Channel 4 ‘Dispatches’ Documentary from 2009: Inside Britain’s Israel Lobby – Part

The documentary then moves on to January, 2009 and the invasion of Gaza, and allegations of Human Rights abuses by Israeli forces were still circulating months later. But Oborne points out that you wouldn’t know it from the contents of the News of the World and the Mirror. Both these rags ran stories instead about the threat to Israel from the surrounding Arab nations. The hacks behind these pieces had been given free trips to Israel by BICOM, one of the wealthiest lobby groups in Britain. Oborne then goes on to interview David Newman in his office in Jerusalem. Newman worked alongside BICOM in disseminating Israeli propaganda in British universities. Newman states that there is indeed a debate within Israel about the status of the settlements in Palestinian territory. Groups like BICOM close down this debate abroad, and instead demand absolute for Israel.

Plocha Zabludowicz, the head of BICOM, is the 18th richest person in Britain. And he is very definitely not part of traditional British Anglo-Jewish society, but came up through the Jewish Leadership Council, who are described as the lords of the big Jewish donors. Oborne then interviews the head of the Liberal Jewish Synagogue, Rabbi Emeritus David Goldberg, and asks if he knows him. Goldberg states that his name doesn’t ring a bell. Zabludowicz is actually of Polish ancestry. He is a Finnish citizen with a house in north London. His father made a fortune peddling Israeli arms, as did Zabludowicz himself before moving into property and casinos. His company is registered in Lichtenstein. He is, in short, ‘a rank outsider’. He was also one of the guests at Madonna’s birthday party in Italy.

Zabludowicz generously bankrolls BICOM, to whom he gave £800,000, who wrote a clause into their accounts recognising his generosity. He had given them £1.3 million in the previous three years, and has business interests in the Middle East. These cast doubt on the possibility of reaching a peace deal between Israel and the Palestinians. Oborne then goes on to discuss the case of one of the illegal Israeli settlements in Occupied Palestine, whose supermarket is owned by Zabludowicz. Newman states this indicates the direction in which BICOM is moving. Rabbi Goldberg states that it shows that Zabludowicz calculates that the settlement won’t be returning to the Palestinians, even under the most generous peace deal. As for Zabludowicz himself, he declined to meet the Dispatches team, but instead released a statement claiming that he was a major supporter of the creation of a separate Palestinian state, and that he understood that concessions would need to be made. Oborne was, however, successful in talking to Lorna Fitzsimons, BICOM’s chief executive. She claimed that BICOM was very open, that their donors do not influence policy. When asked about Zabludowicz, she claimed he was different from anyone else and she didn’t know about his business connections. All the organisation was doing was to make journos and people aware of the different strands of the debate on Israel.

Oborne moves on to the other groups involved in the Israel lobby – the Jewish Leadership Council, the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the Zionist Federation, and states that some members of these groups are very aggressive towards the TV and press. He then interviews Alan Rusbridger about his experiences of dealing with them. Rusbridger states that some TV editors warned him to stay away from them and the whole subject of Israel and the Palestinians. The Guardian was attacked for criticising Israel in a way that no other country does. There was a special meeting at the Israeli embassy between the ambassador, Zabludowicz, Grunewald of the Board of Deputies of British Jews and the property magnate Gerald Reuben. They were unhappy about a Groaniad article comparing the Israeli’s occupation of Palestine with apartheid South Africa. So Grunewald and his mate, Roman Leidel, decided to pay Rusbridger a visit. Grunewald is a lawyer, claimed that the article was fomenting anti-Semitism, and would encourage people to attack Jews on the street, a risible accusation which Rusbridger denied. This was followed by complaints to the Press Complaints Commission about the article by the pro-Israel American group, CAMERA, or Committee for Accuracy in Middle East Reporting in America, which specialising in attacking journos critical of Israel. The Press Complaints Commission duly investigated the article, and found that only one fact was wrong. When asked about this, Rabbi Goldberg states that Israel is indeed an apartheid state. There are two road systems, one for use by Israelis and one for the Palestinians. There are two legal systems in operation. The Israelis are governed by Israeli law, while the Palestinians are governed by military law. When asked what will happen to him when his comments are broadcast, the good rabbi simply laughs and says that he’ll be attacked once against as being an ant-Semitic, self-hating Jew.

Many other Jews are also critical of Israel. Oborne goes on to talk to Tony Lerman, formerly of the Institute for Jewish Policy Research, and now a Groaniad journo. Lerman states that the Israel lobby don’t take into account the diversity of Jewish views on Israel. This is confirmed by Avi Shlaim, who says that there is a split in the Jewish community over Israel. The community’s leaders are largely pro-Israel with a narrow rightwing agenda that is not typical of Jewish Brits. And libelling Israel’s critics as ‘anti-Semitic’ is now common policy.

One example of this use of libel is a New York blogger, ‘Hawkeye’, who hunts through the Guardian’s ‘Comment is Free’ column, claiming it is full of anti-Semitic bias. Rusbridger states that this is dangerous and disreputable. ‘Hawkeye’ attacked Lerman in particular as a nasty anti-Semite. Lerman states that this tactic has been adopted because it’s a useful defence of Israel. Rabbi Goldberg concedes that some people might be seriously anti-Semitic, others are just voicing genuine opinions, which should be respected. Michael Ancram, even, was accused of being anti-Semitic, which he said he takes with a pinch of salt.

But this leads into the whole question of whether the BBC has been corrupted by the influence of the Israel lobby. On record, BBC journos and spokespeople claim that the Corporation’s reporting of Israel is unbiased. Off-record, the stories different. News staff state that there is always pressure from top management for a pro-Israel slant. Oborne then interview Charlie Brebitt, an accountant at the LSE, who was formerly of Channel 4, who confirms that there is a very strong and active Israel lobby, and a sizable body of sympathy with Israel. The BBC has no choice but to respond. Honest Reporting, another pro-Israel media attack dog, and the other parts of the Israel lobby take advantage of this, alleging that there is an institutional bias at the Corporation against Israel.

