Thought Crime in the UK: In Solidarity with Angelos Sofocleous and Others

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One of our editors here at Conatus News, Angelos Sofocleous, was forced to resign from his position as President-Elect of Humanist Students. He was then removed from his position as assistant editor of Durham’s Philosophy Society journal, Critique, and has now been removed as Editor-in-Chief of The Bubble as well. He is being hounded and his academic work impugned, and we are not prepared, as a team, to let this go without comment.

Most disturbing among these incidents is the lack of anything resembling due process or a rational basis for his removal, which bodes ill for the future of journalism and writing amongst British students. Critique couched the reason for his firing in vague denunciations, claiming he ‘belittled trans experiences”. They fail to explain how. The Editor in Chief of The Bubble dismissed him, merely referencing his ‘personal issues’. If every head of a journalistic or academic outfit cowered at the mere mention of controversy, or even disagreeable stances, and capitulated to the lowest common denominator in public discourse, hope for any kind of intellectual progression is lost. These outfits purport to be the standard bearers of tomorrow with, apparently, no respect for the basic principles of academic and journalistic writing. We call upon them to justify their treatment of him in precise terms as befitting the outfits they head. 

So what did Angelos do to merit such outrage? He retweeted the statement ‘women don’t have penises’, and wrote a thoughtful critique of gender identity, which you can read here. The idea that Angelos is a bigot, or anything other than a compassionate individual working for the betterment of humanity, is completely absurd. It is the very fact that we advocate for universal human rights which requires us to double down on our commitment to the truth and to an analysis of all claims to oppression. We stand in solidarity with minorities, and we strive to give a voice to the marginalised. We strongly feel, however, that the conflation of valid criticism with ‘hate speech’ is a slippery slope that only inhibits progressives in the fight for equality.

We condemn the cowardice of those organisations which refuse to support critical thinking, particularly in the realm of gender identity. We reject the assertion that being gender-critical is a hate crime. We object to violence and harassment of any sort. We affirm the value of all human beings without qualification, and we defend the right of all persons to question and criticise as they see fit. We express grave concern at the chilling effect on free speech and free inquiry this represents. 

It is the right of every organisation to choose its members and whom it places in positions of power. It is the right of everyone else to judge those organisations by whom they choose to stand by and whom they choose to abandon.

It is time to demand that we be allowed to speak our minds on this important matter and any other without fearing for our livelihoods. If you have faced repercussions for expressing your thoughts on this matter, please contact us to add your name to the list below of examples of people and organisations affected by this wave of intolerance. 

Michigan Womyn’s Music Festival – discontinued

London Anarchist Book Fair – discontinued

A Woman’s Place UK – continual harassment

Maria MacLachlan – physically assaulted at Speakers’ Corner, London

Meghan Murphy – petition demanding she be fired as editor of Rabble.ca

Linda Bellos – being privately prosecuted

Venice Allen – also being privately prosecuted, suspended from Labour Party

Skylar Baker-Jordan – publicly denounced by editor-in-chief of Into

Kathleen Stock – targeted by a blacklist

Renee Gerlich – lost her job due to smear campaign, banned from Wellington Zinefest

Andy Healey – attempted silencing criminal injunction and civil prosecution, suspended from Green Party for 8 months

Heather Brunskell-Evans – sacked as spokeswoman of the Women’s Equality Party

Jennifer James – suspended from the Labour Party 

Posie Parker – interviewed under caution by police for comments on twitter

Kiri Tunks – subject to an online campaign and two separate petitions to have her removed as a senior officer in the National Union of Teachers (NEU) – first Vice-President, then President

Julie Bindel – subject to harassment for 15 years, no platformed by the NUS

Pauline Dussault – Pauline Dussault is a stand up comedian in Winnipeg, Manitoba. Canada, and has been banned from performing at the only “Women’s” Open Mic, for “hate speech”! She was a favorite at Wee Johnny’s and was not banned because of anything she said on stage. She was banned because she insisted on posting on Facebook that “women don’t have penises” ! When alerted about this, Dana Smith, who emcees the show, messaged Pauline, that she was no longer welcome to perform there, as others no longer felt safe due to her “hate speech.”

Jessica Goldfinch – Tried to get safeguarding procedures into the local green party affiliate, advised nationally as well. Was ignored, and then bullied and harassed for two years.

Many others have been de-platformed or subject to online harassment campaigns including rape threats and death threats.

Members, former members and otherwise potential future members of Humanists UK have started a petition expressing grave concern about the pressures placed upon Angelos to resign as President-Elect of Humanist Students. If you share their concerns about the direction of Humanists UK, you can sign their petition here.

If you have a job, position or public profile which you are willing to put on the line, we humbly request that now may be the time to take on the risk of standing up for the freedom to question ideologies and beliefs. If you agree, contact us with your name and position in question to add your list to the names below. 

