Thursday, 26th February 2009…a date to watch, for some fireworks…..
At The Oxford Union,
Dr Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance
shall oppose the following motion:-
“This House Would Restrict The Free Speech of Extremists”.
Thursday, 26th February 2009…a date to watch, for some fireworks…..
At The Oxford Union,
Dr Sean Gabb of the Libertarian Alliance
shall oppose the following motion:-
“This House Would Restrict The Free Speech of Extremists”.
UPDATE:- From the Blogmaster of the Libertarian Alliance:-
To editors/ compilers/bloggers
Please feel free to syndicate this post, unedited please, in its entirety, wherever it pleases you to do so.
To reproduce by permission of © Dr Sean Gabb and the Libertarian Alliance
On Golliwogs, One-Eyed Scottish Idiots
and Sending Poo Through the Post.
By Sean Gabb
In England, one of those weeks has just ended that define an entire period. This is no consolation for those who have suffered, and who may yet suffer worse. But I have no doubt that it is worth describing what has happened and trying to explain what it means.
Let me begin with the facts.
First, it was reported on the 3rd February 2009 that Carol Thatcher, daughter of Margaret Thatcher, had been dismissed from her job as a BBC presenter for having called a black tennis player a golliwog. She did not say this on air, but during a private conversation. Even so, the BBC defended its decision on the grounds that any language of a “racist nature” was “wholly unacceptable”.
Second, demands are rising at the moment for Jeremy Clarkson, another presenter at the BBC, to be dismissed for having called the Prime Minister a “one-eyed Scottish idiot who keeps telling us everything’s fine”. Various Scotch politicians and spokesmen for the blind let up an immediate chorus of horror that has resulted in a conditional apology from Mr Clarkson, but may not save his career.
Third, it was reported on the 2nd February 2009 that the comedian and Labour Party supporter Jo Brand was being investigated by the police for allegedly inciting criminal acts against her political opponents. While presenting a BBC television programme on the 16th January 2009, she rejoiced that the membership list of the British National Party had been stolen and published on the Internet. Her exact words were: “Hurrah! Now we know who to send the poo to“. The natural meaning of her words was that it would be a fine idea to look up members of this party and send excrement to them through the post. The British National Party put in an immediate complaint, using the hate speech laws made during the past generation. According to a BBC spokesman, “We do not comment on police matters. However, we believe the audience would have understood the satirical nature of the remarks”. It is relevant to note that Mrs Brand was present when Carol Thatcher made her “golliwog” remarks, and may have had a hand in denouncing her.
Fourth, In The Times on the 6th February, someone called Matthew Syed wrote how personally oppressed he felt by words like “golliwog”, and how good it was that “society” was taking a stand against them. Two pages later, someone called Frank Skinner defended the employers in the north of England who prefer to employ foreigners on the grounds that foreigners are “better looking” and “less trouble”. The possibility that he has broken one of our hate speech laws will probably never be considered.
This is a gathering of facts that occurred or were made public during one week. But if we relax the time limit, similar facts pour in beyond counting. There was, for example, the pillorying last month of one of the Queen’s grandsons for calling someone a “Paki“. Or, to give myself as an example, there was my BBC debate of the 16th February 2004 with Yasmin Alibhai-Brown, an Asian immigrant who seems incapable of seeing any issue except in terms of white racism. During this debate, I asked her: “Yasmin, are you saying that the white majority in this country is so seething with hatred and discontent that it is only restrained by law from rising up and tearing all the ethnic minorities to pieces?” Her answer was “Yes”. It is possible she did not understand my question. It is possible she would have clarified or retracted her answer had the debate been allowed to continue. Sadly for her, the BBC immediately switched off my microphone and threw me into the street. Mrs Brown was allowed to continue uninterrupted to till the end of the programme. The hundreds of complaints received by the BBC and the Commission for Racial Equality were all either ignored or dismissed with the assurance that nothing untoward had taken place in the studio. I accept that Mrs Brown might not have meant what she said. Had I made such a comment about Asians or blacks, however, I might have been facing a long stretch in prison.
