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Saturday, 14 March 2020
Toby Young Praises Libel Bullying
From the moment the loathsome Toby Young launched the Free Speech Union, it was clear that this was not about free speech at all: the idea that Tobes, or anyone else involved in this dubious enterprise, had had their freedom of speech or expression circumscribed is fanciful in the extreme. We did not have to wait long for what looks like the real reason for the FSU’s existence to emerge.
Tobes’ first moment of free speech celebration was as he congratulated minor thesp and alleged singer Laurence Fox, telling his followers “Congratulations to [Laurence Fox] on securing this apology from [Equity UK]. Unions should protect workers’ rights, not encourage employers to punish people for exercising their right to free speech. Challenging the prevailing orthodoxy in your profession doesn’t make you a ‘disgrace’”.
Fox had challenged the prevailing orthodoxy? When did that happen? But, as the Guardianhas reported, what happened between him and the actors’ union can be put directly. Equity had “paid an out-of-court settlement to the actor after he threatened to sue them for libel”. For the actions of the union’s race equality committee.
“In the aftermath of his [Question Time] appearance, minority representatives of the actors’ union made a series of accusations on Twitter against Fox, saying he wanted to ‘berate and bully women of colour attempting to discuss issues of race and gender discrimination’ … They also said Fox had been ‘playing to the gallery, a populist tirade, with women of colour being used as cannon fodder’, and ‘occupied a highly advantaged position’ while trying to ‘damn any recognition of that privilege as the very racism he claims is exaggerated when people of colour try to discuss it’”. So how has Tobes spun that one?
No Audis were altered in the preparation of this blogpost
“Laurence Fox's brave victory over the mob can show us how to fight for free speech” he declared, throwing in soundbites like “groupthink” and “ideological conformity”. Oh hang on a minute, he’s been on Brendan O’Neill’s quote generator: Fox also “wins important victory against the censorious enforcers of Woke orthodoxy”. Yeah, right.
The folks who called Fox out were unrepentant: “Daniel York Loh, the former chair of the race equality committee, said he and his eight other colleagues on the committee, elected by the union’s minority ethnic members, felt forced to resign as a result of the decision to apologise … ‘Equity and La*rence F*x can issue as many joint statements and apologies as they like. It’s nothing to do with me and I apologise for nothing.’”
All of which sounds like Equity, with not very much money to throw at legal disputes, caving in rather than risk going to court. But that has not stopped the triumphalist response of those who just happen to be right-wing and white, such as self-promoting TalkRADIO host Julia Hartley Dooda trilling “He spoke for an entire nation and yet has been spurned by the acting community because he didn't share their views”. Wrong.
That he might have been spurned because his talents were not in demand was a thought that was not allowed to enter. Meanwhile, Rachel Boyle, who challenged Fox on Question Time and received a shed load of racist abuse as a result, was in no doubt where her sympathies lay. “Once again today we have seen a public institution support racist diatribe. I have read ‘the actor’ who clashed with me on [Question Time] described as brave. I’d suggest that the [Equity Race Equality Committee] members were the brave ones and I stand with every single one of them”. Amen to that.
So now we see the kind of action that Toby Young’s Free Speech Union is prepared to champion: using defamation law, or the threat thereof, to bully those without significant funds to their name into bowing before the rich and powerful.
Or, put another way, the crude circumscribing of free speech. In the name of free speech. Because it’s all about free speech. Perhaps Toby Young could state unequivocally whether or not the FSU’s funds will be used to pay for legal actions, or the threat of them.
Because right now this looks like a nailed-on case of media establishment hypocrisy.
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