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Mike Freer MP: “They have silenced me.” (Mary Turner for The Free Press)

The Assassin’s Veto

A British minister is forced out of parliament by Islamist threats. Plus: King Charles, woke kindergarten, and a pitch-perfect Grammys.

The assassin’s veto: When public figures are threatened by Islamists, it changes their life. Just ask the novelist Salman Rushdie, who was forced into hiding after Iranian theocrats put a bounty on his head for publishing The Satanic Verses in 1988. Thirty-four years later, when many thought the threat to Rushdie had passed, he was nearly killed in an onstage attack at a literary festival in upstate New York. 

Or ask Ayaan Hirsi Ali, the Somali-born Dutch politician and writer, whose criticism of Islam—the religion she was born into—led to death threats. Meanwhile, her colleague, the filmmaker Theo van Gogh, was murdered for collaborating on a movie about Islam with her.

Just this past Sunday, The Free Press’s very own Douglas Murray faced the specter of Islamism in London, when a theater refused to host a pro-Israel event he was participating in, because of violent threats against their staff. 

One of the depressing things about these crimes is that they usually have the desired effect. The assassin’s veto has silenced free speech, not just for its targets but for society at large. For evidence of its effectiveness, consider our main story today. 

Mike Freer has been a member of Britain’s parliament for 14 years, representing a part of London where a large number of Jewish people live. But last week he announced he will step down at the next election because violent threats—including many from Islamist extremists—have made him fear for his life and the lives of his husband and loved ones.

Olly spoke to Freer shortly after he announced his resignation. The outgoing lawmaker described the security measures he has been forced to take, including wearing a stab vest when he meets his constituents. At home, he said, “I have a doorbell that allows me to see who is at the door. My letterbox is sealed up. . . . All of my windows have been replaced with security windows. I have to have shutters on the windows so that people can’t see in and there’s now a panic button in every room.”

But even that wasn’t enough to put him or his family at ease. 

Of those who have threatened him, he says: “They have silenced me.” 

Read the full story here: 

→ Busy Biden: Donald Trump, eager to demonstrate that he has the GOP primary in the rearview mirror and is raring to go ahead of the general, challenged Joe Biden to an “immediate” debate yesterday on The Dan Bongino Show. When reporters put this offer to the president, he said, “If I were him I would want to debate me too. He’s got nothing else to do.” 

Make no mistake, President Biden is a busy guy. He has Beverly Hills lunch dates to attend, old episodes of Morning Joe to catch up on, and tweets about airline booking fees to craft. That schedule is far too packed to find time to debate Trump—or to sit for the customary Super Bowl interview that his predecessors have generally managed to make room for.

The president’s determination to avoid interviews and debates hardly bodes well for his reelection chances, and the way in which he more or less refuses to sit down with newspaper reporters is, frankly, a disgrace. That said, we hope he holds firm on the debate thing—at least until the fall. Just give us the summer, fellas.

→ Reading, writing, and racism: Evidently a great way not to get kids to learn to read is by giving $250,000 to an organization called “Woke Kindergarten,” which naturally is exactly what a San Francisco school district did. Nearly 96 percent of students at Glassbrook Elementary can’t do math at grade level, but they can, according to the website of the organization the school district contracted for three years, “examine the historical nature of reading aloud as an act of resistance.”

Maybe let’s just stick with the reading part? 

The Woke Kindergarten agenda, which was implemented to help raise the bar for underachieving students, is built on the foundation of abolitionist principles, and pushes students to dream of a world without cops, capitalism, or the state of Israel. As far as we know, it does not challenge them to dream of a world where they can multiply or conjugate. For a smart assessment of this sad use of resources, check out Jesse Singal’s newsletter, where he argues that Woke Kindergarten is actually capitalism at its worst.

Pitch perfect: The Grammys were a smash. Well, at least after the trainwreck that was the Golden Globes. The music awards saw Miley Cyrus win her first gramophone, for “Flowers,” and a first-ever Grammy performance by Joni Mitchell. Taylor Swift, naturally, won Album of the Year—for the fourth time—and she announced that she’ll be releasing a new album come April while accepting the trophy from Celine Dion. (Sorry, Julia, still no justice for Lana.) 

And then there was Jay-Z, who, while accepting his award for Global Impact, admonished the recording academy for snubbing black artists. “We love y’all. We want y’all to get it right,” he said, before nodding to his wife Beyoncé in the front row. “I don’t want to embarrass this young lady, but she has more Grammys than anyone and never won Album of the Year. So even by your own metrics, that doesn’t work.” The whole scene called to mind the epic moment when Kanye, in an attempt to praise Beyoncé, took all the air out of the room. Let’s just allow Queen B to speak for herself.

But the best moment of the night—by far—was an epic duet by Tracy Chapman and Luke Combs. All the bullshit culture-war noise around his cover of her masterpiece “Fast Car” was drowned out for a perfect five minutes. (And, as maybe the only two people in the room not pumped full of fillers, Chapman and Combs looked reassuringly normal.) Take a few minutes and watch it.

Get well soon, Charles: King Charles III is sick with a “form of cancer,” according to Buckingham Palace. The palace said Charles will forgo his public-facing royal duties while he receives treatment. 

We usually have next to no patience for Boomer dudes clinging to the top job. This is your final warning, Bibi Netanyahu. Joe Biden. Donald Trump. Vladimir Putin. And even you, Jon Stewart, now that you’re about to take over The Daily Show as a regular host through the election, and as producer until 2025. But we’ll give Charles a pass on a determination to keep his nose to the grindstone. After all, he’s been waiting his whole life for the gig. We wish the king well and hope he’s fighting fit and back to the tedium of ribbon-cutting soon.

Oliver Wiseman is a senior editor for The Free Press. Suzy Weiss is a reporter and producer for The Free Press.

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