In 2003 during the Iraq invasion the Beeb broadcast a hard-hitting documentary investigating Israel’s secret nuclear weapon’s programme, entitled ‘Israel’s Secret Weapon’ on the 16th March. The Israeli Press Office issued a statement comparing this to the worst of Nazi propaganda, and imposed restrictions on BBC staff in Israel. When Ariel Sharon, the Israeli leader, visited Downing Street, the only journos banned from covering the meeting were the Beeb. Honest Reporting UK complained that the programme was part of a campaign to vilify Israel. One member of the group, Nathan Sharansky, complained that the late Orla Guerin, here shown with two eyes, was anti-Semitic, and that she shared the goals of Palestinian terror groups.

Continued in Part 3.

Professors Dating Students, Professors Harassing Students

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Thu, 01/03/2018 - 2:12am in

“As for the fact of being a lecturer in bed with undergraduates in particular, there was no possibility of avoiding the charge that this was an abuse of my position.”

Those are the words of Ted Honderich, now 85 years old and emeritus professor of philosophy of mind and logic at University College London. They were published in 2001 in his memoir, Philosopher: a Kind of Lifeand refer to a time in the mid 1960s, when he was in his 30s.

He continues:

But it was not easy to make clear sense of the charge. It was not as if my partners were reluctant, which they were not. They were not seduced, or hardly more seduced than me. To use a term not then current, there was no harassment worth the name. Nor did they act from the promise or anticipation of academic favours, or fear of reprisal if they declined my casual invitations. If they were impressed by me in my position, which very likely they were, I did in fact possess the attributes in question. Being impressed was not in itself being a victim. Evidently I was breaking a tacit undertaking to Sir John Fulton [a university administrator] and to others of his mind. But was the conventional view of the weight of this obligation correct? Why was there no explicit rule? It did not escape me either that I was not alone in my ways. There were others than our Abelard who were not burdened by their tacit undertaking.

So I would have said in setting out to defend myself. In fact, in these buoyant times, I did not reflect a lot on my actions and my moral standing, or suffer guilt, partly because of the optimistic feeling that if I worked at a defence, a confident one might be constructed. I was never called on to provide one. (pp.128-29)

This passage and related ones were brought to my attention by Joshua Habgood-Coote (Bristol), who discussed them on Twitter. (It is unclear whether these students were ones Honderich had any supervisory role over.)

I’ve reproduced the passage here not to provide an occasion for excoriating Honderich. It isn’t obvious today that it is wrong for professors to have consensual romantic or sexual relations with students at their university over whom they have no supervisory role, and it is not clear to what extent such a judgment was seriously entertained 55 or so years ago. Further, even if one thinks Honderich acted wrongly by engaging in those relations, whether and how he should be blamed or otherwise held responsible for them today is another matter. (To be clear, it’s not that I’m endorsing relativism here; I am, however, saying that judgments about how to react to these kinds of cases are complicated by uncertainty and social and temporal distance.) I would add that Honderich’s personal life was widely discussed in reviews following the book’s publication, and we needn’t rehash all of that here. (Though I would recommend reading this excellent review by Catherine Wilson.)

The circulation of these passages, rather, presents an opportunity to discuss some of the disputes over romantic or sexual relations between professors and students. I’ll raise just two here: (1) arguments over blanket policies that some schools have adopted banning any such relationships, and (2) arguments concerning the treatment of philosophers who’ve engaged in such relationships.

(1) Blanket Relationship Bans

One consideration relevant to relationship bans arises in another passage of Honderich’s book that was part of the Twitter discussion:

Feminism had begun, with books and marches, but it did not include the charge of harassment by teachers. Harassment there certainly was, once by me in at least one mind. A young woman of good family told me of her sad marriage to an Indian gentleman, I sympathized too much, and did get an idea in my head. Something was said to Richard [Wollheim, then chair of the department] of this, and he found her another tutor. It was a good lesson of a kind. It preserved me from an undergraduate or two with the invigorating idea of an extra-curricular connection with their tutor. (p.189)

That’s one worry about professor-student relationships. Even if we suppose that there are some that are consensual and otherwise unproblematic—“successful”—we need to look at the ongoing context in which such relationships might come about. An ongoing context that produces some successful relationships probably involves a greater number of relationship attempts. Some of these attempts fail, and it is likely that some of these attempts will involve sexual harassment. So a context in which such attempts are not discouraged is one which may lead to more sexual harassment (this sounds plausible but is ultimately an empirical question so if you know of work on this feel free to share it). If that is so, it should be taken into account in reasoning about whether to have such policies.

Now in this latter case the student Honderich admits harassing is one he has institutional authority over. Can we at least agree that professors have very strong reasons not to attempt relationships with their own students? Whether such relationships would involve a power imbalance that undermines the possibility of consent, I don’t know; I think the diversity of actual cases means that this is hard to generalize about that. However, such relationships clearly violate widely-accepted and well-justified norms regarding conflict of interest, and there is no sufficiently compelling reason in these cases to override these norms. Many universities now have policies that prohibit such relationships (or, in cases in which the lines of institutional authority are less clear, policies that require disclosure of the relationship to the relevant administrators).

On the other side of the debate over blanket bans are the goods of romantic or sexual relationships and sexual liberty. Last year, philosopher Neil McArthur (Manitoba) published an article, “Relationships between university professors and students: Should they be banned?” in Ethics and Education, arguing against bans of professor-student relationships (also discussed in this Times Higher Ed piece). McArthur acknowledges  that “romances between faculty and students are minefields, both emotionally and ethically, and they should be approached with the utmost care and trepidation.” However, “such matters are far too complex for the blunt tool provided by outright prohibitions, and that such prohibitions cannot be justified” (p.138).

