Toby Young

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Toby Daniel Moorsom Young (1963–) is a right-wing British journalist, author, and former director of several educational institutions. He is known for supporting eugenics, making homophobic and misogynistic comments on Twitter, and for admitting to being high on cocaine in a London club.

Sexism and homophobia[edit]

In January 2018, Toby was controversially appointed to the post of non-executive director on the board of the Office for Students.Wikipedia[1] He resigned slightly over a week later after significant public pressure over his large number of misogynistic and homophobic tweets.[2][3][4][5][6][7][8][9]

Support of eugenics[edit]

Private Eye published the first article ("Toby Young Breeds Contempt") that exposed the UCL conferences were attended by white supremacists and sexists.

In 2015, Young wrote an article for the Australian magazine QuadrantWikipedia entitled "The fall of meritocracy". In it, he advocated what he termed "progressive eugenics". Young proposed that when the technology for genetically-engineered intelligence is practical, it should be allowable for a decision to be made by poor parents with low IQs concerning which embryos should be allowed to develop using intelligence as a marker. "It could help to address the problem of flat-lining inter-generational social mobility", he wrote.[10][11]

In January 2018, Private Eye[12] and the London StudentWikipedia[13] revealed that Young attended the London Conference on Intelligence at University College LondonWikipedia (UCL) in 2017, which was described by the media and a number of politicians as a "secret eugenics conference".[14] The conference was convened by Honorary UCL professor James Thompson and included speakers such as Richard Lynn.[15] Young distanced himself from the conference and wrote that his involvement was not significant — see London Conference on Intelligence § Toby Young.

Drug use[edit]

In 2001, Toby admitted to having taken cocaine at the Groucho ClubWikipedia in central London[16] in 1997, as well as supplying drugs to others. As such activities are against the Club rules, he was subsequently expelled in late 2001 after writing about the cocaine use of his friends to whom he had supplied the drug during a photo shoot for Vanity Fair.[17]

COVID-19[edit]

In March 2020, he wrote an article in The Critic on COVID-19 that was condemned.[18] In the article he wrote:

Like a growing number of people, I’m beginning to suspect the Government has overreacted to the coronavirus crisis. I’m not talking about the cost to our liberty, although that’s worrying, but the economic cost.

Even if we accept the statistical modelling of Dr Neil Ferguson’s team at Imperial College, which I’ll come to in a minute, spending £350 billion to prolong the lives of a few hundred thousand mostly elderly people is an irresponsible use of taxpayer’s money.[18]

Journalist Ruth Wishart tweeted:

I daresay most sentient beings believe Toby Young is heartless, waste of space. So you do wonder why he feels it necessary to keep proving it.[18]

Byline Times editor Peter Jukes tweeted:

In normal times the far right eugenicist views of people like Toby Young are just shameful and embarrassing. During a pandemic they can be outright deadly.[18]

In the article, Young argued for ending the lockdown before April 14, 2020, a view similar to one espoused by Donald Trump.[18]

Critics had suggested that Young would change his mind if he contracted COVID-19, to which he said he thought he'd already had it, adding:

If the Government does end the lockdown, and it turns out that by the time I require critical care the NHS cannot accommodate me, I won’t regret writing this.[18]

(The De Facto Non-)Free Speech Union[edit]

In 2020 he formed the so-called Free Speech Union (FSU), supposedly dedicated to preserving free speech. It promised to defend the free speech of all members who paid a subscription fee, which started at £49.95 (50% off for students and pensioners).[19] However, in practice, it has de facto close links to right-wing thinktank Institute of Economic Affairs: for instance, co-hosting an event at which anti-woke campaigner Laurence Fox was one of the speakers.[20]

It early opposed COVID orthodoxy, launching an unsuccessful judicial review challenging media regulator OFCOM's attempts to prevent COVID misinformation during the pandemic.[21]

It has occasionally spoken up for free speech; it offered to defend anti-monarchist protestors after Queen Elizabeth II's death in 2022.[22] However it is unclear if it actually provided any help.

In January 2021, the FSU was accused of secretly organising a campaign which claimed to be promoting free speech in universities but was actually a front for the FSU's right-wing beliefs, leading to many student groups disengaging from it. The Free Speech Youth Advisory Board was attacked by university anti-censorship and human rights groups as an "astroturfing" front that imposed the FSU's political beliefs and wasn't genuinely interested in international free speech but only in promoting a "culture war" against the left in the UK.[21]

The group's views on free speech were also questioned when someone on Twitter insulted Allison Pearson, a trollish right-wing newspaper columnist and member of the FSU's media advisory group, and Pearson tried to contact the person's boss and get them sacked. This attempt at cancellation wasn't viewed as very pro-free-speech.[21] In December 2021, a Byline Times investigation reported that the Free Speech Union was intimately tied to a network backed by right-wing German-American billionaire Peter Thiel.[23]

In other instances of censorship, the FSU has called on the government to ban drag events for children including Drag Queen Story Hour UK, because the suggestion that people can change their gender is an affront to the FSU's transphobia.[24]

