In this column: material on Royal Holloway, University of London, followed by material on 'The Conversation:' the good, the quite good, the not so bad, the bad, the shockingly bad. 'The Conversation' is supported and financed by a large number of UK Universities and other institutions, which are either 'Founding Partners' or 'Members.'


Profile of Dr Mark Berry, Cambridge historian, Royal Holloway Marxist Musicologist, writer on Nazism and contributor to 'The Conversation'



Above, Royal Holloway,The Founder's Building


Attribution: Fay1982 / CC BY-SA (



Mark Berry's contrasts and contradictions are shocking and extreme, like those of  Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in Robert Louis Stevenson's novella 'Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.' The photograph above (1895) shows Robert Mansfield, who played the divided character in a production in Boston not long after its publication. The emphasis in the novella is on moral good and evil. The good and evil in Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde have no counterpart in the character of Mark Berry. Instead, we find (I think I can show very easily that the evidence is overwhelming) a  contradiction between so many of his tweets, disturbing, disastrously misguided


- amongst the tweets of Mark Berry quoted and discussed below, all of them published since the start of the Coronavirus epidemic, are ones in which he gives an opinion of this country


'I hate this country so much',


his call to the civil service


'Surely it is time for the entirety of the civil service to go on strike. Bring this rotten, fascist government down for good.'


(I point out that this grossly stupid recommendation, if acted upon - but it never would be acted upon, a civil service strike to bring down the government is perfectly possible according to his political 'thinking' but the real world operates in accordance with different principles  -  would halt Coronavirus payments, the payment of benefits and pensions, and, of course, have a damaging, destructive impact on so much else)


his call for insurrection


' ... No one will take to the streets to rid us of Johnson and his fellow fascist criminals ...'


(He studied history at Cambridge University but seems not to be aware of a much earlier recommendation to 'rid' the world of an unwanted person: Henry II's 'Who will rid me of this turbulent priest?' Four knights took the king's words literally and assassinated Becket in Canterbury Cathedral. Does Mark Berry advocate assassination of Boris Jomnson? I hope not, but he isn't advocating the methods of democratic politics.)


this, on the former Labour MP Kate Hoey


'the Nazi Hoey ... '


this, on eliminating New Labour


'The racist obscenity that is New Labour must go'


(and again, not by the methods of democratic politics)

this opinion of the Spectator magazine

'a cesspit of unabashed Nazism'

(he didn't provide any quotes from the Spectator to support his deranged claim)


this description of Sarah Ludford


'mass murderer'



- and his academic writing, on the music of Wagner and other composers, his co-editing (with Nicholas Vazsonyi) of 'The Cambridge Companion to Wagner's Der Ring des Nibelungen, his concert reviews on his Boulezian blog, his writing on music on other sites. I've been reading the blog for years, finding faults there, such as very stilted language on occasion, but more often, I've appreciated his comments, conveyed in language not in the least stilted, or showing only moderate signs. There are better musical blogs, but his is far from negligible.  'Moderate' is a word I wouldn't use often in connection with Mark Berry, but this is one case where it's allowable.


Cambridge University educated him and Royal Holloway now employs, in the Department of Music and the Gender Institute, Dr Mark Jekyllberry and Mr Mark Hydeberry.


But his Boulezian blog contains something which will be an embarrassment to him, surely. Below, I comment on this, after giving the context and the place in the Boulezian blog where it can be found. All quotations from Mark Berry in these sections are in larger print - his tweets and retweets, his blog Boulezian and other material.


In the blog, he writes,


' ... reception of the chalice, more bitterly poisoned than ever, bearing the name ‘Head of the Department of Music’ for the next three years. (There are baptisms of fire, and there are baptisms of March 2020.)'


The reference 'March 2020' is obviously a reference to the start of the coronavirus epidemic in this country, and many other countries. It seems likely - overwhelmingly likely - that he's anticipating, and complaining about, great difficulties in his new role as Head of the Music Department at Royal Holloway, difficulties caused by the coronavirus epidemic.  I give reasons for thinking that this raises questions about his fitness to hold this position of leadership at Royal Holloway, as Head of the Music Department at a time when the music department at Royal Holloway, like all the other departments, of course, has a responsibility to do everything it can to deal with the acute problems brought by the Coronavirus epidemic, to do everything possible  to foster the welfare of students and staff, and to foster the welfare of students and staff in other ways. 


Welcome Week for Royal Holloway Music students began on Saturday 19 September. The Music Induction Day for first-year students was on Monday 21 September. Mark Berry, as Head of Department, was scheduled to speak to first year students in groups throughout much of the day and I assume that he did speak to them. If so, first year students were addressed by someone who had described his duties as Head of Department - or some of his duties, not his address to first year students, I'd expect - as amounting to a 'chalice, more bitterly poisoned than ever,' someone who hadn't the sense to keep his feelings to himself but instead made a public display of them.


His tweets show - again, I think the evidence is overwhelming - that when he's not writing about the music of Wagner or other composers, again and again he becomes a dilettante, an ignoramus, an ideologist, a bad ideologist with no interest in providing arguments and evidence to support his views. He seems to assume that academic rigour, the academic virtues of fair-mindedness and responsible use of argument and evidence, are irrelevant.


More of Mark Berry's recommendations for removal of Boris Johnson and his government: not by way of the ballot box and the established procedure of a democracy but instead direct action


'Were this a country worthy of being taken seriously, Johnson and the Tories would have been overthrown months ago; no, they would never have been in office in the first place, and we shouldn't have an electoral system, press, and so-called 'constitution' that had enabled that.'


His call to arms


' ... No one will take to the streets to rid us of Johnson and his fellow fascist criminals ...'


 ignores the fact, to mention just one fact, that people with very different views would take to the streets as well to oppose the revolutionaries, leading to mass disorder and bloodshed, not a transition to the kind of government he approves of.


This is from the Royal Holloway Website, from an academic in the Department of Classics:


'For my current research project I have been examining strategies of rhetorical deception in speeches from the law courts of Classical Athens ... what I am trying to identify is how speakers manipulated stories, facts, and logical arguments in order to win their cases.

'As my research feeds into my teaching, I believe that it helps students become more critical listeners, more aware of the art of rhetoric, more able to formulate persuasive arguments. My hope is that they will also become more critical, responsible, engaged democratic citizens.'


Can Mark Berry claim the same? Does he have any interest in students becoming more critical, responsible, engaged democratic citizens? He recommends a very different kind of engagement, it seems - taking to the streets. If students do just that, to try to bring down the elected government, it's overwhelmingly likely they'll be opposed, with the prospect of  violence, with students injured, killed even, and severe repercussions for the students when the insurrection fails, as is overwhelmingly likely. If so, the students will have got nowhere, will have failed completely, some of them may well have ruined their lives, whilst Dr Berry continues to live his uneventful life of music scholarship, music listening, writing about music, teaching students about music, and writing propaganda in his role as armchair propagandist.


I've no recommendations for removal of Mark Berry from Royal Holloway. I take the view that his mistakes are major rather than minor, without any reference to the key system, of course. The material on Mark Berry may seem quite long but it's not long enough to do justice to the issues.   I'd welcome his voluntary resignation  But that's too much to expect.

In January 2020 he referred to the  'Leave means Leave' pro-Brexit as a

'Re-enactment of Krisstalnacht' .. a pogrom waiting to happen.'


This was widely publicized in the national press. The adverse publicity didn't deter him at all. Since then, he's produced a succession of tweets which amount to false equations, gross exaggerations, gross generalizations. There are hideous examples, many, many examples, which surely include this:


He quotes a tweet of Sarah Ludford, introducing the quotation with:


'An austerity monger (mass murderer) writes ... '


When I looked at the record of his tweet, it seemed beyond belief that he could have written such a thing, that he could actually have linked Sarah Ludford with mass murder. I checked the image of his tweet which I'd saved and found that he actually did write, in connection with Sarah Ludford, 'an austerity monger (mass murderer).' By now, he may have deleted the tweet from his twitter page.


As for the accusation 'austerity monger,' Sarah Ludford  made the comment, '“In times of economic hardship and national austerity  measures, the whole European Parliament must tighten its belt.' It doesn't take much for Mark Berry to unleash his denunciations - 'mass murderer,' 'racist,' 'fascist,' 'nazi.' I've no evidence for this, obviously, but it may be that when Mark Berry makes an accusation, he experiences a sudden renewal of confidence, of self-belief, self-aggrandizement. Making the accusation has cost him nothing. It's requires no painstaking labour, no struggle to understand.


This is his opinion of New Labour:


'The racist obscenity that is New New Labour must go.'


More on Boris Johnson:


'Why would a Nazi such as Johnson be shocked by Tony Abbott's bigotry? He shares it, only worse.'


His opinion of the media - newspapers and magazines:


The Spectator magazine referred to as

'a cesspit of unabashed Nazism.'


The Guardian newspaper:

'There aren't enough crates of fuckoffyoulyingbigotedghouls in the world to cater adequately for the Guardian. I will never buy it again if I live to be 150.'


His opinion of The Times:


' ... a white supremacist 'newspaper.' '




'... a vicious, far-Right, Murdoch tabloid.'


His opinion of the Daily Mail:


' ... Explicitly fascist.'


He offers a solution to the situation he finds. He quotes, and rejects, the view of Paul Brand,


'A free press is vital for our democracy. People have the right to read the newspapers they want. Stopping them from being distributed and printers from doing their job is wrong.'


and offers this opinion:


'Let's have a free press. Then start by handing the unfree press, beholden to non-domiciled billionaires, over to workers' soviets.'


He has faith in the ability of working people to reject the newspapers and magazines he hates and to accept his view of these newspapers and magazines, not just to accept his views but to accept the responsibility of managing the Times, the Daily Mail, the Guardian, the Spectator and others - he writes about handing them to 'workers' soviets (who will select the membership of these 'workers' soviets - people from the magazine 'Socialist Worker?') His knowledge of working class people, like his knowledge of so much else, is deficient. He's smug, sneering, stale, superficial (although not, to give one example, in his writing about Wagner) but above all, he's ignorant. His ignorance is staggering. He reduces the complexities of this country and its people, the massive strengths of this country and its people, to this simple-minded idiocy:


What the hell is wrong with people? I hate this country so much.


Does he include the students he teaches in this blanket condemnation, does he include the staff of his department? It would take a very long time to give a partial list of the strengths and achievements of people in this country, the reasons for legitimate pride, in a very large number of different fields. To deliver those sneering condemnations of his takes next to no time.


The country he hates so much spends more on foreign aid as a percentage of Gross National Income than almost every other country in the world - more than  £15 billion in 2019 - much more than was spent on policing in the same year.


Recently, Boris Johnson outlined proposals to help poorer countries to combat Coronavirus. From the BBC report,


Boris Johnson is a flawed politician, of course - criticized again and again in the Daily Telegraph, the Daily Mail, The Times and the Spectator - but Mark Berry's claim that Boris Johnson is a 'Nazi,' a 'fascist criminal' has no basis in fact, or, to put it another way, could be described as a product of Mark Berry's deranged mind - but I'd claim instead that it's   a product of one aspect of Mark Berry's mind, one which feeds on uncritical delusions.


Extracts from the page



'The UK is to give £500m to a new global vaccine-sharing scheme designed to ensure treatments for Covid-19 are distributed fairly.'


'Mr Johnson is also proposing states reduce trade barriers on Covid-critical products, such as soap, to help the global response.

The £500m in aid funding will go to the Covax vaccines procurement pool, which aims to help poorer countries access a coronavirus jab when one is developed.

There are about 40 different coronavirus vaccines in clinical trials - including one being developed by the University of Oxford that is in an advanced stage of testing.

'A successful vaccine that can protect people from Covid-19 is still widely seen as the main exit strategy from the current restrictions on people's lives.

'The PM will also promise £340m to the World Health Organization over the next four years - a 30% increase on the previous period, making the UK one of its biggest donors.

Romilly Greenhill, UK director of The One Campaign, which fights extreme poverty and preventable disease, said the British government was showing "powerful leadership" at a moment when it "could not be more important".

"It will give the global fight against Covid-19 a shot in the arm, helping ensure everyone, everywhere can access a vaccine." '


Boris Johnson has pointed out that the UK is 'the birthplace of Edward Jenner who pioneered the world's first vaccine.' This Berry-tweet

'Surely it is time for the entirety of the civil service to go on strike. Bring this rotten, fascist government down for good.'


benefits from a little background information:


Amongst the functions of the Civil Service: the payment of pensions and benefits, including Coronavirus payments.  If Mark Berry thinks a one day civil service strike would be enough to bring down the government, he's deluded. If Mark Berry thinks that a one week strike would bring down the government, or a one month strike or a strike lasting a year would bring down the government, he's deluded. If he thinks that the many millions of people who would have to do without pension and benefit payments, without Coronavirus payments, would look on tolerantly whilst the civil service strikes to bring down the government and install the kind of government he wants, he's deluded, if he thinks that people would accept all this meekly during the Coronavirus epidemic he's deluded, if he thinks that they would accept all this at any time, he's deluded, if Mark Berry thinks that there's the remotest chance of a civil service strike for these aims, he's deluded.


From the site,


'The Civil Service delivers public services and supports the government of the day to develop and implement its policies.

The work civil servants do touches all aspects of life in the UK, from education and the environment, to transport and defence.'


And this:


'Civil servants are politically impartial.'


In individual cases, the civil service may fall short and show some partiality, but in general, the civil service supports Labour governments, Conservative governments, and, in the future, will support whatever government the people elect.


Supplementary material. The statement here was made on May 5, 2020. This is the kind of work which Mark Berry regards as less important than overthrowing a democratically elected government. So much the worse for Mark Berry, so much the worse for Royal Holloway, which has to put up with Mark Berry.


'The Secretary of State for the Department for Work and Pensions (DWP) yesterday made an oral statement to Parliament about the DWP's response to coronavirus (COVID-19).


'... I want to pay tribute to the civil servants in my department as well as contractors and partners who have been working tirelessly to provide help and support to those in need. They are the hidden heroes for many people in this country. They should take great pride in their hard work and dedication to supporting people through these difficult times.

'Since 16 March to the end of April, we have received over 1.8 million claims for Universal Credit, over 250,000 claims for Jobseeker’s Allowance, and over 20,000 claims for Employment and Support Allowance.

'Overall, this is 6 times the volume that we would typically experience and in one week, we had a 10-fold increase. The rate for Universal Credit claims appears to have stabilised at about 20, 000 to 25,000 per day which is double that of a standard week pre-COVID-19. I am pleased that my department is standing up to the challenge.

'We have redeployed significant number of DWP staff (about 8,000) and from other government departments (about 500 so far) in order to process these claims. Our payment timeliness for Universal Credit is running at a record high.

We have also issued almost 700,000 advances to claimants who felt they could not wait for their first routine payment and the vast majority of these claimants received money within 72 hours.'


More evidence that amongst the specialisms (and obsessions) of Dr Berry is a passion for grotesque, unrealizable objectives:


'UK should disband. United Ireland. Scotland, London, great cities far better off on own. Form federation and join the EU, as many of us have said since 2016. Leave racists of Tory-UKIP-land to stew in own rancid juices, waving flags and watching WW2 films. Asylum for all trapped.'


Some people might describe this proposal as borderline deranged. I think this is too charitable a view. I'd put it more strongly.


He also thinks that



If all borders were ever to be abolished, then there would be no borders between the 'great cities' which have formed a federation and rejoined the European Union and the rest of the United Kingdom. If all borders were abolished, then presumably no country (or 'great city' in the Federation) would have any control over migration.  Although Mark Berry rejects the idea, I would think, some control over migration is essential. If, hypothetically, five million asylum seekers wanted to settle in this country and had the means to get here, the country couldn't accept this number, unless the country was willing to build an enormous number of houses and to vastly increase its spending on a wide range of services - just as Royal Holloway couldn't possibly accept every person who wants to study there: Royal Holloway couldn't possibly expand its accommodation and vastly increase its other spending.


Mark Berry seems to have no compunction about censoring the tweets of other people. From time to time, he announces that he's reported a tweet, sometimes with the recommendation that other people should report it as well.


He wrote this tweet on Keir Starmer:


'Shocking just how dreadful Keir Starmer is. None of is thought he would be great, but that he has proved quite so mendacious, vengeful, and inept has come as a surprise.'


He went on to quote Malcolm Fincken, who wrote:


'Eh? In what ways has he been any of those things?




'Note that I didn't get any reply!'


Mark Berry's response to that:


'Sorry, Malcolm. Life's too short. Blocked.'


So he casually blocked the man. As I understand it, blocking Malcolm Fincken prevents him from reading Mark Berry's tweets. If Mark Berry wants to keep any reputation he may have as The Great Libertarian, he'll have to take immediate action.


If he does have the courage of his convictions, Mark Berry will allow these tweets and the other tweets I quote in this section, on a wide range of topics, to stand. He won't delete them. Why should he? He exudes certainty - to me, the certainty of an ideologist, to him, the certainty of convictions which are unquestionable. I wouldn't in the least expect him to defend his views, which would require more space than twitter allows. I'll wait and see. Whether he deletes these tweets, or some of them, or allows them to stand, I'll note his course of action or inaction here. In case he does decide to delete these tweets, or a selection of them, I've not included the dates of the tweets. I don't see any reason why I should make the job of deletion any easier. 


A Labour Party source which supports Brexit


'Why have you deleted the tweet Mark Berry@Boulezian?


 'As predicted, Remainers now frantically deleting their vile Nazi slurs,'


and the source gives an example from the tweets of Mark Berry, a reference to


'the Nazi Hoey ... '


Kate Hoey was at that time a Labour MP. Her record in politics gives absolutely no justification for 'vile Nazi slurs.' I've no independent evidence that Mark Berry did make the comparison but the image given by the Labour Party source in the link above leaves the matter in no doubt.



I think important issues are raised by the Case of Mark Berry, including issues to do with the role of academics. (In another section, I make it clear that I've no blanket hostility to academics or to universities, that I appreciate unreservedly or with only slight reservations the work of so many university academics.) I'm contacting a wide range of individuals to inform them about the material here. Whether they do or don't take a look, with all the demands on their time, is up to them: again: my main aim is simply to document some of Mark Berry's writings, and to extend the critical comment and discussion here when the sections are revised.


The quotations from Twitter and his Boulezian blog are provided in text form here but I've taken copies directly from these sources with an image-capture program  - I wouldn't expect him to deny having written any of these things, not in the least, but as a necessary precaution, just to be on the safe side, I have these copies in safe computer storage.


I've already made the material in these sections known to a wide range of people, including  academics at Royal Holloway, Cambridge and other universities, writers on music, particularly the music of Wagner, and people in other spheres. I brought the material to the attention of Mark Berry after contacting other people. It's possible that the other people will find the tweets and other writing of Mark Berry's before he has the chance to delete them. (Again, I don't make any assumptions: he may be completely happy for the opinions I criticize to remain in the public domain. He may be completely indifferent, or, yet again, he may not be.)


The same applies to  the complaint of his published not on his Twitter page but on his Boulezian blog. He may not be inclined to defend this in the public domain but, unless I'm mistaken, he may need to defend it in a more restricted sphere, Royal Holloway, and in particular the Royal Holloway music department. I think that this really does require further explanation from him.


The material I quote here can be found very easily on his blog, if, as I hope, it isn't deleted.


The page has a  series of reviews of concerts at the Musikfest Berlin. The reviews are amongst the most recent reviews and are near the top of the page. The material is at the end of the first paragraph of the first of these reviews, published on 30 August 2020, about a concert which took place the day before:


Musikfest Berlin (1) - Staatskapelle Berlin/Barenboim: Mozart, 29 August 2020


He complains that life


'has truly been a Land ohne Musik, an especially strange coincidence with reception of the chalice, more bitterly poisoned than ever, bearing the name ‘Head of the Department of Music’ for the next three years. (There are baptisms of fire, and there are baptisms of March 2020.)'

'Think what you like, but not everything that is thought should be put into spoken or written form - or put into the public domain by publication.' This advice will be disregarded for very good reasons and very bad reasons - for example, by people who take enormous risks to defend freedom of expression in totalitarian societies and people who express idiotic views to fill up their twitter pages and gain approval from people whose views are just as idiotic.


Some inferences and comments concerning his reference to 'the chalice, more bitterly poisoned than ever,' the reference to 'Head of Department of music (at Royal Holloway) and the reference to 'March 2020.'


As I see it, Mark Berry is an armchair critic, with next to no understanding of the vastly different experience of holding a position of responsibility in business, political life and other spheres which make great demands, often, extreme demands on stamina, organizing ability, the ability to continue working despite torrents of abuse and unfocused, facile criticism, often in the full, unforgiving glare of publicity, which can turn from appreciative to adverse so quickly. They are hard-working people. Critics are often lazy-minded. For many of them, a simple accusation is enough - enough to sustain their flimsy fantasy of significance, importance. The simple use of the word 'Incompetent!' may well be enough. 


These critics never appreciate that a Managing Director, a Government minister, the Head of a University, and others, not only have to face and take account of a whole range of issues but in many cases have take account of practicalities, have to come to a decision, a decision which may well please some and alienate others.


Engineers can sometimes make catastrophic mistakes - collapsing buildings and bridges, for example - but they have well-established scientific and engineering knowledge to guide them. By using this magnificent body of knowledge, they're generally able to avoid the worse mistakes, the ones with the most serious consequences. Military and political leaders in time of war, and leaders in times of peace as well, have no similar body of knowledge to guide them. The impact of their decisions can't be predicted with scientific confidence, they often face situations of great difficulty or impossible situations.


The musician who plays a piece of solo piano or violin or cello, such as the partitas and sonatas may come near to perfection, if that's possible, but an opera is a different matter. There's far more to go wrong. A soprano may almost attain perfection but perhaps not at the top of her range, and her performance may be almost perfect on one evening, far less so the next day. The orchestras' achievement may be very high in the orchestral parts of many of the arias, but not in all. The conductor may choose obviously wrong tempos in some of them. Some aspects of the scene design may be very powerful, others much weaker. This is obviously to simplify, but to call a performance 'a load of rubbish' or 'wonderful, amazing' may be to simplify far more.


The making of political decision and the implementation of political decisions is like an orchestral performance in that there's so much to go wrong, but in politics, so often, there's so much more which can go wrong. Decisions and courses of action which are carried out with superb skill can be frustrated and end in failure because of the human element - and there are so many people who can wreck a plan, sometimes for reasons which don't reflect badly on them at all.


The concentration camps were liberated by flawed people and flawed organizations. British society during the heroic defence of civilized values in the Second World War was flawed - homosexuality was illegal, for example, as it still is in Gaza. The Russian army was essential in defeating Germany, but the Stalinis tyranny killed many millions. Marxist tyranny, which has flourished in a much wider area than Russia, has killed many millions, but the Marxist Mark Berry wouldn't acknowledge the evidence. Mark Berry is an evader of reality. His tweets attack a certain kind of flaw whilst evading the flaws it wouldn't be convenient for him to address, the ones which cast doubt on his ideology. He may or may not have noticed that in this country, the conservative press has been very critical of some of the policies and decisions of Boris Johnson. Whatever the case, Mark Berry carries on regardless. His political world view is at the simple minded level of those old communist bits of play acting. 

For all I know, Mark Berry may have strengths which will make him an excellent acting Head of the Music Department at Royal Holloway, but he hasn't made an auspicious start, I think, not at all. He's now in a position of leadership, like it or not - and he seems not to like it in the least. Once he was asked to take on the position, it was a bad mistake to put into the public domain his resentment: 'the chalice, more bitterly poisoned than ever.'


The reference to 'March 2020' is an obvious reference to the start of the Coronavirus epidemic. He seems to be complaining that he now has responsibilities which will be much greater on account of the Coronavirus epidemic.


The Music Department of Royal Holloway, like the other departments, like every other organization in the country, has to do its utmost to help students and staff to function - and, wherever possible, flourish - at this intensely difficult time.


He's spared the financial worries of freelance musicians and composers and writers on music. His reliable income has funded his frequent visits to Bayreuth, to the concerts of the Berlin Philharmonic and other orchestras. For a long time, he's been able to live the kind of life he wants to live, it would seem. Now that he's expected to devote some of his time to his responsibilities as Head of Department, he has no reason to complain, but he has complained, publicly - an act of complete stupidity.


If anyone has a more charitable interpretation, I'd be glad to receive it.


Of course, criticism of a person in authority by someone not in a position of authority, without the responsibilities, not facing similar demands, may well be completely valid. There are obviously complete incompetents to be found in positions of authority, as well as partial incompetents - incompetent in one respect, perhaps, but not in all respects, perhaps with enormous strengths to set beside their weaknesses, and people whose strength shows at some times, their weakness at others.


It seems likely, very likely, that the electorate would have no confidence, or not much confidence, in Jeremy Corbyn's handling of the Coronavirus epidemic, if the Labour Party had been elected, with Jeremy Corbyn as leader. It seems likely, very likely, that Jeremy Corbyn is widely regarded as ineffectual and that despite the  multiple failures of Boris Johnson during the Coronavirus epidemic, there's not much confidence - next to no confidence - that Jeremy Corbyn's handling of the Coronavirus challenge would have been better, far from it. But for Mark Berry, it seems, ideological soundness is more important than competence. The Chancellor, Rishi Sunak, is very widely regarded as very, very competent. Mistakes, real or imagined, can be pounced upon but it's obvious - but perhaps not obvious to Mark Berry - that the Coronavirus epidemic poses immense, wide-ranging difficulties and it's impossible not to make mistakes. Political life is full of similar challenges, very difficult, very complex, even if the challenges more often than not are not as demanding, or not quite as demanding as the challenges posed by the Coronavirus epidemic.



From the Royal Holloway Department of Music Staff Handbook,


Frm the section, 'Standard procedures with respect to assessment. Undergraduate marking criteria:'


'Third-Class Honours (III)




There is some attempt to deal with the issues but the result is one-sided and unsubstantiated, relying on over-generalisation.'


The Mark Berry tweets quoted in this section are surely far below the standard of Third-Class Honours. The standard is 'Fail. Abysmal Fail.'


He makes no attempt to deal with the issues. Again and again he resorts to flagrant generalization.


The Handbook has a section on 'Email Protocols' which includes this:


'Don't include anything in an email which will cause embarrassment if revealed - emails can be disclosed in any legal process.'


And this:


'Don't include personal or other abuse in messages.'


There are no recommendations concerning use of Twitter, no warnings on tweets which will cause embarrassment, no warnings on tweets which contain personal or other abuse. The reckless, embarrassing, abusive tweets of Mark Berry (a sub-set of his tweets, but a very signiciant sub-set) are ones that belong to his personal life rather than his professional life as an academic but they have obviously the potential to damage his standing and reputation in academic life.


Again and again, Mark Berry's responses are like the responses in the reflex actions of the human body, responses to a stimulus which bypass the brain. As he delivers his deadly and deadening responses, it's with obvious relish, as if he's salivating at the thought of his getting the better of whatever opponent comes his way.


It seems that Royal Holloway is stuck with him, unless Mark Berry decides to leave. Only the poorest first year undergraduates who have been accepted by Royal Holloway have views as grotesquely unreal as the ones promoted by Mark Berry in the tweets quoted in this section - I would hope. I would hope that music students at Royal Holloway graduate not just with a vastly more developed knowledge of music and vastly improved musical skills but with a vastly more developed appreciation of wider intellectual (and emotional) issues. How they can possibly learn anything about these wider skills from Mark Berry is more than doubtful.


From time to time, he publishes a heartening tweet or in this case retweet, for example this, after an image of Danuta Koch:


Auschwitz Memorial
19 August 1927 Polish girl Danuta Koch was born in Warsaw.
In Auschwitz from 13 December 1942 (deported during expulsion of Poles from the Zamosc region No. 26928.
In 1944 she was transferred to KL [Konzentrationslager, concentration camp] Flossenburg and liberated there.


How did this concentration camp come to be liberated? How were all the other concentration camps liberated? By the armies of the British, Americans, other allies and Russians,  after a titanic struggle against fanatical opposition, with their armed forces fighting  on land, sea and air.


Flossenburg, like Buchenwald and Mauthausen, was liberated by the Americans, Bergen-Belsen by the British, Dachau by the British and Americans and the extermination camps in the East, such as Auschwitz-Birkenau, by the Russians.


The achievement of Britain carrying on the fight against Nazi Germany - not single-handed but almost alone - until other armed forces joined the fight goes unrecognized by Mark Berry. He does have an appreciation for the importance of the police, in safeguarding society against crime and other internal threats, but no appreciation at all, it seems, for the importance of the police in safeguarding society against external threats.


I don't give dates for Mark Berry's tweets, for reasons I've explained, but I have to make an exception for his tweets on Boris Johnson's alleged visit to Perugia, Italy. In this case, the dates are important.


On 20 September 2020:


The mystery of Boris Johnson's "trip to Perugia."
Exclusive. According to an official statement of the Italian airport dated September 1the British prime minister travelled to Perugia ... '


Followed by facetious tweets on the alleged visit (which he didn't describe as an 'alleged visit') all but one of them deleted. By the afternoon of 21 September, it was clear that the claim of a Boris Johnson visit to Perugia was false. For one thing, he had an alibi - at the time of the alleged visit, he was attending the baptism of his child at Westminster Cathedral. On 22 September, Mark Berry's twitter page had a facetious video clip of a man draped over a donkey, with the caption 'Secret footage of Boris's trip to Perugia revealed,' which was deleted well before the afternoon of that day.


Mark Berry isn't a big believer in retractions, admitting mistakes. He's as credulous as a superstitious believer in outlandish miracles, if it suits his political purpose.


Mark Berry, like many other academics, can be relied upon to sign high minded documents critical of Israel. From my page on Israel:


Anti-Israel action, including BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) action, would almost certainly have these results, if successful: the replacement of Israel by a state with vastly less enlightened policies in such areas as the ones mentioned above, a state which would be militarily very weak - unable to prevent invasion by  forces which are completely ruthless - and the  slaughter of Jews on a massive scale.

Israeli power prevents the incursion of forces into the Palestinian territories which are vastly less enlightened than the Israeli state, just as British power prevented the invasion of the Irish Republic by the Nazis during the Second World War. Irish nationalist ideology ('nobody has suffered like the Irish and there are no oppressors as bad as the British') and Palestinian ideology ('nobody has suffered like the Palestinians and there are no oppressors as bad as the Israelis') have significant linkages.

The evidence is that the conditions needed for the establishment of a successful democratic Palestinian state, such as a concern for freedom of speech, are largely lacking. If the external enemy, Israel, were ever to  disappear and a Palestinian state became a reality, then it's likely that there would be internal conflict and power struggles within the Palestinian state, perhaps pursued by violent means, such as suicide bombing, rather than peaceful decision-making after free debate.

A Palestinian state  would still be vulnerable, at risk of invasion by a much stronger state or organization. The call to 'stop arming Israel,' if successful, would be disastrous for Palestinians as well as Israelis. An Israel without the means to defend itself would be attacked very quickly, to be followed by slaughter of Jews on a massive scale. It's overwhelmingly unikely that the territory of a Palestinian state with only its own forces available for defence, in the absence of powerful Israeli forces, would be respected. It's overwhelmingly likely that in this volatile region, a Palestinian state denied the power of the Israeli forces would be invaded, by another state or by a non-state power. People who have lived under the domination of ISIS will have no illusions about the barbarities which are possible when a non-state power takes control of a territory. Anti-Israel activists and their uncritical supporters are in the grip of illusion: they ignore political and military realities in the region.


I also have a section on homosexuality in Gaza - illegal, punishable by imprisonment for 10 years - and Israel - legal. In Israel, there are pride marches. In Gaza and the West Bank, social ostracism and, in Gaza, legal penalties.


Not all the students who study at Royal Holloway will go on to a career in music, of course, as music academics, music administrators or whatever it may be - far from it. A large proportion will have jobs with no connection with music. Some of them could apply for Civil Service jobs. Whatever their own political views, they are likely to have the good sense to see the need for political impartiality in the Civil Service. A student who applied for a Civil Service job and who shared the view of Mark Berry would face difficulties, and not minor difficulties.


The page


gives this invitation to the reader:


'Explore the growing list of the wonderful people who work with the Gender Institute!'


After the name of the Director, Professor Laura Sjoberg, there's a long list of Associate Academic Staff. The list includes the not-so-wonderful, the not-in-the-least wonderful Mark Berry. The name of the Director and the names of the Associate Academic Staff of the Gender Institute are provided as an appendix at the end of this section.


I would hope that the academic staff of the Department of Music and the Gender Institute - some of them at least, preferably more than a few - would make their views known to Mark Berry. They're free to do what they want - to show support for Mark Berry, if they want - to do nothing, if they want, but mass timidity would be mistaken, I think. I hope that not all of them will ignore, show indifference to, Mark Berry's frequent ignoring of values which are important or should be important in academic life, as in the life of non-academics - as I see it. I don't expect any of them to contact me, of course.



Appendix. List of some academic staff at the Gender Institute, Royal Holloway



Professor Laura Sjoberg (the author of the interesting and honest - on the basis of the information available to me - 'Women as Wartime Rapists: Beyond Sensation and Stereotyping')


Associate Academic Staff

Professor Sarah Ansari
Dr Michelle Bentley
Dr Mark Berry
Professor Katherine Brickell
Dr Lucia Cianetti
Professor Sarah Childs
Dr Suki Finn
Dr Jefferson Frank
Dr Maria Estrada Fuentes
Dr Liz Gloyn
Professor Anna Gupta
Professor Jane Hamlett
Professor Harriet Hawkins
Dr Ruth Hemus
Dr Olga Kravets
Dr Jenny Korkodeilon
Dr Daniela Lai
Dr Victoria Leonard
Dr Lauren McCarthy
Dr Rebecca McCutchea
Dr Tim Summers (a lecturer in the Music Department)
Dr Weipin Tsai


Mark Berry: Jeremiad for Jeremy


A tweet which shows Mark Berry completely unable to take account of the world as it is, advocating an impossible objective, completely unaware that it's impossible:


'Jeremy Corbyn should now rank his top 100 media liars and sue every one of them.'


To take legal action against one media target would require enormous effort, enormous expenditure of time, enormous expense, with no guarantee of success in the least. Recommending that Jeremy Corbyn should take legal action against 100 'media liars' shows complete contempt for realities. What can students at Royal Holloway can learn from such a person - not intellectual responsibility, except in his particular specialisms, and certainly not common sense. There's such a thing as 'intellectual common sense,' which some academics lack completely, and Mark Berry is one of them, surely.


'Election. Had it not been for deliberate, organized betrayal by right-wing Labour Party employees, Jeremy Corbyn would now be Prime Minister. We must never forgive, never forget, constantly organize to honour that legacy of 2015. That may be within or without the Labour Party.'


'On 12 September 2015, I joined the Labour Party, having previously registered as a supporter to show solidarity with @jeremycorbyn and his campaign to transform the party into a socialist movement. Jeremy's victory 5 years ago was one of the most hopeful moments in my life.'


He's presumably less hopeful now:


'I remain a member; many comrades have left ...'


The Lamentations of the Prophet Jeremiah updated, to refer not to Judah but to the misery of Jeremy Corbyn (and his disciple Mark Berry), in his long Twitter series, now sadly deleted by the author.  'Lamentations,' Chapter 1, verse 2:


'He weepeth sore in the night, and his tears are on his cheeks: among all his lovers he hath few to comfort him, but Mark Berry remaineth faithful: all but a few of his friends have dealt treacherously with him, Keir Starmer, they are become his enemies.'


but his own commitment burns as brightly as ever, immune to any evidence.


The God that Failed is a 1949 collection of six essays by Louis Fischer, André Gide, Arthur Koestler, Ignazio Silone, Stephen Spender, and Richard Wright. The authors express disillusionment with communism and abandonment of communism.


For Mark Berry (a Marxist) Jeremy Corbyn is the God who can never fail, even though his multiple failings have been discussed in detail, with evidence, again and again.


'I will no more turn my back on Jeremy Corbyn than I would on my friends and family.'


For Mark Berry, Marxist hagiographer, criticism of Jeremy Corbyn amounts to lies.


'Level of forgiveness to be accorded to those who prevented this man from becoming Prime Minister: absolute zero, in eternity.'


'Unlike Boris Johnson, Jeremy Corbyn has never received a single ruble from Russian oligarchs linked to Vladimir Putin.'


Perhaps Mark Berry would like to comment on this. Or perhaps Mark Berry would prefer not to comment on this after all.


From the site


'Business Insider writer Adam Payne reported yesterday that Corbyn made a series of paid appearances on Iran's Press TV despite the fact that Press TV reporters had filmed the forced confession of a torture victim, broadcast in Iran. Corbyn even appeared on Press TV after it had been investigated and banned from the UK by Ofcom, the government TV regulator, for its links to the torture-confession broadcast. 

'We have repeatedly requested an explanation of Corbyn's relationship with the Iranian state broadcaster and his team declined to comment. We welcome their input if Corbyn changes his mind.'

Would this information tempt him to make an exception and for once comment on information he may find difficult to absorb? It gives the scale of the payment.


Jeremy Corbyn's registered interests as an MP show he received £20,000 for appearances he made on Iranian Press TV.


To return to Mark Berry's recommendation that Jeremy Corbyn should sue '100 media liars,' a group has raised large amounts of money on Jeremy Corbyn's behalf - but to fund legal action against '100 media liars' would obviously need far, far larger amounts. More on this group from the Website

(I haven't independently checked the evidence for each of the claims here. Recommended: consulting the Website page. It includes a great deal of other material on Jeremy Corbyn and the issue of antisemitism. The case against Jeremy Corbyn doesn't rest on this one issue of an antisemitic mural but on a very wide range of issues - not just his tolerance of extremist organizations and extremist views but, for example, the practicality of his political proposals.)


The quotation from

' ... the hacktivist group known as Anonymous posted a picture of an antisemitic mural on Facebook ... The mural, called Freedom for Humanity, was widely perceived as antisemitic, and was eventually removed ... Jeremy Corbyn was heavily criticised when it transpired that he had defended the mural.


'The JC [Jewish Chronicle] is reporting that the woman behind a crowdfunder that has raised hundreds of thousands of pounds for Jeremy Corbyn’s legal expenses is involved with a company that aims to “end the politicisation of Jewish suffering”.


'According to Companies House, Carole Morgan, who set up the crowdfunder on Go Fund Me, is one of two persons with significant control over Truth Defence Ltd, a new company incorporated to administer the funds. It is understood that the other person with significant control, Andrew Feinstein, is reportedly a member of the antisemitism-denial group and sham Jewish representative organisation, Jewish Voice for Labour.


'On its Facebook page, Truth Defence describes itself as “We are a collective of Jewish lawyers, creatives, journalists, academics and citizens seeking to correct the historical record on Jeremy Corbyn’s leadership of the Labour Party and end the politicisation of Jewish suffering.”

The crowdfunder was not set up with Mr Corbyn’s endorsement, but it is understood that his office is in contact with Ms Morgan.


'Mr Corbyn is being sued by the journalist John Ware for defamation. Another defamation case, brought by the Jewish activist Richard Millet, is also underway. The claimants are being represented by Mark Lewis, an esteemed media lawyer who is an honorary patron of Campaign Against Antisemitism.


'Campaign Against Antisemitism previously reported that the crowdfunder received money from donors calling themselves “Adolf Hitler” and “B*stard Son of Netanyahu and Starmer” and that donors posted horrendous comments on the page when making donations.


'On 28th May 2019, the Equality and Human Rights Commission launched a full statutory investigation into antisemitism in the Labour Party following a formal referral and detailed legal representations from Campaign Against Antisemitism, which is the complainant.


'In the first release of its Antisemitism in Political Parties research, Campaign Against Antisemitism showed that Labour Party candidates for Parliament in the 2019 general election accounted for 82 percent of all incidents of antisemitic discourse by parliamentary candidates.

Campaign Against Antisemitism’s Antisemitism Barometer 2019 showed that antisemitism on the far-left of British politics has surpassed that of the far-right.

Campaign Against Antisemitism advocates for zero tolerance of antisemitism in public life. To that end we monitor all political parties and strive to ensure that any cases of concern are properly addressed.'


See also this article by John Ware at


The first paragraphs of the article.


'The moment it became clear that Jeremy Corbyn’s reign as leader of the Labour Party was going to end in political humiliation, the true believers of the Corbyn project began constructing a ticking time bomb designed to detonate under the party’s new leadership. Their dream of a truly socialist government had, they believed, been sabotaged by a centrist fifth column, who bought into what they believed to be the false claims of a number of traitorous “whistleblowers” — the party officials who told me on the BBC’s Panorama that under Corbyn, Labour had created a safe space for antisemitic views.

'Furthermore, they claimed, some of these officials had actively conspired to stop Corbyn winning the 2017 election in a secret project funded with the party’s own money with the connivance of senior party staff. Indeed, so their analysis goes, just 2,227 more Labour votes in just seven marginal constituencies could have seen Jeremy Corbyn instead of Theresa May installed in Number Ten. Clear proof, they believe, that Corbyn had been stabbed in the back.


'The report provides ammunition for those who cling to the belief that “Jeremy” was betrayed rather than defeated

And the evidence for all this? A leaked 851-page internal report titled “The work of the Labour Party’s Governance and Legal Unit in relation to antisemitism, 2014-2019”, which also has a section on the alleged 2017 election plot. Don’t be fooled by the portentous title. The report was written by some of Corbyn’s most loyal allies — by a faction for a faction. It claims to be the result of an “in-depth and extensive investigatory work” providing a “full and thorough account of the evolution of the Party’s disciplinary processes in relation to dealing with complaints of antisemitism”.


'It’s nothing of the sort, though the report continues to provide ammunition for those who cling to the belief that “Jeremy” was betrayed rather than defeated in the same way that doomsday cult members blame the calendar when the world fails to end.'


Does Mark Berry regard this as evidence or does he regard it as 'lies?' From an article by James Bickerton,


'You might have thought it would be strange to see a left-wing British MP speaking at an event commemorating the “auspicious anniversary” of the 1979 Khomeinist revolution, an event that produced Iran’s current theocratic tyranny. After all, the Iranian regime, which continues to impose the death penalty for both blasphemy and homosexuality, is about as far from a leftist utopia as it’s possible to be. Iran’s domestic left, including its once vibrant communist movement, was brutally crushed by the Ayatollahs.


'Corbyn’s foreign policy views, which see just about any anti-western force as worthy of support on anti-imperialist grounds regardless of how reactionary or repressive they may be, made him a natural partner for Iran’s theocracy. In 2009 Corbyn began making paid appearances on Press TV, an English language propaganda arm of the Iranian state. This coincided with the crushing of the Iranian opposition Green Movement, which launched a wave of protests following the rigged 2009 presidential election. Iranian security forces arrested thousands and killed dozens.


'Corbyn went on appearing on Press TV, and ended up hosting his own show, until part way through 2012. He earned about £20,000 in the process. His appearances continued for a while even after Press TV lost its UK broadcast licence in 2012 for airing the “confession” of Maziar Bahari, an independent Iranian journalist who was tortured and threatened with death until he agreed to read out a pre-prepared script.


'It was on Press TV that Corbyn made some of his most controversial statements. In August 2012, based on precisely no evidence whatsoever, Corbyn suggested the “hand of Israel” was behind a series of Islamist attacks on the Sinai Peninsula that killed Egyptian soldiers. That same month he appeared in a broadcast along with Dr Abdul Aziz Umar, a Hamas terrorist convicted of involvement in the 2003 Café Hillel suicide bombing in Jerusalem that killed 50 people. During the conversation Corbyn described Umar, along with other Palestinian prisoners including terrorists freed in exchange for an Israeli hostage, as a “brother” adding “I’m glad that those who were released were released”.


'While Corbyn was prepared to shill for the Iranian state he was far less vocal about its victims. In November last year, protests broke out across Iran after the regime imposed a dramatic increase in fuel prices in response to US sanctions. Protestors soon found themselves being attacked by the Iranian police and Revolutionary Guard, including the latter’s notorious Basij militia. To suppress what became the most significant street protest movement in Iran since the revolution, regime forces killed hundreds, possibly as many as 1,500. For a time Iran’s internet was shut down to prevent videos of the massacres reaching an outside audience.


'Corbyn has yet to comment on the crackdown. He has been similarly quiet about Iran’s role, alongside Russia, in helping the Assad regime devastate opposition controlled parts of Syria. The “Stop the War Coalition”, the latest in a long line of amusingly mistitled leftist bodies in the tradition of the German Democratic Republic, has yet to organise a single protest on the subject. This remained the case even when Assad’s forces were barrel bombing a camp at Yarmouck for Palestinian refugees, supposedly a core concern for the anti-western left. All Palestinian lives are equal it seems, but some are most certainly more equal than others.


'The reaction of the Labour leadership to Soleimani’s killing is a continuation of this theme. Regardless of whether his assassination was strategically wise, Soleimani was a monster even by the high standards of his region. Forces under his direction played a key role in crushing the Syrian opposition and butchering opposition protestors in Iraq and Iran. Yet Corbyn’s statements, which criticised the American hit, were notably short on criticism of Soleimani’s actions. On Saturday, two Labour shadow ministers, John McDonnell and Richard Burgon, attended a Stop the War Coalition rally called to protest against the killing. No mention was made of his crimes.


'On Iran, Corbyn has proved himself, once again, to be one of the most conditional human rights defenders in human history. If your people are being targeted by a western Government, or one of its identifiable allies, he will prove a useful ally. But if the oppression comes from an “anti-imperialist” regime, such as Iran, you may as well ask the cat. At best Corbyn will retain an undignified silence, at worst he will actively shill for the oppressor.'

Mark Berry: 'A champagne truffles sort of guy'


From Mark Berry's Boulezian blog (5 September 2016). This bon viveur, Champagne Socialist and prose stylist (a Master of the plodding, prim and proper style, but not all the time) writes

'My Facebook profile is not public, although a friend discovered the following posting from me: ‘July 6 · London · Mark Berry   has just bought himself some chocolate to celebrate Chilcot Day. The assistant said he had guessed I was “a champagne truffles sort of guy”. Indeed I am, cognac too.’ Perhaps I was informed upon by the friendly assistant in Charbonnel & Walker? No, of course I was not. I can only assume that my alleged offence is to have said, on the day of the Chilcot Report, on Twitter, that I hoped Tony Blair would now be expelled from the Labour Party. I bow to no one in my judgement that Blair is a despicable war criminal, who has no place in any ‘progressive’, let alone socialist political party.'


It will disappoint the workers at this retail emporium that he refers to 'Charbonnel & Walker.' They refer to their business as 'Charbonnel et Walker.' The use of the French word gives instant class.


 One of his Boulezian reviews (of Mozart's Symphony 39) includes this:


'Champagne with especially present pinot noir was the hallmark of the finale, its extraordinary concision uncannily prophetic of Webern.'


This is closer to flatulence than music criticism. I won't comment in any detail. The clumsiness of 'champagne with especially present pinot noir' seems obvious enough to me and the concision of this movement seems no more prophetic of Webern than many another concise movement.


He also included this appreciative comment on the performance of the finale:


' ... the blend of its grapes could have been effected by no other musical vintner. '


This is a fine example of Mark Berry near his nadir of ridiculousness as a a music critic, but this, I think, contains a finer example still, nearer the nadir of ridiculousness. It comes from a review of Hadyn, Symphony no. 103. The first paragraph quoted here is perfunctory, pedestrian, the second is deceptively routine - the phrase 'far from banally repeated in its trio' is staggeringly obtuse, given that the trio of this symphony is staggering, stupendous. It's difficult to conceive how he could ever have imagined it conveying the least hint of banality. It's the third paragraph quoted which contains the climax, or anti-climax. Does he teach his students to read what they've written? Does he teach them to revise what they've written, if it seems faulty in some way - for example, plain ridiculousness, mistakes of fact? Or is that too humdrum a matter to concern him?

'Moreover, the strings showed, especially from the second movement onwards, that, in spite of their small number, they lacked nothing in drive, nor in cultured musicianship.'

'The minuet witnessed a properly generative balance between the straightforward and sophisticated, echoed yet far from banally repeated in its trio. '

'Haydn’s joy brought tears to my ears '


The rhyme emphasizes the incongruity. Here, technique is at the service of content.

The review also has the eye as an organ of hearing, as well as another of Mark Berry's arbitrary comparisons between an older and a much more recent composer:

'The controlled  ... helter-skelter of the finale offered kinship to Ligeti and a glint in the aural eye far from dissimilar'


See also the quotation from Dr David Vernon - a member of the Mark Berry Band, the subject of  the next section. This is it:


'Thrilled and delighted that Mark's reviews are back. Like sipping Bruichladdich single malt after months in the desert ... '


Mark Berry publicized this outpouring of delight - he retweeted it on his own twitter page.


A short extract from one of Mark Berry's new reviews his  review of Haydn's Symphony no. 21 in A major, Musikfest Berlin (8)  13 September 2020, one of the reviews David Vernon has had the chance to read after months in the desert:


'The finale proved a veritable compendium of syncopated surprises, of invention and a posteriori inevitability—thus emulating the first movement, albeit in very different style ... '


David Vernon is very easily pleased, perhaps, prepared to overlook  the common Boulezian faults, such as archaic language, in this case 'a veritable compendium,' 'albeit,' and, less common, academic references, here, 'a posteriori,' used in an arbitrary way, adding nothing apart from distortion.