Signed:

  • Dan Fisher, Editor, Conatus News
  • Beatrice Louis, Managing Editor, Conatus News
  • Sarah Mills, Managing Editor, Conatus News
  • Tara Abhasakun, Editor, Conatus News
  • Dr Holly Lawford-Smith, University of Melbourne
  • Dr Jane Clare Jones, writer and philosopher
  • Skylar Baker-Jordan, writer
  • Professor Kathleen Stock, Philosophy Department, University of Sussex
  • Josephine Bartosch, journalist
  • Jennifer James, Labour Party (suspended)
  • Dr Julia Jordan, Department of English, University College London
  • Professor John Gardner, Law and Philosophy, University of Oxford
  • Maureen O’Hara, Senior Lecturer in Law, Coventry University
  • Nigel Warburton, philosopher, editor and podcaster
  • Rose George, author of The Big Necessity & Ninety Percent of Everything
  • Emily Zinos, writer
  • Dr Mary Leng, Department of Philosophy, University of York
  • Justin E. H. Smith, Professor, Department of History and Philosophy of Science, University of Paris 7 – Denis Diderot
  • Ophelia Benson, blogger, co-author of Does God Hate Women? & Why Truth Matters
  • Professor Robert Jensen, retired, University of Texas at Austin, School of Journalism
  • Dr Sophie Allen, Lecturer in Philosophy, Keele University
  • Graham Linehan,  Comedy writer and Director (Father Ted, The IT Crowd, Black Books, The Walshes)
  • Karen McInnes, academic
  • Terry Murray, Ph.D., blogger and author of Thinking Straight About Being Gay: Why It Matters if We’re Born That Way
  • Jess Stewart, Founder of campaign group Scottish Women
  • Jennifer Bilek, artist
  • Charlie Rae, Freelance Writer for the Fifth column, also suffered from Gender Dysphoria for some years.
  • Hope Lye, Unite member and political activist
  • Andy Healey, playworker
  • Dr Michael Biggs, Department of Sociology, University of Oxford
  • Helen Watts, unit leader, Girlguiding UK and campaigner
  • Eileen Clarke, WM Feminist Network and feminist activist
  • Selina Todd, Professor of Modern History at the University of Oxford
  • Dr Diane Brewster, academic (retired)
  • Maria MacLachlan
  • Alan Henness (husband of Maria MacLachlan)
  • Dr Louise Moody, Research Associate, University of York
  • Richard Scorer, Lawyer and Vice President of the National Secular Society
  • Ann Sinnott, former Labour Councillor
  • Martin Dufresne
  • Jennifer Brown
  • Dr David McAllister, Department of English and Humanities, Birkbeck, University of London
  • Dr Chris Bateman, Researcher and Senior Lecturer, University of Bolton
  • Professor R A Duff, Philosophy, University of Stirling (Emeritus)
  • Dr Eva Poen, Lecturer, Economics Department, University of Exeter
  • Miriam Ben-Shalom, co-founder of Hands Across the Aisle Women in Coalition
  • Dr Rebecca Reily-Cooper
  • Jacky Holyoake, West Midlands Feminist Network
  • Professor John Collins, University of East Anglia
  • Professor Chetan Bhatt, Sociology, London School of Economics and Political Science
  • Dr Simon Hewitt, Philosophy, University of Leeds
  • Alexander Finer, business editor for Falmouth Anchor
  • Ellen Grogan
  • Claire Graham, intersex advocate
  • Dr Bruce Scott, psychoanalyst and author
  • Rebecca Lush
  • Claire Robinson, NHS
  • Clare B Dimyon MBE
  • Dr Helen Pringle, University of NSW, Australia
  • Patricia Cooney
  • Claire Robinson
  • Julie Bindel
  • Dr Lesley Semmens, Senior Lecturer (retired), School of Computing, Leeds Beckett University
  • Julian Norman
  • Kiri Tunks
  • Cerian John, political activist
  • Jean Hatchet
  • Doctor Emma Hilton, developmental biologist
  • Louise Somerville
  • Lynne Murphy, University of Sussex
  • Stacey Kennedy
  • Helen Steel
  • Dr Helena Patrikiou, historian, writer and theatre director, Athens, Greece
  • Bronwen Salter-Murison, author and poet
  • Professor Kathleen Richardson
  • Terence Waites, organiser, Teesside Humanists

Supporting Organisations:

  • Critical Sisters
  • Scottish Women
  • We Need to Talk
  • FiLiA
  • Mayday
  • Let a Woman Speak
  • A Woman’s Place UK
  • Women’s Voices Matter
  • Transgender Trend
  • Hands Across the Aisle Coalition
  • Women’s Liberation Front
  • Libertarian UK

 

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10 Comments

  1. Jessica Goldfinch on

    I tried to get safeguarding procedures into my local Green Party and advised, with others, nationally and was humoured then ignored. Inordinate hours wasted. I was not the only one, as it transpires.

    Then I was harassed and bullied for two years, the complaints’ procedure did nothing, because there were no trained people, zero safeguarding and the bullying came from the top down. Lack of proper safeguarding allowed this and like problems for others.

    Lack of safeguarding, has led to an environment in which people are compelled to think and speak and accept lies as truths. Called a TERF, talking garbage, transphobe for stating simple facts.

    People were warning of this type of outcome for years and now The Emperor’s New Clothes’ Universe has arrived, flanked by gaslights. Very sinister and ultimately dangerous.

  2. Funny, I thought this was a platform devoted to HUMANISM. If a guy gets hired as a humanist and then makes bigoted comments against trans people, why would you be surprised that he gets let go?

  3. People have the right to fantasize about anything but they don’t have the right to force other people to believe their fantasy. As Sofocleous says we are in a bizarre post-truth society where feelings matter more than facts. After coming out of the Dark Ages just a few centuries ago we find that the self styled intellectuals of the universities have developed another mystical religion with their own pseudo-science to take us back into another Dark Ages. Although blasphemy in Dark Ages II does not result in actual burning at the stake, the tactics and treachery of the past witches coven has re-arisen to destroy the speakers of the truth just like an actual fire did in years past.

  4. This is insane and Orwellian and particularly absurd, given that debate, critical thought, and free speech are the fundamentals of philosophic practice. If I wasn’t all too familiar with the trans activist brigade and their censorious tactics, and bullying, I would swear this sounds straight out of Monty Python.

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