On whether such relationships are likely to be nonconsensual, McArthur looks at some empirical work:

In Glaser and Thorpe’s (1986, 49) survey of 464 former graduate students, all female, about their sexual involvement with professors, nearly all reported that they ‘felt no coercion or exploitation whatsoever.’ Bellas and Gossett (540) similarly found that, among those in their smaller survey, ‘none of the students felt coerced to initiate or to sustain their relationships … students believed that they entered into them freely—their relationships were, at least in their own minds, consensual.’ We must consider, too, that it is by no means always the professor who initiates romantic contact. Skeen and Nielsen (1983, 39) reported that in only three of the twenty-five cases they studied was the sexual interaction initiated by the professor. (p.136)

(See below for a criticism of McArthur’s intepretation and use of some of this data.)

Part of McArthur’s argument against blanket bans is that enforcing them well would be problematic and difficult. For example, interestingly, he claims that such bans would make the aforementioned conflicts of interest harder to detect and avoid. He writes:

Supporters of relationship bans will say that such relationships often create conflicts of interest, such as cases where a student is involved with his or her supervisor. This is certainly true, and these conflicts must be dealt with. However, they can be easily addressed non-punitively, such as by transferring supervisory responsibility to another faculty member. But banning relationships outright actually works against, not in favour of, this important goal. If we are to prevent conflicts of interest, it is crucial that the conflicts be reported as they arise, so that they may be managed. The threat of punitive action for consensual sex makes it impossible for professors to disclose a relationship that creates a conflict, and so these relationships, when they develop, will be kept secret. It is only by removing the threat of punishment that universities can ensure they know about, and can thus eliminate, conflicts of interest. (p.134)

This seems to assume that compliance with a policy that bans professor-student relationships will be low, and that compliance with a policy that merely requires their disclosure will be quite high. Without these assumptions in place, it could be that the overall reduction in the number of student-professor relationships brought about by the ban is so significant that, while it still results in some such relationships remaining undisclosed, there are fewer such undisclosed relationships with the ban in place than without it. Are those assumptions about uneven compliance warranted? I doubt we can make an informed judgment about that at this time, but in general, when comparing policies, we should guard against just helping ourselves to empirically unsubstantiated assumptions of differential levels of compliance.

That said, I think McArthur is smart to draw our attention to what the potential costs of certain versions of blanket bans would be, especially since they would be administered by imperfect human beings.

Along those lines we might ask about the “right to sexual intimacy” or to “sexual activity in private” that McArthur thinks is threatened by a blanket ban. How much of a threat is it, really?

We should note that such bans amount to saying to professors: “Given your position, you cannot attempt to exercise your ‘right to sexual intimacy’ with the small number of particular people who are currently students at your school. However, you may (a) exercise your ‘right to sexual intimacy’ during this time with any of the billions of other adults in the world who consent to it, (b) wait a little while until the particular people who are currently students at your school are no longer students at your school and then exercise your ‘right to sexual intimacy’ with any of them who consent to it, or (c) abandon your position in the school and be free right now to exercise your ‘right to sexual intimacy’ with any of them who consent to it.”

Framed this way, such blanket bans seem like less of an incursion on people’s rights to sexual intimacy—especially at schools in well-populated areas. It should be acknowledged, though, that people at more remote schools may indeed be more negatively affected by them. (See, also, this previous post: “Are Bans on Faculty-Student Sex Unjust to Students?“)

After Times Higher Ed wrote about McArthur’s article, it published a response piece by five philosophers from the University of Guelph: Maya J. GoldenbergKaren HouleMonique DeveauxKaryn L. Freedman, and Patricia Sheridan. In it, they argue that McArthur’s evidence does not support his conclusions about whether student-professor relationships are generally consensual:

He cites a 1986 study of 464 female psychologists, claiming that it shows that “nearly all” of those who had sexual involvement with their professors during graduate training “felt no coercion or exploitation whatsoever”. But a closer look points to an altogether different conclusion. In fact, 10 per cent of these women reported feeling coerced at the time, and 30 per cent said that they later came to feel that there was coercion. More alarming still, 71 per cent of all of those who had experienced sexual advances by educators (some of whom had rejected those advances) felt that they were coercive to some degree. Lastly, only women who completed their doctorates were surveyed—a crucial limitation (acknowledged by the study’s authors) given that many impacted by sexual harassment abandon their studies.

The authors also believe that McArthur overlooks the impact of such relationships “on the learning community as a whole”:

As highlighted by a growing body of research, “available” (usually male) faculty members advertise that fact in subtle and not-so-subtle ways in order to cast a wide net. In so doing, they hijack the learning spaces for their own purposes. In philosophy, for instance, they might let it be known in seminars and classes that they are single or party to an “open” marriage, using the example of polygamy when talking about natural rights; even arguing in favour of extramarital affairs as their illustration of utilitarian reasoning. They may be doing it unconsciously, but it in effect sexualises the learning space for everyone. 

Those who, quite reasonably, feel uncomfortable about a sexualized work environment, may find that their best option is to reduce their participation in it, or leave academia altogether:

Some will be unsuspectingly flattered by an academic who takes a keen personal interest in their work. Discovering that their bodies, not their intellect, ignited that attention will be, at best, embarrassing, and may discourage them from continuing their studies in this field. Other students who sense that their professor’s interest is not merely professional will be hampered by deep uncertainty and insecurity. And how, in either case, can the students deflect the professor’s interest without damaging the professional opportunity that comes from their support—or potentially hurting their academic futures by offending him? So they avoid the department when he is around, stay away from talks and reading groups and abstain from social gatherings where he is likely to be present. In short, they lose their footing in the intellectual and social community. 