To be fair, the review did include this cheerful phrase:

'Above all, this was music that made me smile.'


That will please the people who like 'easy reading' music criticism (compare 'easy listening' music.) Mark Berry could have replaced the comment with a Smiley Face. That would please the people who find words and reading too much trouble.


Fred Oswald,  Deputy Editor of 'The Wagnerian,' writes in an article on  Slavoj Žižek

'Zizek, oddly like many Marxists (apart from Marx), is a Wagnerian.' [This can easily be misinterpreted. Fred's punctuation is faulty here.]

Fred also writes,

'Now, we must accept, whether you want to or not, the arguable fact, that most Marxist intellectuals, of the academic variety at least, are, sadly, rather boring.'

'Boring' isn't the first word that comes to mind when I think of Mark Berry. I do find so much of his writing boring, but I don't find his shrill, repeated accusations 'boring,' not at all - they're hideous distortions, conflating two vastly different spheres, the words and decisions and actions of politicians and others in contemporary democracies, such as Tony Blair  - often not defensible or easily defended - and the acts of the war criminals found guilty at Nuremberg and at other tribunals. 

Mark Berry's twitter accusations in summary, the briefest of summaries, might go something like this:

'War criminal!' 'Nazi!' 'Fascist!' 'War criminal!' 'Nazi!' 'Fascist!' 'War criminal!' 'Nazi!' 'Fascist!' 'War criminal!' 'Nazi!' 'Fascist!'

With, sometimes, other words, such as 'Mass murderer.'

Mark Berry, contributor to 'The Wagnerian,' is a Marxist 'of the academic variety.' To call him an intellectual is fair enough, provided the definition of 'intellectual' is wide enough to include people like him - no need to elaborate, the sections on Mark Berry make it clear just what this 'intellectual' gets up to.


Mark Berry is the true believer - true believers often have a fanatical belief in falsities. From time to time, he publishes a tweet on one of his specialities, intellectual history. Because Mark Berry is a Marxist and Hegel influenced Marx, Mark Berry in the tweet quoted next decides that out of all the outstanding European thinkers, Hegel is the greatest of all. He has a belief in Hegel rather than a view of Hegel which takes note of the difficulties. He writes,


George Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel was born 250 years ago today. It is no exaggeration to say that his was the greatest mind in modern European history. It is certainly no exaggeration to say that study of his philosophy changed my life forever ...

Without Hegel, no Marx. Without Hegel, no Wagner, at least not as we know him (however much he tried to downplay this.) I could go on, but for better or worse: without Hegel, no me.

To summarize: without Hegel, no Marx, Wagner or Mark Berry.

The Phenomenology of Spirit may well therefore be the most revolutionary book yet written.


The philosopher Schopenhauer, cited quite often in Mark Berry's academic works, had a different view of Hegel:


'Hegel, installed from above, by the powers that be, as the certified Great Philosopher, was a flat-headed, insipid, nauseating, illiterate charlatan, who reached the pinnacle of audacity in scribbling together and dishing up the craziest mystifying nonsense. This nonsense has been noisily proclaimed as immortal wisdom by mercenary followers and readily accepted as such by all fools, who thus joined into as perfect a chorus of admiration as had ever been heard before. The extensive field of spiritual influence with which Hegel was furnished by those in power has enabled him to achieve the intellectual corruption of a whole generation.'


Of course, Hegel wasn't 'illiterate' and his philosophy deserves to be studied, and discussed in a very different tone - but Mark Berry's praise for Hegel here is excessive. He writes about Hegel in more detail on his 'Boulezian' blog but without giving convincing evidence for these claims.


Hegel, together with Marx (and Plato), is discussed at length in Karl Popper's 'The Open Society and its Enemies.'  I provide evidence in these sections that Mark Berry is an enemy of 'The Open Society.'



Review of a performance by Mark Berry and his Band


 I'm not referring to a musical performance but to a form of behaviour. The band isn't a band with instruments but Mark Berry's Band of Sycophants, supported by near-sycophants and non-sycopmants. The evidence comes from Mark Berry's twitter page - where else? I have to thank Br Berry and his contributors for providing this further evidence of stupidity, in the concise and convenient form which Twitter makes readily available in such large quantities. I recognize, of, course, that there are Twitter pages which are much more rewarding than the Twitter pages of Mark Berry, Royal Holloway musicologist. Mark Berry was unwise to quote this on his Twitter page, Mark Stephenson's opinion of me, based on slight and slender evidence non-existent evidence:


Mark Stephenson@MarkSteph001

'God, how awful. These people really are nasty and pointless.'


Mark Stephenson is 'a qualified social worker.' According to the organization's Website,


he's  an associate at 'Nurture Development. He hasn't been an Associate for quite a time. The claim on Mark Stephenson's  'Soundingboard' Website that he's a Co-Director of 'Tiny Spark Projects' is false. As he will know, the Company was dissolved on 10/03/15.


He may share the ideals of Nurture Development - how about his practice?


According to the Nurture Develompent Website,


'At Nurture Development we recognise the value of a good conversation.

'We see ourselves first and foremost as conversation partners – helping to facilitate and precipitate meaningful conversations firstly between citizens within communities, and secondly between communities and the agencies that serve them ... '


Did he think that calling someone 'nasty and pointless' is an example of 'a good conversation?' I'm one citizen of a community and Mark Stephenson is another citizen. Did Mark Stephenson, Associate of 'Nurture Development,' really think that calling me 'nasty and pointless' is 'to facilitate and precipitate meaningful conversations ... between citizens within communities'? Can he provide any evidence for the claim that I'm 'nasty and pointless?'


I phoned him to bring these matters to his attention. After a short time, he put the phone down. I phoned him again, giving him the chance to defend his actions, whilst I simply listened. He became obviously embarrassed and flustered - only my own opinion, of course - and again he put the phone down, unless there's another explanation for the loss of the phone signal. He seemed not in the least interested in having ,a good conversation,, a meaningful conversation.'


Before I phoned him, Mark Stephenson's twitter page was freely available. Later in the day, I found this: 'Only approved followers can see @MarkSteph001’s Tweets.' I draw my own conclusions.


Another opinion of a member of the band which Mark Berry quoted on his Twitter page:


'Minjaš Žugić (replying to @boulezian) wrote


'Haaaaahahahaha! Do you actually give a fuck???? lol' '

I think I've only seen one other tweet of Mark Berry's which has attracted so many responses, from people eager to show their approval of Dr Berry and their admiration for Dr Berry. (I don't claim that all the people who responded are sycophantic.)They responded to his adverse comments on me, some of them, with a warmth which must surely have reassured him and reinforced his view that he's somebody whose opinion counts. A liking for approval is one thing, to make so much of it may well be mistaken. Mark Berry quoted one of his adamirers, Dr David Vernon, in another place on his Twitter page:


'Thrilled and delighted that Mark's reviews are back. Like sipping Bruichladdich single malt after months in the desert ... '


Until a few months ago, I'd only glanced at Mark Berry's twitter page once or twice. It had taken up seconds of my time rather than hours. When, eventually, I took a little more time to read some of the tweets and retweets, I found ones to do with me. I was surprised but not concerned and I left it at that. In the intervening time, I had more important things to occupy me. The summer and early autumn growing season has been a very busy time for me for many years and this year is no exception. I haven't recorded in any detail the activities for this year, but the pages on this site concerned with growing and gardening give some idea of my activities in previous years. I've also been busy implementing my new designs for hydraulic machinery, and with activities to do with woodworking and metal-working. And so much else, including listening and thinking about music. I've made additions to the material on this site which are significant for me, to give one example, constructive criticism of the blog 'Conservative Woman.'


Mark Berry wrote,


'Well, this is nice. I have found a website [this website, of course] devoted to bizarre attacks not just on me, but on many others.'


He quoted a paragraph from the next section, 'Archived: Dr Mark Berry (Cambridge and Royal Holloway) which hasn't been revised or extended for a long time - the text (and images) of the archived section below are the text and images he will have seen before he generated his tweets.


He goes on to write this:


'This page is entitled Cambridge University: excellence, mediocrity, stupidity. (I left my post at Cambridge a little over ten years ago.)'


If he wanted to give the impression that I mistakenly believed he was still  at Cambridge, I stated in the section he will have seen that he left Cambridge to take up a post at Royal Holloway in 2009. I wrote, 'Mark Berry read History at the University of Cambridge, continuing there to study for an MPhil and PhD, before being elected in 2001 as a Fellow of Peterhouse, where he remained until 2009, upon his appointment as Lecturer in Music at Royal Holloway.' Mark Berry's Cambridge education fully justifies his inclusion on this page. The tweets of Mark Berry quoted on this page are evidence that a Cambridge education is no guarantee that someone can be left in a state of abysmal ignorance.


A brief look at the Home Page of the site, shows that polemics are one theme among many, many others. Does Dr Berry include my criticism of Priyamvada Gopal in these alleged 'bizarre attacks?' I provide evidence in the section Dr Priyamvada Gopal on protest and Iran. It follows directly after these sections on Mark Berry, in this column. Unlike Mark Berry, I provide evidence and argument in every case when I criticize people in the profiles on this page and the other polemical pages.


Priyamvada Gopal, like Mark Berry, supports what could be called 'unidirectional criticism,' the view that they are free to criticize but can't be criticized themselves. Mark Berry retweeted Priyamvada Gopal's


'Signs of Fascism: a partial Checklist'


which included this


'Reliance on propaganda and disinformation'


and this


'Attacks on universities and intellectuals.'


We're supposed to accept that Priyamvada Gopal and Mark Berry never make use of propaganda and that intellectuals in universities - such as Priyamvada Gopal and Mark Berry - never engage in attacks themselves but are always the innocent victims.


The section 'Dr Priyamvada Gopal on protest and Iran' and 'Dr Priyamvada Gopal's Rules of Etiquette' which follow the sections on Mark Berry in this column of the page gives examples of the kind of propaganda and disinformation engaged in by the self-indulgent Priyamvada Gopal. If criticism of this 'university intellectual,' criticism of her statements on Iran is one of the signs of a fascist, then basic remedial work on the history of fascism might be in order.


I can't claim that Mark Berry's comments on me in his tweets were anything like as vitriolic and venomous as many - very many - of his tweets on some other targets of his. He never even claimed that I'm a Nazi, a fascist, a racist! His sycophants, near-sycophants and non-sycophants were reasonably restrained, most of them, but not all. All of them seem to have looked no further than Mark Berry's tweets before operating the keys on the keyboard.


Mark Stephenson@MarkSteph001 wrote in connection with me,


'God, how awful. These people really are nasty and pointless.'


Minjaš Žugić (replying to @boulezian) wrote


'Haaaaahahahaha! Do you actually give a fuck???? lol'

Mark Berry replied,

'I think I'll live...'

Minjaš Žugić retweeted Mark Berry's idotic tweet.

'Jeremy Corbyn should now rank his top 100 media liars and sue every one of them.'

This pleasant exchange of views took place when there wasn't that much on Mark Berry on this page, or not nearly as much as there is now  - just the archived material in the section which follows this one.


If he shares the news on his Twitter page that there's more now, I wonder if he'll receive the same kind of support, from a large number of people? Will Minjaš Žugić still be ready to write,


'Haaaaahahahaha! Do you actually give a fuck???? lol'


or something similar? Will Mark Berry still write,


' I think I'll live...'


or something similar?


Will Mark Berry leave his tweets, unchanged, or will he self-censor? Will he take the view that his views, as expressed, are ones he can support unreservedly, and that he will leave his tweets unchanged, or will he self-censor?


Stephen James Lally wrote, in connection with the paragraph quoted out of context,


'Can we have a moment for how appallingly written this paragraph is. I'm almost entirely certain many of these sentences were randomly generated by some kind of Word Fruit Machine.'


Obviously, he's completely mistaken: none of the sentences were randomly generated by some kind of Word Fruit Machine. Obviously, I don't even own or have access to 'some kind of Word Fruit Machine.'


The criticism of Mark Berry which Mark Berry will have seen was much more limited in scope than the material now. The next section gives it, in exactly the form made available then. It hasn't been revised or extended since then.


'Bizarre attacks:' evidence available to Dr Berry


This is the material which for a long time was the only material on Mark Berry on the site. It's material which was available to Mark Berry when he wrote about me on his twitter page. At the time he wrote, there were no other sections on Mark Berry. He wrote,


'Well, this is nice. I have found a website [this website, of course] devoted to bizarre attacks not just on me, but on many others.'


Almost all the material on this page , including this archived section but not the newer sections on Mark Berry - is the same now as it was when Mark Berry wrote about me on his twitter page. Owing to all the other demands on my time, I left it unrevised. In the section above, 'Review of a performance by Mark Berry and his band,' I discuss Mark Berry's comments on me,  made when he had access to the material of this section. Almost all of the material on this page is the same now as it was then. He will have found a section on Priyamvada Gopal, still on this page, which contains criticism of Priyamvada Gopal for, amongst other things, making excuses for Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who approved of stoning to death and allowed men and women to be stoned to death when he was President. The section on Pryamvada Gopal, now a Professor at  Cambridge University follows later in this column.



This is the archived, unrevised material on Dr Mark Berry which he will have seen, unless he made his comments without bothering to look at it, let alone read any of it (or he may have read the section and found that amongst other things it contains strong criticism of Jeremy Corbyn:

In preparation for the discussion of Dr Mark Berry and the Nazis which comes later, some images:



The last Jew in Vinnitsar, 1941



Einsatzgruppe (mobile killing unit) killing Poles, October 1939


Einsatzgruppe in an unidentified location



Member of Einsatzgruppe about to shoot woman and her child, Ivanhorod, Ukraine, 1942


The historian Raul Hilberg  estimates that between 1941 and 1945 the Einsatzgruppen, with their auxiliary troops, killed more than two million people, including 1.3 million of the Jews killed during the Holocaust.


Dr Berry was educated at Cambridge and taught at Cambridge before moving to Royal Holloway, University of London, where he remains. I'm not in the least danger of overlooking the strengths of the music department of Royal Holloway. This isn't a department I know at all well - but well enough to know that there's achievement in the department which is outstanding, more than enough by far to attract strong undergraduate and postgraduate students and strong applicants for posts in the department. Apart from these very significant strengths, Royal Holloway has the great advantage of being based in London, of course, with opportunities to hear live music which are vastly greater than those in Cambridge.


I don't overlook the strengths of Mark Berry. I'm not familiar with any of his published works. My musical interests are extensive but not extensive enough. I've no interest in Wagner, for instance, a prominent figure in his publications. Although I find his twitter output contemptible - the small part of his output which I've read - I turn to Mark Berry's music blog Boulezian very often, and appreciatively:  I'm under the great disadvantage that almost always, he comments on live performances which he has attended. I live a long distance from London and never attend concerts or any other events in London, but he often discusses concerts further away, in Berlin, Vienna, Salzburg and other venues. I couldn't possibly find the time. Travelling  to London and those other venues is out of the question.

If I'm told that Mark Berry is unfailingly courteous to everyone he comes into contact with at Royal Holloway, his students, his colleagues, the staff, including the porters (unlike, to give just one not so random example, Dr Priyamvada Gopal) then I can well believe it, I can well believe that he has many other pleasant, in fact admirable traits - but I'd claim that his stupidity is yet another facet of his personality. I'll come to the evidence very quickly - evidence not just of stupidity but abysmal ignorance. I don't think I'm overstating my case in the least.


The grotesque contradictions which are possible - commonplace -  in human personality are very much in evidence in this case.

This is a record of his academic achievement and the Cambridge connection from the page of the Royal Holloway site:


'Research interests

Mark Berry read History at the University of Cambridge, continuing there to study for an MPhil and PhD, before being elected in 2001 as a Fellow of Peterhouse, where he remained until 2009, upon his appointment as Lecturer in Music at Royal Holloway. In Cambridge, he was a Research Fellow at Peterhouse, a Temporary Assistant Lecturer in Modern European History, a British Academy Postdoctoral Fellow, and a Leverhulme Early Career Fellow. He has lectured on subjects ranging from political culture at Louis XIV’s Versailles to European Marxism and music after 1945. His research has tended to draw upon his interests in both History and Music, as well as upon other disciplines, such as Philosophy, Theology, Art and Architectural History, and Literature. Treacherous Bonds and Laughing Fire: Politics and Religion in Wagner’s ‘Ring’ was published by Ashgate in 2006. For his work on Wagner he has received the Prince Consort Prize and the Seeley Medal. He has recently written a number of articles for the Cambridge Wagner Encyclopaedia, published in 2013; they range from short biographical pieces to essays on topics such as 'German History', 'Morality', and 'Politics'. Dr Berry is also co-editor with Professor Nicholas Vazsonyi of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Wagner's 'Der Ring des Nibelungen'.'


As in the case of so many others, Twitter has been his undoing, or should be his undoing, if there's any justice.


I'd looked at a few of his Twitter writings already. When I looked at more of the things, many more, more than enough for me, I found them predictable - as with Priyamvada Gopal's twitter presence - but very soon I found things that weren't predictable. Knowing that he has an academic background in history and a consuming interest in German culture, I never expected to find such things as these:


'If the Spectator weren't a cesspit of unabashed Nazism, it might even be funny. Thank goodness I can't read this stuff.'


Knowing his academic background in history, this was a shock. I've no time at all for people sharing my scepticism about some aspects of feminism - to put it tactfully - who refer to feminists as 'feminazis.' My page on feminist ideology has a section in which I criticize some anti-feminists. To compare writers for The Spectator with Nazis is hideous, contemptible, childish but utterly different from the childlike state. I'm a subscriber to The Spectator. I don't feel personally affronted in the least, but I loathe this misuse of language, using the same word to refer to such poles of experience, and I loathe its casual indifference to human values.


If Mark Berry thinks that The Spectator is Britain's equivalent of a Nazi publication then he lives in a deluded fantasy world. The best known Nazi publication was 'Der Stürmer, edited by the vile Julius Streicher. This is an image of a page of the 1934  special issue, which is supposed to  show Jews extracting blood from Christian children for use in religious rituals - the so-called 'blood libel' against Jews.) As early as 1933, Streicher was calling for the extermination of the Jews in Der Stürmer.



'Thank goodness I can't read this stuff,' he says, of the articles in 'The Spectator.' Condemning before reading - what a pitiful example to put before his students. What an anti-advertisement for the Cambridge University History Faculty - except that I've reason to think very highly of the History Faculty, although I do have to make allowances for the exceptions, the ones who do the History Faculty no credit, at least in part. I hope before too long to give my reasons for my appreciation.


He may not have given any thought to the possibility, but people who are thinking of applying to the Music Department of Royal Holloway as undergraduate or graduate students may well carry out an internet search first and it's perfectly possible that they may find the material here.


[This next paragraph was quoted, in isolation, without reference to the context of the complete section, by Mark Berry in his twitter criticism of me:


Despite studying history at a 'World Class University' Mark Berry has managed the feat of sounding like a moron - a moron of a higher grade, at least in one or two aspects of English grammar and vocabulary - in the sentence of his quoted above, he uses a subjunctive and the word 'unabashed' isn't common among morons - but there again, there are Uneducated Morons and Educated Morons (Dr Berry belongs to neither group) as well as people who are moronic in part and sophisticated, intelligent and skilful in part. (This is to simplify - the baffling mixture of traits can be very complex.) I'd claim that Dr Berry belongs to this group, like one of the formative musicians in his musical development, Wagner, except that the moronic ingredient in Wagner's make-up was very small or non-existent. This, obviously, is no place to develop the linkages and the much more evident contrasts between the two.]

After saying 'Thank goodness I can't read this stuff, he gives the titles of the articles, with images in the original twitter account. These are the titles of The Spectator articles.


Piers Morgan: why, as a former Remainer, I'd now back Leave.


In what possible way was Nick Boles ever a conservative? (Rod Liddle)


Men are playing with fire by having drunken sex. (Chris Dow QC)


If there's no deal, there's no Brexit. (James Forsyth)


Johnny Mercer: the Tories would be wiped out in a snap election (Katy Balls)


Listen: Jacob Rees-Mogg vs the Today programme.


Mark Berry's twitter also gives us Mark Berry's attitude to Jacob Rees-Mogg, who had written, 'If a long extension leaves us stick in the EU we should be as difficult as possible. We could veto any increase in the budget, obstruct the putative EU army and block Mr Macron's integrationist schemes.'


This is how Mark Berry responds:


'A Nazi throws the toys out of his pram. No one cares. We're coming for your hedge funds, Jake.' He had absolutely no reason to call Jacob Rees-Mogg - except, of course, as a way of gaining the approval of people who think like him, or something like him - people who are hugely pleased, or mildly pleased, when they hear some completely unoriginal, worn-out, and deranged bit of rubbish which corresponds with something in their personality which is unoriginal, worn-out and deranged.


I don't discuss here in any detail his antipathy to Israel and his evident conviction that Israel is an oppressive state. The issues are discussed in various places on this page and, far more extensively, on my page 'Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology.'


He was one of a large number of signatories listed, with explanatory material, on the page

The explanatory material, which includes this link


Government and Zionists combine to disrupt Israeli Apartheid Week.

is grossly biased and misleading. The central objection was to the request made by the Higher Education Minister, Jo Johnson, to Universities UK with the the suggestion that the universities seek to ban events in Israel Apartheid Week.


The next section Boycotting, BDS, 'Apartheid' Israel and the duty of care includes a long extract from The Goldstone Report and 'Apartheid' Israel and further comments on Academic Signing and Academic Signers of anti-Israel-pro-Palestinian Statements. It includes very critical comments on academics who have similarities with him, allowing for the obvious differences, such as interest in Wagner. The illustrative examples of Signers are from Manchester University, not Cambridge. See also my extensive page Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology.

He signed the so-called 'Commitment by UK scholars to Human Rights in Palestine,' a call to boycott Israeli institutions, but not individual Israeli scholars.


The 'Commitment' is organized by Tom Hickey and Jonathan Rosenhead. Tom Hickey is prominent in the Trotskyist Socialist Workers' Party. The evidence that the policies of the Socialist Workers' Party are deranged is overwhelming. This is the Socialist Workers' Party on the Holocaust: '…thousands of LGBT people, trade unionists and disabled people were slaughtered… ' Overlooking the slaughter of the Jews is more than a minor oversight.


In my personal experience - I heard him speak one forgettable dismal evening - Jonathan Rosenhead isn't so much deranged as opaque in his understanding. He's not so much inscrutable as hardly worth the effort to scrutinize. There's a short profile of him in my page on Israel. A profile which was any longer would be a waste of my time.


Jonathan Rosenhead has similarities with Dick Pitt, also one of the signatories. He too has a profile in my page on Israel, a longer one. It includes this:


'Dick Pitt is a dim blogger with a dismal blog which is hosted by the dire Website of Sheffield Palestine Solidarity Campaign. 'Dim' refers to his capacity to enlighten in his blog, in his role as a fixture of the Palestine Solidarity Campaign. He's a low-wattage would be enlightener or rather no-wattage would-be enlightener, with all the power of a dead firefly. He's not dim academically.'


Jonathan Rosenhead has worked with another serial signer of anti-Israel statements, Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi, who

is a tireless campaigner against parking fines as well as a tireless campaigner against the state of Israel and yet another Serial Signer. She took part in disruption of a Proms concert when the Israel Philharmonic Orchestra was playing. She once chained herself to some railings as a protest against a fine. She only has the tirelessness of unending misdirected effort. She's a tired, stale, predictable person, capable of mechanically using phrases like 'Apartheid Israel ' but not of making scrupulous distinctions, or carrying out a wide and compassionate ((survey)).


Mark Berry's 'Boulezian' blog has an account of the disruption of the Jerusalem Quartet's concert at the Wigmore Hall by anti-Israel protestors. His bewilderment is obvious, but what stopped him from objecting publicly to this disruption - timidity? Why did he sit there and do nothing? Can it be that the confidence he displays almost always on Twitter failed him? If he thinks that the protest was justifiable, then he can try defending the protestors and defending himself. The protest was organized by Tony Greenstein. Deborah Fink was one of the protestors. There's more about these two feeble people in the section of my page on Israel 'Assorted grotesques:'


Deborah Fink:



Film of Deborah Fink's deranged reaction after being ejected from the Sadler's Wells Theatre for disruption of a performance, by the young people of the Israeli Batsheva Ensemble.

She posted this comment on an anti-Zionist weblog: 'Israel does not deserve to be called ‘The Jewish state.’ It should be called ‘The Satanic state.'

Compare this statement of Deborah Fink with some statements of the former President of Iran,  Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.

He predicted that Muslims would uproot 'satanic powers' and reaffirmed his prediction that the Jewish state will soon be wiped off the map, the Agence France-Presse news agency reported.

'I must announce that the Zionist regime (Israel), with a 60-year record of genocide, plunder, invasion and betrayal is about to die and will soon be erased from the geographical scene.' 

'Today, the time for the fall of the satanic power of the United States has come and the countdown to the annihilation of the emperor of power and wealth has started.' 

The site Harry's Place gives this interesting discussion of Tony Greenstein. It quotes Oliver Kamm:

'Tony Greenstein, is himself a political crank of the first order. I had a brush with him in the 1980s when he came to speak to my university Labour Club on behalf of his Labour Movement Campaign for Palestine. His views on terrorism ensured that a motion to affiliate to his organisation received only two votes in favour. A little while later he distinguished himself by writing in outrage to the far-Left London Labour Briefing complaining that it had praised Mrs Thatcher’s courage in defying the Brighton bombers ...'

'Tony Greenstein's response included this: 'The attack on Thatcher by the IRA was obviously legitimate. She was a military target.' Obviously legitimate to eliminate the Prime Minister of a democracy? You've got a lot to learn! Tony Greenstein has been described as an 'ignoramus.' This seems exceptionally generous.

Harry's Place points out that when he visited Syria, the visit was paid for by the Palestine Liberation Organisation, and that he was involved in previous disruption of Israeli music-making, the disruption of the Jerusalem Quartet's concert at the Wigmore Hall.

It goes on to comment, 'But of course, it is not just boycotting Israel that will satisfy Greenstein. He admitted in a letter to Weekly Worker that his revolutionary aim is ”Yes, I want the state of Israel to be destroyed.' On the holocaust, he argued that “without a Zionist movement... it is hard to believe that anything like 6 million would have been allowed to die.”

He isn't popular in some radical left circles, either (which, for the record, aren't circles I very often frequent.) This is from 'Lies, Damn Lies and Tony Greenstein:' by Daniel Randall and Sacha Ismail of the AWL (the Alliance for Workers' Liberty,


They write of him ''attacking the AWL in characteristic terms, even though he knew this would harm the coalition of which he himself was part. This sort of behaviour is illustrative of Tony’s general approach – not rational, worked-out criticism but frenzied slander. His diatribe in What Next? [‘The Alliance for Workers’ Liberty – Britain’s Revolutionary Imperialists’] is no different. It is embarrassing in its lack of rigour, in the way it substitutes anecdotal slander for political critique, and in its use of blatant lies, distortions and half-truths.'


I've read only a fraction of Mark Berry's twitter output, but the part I've read is, to me ' embarrassing in its lack of rigour, in the way it substitutes anecdotal slander for political critique, and in its use of blatant lies, distortions and half-truths.'

The literary critic F R Leavis wrote of the poet Edith Sitwell and her brothers (in 'New Bearings in English Poetry'): ' ... the Sitwells belong to the history of publicity rather than poetry.' The disruption of the Proms concert by Naomi Wimborne-Idrissi and the others belongs to the history of exhibitionism rather than authentic struggle. It's no more likely to lessen in the slightest the intractable problems of the Middle East than her parking protest. All those anti-Israel statements signed by Mark Berry and the rest aren't likely to have the slightest effect on the intractable problems of the Middle East.


If they had the courage of their convictions - but they don't, of course - these anti-Israel signers could publish a new Statement which would set out one of their convictions, the central conviction, in fact, without any evasion - something on these lines. I only give the first part of the draft Statement,


'We, the undersigned, sign this Statement out of deep conviction . We are convinced that Israel is the worst nation in the world. Criticisms have been made of Iran, China [other examples follow] but none of these countries show anything like the barbarity of Israel ... '


Dr Mark Berry (Royal Holloway, University of London
Dr Priyamvada Gopal (Churchill College, Cambridge)
Deborah Fink (Soprano and singing teacher)
Tony Greenstein (Activist)


and 1000 others.


When Mark Berry comes to criticize Priti Patel MP, he  doesn't, perhaps surprisingly, call Priti Patel a Nazi!


She writes, of Jeremy Corbyn: 'A man who sides with terrorists and socialist dictators, would surrender our nuclear deterrent, has let anti-Semitism run rife in his Party and would bankrupt Britain has now been given the keys to Brexit.'


He responds, 'Have reported this tweet. Please consider doing likewise.'


We can be grateful that  Mark Berry is only an ineffectual would-be censor of Twitter opinions he disagrees with, and not someone who will ever have the power to stamp them out.


One of the reasons why the study of history is so important and so valuable, I think, is that, despite all the problems of interpretation and use of evidence in historical study, again and again the study of history reveals harsh facts, facts which can't be easily denied or evaded, even if ideologists do deny them or attempt to evade them, facts which so often falsify the claims of ideologists, just as empirical evidence may falsify a scientific theory - without overlooking the contrasts.


The factual background, far too extensive to be adequately cited here or  discussed here - in fact, all I do is mention it here - surely tends to corroborate the view of Priti Patel. By contrast, Mark Berry is surely in a state of denial. Since twitter is a hopelessly inadequate means of explaining his view and defending his view, he needs to do just that in a place which does give him the space he needs to do that - and similarly for so many of the grossly distorted views he puts forward on Twitter.


As regards terrorism, is Mark Berry aware that Jeremy Corbyn has admitted his own mistakes?


'Jeremy Corbyn has told MPs investigating accusations of antisemitism in the Labour party that he regrets once calling members of Hamas and Hezbollah “friends” ... Asked whether he still regarded Hamas and Hezbollah as “friends”, the Labour leader said: “No. It was inclusive language I used which with hindsight I would rather not have used. I regret using those words, of course.” '


This is from the left-wing site 'Left Foot Forward,' published in 2015, before Jeremy Corbyn was elected as leader of the Labour Party (see the section Mary Beard and Cambridge Classics which gives Mary Beard's view of Jeremy Corbyn in the same year.)


' ... you won’t get my vote.

'You won’t get it because Labour’s best traditions also include anti-fascism and internationalism while your support – to me, inexplicable and shameful –  for the fascistic and antisemitic forces of Hezbollah and Hamas flies in the face of those traditions. In particular, your full-throated cheer-leading for the vicious antisemitic Islamist Raed Salah is a deal-breaker.

'Why did you lend your support to Raed Salah? No, he is not a ‘critic of Israel’, but a straight-up Jew hater.


'You said in 2012, ‘Salah is far from a dangerous man’, even though the left-wing, anti-Netanyahu Israeli newspaper of record, Ha’aretz, reported  that Salah was first charged with inciting anti-Jewish racism and violence in January 2008.

You said ‘Salah is a very honoured citizen’, even though Salah was found guilty  of spreading the blood libel – the classic antisemitic slander that Jews use the blood of gentile children to make their bread. He did so during a speech on 16 February 2007 in the East Jerusalem neighbourhood of Wadi Joz.

'I mean, just listen to Salah: ‘We have never allowed ourselves to knead [the dough for] the bread that breaks the fast in the holy month of Ramadan with children’s blood’, he said. ‘Whoever wants a more thorough explanation, let him ask what used to happen to some children in Europe, whose blood was mixed in with the dough of the holy bread.’ (The UK Appeal Court decided  that ‘We do not find this comment could be taken to be anything other than a reference to the blood libel against Jews.’ It also decided that this would ‘offend and distress Israeli Jews and the wider Jewish community.’)

'You said:  ‘Salah represents his people extremely well’, even though after the 9/11 terrorist attacks Salah wrote this in the October 5, 2001 issue of the weekly Sawt al-Haq w’al-Huriyya (Voice of Justice and Freedom): ‘A suitable way was found to warn the 4,000 Jews who work every day at the Twin Towers to be absent from their work on September 11, 2001, and this is really what happened! Were 4,000 Jewish clerks absent [from their jobs] by chance, or was there another reason? At the same time, no such warning reached the 2,000 Muslims who worked every day in the Twin Towers, and therefore there were hundreds of Muslim victims.’

'You said  ‘Salah’s is a voice that must be heard’ even though he has called homosexuality a ‘great crime’ and recently [preached that ‘Jerusalem will soon become the capital of the global caliphate’ which will ‘spread justice throughout the land after it was filled with injustice by America, the Zionist enterprise, the Batiniyya, reactionism, Paganism and the Crusaders.’ i.e. everyone who does not follow his brand of Sunni Islam.

'You said  ‘I look forward to giving you tea on the terrace because you deserve it!’, even though the Islamic Movement [the northern branch of which Salah heads] has eulogised Osama bin Laden and Salah has incited Muslims against Jews by writing incendiary lies such as this: ‘The unique mover wanted to carry out the bombings in Washington and New York in order to provide the Israeli establishment with a way out of its entanglements.’ Who do you think he meant by ‘the unique mover’?

'Why is that kind of conspiratorial antisemitism, dripping with threat and menace, worthy of tea on the terrace?

And it isn’t just a problem with Salah, is it? You said it was ‘my pleasure and my honour’ to host ‘our friends from Hezbollah and our friends from Hamas’ in the Commons.


'Why do you not care that the Hamas Charter states  that ‘Islam will obliterate Israel’ and enjoins all good Muslims to kill Jews, whom it blames for all the wars and revolutions in classic antisemitic fashion?

'Why don’t you challenge your ‘friends in Hamas’ about the inclusion in their Charter of this canonical Hadith: ‘The Day of Judgment will not come about until Muslims fight the Jews (killing the Jews), when the Jew will hide behind stones and trees. The stones and trees will say O Muslims, O Abdullah, there is a Jew behind me, come and kill him.’

'And why are Hezbollah your friends? They are an antisemitic Islamist goose-stepping ‘Party of God’ who persecute (and assassinate) liberals and democrats in Lebanon whenever they can. The Hezbollah leader Sheikh Hassan Nasrallah said ‘If Jews all gather in Israel, it will save us the trouble of going after them worldwide.’ (NY Times, May 23, 2004, p. 15, section 2, column 1.)  Your ‘friends’ were enthusiastically slaughtering Syrian civilians on behalf of the Assad regime long before  ISIS or Jabhat Al-Nusra joined the fray.'


Does Jeremy Corbyn side with socialist dictators? Some, at least. It does seem so. In fact, the evidence is overwhelming. These sources, of course, do need to be supplemented with others:


1) Jeremy Corbyn, March 2013


Corbyn tweeted on Hugo Chavez’s death: “Thanks Hugo Chavez for showing that the poor matter and wealth can be shared. He made massive contributions to Venezuela & a very wide world.”

We shouldn’t be surprised at Corbyn praising the legacy of Chavez, or indeed citing his politics as a model to be replicated, but we should certainly be concerned at Corbyn’s tenuous grasp of history. Ricardo Hausmann, Harvard economist and former Venezeulan Government Minister gives a pretty comprehensive account of the irreparable damage Chavez did to the Venezuelan economy, and how he created the conditions that allowed Maduro to thrive: changing the constitution to consolidate presidential power, expropriation of the economy and the incredible mismanagement of Venezuelan oil that created the conditions for the implosion in 2014.

2) Jeremy Corbyn, March 2013 (again)
Jeremy Corbyn delivered a speech after Chavez’s death and said: “In Chavez let’s remember someone who stood up, was counted, was inspiring, is inspiring, and in his death we will march on to that better, just, peaceful and hopeful world.”

3) Jeremy Corbyn, 2014

In 2014 Jeremy Corbyn rang President Maduro, already on his way to further entrench presidential power, live on a Venezuelan television broadcast to congratulate his electoral success. Maduro introduced Corbyn as a ‘friend of Venezuela.’

Jo Cox’s widower accuses Corbyn of ‘defending a dictator’ over Venezuela views “The future of Venezuela has been taken out of the hands of Venezuelans by an increasingly corrupt and totalitarian state.

“By all means call for dialogue but if you don’t strongly condemn the subjugation of democracy it sounds like you are defending a dictator.”

My own education included  no instruction in music theory - harmony, counterpoint and other branches - and no instruction in music whatsoever, except for a very short period. To anticipate the brief background information which will be needed to declare my own musical interests and other musical limitations, I've no interest in the music of Wagner, so I can't discuss any of Dr Berry's articles on the composer and performances of his works. On the other hand, I share his interest in Mozart, amongst other composers.


I began learning the cello at the age of 18, far too late ever to become a good player, and was a cellist in string quartets and orchestras. In my thirties, I began to learn the violin, again, far too late ever to become a good player, and later on the viola. The extensions needed in cello technique didn't suit my hand - this was a main reason for changing.


In 2018, the composer Philip Venables contacted me to ask if I was willing to have a text I'd written used in his violin concerto which was due to receive its world premiere in the Proms Season that year. He uses texts often in his works. I agreed, and the composition, with texts, was performed at the Royal Albert Hall (Prom 47.) The concerto was a tribute to the Hungarian violinist Rudolf Botta, who came to this country after the Hungarian uprising. Rudolf Botta heard Philip Venables play, and a recording exists of the episode. I was one of Rudolf Botta's pupils.


The text of mine which Philip Venables used came from my page Bullfighting: arguments against and action against:


'The technique of bullfighting, such as the action of the wrists, is surely not nearly as subtle, intricate and complex as the technique of a developed skill such as violin playing, which makes extraordinary demands on neuro-muscular co-ordination, not just of the fingers and hand but the shoulder, arm, elbow and wrist, requiring intense, arduous and protracted study.'


Why do I give so much space to Mark Berry?


Why do I devote such space to Mark Berry (full name, for the purposes of this page, to avoid any chance of confusing this Mark Berry with other people with the same name, 'the Cambridge University educated and Royal Holloway employee in the Department of Music and  Gender Institute Dr Mark Berry.' 

Why do I give so much space to this dismal person? (in his role as pontificator). Because there are many people like him, and people who have his boundless confidence in his pronouncements but lack any obvious strengths, such as the residual strengths he has in music. Very important issues are raised, ones to do with ethics, democratic politics and the antics of anti-political fanatics, ideology, ideology and competence, and many more. It's the issues which are the most important thing but discussions of issues which take no note of particular people, the baffling mixture of strength and weakness to be found in people, are often doomed to irrelevance, they miss so much. Commentators on political and cultural issues - and other issues - should share with novelists an interest in people.


Royal Holloway Music Department: mistakes


For the time being, the next section contains only the subtitles - automatically generated, I'm sure - from a video on the Royal Holloway Department of Music page, without my comments and criticisms. It raises many issues, I think. Anyone who looks up the page will find his identity, so I may as well name him - Dr Henry Stobart - but I've no wish to cause him personal embarrassment. I'm discussing one aspect, I'm giving one single example only. I'm not making a wide-ranging criticism of Dr Stobart or of the Royal Holloway Music Department. Again and again, people make the generalization mistake, unfair and unwarranted criticism of a whole - a whole organization, institution, country or whatever - criticism of the whole person, not criticism of the faults of the person, without taking into account, without making allowances for, their strengths. Dr Berry does this often. I know very, very little about Dr Stobart but enough to know that in personality, he's not remotely in the same category as Dr Berry.

The address of the page (scrolling down a short distance will bring the video into view):

There's a short introduction, quoting Dr Stobart:

'It's quite fun to get students to go through the experiences of rethinking who they are, where they are in the world.'

I don't know if this academic - and the academics who chose it for prime position on the page - are familiar at all with the activity called 'revising,' which can lead to improvements in a first draft. The wording could have been less limp, more effective, after revision.

It wasn't necessary to mention the fun for the academic and qualifying the fun' - 'quite fun' - gives an impression of routine, half-hearted fun. The focus should have been on the benefits to the students.  He seems not to be aware l that thinking about the issues he mentions will demand a certain seriousness, that the difficulty shouldn't be underestimated. Musical instrumentalists and singers, the ones who hope to achieve something substantial, don't regard their activity as 'quite fun' but as very, very fulfilling but very, very demanding. Instrumentalists and singers who will remain amateurs very often have  the commitment of the musicians who hope to become professionals.

The subtitles (punctuation not supplied on the video screen or by me):

'people often think that a music degree is only about doing music and that if you study music you will end up as a musician and that's the only reason you would ever think about doing a music degree and I'd argue no a music degree is a fantastic degree because what it does it opens you up to all these types of issues to do with history to do with anthropology to do with really big complicated ethical issues which we then analyze and really think about critically you learn how to write but you also learn how to play in all songs so you end up with all these sorts of skills which I think are really important for the workplace within the department we have really excellent colleagues who work on medieval music Renaissance and Baroque music ... '

To me, 'end up as a musician' gives a wrong impression. It would have been better if it had been 'revised out.' To give examples from the music which means the most to me, by far, the instrumental music performed by symphony orchestras, string quartets and other ensembles, the vocal music performed by opera companies and the rest - the music students don't 'end up' as performers. These people aren't drifters but dedicated, with not only immense technical skills but a degree of artistry, often immense artistry. They have achieved this in the face of very great difficulties, audition after audition, disappointment after disappointment, so often, until they achieve success, and then they can never take it easy. It would have been better if the Royal Holloway Music Department had posted a video with more of the strenuous about it and less of the dilettante. The Coronavirus epidemic has had a devastating impact of professional musicians, of course. For academics, such as the academics at Royal Holloway, the impact hasn't been remotely as devastating, for the ones with tenure.

For professional musicians, the possibility of a bad review is always a possibility. Withstanding the pressures requires personal strength. The academics in the Department of Music at Royal Holloway do face pressures, many of them ludicrous and spurious, the pressure to publish, to publish even more, but they haven't, I think, had to face more general criticism .Royal Holloway (people at Royal Holloway, that is) have tried to eliminate any possibility that the academics in the Music Department are exposed to the 'contagion,' in this case the 'contagion' of criticism based on argument and evidence.

Dr Stobart has Cambridge University connections. His profile on the Music Department page gives the information that he was at St Johns College and has a PhD.  The PhD he completed at St John's College, Cambridge 'focused on the music of a Quechua speaking herding and agricultural community of Northern Potosí, Bolivia.'  This was followed by 'a research fellowship at Darwin College Cambridge.'

He refers to

''Really big complicated ethical issues which we then analyze and really think about critically
This surely belongs to what I call the 'word sphere,' the world of ringing declarations, facile claims, with no basis or next to no basis in reality. Specialist knowledge of 'a Quechua speaking herding and agricultural community of Northern Potosí, Bolivia' isn't an adequate basis for analysis and critical thought concerning 'really big complicated ethical issues' but Mark Berry, with much wider academic interests hasn't demonstrated that he's capable of critical thought about these Big Issues. The people who sell The Big Issue on the street may well have a better understanding of the issues than Mark Berry.

Dr Stobart even claims that in the Royal Holloway Department of Music

'you learn how to write'

And who are the academics who teach the students how to write, allegedly? The video doesn't give the writing of Dr Stobart but a trascription of his speaking, on one occasion only, but I would find it difficult to believe that his writing on the matters he discusses in the video would be adequate. As for the writing of Dr Berry, I give so many examples of his inadequate writing, his inadequate writing on music as well as politics (but often, a much stronger word than 'inadequate' is called for).

Dr Stobart goes on to make another claim,

'you also learn how to play in all songs so you end up with all these sorts of skills which I think are really important for the workplace'

The people who graduate with a Royal Holloway music degree and apply for jobs in the workplace, the non-musical workplace, are likely to face challenges which are very different from the ones facing the people who want to become professional instrumentalists or singers but difficult or very difficult all the same. Interviewers aren't likely to be interested in the applicant's ability 'to play in all songs.' It may be that the music department does a better job of preparing students for life outside university than the video suggests. If there's evidence, I'd be glad to receive it.  Royal Holloway Department of Music needs to take action to ensure that its graduates are seen as not just employable but as very desirable employees. If a person who applies for a job in the Civil Service agrees with Mark Berry that the civil service should strike to bring down the government, they'll have to conceal the fact. I don't think that Mark Berry has given nearly enough thought to these matters. The world of work shouldn't be the only arbiter of values, of course, far from it. Royal Holloway shouldn't be the only arbiter of values. Suppression of opinion may benefit some academic staff at Royal Holloway but doesn't benefit the reputation of Royal Holloway.

I think it was a mistake for the Music Department to include this video but of course, I don't in the least call for its removal. I don't suppose for one moment that the staff members of the department voted unanimously to give it prominence on the page. It's possible that some people have reservations about the video and its claims.

I think it was a mistake for the Music Department to include a favourable reference, a supportive slogan, 'in the context of Black Lives Matter' at the top of the main page of the department (the reference is found by clicking on the forward arrow.)

Recommended: a reading of a compelling article by Wanjiru Njoya published in 'The Critic,'

The article comes with a very brief summary of a central claim:

'Black Lives Matter are pushing division, not unity

BLM’s radical ideas, such as defunding the police, would only make the lives of black communities worse.'

A brief extract from the article:

' ... the facts of police shootings in the US do not support the “institutional racism” narrative. In the UK the hapless police are more likely to ignore or take flight from protesters than they are to throttle anyone to death, black or white. And how odd to see British protesters carrying American-inspired “Don’t shoot” placards as they march towards unarmed and outnumbered police whose response, if not to scarper, is to kneel in penitence.'


Naive academics who are members of the Royal Holloway Department of Music (I don't claim that all of them, or most of them, are naive, but I would claim that all of them, or most of them, feel they can't, in the circumstances, express anything but safe, naive views when it comes to some of the issues of our day) will find that some of their number are going to pay the penalty, such as the academics whose teaching involves the teaching of Mozart, to give one example.


Matt Griffiths, chief executive of Youth Music:

'We've seen the benefits of students exchanging Mozart for Stormzy as part of a re-imagined music curriculum.'


'Stormy,' of course, is the famous rapper whose rap music is very, very unlikely to be played and remembered centuries hence.


There are people who would claim that for a school or a university to teach or promote the music of Mozart and other white composers is to promote 'institutional racism.'


Mark Berry is deluded if he thinks that his Twitter accusations of 'racist' would be enough to establish his credentials with movements such as 'Black Lives Matter,' if they ever considered the issue. He writes about white composers, practically never black composers. His travels to Bayrouth and other places to attend performances of works by white composers would be censured, if, hypotheticall, 'Black Lives Matter' protesters ever came to power and if, hypothetically, they ever turned their attention to him. In which case it's ikely that he would face pressure to change his focus or lose his job.


Stormzy supported Jeremy Corbyn. Stormzy is a Christian. Stormzy is a multi-millionaire. According to a site which is rubbishy but has its uses,


'Stormzy net worth: Stormzy is a British rapper, singer, and songwriter who has a net worth of $25 million. He is known for being one of the most popular UK rappers.'


Many, many, musicians who supposedly represent 'white privilege' or have represented 'white privilege,' supposedly aren't nearly so fortunate, to name just one, Mozart. The reason why they haven't earned so much isn't that they happen to be far less talented than Stormzy, or far less talented than the multimillionaire (and billionaire) rappers in this list, from the page



The 30 Richest Rappers In The World 2020
Rank Name Net Worth
#30 Wiz Khalifa $60,000,000
#29 PSY $60,000,000
#28 J. Cole $60,000,000
#27 DJ Khaled $65,000,000
#26 Nas $70,000,000
#25 Rev Run $70,000,000
#24 Will.I.Am $75,000,000
#23 Kendrick Lamar $75,000,000
#22 Nicki Minaj $80,000,000
#21 Migos $80,000,000
#20 Akon $80,000,000
#19 Timbaland $85,000,000
#18 Pitbull $90,000,000
#17 Mike Diamond $90,000,000
#16 Ad-Rock $90,000,000
#15 Swizz Beatz $100,000,000
#14 Birdman $100,000,000
#13 LL Cool J $120,000,000
#12 Pharrell Williams $150,000,000
#11 Snoop Dogg $150,000,000
#10 Lil Wayne $150,000,000
#9 Ice Cube $160,000,000
#8 Usher $180,000,000
#7 Drake $180,000,000
#6 Master P $200,000,000
#5 Eminem $230,000,000
#4 Dr. Dre $820,000,000
#3 P. Diddy $885,000,000
#2 Jay-Z $1,000,000,000
#1 Kanye West $3,200,000,000
Total: $8,556,000,000
Average: $205 million


I gave  adverse material on Jeremy Corbyn in the first section on Mark Berry.


Mark Berry and Royal Holloway Music Department: updates


First update, very brief. Since I contacted him to draw attention to the sections above - they've been revised and extended since then - he seems to have been on his best behaviour. I haven't seen any Class 1 offensive tweets. Additions to his prolific progeny are fewer. The volume of tweets seems far less: a very good thing, if he keeps it up, but not from every point of view. I'd actually welcome far more Markberry tweets, provided they're on matters which he's neglected, matters about which he's silent, such as persecution of gay people in Iran and Gaza, the mass use of the death penalty in Iran, the death penalty in Gaza - and many, many more matters which he's neglected.  The material on me, discussed in the section above 'Review of a performance by Mark Berry and his band' disappeared after I contacted him. I receive the message 'Sorry, that page doesn't exist!' or a message stating that it isn't 'available' to me. Is this Mark Berry Censor and Suppressor in action again? One thing I haven't done is to trawl through the Collected Works - the Collected Twitter works, or at least the ones published this year - to find out if he's deleted any of the tweets I've quoted in the sections of this page. At all times, I've found reading his tweets dispiriting and now more than ever. I've read his tweets as a duty, not in the least for pleasure.



