Cancel Culture Universities Face Fines for Stifling Free Speech on Campus

Protesters chanted "Take it down!" and "Decolonise!", and held placards urging "Rhodes Must Fall" and "Black Lives Matter" in front of the statue at Oriel College. (Photo by Adrian DENNIS / AFP) (Photo by ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images)
ADRIAN DENNIS/AFP via Getty Images

The British government will reportedly begin fining universities which embark on cancel culture-style infringements on freedom of speech, as well as mandate that heritage groups remain apolitical, in a major pushback against the Black Lives Matter-inspired attacks on British heritage.

The UK’s Education secretary, Gavin Williamson, will announce this week the creation of a Free Speech Champion, who will be empowered to fine universities that attempt to discriminate against people for their political views.

A government source told the Sunday Telegraph: “Free speech underpins our democratic society and our universities have a long and proud history of being places where students and academics can express themselves freely, challenge views and cultivate an open, inquiring mind.

“Unacceptable silencing and censoring on campuses is having a chilling effect and that is why we must strengthen free speech in higher education, by bolstering the existing legal duties and ensuring strong, robust action is taken if these are breached.”

In a recent notable example of cancel culture on campus, the University of Leicester announced in January that it would be removing its studies in Medieval English in favour of “decolonising” its curriculum. Rather than teaching Chaucer’s The Canterbury Tales, the university said that it would focus on texts relating to sexuality, diversity, race, and ethnicity.

The chairman of the Common Sense Group of Tory MPs welcomed the government’s defence of free speech on campus, warning that increasingly, debate has been shut down by the “thought police”.

“It is absolutely right that the Government steps in to defend free speech. Without the ability to speak freely soon we will not have the ability to think freely,” Sir John said.

Culture Secretary Oliver Dowden alongside Heritage Minister Nigel Huddleson will also host a Whitehall roundtable with the heads of the National Trust, Historic England, and other heritage bodies to reinforce the message that “public funds must never be used for political purposes” and to refrain from attempts to “airbrush” British history.

In the letter, Mr Dowden said: “Proud and confident nations face their past squarely; they do not seek to run from or airbrush the history upon which they are founded.

“History is ridden with moral complexity and interpreting Britain’s past should not be an excuse to tell an overly-simplistic version of our national story, in which we damn the faults of previous generations whilst forgetting their many great achievements. Purging uncomfortable elements of our past does nothing but damage our understanding of it.”

The move comes after Historic England released a hit list ‘audit‘ of villages, churches, pubs, schools, farms, and village halls deemed to have benefited from the transatlantic slave trade.

In response, Mr Dowden has ordered that civil servants work with Historic England in order to enforce the government’s message of “retrain and explain” rather than launch attacks.

A spokesman for Historic England said: “We have been working on the subject of contested heritage for some time – we believe that removing difficult or contentious parts of the historic environment damages our understanding of our collective past.”

The National Trust, which has been shifting leftward for years, has also embarked on a campaign of BLM-style iconoclasm.

In September, the charity published the taxpayer-funded Colonial Countryside project, which targetted 93 National Trust properties, including the home of British wartime leader Sir Winston Churchill, for their alleged ties to colonialism and slavery.

The Colonial Countryside project recently came under fire after it was revealed staff at the Trust were being “reverse mentored” by “child advisory boards” that instructed them in the alleged evils of the British Empire.

The government has also tasked the newly installed head of Britain’s broadcasting regulator, Ofcom, to ensure that news networks abide by “due impartiality” rules after MPs accused the likes of the BBC and Channel 4 of trying to “appeal to a narrow band of north London metropolitan virtue signalling politically correct lefties”.

Follow Kurt Zindulka on Twitter here @KurtZindulka

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