I appreciate these concerns. I think, though, that we could usefully distinguish between an environment in which consensual professor-student relations are allowed and an environment which is “sexualized.” Some people might meet at church, for instance, and then go on to develop a romantic relationship. Is church thereby a sexualized environment? (Okay, maybe some people will think that’s a bad example, but you get the idea.)

What this distinction amounts to in practice, or in regards to policy considerations, I’m not quite sure. I think we have good reasons to favor policy approaches which expand rather than contract opportunities and options, other things equal, so I’m inclined to oppose a blanket ban. But there’s no doubt that a learning environment that’s tolerant of lecherous behavior, innuendo-filled lesson plans, and sexualized interactions and events is one that effectively reduces acceptable opportunities of the kind it is supposed to provide for a significant number of the very people it is supposed to serve. So what to do?

Here’s one possible approach: take steps to keep your school from being the kind of place that needs a blanket ban. Such steps would likely include: professors cultivating in themselves a disinclination for relationships with students, schools and units holding meetings aimed at explaining the various reasons not to engage in such relationships, strictly enforced disclosure policies, and colleagues being willing to speak to each other about problematic behavior (including that which is disguised in the veneer of plausible deniability). Advice on how to take these steps, and what other steps to take, are welcome.

The steps would probably also include the explicit acknowledgment that if the less formal mechanisms of conscience, discouragement, norms, and criticism fail—that is, fail to keep an environment in which attempts at such relationships, while technically allowed, are rare, from becoming problematically sexualized—a ban, if it would not be counterproductive, would be worth trying.

I  imagine that some people believe, correctly, that their institutions are ones in which these less formal methods have already failed. I wonder if that is true of most colleges and universities. In any event, it will be interesting to see if the bans being tried at various institutions yield the desired results.

At the departmental level, concerning graduate students, I think there are reasons to be less permissive. It’s a relatively small community, so individual relationships will likely have more of an effect on its culture and what work and life feel like in it. Additionally, the lines of power at that level are harder to disentangle—a professor may not have an explicit supervisory role over the person they’re dating, but will have some kind of relationship with whoever does; a professor may not participate in departmental decisions that concern only the individual they’re dating, but in general decisions and policy matters that may affect the graduate students as a whole—so the risks of conflict of interest seem significant. A ban on relationships between professors and graduate students in their department seems reasonable.

I’ve thrown my view into the mix here as one to consider alongside the rest. I welcome hearing from others as to what alternatives to consider, or as to how I’ve gone wrong in my thinking on this.

(2) How To Treat Those Who Have Harassed

In his discussion on Twitter, Dr. Habgood-Coote disapprovingly notes that Ted Honderich was the subject of conference honoring his work in 2016 at the Royal Institute of Philosophy (of which he had previously been Chair of the Council and Executive Committee) and that the conference led to this book, published just this month.

(For what it’s worth, in an interview (scroll down to #4 on this page), Honderich says, “I’ve been prudent with regard to undergraduates for decades. All those affairs were in my flaming and possibly more rational youth.”)

More generally, there are questions about the extent to which a person’s having harassed people should affect how they (and their work) are treated by others in the profession. We have discussed some of these issues before, for example, in “Banning the Guilty,” “Should You Continue To Teach The Work of Sexual Harassers?“, “Hiring and ‘Unofficial’ Information,” “Disbelief, Inaction, and the Persistence of Harassment and Assault,” and “When, If Ever, Do Scandals Belong On A Scholar’s Wikipedia Page?“.

Further discussion of the issue is welcome, but I ask that commenters refrain from making accusations of harassment or related misconduct here. Also, please recall the comments policy.

Felix Schramm, “Spatial Intersection”

The post Professors Dating Students, Professors Harassing Students appeared first on Daily Nous.

Resist? Welcome? Co-opt? Ignore? The pressures and possibilities of the REF and impact

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Mon, 26/02/2018 - 10:00pm in

The increased focus on impact in research evaluation represents a range of possibilities and pressures to those academics whose work is being assessed. For some it offers an opportunity to progress social justice causes and engage in participatory, bottom-up research approaches with less powerful groups; while to others it is further evidence of the managerial audit culture that is corrupting […]

Book Review: A University Education by David Willetts

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 25/02/2018 - 10:00pm in

In A University Education, former Minister of State for Universities and Science (2010-14) David Willetts sets out the changes he fostered during his four-year ministry and his views on what still needs to be transformed, alongside a scholarly appreciation of how the current higher education system and its particularly British (mainly English) features have evolved. In this review, Ron Johnston critically […]

The CAA and the JLM are the Israel Lobby’s Version of the ‘Anti-Paki League’

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sat, 24/02/2018 - 10:07pm in

The Anti-Paki League were another bunch of extreme right-wing racists, who goose-stepped up and down our green and pleasant land in the 1970s campaigning against coloured immigration, and terrorising Blacks and Asians. They had an ugly name, which exactly expressed the ugliness of the organisation. I first became aware of the Leagues existence when I saw a book on them in the former Midland Educational bookshop in Bristol’s Broadmead in the ’70s or early ’80s. The cover showed a crowd in Klan robes about to behead a prone and screaming Black man.

I’ve chosen the Anti-Paki League to focus on here, rather than other, larger anti-immigrant and racist organisation, like the National Front or BNP, because their name also carries with it undertones of Islamophobia. Pakistan is a Muslim state. It was explicitly set up to be the country where Muslims, who felt excluded by the dominant Hindus in India, could live in according with Qu’ran and the Sunna. Not all Pakistani immigrants are Muslim, however. Many of them have been Christians, who have left their homeland because of the increasing violence and intolerance of their Muslim compatriots.