In September 2022, there was also a brief tizzy when Twitter suspended the Free Speech Union's twitter account for a few days, along with accounts for COVID-sceptics The Daily Sceptic and UsForThem; some right-wing MPs wrote stern letters and the FSU was reinstated. As is common with Twitter, it isn't entirely clear why this happened but seems to have been about COVID misinformation (as the New Statesman has suggested).[25][26]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. Adams, Richard (1 January 2018). "Toby Young to help lead government's new universities regulator". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. 
  2. Ashley Cowburn (3 January 2018). "Toby Young deletes thousands of tweets amid row over his universities regulator appointment". The Independent. "'Labour has since demanded that Theresa May reverse his appointment because of what the party said was a history of "homophobia and misogyny"" 
  3. Adam Payne (3 January 2018). "All the sexist tweets deleted by Toby Young, the guy chosen by the government to advise on universities". Business Insider. "However, Labour has urged May to reverse the appointment, citing a series of tweets Young has now deleted which have been described as sexist, homophobic and insulting to a number of groups." 
  4. Rosemary Bennett (4 January 2018). "Toby Young says new free schools ‘must show they are needed’". The Times. "His appointment has been heavily criticised, first on the ground that Mr Young is poorly qualified for the job and then on ground that he has poor judgment after a slew of sexually derogatory tweets emerged. Mary Bousted and Kevin Courtney, joint leaders of the new National Education Union, have become the latest to criticise the appointment. In a letter to Ms Greening, they say Mr Young has made "unacceptable comments on disability, students from state schools getting into Oxbridge and children with special education needs. As equalities minister the sexist and homophobic comments Mr Young has made publicly must be as unacceptable to you as they are to the National Education Union." 
  5. Kentish, Ben (7 January 2018). "Theresa May refuses to sack Toby Young over misogynistic and homophobic tweets". The Independent. Retrieved 9 January 2018. 
  6. Rawlinson, Kevin; Phipps, Claire (9 January 2018). "Toby Young resigns from the Office for Students after backlash". The Guardian. Retrieved 9 January 2018. 
  7. Benjamin Kentish (9 January 2018). "Theresa May refuses to sack Toby Young over misogynistic and homophobic tweets". The Independent. "Theresa May has backed Toby Young to continue in his new role with the higher education watchdog, despite mounting pressure to sack him over a series of misogynistic and homophobic tweets." 
  8. Martin Coulter (9 January 2018). "Toby Young resigns from Office for Students after backlash over his Twitter posts". London Evening Standard. "Mr Young had come under increasing scrutiny since his appointment in early January, when posts from his Twitter account were unearthed in which he was alleged to have made sexist and homophobic remarks." 
  9. "Education: Monumental errors of judgement on education by the Prime Minister". Sheffield Telegraph. 11 January 2018. "May said she was "not impressed" with his language on Twitter when sexist, homophobic and other offences posts were revealed." 
  10. Peyser, Robin de (9 January 2018). "Toby Young tweets: the comments that led to his resignation". London Evening Standard. Retrieved 11 January 2018. 
  11. Young, Toby (7 September 2015). "The Fall of the Meritocracy". Quadrant. Retrieved 11 January 2018. 
  12. "Toby Young breeds contempt". Private Eye (Pressdram Ltd) (1461): p. 11. January 2018. 
  13. Van Der Merwe, Ben (10 January 2018). "Exposed: London’s eugenics conference and its neo-Nazi links – London Student". London Student. Retrieved 30 January 2018. 
  14. Baynes, Chris (11 January 2018). "University College London launches 'eugenics' probe after controversial secret conference on campus". The Independent. Retrieved 21 January 2018. 
  15. Rawlinson, Kevin; Adams, Richard (11 January 2018). "UCL to investigate eugenics conference secretly held on campus". The Guardian. Retrieved 11 January 2018. 
  16. Milner, Catherine; Hastings, Chris (4 November 2001). "White powder scare at the Groucho". The Daily Telegraph. Retrieved 4 January 2018. 
  17. Young, Toby (18 November 2001). "I've been kicked out of the club". The Observer. Retrieved 4 January 2018. 
  18. 18.0 18.1 18.2 18.3 18.4 18.5 Webster, Laura. "Coronavirus: Fury over Toby Young's claims about elderly people". The National. 
  19. Say what you want about Toby Young – no, really, he’ll defend your right to say it, Joel Golby, The Guardian, 24 Feb 2020
  20. Think Tent 2020: Free speech in crisis?, Institute of Economic Affairs
  21. 21.0 21.1 21.2 Students quit free speech campaign over role of Toby Young-founded group, The Guardian, 9 Jan 2021
  22. If any republican is arrested and charged for protesting against the monarchy we urge them to contact a member of our case team on help@freespeechunion.com. The right to protest is a fundamental human right and the police and courts ignore it at their peril., @SpeechUnion, Twitter, 12 September 2022
  23. Nafeez Ahmed (December 10, 2021). "Peter Thiel's Free Speech for Race Science Crusade at Cambridge University Revealed". Byline Times.
  24. Free Speech Union calls on Liz Truss to censor family-friendly drag events, Pink News, 13 September 2022
  25. PayPal reinstates Free Speech Union accounts after being accused of ‘politically motivated’ ban, The Daily Telegraph, 27 September 2022
  26. PayPal vs Toby Young isn’t about free speech – it’s about the free market, New Statesman, 23 September 2022