With free speech, practise what you preach
How one Edinburgh student was censored by the student newspaper promoting free speech
As an Edinburgh student and aspiring journalist, I was relieved to discover The Broad, an online platform that proudly promises that it “promotes free speech on campus” by welcoming the “broadest range of opinions”. Its “impartial” editors understand that “the right to offend is a key facet of free speech”.
“Censorship on Edinburgh Uni campus drives creation of new website”, beamed a headline in The Scotsman shortly after The Broad’s founding. Rightly so: how refreshing to see a free speech site rise out of the innumerable malpractices of student journalism.
My relationship with those at The Broad going strongly, I decided to write a piece on the flaws of “woke” culture and the dangers of promoting a race-obsessed society, citing the stirring words of Dr Martin Luther King Jr. along the way.
For any student, criticising the prevailing winds of wokeness is highly precarious
The article, entitled “Should ‘wokeness’ Win?”, was duly published back in March. My editor congratulated me on “a well-written piece” that “only needed a few changes”, all of which I assented to. The publication of the piece was a testament to The Broad’s pledges. For any student, criticising the prevailing winds of wokeness is highly precarious, although this does not negate the need for those voices to be heard. Fast-forward to the global protests at the beginning of June, and my editor stated that the once “well-written piece” now “wasn’t up to scratch”. It was erased from The Broad’s website ad infinitum.
As I sought more clarity about my transgression the nuance of my editor’s accusations scarcely improved. I was told: “We are not comfortable publishing an article that diminishes the experience of people of colour and black people [sic], by equating their experiences with that [sic] of white people”.
If you will forgive their continued misuse of grammar, it was apparently them that needed to “educate” me.
My article for the supposed sole surviving advocate of free speech on campus had been censored
Overnight, my article for the supposed sole surviving advocate of free speech on campus had been censored, thrown down the memory hole, never to be seen again. For directly quoting the world’s most revered Civil Rights campaigner, I was accused of manipulating “Martin Luther King’s words in a way that projects your identity as a white person, [sic] onto his identity as a black man”.
Having thought very hard about the implications of this claim I remain somewhat perplexed as to what this actually means. I fear that the logical conclusion of this reductive, regressive thinking is a world in which no white person can ever quote black literature.
I decided that this was the time to act. Being cancelled by The Broad – a statement that sends shivers down my spine – was as terrifying as it was ridiculous. My nascent journalistic ambitions seemed thwarted before they had even begun.
That a platform should have its editors scurrying around censoring wrongthink whilst hiding behind the façade of “promoting free speech” demanded action.
My cries were received with open arms by the Free Speech Union, who requested that the article either be reinstated, or that The Broad remove its fanciful claims regarding the centrality of free speech to the platform. A seemingly reasonable ask.
The Broad totally ignored these requests. The article remains missing in action, another casualty of cancel culture. The fictitious claims surrounding free speech still stand front and centre on their website.
It was The Broad, not me, who acted contrary to its code of ethics. My editor did not appreciate this being pointed out to them.
“Our decision is final”, The Broad responded, “I would ask you [The Free Speech Union] to desist from contacting me and my team any further”.
So be it. Yet he that troubles his own house shall inherit the wind.
When your alleged allies fall foul of the cancel culture mob it is easy to lose hope
The Broad must quash its claims to support free speech. No, the website should not be “cancelled”, but their readers and contributors must know that the editors are not impartial and that they do not believe – as their website would tell you – that “free speech needs to be constantly pushed to its limits”. It is wrong that a platform can receive credibility and praise for something it does not truly believe in.
When the going got tough, The Broad surrendered to the latest fashionable dogma, rather than stand behind what its editors claim to believe in.
We must be able to trust those who claim to be on the side of free speech. When your alleged allies fall foul of the egregious values of the cancel culture mob it is easy to lose hope. That is why the best thing anyone can do is join the Free Speech Union. No matter how “small” your case is, people need to be held to account. I will continue to stand up for what I believe in, even when it is unfashionable at our respected institutions. I know I will not let the woke win.
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