And Islamophobia and connections to other, nakedly Fascistic British anti-Muslim organisations, run right through the Israel lobby and its organisations like the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism and the Jewish Labour Movement. The racism and Islamophobia at the heart of the Campaign Against Anti-Semitism is very clear in its statement that Muslims are more likely than the rest of the British population to be anti-Semitic, whom they also smear as sharing the same Jew hatred.

As for the JLM, their head, Jonathan Newmark, an unconvicted embezzler from Jewish charities, if the allegations against him are true, turned up to disrupt a film on the sufferings of the Palestinians under Israeli occupation, held at the SOAS university. They did so in the company of the Jewish Defence League, the Jewish branch of the Fascist English Defence League, screaming, hurling abuse and waving flags.

Mike’s been unfairly accused of being an anti-Semite, because the uncomfortable facts he covered about Shai Masot’s attempts to plot the removal and replacement of prominent cabinet ministers, which he rightly described as a conspiracy, was held to be an ‘anti-Semitic trope’.

Well, turning up to a screening of film to disrupt it by flag-waving racial nationalists is a Fascist trope. Since the time of Mosley’s BUF, the stormtroopers of the British Nazi right have used appropriated the Union Flag and other emblems of Britishness for their insignia and rallies. The National Front despised Mosley, but they adopted the same tactic to try to win over members.

And Fascists also aggressively disrupt anti-racist and left-wing gatherings, including films. The parallel to their JDL’s disruption of the film on the Palestinians that comes to my mind is the attack Christian Fascists in France in the 1920s made on the screening of Bunuel’s and Dali’s Surrealist film, L’Age d’Or. As Marxists, the Surrealists were extremely anti-religious with a bitter hatred of Christianity. The French Christian far right objected to the film because it showed a monstrance being thrown into a river, and ended with a group of skeletons lying on a rock wearing clerical vestments such as bishop’s mitres.

And the Israel lobby’s connection to mainstream British Islamphobic Fascism don’t end there. A few months ago Jonathan Hoffman, another prominent member of the Israel lobby was photographed getting very chummy with Paul Besser, the intelligence officer of Britain First, if ‘Intelligence officer’ in this context isn’t a contradiction in terms.

These are fake anti-racist organisations. They don’t exist to protect Jews from real anti-Semitism. They exist to defend Israel and its racist oppression of the Palestinians by pretending to defend Jews from anti-Semitism. And they do this by smearing Israel’s critics, including self-respecting secular and Torah-observant Jews, as anti-Semites.

They are Fascists. The CAA should lose its charitable status, and the Jewish Labour Movement, as a Fascist organisation, should be closed down. Real socialists and anti-racist activists should not be tolerating any racist organisation, no matter what it’s ethnicity is, in their party.

Chunky Mark on the Tory Supporter Who Punched Female Protester at UWE

One of the big stories this weekend, apart from the Sunset Times and Robert Peston libelling Mike as a Holocaust denier, was about the violence at a meeting held by Jacob Rees-Mogg at the University of the West of England in Bristol. The story, as reported by the mainstream news, was that the Antifa assembled there had attacked and hit Rees-Mogg. In fact, as Rees-Mogg himself stated later, he hadn’t been attacked.

But there was violence. And the Skwawkbox revealed that later footage of the incident showed it started with one of Mogg’s own Tory supporters. This thug stood in front of a young woman holding a placard, and struck her in the face. He then continued to stand there menacingly, and I think may have tried to hit her again.

And it also appears that this same man has also on occasion thought it would be jolly good fun to dress up in Nazi uniform.

In this clip from Chunky Mark, the Artist Taxi Driver, he expresses his own anger and disgust at the incident, and the thug’s predilection for Nazi dress. He also criticises the Tories’ hypocrisy over the incident. They’ve made much of the violence by the Antifa in order to discredit the left, as it shows them as intolerant. In the meantime, none of the mainstream media have covered the attack by this character. It was done by the Skwawkbox as a piece of citizen journalism. And Brandon Lewis, David Gauke and other Tories have actually defended the thug, who hit the young woman. Chunky Mark also attacks the way they want to take this round the universities.

He states very clearly and loudly that the Tories have no policies, and are attacking those who do. This is the people, who fight for higher wages, against homelessness, for the NHS and against people dying in corridors. People who believe that another world is possible.

I’m not surprised that the Tories supporter, who punched the protester liked to dress up in Nazi uniform. A number of them were caught doing this several years ago in a series of scandals. And Private Eye reported several times that the late Conservative cabinet minister, Alan Clarke, used to describe himself as a ‘Nazi’. He probably wasn’t, but it shows the fascination the Third Reich and the Nazis have for a certain type of right-wing Conservative.

As for Brandon Lewis wanting to tour this round the universities, and pass legislation so that it’s impossible to criticise it, this refers to the government’s concerns about democracy on campus. The Tories are afraid that some of the groups at university threaten free speech. By which I think they mean the anti-racist, feminist and gay rights groups. I think they’re afraid of the strong position such groups hold on campuses throughout Britain, and want to attack them as part of a campaign to promote approved Tory values. It’s just part of their programme to change educational system to indoctrinate children and young people with Conservative views. Like Michael Gove tried to do when he was head of education a few years ago, and complained about schoolchildren getting the ‘Blackadder’ view of the First World War.

They’ve clearly realised that actually admitting that they want to promote Conservativism amongst students would sound bad, and so they’ve been trying to pass this off as a defence of free speech. But the only speech they’re interested in defending is for themselves. They really want to close down everyone else’s. And so they and their supporters in the press were busy promoting this story about Rees-Mogg and his supporters being attacked, and very carefully ignoring the fact that the violence was started by the Conservatives.

