Spectator Article about Free Speech Union of Australia
One of our Directors has written an article in the Spectator about the Launch of the Free Speech Union of Australia. Please see the full text below:
Fighting Them on the Speeches: Why the FSU is needed in Australia
By Dara Macdonald
There is a view that is common amongst the sceptics of cancel culture, that it is merely a battle between elites and it has no effect on ordinary people.
The reasoning goes that all victims of cancellation attempts are wealthy and influential and the ones doing the mobbing are those privileged enough to hold the specific set of luxury beliefs that have become the modern 'Woke' orthodoxy. The elites that do not hold these views (e.g. the gender critical views of JK Rowling) are the ones that get targeted by the cancellation mob.
This view is callous on the face of it. Being mobbed must be a traumatic experience. Money and power may keep you physically safe from such a horde, but it wouldn't do anything to stop the emotional hurt that would be experienced by those at the centre of a cancellation attempt.
But more importantly, this is just the part of cancel culture that is visible. It looks like a battle between elites because those are the people with the ability to fight it. What about the people who don't have these resources at their disposal?
There have been numerous examples of ordinary people that had their lives turned upside down based on something they have said (or even merely being associated with someone who said something).
We may not know their names or stories but undoubtedly there are people all over the country losing their livelihoods and ability to participate in educational and civil society organisations based on speech that would have been innocuous not too long ago but now offends the current sensibilities.
That is why we (myself and others) have brought the Free Speech Union to Australia.
The original Free Speech Union was started in the UK by Toby Young and has since expanded to other countries, like across the ditch in New Zealand. Like all Free Speech Unions, the Australian chapter will have two main functions. The first is to help its members if they find themselves in trouble for something they have said, and the second is to protect and promote Free Speech in Australia more broadly.
In countries that have a Free Speech Union, fighting back against cancellation attempts ceases to be the reserve of the elites - such as the JK Rowling's or, to use an Aussie example, the Israel Folau's - of this world. Ordinary people have a mechanism to fight back and in doing so we learn the names and stories of the people that are currently feeling like they are alone in this fight.
In New Zealand, where they have had a Free Speech Union since 2021, they have defended people like one mortician that faced workplace disciplinary action for misgendering a cadaver. Clearly this person, who was to all appearances male but identified as female prior to their death, would not have been offended by this. They were dead. But nevertheless, the employer decided that this was insensitive and worthy of potential dismissal.
This case would be laughable if it didn't involve a person potentially losing their job, which for most of us, and particularly ordinary people without proverbial 'F* You Money', we depend on for our livelihood.
Three weeks into operations in Australia and we already have been approached by several people that are currently at risk of losing their jobs for transgressing a modern taboo.
A particularly horrific case where we have decided to intervene on public interest grounds involved the suspension of a 10-year old autistic girl who expressed concern and confusion at someone with 'boy parts' (a female-identifying student) using the girls toilets at school.
Contrary to the belief of those who are sceptical of the phenomenon of 'cancel culture', being targeted for speech is something that affects ordinary people and sometimes even the most vulnerable (such as this 10-year old girl with autism). The Free Speech Union exists to give these people the capacity to fight back against unjust treatment.
On the 2nd of October the Free Speech Union of Australia launched with a very small budget and an entirely voluntary workforce of ordinary people with ordinary jobs that understand the challenges of our members.
How big it grows, and how many people we can help to fight back against a culture that demands uniformity of thought and speech, will be dependent on how much support we get.
Anyone that holds fast to the Australian value of standing up for the underdog and ability to speak frankly should throw their support behind the Free Speech Union or better still, join up as a member, you never know when you might need its help.