But let me return to the most recent facts. The most obvious reason why these broadly similar incidents are being treated so differently is that Jo Brand and Frank Skinner are members of the new ruling class that formally took power in 1997. They can vilify their opponents as freely as Dr Goebbels did his. Any of the hate speech laws that might – objectively read – moderate their language will be regarded as nullities. The police had no choice but to investigate Mrs Brand for her alleged offence committed live on television before several million people. But they made it clear that no charges would result. According to a police spokesman, “The chances of this going further are very remote. The idea that the BNP are claiming they are the victim of a race offence is mildly amusing, to say the least”. It may be amusing. The statement itself is interesting, though, as a formal admission that law in this country now means whatever the executive finds convenient.
Carol Thatcher and Jeremy Clarkson are not members of the the ruling class. They have no such immunity. Mr Clarkson may get away with his act of hate speech because he is popular and clever, and because the main object of his contempt is only the Prime Minister. Miss Thatcher may not be allowed to get away with her act. She used a word that borders on the illegal. And she is the daughter of Margaret Thatcher. She is the daughter, that is, of the woman elected and re-elected three times on the promise that she would make the British State smaller and stop it from being made the vehicle for a totalitarian revolution by stealth. Of course, she broke her promises. She did nothing to stop the takeover of the state administration by politically correct totalitarians. But there was a while when the people who actually won the cultural revolution in this country thought they would lose. They looked at her rhetoric. They noted the millions of votes she piled up in her second and third general elections. And they trembled. As said, they won. Mrs Thatcher herself is too old to suffer more than endless blackening at the hands of the victors who now comprise the ruling class. But they still tremble at the thought of how her shadow darkened their 1980s. And if they can do nothing to her now, her daughter can be ruined, and that will now be tried with every chance of success.
It might be argued that what Miss Thatcher and Mr Clarkson said was offensive, and that they are in trouble because we have a much greater regard for politeness than used to be the case. Perhaps it is offensive to say that a black man looks like a golliwog. Perhaps it is offensive to imply that Scotchmen are idiots or that people with defective sight also have defective judgement. It might be. But it might also be offensive to millions of people that the BBC – which is funded by a compulsory levy on everyone who can receive television signals – broadcasts a continual stream of nudity and obscene language; and that it pays the biggest salary in its history to Jonathan Ross, whose only public talent is for foul-mouthed buffoonery. The British ruling class – especially through the BBC, its main propaganda outreach – has a highly selective view of what is offensive.
And it is worth replying that the alleged offensiveness of the statements is minimal. Let us forget about golliwogs and implied sneers at the blind. Let us take the word “nigger”. Now, this has not been a word admitted in polite company in England since about the end of the eighteenth century. Anyone who does use the word shows himself a person of low breeding. Whatever its origins, its use for centuries has been as an insult to black people. Any reasonable black man, therefore, called a nigger, has cause to take offence.
This being said, only moderate offence can be reasonable. Anyone who runs about, wailing that he has been hurt by a word as if it were a stick taken to his back, and calling for laws and social ostracism to punish the speaker, is a fool or a villain. And I can think of few other epithets that a reasonable person would greet with more than a raised eyebrow – “poof”, “paki”, “papist”, “mohammedan”, “chinkie” and the like. Anyone who finds these words at the very worst annoying should grow up. We can be quite sure that most of the Asian languages now spoken in this country contain some very unflattering words to describe the English – for example, goreh, gweilo, and so forth. There is no pressure, internal or external, for these to be dropped. And we know that there are any number of organisations set up by and for non-whites in this country from which the English are barred – for example, the National Black Police Association.
However, the highly selective use of speech codes and hate speech laws has nothing really to do with politeness. It is about power. The British ruling class may talk the language of love and diversity and inclusiveness. What it obviously wants is the unlimited power to plunder and enslave us, while scaring us into the appearance of gratitude for our dispossession. Because the tyrannised are always the majority in a tyranny, they must be somehow prevented from combining. The soviet socialists and the national socialists kept control by the arbitrary arrest and torture or murder of suspected opponents. That is not presently acceptable in England or in the English world. Control here is kept by defining all opposition as “hatred” – and by defining all acts or attitudes that might enable opposition as “hatred”.