Book Review: The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal Ideology by John Smyth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Sun, 21/01/2018 - 10:00pm in

In The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal Ideology, John Smyth offers a critical reading of the pathological state of higher education today, diagnosing this as the effect of commodification, marketisation and managerialism. While those looking for a minute analysis of the crisis of the university may at times wish for more nuanced and detailed insight, this is an outstanding synthesis […]

Book Review: The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal Ideology by John Smyth

Published by Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 19/01/2018 - 10:37pm in

In The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal IdeologyJohn Smyth offers a critical reading of the pathological state of higher education today, diagnosing this as the effect of commodification, marketisation and managerialism. While those looking for a minute analysis of the crisis of the university may at times wish for more nuanced and detailed insight, this is an outstanding synthesis of the current challenges facing the HE landscape, finds Jana Bacevic

The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal Ideology. John Smyth. Palgrave Macmillan. 2017.

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It is becoming increasingly difficult to keep abreast of the academic production of critiques of neoliberalism in higher education. Every month, there seems to be a new book on the crisis of the university. Palgrave’s Critical University Studies series alone – which published The Toxic University: Zombie Leadership, Academic Rock Stars and Neoliberal Ideology, and where its author, John Smyth, is the editor – boasts eleven titles, all, in one way or another, offering a critical reading of the changes shaping the field of higher education today.

The Toxic University is an outstanding guide through this landscape. Smyth undertakes a very careful reading of English-language literature on the crisis of the university, focusing particularly on work that has emerged in the past five years. This alone sets the book apart from similar volumes: given the mismatch between the pace of change in the organisation of academic work and cycles of book production, publications that engage with contemporary transformations in higher education policy often contain slightly outdated reference lists. Nor is his reading limited to academic publications in the strict sense of the term: Smyth refers to reports, blogs, opinion pieces, news items and other elements of ‘grey literature’, all of which represent relevant but sometimes overlooked pieces of the conversation on the fate and future of universities.

For anyone looking for a comprehensive overview of critical narratives on the transformation of universities in the West, The Toxic University offers an excellent introduction. Smyth summarises the dominant diagnoses – commodification, marketisation and managerialism. Chapter Eight helpfully classifies recent publications according to themes (or, following Raymond Williams, ‘keywords’): damage/despair/violence; the rising ‘tide’ of marketisation; confusion; and proposals for salvaging or repurposing the university. Smyth also describes the ‘pathologies’ of the contemporary university – ‘corruption’ by management, infestation by competition and casualisation of academic labour.

Image Credit: (TheDigitalArtist CCO)

However, besides slight ‘overkill’ on the metaphorical side, the book offers little by way of independent argument to anyone more familiar with writing on higher education. ‘Toxicity’ suggests that the threat, or source of danger, is on the outside. It is always environments that are toxic to organisms: cancer, in this sense, is usually taken to be the organism’s reaction to external factors, despite being mediated through ‘internal’ (genetic) factors. Toxic University’s preponderance of the passive voice reflects this idea of an external threat: the university is the object, target or victim of changes. Academics are always on the receiving end of transformation, usually effectuated through the university’s ‘zombie’ leadership. Yet who controls the zombies?

In this sense, The Toxic University stops disappointingly short of engaging with the implications of its own analysis. Invoking capitalism, managerialism or neoliberalism perhaps makes for good cultural critique, but cannot supplant a careful analysis of how these modes of governing came to dominate universities as organisations or those who work inside them. The book repeatedly asks: how come academics have become complicit in managing their own decline? – but doesn’t seem to offer an answer. However, if – as the analysis seems to suggest – there is both an abundance of and convergence in diagnoses of what is wrong with universities, how come these changes have been allowed to go on unabated? This question, which is also at the core of my own research, is particularly pronounced given the contrast between the minority of academic ‘rock stars’ who, as Smyth argues, use these processes in order to accumulate their own privilege, and others – the academic precariat – who suffer under them.

In this sense, the book could have benefited from a more careful theoretical framing, as well as firmer political and historical grounding. Everyday experiences of change at universities can indeed be overwhelming: Smyth engages with these stories in depth, in particular with the tragic death of the biologist Stefan Grimm of Imperial College in London who, perhaps fittingly given this book’s metaphors, worked on toxicology and cancer cells. Despite the gravity of these cases, we need to not lose sight of the way these experiences are embedded in and relate to broader processes of economic and social transformation. For instance, Smyth writes that the ‘degree of autonomy’ and ‘job security’ that characterised academic life are unrecognisable today; yet, it makes sense to acknowledge the extent to which the casualisation and precarisation of the workforce are part of the transformation of (cognitive) capitalism in general.

This also applies to the spatial and political context informing the transformation of universities. Smyth draws on his research on Australian higher education, extending it to the UK. Indeed, Australia (and New Zealand) have long been at the forefront of neoliberal reforms in higher education. Yet, assuming that neoliberalism is exactly the same in all Anglophone contexts obscures not only the dynamics of transnational policy transfer, but also, and more importantly, the relevance of regionalisation as well as the legacy of colonialism in constructing networks of knowledge production. This is where a comparative overview between Australia and the UK, which Smyth is well positioned to provide, would have been particularly welcome. Otherwise, a ‘view from everywhere’ can, indeed, become difficult to distinguish from a view from nowhere.

Of course, there is an inevitable tradeoff between a minute analysis and an overarching synthesis, especially in a field as thriving as critical university studies. In this sense, a reader looking for a good, comprehensive introduction to the critique of the transformation of higher education in the past decade could not wish for a better guide. If the tendencies Smyth describes in The Toxic University continue, there will be no shortage of material for more detailed accounts. Connecting the general and the particular – and, even more importantly, thinking about how description links to action – remains a challenge for those of us studying the transformation of higher education today.

