In January 2019, I launched a monthly newsletter called ‘NO OFFENCE’ which explores all things safe spaces, free speech, trigger warnings, snowflakes and more.
The motivation behind this was my belief that the way these debates have played out in the media over the past few years has been completely dictated by the far-right and with almost no analysis of power relations. It’s the issue which most consistently winds me up and it’s one where I think there is a real dearth of solid, progressive analysis; it always seems to come down to debating whether it was ok to ban one individual speaker or whether millennials are too sensitive, when we should really be talking about the distribution of power and the value of certain tactics and tools in trying to drive forward progress.
I wanted to try and create a space where we could have this kind of conversation and where I could highlight the very real threats to free speech today which are urgent and horrifying but which receive far less coverage: things like journalists being threatened, marginalised voices being silenced and powerful people covering up their abuses – not students picketing an event or people showing basic kindness to each other.
Here are some important details about this project:
WHAT’S IT ALL ABOUT?
The introduction above gives a good summary of my feelings on this topic but for a fuller explanation of my ideology around this, you might want to take a look at this blog I wrote as a student union officer in 2014 and the text of a speech I gave in the same capacity. The first edition of the newsletter will also include an essay laying out my motivations, thinking and analysis on this topic. Anyone is welcome to subscribe to this newsletter, but if you’re coming from a place of polar opposition on this issue, it might not be for you – and that’s ok, because there’s plenty of journalism and writing out there which you might enjoy more.
HOW DO I SIGN UP?
You can sign up here and select the level of subscription that works for you. Everyone receives the same thing : a monthly newsletter with two full-length pieces of original work by me – an essay and a reported feature – as well as suggested reading and other snippets. Even though all subscribers will receive this, I’ve created three different tiers (starting at just £1) so that people can pay what they can afford or what they think it’s worth. The idea is that those with a lot more money might pay slightly more and perhaps subsidise some others who can’t afford to pay.
WHY DO I HAVE TO PAY?
There are a few reasons for this. One is just basic self-interest: I’m a freelance journalist, entirely self-employed and dependent on income from writing and related work. I do ok and I’m not going to turn this into a ‘woe is me’ style plea when there are so many people worse off, but journalism rates are low across the board and the picture for freelancers is always uncertain. At the rates I make, I simply can’t afford to write something of the quality I want to provide here for free every month. If you’re happy to contribute a small amount then I promise to consistently send you something original, well-researched, fact-checked and thoughtful. Maybe down the line, depending on how many subscribers we reach, I might be able to do more reporting or investigating as part of this project too, or work with other freelancers on original design, artwork and other content for the newsletters.
The other reason is that this is a thorny topic which has, at times, caused me some distress when I’ve waded right into the centre of it. I’ve often received threatening messages and a torrent of abuse from organised right-wing activists/bots when I’ve spoken about these issues (ironic from people who love free speech so much, I know). Anyone is welcome to subscribe to this newsletter but my hope is that by asking for a small amount upfront we might develop a community of like-minded people who can have really interesting conversations on these topics instead of just fire-fighting and being on the defensive all the time.
WHAT IF I CAN’T AFFORD IT?
I still want you to join in. If the subscription fee isn’t possible for you, please email me and I’ll sort you out. Don’t be worried about asking, I’ve been there too.
I DON’T LIKE SOMETHING YOU WROTE/I HAVE AN IDEA FOR A FUTURE ISSUE/I WANT TO CONTRIBUTE
Get in touch! I’m open to any and all feedback, suggestions, criticism, questions or love letters. My contact details are in the footer of this website.