'The Conversation:' the good, the quite good, the not so bad, the bad, the shockingly bad


Links to other places in the page, other pages of the site and to other Websites are inside grey blocks. Clicking on the block takes you to the destination. An example (a link to another section on this page):

 Royal Holloway and freedom of expression


Other examples (links to material in this section):


List of Authors of articles (Contributors to 'The Conversation') and  Members of 'The Team' at 'The Conversation ('Leaders' or 'Editorial') discussed here. The list will be lengthened.


Chris Waiting, Chief Executive Officer of 'The Conversation'


To begin with an outline of what is surely shockingly bad action - or disastrously misguided action - on the part of Royal Holloway, a member of 'The Conversation.'

'The Conversation' is supported and financed by a large number of UK Universities and other institutions, which are either 'Founding Partners' or 'Members.' At the end of this section,

List of Founding Partners and Members of 'TheConversation'


amongst them Royal Holloway, part of London University. Dr Mark Berry is an academic at Royal Holloway. 'The Conversation' publishes articles by academics - many, many of them - and amongst the output is one by Mark Berry.


I wrote an extensive profile of Dr Berry. It appears in the column to the right. I quote many of Dr Berry's statements in the profile. (I saved copies of them, expecting him to delete them after I'd contacted him - he did.) A few examples:


'I hate this country so much.'

'The Nazi Hoey.' (A description of the former M.P.)

' ... No one will take to the streets to rid us of Johnson and his fellow fascist criminals ...'

'A cesspit of unabashed Nazism.' (A description of the Spectator magazine.)

''There aren't enough crates of fuckoffyoulyingbigotedghouls in the world to cater adequately for the Guardian. I will never buy it again if I live to be 150.' His description of The Guardian newspaper)


I didn't receive a reply from Ma

rk Berry when I contacted him. What I did receive was an email from the General Counsel of Royal Holloway, demanding that I remove from my site all material relating to Royal Holloway, a demand which raises very disturbing questions: much more detailed information and comment provided in this column, in the section which follow this section:


 Royal Holloway and freedom of expression


The material on Royal Holloway and freedom of expression was added after I'd received the demand to remove all material on Royal Holloway, of course. I ignored the demand to remove material but I sent emails to the General Counsel, the Principal and Mark Berry which made clear my attitude to this  obnoxious 'request.' I heard nothing more. I'd find it very difficult to believe that Mark Berry wasn't consulted and informed before Royal Holloway's email was sent to me. I'd find it impossible to believe that the email was sent without the authorization of the Principal of Royal Holloway,


The page where Mark Berry's article appears in 'The Conversation' also has this:


'Royal Holloway provides funding as a member of The Conversation UK.'


and this


'We believe in the free flow of information.'


Below the heading on the Home Page is this:


'Academic rigour, journalistic flair'


More on claims and objectives to be found on 'The Conversation' site later in the section, including this


'Set the standard in journalism best practice. Be open, transparent and accountable.'


I provide a long list of the universities and other institutions of higher education which provide funding to 'The Conversation.'


I've recently contacted 'The Conversation' to bring the issues to their attention.  The issues are to do with freedom of expression and the attempt made by a member of 'The Conversation UK' to suppress freedom of expression. Will 'The Conversation' comment? Will 'The Conversation' be 'open, transparent and accountable?' Does 'The Conversation' believe in the free flow of information - but not at all if a non-academic criticizes an academic? I've contacted 'The Conversation' to request answers and comment on the issues and I'll publish their answers and comment. If they decline to answer, I'll discuss the implications.


I don't quote the General Counsel's email to me because the Home Page of the site contains this,


'Emails sent to me won't be released into the public domain, including publication on this site, unless with the sender's permission.' If anyone wants to criticize me and the site by email, I want to give the opportunity to do it without any chance of the email being quoted. In the case of the issues raised here, I have to modify the policy now. If Royal Holloway or 'The Conversation' emails me about these issues to do with free expression, then I'll publish the content of the emails here. Any emails sent to me by Dr Berry won't be disclosed.


I also brought the material to the attention of Universities UK. More information in the section below


Universities UK and freedom of expression


More information on 'The Conversation.' From the article published in The Guardian, 'Andrew Jaspan quits the Conversation after months of turmoil.'


'The founder of the Conversation, Andrew Jaspan, has resigned from the academic publishing venture six months after going on enforced leave following a staff revolt.




'On Friday the Conversation Media Group announced Jaspan was leaving to take up a new role at RMIT as director of the Global Academy.


'His departure follows a review of the structure of the Conversation which was ordered by the board in December in the wake of the resignation of chairman Robert Johanson and intense lobbying by the global boards.


'A former editor of the Observer (published by Guardian Media Group), the Scotsman and Scotland on Sunday, Jaspan was sacked as editor of the Age in 2008 after 235 journalists voted unanimously for a motion accusing him of undermining their ability to report without fear or favour.

Jaspan launched the Conversation in Australia in 2011 and it has expanded to Africa, the US, the UK and France.

It’s been a turbulent six months for the Australian board of the Conversation, which has been divided over pressure to cut ties with Jaspan.

Staff in Melbourne sent the board a long letter outlining their problems working with Jaspan, who is the executive director and editor, as well as the founder and public face of the website.

Pressure to remove Jaspan also came from the international arm of the Conversation. Management of the UK, US and Africa offices wrote a letter of no confidence to the Conversation Media Group asking that Jaspan not have an active role.

“We have unfortunately come to the conclusion that it is time for Andrew to leave the project. It is in his interests as well as those of the Conversation that the current situation is resolved quickly and privately,” the letter said.

'But in a statement the group praised Jaspan for his ability to secure funding and launch the international editions.'


Some preliminary remarks on the format of this section before the argument and the evidence.


Links to external websites and to sections within the page are shown highlighted in grey. So, clicking on the grey block below would take you to 'The Conversation' Website:


gives access to a very large number of articles. All the articles are by authors with academic affiliations. From 'The Conversation' Website:


To be published by The Conversation you must be currently employed as a researcher or academic with a university or research institution. PhD candidates under supervision by an academic can write for us, but we don’t currently publish articles from Masters students.'


The page 'Who we are'


includes this,


'Our team of professional editors work with university and research institute experts to unlock their knowledge for use by the wider public.


'Access to independent, high quality, authenticated, explanatory journalism underpins a functioning democracy. Our aim is to allow for better understanding of current affairs and complex issues. And hopefully allow for a better quality of public discourse and conversations.


'We aim to help rebuild trust in journalism. All authors and editors sign up to our Editorial Charter. All contributors must abide by our Community Standards policy. We only allow authors to write on a subject on which they have proven expertise, which they must disclose alongside their article.'


This is the disclosure statement for the article by Mark Berry discussed below:


'Disclosure statement

'Mark Berry does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.'


This is pitifully limited background information for someone with the wide-ranging interests, obsessions and illusions of Mark Berry, I'd claim. The material I provide on this page is far more helpful.


The disclosure statement for the article by Priyamvada Gopal published in 'The Conversation' and  also discussed here is identical, apart from the name:


Disclosure statement

Priyamvada Gopal does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.


I may as well make a 'discussion statement' for Priyamvada Gopal which is identical, apart from the name:


This is pitifully limited background information for someone with the wide-ranging interests, obsessions and illusions of Mark Berry, I'd claim. The material I provide on this page is far more helpful, I'd contend.


The page 'Our charter'


includes this. The claims are worthy - wonderful, even. Does 'The Conversation' pay nearly enough attention to these  objectives in practice? Is it really true, for instance, that the forum provided by 'The Conversation' is free of political bias. I've made a start on revealing the gross political bias of some contributors, who make not the least attempt to supply evidence when evidence is obviously essential. I intend to add many more instances. The 'experienced editors' who supposedly curate the site have failed to keep gross errors from appearing in pages of the site.

'We will



List of Authors of articles (Contributors to 'The Conversation') and  Members of 'The Team' at 'The Conversation ('Leaders' or 'Editorial') discussed here. The list will be lengthened.


 A vast amount of material - the articles published by 'The Conversation' awaits. I can only examine a sample of the whole and write about an even smaller sample of the contributors, of course.


The discussion may be very brief or much longer. Some of the material is very wide ranging, for example the material in the entry

Eric Shaw  University of Stirling


His article in 'The Conversation' is about the leadership contest for Leader of the Labour Party. I discuss some of his claims and go on to give new evidence of Lisa Nandy's spectacular incompetence and its relevance to the other candidates, who included Keir Starmer. I discuss Palestinian society and the recent conflict in Israel and Gaza, from a perspective which puts Israeli actions in dramatic perspective.


 No title is provided in the list (academics who were 'Dr ... ' at the time an article was published in 'The Conversation' may now be Professor ... ') In the discussion, I use the current title. The academic institution named in the discussion is the institution which employed the academic at the time when the article was published. If the site has additional information/discussion then I mention the fact and the place where it can be found. The order of names in the list is the same as the order in which I discuss the academic or Team Member.


Clicking on the grey block which contains the name of the individual and affiliation, eg 'Mark Berry  Royal Holloway' takes you to the discussion below.


Mark Berry  Royal Holloway

Also  discussed at length in the sections on this page in the column to the right, Profile of Dr Mark Berry ...

Priyamvada Gopal  Churchill College, Cambridge University

Also discussed at length in the sections on this page

Professor Priyamvada Gopal: stoning to death and Iran

Professor Priyamvada Gopal's Rules of Etiquette

Chris Waiting, Chief Executive Officer of 'The Conversation'

Duncan Wheeler  University of Leeds

Also discussed at length on my page

Bullfighting: arguments against and action against


Henrik Linden  University of East London


Sara Linden  Goldsmiths, University of London

Robin Irvine  University of St Andrews


Eric Shaw  University of Stirling



Dr Mark Berry


 I discuss some of his statements in the column to the right, Profile of Dr Mark Berry ... including these:


His article 'Never mind the Nazis – at 150, Richard Strauss is more valuable than ever' is at


The article is quite a good one, but the the throwaway phrase 'never mind the Nazis' is abysmal, with disturbing overtones. It may have been the editor and not the author who thought up the title. up the title.


Priyamvada Gopal


The claim that one of the objectives of 'The Correspondent' is to 'provide a fact-based and editorially independent forum, free of commercial or political bias' should be scrutinized very, very carefully. The material on Priyamvada Gopal on this page is one set of evidence to take into account.


Her article, 'How free are we really?' is at


The section to the left puts the case against Priyamvada Gopal in the sections 'Professor Priyamvada Gopal: stoning to death and Iran' and 'Professor Priyamvada Gopal's Rules of Etiquette.' An extract:



'Very, very unwisely, Dr Gopal has commented on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran from 2005 to 2013, and not at all to express revulsion against the man and the policies he pursued. Her comments, quoted below, are very disturbing. Whilst Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was President, men and women were stoned to death in Iran and the death penalty was inflicted, and still is, on a massive scale, for a very wide range of offences, and against juveniles as well as adults.


Dr Gopal's twitter page includes this, added quite recently (6 April, 2019)


Am put in mind of the time Cambridge students were punished, one of them severely, for reading out a poem to the then Minister for Raising Tuition Fees. Very delicate thing, this 'Free Speech' and absolutely only works one way.


In this section, more about Priyamvada Gopal's attitude to free speech.


In the tweet, she's referring to the time  when the Conservative minister 'David Willetts' came to give a talk at Cambridge, he was shouted down and not allowed to give his talk. Instead, Owen Holland, a postgraduate student in the English Faculty read out his interminable 'poem' denouncing him. Recommended - strongly recommended - a viewing of the video record of the event


This page includes detailed coverage of the 'poem' reading incident and the disruption of the Minister's talk, in the  section in the column to the left, Cambridge protest and Cambridge English. See in particular the profile of Owen Holland, the student who was punished 'severely.' I give the whole of his bizarre, dreadful, propaganda-poem, with a commentary.


 Dr Gopal must have a farcically bad view of poetic language if she can seriously think that Owen Holland used poetic language. The English Faculty at Cambridge may claim to be 'World Class' but it seems it's perfectly possible for someone to graduate in English at Cambridge and become a postgraduate student at Cambridge whilst accepting garbage as 'poetry.' The English Faculty at Cambridge may claim to be 'World Class' but it seems it's perfectly possible for someone to teach in the Faculty of English (Dr Gopal) whilst accepting garbage as 'poetry.'


A few assorted lines now from Owen Holland's 'poem' which may convey something of its poetic worth (for people who share Dr Gopal's view of its qualities) or worthlessness (for people whose view is nearer to mine):


We do not wish to rape our teachers


Your methodistic framework of excellence


We none of us believe
that any of our possessions are our own [a blatant falsehood]


So we are climbing into the driving seat
because your steering is uncomfortable to us


... we do not respect your right
to occupy the platform.


Owen Holland is the postgraduate student and arbiter, who decided that his views were so important that he had a duty to  protect Cambridge and the wider world from views not nearly so important as his own, such as the views of David Willetts, Minister of a democracy, who had been invited to speak at Cambridge but wasn't allowed to speak -  Owen Holland and his supporters - including Cambridge University academics - had decided this should be so.


You can threaten to shoot at us
with rubber bullets
You can arrest us.
You can imprison us.

but you cannot rape us


Owen Holland obviously had not nearly enough understanding of the vast difference between threats which existed only in his own hysterical imagination and the all-too-real threats faced by courageous people in the dire dictatorships of the world.



Iran is the most prolific executioner in the world now, after China, executing political prisoners, homosexuals, dissidents, people found guilty of 'enmity against God,' and a 16 year old schoolgirl, Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, on charges of adultery and 'crimes against chastity.' She was hanged in public.'


This is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the Holocaust, in a statement of September, 2009):

'They [the Western powers] launched the myth of the Holocaust. They lied, they put on a show and then they support the Jews.'


He has blamed the "Zionist regime" of Israel for starting both the First and Second World Wars.




'When Mahmoud Amadinejad came to give a speech at Columbia University in New York City. Lee Bollinger, the President of Columbia University, referred to the President of Iran as a 'petty and cruel dictator.' Dr Gopal referred to this comment as 'demeaning.' She couldn't possibly agree with this breach of decorum.'


The article contains this,


'Meanwhile as we’ve seen with the hysteria over the election of Jeremy Corbyn as Labour leader, his once rather widely accepted ideas about social and economic justice are shrilly denounced as dangerous extremism which must be rooted out immediately – no free flourishing of alternatives there. Protest and anger? Bring out the demonising smears, the batons, the legislation, the water cannons.'


Jeremy Corbyn has had and still has the freedom to put forward his views, defend his views and criticize people who don't share his views. Many of his views have been criticized severely - I do that myself in the material on Mark Berry in the column to the left - but it's a complete distortion to suggest that his views have been met with 'batons, legislation or water cannons.


Chris Waiting, Chief Executive Officer

The page


gives mini-profiles of people associated with the project. The profile of Chris Waiting amounts to a mini-propaganda piece, simply regurgitating claims made at greater length in other places on the site:


'Chris joined The Conversation as Chief Executive in May 2018. The Conversation is the world's leading publisher of research-based news and analysis. A unique collaboration between academics and journalists, The Conversation exists to democratise knowledge.'


Democratise knowledge? What? The Conversation is a rather exclusive club. Only certain people can apply to join the club.


contains a section, 'Can you write for The Conversation?

'Are you currently employed as a researcher or academic with a university or research institution? Or, if you’re a student, are you a PhD candidate?'


People who comment on 'The Conversation' are expected to behave with decorum.


The page on 'Community standards'


'When commenting on The Conversation, you are like our guest at our dinner party. You’ve been invited into our space and we ask that you behave with respect and courtesy to help us create a positive fact-based discussion.'


Dr Mark Berry, who was invited into The Conversation's space in a different capacity, as contributor rather than commenter, described Sarah Ludford as a 'mass murderer.' Is this the kind of person on would invite to a dinner party? As a working-class Northener, whose first job was builder's labourer, I'm not interested in the institution of the dinner party. 'When commenting on The Conversation, you are like our guest at our dinner party.' The commenters are expected to observe genteel norms but the use of gross and inflammatory language isn't a barrier to writing for 'The Conversation,' it seems - or perhaps some of the editors at 'The Conversation' are so sloppy that they can't be bothered to obtain background information.


The site of the 'European University Association', 'The voice of Europe's Universities'


has a remarkable, revealing piece compiled by Chris Waiting. This was his way of informing the site's readership about 'The Conversation,' publicizing 'The Conversation,' or, as me might put it, increasing 'brand awareness.' He chose a very, very limited, very, very inadequate way to go about it. It's made up of snippets:


The Conversation

Communicating doctoral research
Chris Waiting - Chief Executive



Communicating doctoral research

Lifecycle of a story



Communicating doctoral research
Why doctoral researchers?

Any qualified academic can publish
Not tied to publication
Public benefit & Professional value



Communicating doctoral research
How we work


Public Engagement

- Improves debate
- Pathway to impact


Did he realize that 'Lifecycle' in 'Lifecycle of a story' has the wrong connotations? Of processes which lead to ending, to death?

The entry for 'lifecycle' in a Cambridge dictionary:

'The series of changes that a living thing goes through from the beginning of its life until death'


An example is given from technology:


'Many of these technological products have only a very short life cycle


A  use of lifecycle' in business:


Business Essentials

What Is a Life Cycle?

A life cycle is a course of events that brings a new product into existence and follows its growth into a mature product and eventual critical mass and decline. The most common steps in the life cycle of a product include product development, market introduction, growth, maturity, and decline/stability.


By his use of 'lifecyle,' Chris Waiting has unwittingly encouraged some questions which cast a shadow over the project - 'What of the eventual fate of 'The Conversation?' His advacacy on the page of the 'European University Association' site is so poor that it calls into question the status of 'The Conversation.'  Someone on trial in a court of law who was defended by an advocate as poor as this would be in deep trouble, I think. 'The Conversation' tries to tell the academic world and the wider world at every available opportunity, 'Aren't we wonderful?' 'The Conversation' is far from wonderful, very often - more exactly, it's that disappointing mixture of the good, the quite good, the not so bad, the bad and the shockingly bad. If I find things in 'The Conversation' which are outstanding, I'll be glad to report my findings - but contributors to 'The Conversation' face the problem of shortage of space. For this reason, the claim of 'Analysis in Depth' can't possibly be realized in practice.

Media Voices PODCAST provides on its Website


gives us some insight into the belief system of Chris Waiting and the supposed strengths of 'The Conversation:'  'what other news publishers can learn from its policy of marrying journalistic flair with scholarly insight.' Some gullible innocents at Media Voices PODCAST also give us some insight into their own belief system: 'In the news roundup the team discusses magazine closures and launches, whether the Taboola/Outbrain merger will improve the internet, and ask whether a punk fanzine by a 10 year old is the beginning of the end for newsstand magazines.'


It's safe to assume that The punk fanzine will have no such effect. Even though the 10 year old with the punk fanzine may have such an effect, the 10 year old can't write for 'The Conversation,' unless he's very, very precocious and already has a PhD, or is a PhD candidate.


More on 'the team' in which Chris Waiting plays a leading part. I'd expect all the team members to be good team players.


Duncan Wheeler


My page on bullfighting


has an extensive and very critical section on Professor Duncan Wheeler of The School of Languages, Cultures and Societies at Leeds University. I refer to an article of his published in the magazine 'The Critic' which includes this:


''Whether people like it or not, Las Ventas is as much part of Madrid's rich cultural patrimony as the Prado.' (Las Ventas is the bullring of Madrid and the Prado is, of course, the main art gallery of Madrid.)


I comment that this is 'not just surprising but alarming. I wouldn't know if someone in his senior academic position supervises first year undergraduates but if a first year undergraduate wrote in an essay 'Whether people like it or not ... followed by a dogmatic assertion, without any accompanying argument or evidence at all and it was his role to comment on the essay,  I'd expect him to make the point, kindly but fairly forcefully, that this wasn't good enough. This had to be improved - in fact the student should start again and this time, pay some attention to the need for argument and evidence. Professor Wheeler has set a terrible example for students.'


'The Conversation' hasn't published anything by Professor Wheeler on bullfighting. What it has done is publish a stale, shallow article which amongst other things promotes questionable values - values which I question and criticize.


The heading is 'Exhibitionism: why the Stones are still the greatest rock'n'roll brand in the world.


It includes this: 


'A week after The Rolling Stones played their first concert in Cuba, Exhibitionism, a major show giving testament to the band’s iconic prowess and financial muscle, opened at London’s Saatchi Gallery.'


So the show was a major show? Insignificant events, people, groups, organizations are routinely described as 'major.'


He describes their 'financial muscle' as 'iconic.' 'Iconic,' like 'major' is overused and misused to such an extent that they should now be considered unusable, except when they're used with great care.


Being a 'major brand' or 'the greatest brand in the world' is like financial muscle, no guide at all to artistic importance, which may be negligible or completely lacking.


Henrik Linden and Sara Linden


The Eurovision Song Contest is a display of musical material which could be described as 'unimpressive' or 'poor,' although I'd use stronger language, but it's the brand that matters above all else to many people, including the people who wrote the shallow and stupid piece 'Eurovision: UK quitting the song contest would only be bad for brand Britain.'


The authors are Henrik Linden, Senior Lecturer in Tourism and Cultural Industries Management, University of East London (the information is given that he's a member of the Labour Party) and Sara Linden, Lecturer in Cultural Policy and Tourism, Goldsmiths, University of London.


Robin Irvine

Duncan Wheeler hasn't been invited so far to write on bullfighting for 'The Conversation.' The person who has been invited to inform and enlighten the readers of 'The Conversation' about bullfighting, to 'unlock his knowledge  to provide the public with clarity and insight,' was ,at the time a pre-doctoral Researcher in Social Anthropology , University of St Andrews. I haven't been able to find any information about his later academic record. His article was 'Bullfighting: what I found during a year on breeding estates.


The year spent on an estate which breeds bulls for the bullring can't possibly have given him a comprehensive introduction to the issues. The employees of the estate will have had no interest in giving him a view of bullfighting based on argument and evidence.


My page on bullfighting is a very comprehensive account. I've brought the material to the attention of many bullfighting supporters and apologists and none of them have been willing to give counter-arguments and evidence.


Robin Irvine gives blatant propaganda. The author should be ashamed and 'The Conversation' should be ashamed.


These are some of the views he conveyed and I give reasons in my anti-bullfighting page why they are so misleading:


'Recent attendance figures from the Spanish ministry of culture don’t support a simple narrative of decline. Though there was a clear dip during Spain’s economic crisis, attendance in the year 2014/2015 overtook pre-crisis figures. The industry was also placed under government protection in Spain after the government voted in 2013 to give bullfighting intangible cultural heritage status. We are certainly not talking about a one-way losing battle.'


Here, he assumes that numbers are a reliable arbiter in the case of moral issues. The attendance figures at Hitler rallies were high, astronomically high. Do they support a 'narrative of success?' A scared and defensive decision by the government of Spain about the status of bullfighting proves nothing.


He also writes,


'So we should take care when it comes to derogative rhetoric, particularly about poorly understood traditions. It’s worth noting that attacks on bullfighting, while often out of genuine concern for the suffering of animals, also come from a tradition of northern moral supremacy. Not surprisingly, the European parliament vote on the anti-bullfighting amendment largely divided along a north-south axis, with 57% of Spanish MEPs voting against.


We don't decide moral issues by noting whether the person belongs to the north axis or the south axis and then doubting the validity of an opinion if it comes from someone who belongs to the 'north axis,' on the spurious grounds that there's 'a tradition of northern moral supremacy.' Nazi Germany belonged to 'the northern axis.'


He also writes - 'The Conversation also published - this:


'There is still a large public out there who appreciate bulls and bullfighting: 9.5% of Spaniards attended events involving fighting bulls in 2014-15. These people live in the same modern Europe as the rest of us. Anyone who condemns bullfighting as barbaric should not judge until they have looked beyond the arena to the wider world of the bulls.'


He should have looked beyond the world of the bull-breeding estate to the destination of the bulls, the bullfighting arena, and to the distortions, evasions and falsehoods to be found in the bullfighting world. I don't just make the claim that the bullfighting world generates distortions, evasions and falsehoods and leave it at that. My anti-bullfighting page discusses the distortions, evasions and falsehoods in detail and provides counter-arguments, with detailed evidence.


'The Conversation' doesn't give enough space to its writers. Again and again, I find the articles feeble, shallow, simple-minded. Many of the writers, Robin Irvine, wouldn't know what to do with a more extensive platform available, but many others would put the space to good use.


Eric Shaw


His article in 'The Conversation,'


 'Labour leadership contest: where each of the five candidates sits on the political spectrum'


is very poor, stale, standard stuff, sub-standard stuff, even if some of his comments seem very different, bracing, invigorating, even:


'A man with an impressive intellect and a sharp mind, and possessing formidable debating skills ... As leader one can anticipate that cool reason, intellectual rigour and pragmatism will be his watchwords.'


 All this is misguided, surely.  Does Keir Starmer really have an impressive intellect, sharp mind and formidable debating skills?


His comments on Rebecca Long-Bailey include these:


'Long-Bailey will be able to rely upon the organising flair, experience and energy and of the pro-Corbyn Momentum faction but it’s unclear whether that will suffice to overcome her reputation as a somewhat wooden and uninspiring communicator.'


He could have written that Keir Starmer has a 'reputation as a somewhat wooden and uninspiring communicator.' It would have been more accurate than the attribution of 'formidable debating skills' to Keir Starmer.


His claim that the 'pro-Corbyn Momentum faction' has 'organising flair, experience and energy' is surely grotesque. I can't have any confidence in a commentator who claims that, even if he is a 'Senior Lecturer in Politics.' I don't provide argument and evidence here - 'amplification' - but my sections on Mark Berry give a great deal of argument and evidence on Corbynism. Although the comments aren't specifically on Momentum, they're largely applicable to Momentum.


His comments on Lisa Nandy contain this astonishing claim:


'If Starmer comes across as the weightiest and more authoritative of the candidates, Nandy is the most intellectually innovative.'


'This is a misuse of language, surely, unless the author can provide the argument and evidence to substantiate his claim that Lisa Nandy is the most intellectually innovative of the candidates. None of the candidates shows the least sign of being intellectually innovative and if Lisa Nandy has shown faint signs of being slightly more intellectually innovative than the others, I don't find any evidence that would support the claim.


Rather than make further criticisms of the article, I'll give some material which Eric Shaw certainly won't have seen before and which casts new light on all the candidates, Keir Starmer, Rebecca Long-Bailery, Lisa Nandy, Jess Phillips and Emily Thornberry. All of them are members of the organization 'Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East.' (Jeremy Corbyn is also a member.) None of them have paid nearly enough attention, or any attention, to the Website of the organization they belong to. Lisa Nandy, in particular, has shown gross incompetence.


My page on 'Israel, radical Islamist and Palestinian ideology' gives a comprehensive account, in the third main column of text and images,


This is an extract, with modifications:


When Lisa Nandy became Chair of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East in 2018, the membership list, which hadn't been updated for years, stayed exactly the same, taking absolutely no account of Labour Party election losses over the years or the voluntary (and involuntary) exits of Labour Party MP's. For years and years, the membership total claimed remained the same, the grossly inflated figure of 131. For a long time after Lisa Nandy became Chair, the membership total claimed remained the same.

False claims stayed on the Website for years without anybody at LFPME noticing. None of the MP's on the list, including Keir Starmer, seem to  have noticed. You would have thought that some of them at least would have looked at the list to find out about changes - who had joined, who had left. You would have thought that a good look at the Website was an absolute necessity when she became Chair of the organization.

For years and years, before and after Lisa Nandy became chair of Labour Frinds of Palestine and the Middle East, Michael Meacher was listed as a member. But Michael Meacher  wasn't currently an MP or a supporter of LFPME. He died in 2015!

For a long time after Lisa Nandy became Chair of this incompetent organisation, Simon Danczuk was listed as a member and an MP! Bt Simon Danczuk was suspended by the Labour Party in 2015 after it was claimed that he'd sent explicit messages to a 17-year old girl, banned by Labour from standing as a Labour Candidate and replaced as MP for Rochdale in 2017!

Other people falsely claimed by Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East to be  MP's and supporting the organization before and after Lisa Nandy became Chair:

Sadiq Khan (Tooting.) Left parliament in 2016  to become Mayor of London

Steve Rotheram  (Liverpool Walton). Left Parliament in 2017 to become Metro Mayor of Liverpool City Region.

Andy Burnham (Leigh.) Left Parliament in 2017 to become Mayor of Manchester.

These six people on the LFPME membership list also left Parliament in 2017. Again, the claim that they are current parliamentary supporters is false.

David Winnick (Walsall North).
Fiona Mactaggart (Slough).
Gisela Stuart (Birmingham Edgbaston).
Ian Wright (Hartlepool). 
Jim Dowd (Lewisham West and Penge).
Rob Marris (Wolverhampton South West).


Lisa Nandy's mind was on other things, it seems, such as Website Cosmetics - making sure that the introductory loop which contained the film of her and other LFPME celebrities looked good, making sure that the list of parliamentary supporters looked good, whilst neglecting factual accuracy. Even so, the current Website is very weak on Website cosmetics - the elementary issue of aspect ratio is neglected. The images are grossly distorted. People are shown with faces which are wide, very wide.


I wrote an article on the blunders for the site Conservative Woman' which was published on 7 January 2020


I vote Conservative and I voted for Brexit.  I'm one of those working-class Northern conservatives. It shouldn't be assumed that I have standard Conservative values or the standard values of the Brexit voter - there's no such thing as 'standard Conservative values' or 'the standard values of the Brexit voter.' My page


gives my translations from German, Dutch, Italian, Latin, Classical Greek, Modern Greek and my comments on translation from Polish, which isn't in accordance with supposed 'standard values of the Brexit voter.' I could give many more examples. My view of the site 'Conservative Woman' is more hostile or adverse than appreciative, although I appreciate many articles on the site. The material on the  'Conservative Woman' deals with largely one aspect, the site's appreciation of Christianity in general and isn't in the least appreciative. Of course, there's no such thing as 'Christian values.' Christians are very often mutually antagonistic, disagreeing about so many things. The material can be  found in two sections of my page


the polemical section 'Reformed Christian Gentleman and Bufo buffoon, a venomous toad,' (one of the commenters on the site calls himself 'Reformed Christian Gentleman') and the polemical section 'Conservative Woman and Christian-inanity.'

I informed  Lisa Nandy about the article on the 'shambolic friends of Palestine' and after some time, action was taken. The membership list was reduced from 131 to 91.


But Lisa Nandy needs to take a fresh look at the membership list and do something about its organizing principle.


If yu take a look at the page


 and ask yourself: is there an organizing principle here, or is the list of (alleged) supporters without an organizing principle, in random order? How would you find out if a particular MP is a member of LFPME or not? Is there an organizing principle which would help you or do you have to plough through the pages - 7 in all - until you come to the name of the MP (if the MP is a member)? If the MP isn't a member, do you have to plough through the list of names right to the last name on the list? Obviously, if you want to find a particular name on a list of 10,000 names or more, then a random list is unusable.


Anyone consulting the list of MP's to find out if a particular MP is a member or not will find that the list uses a remarkable organizing principle. It isn't in random order at all - the first impression. These are the first few names on the list: Afzal Khan (Manchester Gorton), Alan Whitehead (Southampton Test), Albert Owen (Ynys Mon), Alex Cunnigham (Stockton North) ...


This isn't in alphabetical order of surname or alphabetical order of constituency but it is in alphabetical order of first name! So, the last few names on the list, on Page 7, are Virendra Sharma (Ealing Southall), Wes Streeting (Ilford North) and Yasmin Qureshi (Bolton South East).


If ever a Labour MP called, let's say, Zebedee Aardvark joins LFPME he won't be in first place on the first page but in last position on the last page, and anyone trying to find out if Zebedee Aardvark is or isn't a member will need to plough through all seven pages before finding out - or, more likely, will look at the first page, find that 'Aardvark, Zebedee' isn't listed in first position, and conclude, mistakenly, that he isn't a member. If Zebedee Aardvark leaves this chaotically organized organization the inquirer may well find that he's still listed as a member years after he left.


The Wikipedia list of members of LFPME uses useful ordering, by alphabetical order of last name. So, Diane Abbott (constituency Hackney North) is listed first and Daniel Zeichner (Cambridge) is listed last.


Lisa Nandy, 'the most intellectually innovative' of the Labour Party Leadership candidates, according to Eric Shaw, doesn't need to introduce an intellectually innovative method of indexing, she simply needs to follow an established method which is vastly superior to the method used by the organization she currently chairs.


It would be far more difficult to do something about the content of the Website, the content to do with Israel and the Palestinians. It's shallow, insufficient, grossly inadequate, offering not very much more than platitudes. So far, it has offered absolutely nothing on the  conflict of Spring 2021.


Eric Shaw writes, of course, for many publications other than 'The Conversation. The article he wrote for this site


is worthy and fair-minded in many respects, much better than the article published in 'The Conversation,' but contains this, on Lisa Nandy:


'She is a longstanding advocate for Palestinian rights, and has condemned arms sales to Israel, the Gaza blockade and the illegal occupation of the Palestinian territories. However, she also firmly defends Israel’s right to exist and was a tough critic of Corbyn’s failure to come to grips with anti-Semitism.'


I concentrate my attention on the first sentence here rather than the second. She may defend (far too weakly, not at all firmly, or with the firmness required) Israel's 'right to exist.' Better by far to do that than to call for Israel to be wiped off the map, invaded, taken over - but she shows no interest in the practicalities, the hideous realities. How does Israel avoid being wiped off the map? How does Israel avoid being invaded, taken over? By defending itself. How does Israel defend itself? With reasoned arguments, or the claims-without-evidence that are a substitute for arguments-with-evidence that are used by so many people, including, too often, by Lisa Nandy. The Israeli Defence Force is the most important means of defence and it needs weapons. The fact that Lisa Nandy 'has condemned arms sales to Israel' is a sign of her fundamental indifference, to the realities.


There's more, much more, on my page on Israel. I'll include now a quotation from the page, which contains evidence that Palestinian society isn't quite the same as the Palestinian society which which thrives in the illusory world of people like Lisa Nandy:


Hamas is a radical Islamist organization but a substantial section of Palestinian society has radical Islamist views. Percentages below are from the Pew Research Center's extensive surveys of attitudes in Islamic countries.  'Labour Party Friends of Palestine, members of Palestine Solidarity Campaign groups and others - what do you make of the startling information below? I'm simply giving the findings of an established organization with a high reputation. What do you make of the arguments I give, such as the one concerning the overwhelmingly likely results if the slogan 'Stop arming Israel'  was ever put into practice?


Some findings of the Pew Research Center:


Stoning to death for adultery may not be practised in the Palestinian territories but 84% of Palestinians support the punishment.


The conviction that a woman must always obey her husband is widely held, with 87% support in the Palestinian territories.



Support in Gaza for suicide bombings has declined but 62% of people in Gaza still believe that suicide bombings are often justified or sometimes justified to protect Islam. This is the highest level of support in the Islamic world.


66% of people in the Palestinian territories believe in execution for those who leave Islam.

There is widespread Palestinian support for such cruel punishments as amputation of the hand. 76% of people in the Palestinian territories support these punishments.


(The statistics relate to opinions at the time of the survey, conducted in 2013.)

The death penalty in the Palestinian territories may be imposed after a very brief trial, lasting only a day, or no trial at all, as in the case of some of the people executed by Hamas for alleged 'collaboration with Israel.' Israel has used the death penalty only twice in its modern history - including the execution of the Nazi Adolf Eichmann. 


Palestinian sanctions against unmarried women who have children can be severe. A Palestinian woman was sentenced to six years imprisonment for having an illegitimate child, whose formative years have now been spent in prison.


Honour killings have increased dramatically in the

 Palestinian territories. The Palestinian Minister of Women's Affairs, Rabiha Diab, blamed Israel for the increase in honour killings. Claims to victimhood will do nothing to solve the problem.


Hamas and very many Palestinians have  refused again and again to recognize harsh realities, such as this one - attacking Israel with rockets or other weapons will be followed by retaliation, just as attacks upon Britain during the Second World War were followed by retaliation. Casualties in Gaza during  recent conflicts -  and material damage - would have been very light if only this principle had been followed: stop firing rockets, stop breaking ceasefires.



Gaza has been  confident that whenever it went to war, the international community would pay for reconstruction but now, donor countries are less ready to contribute. Meanwhile, building materials intended to be used for reconstruction are diverted to the construction of more tunnels for terrorist action and the Palestinian Authority continues to give financial support to people convicted of terrorist action by the Israelis - the worst terrorists receive a salary which is ten times the average Palestinian wage.

There are many extenuating circumstances in the case of Israeli use of force, such as the issuing of warnings before attack in innumerable instances. There are no extenuating circumstances which could possibly excuse Hamas' indiscriminate use of rockets against Israel.


Anti-Israel action, including BDS (boycott, divestment, sanctions) action, would almost certainly have these results, if successful: the replacement of Israel by a state with vastly less enlightened policies in such areas as the ones mentioned above, a state which would be militarily very weak - unable to prevent invasion by  forces which are completely ruthless - and the  slaughter of Jews on a massive scale.

Israeli power prevents the incursion of forces into the Palestinian territories which are vastly less enlightened than the Israeli state, just as British power prevented the invasion of the Irish Republic by the Nazis during the Second World War. Irish nationalist ideology ('nobody has suffered like the Irish and there are no oppressors as bad as the British') and Palestinian ideology ('nobody has suffered like the Palestinians and there are no oppressors as bad as the Israelis') have significant linkages.


A Palestinian state  would still be vulnerable, at risk of invasion by a much stronger state or organization. The call to 'stop arming Israel,' if successful, would be disastrous for Palestinians as well as Israelis. An Israel without the means to defend itself would be attacked very quickly, to be followed by slaughter of Jews on a massive scale. It's overwhelmingly unlikely that the territory of a Palestinian state with only its own forces available for defence, in the absence of powerful Israeli forces, would be respected. It's overwhelmingly likely that in this volatile region, a Palestinian state denied the power of the Israeli forces would be invaded, by another state or by a non-state power. People who have lived under the domination of ISIS will have no illusions about the barbarities which are possible when a non-state power takes control of a territory.


All the criticisms of Palestinian society and policies I make on this page are with the recognition that Palestinian society isn't remotely as barbaric in its practice as Iran, in such areas as the  criminal law and punishment. To consider that Israel is a country which is much worse than Iran is contemptible. To compare Israel with Nazi Germany is contemptible. Nazi Germany, like Stalinist Russia, is in a category of its own.


From another section of my page on Israel, evidence that Palestinian society can be barbaric in its treatment of animals.

This video, on mistreatment of animals in Gaza, comes with a warning from 'Animals Australia:.' it's  very, very distressing:

Australian RSPCA makes this comment:

Footage uploaded onto YouTube during the Festival of Sacrifice in October 2013 revealed the horrific treatment of Australian cattle in the Gaza Strip in Palestine. It is some of the most shocking and distressing footage we have seen.

The footage documents Australian cattle:

  • Tethered to poles, trees, and trucks on the streets

  • Being beaten and dragged by ropes off trucks without unloading ramps

  • Being dragged, man-handled and chased along streets by crowds of youths in a  frenzy akin to bull running

  • Being stabbed in the eyes

  • Being kicked, pushed, pulled and tripped over with ropes to be forced onto the ground and under control for slaughter

  • Having their necks hacked, sawn and stabbed at with blunt knives

  • Being strangled by neck ropes while bleeding out



List of Founding Partners and Members of 'The Conversation UK'


Founding Partners


City (University of London)
Glasgow Caledonian
Open University
Queens University, Belfast
University College London



Anglia Ruskin
Birmingham City
Brunel, University of London
Cardiff Metropolitan
Central Lancashire
De Montfort
East Anglia
East London
Edge Hill
Edinburgh Napier
Heriot Watt
Karolinska Institutet
King's College London
Leeds Beckett
Liverpool John Moores
Nottingham Trent
Queen Mary London
Royal Holloway London
Sheffield Hallam
SOAS London
SDU Southern Denmark
South Wales
St Andrews
West of Scotland
York St John



Royal Holloway and freedom of expression



See also the next section, Universities UK and freedom of expression.



I received an email from Royal Holloway, including what's described as a 'letter' from a solicitor who occupies the post of General Counsel' at Royal Holloway, Mrs Elaina Moss. The Home Page of this site gives my policy on quoting emails. I don't quote them unless with the permission of the sender. I replied, with a request to quote the email but didn't receive a reply. I can give the demand made in the email I received. The demand was to remove all references to Dr Berry and Royal Holloway from my Website.



I  made it clear to [the General Counsel] that this is out of the question. To ask me to remove the material from my Website is outrageous ... Royal Holloway is welcome to take any action which comes to mind in response to the new material - and, for that matter, the existing material. It should be unnecessary to issue a  reminder that we live in a liberal democracy, with certain guarantees of freedom of expression and a precious tradition of upholding freedom of expression, despite the threats to legitimate freedom of expression - but a reminder is needed, it seems, for certain people at Royal Holloway.



It's d
ifficult to credit that some people at Royal Holloway believe they are entitled to issue demands as ridiculous, disturbing and unrealistic as these. Was Dr Berry aware that Royal Holloway was demanding that I remove all references to Dr Berry? If he knew about it - and it's likely that he did know - did he agree with the demand? It would have been to his advantage if I'd complied meekly with the demand.

Mark Berry would obviously have known about the demand, as well as the Principal of Royal Holloway, Paul Layzell.

I respect and admire Paul Layzell's achievements in his academic field, software engineering. I've no reason to think that he's anything other than a committed and competent administrator. Someone who occupies a position of leadership like his should have strengths that go beyond achievement in a specialist field and administrative competence. So far, I haven't been given any reason to respect and admire Professor Layzell's role in the protection of freedom of expression. The priority so far seems to have been the prevention of 'distress' to Dr Berry. The reputation of Royal Holloway depends upon a very wide range of issues, which go well beyond internal matters.This issue is just one of many, but  freedom of expression is or should be a fundamental issue, not a luxury or an extra. By choosing crude suppression, Royal Holloway (the people at Royal Holloway who chose this tactic) were badly mistaken.

A passionate conviction that freedom of expression (not, of course, unlimited freedom of expression, or, to use my terminology, freedom of expression not subject to {restriction}) wasn't required in this instance, although it's surely essential that universities should have some people with a passionate belief in its importance and better still many, many people - all that was required was simple common sense, a recognition of  realities, like it or not. The response from the legal and compliance department was deficient in common sense, a recognition of realites. Whoever instructed the department likewise.

There's much more material on this page on Cambridge University than Royal Holloway, of course, and it has been here for much longer than the supplementary material on Royal Holloway. I discuss far more people with Cambridge connections but no connection with Royal Holloway. I've contacted almost all the people with profiles on the page.

Cambridge University has never contacted me, asking me to remove the material on Cambridge University - which would mean removing the page. No Cambridge College has contacted me, asking me to remove material on a person at the College, or once at the College. None of the Cambridge people with profiles have contacted me, asking me to remove material.

Greg Woolf, Professor of Ancient History at St Andrews:

'Professor Layzell’s attempt to stifle on-line debate among students, alumni and external supporters of Classics at Royal Holloway is disgraceful, as well as ill-judged.'


The page


quotes this comment made by Paul Layzell, 'I had hoped that we would be able to have those discussions within our community, rather than in the public domain.'


Paul Layzell's view is criticized severely:


'The appeal to keep everything on the inside and “pas devant” was stupid, partly because in PR terms it made the Principal look like a prat who was scared of openness (see here with quotations from yours truly and others), and partly because it was so obviously unrealistic. The Principal’s representative has stated that the college means to contact and invite debate from current students and alumni as well as other (unspecified) interested parties, and since this would add up to several hundred people it is inconceivable that the debate could have been kept under wraps anyway ... '


I don't accept that 'prat' is an adequate description of Professor Layzell: I avoid summary, dismissive one-word descriptions, except when the person criticized merits the treatment - the person is without complexities, without strengths and virtues which should be taken into account in a fair-minded ((survey)). Professor Layzell isn't in this category at all, I'm sure - and the word 'prat' isn't part of my 'active vocabulary.'


The page includes this as well:


'I think, from the way in which he responded to the fb [Farebook] page, that he is clearly rattled, and that, like other people at the top of institutions, he doesn’t like being cast as the villain of the piece one little bit.'

Universities UK and freedom of expression

From the Website of the Law Society,


'Legal professionals play an essential role in upholding the rule of law ... Rights are of little consequence if they cannot be enforced.' (David Greene,  President of the Law Society of England and Wales.)


On 29 September 2020, I received an email from Mrs Elaina Moss, a solicitor and General Counsel at Royal Holloway. I don't give the content of her email here. In my reply, given next, I asked for permission to quote the email and I summarized my policy on quoting emails. I never received a reply from Mrs Moss and so I don't quote the email on this Website. What I can do is convey the demand she made: the demand was to remove references to Dr Berry and to Royal Holloway from my Website, as having the potential to cause distress. She made no comment on the tweets of Dr Berry I quote and discuss, for example, the



a description of Sarah Ludford as, allegedly, a


'mass murderer'


this, on the former Labour MP Kate Hoey


'the Nazi Hoey ... '


However did an email containing such a deeply disturbing demand, with such an unreal notion of freedom of expression, come to be approved and sent? I'm not in the least likely to find out the circumstances. The Principal of Royal Holloway, Professor Layzell, must have approved the contents of the email and the decision to send it. Did Mrs Moss give a  legal opinion that it would be very unwise to send the email, that the demand to remove the material from my site was a completely unwarranted infringement of freedom of expression, but was overruled by the Principal, who insisted that it should be sent? Or did Mrs Moss give legal advice which disregarded the infringement?


Obviously, there exists a well-developed system for making complaints against a solicitor in the case of clients of a solicitor, for issues such as poor service. Not so in the case of grossly unfair action by a solicitor which has very disturbing consequences for our liberties - if the demand for removal of material from a Website is in accordance with the rule of law, then what law, what notion of the rule of law, what notion of the role of the Law Society? Does Dr Berry have a right to be protected from adverse comment on this Website? Does the Principal of Royal Holloway and other members of Royal Holloway have a right to be protected from adverse comment on this Website? Why did the Chief Legal Officer of Royal Holloway contact me to demand the removal from my Website of all material relating to Royal Holloway? Did she realize Did she not realize that this was a demand which couldn't possibly be enforced if I chose not to assent to the demand? There was no possibility that I would agree to remove the material. What law had I broken, allegedly, by publishing the material? The material includes, of course, many quotations from Dr Berry's tweets, including the reference to 'mass murderer' in connection with Sarah Ludford. If removal of these quotations would be of benefit to Dr Berry, it wouldn't be of benefit to freedom of expression in this country or the rule of law in this country.


I've no knowledge of the circumstances which led to the issuing of the demand. A Chief Legal Officer at a University has to support the work of the University but there may well be difficult conflicts of interests. A University should take care that promotion of an image - the kind of image which it thinks is needed to attract and retain students and attract and retain staff - never entails neglect of fundamental values, I don't explain here my own understanding of 'fundamental values,' except for my view that freedom of expression is amongst them. I don't take the view that complete freedom of expression is a right. My page Ethics: theory and practice gives a rigorous introduction to some of the issues, including restrictions on rights. The issues, as I see them, will need to be addressed here at much greater length.


Other questions which come to mind. Was Dr Berry informed of the decision to send the email? If he was informed, did he raise any objections? Or was he glad that the critical comments - and the arguments and evidence for the critical comments - would disappear from the public domain?


Extracts from the email I sent to Mrs Moss in reply:


Dear Mrs Moss,


Thank you so much for your email. The Home Page of my Website contains, amongst so much else, this:


'Emails sent to me won't be released into the public domain, including publication on this site, unless with the sender's permission.' I would very much like to quote the content of your email in full on my Website. I would be grateful if you would give me permission to quote it.  The material on Dr Berry and Royal Holloway on my Website will stay. In fact, the material on Royal Holloway Music Department will be extended.
You and any allegedly aggrieved persons at Royal Holloway are free to take whatever action you wish. I realize that it would probably be too much to expect that the action will take the form of counter arguments, with appropriate evidence.  I think it's very likely that any action you do take will serve to give wide publicity to the issues

It may be that you didn't read the tweets of Dr Berry I quote in the sections on him before sending your email, or not nearly enough of them.  I would advise you to read them, and then, if you care to, consider very carefully what would be gained by taking the matter further. If you disagree with my view that many of Mark Berry's tweets are reckless and would be difficult to defend - impossible to defend in some cases - then go ahead, take whatever action you wish.
Best Wishes,
Paul Hurt

Extracts from the email sent to Professor Layzell, which includes extracts from the email sent to Dr Berry and others. All the recipients received one email only, except for Dr Berry. All the emails were courteous, and courteous throughout.

