Sanctimonious cant, and multiple plagues-on-houses

Occasionally, when frustrated with the idiocy that characterises the workplace – or at least, every workplace I’ve ever had the misfortune to frequent – I consider returning to the realms of academia.

Then, something happens to remind me that the realms of academia are at least as daft as the realms of real life: a toffs’ club invites a pair of daft bigots to speak at their debate; and instead of nobody giving a fuck (beyond possibly turning up to jeer and laugh at the idiots), a mass toy-pram-throwing session ensues.

Now, Nick Griffin and David Irving are undeniably cunts, and undeniably people you wouldn’t want in charge of a whelk stall, never mind the country. But if you think that this means that a toffs’ club shouldn’t be allowed to invite them to talk stupid shit, then your views are idiotic.

Chris Brooke, who is [obviously, given his profession] dead clever and also a great chap, approvingly quotes some people who are almost certainly lovely in person, and are almost certainly exactly the reason why I’d never go back…

Mike: “These privileged and stupid people have shown their contempt for the whole of the rest of society, with the sole exception of those few fascists who want to destroy it. They may be assured that the whole of the rest of society has nothing but contempt for them.”

I thought it was only crazy right-wingers who referred to everyone they disapproved of as [Islamo]fascists? Anyway. The fact that the Oxford Union-ites are rich toffs is of no relevance whatsoever – how the fuck is calling someone ‘privileged’ in the context of this kind of argument anything other than meaningless personal abuse?

Antonia: “It’s not even as if Irving and Griffin get to expound their vile views and be challenged: they have been invited to speak instead on freedom of speech. And even if they were to, is it not breathtakingly arrogant that Oxford undergraduates believe that in a five minute debating speech they could somehow defeat either, when it took a Cambridge Professor of Modern History weeks on the stand to rebut Irving’s assertions?”

Similarly, an undergrad Marxist would struggle to defeat Milton Friedman. That’s why you invite articulate speakers on both sides. Have you ever been to, or heard of, a debate?

loneraven: “Maybe I’ve as little chance of getting attacked on the street tomorrow as I do any day. But here I am, thinking about it. Here I am, going to sleep at night thinking, there are far-right groups in Oxford tomorrow, oh dear. And why should I have to think that? Why? See above where I’m a human being, where I deserve to feel safe every second of the time in my home city, where white people don’t have to worry about visual indicators and I do. How dare the Union blithely invite RACISTS into my city, so safe in their straight white male privilege that they don’t have to think about the consequences of what they’re doing? I am not straight, white or male, and I have no uncomplicated identity, no simplicity or belonging – but I am an Oxford student. No one is allowed to contest the basis upon which I’m here, at this place and at this time. How dare they take the one thing that I have all of my own, my home, and compromise that?”

Again with the ‘privilege’… garr. You’re a fucking Oxford student; even if you grew up in a workhouse eating rats and being beaten by Dickensian sadists, you’re totally fucking ‘privileged’ now.

On average, people who are gay, black or female face harder lives than people who are straight, white or male. But if you’re gay, black or female with an Oxford degree and you fucking dare to suggest you’re anything other than one of the luckiest and safest people in the world of any sexual orientation, race or sex [*], you are a fucking idiot who doesn’t deserve that degree. Come on, do you think the life chances and the opportunities open to a gay black woman with an Oxford degree are poorer than those of a heterosexual white man with a GCSE-level education? Seriously?

In short, the thing which pisses me off about academia to the extent that I’d never go back is the incessant me-me-me-ish ‘ooh, I’m so deprived, not like those posh bastards’ whining. If you are a student or an academic, then on any sane metric your life is awesome. You have it better than the vast majority of the idiots who vote for Nick Griffin. Stop fucking whining about oooh, I’m being *so* oppressed.

So I’ll stay in London, spending time with people who at least appreciate how disgustingly overprivileged their very lifestyle makes them…

[*] What about Aung San Suu Kyi?, you ask. The point is that her education gave her the choice on whether to go to Burma and fight against the junta, or to stay in the UK and be safe. The vast majority of the world’s population, whether male or female, do not have that kind of choice…

5 thoughts on “Sanctimonious cant, and multiple plagues-on-houses

  1. Jim Bliss says:

    The problem I have with the whole thing is that it was clearly done to stir shit as opposed to engage in a sensible debate about free speech.