Jana Bacevic is a PhD candidate at the Department of Sociology and research associate at the Faculty of Education at the University of Cambridge. Her work concerns the relationship between critique, social theory and conditions of knowledge production in contemporary capitalism. Previously, she was Marie Curie fellow at the University of Aarhus, and lecturer at the Central European University in Budapest. She regularly writes about social theory, sociology of knowledge and higher education on her blog and other platforms, and tweets at @jana_bacevic.

Note: This review gives the views of the author, and not the position of the LSE Review of Books blog, or of the London School of Economics. 


Tory Chairman Lies about Abuse from Labour Party

Another day, another lie from the Tories. The Tory chairman, Brandon Lewis, was in the papers yesterday because of comments he made on the Andrew Marr Show on Sunday. Lewis claimed that Tories were afraid to go on the internet because of abuse from the Labour party and Momentum members. Apparently, he mentioned Esther McVile as a victim of this abuse, claiming that John McConnell had made a speech demanding that she be lynched. He then claimed that he was making all the Tories sign a document pledging them not abuse their political opponents, and challenged Jeremy Corbyn to do the same.

This story was then taken up by a number of right-wing papers and magazines, including the Tory rag, the Spectator, and here in the West Country, the Western Daily Press. But the truth wasn’t quite like Lewis claimed. Mike’s written a long piece tearing apart Lewis’ comments to show how false and nasty they are. First of all, the comments made by McConnell were made three years ago, so they’re hardly contemporary. Secondly, he was quoting other people. Ah, replied the Speccie, but he was doing so approvingly. Whether he was or wasn’t clearly depends on a matter of perception, I feel. As for making Tories sign a pledge of good conduct, you can ask a number of questions about this. Like it clearly didn’t apply to Toby Young, when he wrote pieces advocating eugenics, commenting on women’s breasts, saying he had his d*ck up the a**e of one woman, and talking about masturbating over pictures of starving Africans. All of which qualify Young as a truly loathsome human being. But nevertheless, Tweezer wanted him as part of the universities regulatory board. Possibly because he is vociferously against everything modern educationalists stand for, like diversity, anti-racism and anti-sexism. They’re the values most student union bodies very strongly support, and which hardline Tories sneer at as ‘political correctness’ and moan that they are stifling free speech. And Young was almost certainly put in because he’s another Tory who wants to privatise education. Witness his leadership of the ‘free school’ movement.

And most odiously, as Mike points out, Lewis tried to portray McVile as a victim.

McVile isn’t, not by any stretch of the imagination. She’s a very rich woman, who has made a very good living by killing the disabled. She and her husband run a production company, which I believe may have been responsible for the Benefit Street series of programmes on Channel 4. Under her aegis, tens of thousands of disabled people have been unfairly declared ‘fit for work’, and been left to starve to death after having their benefits cut off. Mike has covered these deaths, as have Stilloaks, DPAC, Johnny Void and many, many others. Some of those, who have taken their lives left suicide notes behind stating that it was the removal of their benefits that were driving them to this extremity.

But still the Tories deny it.

McVile presided over this system, for which, as a government minister, she was very handsomely paid compared to the rest of us, and definitely far more than the poor souls, who are forced to rely on state benefits. She carried on with her task of murdering the poor gleefully and without remorse. She’s an evil woman.

Now I don’t believe that there is any abuse from Labour or Momentum. I’ve heard that song before, when the Blairite women were all complaining that they were suffering misogynist abuse from Corbyn’s supporters. They weren’t, and an extensive checking of various posts showed it. But it has set the narrative for the Thatcherite right to tell lies about Corbyn and the Labour left. Whether it is true or not is immaterial. The Tories lie like Goebbels, and Lewis’ comments are yet another smear campaign.

There’s also more than a touch of hypocrisy about the claims, too. Quite apart from the vile comments and writing of Toby Young, you only have to look at Twitter to see frothingly abusive comments from outraged Tories, or look at the comments they leave on left-wing vlogs and videos on YouTube.

If the Tories are scared to go on social media, I can think of a couple of reasons why, which have nothing to do with abuse. Firstly, the Tory front bench are solidly public school boys and girls, who all went to Oxbridge. The ancient Romans didn’t have information technology. The closest they got was the Antikythera Mechanism, a kind of geared computer, which showed the position of the planets. It’s a masterpiece of ancient engineering. However, public school classics are all about generals, emperors and Roman politicians, not the work of the rude mechanics and craftsmen. Aristotle in his politics firmly demanded that these should not be allowed a voice in the political life of his perfect state. That was to be reserved for leisured gentlemen, who should have a forum of their own so that they didn’t mix with the trades- and craftspeople, who actually made things and supplied services.

And one of the complaints I’ve seen of the Oxbridge educated upper classes is that they still have this snobbery towards science. Boris Johnson is possibly the most notable of those public schoolboys and girls advocating the classics, which were used in previous centuries as part of the education system to show the young of the upper classes how to govern. Despite Harold Wilson’s comments in the 1960s about Britain embracing the ‘white heat’ of technology, science and engineering were very much the province of the oiks in secondary moderns, and definitely looked down upon.

And I also think that the real some Tories may be avoiding going on social media, is that they’re all too aware that people know they’re lying, and will correct them. Go see some of Mike’s articles for comments left on social media by very well informed commenters, tearing into Tweezer’s and Jeremy Hunt’s lies over housing and the state of the NHS, for example.