Dear Professor Layzell,

Below, you'll find the text of an email which I've already sent to most academic staff of the Department of Music at Royal Holloway, most recently Dr Berry himself ... I realize the demands on your time, and, of course, the fact that the Coronavirus epidemic will have added to the demands. Obviously, the decision is yours, but my own view is that it would be unfair to expect action from you in this matter, even if you think that Dr Berry has a case to answer. The matter involves difficult issues to do with academic freedom and freedom of expression and the necessary restrictions on complete  freedom of expression, for academics as well as non-academics ...



'Extracts from the email sent to members of the Music Department of Royal Holloway and other recipients and quoted in the email to Professor Layzell]:

I  begin the first section by commenting on a recent remark of Dr Berry in his blog Boulezian:



' ... reception of the chalice, more bitterly poisoned than ever, bearing the name ‘Head of the Department of Music’ for the next three years. (There are baptisms of fire, and there are baptisms of March 2020.)'

and what it reveals about his view of this new role, assumed at a difficult time when strong leadership is needed: only a weak, clueless leader would put these thoughts into the public domain, surely. After that, I comment on many of his tweets, beginning with this


'Surely it is time for the entirety of the civil service to go on strike. Bring this rotten, fascist government down for good.'



and what it reveals about his attitude to democratic government and his grasp of  realities, of what is possible and what is impossible. I point out that a Civil Service strike would be calamitous for everyone. For example, since the Civil Service is responsible for payment of benefits and pensions among a very large number of other responsibilities, the effects of a strike on people who receive benefits and pensions, a very large number, would be disastrous.



So many of the tweets amount to a torrent of abuse, a sustained display of ignorance,  raising disturbing questions about this academic, I believe. I provide the evidence for my belief.'


Obviously, no reply is expected to this email.


Best Wishes,


Paul Hurt



From the Website of 'Universities UK,'


''Universities UK is the collective voice of 140 universities in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.'


As would be expected, its interests and policies are very wide ranging, including issues to do with free expression.


From the Website


Free speech to be protected at university



New guidance for students and universities will set out the legal rights and obligations to help protect lawful free speech on campuses.


Included, this statement from Alistair Jarvis, Chief Executive at Universities UK,

'Universities are absolutely committed to promoting and protecting free speech. Universities host thousands of events each year – among a student population of more than two million – and the vast majority of these pass without incident.

'Although there is little evidence of a systematic problem of free speech in universities, there is a legal duty on the higher education sector to secure free speech within the law and it is important that universities continually review their approaches.

'This new guidance provides a useful tool that will help universities balance the numerous requirements placed upon them, including student safeguarding responsibilities, and supports their significant efforts to uphold freedom of speech.'


All the references to free speech, including the statement of the Chief Executive of Universities UK, seem to be concerned with internal free speech in universities - the attempt to permit, in fact, to foster, free expression within universities. What of the freedom for people outside universities to criticize universities and members of staff at universities?


Changing course at Cambridge, Oxford,  Royal Holloway  


People who make an application for a place at a Cambridge or Oxford college may have a reason, a very good reason,  for applying to an Oxford college rather than a Cambridge college. If they have no particular preference, then there's a very good reason why they should apply to Cambridge rather than Oxford: the Cambridge course system is vastly more flexible than the Oxford one.


From the site

'Changing course

'Due to scope and flexibility of our courses, most students stay on the same degree course. However, it's possible to change course after one or two years.

Most changes are within the sciences or within the arts, but students can switch between broad areas as well. Not everything is possible but there’s a surprising degree of flexibility and, as such, a wide range of subject combinations are available.'


By contrast, the Oxford system is inflexible, rigid. It doesn't cater at all adequately for changes of mind, the result, sometimes, of intellectual exploration and adventurousness. Once someone has been accepted at an Oxford College for subject X, such as history, or subjects X and Y, such as archaeology and anthropology, or subjects X, Y and Z, such as philosophy, politics and economics and has begun to study the subjects, then unfortunates who realize that they made a mistake are overwhelmingly likely to be stuck with the subject or subjects until the time when they sit their final examinations, and beyond.


Institutions, and institutional arrangements, should be able to cater for well-founded changes of mind so far as possible. When a marriage institution in a country allowed for no changes of mind, when it made no provision at all for the person who had decided, for very good reasons (and sometimes for bad reasons) that they had married the wrong person, then reform was necessary.


Cambridge courses, unlike Oxford courses, do make provision for changes of mind. Someone who chooses to study theology at Oxford in their impressionable teenage years after 'finding God' but who loses his or her faith after a year of theology at Oxford is stuck with theology. At Cambridge, the Tripos system allows the person to choose another subject, subject to some restriction, a change to English, perhaps, or even to Natural Science.


At Oxford, anyone who chooses to study Chemistry but who 'finds God' during the first year of study is stuck with Chemistry, even if study of New Testament Greek and other topics in the theology curriculum now has much greater appeal.


Royal Holloway's course system is similarly inflexible. People who applies to study music at Royal Holloway and are accepted may well find during the first year of study that the decision to study music was a mistake and that another subject has much more to offer. People studying a subject other than music who could have applied for music - they have the necessary background - may wish that they had applied for music, but aren't able to change course after the first year.


The tripos system at Cambridge has very substantial advantages. A course unit system would offer even greater flexibility. To mention just one instance, there are students who wouldn't wish to give all their academic time to study of Classics but who would like to study one or more course units in classics - the historiography of Thucydides, perhaps, or Greek tragedy, including the study of Aristotle's 'Poetics' and the works of Aeschylus, Sophocles and Euridides - but not, let's say, to study Livy, Cicero, Caesar, Roman history and other topics which are part of the specialist Classics curriculum.  A classics department would have a great deal to gain if it were able to provide teaching for students such as these, as would be possible in a course unit system.


It's mistaken to think that if someone doesn't study only subject X, or X and Y, then the person is a 'dilettante,' with no hope of experiencing academic thoroughness. The existence of the triple course Philosophy, Politics and Economics at Oxford shows that the Oxford authorities think differently. In fact, excessive specialization is liable to encourage minds who are 'thorough' within the specialization but dilettantes outside it.


In academic work which demands scholarly skills, a very substantial part of the whole, of course, it would be beneficial to consider that scholarly skills are very widely applicable - they have many application-spheres. A wider range of application-spheres does nothing to lessen the scholarly skills which are applied.


In the 'Philosophical Investigations,' section 593, Wittgenstein refers to 'a one-sided diet: one nourishes one's thinking with only one kind of example.' ('einseitige Diät: man nährt sein Denken nur mit einer Art von Beispielen.')  He claims that this is 'a main cause of philosophical diseases,' but the remark is more widely applicable. It may well be that theologians, literary scholars and others can sometimes be saved from speaking or writing in nonsensical terms if they have studied the concrete realities to be found in social and economic history, for example.


Royal Holloway Department of Classics


For the time being, this section is very brief, but, for all its conciseness, very varied. It should be of interest to people in other departments of classics. Classicists often give the impression that Classicists are very versatile people and can turn their hand to everything - or most things, or a surprising number of things. I wouldn't want to encourage the wilder delusions of some of them, bit I do give the true account of someone who graduated in Greek and was awarded the Nobel Prize in Physics. I'd point out that it's unlikely that Royal Holloway graduates in Classics and graduates from any other Classics Department aren't likely  to repeat the achievement, so Classics Departments can't use this example in their advertising for prospective students.


I don't give the names of any academics in the Royal Holloway Department of Classics. So, the academic who wrote this, quoted in my critique of Mark Berry, Royal Holloway - it can be found in the column to the left, in the first section - is left unidentified.


'For my current research project I have been examining strategies of rhetorical deception in speeches from the law courts of Classical Athens ... what I am trying to identify is how speakers manipulated stories, facts, and logical arguments in order to win their cases.

'As my research feeds into my teaching, I believe that it helps students become more critical listeners, more aware of the art of rhetoric, more able to formulate persuasive arguments. My hope is that they will also become more critical, responsible, engaged democratic citizens.'


I like this very much. But the next quotation, from 'Find out more about our department'


is faulty, I think:

'We pride ourselves on our research-led teaching which combines a strong to disciplinary research areas (archaeology, history, and literature) and to an engaged Classics that tackles, from undergraduates to research, current themes, such as Contemporary Classics, Spaces and Materials of Belonging, and The Fantastic.'


The phrase 'We pride ourselves' is routine, it amounts to a cliche - the department should surely have been able to come up with something better. It's followed by something worse, a mangled bit of prose that reads like a first draft, a bad first draft, which should have been revise out of all recognition, not published on the departmental page: ' ... which combines a strong to disciplinary research areas ... and to an engaged Classics ... '


The astonishing achievement of Robert Andrews Millikan, an experimental physicist, who was awarded the Nobel Prize for Physics in 1923 for the measurement of a fundamental constant in Physics, the electric charge, e, and his work on the photoelectric effect.

He relates,

'My Greek professor ...  asked me to teach the course in elementary physics in the preparatory department during the next year. To my reply that I did not know any physics at all, his answer was, 'Anyone who can do well in my Greek can teach physics.' 'All right," said I, 'you will have to take the consequences, but I will try and see what I can do with it." I at once purchased an Avery's Elements of Physics, and spent the greater part of my summer vacation ... trying to master the subject ... I doubt if I have ever taught better in my life than in my first course in physics ... I was so intensely interested in keeping my knowledge ahead of that of the class that they may have caught some of my own interest and enthusiasm.'

Millikan's oil-drop experiment is a classic procedure for measuring e. A small drop of oil in an electric field moves at a rate which involves the forces due to gravity and  viscosity, and, also, electric force. The forces due to gravity and viscosity could be calculated based on the size and velocity of the oil drop, so electric force could be deduced. Since electric force, in turn, is the product of the electric charge and the known electric field, the electric charge of the oil drop could be calculated. By measuring the charges of many different oil drops, it can be seen that the charges are all integer multiples of a single small charge, namely e. Now, e is exactl
y 1.602176634×10−19 C, by definition of the coulomb.

His experimental 'verification' of the equation introduced by Albert Einstein in 1905 to describe the photoelectric effect is better described as an experimental non-falsification of the photoelectric effect (using the insights of the philosopher of science Karl Popper, which I think are compelling.) He used this same research to obtain an accurate value of Planck's constant, which is defined to have the exact value
6.62607015×10−34 Js in SI units.




























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In this column, after Page-sections and Introduction: material on Cambridge University

Page-sections, with links to sections


'The Conversation:' the good, the quite good, the not so bad, the bad, the shockingly bad
Royal Holloway and freedom of expression
Universities UK and freedom of expression       Supporting academic publishing
Professor  Gopal: stoning to death and Iran

Professor Gopal's Rules of Etiquette
Cambridge protest and Cambridge English
Owen Holland and the English Faculty
Queens: Dr Patterson and 'unparalleled outrage'
Caius: Dr Jason Scott-Warren: 'Out! Out! Out!'
Queens: Dr Zurcher, selective libertarian
Cambridge protest and Cambridge Philosophy 
Dr Lorna Finlayson, Philosopher Queen
Boycotting, BDS, 'Apartheid' Israel and a duty
Cambridge Feminism and slavery

Professor Rae Langton, WOWSER
Dr Lauren Wilcox theorizes Embodied Subjects
Professor Sandra Harding and the R word
Dr Rachel Bower and the F word
Noah's Ark 1: Who would Adam and Eve it?
Noah's Ark 2: Human values

Cambridge Christianity / Christian-inanity

Emmanuel: Professor Pickstock and Radical Orthodoxy 
Selwyn: Ian McFarland on  Chalcedonianism
Corpus Christi: Dr Andrew Davison on knowing
Christ's: Dr Michael Dormandy's scribal habits
Christs': Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster
Clare: Dr Mark Smith and tactless questions
 Jesus: Dr Paul Dominiak and Thomist care
St John's: the Reverend Canon Mark Oakley and Rilke
Emmanuel: Dean Jeremy Caddick is innocent
Pastoral care: the College Chaplains and Deans

The C of E: national decline, Cantab flourishing
The harmlessness of contemporary Christians

 Alumni: how-to-give-to-cambridge and reasons not to give
 Clive Betts MP: Israel, irregularities, expenses
Daniel Zeichner MP: contortionist

Changing course:Cambridge, Oxford, RH

Cambridge University Press (CUP)
Susan McClary's CUP book: what's missing
CUP:  Bowdlerizing and Breartonizing
CUP and China: Censorship and Evasion

Royal Holloway

Profile of Mark Berry, Cambridge historian and   Royal Holloway Marxist musicologist
Mark Berry: Jeremiad for Jeremy
Mark Berry: 'A champagne truffles sort of guy'
Review of a perfomance by Mark Berry and his Band
Dr Berry and 'bizarre attacks'
Why do I give so much space to Mark Berry?
Royal Holloway Music Department: mistakes
Mark Berry and RH Music Dept: updates
Royal Holloway Department of Classics




Material on Cambridge University, like material on a significant number of other topics on the site, is highly dispersed. This page amongst other things is a guide to material on Cambridge University which can be found on other pages of the site and provides a convenient way of finding it. In some cases, there's an extract on this page of material from another page. The page started as a critique of a protest at Cambridge - the disruption was led by Owen Holland. The account I provide, in the section  Owen Holland and the English Faculty, is one of the most striking things on the page, I think - it concerns a shameless and grotesque display of Cambridge mediocrity and stupidity.


Here, I concentrate my attention on Cambridge mediocrity and Cambridge stupidity rather than Cambridge excellence, but I do discuss some Cambridge advantages.  In my page Ethics: theory and practice I discuss the importance of 'outweighing' in ethics and other spheres. I don't claim that Cambridge mediocrity and Cambridge stupidity outweigh Cambridge excellence.

Mediocrity and stupidity at Cambridge University in  past centuries took forms which were very different in many ways from present-day mediocrity and stupidity. Michael Grant's book 'Cambridge' mentions the case of Richard Watson, who, 'on appointment to the Chair of Chemistry (1764), declared he had never read a syllable on the subject, or seen a single chemical experiment; and for the Chair of Divinity, to which he moved seven years later, he was scarcely better qualified.'


'Cambridge excellence' flourishes, at the Cavendish laboratory, the engineering laboratories and so many other places, including the Faculty of English, but Cambridge excellence coexists with Cambridge mediocrity and Cambridge stupidity. This 'world class university' has flaws, including some serious flaws.


This page can't possibly provide adequate context, including the flaws to be found in other universities. My page Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology gives my reasons for criticizing anti-Israel activists and anti-Israel propaganda. Anti-Israel activism and propaganda  isn't nearly as prominent at Cambridge University as at many others, although all the academics criticized in the section on 'Cambridge protest,' such as Priyamvada Gopal, have views on Israel which amount to active distortion.


The section on this page Boycotting, BDS, 'Apartheid' Israel and the duty of care is about Manchester University, not Cambridge. The discussion of the issues is completely relevant to Cambridge, including the issue of the duty of care to students. The discussion is relevant to academic reactions to student protests which are directed at targets other than Israel.


There are far more Manchester academics than Cambridge academics who support boycotting of Israel, BDS and action against so-called apartheid Israel. This reflects well on Cambridge, not nearly so well on Manchester. People who support boycotting, BDS and action against 'apartheid' Israel will come to a very different conclusion - but can they give the arguments and evidence to support this very different conclusion. People who think they have the arguments and evidence - feel free to contact me and tell me more about your arguments and evidence.

Material on Cambridge University


Cambridge protest and Cambridge English

Dr Owen Holland and the Cambridge English Faculty


I don't criticize any undergraduate or graduate students still at Cambridge University. Owen Holland was a postgraduate student at the time of his protest but he went on to become a career development fellow at Jesus College, Oxford, and now, he's a teaching fellow at University College, London.

(1) Owen Holland is the postgraduate student and arbiter, who decided that his views were so important that he had a duty to  protect Cambridge and the wider world from views not nearly so important as his own, such as the views of David Willetts, Minister of a democracy, who had been invited to speak at Cambridge but wasn't allowed to speak -  Owen Holland and his supporters - including Cambridge University academics - had decided this should be so.

(2) Owen Holland is the 'poet' whose grotesque and rambling 'poem' wasn't received with a stern Cambridge warning against incompetent and slovenly use of language. Dr Priyamvada Gopal of the Cambridge English Faculty, for instance, didn't find anything to object to. An exception is Dr Andrew Zurcher of Queens College, who supported the protest, with slight reservations. In the case of the text itself, his reservations weren't slight. He wrote,


'The CDE protest text [the one declaimed by Owen Holland] was a shambles.'  It's to his credit that he calls it a 'text' and not a poem.' This member of the Cambridge English Faculty seems to have overlooked the fact that it was a Cambridge graduate in English Literature, Owen Holland' who was obviously oblivious of the multiple flaws of the text. Its hideous flaws suggest that it's possible to graduate in English literature from Cambridge University with a very striking insensitivity to words, a way with words which is so poor that it raises some troubling questions about the Faculty. Its hideous flaws suggest that it's possible to teach literature in the Faculty of English - to give just one example, Dr Gopal - without recognizing the hideous flaws. Even so, I've no general, far-reaching criticisms to make here of the Faculty or the University.


The extracts  from the 'protest text' and my comments on the 'protest text' will make it completely clear that I agree. It was a shambles. Below, I refer to it as a 'poem,' a text with no serious claims to be considered as poetry. I also refer to it as a 'pose-'poem.' '


Owen Holland studied  at St Catherine's College, Cambridge. He has a Cambridge MA degree in English and a Cambridge PhD, as well as an MA in Critical Theory from Sussex University. Of course, possession of a Cambridge degree in English Literature can't possibly guarantee that the graduate writes poetry which is better than mediocre, but it should guarantee that the graduate avoids elementary mistakes in the use of language.  Obviously, standards at Cambridge aren't  stratospherically high in every respect. A possessor of a Cambridge first degree in English can still produce a text - or a 'poem' - that is 'a shambles.'  An academic at Cambridge University, Dr Gopal for instance, failed to see any problems with 'the poem.'


(3) Owen Holland is - or was - a demonizer of Israel, Owen Holland is the specialist - the specialist misuser of words, such as the word 'apartheid,' the specialist so absorbed in his condemnation of Israel that he seems to have omitted to carry out a responsible survey of the intractable problems of the Middle East and other issues relevant to his condemnation, such as apartheid in South Africa, and there are many of them. Like many another Oxford and Cambridge academic, and many another academic at many other universities, he seems someone with a degree of rigour, or the appearance of rigour, or spurious rigour in his own field (which includes study of William Morris) and a dilettante when he comments on matters outside his field. Academics who have made a deep study of matters such as the complex histories of Middle Eastern countries, military tactics and strategy, the ethical problems raised by military action, and many other fields with a vast and complex literature, don't in general comment on William Morris. If they did, they should make strenuous efforts to know enough about William Morris to comment on him.  People with an interest in specialisms far removed from  harsh and unforgiving fields like military action often see no reason why they shouldn't lay down the law, unequipped, unprepared, inadequate, vulnerable.


I think the university's duty of care to students is an  important consideration in the protest led by Owen Holland at Cambridge. Some forms of protest may entail physical dangers, not applicable to this protest at Cambridge, unlike some other, non-physical dangers. Academics who encourage students to take  unnecessary risks, from a position of safety, have to be questioned. Owen Holland  probably didn't give nearly enough thought to some possible consequences of his protest.


Dr Jason Scott-Warren, fellow of Gonville and Caius College (who should have given thought to some possible consequences for students who took part in the protest, above all some possible consequences for Owen Holland):

'It wasn’t only students who were involved in this ‘protest'; several academics were involved too. I was one of them. I was told in advance ... about what was planned, and when it started I joined in with the chant that drowned Willetts out.'

The YouTube video which records the protest:


'The chant that drowned Willetts out' begins at 11.45 in the video. Who were the other academics who were involved in the protest? Did none of them realize that this was a protest that had got out of hand? The should have realized that long before 'the chant that drowned out Willetts' which began at 11.45. They should have realized that there could well be repercussions for Owen Holland and risks for the  reputation of the University. This was a deranged protest.


A viewing of the full video is likely to be a tedious experience but should be attempted if at all possible for a full appreciation of the deranged protest and the part played by Owen Holland - and not in a subsidiary role. He was the most prominent protester by far and it made perfect sense to impose sanctions on him. The evidence was clear-cut.  It would have been impossible to identify and unjust to impose sanctions on everyone involved. But identifying some at least of the other academics who were involved was feasible, surely.  Dr Jason Scott-Warren admitted that he took part. Sanctions on him and any other academics who can be proved to have taken part would have been justified, I think.  I don't discuss here the price that Owen Holland paid for his mock-heroic protest. I'll simply state that I think the original sanction, suspension from the University for seven terms, was much too harsh, but a strong sanction was essential to deter future disruption of this kind.


This is a very short account of the protest,



'Holland, an English literature student, stood up and shouted out the lines, which were amplified by several other protesters in a human megaphone style.' The extracts from the so-called  poem below are transcribed from the video, except for the opening lines. I haven't been able to find a text version of the rest.


'The Best of Private Eye 1974' has a hilarious piece 'The Unpublishable Diaries of Evelyn Baugh.' It includes Baugh at Oxford - not, in isolation, particularly hilarious:

'He was enchanted by the wit, the elegance, the insouciant sophistication of post-war Oxford. It was the time of the famous 'aesthetes', including the legendary Hon. Sid Beloff, who kept a peacock in his rooms at Christchurch, and once astonished a group of passing rowing men by chanting at them through a megaphone Verlaine's poem "Bonjour matelots".


I don't think that the not-quiet-so-legendary Owen Holland ever kept a peacock in his room at St Catherine's, but his protest at Cambridge was just as ridiculous as the action of the legendary Sid Beloff.


The protest was ridiculous but no laughing matter. His language was stale and stilted. He called a letter an 'epistle,' if he had made a joke - very unlikely - he might well have called it a 'jest.'


I've not been able to find a 'definitive' version of this minipiece or rather micropiece - opposites of a masterpiece, to varying degrees. The extracts below are transcribed from the video. In a few places the sound is unclear to some extent. In written form, the badness of the lines is even more striking, Owen Holland's limitations even more evident: a  severe disadvantage, I would have thought, in a Cambridge-educated man  who now has the job of teaching students of English literature at Jesus College, Oxford.


This is the opening of the long pose-'poem' shouted out by Owen Holland.


The future does not belong to you.
This is an epistle
which is addressed to you.
But it is written
for those who will come after us.
Because we do not respect your right
to occupy the platform.


The 'poem' has yet to reach full stupidity, but already, there's more than the promise of stupidity in abundance.

Consider 'it is written / for those who will come after us.' The 'poet' is actually claiming to have written a 'poem' which has lasting significance, or should have lasting significance! He's writing for generations still to come - or one generation at least.


This grandiose claim can be compared with claims to lasting significance based on the writer's justified pride in work well done, such as Thucydides' claim that his history of the Peloponnesian War is 'a possession for all time'  (κτῆμά τε ἐς αἰεὶ) in section 1:22  The Roman poet Horace (Q. Horatius Flaccus claimed 'I have raised a monument more permanent than bronze' (Exegi monumentum aere perennius), Carmina III, 30. And, of course, the poetry has lasted to this day.


Owen Holland addresses the minister:

... you come with a knife
concealed beneath your cloak


We have already seen
the fixed gaze of the hired assassin.


This is inflated rubbish, rubbish perpetrated by someone with the benefit of a Cambridge University English degree - people not so fortunate, humble builders, for example, are very unlikely to have the knowledge needed to perpetrate this particular form of stupidity. Even so, builders, have their own expertise and skills, setting an example for Owen Holland which he can't match in the field of poetic composition. Here, he's a jerry builder with words, a beginner and a bungler and a bodger. This is emphatically not' 'a possession for all time.'


The poet-poseur, or 'poet'-poseur quickly explains why he detests David Willetts so much, or some of the reasons, and why David Willetts shouldn't be allowed to speak, according to this particular arbiter:


You have professed your commitment
to the religion of choice
but you leave us with no choice.


The protestors had no choice - can he be serious? They had the choice of standing outside the venue before David Willetts was due to speak, handing out leaflets to people who had decided to attend the event. There was no compulsion to wreck the event, to strengthen the growing Cambridge reputation for intolerance.


Another objection, which would only be decisive to people like Owen Holland:


You are a man
who believes in the market
[rather than state control of the market]
and in the power of competition [and not state control]
to drive up quality.
But look to the world around you.
Your gods have failed.


He's probably unaware of the book 'The God that failed: six studies in communism' which includes pieces by Arthur Koestler, Andre Gide, Stephen Spender and others. Whatever gods failed in the case of  David Willetts, allegedly, they're not to be equated with the vengeful God of communism.


'The highest death tolls that have been documented in communist states occurred in the Soviet Union  under Joseph Stalin,  in the People's Republic of China  under Mao Zedong, and in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. The estimates of the number of non-combatants killed by these three regimes alone range from a low of 21 million to a high of 70 million.'


There follows, after more forgettable verbiage, a laboured comparison which has only one advantage: it injects just a little laboured but unintended humour into the diatribe. Dr Gopal is just one of the Cambridge academics who seem not to have realized that this isn't poetry:


So we are climbing into the driving seat
because your steering is uncomfortable to us
and your destination
is not of our choosing.


So let us begin
by activating the emergency brake.


This is quickly followed by a blatant contradiction. After insisting that 'we are climbing into the driving seat' he now insists


We have no desire
to be put into the driving seat.
There are chairs enough in our libraries.


He seems to overlook the obvious point that chairs have different functions. A chair in a library can provide support but can't perform the functions of a car seat. More on libraries:


Would that there were more libraries,
because these are the only seats of learning
that we would wish to know.


Other 'seats of learning' are ignored. Professorial chairs are ignored. Laboratories and lecture theatres are ignored. It seems that he never bothered to revise these lines, but I can find no evidence that he revised any of the lines in the 'poem.'


Libraries do give rise to some obvious difficulties for Owen Holland. This is a view of the library of Jesus College, or some of it:



The Bodleian Library is much larger, of course - the second largest in the country, and a National deposit library, entitled to request one copy of every book published in the United Kingdom within a year of publication. Owen Holland's views of the spoken word are clear enough - if he disagrees  sufficiently strongly and is able to put a stop to it, then he does put a stop to it, at least he did in this case.   What is his view of the written word, such as the books in libraries? A library such as the Bodleian is very comprehensive. It contains books which give the arguments for and the arguments against, for example the arguments for a particular policy in higher education and the arguments against. Does Owen Holland question this? Would he throw out books which promote conservative policy in higher education, for instance? I take it that he and his supporters wouldn't engage in anything as crude as book burning? The  plaque which marks the place where Nazis burned books in Frankfurt is a harrowing record of the event.


From my page on Bullfighting: arguments against and action against:

I've never at any time attempted to suppress pro-bullfighting views, Anti-bullfighting activists who do try to suppress pro-bullfighting views are very much mistaken - not mistaken about bullfighting,  but very much mistaken in opposing the free flow of ideas.


All attempts to suppress pro-bullfighting books or other printed materials, to suppress pro-bullfighting films or internet materials, to suppress pro-bullfighting talks and lectures, are deeply misguided. In 'the marketplace of ideas,' I regard anti-bullfighting arguments as decisively, overwhelmingly superior to pro-bullfighting arguments. The anti-bullfighting case needs no censorship of pro-bullfighting views.

The principle that there should be a free flow of ideas, information and evidence is a principle under attack. It's essential to defend it. I know of one organization which called upon a bookseller to remove a pro-bullfighting book from sale and was successful. This was a bad mistake on the part of the organization and the bookseller. There are many threats to freedom of expression, threats which may be veiled or violent.  They come from believers in  political correctness, Islamists and others. A bookshop or library should be under no pressure to deny shelf-space to books which criticize political correctness, Islam and bullfighting and books which support political correctness, Islam and bullfighting, and similarly for other issues. Before I could read Alexander Fiske-Harrison's Into the Arena it was necessary for me to buy a copy or borrow a copy from a library. I bought a copy. The idea that I should be expected to criticize Alexander Fiske-Harrison's defence of bullfighting on the basis of a few things I'd heard, without having read the book, is repugnant.


It's overwhelmingly likely that Cambridge University Library will continue to be a very comprehensive repository of print materials which aren't censored but publishing can't possibly be as comprehensive as librarianship. Even so, some of the output of the magnificent and shockingly bad Cambridge University Press goes well beyond mediocrity, some of its biases are blatant: I think that the term 'political correctness' is in need of replacement, but whatever replaces it, Cambridge University Press is likely to treat the questioning of political correctness as 'not suitable' for its list. . It will continue to publish philosophers' debates on the reality of the external world, on solipsism, and of course other epistemological topics, but it isn't very likely to publish academic doubts on this particular reality. Columbia University Press has published a very good book edited by Daphne Patai and Will H. Corral, 'Theory's Empire: An Anthology of Dissent.'


The site examines in detail one of its less successful attempts, The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney. See, for example, Fran Brearton: Bowdlerizing and Breartonizing and Guinn Batten and the drowned sheep. For a discussion of academic over-loading, there's the section Allusions: The Greek Donkey.


The range of human sufferings, the range of human cruelties, the range of human imperfections are ignored in Owen Holland's monomaniac pursuit of David Willetts. Contrary to what Owen Holland may believe, David Willetts isn't one of the worst men who has ever lived and the views of David Willetts on such matters as higher education, choice and the economy aren't amongst the most shocking views ever to have been put forward. If the benefits of a Cambridge education don't include an understanding of such elementary points as these then so much the worse for a Cambridge education, at least in the Faculty of English.


The next line is the worst in the entire diatribe:


We do not wish to rape our teachers.


Tony Pinkney of Lancaster University wrote,

'Clearly Owen’s spirited protest ... comes from his Morrisian values and Cambridge’s brutal reprisal against him is by the same token an attack on academic work on Morris and utopia.'


'Morrisian values' are conveyed by means of a moronic poem. This is yet another academic who would react very very badly, I think, if one day students at one of his lectures started shouting, 'Pinkney! Pinkney! Pinkney! Out! Out! Out!' Whether 'Morrisian values' inspired their protest or not.


Owen Holland makes a rousing call to arms, not by any stretch of the imagination by poetic means, although there are propagandist Soviet 'poets' who have written lines  just as bad as these:


... we will stand with our teachers
on their picket lines.


More pose-'poetry' follows, not routine at all, much worse than routine. He refers to


Your methodistic framework of excellence
your chummy invitation
to hop on board
and serve the needs of the economy ...


Poetic excellence is completely absent from the line 'Your methodistic framework of excellence. '


If the economy is irrelevant to Dr Owen Holland, if the needs of the economy are completely irrelevant, if he ignores the fact that so many benefits, in health, education and other spheres, are dependent upon economic health, then I only hope that only a small minority of  other graduates from the Faculty share these views.


But he insists that


... we are schooled
in a different kind of pedagogy.


It can be assumed that people who studied in the Cambridge Faculty of English and emerged unscathed, with a BA and possibly a PhD degree know the meaning of a word like 'pedagogy.' It can't be assumed that they have even low-level skills in some of the uses of words.


This prime piece of pretentiousness is followed quite quickly by


We understand that you do not like
to be told that you are wrong
so we also understand
that you do not want us to think
too rigorously
or creatively.


Owen Holland's capacity for rigorous or creative thought is difficult to detect.


The muscularity and vigour available in English are completely missing from the next prissy lines (not forgetting all the other lines.)


It is inappropriate
to lay out to you
the terms of your own wrongness.


Here, and in other places, the protest text makes assumptions about some imperfections of humanity: David Willetts is the villain and the protestors are virtuous, very, very virtuous, Owen Holland included.


Another view of the imperfections of humanity, to be found in Kant's "'Out of the crooked timber of humanity no straight thing was ever made,' Isaiah Berlin's loose translation of 'Aus so krummem Holze, als woraus der Mensch gemacht ist, kann nichts ganz Gerades gezimmert,' from 'Idee zu einer allgemeinen Geschichte in weltbürgerlicher,' Absicht, 6. Satz (1784).)


A contrast of great interest, I think, from Friedrich Hölderlin's 'Lebenslauf' (1800):


Herrscht im schiefesten Orkus
Nicht ein Grades, ein Recht noch auch?

Where Orkus ('Orcus') is the  underworld of Roman mythology.


In my translation,


Does there not reign even in most crooked Orcus
a Straightness, a Law too?


This  is a very short reminder of wonderful, concentrated poetry after so much examination of diffuse dross, with dross still to be examined - but I've already made it clear that this dross shouldn't be regarded as poetry, even the modest poetic achievement which Gerard Manley Hopkins called 'Parnassian.'


Owen Holland  was a 'Career Development Fellow' at Jesus College, Oxford. These Fellows are given help in obtaining their first academic post. Not long before he became a Career Development Fellow, the idea of a career was far from his mind, as the 'poem' makes clear. He asks of David Willetts,


But has it not occurred to you
that the notion of scholarship
far from leading to a profession
may in fact preclude it?


Unless, of course, this was just for show - the young idealist stressing his refusal to conform to worldly ways.

He's now at University College, London. For the time being, University College is stuck with a fellow paid to teach English literature with so little feeling for words that he can perpetrate 'may in fact preclude it' as a line in what has been widely regarded as a poem.


Possessions, like professions, are unimportant to him - or were at the time he denounced David Willetts and attacked other targets with his feeble blunderbuss.


We none of us believe
that any of our possessions are our own.


What - did he read those words after he'd written them to check if they would  make him appear ridiculous when he declaimed them in public? Does he really claim that he owns nothing? If so, there's nothing of his which a thief could steal.


Soon, the easily led were chanting this:


We are both measurably younger
and immeasurably older
than you.

A little later, this incompetent dramatist, or rather this incompetent over-dramatizer gives us this:

You can threaten to shoot at us
with rubber bullets.
You can arrest us.
You can imprison us.

Followed very quickly by this (again, capital letters supplied)


And the supporters repeat it


He takes the trouble to explain why David Willetts can't possibly rape these protestors:

Because we are more resolute
more numerous
and more determined than you.

The fact that the protestors are more numerous than David Willetts is a statement of the obvious, but this gves the clear impression that Owen Holland believes that people who are outnumbered are very likely to be in the wrong.

At last,  he comes to the climax:

The nub of the issue is this:

What can he be referring to? What is the decisive point? He gives the answer immediately:

You do not have confidence in yourself.

And the chanters repeat it.

At 11.45 in the YouTube video, a youth takes over. He could easily have been identified, surely, and perhaps was identified. He should have been sanctioned too. He shouts

Willetts! Willetts! Willetts!

And the response is

Out! Out! Out!

The aggression of the audience is obvious but Owen Holland isn't at all fastidious. He doesn't sit in silence. He can be seen joining in before he turns his back to the camera. Gonville and Caius' Jason Scott-Warren isn't too fastidious either. By his own admission, he shouted with the rest.

George Orwell on elation and heavy drinking in a Paris bistro at half-past one in the morning. ('Down and Out in Paris and London.')

'We perceived that we were not splendid inhabitants of a splendid world, but a crew of underpaid workmen grown squalidly and dismally drunk.'

After the spurious exhilaration of listening to the not-so-potent words of Owen Holland, after the false thrill of shouting out 'Out! Out! Out' the protestors, Owen Holland included, may well have felt after the protest that they weren't, after all, 'splendid inhabitants of a splendid world.'

When it appointed Owen Holland to the post of Career Development Fellow in English Literature, Jesus College blundered, I think - to be more exact, more fair-minded, whoever was responsible for appointing him made a mistake.

Since moving to Jesus, Dr Holland will have been expected to develop, amongst other things, the literary skills, values and insights of undergraudates, although how someone with so abysmal a feeling for poetry can possibly do them much good or any good at all is a mystery. 

Since moving to Jesus, Dr Holland seems to have been keeping a low profile. He's a Career Development Lecturer at Jesus - a temporary lecturer who is being supported as he attempts to get his first university post. He became quite famous for a  time for his part in the noisy protest at Cambridge and the sanctions which followed, but he may have decided that shouting down a visiting speaker at Oxford isn't in his best interests, and that a ban on protesting is what's needed now, a self-imposed ban, not one imposed on him.  If he's successful, if he eventually obtains tenure, he may or may not decide that he can take greater risks. There's an alternative explanation, that he decided that his actions had been frivolous, futile, fatuous ...

From the Website of Jesus College, on the  English course:

'The English course is extremely demanding ... Our students think in original and imaginative ways, and are willing to pursue ideas, themes, and approaches to texts independently.'

And, ' you need to be able to read widely but also in close detail; to understand the sweep of historical change while also being able to meditate on the nuances of a single word.'

Can Owen Holland meditate on the nuances of a single word, such as the word 'epistles' in the poem he declaimed? Why not 'letters' rather than the obsolescent word 'epistles?' (Gerard Manley Hopkins: 'The poetical language of an age should be the current language heightened, to any degree heightened and unlike itself, but obsolete one.' (Letter - not 'epistle' - to Robert Bridges, 14 August, 1879.)

Of course, harshness takes very different forms and to very different degrees, but I think that the academic world is a harsh place in many ways. Becoming an academic isn't always difficult but very often it is, and of course there are many, many people who fail to find an academic post. Being an academic involves harshness - academics play a part in failing students, or awarding degrees which are bitterly disappointing to students, who expected a much better degree, possible outcomes whenever they mark examanition scripts. I've absolutely no power, of course, to give Owen Holland his first real academic post, or to refuse him. All I've done is to write and publish some harsh criticisms of him, with arguments and evidence (I'm aware that providing arguments and evidence isn't the fashion in some places.) 

I oppose unrestrained warfare and I oppose unrestrained polemics as well. I removed a profile from this page - not the profile of an academic - when I found that the person I'd written about had serious health issues.


Oxford University gives a comprehensive list of Owen Holland's Journal Articles and Chapters in Books, including these (I've no idea if he's a Marxist or not but it wouldn't surprise me in the least if he was.)

‘Morris and Marxist Theory’, in The Ashgate Research Companion to William Morris, ed. Florence Boos (forthcoming)

‘From the Place Vendôme to Trafalgar Square: Imperialism and Counter-hegemony in the 1880s Romance Revival’, Key Words: A Journal of Cultural Materialism, 14 (2016), 98-115

His internet writing isn't listed, of course, but internet materials can be very, very revealing. They certainly are in his case. He's the author of an article published on the site 'Lebanese Campaign for the Boycott of Zionism'

The title of his article is 'Why Boycotting Apartheid Israel Matters.'

To give one example, he writes about 'the attempted suppression of the Goldstone report'  but fails to mention that Goldstone later changed his mind, modified his views. I discuss the matter in detail in my section on Manchester University academics who, like Owen Holland, support boycotts of 'apartheid Israel.' I quote Goldstone on the subject:

'Richard Goldstone published a significant letter in the New York Times, 'Israel and the Apartheid Slander' on the claim that Israel is an 'apartheid state.' (November 1, 2011.) Extracts:

'The Palestinian Authority’s request for full United Nations membership has put hope for any two-state solution under increasing pressure. The need for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians has never been greater. So it is important to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from assaults that aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize it.

One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a “hearing” on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.

While “apartheid” can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.

'In assessing the accusation that Israel pursues apartheid policies, which are by definition primarily about race or ethnicity, it is important first to distinguish between the situations in Israel, where Arabs are citizens, and in West Bank areas that remain under Israeli control in the absence of a peace agreement.

'In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts ... committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.

'The situation in the West Bank is more complex. But here too there is no intent to maintain “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.” ... until there is a two-state peace, or at least as long as Israel’s citizens remain under threat of attacks from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel will see roadblocks and similar measures as necessary for self-defense, even as Palestinians feel oppressed. As things stand, attacks from one side are met by counterattacks from the other. And the deep disputes, claims and counterclaims are only hardened when the offensive analogy of “apartheid” is invoked.

Those seeking to promote the myth of Israeli apartheid often point to clashes between heavily armed Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinians in the West Bank, or the building of what they call an “apartheid wall” and disparate treatment on West Bank roads. While such images may appear to invite a superficial comparison, it is disingenuous to use them to distort the reality. The security barrier was built to stop unrelenting terrorist attacks; while it has inflicted great hardship in places, the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered the state in many cases to reroute it to minimize unreasonable hardship. Road restrictions get more intrusive after violent attacks and are ameliorated when the threat is reduced.'


'Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and the West Bank cannot be simplified to a narrative of Jewish discrimination. There is hostility and suspicion on both sides. Israel, unique among democracies, has been in a state of war with many of its neighbors who refuse to accept its existence ... '

In his Lebanese article, Owen Holland writes, ''Small wonder ... that the Falls Road Murals in Belfast paint pictures of solidarity with Palestinian suffering.' He provides a link to images of some murals, including one which shows Bobby Sands. This is another Belfast mural showing the hunger striker.

Image result for "bobby sands" "falls road"

This is another, with the names of assorted hunger strikers. The first two in the lists are Bobby Sands and Francis Hughes. The slogan includes this, 'Our rulers will stop at nothing to attain their ends.'

Image result for "francis hughes" wandbild



A page on this site Ireland and Northern Ireland: distortions and illusions gives my criticisms of Irish nationalism. A section Seamus Heaney and the hunger strikers on another page gives information about these two and other people commemorated in murals on the Falls Road and some other parts of Belfast:

'In 1978, a bomb exploded under the car of William Gordon, a member of the Ulster Defence Regiment who was taking his children to primary school. He was killed instantly, as was  his ten year old daughter, Lesley, who was decapitated. His seven year old son Richard was severely injured by the blast.

'The bomb was planted by Francis Hughes. The year before, he had taken part in an attack on a police vehicle in which one man was killed and another wounded. In 1978, Francis Hughes was captured, after a gun battle in which one soldier was killed and another severely wounded. After his capture, his fingerprints were found on a car used during the killing of a 77 year old Protestant woman.

'This is the man, then, who has been described as 'an absolute fanatic,' 'a ruthless killer' who undertook a hunger strike and was the second man to die ...

'The best known of the ten hunger strikers who died is Bobby Sands.

From the site ' ... in October 1972 ... he was arrested and charged with possession, after an arms dump containing four handguns were found in a safe house in which he was staying. Sentenced to three years imprisonment ...

'Within six months he was arrested again. This time he and a nine man team had been assembled. Their target - The Balmoral Furniture Company on the Upper Dunmurry Lane.

' ... The IRA had targeted the store, in the full knowledge of the risk to staff and shoppers ... The only reason that Republicans can cite for the attack was “...the extravagantly-priced furniture it sold…”. The plan was to petrol bomb the premises and then to lay explosive charges to spread the flames.'

'Information about the other hunger strikers who died - their names, organizations (INLA is 'Irish National Liberation Army) and convictions - by 'convictions' I mean, of course, 'reason for imprisonment,' not 'desire to bring about a united Ireland by shooting and bombing.' These men, like Francis Hughes and Bobby Sands, would have been the beneficiaries of Seamus Heaney's translation from Dante if he hadn't changed his mind.

'Raymond McCreesh, IRA. Attempted murder, possession of a rifle, IRA membership
'Patsy O’Hara, INLA. Possession of a hand grenade
'Joe McDonnell, IRA. Possession of a firearm
'Martin Hurson, IRA. Attempted murder, involvement in explosions, IRA membership
'Kevin Lynch, INLA. Stealing shotguns, taking part in a punishment shooting
'Kieran Doherty, IRA. Possession of firearms and explosives, hijacking
'Thomas McElwee, IRA, Manslaughter
'Michael Devine, INLA. Theft and possession of firearms.

'The INLA is less well known than the IRA but was just as ruthless. Dominic McGlinchey, Chief of Staff of the INLA between 1982 - 1984, had operated with Francis Hughes. 'He once boasted to an Irish reporter that he had murdered at least thirty people.' After the bombing of a pub in Ballykelly, which 'killed seventeen people, eleven of them soldiers and four of them young women ... McGlinchey became the most wanted man in Ireland.' (Jack Holland, 'Hope against History: The Ulster Conflict.')

Dr Ian Patterson and 'unparalleled outrage'

Dr Patterson, of Queens College, was the supervisor of Owen Holland.

From his LRB [London Review of Books] blog, 15 March, 2012:


' ... a sense of outrage and disbelief unparalleled in my experience spread through the university today ...



What was the massive human suffering or the massive injustice which occasioned this massive response, this unprecedented wave of outrage and disbelief in the Cambridge academic community, allegedly? Perhaps mass beheadings after extreme torture? He continues:


‘as it became known that the court had imposed a sentence of seven terms rustication ... [that is, suspension from the University, on the PhD student Owen Holland].


Does he really want the wider world to take this extraordinary, misguided display of outrage as an extraordinary display of Cambridge humanitarianism, of Cambridge values and Cambridge priorities?

Ian Patterson's blog article includes this:




'Milton and Dryden were both rusticated from Cambridge, it’s true, for quarrelling with college authorities, and Swinburne from Oxford for speaking in support of an attempt to assassinate Napoleon III, but I don’t think anyone has previously been punished in this way for reading a poem.'




To put this ludicrous display of anger in perspective, Hashem Shabaani, like Ian Patterson a poet and teacher - but there the resemblances end - was punished with a very different kind of suspension - hanging.  He was arrested in February 2011 with four other Iranian Arabs 'apparently in connection with their cultural activities, such as organizing events in the Arabic language, conferences, educational courses, art classes, and poetry recital gatherings' according to Amnesty International, sentenced to death in July 2012 for 'waging war against Allah, sowing corruption on earth, propaganda against the Islamic Republic and acting against national security,("waging war on God"), as well as "sowing corruption on earth, propaganda against the Islamic Republic and acting against national security and hanged at an undisclosed prison in January 2014.

Owen Holland appealed against the suspension. 'The Cambridge Student' on the outcome: 'generosity.'

' ... the Septemviri [the University's Appeal Court] were at pains to point out the 'one-off' nature of their generosity: "We have therefore decided, but in this case only, to follow a merciful course."



'The Septemviri therefore reduced Holland's sentence from seven term's 'rustication' (or suspension) to one term on 22 June. This still means however that Holland, currently studying for a PhD in English at St Catharine's College, will be unable to use the University's premises and facilities, and will no longer officially be deemed a student of Cambridge University, for the duration of Michaelmas Term 2012, returning to the University at the start of 2013.

There's more on the reasons for the original sanction:


"brought his current misfortune on himself"


'The majority of the Chairman's report sets out in detail how the Septemviri upheld the original verdict of 'guilty' on the charge that Holland "had intentionally or recklessly impeded freedom of speech within the precincts of the University".

The charge relates to an incident on 22 November last year, when Universities Minister David Willetts was prevented from starting a lecture on "The Idea of the University" in Lady Mitchell Hall on the Sidgwick Site by around 30 students from activist group Cambridge Defend Education (CDE). As Willetts arrived at the lectern, the protesters began chanting a 25-minute poetic letter, or 'epistle', entitled "Go home, David", via call and response led by Owen Holland. After the chant finished, a group of around 20 protesters proceeded to occupy the stage. Upon this, Willetts left without giving his lecture, and the event was cancelled. The protest was followed by a week-long occupation of Lady Mitchell Hall by CDE activists.'


On another page of 'The Cambridge Student:'

'CUSU President Gerard Tully, said in a statement: "David Willetts is the architect of higher education policy which is actively damaging to the quality of education that Cambridge (and other universities) offer and creates an unfair financial barrier to students from the broadest backgrounds aspiring to University. It is entirely right that students and academics protest these policies, as over 100 did today before Mr Willetts' talk. Tonight students had the opportunity and choice to hear and question Mr Willetts, in the 800-year old tradition of academic enquiry and freedom of speech that Cambridge has pioneered. Students have now been denied that opportunity, and CUSU cannot support this.

'Freedom of expression is one of the founding principles of University education - no matter how objectionable the views being espoused are. Students believe in this principle and so does CUSU, so we cannot support any protest that violates it - which the disruption of David Willetts' talk tonight clearly did." '


This is a strong, a very welcome expression of support for the principle of academic freedom - even if the '800-year old tradition of academic enquiry and freedom of speech that Cambridge has pioneered' is a travesty of historical fact.



Jason Scott-Warren: 'Out! Out! Out!'


From the introduction to these profiles of academics, 'Some of the profiles of  academics give information about denial of free expression with a direct connection with the Israel-Palestinian conflict, others are concerned with denial of free expression with no direct connection with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. In all these cases, the academic has pro-Palestinian-anti-Israel views.' Dr Jason Scott-Warren is a prolific pro-Palestinian-anti-Israel statement signer.



Paul Sagar wrote an article for Liberal conspiracy, 'The student 'protest' at Cambridge last night was deluded.'

Dr Jason Scott-Warren wrote to correct him in the Comments section:

'It wasn’t only students who were involved in this ‘protest'; several academics were involved too. I was one of them. I was told in advance (during the protest which began at 4.30) about what was planned, and when it started I joined in with the chant that drowned Willetts out.'

Paul Sagar wrote:

'Willetts was introduced – with an explicit appeal for reasonable discussion – and the man himself took the stand. But as he began speaking, he was immediately interrupted. A single individual  [Owen Holland] began shouting.

'His every line was immediately repeated by 20-30 or so others. Thus began a long, ponderous series of declamations, bizarre poetic allegories, and varying denunciations of Willetts, his Government, the future of education, and everything in between.


