ZELLA COMPTON: Crackdown on cub's right to free speech is terrifying

You know what frightens me? Really frightens me? It's the suppression of free speech.

Tuesday, 24th October 2017, 9:00 pm
Updated Tuesday, 12th December 2017, 5:45 am
An American cub's question on gun control has sparked a row over freedom of speech

Because however gross what someone believes is to you, me or the woman down the road, as long as gross opinions aren’t inciting hatred or violence, we all have a right to share our views, don’t we? Perhaps not.

Look at a recent example in the US. You might be forgiven for thinking I am about to talk about right-wingers speaking on university campuses, but actually no.

I’m thinking about the boy scouts of America who’ve already been in hot water this year for inviting Trump to address their jamboree.

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Trump turned it into a political rally about how great he thinks he is, rather than a speech about how great the scouts are.

But he has the right to free speech, like any of us, though you would hope that the president of the USA would stick to facts and not creatively embroider his words to such an extent that the Scout Association became mired in a political swamp about what’s appropriate for young minds.

But there’s a new problem with the scouts in America.

While my son and daughters have all been off learning backwoods skills like camping, cooking and fire-making with a few games of submarines thrown in, plus some canoeing in their UK groups, one pack in America invited a state senator to come and speak, a woman named Vicky Marble.

The pack asked the cubs to think about and prepare questions that affected them. Thereupon, one young man asked this right-wing guest about her voting record, and gun control, and it’s reported, health care for victims of gun violence as it’s well-known that the right to bear arms is enshrined for Americans, but the right to health care is not.

And now? That child has been ousted from his pack and moved to another one.

Remember that thing about freedom of speech? I don’t know the ins and the outs of what happened, but seemingly it’s something to do with the scout making the scouts political, when it’s not a political movement.

Is it just me who finds this, at this level, absurd?

Surely if you invite a politician to a meeting, you’d want your children to invest in that meeting, get the most out of it by asking questions that affect them? And, surely any visitor would be prepared to answer.

Is it now that freedom of speech is being curtailed, or freedom to question?


Pitch Perfect is one of my favourite films of this century.

It’s brilliant, subversive and funny and about a group of women who have ambitions which – shock horror – don’t revolve around the men in their lives.

The story’s about whether the women can win an a cappella contest, but is also about female friendship, and it’s pitch perfect.

So imagine my joy to discover that there’s a British-grown version called Sing It on Sky One.

This is an X-Factor-style contest, with a cappella groups competing from all over the UK.

It has low production values and feels thrown together, but the music’s great. Join in the fun.


I read a very interesting piece in The Guardian about the decline in numbers of cars in urban areas and how cities are managing them out of the equation for the future.

This is an exciting, and I think a wonderful, endeavour.

As long as public transport is up to scratch and made to be financially feasible, and flexible enough it’s all well and good.

Plus, if we want our city centres to be car-free, we need to make sure there are safe places to store alternative means of transport, Like bikes.

I still haven’t replaced my last one (the third to be stolen in less than a year) as I can’t be doing with the stress of thinking it might get stolen again.

But get the conditions right, and people will respond.