Today’s taboos: an ever-growing list

Sunday 14 October, 13:1013:50, Free StageHot off the press

Our festival slogan is ‘Free speech allowed!’, a phrase that seems ever more pertinent. Today, it seems not a day goes by without a new story in the media reporting the latest ‘speech crime’.

Journalist and broadcaster Julia Hartley-Brewer has been banned from attending next year’s Labour party conference because she made a joke about the Safe Space at this year’s conference. She has effectively been ‘no platformed’ for criticising and mocking a Safe Space.

Last month, a student editor at Durham University was fired from his role at the university’s philosophy journal for retweeting a tweet considered transphobic by other students. He had retweeted a Spectator article, titled ‘Is it a crime to say women don’t have penises?’, with a comment, ‘RT if women don’t have penises’. The transgender debate in particular often sparks calls for ‘transphobic’ people to be shut down and for debates to be cancelled.

Online, Twitter mobs descend on people who dare to say or tweet something that doesn’t fit into today’s accepted standards of political correctness. Just this week, retired US astronaut Scott Kelly was attacked on Twitter for quoting Winston Churchill and praising him as a great leader. Angry Twitter users claimed Churchill had racist views and was responsible for atrocities, forcing an apology from Kelly. Were Kelly’s Twitter critics merely engaging in online debate or was this an attempt to censor?

Join us for a look at the latest free speech news stories, as we discuss whether our society is becoming more censorious, if there are some things we just can’t say any more, and whether we’re losing the art of debate.