'Willetts could not get a word in edge ways. The tension in the room was dramatic. It felt like it went on and on. Shout then chant, shout then chant ...


'When the “speech” from the floor was over, the instigators began chants of “Willetts Willetts Willets, Out Out Out”, and surged forward. They took the stage. Willetts had already left. The event was abandoned. A hundred or so other people were forced to exit without being able to voice their opinion or take part in the public debate they were invited to attend.



'I left the hall angry, disgusted and embarrassed. And I write as somebody who took part in the Cambridge Occupation last December, and has attended several recent protests against the Government’s cuts ...


'Firstly, it ... irritated all of those in the room who were not privy to CDE’s  unilateral decision. [CDE: Cambridge Defend Education] The result was the wasting of their time and making them feel marginalised, and in many cases also very angry. It’s hardly a good strategy for winning friends.


'Secondly, it allowed Willetts to leave Cambridge being able to claim that he’d tried to engage openly, but that irrational, unreasonable, selfish students had prevented any constructive dialogue. Anybody who thinks that this ‘action’ was a victory against Willetts is living in cloud cuckoo land.

There’s a considerable irony here too. One of CDE’s stated complaints about Willetts and his Government is that it is so sure of its own convictions they ride rough-shod over the opinions, concerns, rights and needs of others. And yet that is exactly what CDE did tonight.


'It was a show of disguised selfishness; the indulgence of a self-satisfied moral superiority.' 


In his comment, Dr Scott-Warren urges those people who are critical of the form the protest took (he's obviously not in the least critical) to be 'attacking the real enemy: a government with no democratic mandate for change destroying its public education system.'


His ignorance of the democratic system is obvious. The electorate have democratically elected a government. The electorate hasn't democratically voted for all the policies of the government which have been proposed or implemented after they were elected.

He's wrong, of course, to think that the electorate in general opposes the government's policies in higher education. There's widespread public indifference to higher education and the government's policies and actions which affect higher education.


I don't share this indifference in the least. I think that higher education -  not just teaching and research in science, technology, medicine and other subjects with obvious practical importance but teaching and scholarship in the humanities and other subjects without obvious practical importance - has massive importance. I think that academics, whose skills and knowledge are so often at a very, very high level, deserve to be paid more, perhaps much more.


There are many people who are hostile to universities. They may think, for example, that students are lazy layabouts. If Dr Scott-Warren doesn't realize this, he should mingle more with ordinary people. He might well be surprised, and shocked. He took part in a protest which would confirm  the contempt of so many ordinary people. It would confirm them in their view that universities aren't worth bothering about, or that people in universities are stupid, or that universities are hostile to British society.


This comment from 'cjcj' on the same page of 'Liberal Conspiracy' reflects the reaction most ordinary people would have to Dr Jason Scott-Warren, or a reaction far more likely than 'obviously a principled and justifiable protest.


'Jesus f*cking Christ, an academic (and from my own college too I discover after a quick google!) chooses to drown out a visiting speaker.

Perhaps I should pop into one of your lectures, Jason, and drown you out.'


Anyone who thinks that impoverished university graduates amount to a scandalous problem and have a very strong claim on public sympathies may like to take into account this view, presented by James Kirkup in the 'Daily Telegraph' (15 May, 2014):


'One person in five who receives university education becomes a millionaire, according to official figures.

 'Twenty per cent of all adults who hold at least one university degree — more than two million people — now have wealth totalling at least £1 million, data from the Office for National Statistics show.


'Almost a tenth of all British adults now own assets — property, pensions, savings and physical objects — worth £1 million or more.

 'The total number of millionaires in Britain has risen by 50 per cent in four years despite the recent financial crisis. The figures showed a stark gap in wealth between people with different levels of education. Only three per cent of people with no formal educational qualifications have assets worth more than £1 million.

 'The gap in wealth as it relates to education has widened over time. In 2006-07, some 16 per cent of graduates were asset millionaires, compared with two per cent of people without formal qualifications.



'David Willetts, the universities minister told The Telegraph that the figures were “more evidence of why going to university is a very good deal”.


'Nhe higher wealth of people with degrees justifies Coalition policies to charge higher tuition fees and push more school-leavers to go to university, he added.


' ''It shows why it’s fair to ask graduates to pay back the cost of their higher education, and why increasing the number of people who go to university will spread wealth and opportunity.' '


Dr Andrew Zurcher, selective libertarian

Dr Andrew Zurcher of Queens College, Cambridge, is an outspoken defender of free speech. If someone is invited to address a meeting but protestors disagree with the speaker, then outdated notions of free speech would defend the speaker's right to speak, not the protestors right to shout the speaker down. Not so! At least, for Dr Zurcher and many other Cambridge academics. The free speech of the censors is what counts. Obviously, the cause must be a virtuous one. If the speaker is an elected MP and a minister of a democracy, then this is no defence.


Andrew Zurcher is a committed defender  not just of freedom of speech, in this special sense, but freedom of action, such as occupation of buildings for as long as it takes - until demands are met, or unless 'repressive' action puts a stop to it.

I'm not sure if he would agree with disruption of his lectures (by such means as chanting a poem) or occupation of his own living quarters. There are limits to his tolerance.



He was one of  sixty Cambridge University academics who 'have spoken out in dismay at the university's handling of a peaceful protest in which more than one hundred students occupied the Law Faculty,' in the version of reality put out by  Cambridge Gaza Solidarity.  The occupation, which lasted a mere six days, before being terminated by the university authorities, was intended to show solidarity with the people of Gaza. The students made 'six main demands' (the number of lesser demands isn't given, whether small or large). One of the main demands was for  disinvestment from the arms trade.

In their letter (February 6, 2009) the academics write

'We ... strongly agree that an educational institution should not be involved with or benefit from the arms trade which has brought so much suffering around the world, and therefore support students' calls for disinvestment from this industry.'

And if every liberal democracy decided to have nothing to do with the arms trade, then every liberal democracy would go under. ISIS would no longer be bombed from the air and the guns would fall silent, the guns of liberal democracies' unarmed forces (formerly, armed forces), that is. ISIS could  invade this country in perfect safety, and could carry out beheading of kuffars, including the deluded people who signed the letter.


The consequences of principled objections to the arms trade before the Second World War are obvious, if not to these academics: a successful invasion of this country, followed by mass executions, genocide (genuine genocide, that is , not the genocide which it's claimed the Israelis carry out), forced labour and the ending of free speech.

These people also add some relatively inoffensive waffle.

'As teachers, we strive to foster in our students an interrogative and transformative attitude towards the world' whilst maintaining, in many or most cases, perhaps, an unquestioning belief in the dogma of Palestinian righteousness. This was one proclamation which didn't include even a token reference to Israel's right to defend itself.

Instead of indulging their self-indulgence, like the sixty academics, the University authorities gave a more valuable lesson to the students, in the form of a reality check: the limits to self-indulgence. (This will be a valuable lesson if any of these students are tempted to try similar tactics when they enter employment: occupation of the employer's premises won't be met with gratitude for their enlightenment.) 'Over the course of the six-day sit-in, the University threatened matriculation sanctions and legal action. It also endeavoured to prevent any food being brought into the building for the occupiers.'

If one of the main demands had been for the University to impose an academic boycott against Israel, and a hundred protestors had occupied a Medical Faculty Building and a hundred more Science Laboratories and a hundred more Geography buildings, until the university became gridlocked, if  a hundred radical Islamists had descended on the Law Faculty, occupied a different part of the building and demanded implementation of Sharia law, if hundreds and hundreds of other protesters had decided to occupy University buildings for other causes and made their demands, then even these academics might just have realized that this couldn't possibly go on. 


Andrew Zurcher outlines his particular interests:

'I work on sixteenth- and seventeenth-century English literature, with a particular focus on the works of Edmund Spenser, Philip Sidney, and William Shakespeare. My research to date has emphasised early modern legal history, Elizabethan colonial and military activity in Ireland, textual studies (including palaeography and manuscript studies), the sixteenth-century reception of Academic and Pyrrhonist epistemology, early modern secretarial practice, and the theory and practice of allegory in the sixteenth century.'

Most of his work is remote from the military and ethical dimensions of the Israel-Gaza conflict. His publication 'English Handwriting 1500-1700: An Online Course, written with Raphael Lyne and Gavin Alexander, wouldn't provide many transferable skills, but his study of military activity in Ireland might have given him some useful insights. It seems not to have done so.

This is from his book 'Edmund Spenser's "The Faerie Queene": A Reading Guide'

Chapter 1. Mapping and making

' ... he was never far from the brutal and repressive violence of Elizabeth's military campaigns in Ireland. He was present at Lord Grey's victory at Smerwick in the autumn of 1580, when at least 600 Spanish and Papal troops surrendered and were summarily massacred. He later accompanied Lord Grey on similarly brutal campaigns in Wicklow and Wexford and he must have seen - and perhaps done - terrible things durig the war that slowly engulfed Ireland after the revolt of the Earl of Tyrone in 1594 ... '


Notice that although it seems very likely that he considers Israel beyond the pale, he has a very much more flexible attitude to Edmund Spenser. Edmund Spencer's involvement in 'brutal campaigns' doesn't count against him, or not decisively.


My page Ireland and Northern Ireland: distortions and illusions gives a harsh estimate of the position of Ireland at different periods of its history. At these times, it's virtually certain that if Ireland had not been under British influence, or rather, British occupation, it would have been occupied by another powerful state, and more brutal state than the British. See in particular the section on the period of the Second World War.


The harsh fact is that Israel provides protection for the Palestinian territories. Israel would do everything possible to prevent the Palestinian territories being occupied by Isis or another radical islamist organization worse than Hamas.


Dr Zurcher is featured in the article 'Cambridge's most eccentric professors,' published in 'The Tab,' a tabloid magazine produced by students at the University. I don't in the least gloat at the portrayal of Dr Zurcher in the article. I don't find the article interesting in the least, except for the brief quotation of Dr Zurcher's poetry. This, I think has obvious strengths.  'The Tab' on the other hand is tedious, I find, lightweight but leaden, another instance of the mediocrity which can coexist with achievement at Cambridge.


The Cambridge Gaza Solidarity page which gives the text of their letter also gives a list of links to other occupations. Highly recommended: the list of occupations. Reading the list of occupations will be more than enough for everyone but the most devoted occupiers, who will be certain that this kind of occupation is virtuous whilst Israel's (alleged) occupation is evil.

So, on to another cause, the 'Cambridge Defend Education' activists, which involved yet another occupation, this time the occupation of Lady Mitchell Hall. This is supplementary material, as the issue had nothing to do with the Israel-Palestinian conflict. There are obvious linkages, however, with the disruption of Shimon Peres' talk by Abdel Takriti.


This is one source of information on the protest.

'The Cambridge Defend Education campaign group was formed in October 2010 in opposition to the dramatic cuts to the government’s education budget and the raising of tuition fees to £9000.

'Dr Andrew Zurcher, in an open letter in support of CDE, published on their website, claimed that any threat to the core values of the university posed by the protesters when they interrupted Willetts’ speech was offset by the fact that the very act of inviting him to give the speech was, in the light of his recent political decisions, an insult to the moral standing of the university in itself. He challenged Goldhill: “You have said that CDE has mistakenly attacked the core values of the university. Perhaps you have undermined them, by inviting a politician to whitewash his ideologically driven rape of the university sector, in a speech that would rhetorically re-describe it as consensual sex.”

'Dr Simon Goldhill, of the Faculty of Classics, had publicly spoken out against the government’s new education policy; even joining a group of 681 academics who sent an open letter of protest against it to the national press last year. But when Willetts’ speech was interrupted, he reacted with an angry statement on the faculty website, claiming that the protesters had denied Willetts himself the very freedom of speech they claimed to be trying to protect.'


He wrote,

'There are two reasons why I was disappointed with the form of the protest. I say the form of the protest because, like Naomi Wolf who spoke in Cambridge two weeks ago, I believe that protest is a democratic necessity, and like most who work in the University I have been appalled by the nature of the proposed government reforms of education. I would have been surprised if there had been no expression of the anger many feel. But I was equally annoyed by the way these few students elected to behave.

'The first reason is that we lost an extraordinary opportunity. Mr Willetts agreed to do something very few politicians ever do: to face his critics for an hour of questions without any preconditions. We had some of his most articulate critics in the audience. This exceptional opportunity to change public opinion, whatever Mr Willetts’ response, was lost.

The second reason is that the protest, in the name of protecting the values of the university, destroyed the values of the university. You cannot defend the university as a place of rational debate, as the home of the free and critical exchange of ideas, by preventing people from listening to a talk they wish to hear, by refusing to listen to views you disagree with, and by shouting down any opposition ...


'The history of the twentieth century reveals again and again the disastrous consequences of this sort of behaviour. It starts with anger, often, as in this case, justified anger, but when it moves through absolute certainty, to violently excluding other voices, then the political consequences become lethal. I stood for a good while with the protesters earlier outside Lady Mitchell Hall, and heard speaker after speaker extol the opportunity for anyone to speak, to hear the marginal voices, and many passionate defences of educational principles with which I agree – and then sadly watched the violent destruction of such ideals in the protest’s strident, totalitarian yelling.’

I agree with Simon Goldhill. For the record, I've an immense respect for the achievements of this country in scholarship and in scientific and technological research and dismayed by the under-valuing of academics. I think they should be paid much more, even if a  minority wouldn't deserve to be paid more. 



The Oxbridge Essay site gives this information:

'Willetts was prevented from speaking at all, as several students around the hall began chanting a 25-minute poem beginning "David Willetts, the future does not belong to you/This is an epistle that is addressed to you". [Surely the word is 'doggerel,' not 'poem.'] The chanting was done using the so-called "people's microphone" method, whereby Owen Holland read out each line, which was then repeated back by all the other protesters. Willetts had been due to give a speech on "The Idea of the University", but left the hall during the course of the 'epistle'. The protest divided opinion among Cambridge students, many of whom, including CUSU President Gerard Tully, claimed that it had violated David Willetts' right to freedom of speech.'



Cambridge protest and Cambridge Philosophy

Dr Lorna Finlayson, Philosopher Queen


The majestic dining hall of King's College, Cambridge, where Dr Lorna Finlayson, a Cambridge philosopher, has often dined and often spoken, perhaps on the subject of  oppression or disadvantage. She's now moved to Essex University.

 I think of Lorna Finlayson as a Philosopher Queen,  in the authoritarian tradition  to be found in Plato, criticized by Karl Popper in 'The Open Society and its Enemies.' I think that Lorna Finlayson is very much an enemy of the Open Society. The union of political power and philosophy would be anything but safe in her hands and in those of people like her.  She puts people in their place, or tries to.


In the Republic, Plato describes a utopia and argues that this utopia will never come into existence until kings philosophize or philosophers become kings. Political power and philosophy ( δύναμίς τε πολιτικὴ καὶ φιλοσοφία) must be in the same hands. (Book Five, 473 d.)


Lorna Finlayson's book 'Introduction to Feminism' is published by Cambridge University Press. I intend to provide a review of the book. Cambridge University Press doesn't appear to have published any books which give arguments against feminism. Perhaps the people at Cambridge University Press are unaware that there are arguments against feminism or refuse to examine them!  Perhaps standards of intellectual honesty at Cambridge University Press aren't uniformly excellent after all?  Perhaps Cambridge University's standards aren't uniformly excellent and beyond criticism?


Perhaps the standards of Cambridge University Press aren't uniformly high and beyond criticism.


See my discussion of two ludicrous contributions to The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney written by  Guinn Batten and Fran Brearton. Guinn Batten is a member of the department of 'Gender and Sexuality Studies' at Washington University in St Louis. Fran Brearton contributed an article 'Heaney and the Feminine' to the Cambridge Companion.

I write in my review, 'Amongst the  associations of the Cambridge name - better not to refer to the Cambridge 'brand' - are associations to do with excellence. 'The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney' is hardly ever excellent. Instead,  the good, the not-so-bad, the bad and the shockingly bad.'


From the synopsis provided for Lorna Finlayson's Cambridge 'Introduction to Feminism:'

'As well as providing a clear and critical introduction to the theory, this refreshing overview focuses on the practice of feminism with coverage of actions and activism, bringing the subject to life for newcomers as well as offering fresh perspectives for advanced students.'

For the time being, I don't discuss her advanced views on feminism for advanced students of feminism but I do discuss her advanced criticism of free speech for advanced students of 'actions and activism' who would like to put a stop to excessive free speech. I also discuss her views on Israel, Iran, the Palestinians and Islamism, a section which includes severe challenges to her views.

On free speech, she has written,

'Not that people don’t in general talk enough about freedom of speech – it would be better if they talked about it a bit less.  But if people are going to talk about it, they may as well do it properly.'

In 'LF on free speech' she writes,

 '... this is one very valuable outcome of forcing David Willetts off the platform: ' ... an act of destroying certain possibilities' (the possibility of the government minister David Willetts speaking and the possibility that people who came to attend a talk given by David Willetts could actually listen to a talk by David Willetts)  'is always at the same time an act of creating further ones. One valuable thing that came out of the whole episode, to my mind, was that the idea of ‘freedom of speech’ got hauled out of its hiding place ... '  

After the disruption of David Willetts' speech, there were now new opportunities, not so much for 'uninformed' people to discuss free speech, but opportunities to listen to people who do it 'properly,' such as Dr Finlayson. If radical Islamists prevent a talk by a non-believer from taking place then this too is creating new possibilities. If 'advanced transgender advocates' prevent a talk by someone they see as less advanced from taking place, such as a feminist whose view of transgender people isn't the same as theirs, if they force feminists 'off the platform,' then this too would be viewed as creating new possibilities, although it's obviously not creating new possibilities for the person who is prevented from speaking.

Transgender activists who prevent feminists such as  Julie Bindel and Julie Burchill  from speaking are badly mistaken but the defence of free speech should go well beyond a single issue. Feminists who object to the denial of free speech to some feminists but see nothing wrong with the denial of free speech to anti-feminists are badly mistaken too.

Dr Finlayson, philosopher, writes that 'in the immediate aftermath of the Willetts action, there was plenty of predictable, well-rehearsed, lazy, ‘free speech’- themed noise-making.'

In the the immediate aftermath of the Willetts action, there were plenty of predictable, well-rehearsed, lazy,  noise-making attempted justifications of shouting down a minister of a democracy, such as 'LF on free speech.'

She says of the invitation to David Willetts to speak, 'we regarded the event itself as an improper procedure.' She declares that it's improper so it must be improper. The dogmatic assumption, the unquestioned assumption of absolute rightness is completely obvious.  In 2013 she contributed to an event in Cambridge on various aspects of free speech. Her talk had the title, 'Free Speech as Liberal Fiction.'

This is Paul Sagar's view of the protest which Lorna Finlayson took part in and which she defends:

'Willetts was introduced – with an explicit appeal for reasonable discussion – and the man himself took the stand. But as he began speaking, he was immediately interrupted. A single individual  [Owen Holland] began shouting.

'His every line was immediately repeated by 20-30 or so others. Thus began a long, ponderous series of declamations, bizarre poetic allegories, and varying denunciations of Willetts, his Government, the future of education, and everything in between.


'Willetts could not get a word in edge ways. The tension in the room was dramatic. It felt like it went on and on. Shout then chant, shout then chant ...


'When the “speech” from the floor was over, the instigators began chants of “Willetts Willetts Willetts, Out Out Out”, and surged forward. They took the stage. Willetts had already left. The event was abandoned. A hundred or so other people were forced to exit without being able to voice their opinion or take part in the public debate they were invited to attend.

I don't examine here the issue of free speech at the University of Essex. The page

does give a verdict, one which may or may not give a simplified view: 'The University of Essex and the University of Essex Students' Union collectively create a hostile environment for free speech.' A collective conclusion may well hide complexities, such as individuals who have many, many reservations about the policies of the 'collective,' individuals who are opposed to the policies of the 'collective.' I restrict myself here and discuss only Lorna Finlayson's hostility to free speech. I don't have anything like detailed knowledge of the Philosophy department of Essex University but from what I know, it's a very interesting department. The initiative to do with assessment, for example, is remarkable.

From 'The Guardian,' 15 February, 2015:


'We cannot allow censorship and silencing of individuals.'

'The fate of Kate Smurthwaite’s comedy show, cancelled by Goldsmith’s College in London last month ... is part of a worrying pattern of intimidation and silencing of individuals whose views are deemed “transphobic” or “whorephobic”. Most of the people so labelled are feminists or pro-feminist men, some have experience in the sex industry, some are transgender.


'Last month, there were calls for the Cambridge Union to withdraw a speaking invitation to Germaine Greer ... The feminist activist and writer Julie Bindel has been “no-platformed” by the National Union of Students for several years.

'You do not have to agree with the views that are being silenced to find these tactics illiberal and undemocratic. Universities have a particular responsibility to resist this kind of bullying. We call on universities and other organisations to stand up to attempts at intimidation and affirm their support for the basic principles of democratic political exchange.'

Followed by a large number of signatories.

The letter is a good one, but subject to {restriction}. A wider range of examples would have been far better. Free expression is a necessity for anti-feminists as well as feminists.

Dr Finlayson doesn't seem to support in the least the 'basic principles of democratic political exchange' and supports some attempts at intimidation. Does Lorna Finlayson, philosopher,  support the denial of free speech to feminists such as Julie Burchill and Julie Bindel? If she supports their right to speak freely at University events and other events, transphobic activists might well accuse her of minimizing the plight of transphobic people, according to their interpretation. She's supported no-platforming in the case of the minister David Willetts but doesn't support no-platforming in the case of Julie Burchill and Julie Bindel, critics of some aspects of transphobia activism? If so, activists might well conclude, 'What an insult to transphobic people!'

The record of philosophy at Cambridge, past and present, is a record of very great achievement, including the contributions of Wittgenstein and G E Moore but so many others.



'Should fascists and/or racists be given a platform?' This is naive in the extreme. Now, 'racism' and 'fascism,' 'racist' and 'fascist' are used as all-purpose condemnation words, a facile way of establishing instant moral superiority, supposedly, with many, many meanings and many, many applications, spurious and otherwise.


Along with a large number of other people, including many from Iran, a country she obviously thinks is vastly superior to Israel, Dr Lorna Finlayson (at the time at King's College, Cambridge) signed a statement put out by 'Back the Boycott,' philosophers and political theorists for a boycott of Israel,' which called for the standard 'boycott, divestment and sanctions.'


So, Dr Lorna Finlayson (Signatory No. 11) condemns Israel,   'philosophers and political theorists' in Iran condemn Israel, 'philosophers and political theorists' in many other countries condemn Israel, and take the trouble to sign a statement.  Sometimes it can seem that the whole world condemns Israel. Fortunately, this is not so. There are still many, many people with other concerns and other priorities, including the people who organized the Paris demonstration against the use of the death penalty in Iran, difficult though it may be for many thinkers to comprehend this alarming event. What? A demonstration not aimed at Israel? The Palestinians not at the very centre of the moral universe? The universe not Palestino-centric? Heresy [Secular style] It's certain that there will be many statements condemning Israel in the future, demanding no more than the typing of a name and a few clicks of the mouse, giving further opportunities for Palestino-centric people, further opportunities  for the display of effortless moral superiority.



The statement made a comment on critics who assert, correctly, that these people are 'singling Israel out’.

'As many have persuasively argued over the last few weeks, it is Israel that singles itself out:  through its claims to moral impeccability, its celebrated status as a democracy, through its receipt of massive support from the US and other nations, and through its continual abuse of the legacy of the holocaust in order to deflect criticism and to discredit the Palestinian struggle.'

What? Its 'celebrated status as a democracy' is supposed to count against it? 'Abuse of the legacy of the holocaust' is beneath contempt.

The signers have an affiliation with many Iranian universities: Imam Sadiq university, which 'bridges the gap between the Islamic seminary and traditional university' according to Wikipedia, and which includes courses in criminal law and . Islamic jurisprudence, and the universities of Khajeh, Nasir al-din tusi,  Motahari, Shiraz, Semnan, Allaame tabaatabaae, Tarbiat Modares, Razi, Alzahra, Yazd, Monaghegh ardabili, Zanjan, Kharazmi, Mashahd and Tabriz.



Al-Quds is a Palestinian University. Brandeis University suspended its partnership with Al-Quds University on November 18, 2013, for reasons to do with a demonstration there:

'The Nov. 5 demonstration on the Al-Quds campus involved demonstrators wearing black military gear, armed with fake automatic weapons, and who marched while waving flags and raising the traditional Nazi salute. The demonstration took place in the main square of the Al-Quds campus, which was surrounded by banners depicting images of “martyred” suicide bombers.'

The President of Al-Quds university did condemn the demonstration, after the routine  sentiment with which his statement began, 'The university is often subjected to vilification campaigns by Jewish extremists ... '


'Iran is the most prolific executioner in the world now, after China, executing political prisoners, homosexuals, dissidents, people found guilty of 'enmity against God,' and a 16 year old schoolgirl, Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, on charges of adultery and 'crimes against chastity.' She was hanged in public.

'It's Israel which is described by the prominent anti-Israeli campaigner and disrupter Deborah Fink as 'The Satanic state.' It's likely that her attitude to Iran is much less critical.

The former Iranian President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (who blamed the "Zionist regime" of Israel for starting both the First and Second World Wars), speaking to university students in the US, said that Iran is 'the only nation' that 'can offer a new model for life to the world.'


'Haji Rezai was the prosecutor, judge and witness in the trial of Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh. He also tortured Atefeh, and he was the hangman. He placed the noose around her neck before she was hoisted on a crane. He was insistent that the verdict and sentence complied with the laws of Islam. No charges have been brought against him. The Supreme Court of Iran gave an order that Atefeh should be freed, although the Court was already aware that she had been executed.


'Previously, she had been arrested three times by the Moral Police and convicted of having sex with unmarried men. For each offence, she was imprisoned and given 100 lashes - the punishment for single women. The punishment for married women is still technically stoning to death - stones which are not too large are specified, as large stones would cause death too quickly. Stoning to death is unlikely to be carried out in Iran now - which counts as progress. Even so, at least six people have been stoned to death in Iran since 2006.


'When she appeared in court for having sex with a taxi driver, she removed her hijab at one point. This was regarded as severe contempt of court. No lawyer was provided. She appealed against her death sentence but no lawyer was provided for the appeal.'



Lorna Finlayson certainly has philosophical abilities, evident in such an article as 'Kripke, names, and the necessary a priori' but in general, her world is far more dubious and disturbing than the world of  many Christians.


If the past is a foreign country, where they do things differently, the world of military actions, terrorism, fanaticism, intense loathing, fear and suspicion may well be a foreign country for anyone who writes about it from a perspective of safety in a world of reasoned discussion, such as discussion of Saul Kripke. (Fluency in French is of no help when the border has been crossed and what is needed now is fluency in Flemish.)

Lorna Finlayson  on the logician Kripke (followed immediately by Lorna Finlayson on the comedian Russell Brand):

'This is the structure of Kripke’s

(1) It is not conceivable that not-(H=P)7
(2) It is necessary that (H=P) [from (1)]
(3) It is knowable only a posteriori that (H=P)

Therefore, ‘H=P’ expresses a necessary truth knowable only a posteriori.

Premiss (1) seems correct. Kripke has given a convincing alternative explanation of the intuition that we can conceive of not-(H=P). But there is a tension between (1) and (3). Normally, if not-p is not conceivable, we can know a priori that p. For example, we cannot conceive of a married bachelor, and so we know a priori that all bachelors are not married. Yet Kripke seems to be suggesting that the whole of ancient Babylonian society failed to realise a truth of which the negation is inconceivable.'



an article for the 'London Review of Books,' 'Brand v. Rawls,' Lorna Finlayson defends the comedian Russell Brand

She writes,

The inclusion of Russell Brand on Prospect’s annual list  of ‘world thinkers’ has been met with predictable outrage and ridicule. The Guardian said that his ‘presence looks designed to be provocative’. Reviewing Brand’s book Revolution for Prospect a few months ago, Robin McGhee attacked ‘Brand’s political stupidity’. At the same time, the Telegraph said that ‘Russell Brand’s politics are staggeringly stupid.’ The Spectator called him ‘an adolescent extremist whose hatred of politics is matched by his ignorance’. In the Observer, Nick Cohen once derided Brand’s ‘slack-jawed inability to answer simple questions’. Nathasha Lennard in Vice said she didn’t ‘think Brand is totally idiotic. But, to be clear, he is an idiot.’ Lorna Finlayson may not claim that Russell Brand is a political thinker on quite the same level as John Rawls, the author of 'A Theory of Justice,' or Plato, the author of 'The Republic,' or Aristotle, the author of 'Politics,' but she does seem to claim that he's a deep thinker.

Dr Paul Sagar of King's College, Cambridge, wrote a very interesting, very robust and very accomplished reply, published on the same page, which includes this (I don't claim, of course, that Paul Sagar necessarily agrees with my criticisms of Lorna Finlayson and of feminism):

'My colleague Dr. Finlayson’s blog piece cannot, I am afraid, pass without some comment. Partly this is because much of what she argues is dubious, or flatly false. Partly it is because others of us working in the field of political philosophy at the University of Cambridge would like to preserve our collective reputation as people who can, at the very least, do the basics. This makes for less oratorically spectacular grandstanding than Finlayson achieves. But there are principles worth standing up for, even if they make one unfashionable, perhaps even boring.


'I will pass over the question of whether Russell Brand is an idiot (although previous actions may lead us to believe that more than his Essex accent informs such conclusions*), and move straight to Rawls. Finlayson writes, “In A Theory of Justice, John Rawls argued that a just society is one in which things are as equal as possible without making everyone worse off”. This is an error so glaring one would not permit even a first year undergraduate to make it. Rawls’s claim is actually that “social and economic inequalities are to be arranged so that they are…to the greatest benefit of the least advantaged” (A Theory of Justice, p. 83). There difference between what Finlayson says Rawls says, and what Rawls actually says, is enormous.'



Boycotting, BDS, 'Apartheid' Israel and the duty of care


The Manchester academics who signed the Open Letter criticized here - there were 88 of them - have every reason to regret signing: sign in haste, repent at leisure. The recklessness and ignorance of these academics are examined in this section - with evidence, of course. I provide the list of their names later in the section. The letter was also signed by Manchester UCU Executive Committee and by UNISON, University of Manchester. They too blundered.

The Manchester University BDS site has  a page Don't Punish Protest - Open Letter to the University of Manchester. '(March 27, 2017.) There's a large picture of a banner with the slogan 'Stop arming Israel,'  placed high on the Samuel Alexander building by two students. The Open Letter contains this:


'The University should applaud these two students for drawing attention to the hypocrisy of abetting Israel’s apartheid regime while professing a socially responsible investment policy. Instead, we see with dismay that they are to be subject to disciplinary hearings.'


The University, then, is to 'applaud' students who took the risk of hanging out a long white sheet with a slogan on it high up on a university building. This is the view of these academics, or, if we were to judge by their standards here, academic adolescents.

The University's duty of care to students is a consideration which seems not to have entered their heads. What if support for these students encourages other students to hang banners from a height on university buildings? The risk of falling from a height, of death or injury, is real. Manchester UCU and UNISON Manchester have a strong interest in safety in the workplace. What were they playing at signing such a document? This isn't the kind of 'encouragement' which students need.


Of course, these academics mix prudence with principle, self-serving with principle - using 'principle' in a very wide sense, to include principle untouched by the critical faculty. They aren't so high-minded that they are likely to resign their posts as a matter of principle, to express their abhorrence for the University which employs them and pays them. They aren't so high-minded that they will risk their own lives by placing a banner high on a building - they leave that to their students. These are arm-chair activists, after all, issuing their call to action from a position of safety. I don't think that a single one is willing or able to answer objections to their view on Israeli-Palestinian issues, such as the objections presented at length on this page - but there are many other sources. I don't have high expectations of anti-Israel academics.

For the sake of their own reputation, and the reputation of Manchester University, it would be better if the people who signed the Open Letter showed some understanding of the fact that this is a University, not a factory turning out frozen peas - an institution which recognizes complexity, amongst other things.  There are people who view the university as an institution which should produce graduates with almost identical views on Israel - Israel an apartheid state, opposition to Israel one of the most important issues of our time -  and almost identical views on a range of other issues, graduates more like uniform peas than individuals.

Before I turn to other aspects of this issue, very important aspects, as I see it, more on the physical dangers of protesting.

This is Nadine Bloch, writing from the protesting point of view on a page of the Website 'Beautiful Trouble.' The title of the piece is 'Tactic: banner hang.'

'Potential Pitfalls

If the banner hang requires specific climbing skills or tools, do not skimp on training, scouting, or the quality of gear. Cutting corners could result in the banner snagging, the team being detained before the banner drops, or someone getting seriously injured or killed.'

And this is Joshua Kahn Russell, writing on the same site:

'Some tactics should never be attempted without a thorough safety plan and skill-level assessment, such as a technical (climbing) banner hang where a fall can often prove fatal. Direct action is not a game.'


The site includes a great deal on risk and management of risk in  my page on bullfighting (material on the site is often dispersed). There, I examine risks in mountaineering, risks in war and risks in bullfighting. There's a photo of Alex Honnold, the best known free climber. Free climbing is climbing without a rope or any other protection. He's climbed tall buildings as well as mountains in free style. Protestors at Manchester University shouldn't imitate his example on the much lower heights of University buildings. They should ignore the example of the two students who put the banner up on the Samuel Alexander building, despite any encouragement from academics.

These people  provide further information which will be useful for people who want to cause maximum disruption to 'irresponsible institutions.' They'd almost certainly include Manchester University' in the category of irresponsible institutions, The give this advice on hanging banners: 'Hoisted properly, a banner can only be removed by a crane truck, which will block traffic and make a further spectacle. With practice this method can be carried out in a matter of moments, so busier intersections can be targeted.' They know how to make 'a further spectacle,' but not how to subject their own certainties to reasoned criticism.

'Beautiful trouble' is a Website which promotes many causes which are 'obviously right,' to the contributors to the site, but which can't withstand informed criticism: if people are convinced that they're right, then they must be right - but obviously, only if the views are 'correct' views.

These academics at Manchester University have decided - or decreed - that Israel is the worst human rights offender in the world, the country most worthy of Boyott, Divestment, Sanctions, in fact the only country to be sanctioned, ignoring the claims of countries such as Iran - but I don't ignore Iran. If these advocates of sanctions had their way, if Israel had no means of protecting itself - not that this will ever happen -  it would be wiped off the map.


A university which doesn't encourage reflection, fair-minded debate, the presentation of argument and evidence but concentrates on short, propagandist slogans, such as 'Israeli apartheid' isn't the kind of university to be encouraged, but the view of the academics who signed the Open Letter seems to  be different. What do the academics make of the fact that homosexuality is legal in Israel but illegal in Gaza and punishable by imprisonment for up to ten years? ' Israel has become a refuge for gay people. But the consequences of wiping Israel off the map are much more far reaching than the end of this refuge for gay people.


For the academics who signed, the Israel issue is a central issue, if not the most important of issues then one of the most important. But other academics, and other students, will have very different views. Wider society will have very different views. For wider society, it isn't self-evident in the least that opposing Israel is the most important of all issues. or amongst the most important.


BDS Protest is surely a form of monomania. The entry for 'monomania' in Collins English Dictionary: '... an excessive mental preoccupation with one thing, idea etc.'  BDS protest ignores so many other things, almost every other thing. The Manchester version of BDS Protest ignores the Islamic terrorism which has taken the lives of people in Manchester. The IRA planted a bomb in Manchester which caused widespread damage. I don't ignore republican terrorism. I lived in Northern Ireland at the height of the troubles. My experiences and my arguments against Irish republicanism are provided on the page Ireland and Northern Ireland: distortions and illusions. If, in the future, this country were to be threatened by missiles from North Korea or some other country, then advocates of BDS Protest would still be claiming that Israel is the worst offender, the country which threatens the peace of the world. I'd hope that by then, a great many people who think in these terms now would have abandoned a view which is so stupid.


As I've explained, Monomaniac Manchester Protest even ignores the physical dangers of protest, in its single-minded preoccupation with Israel. On the day I sent emails to some Manchester academics to draw their attention to this section (and an academic at York University, Joanna de Groot) I had other things to do. I work in sheet metal, amongst other construction materials - I've designed and constructed machinery for bending sheet metal and to make cutting of sheet metal much easier for me. Sheet metal is inherently dangerous - the sharp corners can easily sever an artery. I've devised simple methods of protection. Working at a height, I attached sheet metal roofing to a greenhouse I'd designed and constructed. Images and other information are provided on the page Gardening / construction: introduction, with photographs. I'm aware of the risks of falling from a height and do everything possible to avoid it, but these Manchester academics obviously live in a different world, a much simpler world, a world which ignores not just military dangers and political dangers,  but everyday dangers, and the importance of working safely.


Joanna de Groot is the President of the National Executive Committee of the UCU, the University and College Union. I only hope that someone who occupies such a grand position as President of the National Executive Committee of the UCU can find an interest in such matters as the protection of students - not the protection of students from views in conflict with her own but the protection of students from basic risks such as falling from a height. I've contacted her to make this clear.

If these ignorant and simple-minded academics expect the university to grant students freedom to display banners denouncing Israel from university buildings, other students may expect their own favoured cause to have the same 'rights.' Why should anyone get themselves into debt to study under the guidance of such people and be examined by such people? These people are so weak and unsure of themselves that they can't even construct a very brief set of arguments in their own defence. If I do receive any defence of themselves and their support for BDS I'll be sure to give it full coverage here.

The university has come under attack for its policy on animal experiments. Why not allow banners with the (simplistic) slogan 'Manchester University murders animals' or 'Manchester University tortures animals,' with the hope that any students who take the risk of placing them from high places don't fall off the building? Should students who are caught writing similar slogans on the walls of university buildings not be disciplined? My experience of campaigning for animal welfare is very extensive, including activism directed against factory farming, the use of animals in circuses and bullfighting.

From the section on my page on Israel, 'On the streets of Gaza (animal abuse, other abuses):

The middle east is uniformly oblivious to issues of animal welfare. The only exceptions are isolated individuals in those countries - and the state of Israel. Israel hasn't taken the attitude that, faced by enormous threats, it can neglect every other consideration but survival and protection. It recognizes that civilization requires care for animals, as sentient creatures. Israel was one of the first countries in the world to ban the use of wild animals in circuses, in 1995. Britain still has no national ban, although many local authorities do have bans. 

Israel used to be the fourth largest producer of foie gras in the world. Unlike, of course, France, it banned the production of foie gras, recognizing the force of the ethical objections.

... Israel has never had a whaling industry but it joined the International Whaling Commission so as to vote against any resumption of whaling.

There are a number of academics amongst the signers of the Open Letter who are  feminists with a degree of prominence. Do these academics think that opposing Israel is a far more important matter than supporting feminism? Would they like to explain their view of the relative importance of these issues?  Will these academics support feminists if they decide to hang banners with the slogan 'No patriarchy at Manchester' or 'End sexism at Manchester NOW!' It's very likely that all the academics who signed support feminism, to different extents. What's their view? Supporting feminism isn't the same as supporting pro-feminist activities which carry a risk of death or serious injury.

Unless the academics can persuade the student body that only anti-Israel protest is permitted, university buildings could look like untidy advertising hoardings, unofficial but freely permitted.

Do these Manchester University academics really want to encourage in their students the use of slogans instead of making a case, using arguments and evidence? How many of the academics can point to sources, in print or on the Web, which gives their reasons for accepting BDS and the demonization of Israel as an 'apartheid' state? I've given a comprehensive discussion on this page. Can they? Can they at least point to the sources which they've used in arrriving at their viewpoint. I'd be glad to see them and have the chance to discuss them.

Another danger, of a very different kind from the danger of falling from a height, which the Manchester academics seem to have overlooked. When students who have taken part in direct action (the inspirational words of these academics will have done nothing to deter them) come to apply for a job, then very often - or perhaps this should be 'nearly always' -  the employer will carry out a Google search for any online information out there which is available for the applicant. Quite easily, very easily, students who have been involved in direct action or other forms of protest get their names into the Websites of newspapers and many other Websites - and the applicant is stuck with the fact that the information tends to stay there for year after year after year, even if the applicant decides that his or her support for cause X was completely misguided, something that has been outgrown.

This Website doesn't give information about named students, undergraduate or graduate. It used to have information about a very few students, not at Manchester University, but I deleted it, except in the case of one graduate student who became an academic, Dr Therese Jonsson, and one student at Cambridge who is now a Career Development Fellow now at Oxford, Dr Owen Holland. I've no intention of ever naming and criticizing someone who is still a student.

I loathe the idiocies of 'safe spaces,'' the stifling of dissent which is promoted by so many student unions, by so many students, I loathe the support of so many students for Israeli Apartheid Week - although they amount to a small minority of the student body -  but I think that time at university, amongst other things, will always be a time for making mistakes. I support the need to discipline students in some cases - putting up banners at a height on a university building is one instance which justifies sanctions, for the reasons I've given - but I think that the sanction, in general, shouldn't be a very harsh one. As I've explained, there are problems and difficulties which may well follow a student for a very long time, once an issue gets into the public domain.

Academics, on the other hand, shouldn't expect their words and actions to be treated in anything like the same way - and on this site, I don't.

I don't regard students with condescension - 'what can you expect of students, they're so young and immature,' apart from the mature students, the students who are mature in years. I'd be disappointed in any student who showed the reckless immaturity of these Manchester University academics.

Academics have no more protection than students. Once an issue gets into the public domain, it's likely to stay there. If the issue is demonization of Israel - not an exaggerated term for the singling out of Israel for hate and censure - then these academics may get more than they bargained for. Instead of the display of superior insight and superior virtue, a display of ignorance, including ignorance of wider realities.

It's perfectly possible to be an academic at a university with views which are vastly more uninformed than those of many students. Perhaps people still at school can take this into account when they are deciding which department to apply for at which university? But there are obvious difficulties - a department with one or many abysmal members of staff may have others who are anything but a liability. And people with hideous flaws may have notable strengths.

 More on the claim that Israel practises 'apartheid:'

The Goldstone Report

Richard Goldstone is the author of the Goldstone Report. It was critical of Israel but later comprehensively modified.

'Richard Goldstone published a significant letter in the New York Times, 'Israel and the Apartheid Slander' on the claim that Israel is an 'apartheid state.' (November 1, 2011.)



'The Palestinian Authority’s request for full United Nations membership has put hope for any two-state solution under increasing pressure. The need for reconciliation between Israelis and Palestinians has never been greater. So it is important to separate legitimate criticism of Israel from assaults that aim to isolate, demonize and delegitimize it.

One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a “hearing” on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.

While “apartheid” can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.

'In assessing the accusation that Israel pursues apartheid policies, which are by definition primarily about race or ethnicity, it is important first to distinguish between the situations in Israel, where Arabs are citizens, and in West Bank areas that remain under Israeli control in the absence of a peace agreement.

'In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts ... committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.



'The situation in the West Bank is more complex. But here too there is no intent to maintain “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.” ... until there is a two-state peace, or at least as long as Israel’s citizens remain under threat of attacks from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel will see roadblocks and similar measures as necessary for self-defense, even as Palestinians feel oppressed. As things stand, attacks from one side are met by counterattacks from the other. And the deep disputes, claims and counterclaims are only hardened when the offensive analogy of “apartheid” is invoked.

Those seeking to promote the myth of Israeli apartheid often point to clashes between heavily armed Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinians in the West Bank, or the building of what they call an “apartheid wall” and disparate treatment on West Bank roads. While such images may appear to invite a superficial comparison, it is disingenuous to use them to distort the reality. The security barrier was built to stop unrelenting terrorist attacks; while it has inflicted great hardship in places, the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered the state in many cases to reroute it to minimize unreasonable hardship. Road restrictions get more intrusive after violent attacks and are ameliorated when the threat is reduced.'


'Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and the West Bank cannot be simplified to a narrative of Jewish discrimination. There is hostility and suspicion on both sides. Israel, unique among democracies, has been in a state of war with many of its neighbors who refuse to accept its existence ... '

The Canadian writer and politician Michael Ignatieff wrote, 'Israeli Apartheid Week is ... a dangerous cocktail of ignorance and intolerance ... By portraying the Jewish state as criminal, by demonizing Israel and its supporters ... the organizers and supporters of Israeli Apartheid Week tarnish our freedom of speech.

“On behalf of the Liberal Party of Canada and our parliamentary caucus, I urge all Canadians to join with us in once again condemning Israeli Apartheid Week here in Canada and around the world.”

Israeli Apartheid Week is a badge of shame.  Israeli Apartheid Week was observed in very few other British universities in the same year. Sussex University was one of them, but at Sussex University, the Vice-Chancellor made a diffident comment which even so seemed not at all routine, heartening, in fact. At Manchester, so far as I know, the Vice-Chancellor, Dame Janet Ratcliffe, made no comment at all on a matter which has diminished the reputation of Manchester University. Not Manchester's reputation for excellence in science and technology and many specialist fields, but its reputation in matters to do with human values, which are not the preserve of specialists.

Vice-Chancellors and other university leaders are faced with a very wide range of difficult issues and problems. They can't be expected to spend all their waking moments devoted to Palestinian issues and they can't possibly be expected to regard Palestinian issues as amongst their highest priorities. The demands of the anti-Israeli activists and the anti-Israeli signers of the occasional Open Letter are insatiable, completely unrealistic. They live in a dream world. If there were far more of them, they could be making demands that manufacturers of ball bearings should drop their preoccupation with manufacturing ball bearings and concentrate their attention on Israel, by boycotting Israeli manufacturers of ball bearings, by signing a pledge never to have anything to do with Israeli engineering. They did try to stop the group 'Radiohead, from appearing in Israel. Radiohead ignored them.

This is what the Vice-Chancellor of Sussex had to say:

'Next week has been designated as ‘Israel Apartheid Week’ and even the language is deeply upsetting to many members of our Jewish and non-Jewish community. During this time, it is imperative that everyone feels supported and we will not tolerate intimidation of anyone for their religious or political opinions about the politics of the Middle East.'

There's evidence-based medicine, evidence-based policing, evidence-based decision making, evidence-based policy making - how about evidence-based protesting? This would require answers to objections, including objections to your very selective use of evidence. I've taken the trouble to present objections on this page. It's time for those of you who signed the Open Letter to do far more.

I've seen many of these lists of anti-Israel worthies, each preceded by a Statement with an attempt at dignity which is breathtaking in its evasions. If the column of names stretching into the distance gives the impression of people of conscience united in a worthy cause, then appearances are very deceptive. Names on a list after a statement denouncing Israel are supposed to be impressive. 



List of the Manchester academics and others who signed the Open Letter 'Don't Punish Protest'


 So many of the people who signed came from the School of Arts, Languages and Cultures. this School (and Social Sciences.) No academics in Science  signed, just one in  Engineering, and none or very few in other fields. The great majority of academics at Manchester didn't sign, but 88 did - not a tiny number.


I've removed the name of a postgraduate student. As I explain earlier in the section, I see it as important that individual  undergraduate and graduate students shouldn't face the same scrutiny as academics - criticism of student unions and other groups which often show staggering levels of ideological fixation are a different matter - they can be criticised wihout mention of individual students. If Manchester academics ever compile another inept document opposing Israel, they'd be well advised to do it without including students in the list of signatories.

Manchester UCU Executive Committee

UNISON, University of Manchester

Professor Claire Alexander

Dr David Alderson

Zahra Alijah

Professor Mona Baker (Emerita)

Dr Naomi Baker

Dr Lauren Banko

Dr Anke Bernau

Dr Howard Booth

Professor Erica Burman

Dr Bridget Byrne

Dr Niall Carson

Dr Tanzil Chowdhury

Emma Clarke

Dr Michelle Coghlan

Alessandro Columbu

Dr Steven Courtney

Dr Jerome de Groot

Professor Laura Doan

Professor Mike Donmall

Professor Jeanette Edwards

Professor Aneez Esmail

Dr Douglas Field

Gaelle Flower

Dr Molly Geidel

Dr Kevin Gillan

Leah Gilman

Professor Hal Gladfelder

Dr Ingrid Hanson

Dr Ben Harker

Dr Bethan Harries

Professor Penelope Harvey

Dr Malcolm Hicks (retired)

Dr Jenny Hughes

Dr Andrew Irving

Professor Tim Jacoby

Dr Stef Jansen

Dr Andrew Jones

Dr Steven Jones

Paul Kelemen, Honorary Research Fellow

Frances Leviston

Dr Camilla Lewis

John McAuliffe

Dr Peter McMylor

Professor Roseanne McNamee (retired)

Narinder Mann

Professor Miguel Martinez Lucio

Dr Stefania Marino

Dr Orieb Masadeh-Tate

Professor David Matthews

Dr Vanessa May

Dr Robert Meckin

Lydia Merryll

Dr Dalia Mostafa

Professor Khalid Nadvi

Dr Adel Nasser

Dr Richie Nimmo

Dr Michelle Obeid

Dr Adam Ozanne

Professor Ian Parker, Honorary Professorial Research Fellow

Dr Monica Pearl

Professor Luis Perez-Gonzalez

Dr Floriane Place-Verghnes

Dr Eithne Quinn

Dr Madeleine Reeves

Professor Dee Reynolds

Professor Chris Roberts (Emeritus)

Dr John Roache

Dr Emily Rohrbach

Dr Michael Sanders

Kate Sapin

Dr Fred Schurink

Dr Tony Simpson

Dr Graham Smith

Dr Robert Spencer

Professor Jackie Stacey

Dr Ingrid Storm

Dr Nicholas Thoburn

Dr Petra Tjitske Kalshoven

Dr Angela Torresan

Dr William Turner

Dr Anastasia Valassopoulos

Dr Sivamohan Valluvan

Dr Bram Vanhoutte

Professor Peter Wade

Dr Chika Watanabe

Dr Dan Welch

Professor Janet Wolff (Emerita)

Dr Luke Yates





Noah's Ark 1: Who would Adam and Eve it?