I am the Director of the Libertarian Alliance. Not surprisingly, my own opposition to the rising tide of despotism is grounded on a belief in individual rights. I may occasionally talk about my ancestral rights as an Englishman, or about how my ancestors fought and died so I could enjoy some now threatened right. I may sometimes half-believe my rhetoric. Ultimately, though, I believe that people have – or should be regarded as having – rights to life, liberty and property by virtue of their human status. Anything else I say really is just a rhetorical device. This is not the case with most other people. For them, opposing the encroachments of a ruling class is grounded on collective identity – “they can’t do that to us“. Now, this sense of collective identity may derive from common religion, common loyalty, common culture, but most often and most powerfully – though these other sources may also be important – from perceived commonality of blood.
Now, this collective identity is not something that is seen at times of emergency, but otherwise is in abeyance. It is important in times of emergency so far as it is always present. People work together when they must because, at all other times, they have a mass of shared rituals and understandings that hold them together. These shared things often define a people in terms of their distinctness from others. Jokes beginning “There was an Englishman, an Irishman and a Scotchman” or “What do you call a Frenchman who…?” are part of what reinforces an English identity. So too are comments and gestures and assumptions that assert the superiority of the English over other peoples. To change my focus for a moment, take the phrase “Goyishe Kopf” – Gentile brains! This is what some Jews say when they do something stupid. It can be taken as expressing hatred and contempt of non-Jews. More reasonably, it is one of those comments that reinforce the Jewish identity.
What Carol Thatcher said was part of this reminding of identity. Her exact words, so far as I can tell, were: “You also have to consider the frogs. You know, that froggy golliwog guy”. The meaning she was trying to convey was: “let us consider how quaint and absurd outsiders are. Is it not nice that we are members of the same group, and that we are so clever and so beautiful?” I am not saying that I approve of what she actually said. Indeed, she would have done better for herself and the English in general had she kept her mouth shut. Calling someone “froggy” is neither here nor there. Calling him a “golliwog” is moderately hurtful. Saying this on BBC premises, and in front of people like Jo Brand, shows that Miss Thatcher is stupid or that she was drunk. Her words, as reported, do less to reinforce English identity than make the whole thing an embarrassment.
However – her name always aside – she is being punished not because her words were crass, but because they fell into the category of actions that must at all times be discouraged. Powerful or crass to the point of embarrassment, nothing must be tolerated that might tend to promote an English identity. I say an English identity. The rule does not apply to Scotch or Welsh or Irish nationalism. These are not regarded as a danger to the ruling class project of total enslavement. They are controllable by subsidy. More usefully, they are anti-English. The various ethnic nationalisms and Islamic identities are likewise allowed or encouraged. They are not perceived as a danger to the ruling class project of total domination, and may be used against the English. It is English identity that must at all costs be repressed. The English are still the largest national group in these islands, and will remain so at least until 2040, when there may be a non-white majority all through the United Kingdom. English national ways are the raw material from which every liberal doctrine has been refined. The English are an unpleasantly violent nation when pushed too far.
This explains why words and expressions are defined almost at random as “hatred”, and why names of groups and places keep changing almost at random. The purpose is not to protect various minority groups from being hurt – though clever members of these groups may take advantage of the protections. The real purpose is to hobble all expression of English identity. It is to make the words and phrases that come most readily to mind unusable, or usable only with clarifications and pre-emptive cringes that rob them of all power to express protest. Or it is to force people to consult their opponents on what words are currently acceptable – and whoever is allowed to control the terms of debate is likely to win the debate.
And look how easily it can be done. Also during the past week, we have seen working class demonstrations in the north of England against the employment of foreign workers. “British jobs for British workers” they have been chanting. A few raised eyebrows and warnings from Peter Mandelson about the “politics of xenophobia“, and the trade unions have straightaway sold out their members and are preparing to bully them back to work. Better that trade union members scrabble to work for a pound an hour, or whatever, than that they should be suffered to use words like “Eyeties” or “Dagoes”.