And I also think that if people are making extreme remarks about how vile Esther McVey is on social media, some of them at least have a right. Lewis can afford to act shocked. He’s another, very middle class professional on a very tidy income. He is not poor and desperate, as McVey’s victims are. He can therefore afford to be complacent about their very real fear and despair. He is part of the Tory machine working towards their impoverishment and starvation, and so he has a vested interest in playing down the horrific reality behind their comments. If you go in for an interview at the Job Centre, you will be humiliated by clerks trying to get you off their books as quickly as possible. This will leave you fuming with rage, but there is absolutely nothing you can do about it. Especially as they will sanction you without a moment’s hesitation for the most trivial of reasons. This system has been created and is overseen by the Tories, including Esther McVile. She therefore deserves to be an object of anger, hate and loathing by people, who are genuine victims. What Lewis hates and fears is the amount of hatred there is for her, and the fact that it’s expressed, as the Tories demand absolute deference from the rest of us. Remember how the Daily Mail went berserk with rage when Thatcher died, because people in the north had the audacity to celebrate and burn her in effigy?

There must be no clue how much the Tories and the leaders are hated, in any media, ever. And so he demands that people, who have every right to loath McVile, stop talking about how repulsive and murderous the Wicked Witch of the Wirral, responsible for the genocide of the disabled, really is.

And so he falsely accuses Labour of abuse, while defending a woman who is directly responsible for the deaths of tens of thousands of disabled people.

She’s a disgrace. So is he. Get them out.

A Word of Encouragement after Esther McVile Returns to the DWP

Like everyone else, who really cares about what happens to the poor and disabled in this country, I am angered and dismayed by the return of Esther McVey to the cabinet in charge of the DWP. When she was in charge of disability, McVey presided over a system that saw tens, if not hundreds of thousands of severely ill people declared ‘fit for work’, and left without any means of support after their benefits were cut off. People like Mike, DPAC and other disability rights activists and campaigners have accused her of pursuing a murderous, genocidal policy against the disabled. For them, it’s eugenics by the back door. The disabled are being culled, but unlike the Nazis and their infamous Aktion T4 programme, with which Tory policy has been compared, they aren’t dragging the disabled away to be gassed in a hospital run by murderous doctors and uniformed, military thugs like the SS. No, they’re simply told their fit for work, and have their benefit cut off, so that they starve to death, or take their own lives through misery and hunger. Stilloaks has compiled a list of the victims, as have various other left-wing bloggers and activists. One artist even made a picture composed of the faces of all those the Tories had murdered through their welfare reforms.

If you want to know just how nasty McVile is, take a look at some of the recent articles Mike has written about her return over at Vox Political. And some indication of the depth of feeling against her is shown by the fact that someone altered her Wikipedia page a few years ago, so that it read that she was in charge of the genocide of the disabled.

It’s an utter disgrace that this woman, who was nicknamed ‘the wicked witch of the Wirral’ by her constituents, and who lost her seat at the last election, should come back into front bench politics.

And her return has resulted in very vulnerable people feeling afraid. Florence, one of the great commenters on this blog, said here in a response to a previous post, that she knew disability activists, who worked hard for 48 hours solid after her return, trying to stop frightened and distressed disabled people from committing suicide. That alone shows how disgraceful the Conservative party and their attitude to the disabled is. The Tories consistently deny that there is any link between their murderous and pitiless ‘welfare reforms’, and the suicides that have already occurred. Even though some of the victims have written suicide notes explicitly stating that it is. All you get is May, IDS, McVile or some other Tory spokesperson coming out with a flat denial, and then assertions that these reforms are helping people into work – they aren’t, but the Tories don’t worry about the truth when a lie is so much better. Meanwhile, the Daily Mail and the rest of the pestilential right-wing press tries to tell us all that everyone claiming sickness benefit, ESA or whatever, is a malingerer sponging off the British taxpayer. Florence said that she’d been abused when she’s had occasion to use her wheelchair. I’ve a friend in Cheltenham, whose wife is severely disabled, and similarly has to use a wheelchair if she goes out. He told me that they’ve been abused.

This shows how low this country has sunk under the Tories and the Blairites. One of our uncles, with whom our family used to go on holiday when Mike and I were young, had Parkinson’s Disease. This is a deterioration of part of the brain governing movement, and it leaves sufferers paralysed. There are drugs that can treat it, the best known being L-Dopa. Despite this many sufferers, including our uncle, was confined to a wheelchair. I can remember Mike and myself pushing him along esplanades on holiday with the rest of our family, and no-one made any adverse comments. In fact, I don’t recall my aunt telling us that there had been any problems when she had gone out with him, though she was embarrassed about going into cafes. But here again, I don’t recall anyone else saying anything at the time.

Britain has, thanks to four decades of Thatcherism, become more hate-filled and prejudiced.

But I don’t think people need despair just yet. McVey is a vile piece of work, as is Tweezer for appointing her. But she must surely be aware of how much she’s hated, and this will take its toll. Remember when the Gentleman Ranker, IDS, wanted to leave the DWP? He was whining about how everyone was blaming him for food banks, when it was Blair who introduced them. Well, it was, but only in a limited way for asylum seekers. Which is bad enough, but it wasn’t the wholesale replacement for state aid that it’s become under David Cameron and Tweezer. IDS was held in contempt by everyone concerned with disability issues and poverty, and it clearly got to him. Just like the outcry against Toby Young’s appointment to the university’s legislative panel clearly got to him, and forced him to resign. Even though Tweezer had given her backing to this far-right, eugenicist clown.

The Tories are vulnerable. Even those like IDS, who was boasting how he’d been a major in the army. Despite the fact that no-one can find any record of him actually being one.

People know McVile, and massively and collectively hate her. She isn’t going to have it easy, by any means. She may well be tougher than IDS – this is, after all, a man, who came into a parliamentary inquiry with armed bodyguards, just in case the peeps in wheelchairs and their carers in the public gallery turned violent. And who hid from demonstrators in Scotland in a hotel laundry basket. But enough people complain, criticise and attack her, it should make her feel uncomfortable, and hopefully bring her down.

And people are going to do just that. Just like they did when she was in charge of disability the first time round.

So don’t despair.
Get mad.
Get even.
And get her out!