The two sections on Noah's Ark on this page also appear on my general page on Christian religion,





Above, animals (two of all the animals in the world) waiting to board Noah's Ark, which will save them from drowning when God, angry at human wickedness, floods the entire world - according to the Biblical Creation Trust and many other organizations. The people who had built the  Cathedrals and those lovely English Parish Churches - as well as the unlovely and quite ugly English Parish Churches - had a similar view of God, in general.


Below, a representation in stained glass of Noah's Ark, from Lincoln Cathedral (one of the cathedrals, and churches, I've visited in the course of architectural study visits.) The fact that a building is an architectural achievement is no guarantee that the activities within the building, the beliefs of the builders and the users of the building, are at a high level: credulity and superstition aren't excluded from buildings of note.



'Adam and Eve it:' Cockney Rhyming Slang, of course, meaning 'Who would believe it.' The accents and dialects of the British Isles are an interest of mine. My own accent is Yorkshire, specifically South Yorkshire, Sheffield, but I also use Sheffield dialect - a particular grammar and vocabulary as well as a particular pronunciation.


From the page


'Steve Lloyd MA, PhD works part-time as a Researcher and Lecturer for BCT [Biblical Creation Trust] and is also pastor of Hope Church, Gravesend. He studied Materials Science at the University of Cambridge and became a Royal Society University Research Fellow. Steve also has a Diploma in Theology and Religious Studies from the University of Cambridge.'


It's obvious that this Royal Society University Research Fellow has more than maintained the high standards of Cambridge science. If we look at some of his beliefs, it's obvious to me that he's also maintained the abysmal standards of Cambridge theology.


These are some of the beliefs promoted by the Biblical Creation Trust. From the page


Belief 'that the Bible provides reliable historical information.'



The Bible's 'God-spoken testimony to events such as Noah’s flood means that a worldwide global flood in human history (for example) must be included in any scientific model that is true to the earth’s past.'



Amongst the doctrines 'central to Biblical Creation and established from numerous passages of the Bible,


'Adam was a historical individual from whom the whole human race is descended.




'Noah’s flood extended over the whole globe, bringing destruction to all air-breathing land animals outside the ark.'


I don't make any attempt to give the arguments and evidence against these doctrines, except to state that a flood extending over the whole globe is impossible - to mention just one objection, floodwaters could never reach to the tops of high mountains, or to the tops of high hills, and 'air-breathing land animals' in these places would survive. Noah is supposed to have brought two animals of every kind into his ark. The impossibility here should be obvious - Noah's Ark would have to be bigger, much bigger, vastly bigger than the biggest aircraft carrier to contain two of every animal. Whales are air-breathing animals. This particular Cambridge scientist (not in the least representative of Cambridge science, at least contemporary Cambridge science) believes. presumably, that there were two Blue Whales and two of all the other species of whale (all of them air-breathing animals, of course) on board Noah's Ark. The Biblical Creation Trust does acknowledge the existence of dinosaurs, generally large or very large animals.


Other luminaries listed on the Biblical Creation Trust Website:


'Paul Garner MSc, FGS is a full-time Researcher and Lecturer for BCT. He has an MSc in Geoscience from University College London, where he specialised in palaeobiology. He is a Fellow of the Geological Society of London and a member of several other scientific societies.'


'Matthew Pickhaver BSc, PGCE is an Associate Lecturer with BCT and our Communications Manager. Matthew was awarded a BSc in Zoology by University College London.'


'William Worraker is an Associate Researcher with BCT. He has a BSc (Hons) in Physics and a PhD in Engineering Mathematics, both from University of Bristol, UK. Employed in scientific software development until recently ... His current BCT research seeks a scientific solution to the ‘Flood Heat Problem’: where did all the heat go that was released during the Genesis Flood?'


Their excellence (in scientific attainment) and the stupidity of their theological views should be obvious - it's obvious to me - but stupidity doesn't do justice to their views. They also overlook, are unaware of, the contradiction between their views and human values. They overlook or are unaware of the human cost.



Noah's Ark 2: Human values



From my page 

Relevant, I think, to some comments below, on the death of children.



© Victoria and Albert Museum, London

' 'Lydia Dwight Dead,' from the collections of the Victoria and Albert Museum, which gives this information:  'Lydia Dwight was six years old when she died on 3 March 1674' and 'One of the earliest experiments in European ceramic sculpture, this object was commissioned by the father of the dead child in order to capture her likeness and perpetuate her memory. It was a personal and private sculpture, reflecting the grief of the little girl's family ... ' The sculpture was lent to the Millennium Gallery, Sheffield by the Victoria and Albert Museum and it was there that I saw this  heartbreaking response to the death of a young child, which  has a counterpart in the heartbreaking set of poems by the Polish poet Jan Kochanowski: the 19 elegies or 'laments' of 1580, written to commemorate his daughter Urszula, who died at the age of two. Seamus Heaney's translation of these 'Treny,' undertaken with Stanislaw Baranczak, is an important contribution to this devastating literature, an important contribution to the poetry of deep feeling.

'I discuss the translation of only four lines of Jan Kochanowski's 'Treny III' and mainly a single aspect: the translation of repeated words or phrases. My knowledge of Polish is much more restricted than my knowledge of the other languages here. I studied Polish before visiting Poland, a country, and a people, of great importance and significance for me, and spoke Polish whilst I was there, but only for simple, everyday purposes. The Polish of 'Treny' is Renaissance Polish.


'Stanislaw Baranczak's introduction to his translation with Seamus Heaney includes this:


' 'Jan Kochanowski (1530 - 84), the greatest poet of not just Poland but the entire Slavic world up to the beginning of the nineteeenth century ... '


'His cast of mind was formed by a philosophy of the golden mean and moderation, and this in turn produced a quiet acceptance of whatever life might bring, a tendency to handle the vicissitudes of earthly existence in a rational and orderly way, one always seasoned with a dose of healthy scepticism as regards both gain and loss, success and failure, happiness and misery.


' 'The stable - or stable-seeming - foundation of such an outlook was provided by both ancient thought and Christian theology. For a sixteenth-century Humanist - in this case, moreover, a poet whose earlier work included not only a Classical tragedy with a plot borrowed from Homer but also a poetic translation of the Psalms - elements of stoicism or epicureanism could merge conflictlessly with the belief in Providential protection bestowed on the just as a reward for their virtuous lives ...


' 'Yet it is precisely this kind of stable and secure philosophical foundation that may well be the first thing to crack 'when the Parcae cease to spin / Their thread, when sorrows enter in / When Death knocks at the door'. And this is what happened to Kochanowski in middle age when Death snatched away his youngest child, a two-and-a-half-year-old daughter called Ursula, devastating the poet's hitherto unshakeable equanimity ... All of a sudden, pain reaches a degree of intensity that cannot be explained away. No rationalization makes sense to us any more when its very philosophical basis is pulled out like a rug from under our feet - when we can no longer subscribe to the belief that each of us is to a large extent a master of his or her own fate, and that we therefore have the right at least to hope that our actions, if purposeful, timely and determined enough, may bring the desired results ... '



The devastation caused by the Great Sheffield Flood of 1864, following the collapse of the Great Dale Dike.


From the page


'Six hundred and fifty million gallons of water roared down the Loxley valley and into Sheffield, wreaking death and destruction on a horrific scale.

'Individual experiences were infinitely tragic, pathetic, and sometimes bizarre. The first to drown was a two-day-old baby boy, the oldest a woman of eighty-seven. Whole families were wiped out; one desperate man, trapped upstairs in a terrace house, battered his way through five party walls to safety collecting thirty-four other people as he went; a would be suicide, locked in a cell, decided, as the flood poured in, that he no longer wished to die; one poor old man drowned alongside his sleeping companion - a donkey; a husband put his wife and five children on a bed on which they floated until the water went down.'


'After about thirty minutes the flood gradually subsided leaving a trail of destruction more than eight miles long: it was later described as 'looking like a battlefield.'


In this flood, at least 240 people were killed. The victims included babies - a few days old, a few weeks old, a few months old. The loss of life in The Great Global Flood caused by God (according to the Biblical Creation Trust) was immeasurably greater - for people, for all 'air-breathing animals.' Why exactly did the all-wise Creator wipe out the entire human race, babies, children and adults, young and old  (as well as  'air-breathing' animals), allegedly - apart from the favoured few inside the Ark? What does this catastrophe tell us about the nature of God the Father and the nature of the beliefs of the Biblical Creation Trust?


The attempt to present the Global Flood  as a historical event with a theological basis - an action of God - is made by many, many fundamentalist Christians and Christian groups, not just the Biblical Creation Trust, of course. This is one of them, from


Anyone who thinks this is plausible and reasonable needs to think again, and the thinking - the complete response - should be about much more than concepts. It needs to take account of human values - but fundamentalist Christians are likely to dismiss some human values as incompatible with Christian doctrine.


Extracts from



'Like people today, almost certainly the people of Noah’s day were busy enjoying the pleasures of life and did not believe or care that judgment was coming.

'During the decades of mankind’s last days, Noah was working on the Ark. As it grew, it must have been a potent symbol to those living nearby. One can imagine that Noah was often asked about his construction project. Indeed, it is likely that he was mocked for such an enterprise.'


'Hebrews 11:7 says, “By faith Noah, being divinely warned of things not yet seen, moved with godly fear, prepared an ark for the saving of his household, by which he condemned the world and became heir of the righteousness which is according to faith.” '



The Willing Savior

Noah’s Flood teaches us two things about the attitude of God towards us.

He is angry with sin and will punish it one day.

He loves us and sends us a way of salvation, if we will only repent and turn to Him.

Jesus is our Ark of Salvation today. Just as Noah was saved by grace through faith from the destruction of the Flood, we can be saved by grace through faith in Jesus, when we repent and turn to Him.


There are vast numbers of Christians who have no belief in an actual flood sent by God and an actual Ark who do believe that if a person fails to accept Jesus as 'personal Lord and Saviour' they are alienated from God, eternally.




Cambridge Christianity

See also my page on Christian religion, which is much more comprehensive than this section.



Emmanuel College: Professor Catherine Pickstock and 'Radical Orthodoxy'


From Professor Pickstock's Biography on the Emmanuel College site


 'I am the co-founder of a critical international field-changing theological movement, Radical Orthodoxy (with John Milbank and Graham Ward, London: Routledge, 1999), recently dubbed ‘the Cambridge School’.'


The online Biography is very brief. Obviously, it can't do justice to the theological achievement of someone who co-founded an 'international field-changing theological movement' - along with other theological achievements. Perhaps one day, someone can summon up the will to write about Professor Pickstock's theological achievement in a proper thick theological Biography. The claims for radical orthodox theology that Professor Pickstock and her co-labourers make are so wide-ranging, so dramatic, so astounding, so ... 'field-changing' that they deserve fair-minded scrutiny. I think, after scrutinizing them, fair-mindedly, I hope, that the claims are deluded, the achievement non-existent.


Radical Orthodoxy is presented in the book 'Radical Orthodoxy' as a kind of magnificent monument of doctrine and belief. Radical Orthodoxy has huge respect for monumental works such as the Summa Theologica of Thomas Aquinas, although the structure of their book has none of the systematic organization of 'Summa Theologica,'  and for the theology of Augustine. Their book contains a chapter on Augustine, written by Michael Hanby, which discusses many aspects of his thought - but not one which would make clear the disastrous nature of their project. I


In their introduction, the trio refer to 'the famous aporias of time in Augustine'  which are 'resolved practically and Christologically only when, having concluded that time makes no sense because it can be comprehended only by that infinity which it reflects, Augustine further concludes that this infinite comprehension is nonetheless reflected in time through Christ's restoration of time's true numerical rhythm. Although we cannot comprehend the transition from past to future via the present, we can, for Augustine, as Catherine Pickstock argues in the last essay in the volume, nonetheless hear and repeat the truth of this passage in the ecclesial praise of the Father offered through the Son in the Spirit.'


You'd think that 'time's true numerical rhythm' is more than enough meaningless rubbish for anyone to write, but the claim that Christ restored this rhythm takes it further, to realms of surreal stupidity, not transcendental truth. Their notion of truth is very strange. What went on in their minds when they wrote, in connection with time's flow, about repeating 'the truth of this passage in the ecclesial praise of the Father offered through the Son in the Spirit' and should they be read with respect?


Supporters of Radical Orthodoxy include Anglicans, Roman Catholics and Greek and Russian Orthodox believers. This is from the Vatican, a sample of the kind of orthodox belief which the majority of supporters of Radical Orthodoxy wouldn't share but which they would receive with respect. Most importantly, it has the closest possible connection with the teaching of Augustine, which the founders and supporters of Radical Orthodoxy obviously treat with the deepest respect - or rather one single aspect of his teaching, the horrific view that unbaptized babies are in hell. They are in hell because, allegedly, babies are born with the taint of original sin, which has to be washed away in baptism. The document also refers to an alternative fate for unbaptized babies. This modification is still grotesque.


From the site






'The International Theological Commission has studied the question of the fate of un-baptised infants, bearing in mind the principle of the “hierarchy of truths” and the other theological principles of the universal salvific will of God, the unicity and insuperability of the mediation of Christ, the sacramentality of the Church in the order of salvation, and the reality of Original Sin. In the contemporary context of cultural relativism and religious pluralism the number of non-baptized infants has grown considerably, and therefore the reflection on the possibility of salvation for these infants has become urgent. The Church is conscious that this salvation is attainable only in Christ through the Spirit. But the Church, as mother and teacher, cannot fail to reflect upon the fate of all men, created in the image of God, and in a more particular way on the fate of the weakest members of the human family and those who are not yet able to use their reason and freedom.



'It is clear that the traditional teaching on this topic has concentrated on the theory of limbo, understood as a state which includes the souls of infants who die subject to original sin and without baptism, and who, therefore, neither merit the beatific vision, nor yet are subjected to any punishment, because they are not guilty of any personal sin. This theory, elaborated by theologians beginning in the Middle Ages, never entered into the dogmatic definitions of the Magisterium, even if that same Magisterium did at times mention the theory in its ordinary teaching up until the Second Vatican Council. It remains therefore a possible theological hypothesis. However, in the Catechism of the Catholic Church (1992), the theory of limbo is not mentioned. Rather, the Catechism teaches that infants who die without baptism are entrusted by the Church to the mercy of God, as is shown in the specific funeral rite for such children. The principle that God desires the salvation of all people gives rise to the hope that there is a path to salvation for infants who die without baptism (cf. CCC, 1261), and therefore also to the theological desire to find a coherent and logical connection between the diverse affirmations of the Catholic faith: the universal salvific will of God; the unicity of the mediation of Christ; the necessity of baptism for salvation; the universal action of grace in relation to the sacraments; the link between original sin and the deprivation of the beatific vision; the creation of man “in Christ”.

The conclusion of this study is that there are theological and liturgical reasons to hope that infants who die without baptism may be saved and brought into eternal happiness, even if there is not an explicit teaching on this question found in Revelation. However, none of the considerations proposed in this text to motivate a new approach to the question may be used to negate the necessity of baptism, nor to delay the conferral of the sacrament. Rather, there are reasons to hope that God will save these infants precisely because it was not possible to do for them that what would have been most desirable— to baptize them in the faith of the Church and incorporate them visibly into the Body of Christ.




'In these times, the number of infants who die unbaptised is growing greatly. This is partly because of parents, influenced by cultural relativism and religious pluralism, who are non-practising, but it is also partly a consequence of in vitro fertilisation and abortion. Given these developments, the question of the destiny of such infants is raised with new urgency. In such a situation, the ways by which salvation may be achieved appear ever more complex and problematic. The Church, faithful guardian of the way of salvation, knows that salvation can be achieved only in Christ, by the Holy Spirit. Yet, as mother and teacher, she cannot fail to reflect on the destiny of all human beings, created in the image of God, and especially of the weakest. Being endowed with reason, conscience and freedom, adults are responsible for their own destiny in so far as they accept or reject God’s grace. Infants, however, who do not yet have the use of reason, conscience and freedom, cannot decide for themselves. Parents experience great grief and feelings of guilt when they do not have the moral assurance of the salvation of their children ...'



 A quotation from John Milbank will introduce some of his views. His respect for the Vatican will be clear.  I don't claim that his views are shared completely by Professor Pickstock and Professor Ward, only that these are views which they would support to a large extent, at least his theological views. His views on other matters are a different matter. I've reason to believe that Graham Ward for one wouldn't accept some of these or many of these. The piece mentions differences of opinion and change, but it shouldn't be supposed that this is a movement with the development and growth of organic life. These views were published on the site


in the year after the publication of the book 'Radical Orthodoxy'  with the title 'John Milbank on Radical Orthodoxy's Evolution Toward Historic Orthodoxy.' and the language here is anything but monumental and imposing:


'In terms of my own positions re gender and sexuality I suspect that some Catholics would find me a shade too liberal, but in terms of contemporary positions I would be classed as extremely ‘conservative’: against abortion, experiments on foeteses, against any idea that homosexuality can be the subject of equal rights, in favour of the importance of sexual difference, critical of liberal feminism, and holding the opinion that the separation of sex and procreation is in effect a state capitalist programme of bioethical tyranny etc etc. To my mind the Papacy is the crucial bulwark against this, even if I favour married clergy, ordaining women (my wife is an Anglican priest who is at least as conservative as the current Pope in most ways) and recognising gay civil partnerships (though certainly not gay marriage, which I regard as ontologically impossible ... Some within RO [Radical Orthodoxy] are more conservative than me on these points.'


I can't possibly provide a rounded picture of Professor Milbank here, only a few glimpses of him. Oliver Kamm, writing in 'The Times' gives this


'I once debated with Milbank, on BBC Radio 3’s Nightwaves. It was an odd experience. He argued for a religion-based common culture. In opposing him, I mentioned the scarcity rather of public rationalism, as evinced by Milbank himself: he’s a 9/11 conspiracy theorist. Milbank erupted at this, claiming it was a lie, so note his public support for a group called Religious Leaders for 9/11 Truth. Milbank claims to have withdrawn his signature, but it remains in the public domain and he has stated  (in an essay entitled Geopolitical Theology: Economy, Religion and Empire after 9/11): “As to the precise causes of 9/11 I remain entirely agnostic.”


Private Eye later reported, completely accurately, that when this live broadcast had ended, Milbank started screaming at me: “You’re going to be dealt with!” He kept this up in the studio, down the corridor, through the lobby and on to the street to our respective waiting cars.'


I discuss 9/11 in the section 'Anything can happen' on the page Seamus Heaney: translations and versions. I include my translation of a poem by Horace, Carmina 1:34 and discuss Seamus Heaney's version of the poem. There's also a section 'Seamus Heaney, Mary Beard and 9/11' on the page on ethical depth. Mary Beard is also discussed on this page, in the very brief section on Cambridge Classics.


Professor Milbank is Director of the Centre for Theology and Philosophy at Nottingham University but he has Cambridge connections. He has taught at Cambridge University and he received a postgraduate certificate in theology from Westcott House, Cambridge. Cambridge University awarded him a Senior Doctor of Divinity degree in recognition of his published work in 1998.


The third co-author of 'Radical Orthodoxy,' Graham Ward is the Regius Professor of Divinity at Oxford but he has Cambridge connections too. He studied English and French at Fitzwilliam College and then studied theology at Selwyn  while training for ordination at Westcott House.  He was Dean and Director of Studies for Theology at Peterhouse.


On the evidence I have, Professor Ward doesn't adhere to 'Radical Orthodoxy' any longer. The book he wrote with Catherine Pickstock and John Milbank doesn't appear in the published works he gives on the Christ Church Oxford page


or in the 'List of Publications' which is provided on the Oxford Faculty of Theology and Religion' site. The page does give an article:


'Radical Othodoxy: It's Ecumenical Vision


Professor Pickstock may not realize that the name 'the Cambridge School' was already in use: 'the Cambridge School' of historiography, which opposes positivist views of history and emphasizes the role of ideas. It began with Quentin Skinner's 1969 article, 'Meaning and understanding in the history of ideas.' There was no need for her to mention a name which had already been taken. I think I can show is that this theological Cambridge school reflects no credit on Cambridge. People who like to imagine that Cambridge is a 'World Class Centre of Excellence' (or 'One of the Planet's Most Awesome Universities)' will have to look in other places for evidence of vibrant, cutting-edge research to add to their collection.


The Cambridge philanthropy site, which I discuss in the section on this page How-to-give-to-Cambridge - and reasons not to give has a comprehensive view of Cambridge achievement, real and imaginary. It includes not just Cambridge science and mathematics, for example, where the achievement is almost entirely real but study of religion at Cambridge, where the balance is very, very different, tilted firmly in favour of the imaginary. From the philanthropy site

'Cambridge is where the best human minds gather to study humanity itself. Its art, its culture, its philosophies, its religions, the language and societies it creates, and destroys.'


Of course, in the process of studying religion or practising religion, people often contribute to other spheres, such as language. Language is listed as one of the 'Featured priorities' on the same page:


'Understanding ourselves and the world around us through language and culture.


'Language is fundamental to humanity's ability to thrive.'


At Cambridge, inability to detect inert or debased or meaningless language and willingness to contribute inert or debased or meaningless language are common. The biography Professor Pickstock wrote for the Emmanuel College site includes this, on her book 'Repetition and Identity':


'Repetition and Identity engages with literature and aesthetic theory to problematize the distinction between hermeneutics and metaphysics, arguing that the aporias arising from the necessity of repetition to constitute identity can be resolved theologically.' This is so bad that perhaps it deserves to be more prominent on the page. After reformatting:


'Repetition and Identity engages with literature and aesthetic theory to problematize the distinction between hermeneutics and metaphysics, arguing that the aporias arising from the necessity of repetition to constitute identity can be resolved theologically.'


So, a few comments on the language of the introduction to  the book edited by Catherine Pickstock, John Milbank and Graham Ward, 'Radical Orthodoxy' (published in 1999). The introduction is written by the editors


The language is generally clear and serviceable and not consistently pretentious. Amongst their lapses is the  stylistic and semantic mess of this, for example, beginning with the phrase ' ... without an appeal to eternal stability ...'

' Underpinning the present essays, therefore, is the idea that every discipline must be framed by a theological perspective. Although it might seem that to treat of diverse worldly phenomena such as language, knowledge, the body, aesthetic experience, political community, friendship etc., apart from God is to safeguard their worldliness, in fact, to the contrary, it is to make even this worldliness dissolve. This happens in two directions. First, without an appeal to eternal stability, one has to define a purely immanent security. Whereas the former allows temporality, the contingency of language and the fecundity of bodies to retain their ultimacy in the finite sphere, the latter abolishes these phenomena in favour of an immenent static schema or mathesis.'


It's the section quoted here before the phrase ' ... without an appeal to eternal stability ...' which is dreadful, disastrous, surely, and which isn't 'redeemed' in the least by its much clearer language: grotesque, gargantuan garbage.


Before I examine the section, I'll provide the passage which follows the one already quoted. Perhaps it will shed some light on it? Perhaps the Cambridge Philanthropy Project can make some use of it as evidence of the glories of Cambridge Divinity Faculty writing, evidence that will motivate alumni, alumnae and others to dig deep and give generously? I think that hopes will be dashed.


'Curiously, perhaps, it is immanence that is dualistic and tends to remove the mysterious diversity of matter in assuming that appearances do not exceed themselves. Second, since the schema or mathesis is only transcendental , and grounded in nothing, one has to assume either ontologically or pragmatically (i.e. it might as well be the case for all practical purposes), that this essential structure is only an illusion thrown up by the void, even if, as for Derrida et al,' the essential structure is itself the moment of a delusory and contradictory concealment of the void. One can go even further to say that the void itself as a static given assumed by knowledge is the mathesis par excellence. In this way, the two different paths to dissolution of finite integrity - modernist epistemological humanism and post-modern ontological nihilism - merge into one (a dismal promenade.'


Reading the Radical Orthodox Trio's diatribe amounts to a dismal promenade too. Granted, spoken and written English are very different things, but I can ask the Trio, Do you ever speak like this? The spoken English of the lecture theatre may be closer, so I'd ask, Do you ever lecture like this? Do you ever use phrases in your lectures which are remotely comparable with 'the void itself as a static given assumed by knowledge is the mathesis  par excellence.'


Very early in the Introduction, in the second paragraph, the authors have stated their position very clearly. Their theological framework 'visits sites in which secularism has invested heavily - aesthetics, politics, sex, the body, personhood, visibility, space - and resituates them from a Christian standpoint; that is, in terms of the Trinity, Christology, the Church and the Eucharist.'


This later paragraph resumes the argument - or rather the dogma. More things are added to the list of things which can't possibly be considered apart from the Trinitarian God, and, also the doctrine of Christology, the Church and the Eucharist: 'diverse worldly phenomena such as 'language, knowledge, the body, aesthetic experience, political community, friendship, etc.' That 'etc' really amounts to 'practically everything,' apart, that is, from the Trinity, Christology (and, no doubt, other orthodox Anglo-Catholic doctrines), the Church and the Eucharist (and, no doubt, the other sacraments observed by Anglo-Catholics.)


The authors have also insisted that 'every discipline must be framed by a theological perspective; otherwise these disciplines will define a zone apart from God, grounded literally in nothing.'


Is it really true that calculus, abstract algebra, set theory, symbolic logic and all other branches of mathematics and logic must have a theological perspective and that without a theological perspective they are 'grounded literally in nothing?'


Collegiate life at Cambridge (and Oxford) gives opportunities for students of one discipline to talk with students of another - and there are opportunities at other universities too, of course. Perhaps Professor Picksock could try out this remarkable set of ideas on a mathematician or logician dining nearby in the Hall at Emmanuel and try to convince him or her of the absolute need for every mathematical and logical discipline to be framed by a theological perspective, without which all these mathematical and logical disciplines are 'grounded literally in nothing.'


She could mention the subject to an organic chemist, a chemical engineer, a mechanical engineer, a solid state physicist, a modern languages fellow, anyone at the college willing to listen.


She could ask anyone willing to listen to listen to this sentence in the 'Introduction.' It makes the claim for Radical Orthodoxy:


' ... in the face of the secular demise of truth, it seeks to reconfigure theological truth.' Ridiculous all-inclusive or almost all-inclusive generalizations take many forms. One of them is the claim, made in many a Website or Blog comment section, that 'politicians are only out for what they can get,' and another, superficially much more sophisticated, is 'the secular demise of truth.' What kinds of truth have suffered this demise? The truth in logical truth tables? The truth of honest witnesses in courts? The truth of such empirical facts as the boiling point of water? The truth that Augustine saw hell as the fate of unbaptized babies? The truth that Edward Wightman was the last man to be burned alive in England (he had denied the Trinity and questioned the role of the Church of England)?  Or do those last two instances count as theological truth?


She could quote this passage from later in the Introduction:


'One can note here that even a thinker like Balthasar, supposedly sympathetic to the Middle Ages, makes the mistake of claiming that many human spheres - the familial, economic, technical, political - cannot be entirely suffused by love, because he thinks of love in too post-Kantian a fashion as the fulfilment of a universal pure ideal by a solitary individual.'


The dining hall of Emmanuel College offers so many opportunities. She might ask a Fellow in economis to comment on the notion that economics can be entirely suffused by love. She might ask a Fellow in some technical subject to comment on the notion that this Fellow's subject can be entirely suffused by law, or ask a Fellow in some aspect of politics the same question.


As for families, a reading of the first sentence of Tolstoy's 'Anna Karenina' would remind her that there are unhappy families as well as happy families. A reading of newspapers would remind her that there are even families where a father has thrown acid on a very young son and families where mothers carry out genital circumcision on daughters, families where treatment of members of the family is bestial - the notion that families can be entirely suffused by love is a disturbing and ignorant one.


There's no need to work through this ludicrous list of things which are 'grounded literally in nothing' unless framed by a theological perspective, which includes Christology and the Eucharist. I'll just mention one: friendship. What a ridiculous, disturbing view of friendship, to imagine that Christology and the Eucharist and the rest are essential!


This has linkages with totalitarianism, in its claim that every realm of life must be submitted to the dictates of the ideology. Radical orthodoxy is a theological ideology. Radical orthodoxy isn't to be equated with totalitarian ideology but the name  'totalitarian orthodoxy' would come closer to its disastrously misguided essence than the more harmless sounding 'radical orthodoxy.'


Radical orthodoxy, unlike most totalitarian movements, doesn't punish or torture or kill its opponents. It does, though, offer the prospect of punishment, on a mass scale.


In various places, on this page and my general page on Christian religion I quote a statement of doctrine which has been published by Church Society, a Conservative Evangelical group in the Church of England:


' ...  all people are under the judgement of God and his righteous anger burns against them.  Unless a person is reconciled to God they are under His condemnation and His just judgement against them is that they will be separated from Him forever in Hell. (Romans 1 v18, 2 v16, Revelation 20 v15)


 'Jesus will come back and the world will end, there will then be a final judgement where those who have not accepted Jesus will be cast into hell with Satan and his angels. Christians will receive new bodies and live in eternal bliss in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. (Hebrews 9 v27, Revelation 20 v11, 1 Corinthians 15 v51)


'The biblical way of salvation has often been attacked over the centuries, however it is stated clearly in the 39 Articles of the Church of England:



Article 6: Of the sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation.


Article 1: Faith in the Holy Trinity

Article 9: Of Original or Birth-sin

Article 2: The Word, or Son of God, who became truly man

Article 4: The resurrection of Christ

Article 11: Of the Justification of Man


Radical orthodoxy is a movement which is Anglo-Catholic, not evangelical, but the 39 Articles play an important part in Anglo-Catholic belief and a Christian who has no belief in hell can't possibly be described as orthodox. I see every reason for thinking that Catherine Pickstock, John Milbank and Graham Ward would accept this Church Society statement.


If Catherine Pickstock does accept it, then when she talks with anyone who doesn't accept the 'theological framework,' the Trinitarian God and the rest, she is talking to someone she thinks is, let's say, very, very disadvantaged compared with herself. If she thinks like this, then she shouldn't keep it hidden. And the same for the other members of the Radical Orthodoxy group.


Radical Orthodoxy's views on matters other than salvation are strikingly dissimilar to pervasive contemporary norms.


John Milbank set out his views in these terms, in a piece 'John Milbank on Radical Orthodoxy's Evolution toward historic orthodoxy.' (1 September, 2010.)


'In terms of my own positions re gender and sexuality I suspect that some Catholics would find me a shade too liberal, but in terms of contemporary positions I would be classed as extremely ‘conservative’: against abortion, experiments on foeteses, against any idea that homosexuality can be the subject of equal rights, in favour of the importance of sexual difference, critical of liberal feminism, and holding the opinion that the separation of sex and procreation is in effect a state capitalist programme of bioethical tyranny etc etc. To my mind the Papacy is the crucial bulwark against this, even if I favour married clergy, ordaining women (my wife is an Anglican priest who is at least as conservative as the current Pope in most ways) and recognising gay civil partnerships (though certainly not gay marriage, which I regard as ontologically impossible — I also think that civil partnerships not linked to sex should be included for reasons of inheritance etc.) Some within RO are more conservative than me on these points.'


The detailed discussion of some people in the Introduction - they include Wittgenstein, Heidegger, Aquinas and Augustine - can be explained by the fact that they are treated at length in essays included in the book. Philosophers who don't meet the exacting standards of orthodoxy of the writers but who do have some claim to philosophical importance are dismissed very quickly:


' ... in its early manifestations secular modernity exhibited anxiety concerning its own lack of ultimate ground - the scepticism of Descartes, the cynicism of Hobbes, the circularities of Spinoza all testify to this.'


In the case of Spinoza, I respect and admire the man but not so very much the philosophy. The 'Ethics' is the work of a believer, not a sceptic. In such places as the Scholium of Proposition 35 and the Proof of Proposition 42, his writing on God is ardent.

Selwyn College: Professor Ian McFarland and Chalcedonianism  



Above, Selwyn College, including the imposing chapel




Above, the main gate of Selwyn College, with quotation, in Greek, from St Paul's Epistle, 1 Corinthians 16:13.



Above, Selwyn College Chapel, interior. Photo by David Iliff.  License: CC-BY-SA 3.0


Some of the material in this section, the material concerned with Ian McFarland, a Fellow of Selwyn College Cambridge and the Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge, can also be found in the section 'For God so loved the world ...' in my page on Christian religion. The page provides much fuller information and discussion and includes material on King's College chapel.


There's a profile of Dr Lauren Wilcox, also a Fellow of Selwyn College, in the section 'Cambridge feminism' on this page. My page on feminism - the emphasis is upon radical feminist ideology - is a very extensive one.


The material on these Selwyn fellows is very critical, but I also include a fairly favourable account of the Selwyn College Chaplain. On the evidence I've seen, the Master of Selwyn, Roger Mosey, is non-doctrinaire and he has wide interests. The interest in the wider world to be found at Cambridge can often be unnecessarily selective and ideologically charged, it seems to me, but not in the case of this Master.


At the end of this section I include an extract from the introduction to my page on Christian religion. I make clear my view that the threats posed by Christianity are often exaggerated - non-religious ideologies are a far greater threat to mind and body.


Professor McFarland is the Regius Professor of Divinity at Cambridge. His inaugural lecture after his appointment had the seductive title (for people of a Chalcedonian leaning or with Chalcedonian interests)  'For a Chalcedonianism without reserve.'


Chalcedonianism entails acceptance of the christology and ecclesiology of the Council of Chalcedon, which met in 451. According to the Chalcedonian version of Christology, the human and the divine in Jesus Christ are exemplified as two natures and the one hypostasis of the Logos perfectly subsists in these two natures. Standard and not-so-standard reference works will clear up any perplexity about the meaning of all this.They won't necessarily clear up any doubts concerning the relevance of  Chalcedonianism or the importance of Chalcedonianism in human intellectual, artistic and emotional life, or its relevance and importance in religious life.


There's a  revealing interview with Professor McFarland which was published in the 'Church Times.'


It includes this:


'I was the oldest of three, in a comfortable childhood in a standard US nuclear family.'

'During term, pretty much all my time is devoted to teaching and administration.


'One reason Cambridge was attractive to me is that terms are short and vacations relatively generous, and, during vacations, I can devote myself pretty much full-time to research.'

'Original sin teaches that all human beings are equal in their captivity to sin.'

'On original sin I’m pretty Augustinian.'

'The confession that Jesus is the saviour of us all means we all need saving — we’re all caught up in the dynamics of sin.'


'For me, the experience of God comes when I hear the Word preached and receive the sacrament. That’s God addressing me — if I have the wit to listen.'


Professor McFarland has many advantages, it seems: a comfortable, sheltered life, now including very generous vacations (not 'relatively' generous vacations, surely), and, I'm sure, giving him far more free time during term than he claims. I don't think it can possibly be true that 'During term, pretty much all my time is devoted to teaching and administration.' And one more advantage: the assurance of salvation. The people I mention in various places on my page on Christian religion and on other pages on this site, the slaves, the child labourers, the miners, and others, led lives which were different in every way, dominated by dangerous, back-breaking work and without the assurance of salvation, except for a few. Unbaptized babies and infants too young to work went to hell as a consequence of original sin, according to St Augustine. An extended study of the theology of St Augustine would make it clear that his statement, 'On original sin I'm pretty Augustinian' has very, very disturbing implications.


'Original sin teaches that all human beings are equal in their captivity to sin.' Professor McFarland, do you really believe that the people who rescued Jews at immense personal risk, the people who fought to liberate the death camps, the people who fought to end the Nazi nightmare, are 'equal in their captivity to sin' with Himmler and other architects of the Final Solution, with Höss, the commandant of Auschwitz and other implementers of the Final Solution?


'We all need saving — we’re all caught up in the dynamics of sin.'


Has Professor McFarland considered some of the implications of this claim?

'We all need saving,' according to Professor McFarland, but only some will be saved. In my page on Christian religion I discuss the salvation of slaves, the salvation of mine workers, including child mine workers, and other groups. Cambridge undergraduates, graduates, academic staff and other staff are obviously in need of salvation too, according to Professor McFarland.


The perspective which views people in this way is hideously distorted. Does he really believe that applicants to Selwyn College should be viewed first and foremost as candidates for salvation (or damnation)? It could be said that Selwyn's reputation for intellectual integrity - and reputation for intellectual common sense - is compromised by allowing these hopelessly bad views on sin, original sin, salvation and damnation to go unchallenged. But it would be unfair to single out Selwyn for criticism. Christianity is a pervasive presence in the Oxford and Cambridge colleges. Its influence may be very restricted now but it's still greater there than in most other places.


The fellows of Selwyn College pursue research interests in fields as varied as nuclear magnetic resonance spectroscopy, palaeobiology, computational fluid dynamics, digital fabrication, compressible gas flow and topology, whilst one fellow, Professor McFarland, pursues a research interest in original sin. He's the author of the book 'In Adam's Fall: A Meditation on the Christian Doctrine of Original Sin,' and not from a skeptical perspective, one which finds the doctrine unable to explain the imperfections of our world. 


Ludwig Wittgenstein's 'Philosophical Investigations' (which begins with an extended quotation from Augustine, 'Confessions,' I.8, to introduce the discussion of issues in the philosophy of language) contains this claim,


'[philosophy] leaves everything as it is.'


All the advances and nuances of Professor McFarland in his quest to understand sin, including original sin, leave so much of  deadly doctrinal content intact.


This could be called incongruous, grotesque, deeply depressing and many other things. Given the hideous implications of the doctrine - which include the ignoring of a person's contributions to magnificent areas of human achievement in science, engineering, music, historical study, literary study and many more, since salvation and damnation have nothing to do with such things, since the sin of the sinful contributor to science, engineering and the rest is far more important -  I think a much harsher word is called for.


Why anyone should be expected to waste years studying theology at Cambridge University under the guidance of such people as the Regius Professor of Casuistry is a mystery. Why Selwyn College appointed Professor McFarland as a Fellow of the College is a mystery.


Some of his Augustinian views are reflected in mainstream Christianity. The verse

For God so loved the world, that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.' John 3: 16 (World English Bible)


has the most dismal implications. Slaves, miners, undergraduates, Professors of Chemical Engineering, Mathematics, Chemistry or History who don't believe in God the Son don't have 'everlasting life' but 'perish.'


 Belief in these inhuman doctrines obviously isn't confined to one person at this one college - Cambridge has many other examples. The residual religiosity of the place, the hospitality of Cambridge University to such people, the indifference to these inhuman doctrines, is very striking. 


It's time for Cambridge colleges, and Oxford colleges to begin a retreat from Christianity. The fact that so many of them have Christian foundations shouldn't deter them. Selwyn College was founded in memory of George Augustus Selwyn, the first bishop of New Zealand. Attendance at the college chapel was compulsory until 1935.


Contemporary Cambridge, like contemporary Oxford, still has a deferential attitude to the Church of England all too often. This is the power of the past, expressed in material form as well as historical influences, traditions and ways of thinking.


From the Website of the Diocese of Ely - note the term 'by ancient tradition'



'The Bishop of Ely, by ancient tradition, is the Visitor of three Cambridge Colleges: Jesus, Peterhouse and St John's. He takes a keen interest in both the University of Cambridge and Anglia Ruskin University. He is also the Chair of the Council at Westcott House, one of the Anglican theological colleges within the Cambridge Federation.'


From the same page:


'His understanding of church doctrine and liturgical practice were formed principally within the Anglican catholic tradition, but this has been enriched by the positive experience of other traditions throughout his ministry, such as the charismatic movement. As a child, he attended a Methodist Sunday School. He is firmly committed to being a bishop for the whole Church, regardless of tradition.'


'The whole Church' includes the Conservative evangelicals (many of them belonging to Church Society) who believe that


' ...  all people are under the judgement of God and his righteous anger burns against them.  Unless a person is reconciled to God they are under His condemnation and His just judgement against them is that they will be separated from Him forever in Hell. (Romans 1 v18, 2 v16, Revelation 20 v15)


 'Jesus will come back and the world will end, there will then be a final judgement where those who have not accepted Jesus will be cast into hell with Satan and his angels. Christians will receive new bodies and live in eternal bliss in the presence of God the Father, God the Son, and God the Spirit. (Hebrews 9 v27, Revelation 20 v11, 1 Corinthians 15 v51)


'The biblical way of salvation has often been attacked over the centuries, however it is stated clearly in the 39 Articles of the Church of England:



Article 6: Of the sufficiency of the holy Scriptures for salvation.


Article 1: Faith in the Holy Trinity

Article 9: Of Original or Birth-sin

Article 2: The Word, or Son of God, who became truly man

Article 4: The resurrection of Christ

Article 11: Of the Justification of Man


Perhaps the Bishop, the Right Reverend Stephen Conway, could comment on some implications of these doctrines, such as the fact that all the students, fellows and other staff at these and other Cambridge colleges who never accept Jesus Christ as their personal Lord and Saviour are unredeemed, lost.


I doubt if his 'broad church' view is endorsed by very many evangelicals, who are more likely to view his Anglo-Catholic views, and the views of Church of England 'liberals' as  heretical, to use the established term with such a horrific history.


The Greek motto over the main gate of Selwyn College is easy to overlook, not so the dominant Chapel. So many of the Oxford and Cambridge colleges have Roman Catholic and Anglican origins. Selwyn College has Church of England origins but has outgrown them. Selwyn College, like the other Oxford and Cambridge Colleges, has freed itself from Church of England dogma and doctrine.


The Chaplain of Selwyn College, Hugh Shilson-Thomas, conveys, to me, on the evidence available, a fairly favourable impression, but I don't have any evidence about his ability to provide pastoral care for the wider community of Selwyn. No matter what he may be achieving at Selwyn, in his own estimation, he could be achieving far more, I think, in a place which makes greater demands on him.


The page 'Hugh Shilson-Thomas installed as Junior Proctor at Cambridge University.'


The photograph shows him 'processing' back to Selwyn College in his costume, following a long Cambridge tradition. This particular tradition doesn't irritate me in the least. It isn't  in the least harmful. The post is a useful one. Junior Proctors are particularly concerned with University clubs and societies.


Some other Cambridge traditions are pointless or harmful to a greater or lesser extent. There was no point at all in the Cambridge practice, which continued for so long, of naming the subject 'Philosophy' 'Moral Sciences.' It didn't help an applicant for a job to have to explain what a degree in moral sciences was all about, and may have harmed their chances. The tradition of obliging and showing deference to the Church of England harms the reputation of the university for free and independent thought - or can cause harm once people become aware of it.


Corpus Christi College: Dr Andrew Davison on



From the Cambridge University Divinity Faculty Website, entry for Andrew Davison


'Dr Davison is the Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences. Before he moved into theology he was a scientist, and he holds undergraduate degrees and doctorates in both natural science (Merton College, Oxford) and theology (Corpus Christi College, Cambridge).'


This is someone with impressive academic attainments, then - I'm referring only to his undergraduate degree in Chemistry and his doctorate in biochemistry. I regard attainment in theology as 'null and void.' (Compare and contrast the Roman Catholic view of Anglican orders as 'null and void, including the orders of Anglo-Catholics. Father Davison is very much an Anglo-Catholic.)


On the same page of the Divinity Faculty Website:


'Alongside the book on astrobiology, his other principle project is a book, recently completed, surveying the 'metaphysics of participation' as a structuring principle in Christian theology.'


Instead of 'principle,' 'principal,' of course.


From the site



Living and proclaiming the Catholic faith in the Church of England



Fr Andrew Davison installed as Canon

The Revd Dr Andrew Davison, Starbridge Lecturer in Theology and Natural Sciences at Cambridge University and Fellow in Theology at Corpus Christi College, Cambridge, was installed as Canon Philosopher in St Albans Cathedral on 8th June.


His appointment, is part of an initiative to help strengthen the Diocese of St Albans in the area of apologetics: giving a reason for belief in the Christian faith.

Immediately after his installation, he delivered his inaugural lecture: Knowing and Loving God.


An extract from his lecture:


 'We are probably all used to the convenient but ultimately destructive distinction between a religion of the heart and a religion of the head, between a Christianity of the heart and a Christianity of the head: one primarily of loving and the other primarily of thinking. However, if what I’m saying in this lecture has any bearing, with its contention that knowing and loving are intrinsically interwoven for the Christian, then this kind of specialism, this division of Christians into those who live primarily in their heads and those who live in the hearts, is ill formed.

'One way to bridge this gap is to look to the examples of figures down Christian history, and in our own time, who outwit any such head-heart distinction. I think of St Augustine of Hippo, for instance, who was a virtuoso of both the mind and heart, both a philosopher and a mystic. He is, on the one hand, the theological touchstone for Western Christians, whether Anglicans, Roman Catholics or Protestants, and an intellectual of the first order. But, on the other hand, his distinctive symbol in art is a heart wreathed in flames of fire. (Having mentioned Augustine, I’d like to give a plug for the reissued Augustine Synthesis by Erich Przywara, which is a magnificent anthology of passages from his writings, recently republished by Wipf and Stock.)'


Early in the section on Professor Catherine Pickstock and Radical Orthodoxy, I draw attention to one of the hideous beliefs of St Augustine of Hippo, this 'virtuoso of both the mind and heart,' this 'theological touchstone for Western Christians' - the belief that all babies are born with the taint of original sin and that unbaptized babies go to hell.


Another insight into the man who has so impressed Father Davison and Professor Catherine Pickstock, Professor Ian McFarland, and, of course, a vast number of others. This comes from Augustine's 'Tractates on the Gospel of John 31:11.'


'Even the cross . . . was a judgment seat. For the Judge was set up in the middle with the thief who believed and was pardoned on the one side and the thief who mocked and was damned on the other. Already then he signified what he would do with the living and the dead: some he will place on his right hand, others on his left.'


Do Father Davison, Professor Pickstock and Professor McFarland believe that Jesus will place some members of their Colleges on his right hand - the ones who are saved - and other members of their Colleges (the vast majority) on his left hand - the ones who are damned? Does their orthodoxy extend this far? (Obviously, the spatial reference isn't essential in this orthodox view.)


The reference in the passage from the Tractates is to the account in the Gospel according to Luke, Chapter 23:


'One of the criminals who were hanged railed at him, saying, “Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!” 40 But the other rebuked him, saying, “Do you not fear God, since you are under the same sentence of condemnation? 41 And we indeed justly; for we are receiving the due reward of our deeds; but this man has done nothing wrong.” 42 And he said, “Jesus, remember me when you come into[d] your kingdom.” 43 And he said to him, “Truly, I say to you, today you will be with me in Paradise.” '


Only Luke has one of the 'criminals' saved. Matthew has both of them turning on Jesus - but Augustine hasn't a great deal to offer on the subject of the contradictions to be found in the Bible.


Augustine's view of the one who was damned is a striking example of the inhumanity to be found in Christianity.


By the time the one who was later damned spoke those words, supposedly, 'Are you not the Christ? Save yourself and us!' he had been prepared for crucifixion by flogging, with the gruesome Roman instrument of torture, made up of heavy leather thongs, with metal balls attached near the ends. By the time the flogging was finished, his back would have been broken open, the flesh a torn and bleeding mass. He would have had to carrry the heavy wooden cross piece to the place of crucifixion, where he was either nailed to the cross or tied to it. Then there would have been the struggle to breath, the struggle against suffocation. He spoke the words with no possibility at all of carefully considering them. At last, his leg would have been shattered with a heavy club, so that he could no longer support himself.


In this same lecture, he also said,


'You will hear plenty from me about Thomas Aquinas in the years to come, as the consummate Christian philosopher, and he is right on target in his insistence that the truth of the Son leads to love and the love of the Spirit leads to truth. Of the Son he writes that 'the Son is the Word, not any sort of word, but the one Who breathes forth Love.' '


A footnote gives the reference: Aquinas, Summa Theologiae I.43.5 ad 2 (London: Burns, Oates and Washbourne, 1912-36).


Of course, Father Davison will be familiar with Thomas Aquinas' views concerning non-recanting heretics:


'With regard to heretics two points must be observed: one, on their own side; the other, on the side of the Church. On their own side there is the sin, whereby they deserve not only to be separated from the Church by excommunication, but also to be severed from the world by death. For it is a much graver matter to corrupt the faith which quickens the soul, than to forge money, which supports temporal life. Wherefore if forgers of money and other evil-doers are forthwith condemned to death by the secular authority, much more reason is there for heretics, as soon as they are convicted of heresy, to be not only excommunicated but even put to death.'


Thomas Aquinas called for the death penalty for heretics, forgers and a very wide range of other offences - guilt was 'proved,' of course, very very often during torture of the accused. My page on the death penalty isn't comprehensive but it gives arguments and evidence against its use.