I should end by suggesting what can be done to counter this strategy. I suppose the answer is not to behave like Carol Thatcher. We must accept that certain words and phrases have been demonised beyond defence. Some of them are indefensible. These must be dropped. Others that are just about permissible – Scotchman, for example – should be used and defended on all occasions. We should also at all times bear in mind that political correctness is not about protecting the weak but disarming the potentially strong, and it must be made clear to the ruling class that its management of language has been noticed and understood and rejected. A strategy of apparently casual offence, followed by partial and unconvincing apology – of the sort that we may have seen from Jeremy Clarkson – may also be appropriate.
Another strategy worth considering is the one adopted by the British National Party. In a free country, Jo Brand would be at perfect liberty to incite criminal acts against unnamed and reasonably unidentifiable people. But we do not live in a free country. There is a mass of laws that criminalise speech that was legal even a few years ago. The response to this is to invoke the laws against those who called for them. As said, people like Jo Brand and Yasmin Alibhai Brown are unlikely ever to be prosecuted for crimes of hate speech. But the authorities will occasionally be forced to go through the motions of investigating, and this can be made a form of harassment amounting to revenge. Otherwise, it is useful to establish beyond doubt that the laws are not intended to be enforced according to their apparently universal working.
There is much else to be said. But I suppose the most important thing is not to behave like Carol Thatcher. It will be unfair if she is broken by her words. But if you stick your head into a lion’s mouth, you cannot really complain when you feel the teeth closing round your neck.
All told, this has been an interesting week. Understood rightly, it may turn out to have been a most productive week.
NB—Sean Gabb’s book, Cultural Revolution, Culture War: How Conservatives Lost England, and How to Get It Back, can be downloaded for free from http://tinyurl.com/34e2o3
But if the stalinists, whom we blog about, are actually such astonishingly wicked people (they are) who deserve to be exposed and have rotting stuff thrown at their faces while they are in the Pillory, why then might we need to insure ourselves against their (unjustified) retaliation?
Why can’t socialists and other fascist abusers of other human beings just
(a) go home,
(b) shut up (you’ve lost)
(c) quietly contemplate your cow-bladder-gasbag lovinly sewn (slowly) by candle-light by your drugged hippy partneretta, filling (slowly) with chicken-shit-methane (and hydrogen sulphide while your back is turned) on your subsistence-farm in Wales,
(d) keep the hell out of discussions about how the world’s poor are going to better themselves?
Did Christianity sort of “let them in”? Is it our fault? Where did we go wrong? In the midst of all this plenitude of scientific, technological and liberal philosphical richness, how did the bastards get a foothold?
If what we say about them is true, can’t they just square up and duel with us on-line, just as any self-respecting ordinary petty-criminals, thugs and murderers would do so to our faces?
Or do they NEED the “law”, as their case is vulnerable to their own dangerous isolation from reality and their pan-global lack of support?
One of the unseen benefits of the internet is that truth cannot be quickly suppressed. this surely is an advantage – our enemies are for ever going on about “truth” – let them eat it.
Educational Notes, No. 39
ISSN 0953-7775 ISBN: 9781856376167
An occasional publication of the Libertarian Alliance,
Suite 35, 2 Lansdowne Row, Mayfair, London W1J 6HL.
© 2008: Libertarian Alliance; Dr Philip Bounds.
Philip Bounds holds a PhD in Politics from the University of Wales. He is the author of Orwell and Marxism (2008),
British Communism and Literary Theory (2008) and Cultural Studies (1999).
His essays, articles and reviews have appeared in a wide range of journals and newspapers.
The views expressed in this publication are those of its author, and
not necessarily those of the Libertarian Alliance, its Committee,
Advisory Council or subscribers.
FOR LIFE, LIBERTY AND PROPERTY
Nicholas Kollerstrom and UCL
The universities of the free world have often employed some pretty unsavoury people. Even the most reputable academic departments occasionally play host to Holocaust deniers, apologists for Joseph Stalin or semi-fascist theoreticians who believe that Africans are genetically inferior to Europeans. The issue of how these intellectual mavericks should be treated excites a great deal of controversy. Should universities dismiss them from their posts as part of a righteous war against offensive beliefs, or should they be allowed to remain in situ in the name of free speech? Mild-mannered dons have been known to come to blows when questions like this are floated in the common room.
