. Yet
it's these marginalized players who are most hurt by Blizzard's failure to stem the flow of bad behavior within its game.
It's important to remember that Blizzard has made more than $1 billion in
profits from Overwatch alone. The company could, and should, spend money on a hiring a new set of employees for whom toxicity is a specific focus -- Riot established a team of more than 30 scientists and social systems designers to focus on toxic League
of Legends player behavior in 2012 -- or the sake of the players and other developers alike. There isn't a magic bullet for toxicity, but adding bodies to the task does help. In any case, toxicity is a problem that shouldn't require the redirection of
resources. It's a core issue of all modern competitive games that affects the entire Overwatch experience, and Blizzard should have dedicated resources to it from the start.
Blizzard is in the position
to dedicate effort and resources into experimenting with ways to make truly inclusive systems. Until the company is willing to shoulder that responsibility, its promises to welcome marginalised players are empty words. Overwatch has long billed itself as
an inclusive game. But one needs to play only a few rounds to discover that Blizzard has not succeeded in its intent to create a world where everyone is welcome.
Cultural appropriation experts on hand to give advice
The calendar indicates that Halloween is approaching, but thanks to social justice warriors, we have been made readily aware that the offensive holiday is near.
Northern Arizona University's Housing and Residence Life recently released the We're a Culture, Not a Costume
poster campaign directed at students being inclusive and respecting all identities.
Indiana University is being proactive to shut down free speech by hosting a practice Halloween. Students attending Culture Not Costumes were provided
four handouts explaining culture appropriation. According to one handout, cultural appropriation is the taking of intellectual property, knowledge, and cultural expressions from someone else's culture without permission.
For those who did not
attend the workshop, the University of Texas-Austin can provide assistance. In 2016, the university's Sorority and Fraternity Life, part of the Office of the Dean of Students, released an extensive checklist to determine if a costume is culturally
appropriate. Not surprisingly, the determination boils down to race, class, and gender. Students were encouraged to check with experts, not just about their costume for Halloween, but in regards to year-round potential cultural appropriation. For
UT, inappropriate costumes include cowboys, Indians, Hawaiian, tropical, gypsies, urban, trophy wives, rednecks, and Around the World, to name a few.
A French model named Ines Rau has become the first openly transgender person to be named a Playboy Playmate in the 64-year history of the publication.
The 26-year-old will receive the title in in the November/December 2017 issue of Playboy where she
takes part in a photo-spread and opens up in an interview about her transgender identity.
I wonder if it will be considered a 'micro aggression' if regular buyers decide to give this issue a miss? Does political correctness extend to being turned
on by diverse genders? And will Playboy reveal the sales figures so that we may answer that question.
Warning! If you are offended by this, you will be mercilessly mocked by everyone outside of your safe space
Shakespeare contains gore and violence that might upset you, Cambridge University students have been warned.
The trigger warnings - red triangles with an exclamation mark - appeared on their English lecture timetables. Lectures including
Shakespeare's Titus Andronicus contain discussion of sexual violence, sexual assault, the BBC's Newsnight programme has learned.
Among those considered upsetting is a lecture on violence - which includes a discussion of Shakespeare's Titus
Andronicus and Sarah Kane's play Blasted . Alongside the warning symbol, students are told to expect discussion of sexual violence and sexual assault.
It is not clear whether easily offended students are allowed to skip lectures, or to
be excused from reading challenging books.
Cambridge University said the English faculty does not have a policy on trigger warnings, but added: Some lecturers indicate that some sensitive material will be covered in a lecture... this is entirely
at the lecturer's own discretion and is in no way indicative of a faculty-wide policy.
When Laura Moriarty decided she wanted to write American Heart , a dystopian novel for young adults about a future America in which Muslims are forcefully corralled into detention centers, she was aware that she should tread carefully. Her
protagonist is a white teenager, but one of her main characters, Sadaf, is a Muslim American immigrant from Iran. So she arranged for the book to be checked out by various minority group readers charged with spotting potentially problematic depictions in
None of this was enough to protect American Heart from becoming the subject of the latest skirmish in the increasingly contentious battle over representation and diversity in the world of young adult literature.
American Heart won't
be published until January, but it has already attracted the ire of the fierce group of online readers that journalist Kat Rosenfield has referred to as culture cops. To them, it was an irredeemable problem that Moriarty's novel, which was inspired
in part by Huckleberry Finn, centers on a white teenager who gradually, too gradually, comes to terms with the racism around her. Eg a prominent review on Goodreads, begins, fuck your white savior narratives ; the gist of other comments
is that a white writer should not have tackled this story, and neither should a white character be the center of it.
The backlash escalated last week, when Kirkus Reviews gave American Heart a coveted starred review, which influences purchases by
bookstores and libraries. Kirkus' anonymous reviewer called the book by turns terrifying, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and touching, and praised its frighteningly believable setting of fear and violent nativism gone awry.
The lynch mob laid
into the reviewer's 'wrong' opinion, and Kirkus responded by taking the review down pending 'reassessment'. A few days later Kirkus posted a revised, more critical version of the review, and stripped the book of its star.
Health professionals in England are to be told to ask patients aged 16 or over about their sexual orientation, under new NHS guidelines.
NHS England said no-one would be forced to answer the question, but it seems that they will continue nag
people at each visit until they answer the question. The guidance applies to doctors and nurses, as well as local councils responsible for adult social care.
An NHS spokeswoman said the information would help NHS bodies comply with equality
legislation by consistently collecting personal details of patients such as race, sex and sexual orientation. NHS England recommends health professionals - such as GPs and nurses - ask about a person's sexual orientation at every face to face contact
with the patient, where no record of this data already exists.
It is expected that sexual orientation monitoring will be in place across England by April 2019. Under the guidance, health professionals are to ask patients: Which of the following
options best describes how you think of yourself?. The options are:
heterosexual or straight
gay or lesbian
other sexual orientation
Of course the NHS don't mention some of the dangers of reporting sexuality to NHS staff or by having sexuality recorded in a widely used database. There is still a certain community pressure in religious circles that being outed as gay is a very
dangerous proposition indeed. And if muslim terrorists get hold of lists of gay people it could be a matter of life and death. Perhaps in the future some right wing fascist party could get into power. They could print off yellow stars for people directly
from the database.