Christ's College: Michael Dormandy and scribal habits


See also the section Pastoral care: the College Chaplains and Deans.


Michael Dormandy, the former Chaplain of Christ's College studied at Wycliffe Hall, an evangelical theological college and has published on the site of the Church Society, the conservative evangelical Church of England organization.   It's very, very likely that he's in full agreement with this :


' ...  all people are under the judgement of God and his righteous anger burns against them.  Unless a person is reconciled to God they are under His condemnation and His just judgement against them is that they will be separated from Him forever in Hell. (Romans 1 v18, 2 v16, Revelation 20 v15).'


It's very, very likely that Michael Dormandy regards the achievements of the master of Christ's College and the achievements of the fellows of Christ's College as far less important than the 'realities' of God's 'just' judgement against them - or, in a small number of cases, in their favour. It's very, very likely that his view of Christ College undergraduates and applicants to the College and the porters and other staff of the College will show the same narrow, inhuman focus.


Christ's College has a well-deserved reputation for academic excellence. This is one of the smaller Cambridge colleges but it has produced more Nobel prize winners than many of the countries of the world. But for evangelicals, unless the academically successful accept Christ as their Lord and Saviour, they are lost. This is a nihilistic view of academic achievement, as of other human gifts and talents and other strengths: ultimately, the academic achievement does count for nothing in God's eyes.


It's very, very likely that the scientific achievement of Charles Darwin, who was a member of Christ's College, and, of course, one of the greatest of scientists, will mean far less to the chaplain than the 'all-important' fact that Darwin lost his Christian faith - God penalizes the honest search for truth if the search ends in loss of faith, not faith in Christ the 'redeemer.'


From Darwin's autobiography:


'Whilst on board the Beagle I was quite orthodox,  & I remember being heartily laughed at by several of the officers (though themselves orthodox) for quoting the Bible as an unanswerable authority on some point of morality.  I suppose it was the novelty of the argument that amused them. But I had gradually come, by this time, to see that the Old Testament from its manifestly false history of the world, with the Tower of Babel, rainbow as a sign,  etc., etc., and from its attributing to God the feelings of a revengeful tyrant, was no more to be trusted than the sacred books of the Hindoos ...


And this:


'By further reflecting that the clearest evidence would be requisite to make any sane man believe in the miracles by which Christianity is supported, — that the more we know of the fixed laws of nature the more incredible, do miracles become, — that the men at that time were ignorant and credulous to a degree almost incomprehensible by us, — that the Gospels cannot be proved to have been written simultaneously with the events, – that they differ in many important details, far too important as it seemed to me to be admitted as the usual inaccuracies of eyewitness; – by such reflections as these, which I give not as having the least novelty or value, but as they influenced me, I gradually came to disbelieve in Christianity as a divine revelation.'


 It's very, very likely that Charles Darwin's condemnation of slavery will mean nothing to Michael Dormandy - after all, this is an issue unrelated to redemption by belief in Christ.  See also the section on slavery, For God so loved the world ... in my page on the 'Church of England.'


In the  'The Voyage of the Beagle,' 'Mauritius to England,' Darwin describes the effect of witnessing some of the horrors of slavery. The account was written at a time when he still had belief in God:


'On the 19th of August we finally left the shores of Brazil. I thank God, I shall never again visit a slave-country ... Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have staid in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse-whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean; I saw his father tremble at a mere glance from his master's eye.




'picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children ... being torn from you and sold like beasts to the highest bidder! And these deeds are done and palliated by men, who profess to love their neighbours as themselves, who believe in God, and pray that his Will be done on earth!'

Christ's College claims to be a 'vibrant community.' Its not so vibrant Chaplain, the industrious Michael Dormandy, has published a secondary school Latin textbook and a critical edition, with translation and commentary, of a letter, the Epistola Fundamentalis  by the seventeenth century Roman Catholic priest, Bartholomaeus Holzhauser.


Bartholomaeus Holzhauser is, of course, the celebrated interpreter of the Book of the Apocolypse. According to his interpretation, the 7 stars and the 7 candlesticks which were 'seen' by St John signify 7 periods in Church history. To these periods correspond the 7 churches of Asia Minor, the 7 days of creation, according to Genesis, the 7 ages before Christ and the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit.


Michael Dormandy has also been working on 'scribal habits in the Greek majuscule pandects.'


He's a member of the Faculty of Divinity. The Faculty's site gives further information about the achievements of this figure, including his  'Text-critical analysis of the book of Revelation in the Codex Alexandrinus.'




The site gives the information that Dr Dirk Jongkind of St Edmund's College is a collaborator of Michael Dormandy. I've no information as to whether Dr Jongkind has conservative evangelical views, of the kind which has an interest, an overwhelmingly important interest, in the destination of the Master, Fellows, students and staff of St Edmund's - the path to redemption or damnation. Perhaps he would be able to make clear his view of things.


The case of Michael Dormandy is an instructive one, although there are many more like him. He shows the stupidity of supposing that a College Chaplain can minister to the 'spiritual needs' of even the academic and non-academic staff of a college, the undergraduate and graduate members of a college, who have an affiliation with the Church of England, let alone the methodists, baptists, and members of other Christian denominations, or the 'spiritual' needs which agnostics and atheists are also alleged to have, or the alleged 'spiritual' needs of people who are completely indifferent to the Church of England, to all religion, and to thinking about any of the issues.


If it reflects to any extent the deep divisions of the Church of England, the numerically small group of Church of England people in a college is likely to contain people who would think of themselves as evangelicals, conservative to a greater or lesser extent, Anglo-Catholics, Anglican 'free-thinkers,' people who have no belief in some or most of the doctrines which evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics would regard as essential, and 'mainstream' Anglicans, who may well evade the difficult issues raised by the presence in this 'broad church' of people with views they view with distaste.


Michael Dormandy can't possibly see to the 'spiritual' needs of the non-evangelical Anglicans. He can only see to the 'spiritual' needs of a minority within a minority. He has his futile scholarship to keep him busy, to his own satisfaction, not so chaplains without this solace.


See also the section The C of E, a broad, divided church: time to leave on my page on the Church of England.


Christs: Dr Jill Duff, Bishop of Lancaster


Jill Duff's has outstanding academic ability. She studied Natural Sciences at Christ's College.  She then studied chemistry at Worcester College, Oxford, completing her Doctor of Philosophy (DPhil) degree with a thesis, 'Investigations of redox-coupled proton transfer by iron-sulphur cluster systems in proteins'. Her early career was spent working in the oil industry.


There's a much longer section than this where I criticize her Christian views, in my page on Christianity and the Church of England.


Clare College: Dr Mark Smith and tactless questions



Provides a historical and theological analysis of the major church councils of the mid-fifth century, from the Council of Ephesus (431) to the Council of Chalcedon (451)

Analyses in detail how appeals to the first ecumenical council, the Council of Nicaea (325), functioned to help, and to hinder, the articulation of doctrinal truth

Offers a fresh account of the shaping of orthodoxy in the early church, and the role of councils and creeds in that process.


The Clare College Website, unlike so many Cambridge College Websites, gives very little detail about the pastoral responsibilities of the Dean. From the page 'Health and Welfare:'


'Rev'd Dr Mark Smith is responsible for the running of the Chapel and has a general pastoral role in the College.' For more on the pastoral care provided by Cambridge clergy, see my section Pastoral care: the College Chaplains and Deans.


Questions for Dr Smith. You're obviously very interested in Christian orthodoxy, the construal of Christian orthodoxy, the shaping of Christian orthodoxy, the role of  councils and creeds in the shaping of Christian orthodoxy. Could your own Christian beliefs by described as orthodox? If they aren't it does seem curious that you devote so much of your time to study of orthodoxy. If your Christian beliefs could be described as orthodox, then no doubt you believe in hell as well as heaven, and hell for the fellow academics you mix with at Clare - the ones who never go on to acknowledge Jesus Christ as their Lord and Saviour, that is, not the academics over at the Faculty of Divinity.


The Master of Christ's College says that you provided 'very effective pastoral support to the entire College.' If you have orthodox Christian beliefs, as is likely, is your view of the 'entire College' the orthodox Christian view - some of the College will be placed on Christ's right hand and some on his left: salvation and damnation.


I appreciate that these direct questions may seem rather tactless.


Jesus College: the Reverend Paul Dominiak


See also the section Pastoral care: the College Chaplains and Deans.


Paul Dominiak is Dean of Chapel at Jesus.


'About the Chapel' on the Jesus Colloge Website


The Divinity Faculty Website lists Paul Dominiak's research interests as 'natural law, metaphysics, scholasticism, Thomism, Reformed Orthodoxy, Anglicanism.'


The page of Jesus College Website 'About the Chapel' gives the information that he 'specialises in Philosophical and Historical Theology, in particular the thought of Thomas Aquinas and the Elizabethan theologian Richard Hooker.'


It also maintains that ''The Dean of Chapel is responsible for the worshipping life of the Chapel and for the pastoral care of all members of the College community, whatever their faith or beliefs.'



St John's College: the Reverend Canon Mark Oakley and Rilke


See also the section Pastoral care: the College Chaplains and Deans.


 It's difficult to to do even partial justice (the most common form of justice by far) to this likeable/impressive/accomplished/predictable/reckless/flawed-but-not-in-the-least-disastrously-flawed/
writer/believer/establishment figure,  the author of such varied works as The sermon preached on the Third Sunday of Lent (28 February 2016 ) at St Paul's Cathedral and 'The Splash of Words: Believing in Poetry,' both discussed below. Dr Oakley is the Dean of St John's College.


The King's College choir is far more prominent than the choir of St John's College but very many people with an interest in choral singing - they include me - appreciate the superlative standards of the St John's choir, and the 'difference' in their sound.


Mark Oakley is 'Patron of Tell MAMA (supporting those affected by anti-Muslim hate crime)' This is his account of Muslim religion in 'Splash.' He mentions, and moves on, very quickly:


'As regards the Qu'ran (610 - 632 CE) God is the poet and speaker of the entire text.' A closer look at the entire text of the Qu'ran would reveal difficulties such as the ones cited in the section The Jordan Peterson case, and a brief summary ...


Before that, he claimed that 'Christian faith ... teaches that in Christ we have a body-language of God, an expression of God that reveals the nature of who God is.' This is the  clumsy language which is very common in Anglican apologetics but not very common in his fluent writing. It's followed by this, 'The doctrine of the Church has developed so we understand God as Trinity.'


I'd stress that the Muslim view of God and the Christian view of God are incompatible. Muslims don't accept that Jesus was the Son of God. Muslims don't accept the doctrine of the Trinity.


But the author has a developed sense of spirituality which allows him to avoid this difficulty, and others. He writes of 'the push beyond the literal into the heart of spiritual realities. The 'literal' here is inclusive. It seems to refer to literal interpretations of the Bible, the belief in the literal truth of everything in the Bible, and the concrete facts of our world.


The sermon preached on the Third Sunday of Lent (28 February 2016 ) at St Paul's Cathedral by Revd Canon Mark Oakley, Chancellor


is a hagiographical account of an outstanding man, Desmand Tutu, who is surely right about so many things and surely mistaken, very badly mistaken, about a few others.


In the sermon Mark Oakley says 'He is outspoken about Israel/Palestine.' Desmond Tutu's view of the Palestinians as the oppressed and the Israelis as the oppressors is grossly mistaken, his view of Israeli-Palestinian relations is grotesquely mistaken.  Mark Oakley claims, correctly, that Desmond Tutu 'has taken a lead for LGBT people.' What Desmond Tutu hasn't done is to take into account the fact that homosexual/gay relations are fully legal in Israel, that LGBT issues are freely discussed and freely promoted in Israel. In Gaza, homosexual/gay relations are illegal. I discuss the issues at length in my page Israel, Islamism and Palestinian ideology.


Desmond Tutu describes Israel as 'an apartheid state.' Richard Goldstone is the author of the often-cited Goldstone Report, which was critical of Israel. What is less often mentioned is the fact that Richard Goldstone modified his views substantially. I provide an account in the section on the protestor Owen Holland on this page. An extract, quoting from Richard Goldstone:


'One particularly pernicious and enduring canard that is surfacing again is that Israel pursues “apartheid” policies. In Cape Town starting on Saturday, a London-based nongovernmental organization called the Russell Tribunal on Palestine will hold a “hearing” on whether Israel is guilty of the crime of apartheid. It is not a “tribunal.” The “evidence” is going to be one-sided and the members of the “jury” are critics whose harsh views of Israel are well known.

While “apartheid” can have broader meaning, its use is meant to evoke the situation in pre-1994 South Africa. It is an unfair and inaccurate slander against Israel, calculated to retard rather than advance peace negotiations.

'In assessing the accusation that Israel pursues apartheid policies, which are by definition primarily about race or ethnicity, it is important first to distinguish between the situations in Israel, where Arabs are citizens, and in West Bank areas that remain under Israeli control in the absence of a peace agreement.

'In Israel, there is no apartheid. Nothing there comes close to the definition of apartheid under the 1998 Rome Statute: “Inhumane acts ... committed in the context of an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group over any other racial group or groups and committed with the intention of maintaining that regime.”Israeli Arabs — 20 percent of Israel’s population — vote, have political parties and representatives in the Knesset and occupy positions of acclaim, including on its Supreme Court. Arab patients lie alongside Jewish patients in Israeli hospitals, receiving identical treatment.


'The situation in the West Bank is more complex. But here too there is no intent to maintain “an institutionalized regime of systematic oppression and domination by one racial group.” ... until there is a two-state peace, or at least as long as Israel’s citizens remain under threat of attacks from the West Bank and Gaza, Israel will see roadblocks and similar measures as necessary for self-defense, even as Palestinians feel oppressed. As things stand, attacks from one side are met by counterattacks from the other. And the deep disputes, claims and counterclaims are only hardened when the offensive analogy of “apartheid” is invoked.

Those seeking to promote the myth of Israeli apartheid often point to clashes between heavily armed Israeli soldiers and stone-throwing Palestinians in the West Bank, or the building of what they call an “apartheid wall” and disparate treatment on West Bank roads. While such images may appear to invite a superficial comparison, it is disingenuous to use them to distort the reality. The security barrier was built to stop unrelenting terrorist attacks; while it has inflicted great hardship in places, the Israeli Supreme Court has ordered the state in many cases to reroute it to minimize unreasonable hardship. Road restrictions get more intrusive after violent attacks and are ameliorated when the threat is reduced.'


'Jewish-Arab relations in Israel and the West Bank cannot be simplified to a narrative of Jewish discrimination. There is hostility and suspicion on both sides. Israel, unique among democracies, has been in a state of war with many of its neighbors who refuse to accept its existence ... '

Mathematics textbooks, instead of giving a proof or some other valuable material sometimes leave it 'as an exercise to the reader' to supply it. Any readers who are familiar with Mark Oakley's writings could identify the aspects of the passages below which have linkages with his writing (or the world of liberal Anglicanism) and aspects where there's contrast. Mathematics textbooks often give hints as to the solution of a problem. I do provide a few hints - although this exercise obviously has nothing to do with certainty.


 From my page on Nietzsche:


'I think that Nietzsche often remained in what I call the word-sphere. Of course, the word-sphere is the natural home of imaginative writers. This isn't a pejorative use of the phrase. 'Word-sphere' in the pejorative sense reflects a sense of reality which is surely defective. Often, reality is difficult, intractable, sometimes impossible to deal with. It's far easier to arrange words so that an aspiration is put forward as reality. 'Declaring' a thing to be so is mistakenly thought to be the same as the reality. Sometimes, words become a substitute for action - this is an instance of {substitution}. The word-sphere is amongst other things the world of facile claims, ringing declarations, hollow confidence-building assertions ...' [Or the  facile claims, ringing declarations, hollow confidence-building assertions in the world of liberal Anglicanism.]


 From my page on Rilke and Kafka:


'These two literary artists, linked by background, as members of the German-speaking minority amongst  the Czech-speaking majority of Prague, are at very different levels of accomplishment.


'[Rilke] brings to all the topics he writes about a depth, an urge to create profundity. He brings his profundity to bear on events which call for protest, opposition, a struggle against. He creates genuine profundity but far more often deluded profundity, just as the subconscious of the artist for some reason brings to the surface so often dross as well as artistically important material, which requires the conscious mind to sift and distinguish. Rilke failed to sift and distinguish sufficiently. In practice, he ignored and was ignorant of many things, matters of vital importance (I write in the hope that here, I can restore to the word 'vital' some of the force of 'vita,' 'life.')


'He obviously knew that the First World War was recalcitrant and discordant (although he lacked the awareness of suffering to know just how discordant) and couldn't be brought into his world of acceptance, so although he lived through the conflict, he ignored it.


'Rilke has surface profundity and very often not much more than that. [I think that Mark Oakley has 'surface profundity' and authentic profundity - I can't stop to explain, and explain the difficulties of, 'authentic' profundity.] Now, more than ever, denial of {restriction} is the source of endless illusion and disillusionment. Very many people are unable to acknowledge  harshness, unable to recognize {restriction} on their freedom of action, expect no {restriction} on their happiness. They have 'extravagant expectations' (the title of the book by Paul Hollander.) Rilke's denial of checks, frustrations, obstacles, harshness, undermines so much of his poetic work. [Mark Oakley has unexpected linkages with evangelical fundamentalists, although the contrasts are far more marked. Dr Oakley and the evangelicals share the same assurance - an assurance that is far more complacent in the case of the evangelicals - that difficulties for their views aren't real difficulties. The contradictions in the synoptic gospel accounts, the difficulty that the manuscripts are so much later than the historical events leave evangelicals unconcerned. Dr Oakley's confidence that the loving purposes of God are so obviously on display seems, from what I can gather, tenacious or even unshakeable - although I'd hope that some of the difficulties I document in my page on Christian religion aren't at all easy to overlook or evade. Dr Oakley may have far less confidence in the Biblical account than the evangelicals, but his confidence is still too great, I think. In 'Splashes,' he states that Jesus 'was a verbal artist.' Given the fact that Jesus spoke in Aramaic and the gospel accounts are in Greek and never quote the Aramaic and aren't reliable guides to literary style - compare the massive differences in the way Jesus speaks (allegedly) in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Gospel according to John - then Dr Oakley is reckless here.] Rilke's sustained exploration of inwardness is undeniably impressive, but is insufficient compensation for the emphasis on the disembodied life, his neglect of the embodied life. His emphasis on inwardness has a linkage with his neglect of the embodied life. In his case, the {restriction} he denied was not on anything so commonplace and important as happiness, but on something much rarer. It's expressed in one of his statements of 'surface profundity:' “If your daily life seems poor, do not blame it; blame yourself, tell yourself that you are not poet enough to call forth its riches ...' (Letters to a Young Poet.)


'This may have been good advice in the case of this poet and his plight, but it would be hideous advice for many others - for millions of others.


'The daily life of the Jews starving in the Warsaw ghetto or in the Bergen-Belsen concentration camp must have seemed poor, but they had no reason to blame themselves for not being poets enough to call forth its riches. At Treblinka extermination camp, the unspeakable sadist Gustav Wagner decided to shoot a woman and her baby. He shot her baby first and after the mother had witnessed the act, he shot her.

Rilke was writing before such events as these, but the horrors of the Second World War, like the horrors of the First World War, would surely have left him unmoved. When he was writing, acute poverty and destitution were commonplace. Many, many writers have ignored acute poverty and destitution, whilst retaining an ability to recognize the harshness in reality, but Rilke's ignorance of harshness, his inability to recognize {restriction}, makes any claim for him to be a serious writer impossible to take seriously. Rilke is very widely regarded as a serious writer but I think that this misconception will be undermined by the evidence I provide, at some length, even if the misconception is an understandable one.


'{restriction} is central to Kafka.  In 'The Trial,' Joseph K.'s freedom of action is progressively restricted, in 'The Castle,' K. faces insuperable difficulties in reaching the castle. Although Kafka lived before the Nazi horrors (during which his three sisters were gassed at Auschwitz), his writing anticipated a world in which people faced insuperable difficulties in avoiding gassing in an extermination camp. Kafka's employment at the Worker's Accident Insurance Institute surely helped to form his clear-sighted view of the world. It involved the investigation of accidents to industrial workers, such as falls from a height and loss of limbs.' [Dr Oakley could try reflecting on these accidents, or on industrial lung diseases, despite the fact that traditionally, the practice of reflection has been on matters far removed from these. It was impossible to protect workers from the particles in the air in coal mines and factories where metals were ground using grindstones, until, as a result of technical advances, working conditions were made safe. His theology, like the theology of the conservative evangelicals, is  vulnerable, although not to anything like the same extent.


As for my claim that he's an  'establishment figure' (to some extent, in part) first the evidence: he's 'a Deputy Priest in Ordinary to HM the Queen.' Then my claim that it's unimportant. A very few, disparate matters which have a bearing on the issue, I think.


On my shelves, I have a superb book on gardening, 'The Garden Planner.' (Like many, many superb books, it's out of print.) The Consultant Editor of the book is Ashley Stephenson, at the time of publication the Gardener Royal.


George Orwell, writing in 'Partisan Review' of Spring 1944, not long before 'Operation Overlord,' the D-day landings:


‘The function of the King in promoting stability and acting as a sort of keystone in a non-democratic society is, of course, obvious. But he also has, or can have, the function of acting as an escape-valve for dangerous emotions. A French journalist said to me once that the monarchy was one of the things that have saved Britain from Fascism. What he meant was that modern people can’t, apparently, get along without drums, flags and loyalty parades, and that it is better that they should tie their leader-worship onto some figure who has no real power. In a dictatorship the power and the glory belong to the same person ... . On the whole the European countries which have most successfully avoided Fascism have been constitutional monarchies. The conditions seemingly are that the Royal Family shall be long-established and taken for granted, shall understand its own position and shall not produce strong characters with political ambitions. These have been fulfilled in Britain, the Low Countries and Scandinavia, but not in, say, Spain or Rumania. If you point these facts out to the average left-winger he gets very angry, but only because he has not examined the nature of his own feelings towards Stalin.'


Support for the monarchy, or good-natured tolerance of the monarchy, doesn't necessarily have to include support for all the trappings of monarchy. I think that in this film, where the images accompany a performance of Handel's Coronation Anthem No. 1, 'Zadok the Priest,' some of the trappings are excessive, over the top.

Good taste and bad taste aren't fashionable concerns now, at least in some quarters but there should be a place for these concerns.


Emmanuel College: Dean Jeremy Caddick  is innocent 


'Innocent' is a word with striking contrasts of meaning, reflected in the discussion here.


First meaning of 'innocent:'  'blameless'


Jeremy Caddick is best known, in the wider world beyond Cambridge, for his decision to include a photograph of the main gate at Auschwitz on a pamphlet. I think that Jeremy Caddick was blameless. He had very good reasons to do what he did and the uproar was ridiculous. The reasoning which lay behind the sermon he went on to give in the Chapel is a different matter. It doesn't justify a protest, far from it,  but it does illustrate some of the distortions of a Christian perspective on events. I think that the objections concern very important principles.


Putting "Jeremy Caddick" "Emmanuel College" Auschwitz into Google currently gives a first page which includes these results:


Why did a Cambridge University college put a picture of Auschwitz on ...

Cambridge college apologises for 'welcome service' pamphlet ...

Emmanuel College forced to apologise over 'sick Nazi joke' on student ...

Cambridge college apologizes for Auschwitz Nazi death camp image ...

New Cambridge students shocked at Auschwitz picture on welcome ...

Emmanuel College uses photo of Auschwitz on leaflet welcoming ...

"There are a lot of very upset students": Outrage after Cambridge ...


This is one of the shorter, less hysterical accounts


'Emmanuel College have apologised after leaflets distributed at the college bore the image of Auschwitz among others. 
The picture shows the gates with the famous slogan “arbeit macht frei” meaning ‘work brings freedom’.

The college Dean, Rev Jeremy Caddick initially defended the pamphlet saying it was a reflection of the college choirs recent visit to Auschwitz and they had wanted to show an image representing evil.

Later the college apologised acknowledging that without context the pamphlet could upset people.

The welcome service was held on 5th October where the college Dean delivered a sermon highlighting the evil in the world.

Some students had thought the image could be a joke about how hard they would have to work to earn their degrees.'


In another account



 the 'joke' takes a different form. A 'second-year student at the college said, 'I have no idea at all what the possible aim of this is, or whether it’s some kind of joke about entering university life.' It also provides the 'apology' provided by a spokeswoman at Emmanuel:


'We understand that without context this image may upset people and we apologise for its use in a way that has caused distress.'


A much more robust defence of Jeremy Caddick was in order. Andrew James Brown, a Unitarian Minister in Cambridge, provided a robust and heartening defence, published on the site of the unitarian church!/post/8505283765654322742


and his own blog



' ... important complex and controversial reflections about important complex and controversial issues (which alone allow for both genuine mistakes to be made, genuine gains in knowledge to occur and genuine forgiveness and understanding to develop) are increasing difficult to have because they are constantly being threatened and sometimes utterly derailed ...

'Well, a good friend and colleague of mine experienced just such a deliberately destructive attack only a few weeks ago at the start of term here in Cambridge. The Dean of Emmanuel College, Jeremy Caddick,  wanted in both his sermon and in the liturgy of the eucharist to offer those attending the Welcome Service a set of reflections on a trip he and the college choir had made earlier in the year to the concentration camp in Auschwitz. 


'Jeremy chose to put on the cover of the order of service a picture of Auschwitz’s gates [image provided in the original account - I've used a different image of the same gate to be certain that any copyright restrictions are observed]



 and the point of doing this was, as he said, to place before those present “an iconic image of evil” — an evil to which the whole service was designed to be a powerful, healing, creatively restorative and transformative response. In the presence of this challenging visual image Jeremy pointed in his sermon to the example of the Polish priest Maximilian Kolbe who was himself imprisoned at Auschwitz. In July 1941 three prisoners disappeared from the camp and this prompted the deputy camp commander to pick ten men to be starved to death in an underground bunker in order to discourage any further escape attempts. When one of the selected men, Franciszek Gajowniczek, cried out, “My wife! My children!”, Kolbe, with selfless bravery, volunteered to take his place alongside the other nine and so lost his own life. It is remarkable to note that Gajowniczek survived the horror and was present at Kolbe’s canonization in Rome on 10 October 1982.'


2nd meaning of 'innocent' (followed by 'of'): 'free of.'


Example 1


Jeremy Caddick isn't innocent of some significant omissions which concern Maximilian Kolbe but the flaws are outweighed by the good.


Sermons may amount to propaganda pure and simple, they may involve gross omissions, distortions, mistakes of fact - and concealment by incompetence or ignorance or design of the context. These criticisms can't be applied to the sermon of Jeremy Caddick. Sermons aren't well suited to arriving at the truth but there are limits to the detail which can be included, of course. Selectivity is unavoidable.


He may well be aware of some flaws in the record of Maximilian Kolbe before he came to Auschwitz. If he isn't aware of them, he should be. I'd expect the writing of a sermon on the subject to include research as well as reflection. In this case, as so often, some of the flaws are alleged flaws, denied, with evidence, by some, defended, with evidence, by others. All the flaws, alleged or more or less indisputable, even the more serious of the flaws, are  outweighed by some of Maximilian Kolbe's actions before he came to Auschwitz and above all by his actions at Auschwitz.


I myself have to simplify, drastically simplify, the discussion here. A more adequate discussion would be prohibitively long.


He claimed to have had a vision of the Virgin Mary when he was 12 years old. In 1917, he founded the 'Militia Immaculatae' (Army of the Immaculate One), to work for conversion of sinners and enemies of the Catholic Church, specifically the Freemasons, through the intercession of the Virgin Mary.


In 1927 he founded a new Conventual Franciscan monastery at Niepkalanow  near Warsaw. he and other friars provided shelter to refugees from Greater Poland,  including 2,000 Jews whom he hid from German persecution in the Niepokalanów friary February 1941, the monastery was shut down by the German authorities. That day Kolbe and four others were arrested b and imprisoned . On 28 May, he was transferred to Auschwitz.


At the end of July 1941, one prisoner escaped from the camp, prompting the deputy camp commander, to pick ten men to be starved to death in an underground bunker to deter further escape attempts.


Kolbe has been accused of antisemitism. In 1926, in the first issue of the monthly Knight of the Immaculate, Father Kolbe said he considered Freemasons as an organized clique of fanatical Jews, who want to destroy the church. Writing in a calendar that the publishing house of his organization, the Militia of the Immaculate, published in an edition of a million in 1939, Father Kolbe said: "Atheistic Communism seems to rage ever more wildly. Its origin can easily be located in that criminal mafia that calls itself Freemasonry, and the hand that is guiding all that toward a clear goal is international Zionism. Which should not be taken to mean that even among Jews one cannot find good people." Newspapers he published printed articles about topics such as a Zionist plot for world domination. A Slovenian sociologist  criticized Kolbe's activities as 'writing and organizing mass propaganda for the Catholic Church, with a clear anti-Semitic and anti-Masonic edge.' However, a number of writers pointed out that the 'Jewish question played a very minor role in Kolbe's thought and work.'


Recognition of complexities, fair-minded discussion of awkward facts and inconvenient evidence are amongst the duties of scholarship. At Cambridge, as elsewhere, there's often not the least attempt to be fair-minded. At Cambridge, as elsewhere, ideological scholarship, pseudo-scholarship can be found, disguised by the apparatus of scholarship. A sermon isn't a suitable means of bringing out these complexities and difficulties, obviously. The kind of 'research' and 'scholarship' pursued in the Cambridge Faculty of Divinity doesn't engage with complexities and difficulties, where wider realities are concerned and not the narrower issues raised by patrology, ecclesiastical history and the rest.


It's understandable that Jeremy Caddick chose a Christian priest to illustrate his sermon on Auschwitz. Maximilian Kolbe's sacrifice has tremendous impact. On my own visit to Auschwitz, I saw the place where he sacrificed his life.


I would only point out that to emphasize the sacrifice of a Christian priest is understandable in a sermon but that this illustrates the limitations of sermons, the limitations of Christian comment.


 My page on Christian religion gives objections to the Church of England's dominant role in Remembrance Sunday commemorations. I've never attended a Church service on Remembrance Sunday. If, in sermons preached on Remembrance Sunday, the impression were to be given that  the sacrifices made by Christian members of the armed forces are by far the most important, that Nazi Germany was defeated by Christian forces, then this would obviously amount to gross distortion. The armed forces which defeated Nazi Germany included Christians, agnostics, atheists, Jews, Hindus, Moslems and others - which is a main reason for objecting to the fact that on Remembrance Sunday, commemorations more often than not take the form of a Church of England service.


But obviously, a very wide range of heroic individuals opposed Nazi brutality by means other than armed struggle. When Christians select Christians as inspiring examples, it's essential that they should be aware of the sacrifices of people without Christian belief.


Martin Gilbert's magnificent book 'The Righteous' documents the sacrifices made by these people - the Christians, agnostics, atheists, Jews, Hindus, Moslems and others who saved Jews, so often sacrificing their lives. The Chapter 'Poland: the General Government' includes this:


'The memorial at Belzec death camp commemorates not only six hundred thousand Jews but also fifteen hundred Poles 'who tried to save Jews.' In as many as a thousand locations, often small, insignificant places on the map through which today's tourist drives quickly, almost without noticing them, someone, some family, was willing to risk their life.' 'Documentation' is a poor word to describe the richness of the book, the wealth of examples of human goodness, but the book also documents the widespread indifference to be found in the countries occupied by the Nazis, the barbaric behaviour of too many non-Germans.


Another magnificent book, John Bierman's 'Righteous Gentile,' documents the story of the Swedish Raoul Wallenberg.


Yad Vashem, on the outskirts of Jerusalem, commemrates  the sacrifices made by non-Jews, people who risked their lives or gave their lives to save Jews during the Holocaust.  Raul Wallenberg saved large numbers of Jews in Hungary. After the war, he was the victim of the paranoid Stalinist system and disappeared into the gulags.


'Attorney Gideon Hausner, chairman of Yad Vashem and the man who prosecuted Adolf Eichmann, expresses the special significance of Raoul Wallenberg:


' 'Here is a man who had the choice of remaining in secure, neutral Sweden when Nazism was ruling Europe. Instead, he left this haven and went to what was then one of the most perilous places in Europe, Hundary. And for what? To save Jews.


'He won his battle, and I feel that in thisage when there is so little to believe in - so very little on which our young people can pin their hopes and ideals - he is a person to show to the wold, which knows so little about him. That is why I believe the story of Raoul Wallenberg should be told and his figure, in all its true proportions, projected into human minds.'  Dr Hausner 'credits Wallenberg with having saved the lives of thirty thousand Jews in Budapest. He may underestimate. Some competent and guarded witnesses put the number who, directly or indirectly, owe their lives to Wallenberg at up to a hundred thousand. But whether it be thirty thousand, a hundred thousand, or somewhere in between, Wallenberg must surely rank as the outstanding unsung hero of World War II ...'


'As he advance guard of Marshal Rodion Malinovski's army battered its way into the eastern and southern outer suburbs of Budapest against stern Nazi resistancce, conditions for the capital's inhabitants became desperate.'




' ... Wallenberg was a legend among the Jews. In the complete and total hell in which we lived, there was a saviour-angel somewhere, moving around. After she had composed herself, my mother told me that they were being taken to the river when a car arrived and out stepped Wallenberg - and they knew immediately who it was, because there was only one such person in the world. He went up to the Arrow Cross leader and protested that the women were under his protection. They argued with him, but he must have had incredible charisma, some great personal authority, because there was absolutely nothing behind him, nothing to back him up. He stood out there in the street, probably feeling the loneliest man in the world, trying to pretend there was something behind him. They could have shot him there and then in the street and nobody would have known about it. Instead they relented and let the women go.'


The Arrow Cross were the Hungarian Fascist accomplices of the Nazis. This is the significance of 'they were being taken to the river:'


Some of the Jews 'were horribly tortured before being dragged down to the Danube and shot so that their bodies would be carried away by the river.


'The standard Arrow Cross method for such executions was to handcuff the Jews together in threes, strip them naked, line them up facing the river, then shoot the middle of the three in the back of the head. He would drag the other two with him when he fell forward into the river. The Arrow Cross men would then amuse themselves by taking pot-shots at the desperately bobbing heads of the two survivors ... The local party headquarters would vie with each other in savagery; one party house was especially notorious for its practice of burning out the eyes of its victims with red-hot nails before taking them for execution.


'A particularly active "Death Brigade" was commanded by a Minorite monk named Father Andras Kun. When he led his band of gunmen through the streets he wore the cowl and cassock of his order, with a rope and a gunbelt at his waist, and sported a death's-head arm-band. He was personally credited with at least five hundred murders. In one night alone, he and his men slaughtered two hundred Jews, invoking the name of the Saviour as they did so. At Father Kun's trial before a People's Court after the liberation, a witness described how, in conducting a mass execution of staff and patients at a Jewish hospital in Buda, Kun had lined up his victims in front of a mass grave and gave the firing-squad the order "In the holy name of Jesus Christ, fire!"


The sacrifice of Maximilian Kolbe is to the credit of the Christian Churches, there are many others - but the Christian Churches, or some of the Christian Churches - have reason for shame. The catalogue of Christian persecutions of Jews is dismal and long. To give just one:


When the Black Death devastated Europe in the middle of the 14th century, Jews were often accused of being the cause. Jews were accused of poisoning the wells. In Strasbourg, before the plague had even reached the city, 900 Jews were burned alive.


3rd meaning of 'innocent:' naive


Jeremy Caddick has been a candidate for the Green Party in Cambridge local elections. I've a page Green ideology: disadvantages and deficiencies which outlines my objections to green ideology. It includes criticism of the Green Party. It also includes information about my own practice, which I describe as 'green purist.' I resist any suggestion that someone with green concerns should support the Green Party, or the distorted reasoning put forward by so many green advocates. Here, I only mention one aspect: the Green Party's disastrously misguided attitude to armed conflict.


Here, the Roman Catholic Church has views which are very much superior to the policies of the Green Party.


The just war doctrine of the Catholic Church in the 1992 Catechism lists four  conditions for legitimate defence by military force':




If, hypothetically, the Green Party had been in power in this country at the time when the Nazis had invaded one country after another and went on to invade others, it would not have made a stand when Poland was invaded but have called for more negotiations, stressing the need for co-operation, the need to maintain peace. It would have had a policy of appeasement. Nazi executions, massacres, deportations and genocide would have reached Great Britain. They would also have reached the Republic of Ireland. The section 'The Second World War' in my page Ireland and Nationalist Ideology gives arguments and evidence.


Poland contains the  Białowieża Forest  one of the last-remaining and largest  parts of the immense primeval forest which once extended across the European Plain. Its wildlife includes many, many bison. Preservation of this wilderness, which isn't pristine but far nearer to that state than any other in Europe, is of immense importance, but the Green Party fails to recognize that places such as these are vulnerable not only to threats such as pollution but threats which arise from very different causes. After the Nazis invaded, the forest was used for the execution of partisans. 


I intend to add to my page on Christian religion a section on bread and wine, a discussion of the sacrament of holy communion which will be very different from any Christian perspective. Jeremy Caddick's sermon which discussed Auschwitz also mentioned holy communion.


Jeremy Caddick is a very accomplished speaker, a much more impressive persons than so many others to be found acting as Deans or Chaplains at Cambridge. My disagreements with him are many but I recognize his qualities. His first degree was in a field which is far more demanding and far more worthwhile than theology: natural science.


Pastoral care: the College Chaplains and Deans


My general page on the Church of England contains general discussion and a concrete proposal, with arguments and evidence: that the Church of England's present role in Remembrance Sunday commemorations is indefensible and that the commemorations should take a non-religious form.


Most of the Colleges have chaplains, ministering to the 'spiritual needs' of a few hundred students and staff. This provision is grossly excessive. Chaplains will have their ways of keeping busy, or giving the appearance of keeping busy, but one of the most common justifications for their role can't be accepted - the claim that they are there not just to minister to Anglicans but to minister to people with other religious beliefs and to provide pastoral care for people with no religious beliefs. People at a College who belong to another Christian denomination - Methodists, Congregationalists and the rest - have their reasons for not being Anglicans and there's no reason why an Anglican Chaplain should be ministering to them. There's even less reason to suppose that an Anglican can meet the pastoral needs of non-believers.

This sub-section of the section on Cambridge Christianity contains general discussion and a concrete proposal, with arguments and evidence (dispersed, in the profiles of Chaplains and Deans as well as in the main section) that the extension of their pastoral care to the whole College community is badly mistaken. Individuals who are non-believers or members of another Christian denomination or another religion may choose to call on a Chaplain or Dean for pastoral care but the College should not endorse it. College Websites should not publicize the fact.


'A devout Christian who was thrown off a university social work course after branding homosexuality a sin on Facebook has lost a high court battle.


'Felix Ngole, from Barnsley in south Yorkshire, was removed from a two-year MA course at Sheffield University in February last year after writing what the university called “derogatory” comments about gay and bisexual people.


Ngole, 39, wrote during a debate on Facebook that “the Bible and God identify homosexuality as a sin”, adding that “same-sex marriage is a sin whether we like it or not. It is God’s words and man’s sentiments would not change His words.”


'He claimed that he was lawfully expressing a traditional Christian view and complained that university bosses unfairly stopped him completing a postgraduate degree. But after analysing rival claims at a trial in London this month, the deputy high court judge, Rowena Collins Rice, ruled against him.




' ... lawyers representing the university argued that he showed “no insight” and said the decision to remove him from the course was fair and proportionate.

They said Ngole had been studying for a professional qualification and university bosses had to consider his “fitness to practise”.'


It's overwhelmingly likely that many College Chaplains or Deans also believe that homesexuality is sinful. Above, I quote the opinion of Professor John Milbank - not, of course, a Chaplain or Dean, at Cambridge or another university. He states that he's 'against any idea that homosexuality can be the subject of equal rights.'


The profiles of College Chaplains and Deans on this page include people who are heavily influenced by Augustine and Thomas Aquinas, or Conservative evangelicals. The Augustinian view, the Thomist view, the Conservative evangelical view, is that homosexuality is sinful. Many, many Christians who aren't Anglo-Catholic or evangelical believe that homosexuality is sinful.


Women have been ordained in the Church of England for a long time and of course, many of the College Chaplains (or Assistant chaplains) at Cambridge are women. But they belong to a Church where opposition to the ordination of women is strong. Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals are far apart, doctrinally, but many Anglo-Catholics and Evangelicals have very similar views here.


The Anglo-Catholics who are Thomist are unlikely to follow the teaching of Thomas Aquinas very consistently, but they express their admiration for his teaching again and again. One of them is Dr Andrew Davison of Corpus Christi College. I quote his words, 'You will hear plenty from me about Thomas Aquinas in the years to come, as the consummate Christian philosopher ... '


From the page 'What Aquinas really said about women.' The author, Marie I. George, is a Christian believer and gives far too sympathetic a view of Thomas Aquinas here, surely.


'In several passages in the Summa Theologiae and elsewhere, Thomas Aquinas asserts that the inferiority of women lies not just in bodily strength but in force of intellect. To top this off, he maintains that feminine intellectual inferiority actually contributes to the order and beauty of the universe. But he also affirms that in Heaven there are and will be women who occupy higher places than men. What can we make of this apparent inconsistency? Is he simply hedging on his seemingly chauvinistic positions to accommodate Mary, Queen of Heaven? Or do his views on women make sense only as part of his comprehensive view of the universe?


'To begin to understand his position, we must ask why Aquinas thinks women intellectually inferior in the first place. Scripture is likely his first guide. St. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 11:10 that “man was not created for the sake of woman, but woman was created for the sake of man.” This passage echoes Genesis 2:18,19: “It is not good that the man should be alone. I will give him a helpmate.” Aquinas reasons from these scriptural passages that when one thing exists for the sake of another, it is inferior to that other. Other passages indicate more clearly that the intelligence is the seat of woman’s divinely ordained inferiority. When in 1 Corinthians 11:3 St. Paul says that “man is the head of woman,” and in Ephesians 5:22 that “a husband is the head of his wife,” Aquinas takes it as evident that if men are meant to rule, it can only be by virtue of intellectual superiority.


'Aquinas’ views on female inferiority were doubtless influenced as well by Aristotle’s reproductive biology, with its understanding of the relation between male and female as one of active (perfect) principle to passive (imperfect) principle. Aristotle saw the sperm as the formative agent; the mother simply supplied raw material to be incorporated into the developing child. He also thought the sperm was directed to producing only male offspring, and that when this did not result it was because something interfered with the active principle within the sperm.

Finally, however, Aquinas does not believe it matters very much whether the particular causes involved in reproduction are to be regarded as failing or not failing when women are engendered. God desires that women be part of the universe, and He orders nature in such a way as to insure that they are produced. (On the question of Aquinas’ biology, see Michael Nolan, “What Aquinas Never Said About Women,” FT, November 1998.)


'In addition to the testimony of Scripture and biology, Aquinas probably took female intellectual inferiority to be plain enough from experience. He points out, for example, that shysters prey on widows in preference to men because “men are wiser and more discerning, and not so quickly taken in.” He encourages widows to turn to prayer in their desolation, lest woman’s “softness of soul” lead them to pamper themselves, an occasion of serious sin. He also notes the difficulty women have in sticking to their decisions, and how quickly they can change their minds out of desire, anger, or fear.


'Aquinas does not mean, however, that all women or only women are prone to these vices; he acknowledges that there are women outstanding in self-control and men who lack it. He also points out that being less intelligent, and thus less educable, can sometimes prove advantageous from a moral and spiritual point of view. Devoutness is frequently found more often in women and simple, uneducated men because their lack of learning makes it easier for them to trust in God wholeheartedly, rather than in themselves.

'But we cannot fairly address the question of woman’s intelligence without considering Aquinas’ general views on the perfection of the universe and on woman’s place in it. Following Aristotle, Aquinas argues that “perfection” can mean two different things: first, that a being has all the parts and powers it ought to have; and second, that its parts and powers are greater than those of another being. A plant that has all the attributes and abilities it ought to have (e.g., to grow, to reproduce) is a perfect plant, but compared to a dog, which not only grows and reproduces but also sees and moves about, it is a less perfect being. In the same way, the general intellectual inferiority of women does not make them defective or inferior simply speaking, but only in the particular natural order, in comparison to most males and to beings with a more perfect nature—namely, the angels.

Far from denigrating women because of their intellectual imperfection, Aquinas sees it—and all imperfection—as an instance of divine wisdom:


'God, through His providence, orders all things to divine goodness as to an end; not however in such a manner that His goodness increases through those things which come to be, but so that a likeness of His goodness is imprinted in things insofar as it is possible, for indeed it is necessary that every created substance fall short of divine goodness, so that in order for divine goodness to be communicated to things more perfectly, it was necessary for there to be diversity in things, so that what is not able to be perfectly represented by some one [thing] is represented in a more perfect manner through diverse things in diverse ways. (Summa Contra Gentiles, III, 97) '


From the Website of AMOSSHE, 'The Student Services Onganisation,'


'In essence, a university has a general duty of care at common law: to deliver its educational and pastoral services to the standard of the ordinarily competent institution, and, in carrying out its services and functions, to act reasonably to protect the health, safety and welfare of its students. Generally, as a minimum a university should offer a basic welfare service to students to provide confidential guidance and support on health and disability as it may affect their academic studies and progression. That basic service should include some form of effective triage system by which the university can identify those cases in which it is able to provide appropriate assistance itself, and those in which it needs to direct / refer students to external specialist and/or emergency support services.


'Institutions also have a duty under the Health and Safety at Work Act 1974 to do everything reasonably practicable to ensure the health and safety of their students.


'In order to assist it to discharge its duty of care,  a university needs to ensure that it has in place effective and robust systems, policies and procedures for supporting and managing students, and that training and awareness-raising is provided for staff.


'The group agreed that there is a balance between what the university should do as a legal minimum and what they could do based on a university’s perceived moral obligation to look after and support its students. These days reputation more often plays a part in university decisions regarding recruitment and retention of students, and the potential negative publicity associated with high profile student incidents - where it could be alleged that a university should have provided greater support - may influence the services a university chooses to provide. As student retention is an important target for most universities, there may be an expectation that directors of Student Services ensure students continue on their course until all avenues of support are exhausted.


 'Robust systems, a good clear audit trail and consistent staff training is essential to help the university comply with its legal obligations and to assist it to demonstrate compliance if a case was brought against them by a student and/or their trusted contact.'


Pastoral care involves an awareness of dilemmas and difficulties which are very wide-ranging. Problems to do with an addiction are more likely than not to be well beyond the experience of a chaplain. The background of many chaplains, or most chaplains, doesn't equip them in the least to understand these problems or to offer help. Their background tends to be predominantly scholarly.


The difficulties of giving advice, whether the matter is relatively minor or not in the least minor. Recommended to Cambridge college chaplains who are trying to promote their pastoral skills, their willingness to help all members of the College, including non-believers:


This is the French philosopher Sartre, writing in 1946, on a dilemma and the difficulties of coming to a decision, the difficulties of thinking about a dilemma and some ways of thinking about a dilemma, Christian and non-Christian. I've divided the passage into shorter paragraphs.


'... I will refer to the case of a pupil of mine, who sought me out in the following circumstances. His father was quarrelling with his mother and was also inclined to be a “collaborator”; his elder brother had been killed in the German offensive of 1940 and this young man, with a sentiment somewhat primitive but generous, burned to avenge him.


'His mother was living alone with him, deeply afflicted by the semi-treason of his father and by the death of her eldest son, and her one consolation was in this young man. But he, at this moment, had the choice between going to England to join the Free French Forces or of staying near his mother and helping her to live.


'He fully realised that this woman lived only for him and that his disappearance – or perhaps his death – would plunge her into despair. He also realised that, concretely and in fact, every action he performed on his mother’s behalf would be sure of effect in the sense of aiding her to live, whereas anything he did in order to go and fight would be an ambiguous action which might vanish like water into sand and serve no purpose. For instance, to set out for England he would have to wait indefinitely in a Spanish camp on the way through Spain; or, on arriving in England or in Algiers he might be put into an office to fill up forms.


'Consequently, he found himself confronted by two very different modes of action; the one concrete, immediate, but directed towards only one individual; and the other an action addressed to an end infinitely greater, a national collectivity, but for that very reason ambiguous – and it might be frustrated on the way.


'At the same time, he was hesitating between two kinds of morality; on the one side the morality of sympathy, of personal devotion and, on the other side, a morality of wider scope but of more debatable validity. He had to choose between those two. What could help him to choose? Could the Christian doctrine?


'No. Christian doctrine says: Act with charity, love your neighbour, deny yourself for others, choose the way which is hardest, and so forth. But which is the harder road? To whom does one owe the more brotherly love, the patriot or the mother? Which is the more useful aim, the general one of fighting in and for the whole community, or the precise aim of helping one particular person to live? Who can give an answer to that a priori? No one. Nor is it given in any ethical scripture.


'The Kantian ethic says, Never regard another as a means, but always as an end. Very well; if I remain with my mother, I shall be regarding her as the end and not as a means: but by the same token I am in danger of treating as means those who are fighting on my behalf; and the converse is also true, that if I go to the aid of the combatants I shall be treating them as the end at the risk of treating my mother as a means. If values are uncertain, if they are still too abstract to determine the particular, concrete case under consideration, nothing remains but to trust in our instincts.