A recent case in a British university throws all the relevant issues into vivid relief. In April 2008 a sixty-one-year-old astronomer named Nicholas Kollerstrom was dismissed from an unpaid research fellowship in the Department of Science and Technology Studies at University College London (UCL). His offence was to have published an online article claiming that the Holocaust never took place.1 In a brief and pompous announcement on its website, UCL said that it had terminated Dr Kollerstrom’s employment because his views are “diametrically opposed to [our] aims, objectives and ethos…such that we wish to have absolutely no association with them or their originator.”2 This was disapproval with a capital “D”.
UCL’s desire to be rid of Dr Kollerstrom is certainly understandable. His article on the Holocaust is an execrable piece of drivel, repeating most of the hoary old clich�s which Holocaust deniers have persistently passed off as evidence of independent thought. Moreover, Dr Kollerstrom’s intellectual lapses aren’t simply confined to fantasising about Hitler’s innocence. The man is a sort of walking compendium of what Damian Thompson scornfully calls “counterknowledge”.3 Quite apart from publishing credulous texts on astrology and crop circles (a relatively minor crime), he also believes that the terrorist attacks of 9/11 and 7/7 were “inside jobs”. Defending him is not an easy task. Yet the fact remains that UCL’s decision to fire him is deeply unjust, not simply because it shows scant regard for the idea of personal liberty (though it certainly does that) but also because it has damaging implications for academic culture as a whole. Let me count the ways.4
Universities and Free Speech
Many of the people who support UCL’s decision invoke a purely negative conception of individual liberty. They argue that Dr Kollerstrom’s dismissal does not involve a violation of his right to free expression, since all societies necessarily impose what might be called contextual limitations on freedom of speech. No individual has the right to say exactly what he likes in whatever circumstances he likes, or so the argument goes. Free societies should avoid imposing unreasonable restrictions on the expression of opinion, but there is no obligation on any institution or organisation to provide an outlet for opinions with which it disagrees. As long as the individual has a legal right to speak his mind, he cannot expect anyone else to provide him with a megaphone.
Dr Kollerstrom’s critics tend to link this point about the contextual limits on free speech to a concern about his academic competence. Their argument is that UCL’s overriding obligation is to maintain high academic standards. Since Dr Kollerstrom’s article on the Holocaust was clearly the product of academic fraud, deliberately ignoring the vast amount of well-documented evidence that might have disproved its thesis, it follows that UCL could only protect its reputation by immediately dissociating itself from its author. The case for the prosecution was put with characteristic force by the writer Oliver Kamm, who argued on his blog that:
The issue is not one of personal liberty or academic freedom. It’s about the purpose of the academy. Holocaust denial is a demonstrably false claim about history. It can be promoted consistently only by ignoring or doctoring the evidence. Indeed, the two most prominent Holocaust deniers in the West, my reader David Irving and Robert Faurisson, have been found in courts of law (in the UK and France, respectively) to have engaged in fakery. By taking the stand that it has, UCL has properly insisted that its academics adhere not to a particular view but to a method, that of critical inquiry.5
Arguments like these are used whenever a university plays host to a controversial scholar or speaker (and sometimes even to a controversial student),6 so it is important to be clear where their weakness lies. The big problem with Dr Kollerstrom’s critics is that they state their case in far too inflexible a form. It is perfectly true that the majority of institutions should be free of any obligation to publicise beliefs they dislike. It would clearly be absurd to expect the Libertarian Alliance to publish articles by card-carrying fascists or the BNP to open its press to spokesmen for the Muslim Council of Britain. Yet the emphasis on the right to exclude opinions should not be taken too far. Most free societies have recognised that certain institutions, notably schools, universities and other places of learning, have a duty to conduct themselves along more pluralistic lines. The justification for this is a straightforwardly democratic one. Some people have an easier time getting their opinions heard than others. The columns of our leading newspapers are generally more accessible to the savants of the centre-right than to writers of the radical right or the left. The Conservative, Labour and Liberal parties can afford to produce as many party political broadcasts as they wish (subject to some fairly relaxed statutory limitations), whereas the Communist, Green and Libertarian parties enjoy no such privilege. If the right to free speech is to be made meaningful, it is therefore necessary (or at least desirable) for universities and related institutions to provide an outlet for as wide a range of opinions as possible. The community of scholars should never be mistaken for a confraternity of political soulmates.