    If you really want to have that debate, then get a couple of erudite, coherent individuals who believe that Griffin and Irving have a right to a platform. Get them to argue the point. By getting the BNP leader and the world’s most famous holocaust denier, they guaranteed that any debate that did occur would be completely overshadowed by the controversy.

    They also essentially prejudged the outcome of the debate. Surely if you’re debating whether or not to offer a platform to fascists, you don’t begin by offering a platform to fascists.

    As it happens I don’t believe that society should be actively censoring Nick Griffin. But I do believe that views such as his should have to find their own platform and not be offered one by supposedly enlightened institutions. Especially when, as is clear, the institution is far more obvious in media coverage and controversy than they are in having a useful exchange of ideas.

  2. Jim Bliss says:

    In the final sentence: obvious = interested

  3. Chris Brooke says:

    Hello Pigdogfucker!

    Quick things: first, loneraven’s a student, true, but Antonia isn’t, and although Mike is doing a part-time course at Ruskin, I know him far more from the local Labour Party scene than from anything to do with the university. So I’m not sure these three can really stand as representative of contemporary academia.

    Mike’s referring to Irving and Griffin and their supporters as fascists, and I’ve have thought that’s a group that can safely be called fascist without standing accused of devaluing the term of virtually all meaning.

    And while the point you make about debate is quite a good one, when you respond to Antonia, do note that Irving and Griffin weren’t invited to a debate, but to a “free speech forum”; there was no formal motion, there was no one whose job it was to speak against them. As I understand things, they spoke, and then they took questions, or heard brief points from the floor. But that’s not really debating in the sense that you’re suggesting here. And while Oxford Union types did say that they would expose and humiliate Irving & Griffin ahead of time, the reports of the proceedings that I’ve seen suggest that they really didn’t.

    And loneraven’s point isn’t a general one about life-chances. It’s a specific one, that when fascists come to town, certain people are more likely to bear the costs than others, and they aren’t the wankers in black ties at the Oxford Union. There’s already a page of 60 photos up at Redwatch, for example, taken by fascist photographers who infiltrated the crowd outside the Union, and they’re already beginning the work over there of identifying the people in the pics. That’s not nice, but I’m not sure (for example) that it would be sensible to think, “Oh, but women / Jewish / black / whatever Oxford students threatened by fascists on the Redwatch site — still they’ve got better opportunities than the unemployed with no GCSEs”. That might be true, but it’s not obviously relevant here and now.

    You would have enjoyed the demonstration, pdf, though there was more jeering than laughing. Plenty of jeering and booing, though, which was great fun.

  4. PDF says:

    [note - this comment was originally a response to Jim, but read like a rubbish response to Chris's one which overlapped with it, so I've deleted and replaced it]

    Thanks for the clarifications on studentdom. I tend to find Oxford’s civil society is still pretty academic, IYSWIM – there’s a lot of overlap, far more than you’d get in any other town (including Cambridge, oddly).
    On the safety point – Redwatch is a vicious, horrible site, but it’s devoted to harrassing and intimidating people for being left-wing, not for their skin colour. If you join the protests and get filmed and stalked by the Redwatch cunts, that puts you in the Aung San Suu Kyi group from the original post.

    That’s completely different from the suggestion that the Union toffs have put Oxford’s blacks and gays at risk more generally, which is still total nonsense – Griffin didn’t bring a gang of goons with him to have a quick spot of post-debate Kristallnacht-ing, and pretending that he did doesn’t help anyone.

  5. Chris Brooke says:

    A few groups of thug-like people were spotted round the city centre on the night — perhaps they were Griffin’s personal security team, which he did say he would be bringing along — but I didn’t hear of anything especially bad happening, true enough.

    But people were nervous last week, and you shouldn’t discount that completely. City centre college authorities sent round emails to their members encouraging peope to stay inside (one colleague of mine wrote back to say thanks for the concern, but he was going on the demo), and my college locked the back gate and extended its “if you feel unsafe and want to get a taxi home we’ll split the bill” scheme for the evening. The risks weren’t large, all things considered, and the police presence was big enough in the centre of town that it was probably highly unlikely that anything terribly violent was likely to happen.

    But given the general rule that where the BNP goes, racist violence tends to follow (and I’m old enough to remember the racist murder that did take place in Oxford when I was a student, back when there was an active BNP cell in the city), I’m really not going to criticise people for feeling a little nervous ahead of time and saying so.

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