If one accepts that universities should be as ideologically diverse as possible, it follows that their more controversial (or bigoted) employees should be treated with a certain tenderness. Administrators should proceed on the assumption that scholars have the right to say whatever they like, and that nothing short of a significant violation of professional standards should merit disciplinary action. This is not to say that no one should ever be sacked, only that universities should err at all times on the side of free speech. The fact that they no longer do so (or do so only intermittently) raises an awkward question about their legal status: Should universities be compelled to promote free speech? As unthinkable as it might seem to certain libertarians, there are times when the law can enhance the quality of public discourse rather than undermine it. The statutory obligation on British broadcasters to cover politics impartially has generally worked well, and many people now believe that a legal commitment to “pluralism” should be introduced to supplement it.7 A clause in the next Education Act to protect the rights of academic dissenters could arguably do a lot of good.
The Issue of Fraudulence
It goes without saying that no amount of enlightened chat about pluralism should protect the exponent of academic fraud. If an academic wilfully distorts or invents evidence in order to support his case, there can, in principle, be no realistic objection to his being fired, demoted or in some other way severely reprimanded. However, the issue is rarely as simple as it seems. Identifying fraud can sometimes be difficult. In the case of Dr Kollerstrom, whose article on the Holocaust undeniably reeks of shoddy scholarship, it cannot be said often enough that his work on non-scientific themes had nothing to do with his employment at UCL. His research fellowship was awarded for his work in the history of astronomy, an area in which his scholarly output is apparently unimpeachable. Anything he wrote on the Holocaust, crop circles or 9/11 was produced in his own time. What this means, as Brendan O’Neill pointed out in a fine piece on the Index on Censorship website, is that Dr Kollerstrom has effectively been sacked for expressing his “private beliefs and habits”.8 To support UCL’s decision is implicitly to back the idea that employers have a right to supervise their workers’ private lives.9
More generally, the hunt for academic fraudulence often gives rise to difficult and sometimes insuperable problems of definition. Those who call for people like Dr Kollerstrom to be sacked seem to regard the scholarly “cheat” as a sort of out-and-out rogue, persistently and deliberately distorting the truth for political ends. There is no doubt that unmitigated frauds exist (and that many of them have been drawn to Holocaust denial), but in truth they are rarely to be found in universities. The great majority of university teachers have demonstrated at least a basic command of academic research methods. The factual basis of what they write is likely to be reasonably sound, even when their interpretation of data arouses controversy. Scholars who offend against the academic proprieties usually only do so in comparatively minor ways, so that their writings are compromised at the level of the individual sentence or paragraph but rarely in toto. Moreover, their scholarly lapses are often the product not of dishonesty but of over-enthusiasm, naivet� or excessive faith in personal intuition. When a university accuses a man of fraudulence, it often ignores the fact that the bulk of his scholarship is sound and that his sins were unintentional. It is not clear that a robust academic culture can exist on this basis.
The War on Pluralism
There is one other reason why the sacking of Dr Kollerstrom was so regrettable. It has gone a long way towards reinforcing some of the most destructive academic trends of recent times. As we saw earlier, Western universities have done much in the modern age to foster the idea of intellectual tolerance. Recognising that ideological consensuses are always impermanent, they have seen it as their role to encourage open debate and to “keep large areas of past culture, if not alive, at least available.”10 However, the commitment to pluralism has come under enormous strain over the last thirty or forty years. Universities throughout the Western world have become hotbeds of political controversy, playing host to scholars of both the left and the right whose commitment to free speech has sometimes been negligible. Many observers trace the origins of the problem to the advent of the so-called soixante huitards, who entered the academy after the stirring events of the 1960s and openly pursued a “long march through the institutions” in the name of Marxism, feminism and other radical ideologies. Dismissing the established universities as little more than “ideological apparatuses of the capitalist state”,11 they sought to transform their respective disciplines into instruments of political agitation. This eventually provoked a violent backlash from scholars of the right, who have fought a vigorous rearguard action in defence of such things as “tradition”, “disinterested aesthetic values” and “hierarchy”. The battle between the two groups has rarely been pretty.
The problem has never been one of scholarship. Both the soixante-huitard left and the traditionalist right have produced work of the highest quality. The real difficulty is the quasi-totalitarian spirit in which some (though by no means all) leading academics have conducted themselves. Too many people, some of them extremely influential, now take the view that scholars from the opposite end of the political spectrum should either be drummed out of the profession or never employed in the first place. To this end they leave promising candidates off shortlists on purely political grounds, start whispering campaigns against colleagues and collaborate with campus activists to have “unacceptable” speakers banned. Significantly enough, one of their deadliest weapons is the accusation of academic fraud. For men like Henry A. Turner and Norman Finkelstein, the former a member of the sullen right and the latter an ornament of the apoplectic left, it is no longer enough to express measured disagreement with work one finds objectionable.12 Instead its author must be dismissed as a charlatan and loudly upbraided for plagiarism, tendentiousness and wilful distortion of sources. Very fine scholars have had their careers destroyed or held in check as a consequence.
When UCL took the decision to dismiss Dr Kollerstrom, it showed that the most illiberal attitudes had finally penetrated to the highest reaches of the academy. The college authorities were not responding to a mass campaign but to an e-mail from a member of the public. Faced with a coarse and bovine opinion which cut against the grain, their immediate response was to demonise the rather ineffectual fantasist who had tried to disseminate it. In taking this action they conferred an air of official legitimacy on all the sordid little techniques, most of them perfected over forty years, by which individual scholars have sought to exclude their opponents from academic life. Once upon a time the most politically conscious students might have marched in Dr Kollerstrom’s defence. This time around their silence has been deafening. Having spent so much time in a system in which curiosity is invariably trumped by conformity, they seem to have accepted the view that certain opinions are simply too horrible to be aired in civilised company. This is a measure of just how effective the war on pluralism has been. The spectacle of students, teachers and administrators uniting in opposition to free speech is a travesty of everything a university should stand for. It will take a long time before matters can be put right.
(1) See Nicholas Kollerstrom, “The Auschwitz �Gas Chamber’ Illusion”, Website of The Committee for Open Debate on the Holocaust, 2008, http://www.codoh.com/newrevoices/nrillusion.html
(2) Website of University College London, http://www.ucl.ac.uk/news/news-articles/0804/08042202, April 22 2008.
(3) See Damian Thompson, Counterknowledge (London: Atlantic Books, 2008).
(4) Lest it be thought that I have a hidden agenda, I had better say the following: The author of this article is a libertarian socialist. He has no doubt that the Holocaust occurred and he regards it as one of history’s gravest crimes. He abhors fascism in all its forms and is reasonably sympathetic to the state of Israel.
(5) Oliver Kamm, “Points from the Blogs”, Oliver Kamm (website), May 4 2008, http://oliverkamm.typepad.com/blog/page/4/
(6) Readers of a certain age will remember the deeply illiberal campaign in the 1980s to prevent Patrick Harrington, a member of the National Front, from studying at North London Polytechnic.
(7) See, for instance, James Curran and Jean Seaton, Power without Responsibility: The Press and Broadcasting in Britain, fifth edition (London: Routledge, 1997), p. 362.
(8) Brendan O’Neill, Contribution to “The Kollerstrom Question”, Index on Censorship (website), 2008, http://www.indexoncensorship.org/?p=359
(9) A more enlightened example has been set by Northwestern University in the USA, where the Holocaust denier Arthur Butz has been employed for more than thirty years. Recognising that Professor Butz’s expertise in electrical engineering (the subject he is employed to teach) is sound, Northwestern granted him tenure and turned a blind eye to such poisonous extracurricular outpourings as The Hoax of the Twentieth Century: The Case Against the Presumed Extermination of European Jewry (1976). If this sort of arrangement can exist in the USA, where sensitivity to anti-Semitism runs understandably high, it can surely be emulated in Britain.
(10) Raymond Williams, The Long Revolution (Harmondsworth: Penguin, 1984 ), p. 68.
(11) The phrase is that of the great Marxist philosopher Louis Althusser. See Althusser, “Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses” in Lenin and Philosophy and Other Essays (London: Monthly Review Press, 1971).
(12) For Henry A. Turner’s outrageous attempt to destroy the career of the gifted Marxist historian David Abraham, see Jon Wiener, “Footnotes to History: the David Abraham Case” in Professors, Politics and Pop (London: Verso, 1991). For Norman Finkelstein’s groundless attempt to level charges of plagiarism against the Harvard academic Alan Dershowitz, see Alan Dershowitz, The Case for Peace: How the Arab-Israeli Conflict can be Resolved (New York: Wiley, 2006).
I would have thought that there could not be a single Estonian person in the world, let alone an Estonian Bureaucrat, who could have the brass-neck or immortal rind or crust, to even think what this bastard has suggested about free speech, let alone say it out loud.
I wonder if Marianne Mikko can ever show his face again in Tallinn, and even under an assumed name, and with a false beard?
If he does, then I hope his Estonian compatriots beat the bloody (literally0 crap out of his intestines, before lynching him, and then kicking his head in for good measure.
David Davis will of course, being a student of history, be as upset as we are about the very fact that this post had to occur at all.
TODAY is Magna Carta Day, how appropriate for the following:
No, they don’t like it up ’em.
Your prediction is closer to the mark than you think.
According to the Infidel Bloggers Alliance – link – the EU wants to regulate bloggers.
Here is part of that article:
“…Blogs. Apparently MEPs, those people with all that cash, are worried about them. You see it is all a bit of a free for all. People can write blogs without applying for a licence or being approved by the proper authorities. Shocking isn’t it?
Euro-MPs want action: blogs with “malicious intentions or hidden agendas pose a danger”. Marianne Mikko, an Estonian centre-left MEP, is calling for something to be done in a report.
“Blogs are publicly available web pages, with personal views and links expressing the opinions and observations of a particular person, usually on a specific topic or theme and are usually updated regularly reflecting the personality of the author,” so says the Parliament’s website.
How terrible. Just imagine, anybody can think what they like or say what they like, and all by themselves too. People can (easily, what’s worse) publicly write what they think online. And, what is really worrying is that other people might read it…”
So, not only do they want to steal our democracies, our freedom of expression is now to be subject to their approval.
Thanks, Ireland, for holing the bastards below the water-line.
Posted by Cheeky Monkey on June 15, 2008 1:02 PM
I only rant on about Mark Steyn, and the predicament of free speech and thought in Canada, to annoy Fabian bastards in the West, and also some people who are my friends and who think Steyn is a madman. (They don’t have to read him.)
Oh and this is really droll, from Iowahawk. It’s sort of relevant, coz in the West, we like to satirize in a semi-cruel but humorous way, our enemies, which they just don’t understand. Hitler didn’t either. Not quite sure what went wrong with this gift of humour in the 70s and early 80s, as I can’t remember any really cutting fun-stuff about the fascist murderer Mao, or Ho Chi Mhinh, or Castro: or Brzhezhnev, who was dead anyway. (P’raps that’s why nobody skitted him.)
Here’s some good stuff off Kathy Shaidle.
UPDATE #2 from the comments at Pajamas Media:
A group of rag-tag militiamen gathered on Lexington common facing a line of British regulars. The year was 1775. A British officer stepped forward and ordered the rabble to disperse. Someone yelled back, “get the hell off our land.” Somebody else pulled the trigger on his musket and ignited a revolution based on a belief in liberty. We don’t know their names, but these patriots were priveleged to stand on the fulcrum of history.
(I don’t know why only that bit went red, I wanted the whole lot to be as it’s a direct quote. But it won’t go red now, and the whole textblock just jumps about madly so I can’t be arsed with it. I really don’t understand this code stuff.)