'That is what this young man tried to do; and when I saw him he said, “In the end, it is feeling that counts; the direction in which it is really pushing me is the one I ought to choose. If I feel that I love my mother enough to sacrifice everything else for her – my will to be avenged, all my longings for action and adventure then I stay with her. If, on the contrary, I feel that my love for her is not enough, I go.”


'But how does one estimate the strength of a feeling? The value of his feeling for his mother was determined precisely by the fact that he was standing by her. I may say that I love a certain friend enough to sacrifice such or such a sum of money for him, but I cannot prove that unless I have done it. I may say, “I love my mother enough to remain with her,” if actually I have remained with her. I can only estimate the strength of this affection if I have performed an action by which it is defined and ratified. But if I then appeal to this affection to justify my action, I find myself drawn into a vicious circle.'



The C of E: national decline and Cambridge flourishing


Above, the Cambridge University Faculty of Divinity Building. The wings could be interpreted as a reaching out to people, the centre as drawing people into the building. This building is a very successful piece of contemporary architecture, I think, but successful architecture never guarantees the success of the human activities which take place within the building.


The Church of England is in steep decline, but at Cambridge, staff and students are shielded from the harsh facts more than in most places. Here, the provision for the Church of England is lavish - a Chaplain or Dean for almost every College! And these Chaplains and Deans need have next to no worries about criticism of their faith - the celebrated Cambridge rigour isn't very much in evidence. This is another Cambridge, a place which is parochial, far too complacent, a place where Anglicans can declare their belief in Adam's sin and original sin and damnation as the punishment for sin, untroubled by scepticism or ridicule, a Faculty of Divinity housed in a fine contemporary building which shelters from the world far too many people who would prefer to evade some basic questions about their faith. This is one such question - Do you believe in hell for people who don't accept Christ as their Saviour? 


Some information to deter people thinking of ordination. The ones already studying Part 1 Divinity still have the chance to change their course.


'Roger Harding, Head of Public Attitudes at the National Centre for Social Research, said: “Our figures show an unrelenting decline in Church of England and Church of Scotland numbers. This is especially true for young people where less than 1 in 20 now belong to their established church. While the figures are starkest among younger people, in every age group the biggest single group are those identifying with no religion.

'The most recent British Social Attitudes survey [7 September 2018] reveals that the number of Brits who identify as Church of England has more than halved in the last fifteen years.

'Although religious affiliation has dropped across all age groups, young people are least likely to be religious. 70% of those aged 18-24 say they have no religion. This is an increase from 56% in 2002. 2% of this group view themselves as Anglicans, down from 9% in 2002.



From the front page of the Sheffield newspaper 'The Star' (March 1, 2019):


'Dwindling congregations and crumbling churches put C of E budgets into the red.'

Number of clergy will fall from 103 to 75 ... '



The harmlessness of  contemporary Christians


As I explain, the harmlessness here is qualified (subject to {restriction}) and comparative. Extract from the introduction to my page on Christian religion:


There are still old-fashioned atheists who regard Christianity as the most harmful  force in the world today. In the twentieth century, fascism and Stalinism and other forms of communism completely eclipsed Christianity as a threat to body and mind.

In the past, Christianity has often threatened mind and body. In the section on Pete Wilcox, the Bishop of Sheffield, I discuss some of the people burned at the stake - by the Church of England and by Calvin at Geneva - for disbelief in the doctrine of the Trinity and other failures of belief. The Christian churches have become less hideous.

Hume, writing in the 'Treatise concerning Human Understanding: 'Generally speaking, the errors in religion are dangerous; those in philosophy only ridiculous.'

A partial updating of Hume's view: the errors in religion may be  dangerous but the most dangerous errors now come from non-religious ideologies. In the past, the most dangerous errors have been Nazism and Communism, and of communist ideologies,  particularly Stalinist communism.  The other-worldly aspects of religion, the stress upon ritual or correct thinking or a holy book, and all the other varied characteristics of religions, have lessened their capacity for causing harm. The cruelties of Christianity, such as the Inquisition and the cruelties sometimes carried out by Islamists, such as amputation of limbs and stoning to death, have never been on the same scale as the savagery of Nazism and Stalinism, or the atrocities committed by such regimes as those of Pol Pot in Cambodia.

There are still old-fashioned atheists who overlook the many, many impressive Christians and followers of other religions. Their assumption that non-religious people must always be superior to religious people could be called childish, but I use the word 'unformed.'

In the twenty-first century, Christianity is negligible as a threat to mind and body whilst the dangers of  Islamism have become obvious, to anyone with any sense, and  {adjustment} is needed to recognize these changing realities. But it isn't enough to recognize the chief threats, there has to be quantification of the threats. Even radical, terror-supporting Islamism is obviously far less of a threat to body than Nazism in the past. Its outrages are horrific but generally localized. No Islamic state or terrorist organization has perpetrated a fraction of the atrocities inflicted by Nazi Germany, again, despite the horrific atrocities they have inflicted, in  part because  radical Islamism generally seems to be incompatible with highly developed economies, social organizations and scientific and technological expertise.  When an Islamic state is an exception to this - Iran is the prime example now  - then the potential threat to the body is very great. If ISIS did have the power and the resources, then its atrocities would equal those of Nazi Germany.

On this page, I criticize not just the religious but some of their opponents, such as some humanists (supporters of groups such as the British Humanist Association.) To see through some illusions and forms of stupidity is no guarantee that someone will not be subject to other  illusions and forms of stupidity.  Illusion and stupidity aren't evaded too easily. A humanist who can see through the arguments intended to show that the gospel records are largely reliable, that Jesus rose again, that prayer works and is worthwhile (although not, nowadays, that praying for good weather works and is worthwhile), may well be in the grip of delusions more harmful  than any of these.

In various places in this site, I argue against pacifism. A Christian who believes that Jesus rose again may well recognize the harsh realities that make pacifism unworkable and disastrous in some circumstances, may have delusions about prayer but recognize that to defeat Nazi Germany or the Taliban requires practical action. The humanist who airily dismisses the need for action by force of arms in some circumstances is suffering from a more severe form of delusion. The believer's common sense and good sense may be left unaffected by theological illusion but all too often they are badly affected.



Alumni: how-to-give-to-cambridge and reasons not to give


'Alumni of Cambridge Colleges are regularly contacted with a request for donations. Alumni who disagree with the University's support for political correctness and restrictions on free expression should refuse.'


The site has a page on giving to Cambridge and how to give to Cambridge


but the whole site is about giving and reasons to give. From the Cambridge Philanthropy Contacts page:


Contacts in Development and Alumni Relations

We exist to create and support an educated and engaged global community of advocates, ambassadors and friends. Please get in touch if you would like advice about gift opportunities.


Contacts in Colleges

With each College uniquely distinctive from the next, the range of gift opportunities varies from College to College. Please get in touch with the College with which you are affiliated for details.


This page gives reasons not to give to Cambridge, and in this section, I outline a few of them.


My view is that Cambridge mediocrity and stupidity do outweigh Cambridge excellence in some areas, not so in others. Cambridge mediocrity and stupidity do provide ample reason not to give to Cambridge in many cases. Alumni who are aware of the scale of political correctness at Cambridge University and  consider it completely unworthy of a supposedly 'world class' university should give serious consideration to withholding donations. Cambridge University should face financial penalties until it shows sufficient improvement. The financial losses brought by the decision of alumni and other voluntary donors may not amount to a massive sum, but they demonstrate an important principle. 


The Cambridge Philanthropy site contains this sweeping, ridiculous claim on the page


'Cambridge is where the best human minds gather to study humanity itself. Its art, its culture, its philosophies, its religions, the language and societies it creates, and destroys.'


The claim that Cambridge is where the best human minds engaged in the study of humanity do study humanity would be ridiculous. Obviously, the Cambridge appeal for money site goes much further. The claim is that Cambridge is where the best human minds, irrespective of the field of study, gather to study humanity. The best human minds,' it's claimed, aren't to be found in the study of science, mathematics, engineering and the rest. Of all human minds, the best of them are engaged in the study of humanity and the place where these best-of-all-minds do that is at Cambridge.


Whatever the field - science, mathematics, engineering, the study of the humanities and the rest - Cambridge advocates often give the impression that Cambridge is pre-eminent, or far more than that - Cambridge is so far ahead of the rest that it's almost advancing knowledge single-handedly. Of course, almost always, Cambridge is simply advancing knowledge as one of many.


From the section Emmanuel College: Professor Catherine Pickstock and 'Radical Orthodoxy' in the column to the right,


'The Cambridge philanthropy site ... has a comprehensive view of Cambridge achievement, real and imaginary. It includes not just Cambridge science and mathematics, for example, where the achievement is almost entirely real but study of religion at Cambridge, where the balance is very, very different, tilted firmly in favour of the imaginary.


'Cambridge is where the best human minds gather to study humanity itself. Its art, its culture, its philosophies, its religions, the language and societies it creates, and destroys.'


'Of course, in the process of studying religion or practising religion, people often contribute to other spheres, such as language. Language is listed as one of the 'Featured priorities' on the same page:


'Understanding ourselves and the world around us through language and culture.


'Language is fundamental to humanity's ability to thrive.'


'At Cambridge, inability to detect inert or debased or meaningless language and willingness to contribute inert or debased or meaningless language are common. The biography Professor Pickstock wrote for the Emmanuel College site includes this, on her book 'Repetition and Identity':


'Repetition and Identity engages with literature and aesthetic theory to problematize the distinction between hermeneutics and metaphysics, arguing that the aporias arising from the necessity of repetition to constitute identity can be resolved theologically.'


The section in this column Dr Owen Holland and the English faculty (one of the sections in 'Cambridge protest and Cambridge English) gives farcical/disturbing instances of misuse of language.


Cambridge University Press (CUP)


A spokeswoman for Cambridge University said, in connection with the withdrawal of an invitation to Professor Jordan Peterson to become a Visiting Fellow in the Faculty of Divinity,

'[Cambridge] is an inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our principles. There is no place here for anyone who cannot.'


Surely there are some elementary errors here. The passage beginning [Cambridge] should, of course, read, ' [Cambridge] is a non-inclusive environment and we expect all our staff and visitors to uphold our prejudices.' There is no place here for anyone who cannot support political correctness.'


Dr Mark Berry isn't a member of staff or a visitor to Cambridge University, so perhaps he isn't bound to honour The Cambridge Principle. As my profile makes clear, he was educated at Cambridge and has taught at Cambridge. He's the author of  various articles for the Cambridge Wagner Encyclopaedia and is co-editor, with Professor Nicholas Vazsonyi, of the forthcoming Cambridge Companion to Wagner's 'Der Ring des Nibelungen'. The Cambridge University Press is a department of the University of Cambridge. Dr Berry has described The Spectator as 'a cesspit of unabashed Nazism' and referred to Jacob Rees-Mogg as a Nazi. Is this the kind of language which causes any problems with the Cambridge represented by the spokeswoman?


In the Roman Catholic Church,  an imprimatur is an official declaration by a Church authority that a book or other printed work may be published and is usually preceded by a

 favourable declaration called a nihil obstat by a person who has the knowledge, orthodoxy, and prudence necessary for passing a judgement about the absence from the publication of anything that would 'harm correct faith or good morals.


Perhaps Cambridge University Press could consider adopting the same system for secular purposes. There are plenty of people at Cambridge with the knowledge, politically correct orthodoxy and prudence necessary for passing judgement about the absence from a publication of anything that would harm correct faith in the doctrines of Political Correctness and the behaviour which Jordan Peterson obviously lacks in their view.


Or perhaps the system would be superfluous. Cambridge University Press manages to uphold the principles of Political Correctness perfectly easily as it is, but of course there's very much more to Cambridge University Press than its slavish adherence to these 'principles.' By any standards, its achievements outweigh the faults, very much so.


It's impossible, of course, for any publisher which issues a very large number of publications each year, over a very wide range, to ensure that the publications are of a uniformly high standard but  the site has a page which reviews one CUP publication The Cambridge University Press where the faults seem to me to be too many, even if this is far from being a catastrophically poor publication in almost every way. Extracts from the page, categorizing some of the very varied faults, as I see it.


Susan McClary's CUP book 'Carmen: what's missing


See also the section 'San Francisco Opera, Susan McClary and Carmen on the page Bullfighting: arguments against and action against.



Above, a bull about to be stabbed with the descabello. The bull has already been stabbed two or three times with the lance of the picador, six times with the banderillas - and with the matador's sword.. The sword which was intended to kill the bull but failed to kill it is embedded in the bull's back, its handle easily visible. Often, repeated stabbings with the descabello are needed.

This is a proto-profile, for the time being: a preliminary look at a book published by Cambridge University Press (CUP), 'Carmen,' written by Professor Susan McClary, a musicologist not at Cambridge but Cape Western Reserve University in Ohio. (The site is where the celebrated Michelsen-Morley experiment was carried out: using interferometric methods, Michelsen, a physicist, and Morley, a chemist, measured the speed of light in perpendicular directions, obtaining results of great importance for the falsification of the aether theory and also significant in the emergence of special relativity theory.) 


I also include here a brief discussion of Susan McClary's notorious comments on a passage in Beethoven's Ninth Symphony.


An extract from the libretto of Act 4 of Bizet's opera 'Carmen.' The libretto is based on the novella  by Prosper Mérimée.

ESCAMILLO (à Carmen)
Si tu m'aimes, Carmen, tu pourras, tout à l'heure,
être fière de moi.

Ah ! je t'aime, Escamillo, je t'aime,
et que je meure si j'ai jamais aimé
quelqu'un autant que toi !

Ah ! je t'aime !
Oui, je t'aime !

ESCAMILLO (to Carmen)
If you love me, Carmen soon
you can be proud of me.

Ah! I love you, Escamillo, I love you,
and may I die if I have ever loved
anyone as much as you!

Ah! I love you!
Yes, I love you!


The bullfighter Escamillo is soon to fight in the bullring. It's his prowess in the bullring which make Carmen proud of him. This would be a bullfight taking place long before the horses of the picadors were given a protective mattress, the peto. How many horses were killed in each bullfight before the introduction of the peto? Many, many horses, often as many as forty.


This is film of a bullfight which shows the horrific fate of those horses - the gorings, the disembowellings, the intestines hanging down, the dead horses lying in the ring  - sights which didn't shock Prosper Mérimée in the least (before writing Carmen, he wrote approvingly of bullfighting) and which didn't shock the fictional Carmen in the least, it seems, judging by the love she has for a man who took part in these spectacles and inflicted such suffering. 


A contemporary film showing similar scenes of disembowelling Before the film can be viewed, it's necessary  to sign in.


An extract from the publicity material of Cambridge University Press on Susan McClary's book Carmen:

"Whatever else it is,  Carmen is emphatically not a story about fate" ... No critic has attempted to interpret Carmen without sexual politics ... In this reclamatory project McClary follows Catherine Clement, who has called Carmen "the image, foreseen and doomed, of a woman who refuses masculine yokes and who must pay for it with here life."


As well as this:


'McClary's mission is to rescue her from the pejorative labels men have attached to her and to make of her a feminist hero and martyr.' Feminist heroics isn't incompatible in the least with complete indifference to sufferings which don't arise from within patriarchy, which are the special province of women.

This is Catherine Clement on the opera Carmen.

I have always heard permanent ridicule heaped on this opera; no music has been more mockingly misappropriated. Toreadors, blazing music, and a gaudy Spain ... They always forget the death ... But Carmen's music, ridiculed by the North, in the south of France has become the symbolic and ritual theme for bullfight entrances, for paseos where, dressed in silk and gold, the still-intact toreros parade. This is one of opera's inspired and unconscious transferences: music devoted to a woman convokes virile heroes. And the heroes are just as brilliant and combative as Carmen, playing with the lure and the animal with horns as if they were daggers.

'Holiday in Seville. The bright white arenas of Maestranza [Maestranza is the bullfighting arena in Seville] are joyous; decorations painted in golden yellow trace baroque arabesques on the walls; the tall red doors with their black nails are wide open, and so are the black iron gates, enclosing the amphitheater with a necklace of openwork. There is buying and selling: cakes, cigarettes. It is noise and jostling, a humming, harmless festival.'


As well as this:


'the very pure, very free Carmen.'

Two accounts of the disembowelling of horses during a bullfight, including the account of Prosper Mérimée.  See also the section on my page on bullfighting, 'horse disembowelling and bullfighting's 'Golden Age.'

The events they witnessed continued unchanged until the the protective mattress, the peto was adopted. It was first used in 1927 and mandated by law in 1928.


The peto put an end to most of the horrific injuries to the horses taking part in the bullfight, but not to all injuries, including horrific injuries - horses have been severely injured in the bullring ever since.


This account is by a spectator at a bullfight who was sickened by what he saw: Sir Alfred Munnings. It comes from his autobiography, published in 1955. The account is based on what he saw at a pre-peto bullfight.


'I have sat at dinners given by the American Ambassador in Spain with a titled Spaniard as my neighbour, hearing things of bullfighting not written in books. Have we read in those novels extolling the matador, of living skeletons - once horses - ridden not only to slaughter but in a tawdry procession? Have we read of punching, horning, or weeks of durance between Sundays, with flies crawling over festered wounds, as the victims, not killed, await in the stables NEXT SUNDAY’S SPORT? Watch such a procession, and see some fifteen sorry steeds, doomed, starved, carrying heavy, stuffed out picadors. No wonder the horses are hurled to the ground, overweighted, weak and half-dead.


'Passing the tall archway, I had seen a little white horse. To my surprise it was in the procession, carrying a great picador, and the next thing we saw was the little white horse and another in the ring. This humble white horse stood there blindfolded, his ears stuffed and tied, little knowing what he was there for. Oh, little white horse; Little White Horse!’ I kept repeating to myself, as the bull put a long horn right through the little horses neck, just above the windpipe.


'Imagine the fright of the horse, blindfolded and deaf, at the sudden stab. Then the bull, his horn through the neck of the horse began dragging it slowly round with him, the picador dismounting and others in the ring trying to free the horse, now no longer a horse, but a holiday victim,  the blood running down its white jaw and neck.


'When cleared, and the picador remounted,  the bull charged,  hurling man and horse backwards with a crash against the wooden barrier. ‘Oh little white horse.’ I said to myself and, the picador being rescued, and the bull attracted away, they beat the horse to its feet  with blood streaming from a wound in its chest, down its white legs. The time was up for the horses, and the white horse and the other - a starved emaciated bag mare were led  out to come in again. The little white horse’s end came later.


'The bay, its teeth chattering with fear, having been in before, stood near the barrier below us, the motley red and white striped bandage over its offside eye, its ears stuffed with tow, and tied with what seemed to be old electric wire. The Bull made short work of the bay horning the horse from behind. The picador cleared, and the horse beaten to its feet by red-shirted attendants. There, from the underpart of its belly hung a large protuberance of bowels. With head outstretched a man hauling it along on the end of the rein, another hitting it with a stick, it was led out.

'Not a soul cared, excepting ourselves.


'But what of the white horse? He too was lifted and hurled on his back, to the cheers of the crowd,  and when beaten to his feet was stomping on his own entrails, which stretched and split like pink tissue paper.' 


A short extract from Prosper Mérimée's book on bullfighting, published in 1830. He wrote the novel on which Bizet's 'Carmen' is based and he approved of bullfighting, he had a passion for bullfighting.


Prosper Mérimée, on horses which are injured and fall to the ground

'Once again on his feet, the picador, if he can get his horse up, remounts. Though the poor beast may be losing streams of blood, though its entrails drag on the ground and twine about its legs, it must face the bull as long as it can stand. When it is down to stay, the picador leaves the ring and returns immediately on a fresh mount. 


I also discuss the treatment of the bull, of course, in my page on bullfighting. An extract:



When the bull is about to be killed, it will already have had its back torn open by the lance of the picador and will already have had its back lacerated repeatedly by the barbed banderillas. By the time of the sword thrust supposed to kill the bull, the bull will have two or three stab wounds inflicted by the picadors and six stab wounds from the banderillas.


The sword often hits bone, or goes deep into the animal but fails to kill. The bull, staggering, still alive and conscious, with the sword embedded in its body - this is far more common than an instantaneous death. A report by Tristan Wood in 'La Divisa,' the journal of the 'Club Taurino' of London, on the bullfighter Miguel Abellán: ' ... an excellent faena of serious toreo, only for its impact to be dissipated by four swordthrusts.' The excellence and seriousness found here are surely only an aesthete's response.

In the same set of reports, on the bullfighter Morante de la Puebla: 'the  swordwork was very protracted.' Or, alternatively, the bull died a very slow death.


From the gruesome, matter of fact accounts of bullfights on the site 'La Prensa San Diego'


'Capetillo received a difficult first bull and encountered big troubles at the supreme moment, requiring 12 entries with the sword.' 'Moment' is very badly chosen. The hideous writer is Lyn Sherwood.


Daniel Hannan, a Member of the European Parliament and devoted aficionado: 'After the banderillas, as the bull stood spurting fountains of blood ... ' there was  'a miserable excuse for a sword-thrust into the bull’s flank.' 


This shocking video shows  the bullfighter Antoni Losada stabbing a bull  with the 'killing sword' seven times in the bullring at Saint-Gilles, France.


After the 'killing sword' has been used to no effect, a different sword, the descabello, or a short knife, the puntilla, is used to stab the spine, often repeatedly.


Alexander Fiske-Harrison saw a bull stabbed three times with the 'killing sword' but still alive, and then stabbed repeatedly with the descabello. According to the  'bullfighting critic' of the newspaper 'El Mundo'  who counted the stabbings, the bull was stabbed in the spine seventeen times before it died. This experience had a lasting effect on his girlfriend, 'her perspective on bullfights changed for ever,' but Alexander Fiske-Harrison went on attending bullfights, went on to kill a bull himself and opposes the abolition of bullfighting.


From my critical review of A L Kennedy's On Bullfighting, quoting from the book. A L Kennedy is watching a bullfight at the most prominent of all bullrings, Las Ventas in Madrid:


' At the kill, the young man's sword hits bone, again and again and again while the silence presses down against him. He tries for the descabello. Five blows later and the animal finally falls.' The descabello, as the Glossary explains, is 'A heavy, straight sword' used to sever the spine.


' 'I have already watched Curro Romero refuse to have almost anything to do with his bull, never mind its horns. (The severely critical response of a member of the audience to a cowardly bull or a cowardly bullfighter.) He has killed his first with a blade placed so poorly that its tip protruded from the bull's flank...As the animal coughed up blood, staring, bemused, ['bemused?'] at each new flux the peones tried a rueda de peones to make the blade move in the bull's body and sever anything, anything at all that might be quickly fatal, but in the end the bull was finally, messily finished after three descabellos.'


'The suffering of the bull 'left, staggering and urinating helplessly, almost too weak to face the muleta' wasn't ended by a painless and instantaneous death: 'Contreras...misses the kill...Contreras tries again, hooking out the first sword with a new one ...Contreras finally gives the descabello.' So, the sword is embedded in the animal, the sword is pulled out and thrust into the animal yet again, but it's still very much alive, the ungrateful creature. The descabello is hard at work in this book. People who have the illusion that the 'moment of truth' amounts to a single sword-thrust and the immediate death of the bull are disabused of the notion here. More often, the moment of truth is hacking at the spine with the descabello.'


The musical analysis in Susan McClary's  book is impressive. Much of the analysis is technical but this is an example of the  untechnical analysis to be found in the section 'Synopsis and analysis:'


The first section introduces the flashy, pseudo-Spanish music that returns in the Bullfight Scene of Act IV (Ex. 1). Two features of this segment seem noteworthy. First, it is composed of the four-bar phrases typical of opera-comique. This regularity is violated only four times in the entire prelude. Yet the expectation of four-bar phrases becomes so ingrained that even a slight alteration constitutes a dramatic event. An extraordinary degree of order is set up by this phrasing - an order that is extremely resistant to change or difference.


Susan McClary has perpetrated pitiful garbage (or disturbing dross) in connection with Beethoven's Ninth Symphony:

In the January 1987 issue of Minnesota Composers Forum Newsletter, McClary wrote of Ludwig van Beethoven's Ninth Symphony:


The point of recapitulation in the first movement of the Ninth is one of the most horrifying moments in music, as the carefully prepared cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the throttling murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release.


She later  rephrased this passage in Feminine Endings:


The point of recapitulation in the first movement of Beethoven's Ninth Symphony unleashes one of the most horrifyingly violent episodes in the history of music. The problem Beethoven has constructed for this movement is that it seems to begin before the subject of the symphony has managed to achieve its identity.


She goes on to conclude that The Ninth Symphony is probably our most compelling articulation in music of the contradictory impulses that have organized patriarchal culture since the Enlightenment.



CUP: Bowdlerizing and Breartonizing


This section contains comments on Cambridge Political Correctness but a great deal of the material is concerned with other faults. 'Breartoning' refers to some examples of Fran Brearton's ideological interpretation,   discussed below. I'd use the word to refer to the removal of material which isn't in accordance with an ideological viewpoint or censorship of material which isn't in accordance with an ideological viewpoint as well as the writing and publication of material in accordance with a viewpoint of this kind. Bowdlerizing, of course, is the removal of passages or words regarded as indecent. 'Breartonizing' is far more common than Bowdlerizing now, and I'm sure that Cambridge University Press, like the majority of publishes, is a frequent Breartonizer, even if so much of its output isn't Breartonized - there are no opportunities for its use.


Amongst the  associations of the Cambridge name - better not to refer to the Cambridge 'brand' - are associations to do with excellence. 'The Cambridge Companion to Seamus Heaney' is hardly ever excellent. Instead,  the good, the not-so-bad, the bad and the shockingly bad.


A candid, worrying admission by the Editor. Perhaps the book will be too indulgent? I'm sure that it is. Too much in the book amounts to Heaneyolatry.


In the Acknowledgements section, the editor, Bernard O' Donoghue writes, 'My primary thanks are to Seamus Heaney, for providing the incomparable subject-matter and for his hallmark generosity and goodwill towards the project.' 'Incomparable' is a glowing term of approval. Was such a cosy relationship between poet and project healthy? Was there any difficulty in maintaining critical independence and applying proper critical standards when the poet showed such 'generosity and goodwill towards the project?'


The Heaneyolatry of Dennis O' Driscoll, one of the contributors


The claims made for Seamus Heaney are often very radical, not including the power of miraculous healing but including miraculous gifts of language and in the world of ideas. Dennis O' Driscoll, in 'Heaney in Public,' one of the essays in The Cambridge Companion, claims that 'Every idea is examined afresh, as every word is coined anew.' Every idea is examined afresh! Every word is coined anew! Are all these five words in 'Gifts of Rain,' 'could monitor the usual / confabulations' coined anew? Bernard O' Donoghue ought to have had a few words with Dennis O' Driscoll and made it clear that this claim couldn't possibly be justified and shouldn't appear in any self-respecting book, and certainly not one published by the Cambridge University Press. The Press had its reputation to consider, and so did he, as editor, and as an academic at Wadham College, Oxford.

But he obviously didn't even notice that Dennis O' Driscoll was practising a form of 'automatic writing.' He was practising 'automatic editing.' In the 'Acknowledgements' section he writes, 'I have drawn on Dennis O' Driscoll's noted infallibility more than once.'


'Dennis O' Driscoll's claim is 'falsified' very quickly, with a quotation from Seamus Heaney just a few lines later, one without any freshness or originality in wording or in the idea: 'no poetry worth its salt is unconcerned with the world it answers for and sometimes answers to.'


The dominance of recording and the lack of informed comment and criticism.


So much in The Cambridge Companion is irrelevant for a critical, fair-minded view of Seamus Heaney's poetry. The Companion is sometimes good at recording. A 'companion' should offer background information which is useful and interesting, and some of the information in the book  is genuinely useful and interesting. But H D F Kitto, a scholarly critic from a previous generation, wrote in 'Greek Tragedy:' 'We observe that during this period certain developments occurred in what we call the Greek tragic form. We record them - a rational thing to do, certainly, but it is not criticism, and if we are not careful it may impede criticism, that is, understanding.'


A comparison with another editor


Bernard O' Donoghue's deficiencies as an editor can be appreciated by comparing him with a very good editor such as Peter France, the editor of 'The Oxford Guide to Literature in English Translation.' The Guide doesn't contain very detailed discussion and couldn't be expected to. It's a survey of a vast field, but a very interesting survey. He writes in his Introduction, 'Where translations are compared, there has been no attempt to impose neutral description rather than critical evaluation. Nor is there any party line here. Contributors have been discouraged from grinding their own axes too loudly, but have felt free to offer judgments. This is a guide, after all, and anyone offering guidance will be concerned not only with the nature of existing translations but with what is perceived as the success or failure with which different (often equally valid) translation projects have been executed.'


The influence of the Cambridge scholarly tradition, excessive in this case - a level of detail in some areas which isn't appropriate in a general introduction like this.


Allusions: The Greek Donkey


The references and allusions in Seamus Heaney's poetry offer so many opportunities to commentators with specialist knowledge, such as the editor of the Cambridge Companion. Seamus Heaney has overloaded his poetry so much that it resembles a donkey carrying an immense load,  staggering along 'Greek roads ... 'looped like boustrophedon ... i.e. like that ancient reading or writing style that alternates direction on every line, the word itself meaning 'turning like an ox while ploughing,' ' [all quotations in this paragraph are taken from The Cambridge Companion] he has piled it high with 'Old Norse and Old English literary traditions,' including 'Old Icelandic family sagas' and 'an Anglo-Saxon philological past,' has loaded it even higher with 'The Latin and Greek classics ... a constant presence ... throughout his writing lifetime: Hercules and Antaeus, Sophocles' Philoctetes and Antigone, Aeschylus' Agamemnon, the Virgilian Golden Bough, Narcissus, Hermes, more recently Horace' (after a period in which he avoided 'the Theocritan-Horatian-Virgilian bucolic'), Virgil's Eclogue iv ('Heaney explained to Cavalho Homem that the connection with Eclogue iv was the pregnancy of his niece, particularly in the half-line 'casta fave Lucina ...' ), other Eclogues ('The clinching reference connecting Heaney's eclogues with Virgil's Eclogues i and ix then follows: the Synge word 'stranger' followed by an italicized quotation'), not forgetting 'the Horatian metal (an unlaboured aere perennius) of the implements in the translation from Eoghan Rua Ó Súilleabháin and in the hopeful millennial anvil linked to it,' not to mention other weighty allusions, allusions to Dante (as when 'Charon replaces Hermes'), allusions to Roman Catholic rites, customs or piety, such as the breviary, soutane, scapulars, church-latin, allusions to both of these at once, such as 'a Dante-influenced pilgrimage to Lough Derg in County Donegal, a demanding penitential programme ...' Reading some of the poetry of Seamus Heaney and some of the contributors to The Cambridge Companion can seem a demanding penitential programme.


I'm well placed to understand the references here, although not the references to Old Norse, Old English and Old Icelandic matters. I've read Virgil and Horace in Latin and I've read all the extant Greek tragedies in either English or Greek, including Aeschylus and Sophocles. As part of a misspent youth, I spent almost two years as a Christian. I'm well placed to understand the Catholic allusions in Seamus Heaney's poetry. I read Dante in Italian as well as in English translation. But I question the contemporary use of these references on such a scale. See also my short section

knowledge and learning in the poetry of Seamus Heaney


I do make detailed objections to some of the detailed material in the book, together with the wider considerations which should have played a much more substantial part in this Cambridge Companion:


The translation which Bernard O' Donoghue gives of the opening of Eclogue iv 1 is poor. There's no word in the original which corresponds to 'now' and  'paulo,' which means 'a little' or 'somewhat' should be taken as qualifying 'maiora,' 'greater things' (or 'more elevated things') and not with temporal significance. A simple, literal translation: 'Sicilian Muses, let us celebrate somewhat greater things.'

I could give a very extended discussion of the editor's approach in this chapter, but I think it's essential to recognize that the readership of the Cambridge Companion will generally be interested in much more than the classical background. This readership is entitled to expect much more, such as an examination of the artistic success of these three poems and some of the other poems he discusses, and, in view of the fact that Bernard O' Donoghue mentions modernism, an examination of Heaney's relationship to modernism, or lack of relationship. What he does do is make superficially impressive but spurious claims or arguments, ones which belong only to the word-sphere ...


Ideological interpretation


Fran Brearton: Bowdlerizing and Breartonizing


In 'Heaney and the feminine,'  Fran Brearton interprets with great freedom, irresponsibly.


The line 'O charioteers, above your dormant guns' is given this interpretation by Fran Brearton ... 'the British 'soldiers standing up in turrets' are, in a sense, emasculated - their 'guns' are 'dormant' ...' The fact that these British soldiers were not firing their guns all the time, that almost all the time their guns were 'dormant,' unused, is obvious. To go from the obvious fact that the guns were not being fired to emasculation 'in a sense' is ludicrous - and disturbing, given the large number of British soldiers killed during the Troubles. This is closer to sneering than responsible comment. There are many, many images of Allied soldiers standing up in turrets as their vehicles entered the villages, towns and cities they had liberated with such sacrifices at the close of the Second World War in Europe. They had 'dormant' guns. Had these soldiers been emasculated 'in a sense' too? She claims that in 'The Toome Road' there's 'a collision of versions of masculinity,' the soldiers representing one version of masculinity. When allied soldiers fought against Nazi soldiers (and went on to liberate Belsen and the other camps) was this too 'a collision of versions of masculinity?' Or was there much more to it than that?

'Compare her interpretation of the 'dormant' guns with her interpretation of the pen and the gun in 'Digging' ('Death and a Naturalist'): 'the implied association of pen, gun and penis.' Did Seamus Heaney actually imply this facile association? Was it in his mind as he wrote? Her method of interpretation allows her to find anything 'implied' which suits her thesis, in defiance often of the clear meaning of a text, common-sense, and sometimes human values.

Compare with this Freud's facile interpretation of a miner's strike - the miners' unwillingness to use their pick-axes (their penises) to penetrate the earth, regarded as feminine. The strikes of miners have generally belonged to a world of almost unimaginable harshness, concerned with very different matters. For example, at a meeting before miners began strike action in Northumberland and Durham in 1842: 'They catalogued the grim conditions in the mines, the bad air and long hours, the unjust system of fines, the payment by measure where the measures were set by the masters. They told of young children in the mines, of pay reductions ...' Or an earlier meeting before strike action began in Northumberland and Durham, in which one of the demands was for 'the reduction of hours for boys down the pit to twelve per day.' (Anthony Burton, 'The Miners.')

'Fran Brearton perpetrates something similar. She admits that this is 'to take images out of context,' but she seems completely undeterred, when she writes that 'in his criticism and poetry we see the landscape penetrated by the (phallic) pump ... Digging deeper into the ground simulates the sexual act ...' Has she found these images in the criticism and poetry or has she imposed them? Were the images she finds explicitly there implicit or not even implicit?


For other irresponsible interpretations, see the section of my review


Guinn Batten and the drowned sheep


Stylistic poorness


Many parts of Patrick Crotty's essay, 'The Context of Heaney's Reception,' have something of the staleness of a stale sandwich, with the difference that whereas the sandwich will still retain most of its nourishment, these have very little.


His style could be described as pedestrian or soporific or lethargic or stultifying, or all of these. An example: 'Corcoran is ... ready to temper approbation with approval.'

Style is only one factor and often not one of the important ones. Excellent scholars and commentators often have a style which is no more than adequate, or less than adequate. The style of some of the greater artists may be less accomplished than the style of some of the lesser ones. But Patrick Crotty's style has a linkage with the quality of his critical thought in this essay: both routine. Has he ever read George Orwell's essay, 'Politics and the English Language?' It contains this, ' ... it should ... be possible to laugh the not un-formation out of existence' and the footnote, 'One can cure oneself of the not un- formation by memorizing this sentence: A not unblack dog was chasing a not unsmall rabbit across a not ungreen field.' On the first page of his essay, 'While not inconsiderable, the varieties of official recognition granted to Frost ... and Hughes ...'


CUP and China: Censorship and Evasion


I was an active member of Amnesty International for a long time. For most of that time, I was the death penalty co-ordinator for the group but I worked on a wide range of human rights abuses, including China's disregard for human rights. I suggested to the group that we should have a motion debated at the AGM of Amnesty International to persuade the organization to make human rights abuses in China much higher priority in its campaigning. We did that and the motion was passed overwhelmingly. (I also instigated a motion concerned with an issue in warfare, anti-personnel mines, and motion which urged Amnesty international to examine its campaigning methods: some of the methods it was using were demonstrably ineffective, I claimed. These motions too were passed overwhelmingly.)


Extracts from the article 'Cambridge University Press backs down over China censorship' by Maev Kennedy and Tom Phillips (21 August, 2017.)


Cambridge University Press has backed down and will immediately re-post journal articles to which it blocked online access in China at the request of the Beijing authorities.

The retraction was announced by Cambridge University, which owns the publisher and the journal, China Quarterly, at the heart of the dispute.


It said the academic leadership of the university had reviewed the publisher’s decision and agreed to reinstate the blocked content with immediate effect to “uphold the principle of academic freedom on which the university’s work is founded”.


The publisher’s change of heart followed growing international protests,  including a petition signed by hundreds of academics, and the threat of having its publications boycotted.


James Millward, professor of history at Georgetown University – who said he had periodically been refused entry to China because of pieces he had written –  published an angry open letter to CUP, accusing it of overriding the peer review process and expert editing that had gone into the original publication of the articles, without consulting the authors.


“This comprises a clear violation of academic independence outside as well as inside China,” he said.


Millward contrasted the decision with the stance of the New York Times and the Economist, which are banned in their entirety rather than agreeing to a censored Chinese version.' 


Supporting academic and non-academic publishing


I own a large number of books, in a wide range of subject areas. I see it as important to buy books whenever possible, to support publishing - academic and non-academic publishing - with obvious restriction. I haven't the financial means to buy nearly as many books as I'd like to - and I live in a small house and haven't the space to store nearly as many books as I'd like. I don't take the view that because an academic receives a salary, then buying an academic's book isn't important.


In some subject areas, such as music - baroque. classical, music of the romantic and modern era - the books I have are  by non-academics, to give one example, 'The Classical Style: Haydn, Beethoven, Mozart' by the pianist Charles Rosen, and a very impressive book by a musicologist at Royal Holloway, a colleague of Mark Berry. I've no wish to cause any difficulties for the author. Mark Berry is criticized at length in the section to the right. The Royal Holloway music department Website gives the information that Dr Berry is at work on a new project:  


'The next big project is a synoptic treatment in eighteenth-century historical and intellectual context of Mozart's operas. It is envisaged that this will appear in two volumes: one up to and including Idomeneo; the second from Die Entfuhrung aus dem Serail.'


I intend to buy the second volume when it's published. These Mozart operas are a central musical interest of mine - although the central musical ground is quite crowded, with many other interests.


The books I have on engineering, science, mathematics and logic are all by academics, in fields which include structural engineering, systematic botany, physical chemistry, set theory, graph theory, group theory and calculus. I emphasize the fact that I'm not an engineer, a scientist, a mathematician or a logician. 


 'The History of the Countryside: The classic history of Britain's landscape, flora and fauna' by the Cambridge academic Oliver Rackham is on my shelves, together with many other books on natural history, gardening and landscape by academics and non-academics.


I've written about activism in a number of different fields on the site. I'm particularly indebted to academics for my work in opposing the death penalty. I have two books, two massive achievements, by academics with Cambridge University affiliations: V.A.C. Gattrell's 'The Hanging Tree: Execution and the English People 1770-1868,' and 'Rituals of Retribution: Capital Punishment in Germany 1600-1987. Both books are published by Oxford University Press. I'm in no danger of overlooking the achievements of Oxford University Press any more than the achievements of academics at Oxford. Cesare Beccaria, the author of the magnificent 'Dei Delitti e delle Pene' was a non-academic, of course.


In Philosophy, almost all the commentaries and other 'works about' philosophy I have are by academics, to give just one example, Max Black's 'A Companion to Wittgenstein's Tractatus.'


In art and architecture, there are works by academics and non-academics in approximately equal numbers. The academic works include Heinrich Wölfflin's wonderful 'Kunstgeschichtliche Grundbegriffe: Das Problem der Stilentwicklung in der Neueren Kunst' and 'Renaissance und Barock: Eine Untersuchung Uber Wesen und Entstehung des Barockstils in Italien' (I have the English translations too).


The books I have on history cover a wide range, including Thucydides, industrial history, the history of technology, and many books on military history, particularly the history of the two World Wars. In this field, as in so many others, so many non-academics have written works with the academic virtues, including thoroughness, attention to detail and a concern for  accuracy,


I've many books on baking and cooking - none by academics.


All this amounts, of course, to a very patchy, necessarily inadequate ((survey)), of necessity omitting the titles of almost all the books I have and so many other subject areas where I have books.


If a book is essential for my reading and research, I'll buy it even if I loathe the author and loathe the book. This was the case when I bought Alexander Fiske-Harrison's 'Into the Arena,' which amongst other things describes the preparations he made to kill a bull in the arena and his description of the actual killing. I made good use of this misbegotten book in my sustained criticism of the author in the anti-bullfighting page on this site. If I loathe the author I try to buy a second-hand book rather than a new one. In the case of Alexander Fiske-Harrison's book I couldn't find a used copy and so I bought a new copy. If I don't loathe the author but respect the author or admire the author, I try to buy a new copy -  financial support for these authors is very important, as is financial support for good journalism, good magazines, good causes ... but my financial position doesn't allow me to give financial support on anything like the scale I'd like. Personal finance has never been more than a minor interest of mine and for long periods I've shown next to no interest.




Professor Priyamvada Gopal: stoning to death and Iran


Dr Priyamvada Gopal of Churchill College Cambridge is now Professor Priyamvada Gopal. I've left the wording of the original unchanged, as originally written and published here.



Above, at a demonstration in Paris against the death penalty in Iran. The poster includes an image showing a woman being buried up to the waist: the preparations to stone her to death, almost certainly for adultery. According to the Iranian regulations, the stones must not be so large that they cause death quickly.


When it was announced that Brunei would be introducing death by stoning as the penalty for gay sex and adultery, there was revulsion, there were calls to boycott the country - completely justifiable.


Very, very unwisely, Dr Gopal has commented on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran from 2005 to 2013, and not at all to express revulsion against the man and the policies he pursued. Her comments, quoted below, are very disturbing.


Very, very unwisely, Dr Gopal has commented on Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, the President of Iran from 2005 to 2013, and not at all to express revulsion against the man and the policies he pursued. Her comments, quoted below, are very disturbing. Whilst Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was President, men and women were stoned to death in Iran and the death penalty was inflicted, and still is, on a massive scale, for a very wide range of offences, and against juveniles as well as adults.


Dr Gopal's twitter page includes this, added very recently (6 April, 2019)


Am put in mind of the time Cambridge students were punished, one of them severely, for reading out a poem to the then Minister for Raising Tuition Fees. Very delicate thing, this 'Free Speech' and absolutely only works one way.


 In this section, more about Priyamvada Gopal's attitude to free speech.


In the tweet, she's referring to the time  when the Conservative minister 'David Willetts' came to give a talk at Cambridge, he was shouted down and not allowed to give his talk. Instead, Owen Holland, a postgraduate student in the English Faculty read out his interminable 'poem' denouncing him. Recommended - strongly recommended - a viewing of the video record of the event


This page includes detailed coverage of the 'poem' reading incident and the disruption of the Minister's talk, in the  section in the column to the left, Cambridge protest and Cambridge English. See in particular the profile of Owen Holland, the student who was punished 'severely.' I give the whole of his bizarre, dreadful, propaganda-poem, with a commentary.


 Dr Gopal must have a farcically bad view of poetic language if she can seriously think that Owen Holland used poetic language. The English Faculty at Cambridge may claim to be 'World Class' but it seems it's perfectly possible for someone to graduate in English at Cambridge and become a postgraduate student at Cambridge whilst accepting garbage as 'poetry.' The English Faculty at Cambridge may claim to be 'World Class' but it seems it's perfectly possible for someone to teach in the Faculty of English (Dr Gopal) whilst accepting garbage as 'poetry.'


A few assorted lines now from Owen Holland's 'poem' which may convey something of its poetic worth (for people who share Dr Gopal's view of its qualities) or worthlessness (for people whose view is nearer to mine):


We do not wish to rape our teachers


Your methodistic framework of excellence


We none of us believe
that any of our possessions are our own [a blatant falsehood]


So we are climbing into the driving seat
because your steering is uncomfortable to us


... we do not respect your right
to occupy the platform.


Owen Holland is the postgraduate student and arbiter, who decided that his views were so important that he had a duty to  protect Cambridge and the wider world from views not nearly so important as his own, such as the views of David Willetts, Minister of a democracy, who had been invited to speak at Cambridge but wasn't allowed to speak -  Owen Holland and his supporters - including Cambridge University academics - had decided this should be so.


You can threaten to shoot at us
with rubber bullets
You can arrest us.
You can imprison us.

but you cannot rape us


[Owen Holland obviously had not nearly enough understanding of the vast difference between threats which existed only in his own hysterical imagination and the all-too-real threats faced by courageous people in the dire dictatorships of the world.

My page
animal welfare and activism begins with an account of my own arrest and my confinement in a police cell - as it happens, I and the person who was arrested with me were innocent and released without charge after a couple of hours. I don't make the mistake of thinking that my activism needed any courage. There were no risks for me except the most minor ones. As for Priyamvada Gopal, her call for sympathy for Owen Holland is grossly excessive, ridiculous. How can his case possibly be compared with the case of, to give one example, Nasrin Sotoudeh?


Amnesty International:


“It is absolutely shocking that Nasrin Sotoudeh is facing nearly four decades in jail and 148 lashes for her peaceful human rights work, including her defence of women protesting against Iran’s degrading forced hijab (veiling) laws.']


According to Amnesty International again, about 5000 men and women have been executed for same-sex activity since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979. A wide range of offences - and acts which aren't offences can be and are punished by death in Iran. Mohser Amir-Aslani was arrested for 'insulting the prophet Jonah' and for making changes in religion. He was executed in 2014. States of mind may also be punished with death in Iran.


Iran is the most prolific executioner in the world now, after China, executing political prisoners, homosexuals, dissidents, people found guilty of 'enmity against God,' and a 16 year old schoolgirl, Atefeh Rajabi Sahaaleh, on charges of adultery and 'crimes against chastity.' She was hanged in public.'


This is Mahmoud Ahmadinejad on the Holocaust, in a statement of September, 2009):

'They [the Western powers] launched the myth of the Holocaust. They lied, they put on a show and then they support the Jews.'


He has blamed the "Zionist regime" of Israel for starting both the First and Second World Wars.


The section Dr Priyamvada Gopal's Rules of Etiquette  includes more detailed discussion of this prolific contributor to Cambridge stupidity and the barbarism of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad.


When Mahmoud Amadinejad came to give a speech at Columbia University in New York City. Lee Bollinger, the President of Columbia University, referred to the President of Iran as a 'petty and cruel dictator.' Dr Gopal referred to this comment as 'demeaning.' She couldn't possibly agree with this breach of decorum. She wrote,

'There is no excuse for inviting an elected leader to talk at your university only to undermine him as lacking in 'intellectual courage' before he has had a chance to speak.


When the Conservative Minister David Willetts came to Cambridge University to give a speech, he was shouted down. Dr Gopal fully agreed with the protest. The profiles in the section Cambridge protest and Cambridge English  in the column to the left give a detailed account. (All the academics with profiles in this section are members of the English faculty or, in the case of Owen Holland, used to be a member.)


From the profile Lornay Finlayson: Philospher-Queen:

In 'LF on free speech' she writes,


 '... this is one very valuable outcome of forcing David Willetts off the platform: ' ... an act of destroying certain possibilities' (the possibility of the government minister David Willetts speaking and the possibility that people who came to attend a talk given by David Willetts could actually listen to a talk by David Willetts)  'is always at the same time an act of creating further ones. One valuable thing that came out of the whole episode, to my mind, was that the idea of ‘freedom of speech’ got hauled out of its hiding place ... '  

'fter the disruption of David Willetts' speech, there were now new opportunities, not so much for 'uninformed' people to discuss free speech, but opportunities to listen to people who do it 'properly,' such as Dr Finlayson. If radical Islamists prevent a talk by a non-believer from taking place then this too is creating new possibilities. If 'advanced transgender advocates' prevent a talk by someone they see as less advanced from taking place, such as a feminist whose view of transgender people isn't the same as theirs, if they force feminists 'off the platform,' then this too would be viewed as creating new possibilities, although it's obviously not creating new possibilities for the person who is prevented from speaking.


'Transgender activists who prevent feminists such as  Julie Bindel and Julie Burchill  from speaking are badly mistaken but the defence of free speech should go well beyond a single issue. Feminists who object to the denial of free speech to some feminists but see nothing wrong with the denial of free speech to anti-feminists are badly mistaken too.

'Dr Finlayson, philosopher, writes that 'in the immediate aftermath of the Willetts action, there was plenty of predictable, well-rehearsed, lazy, ‘free speech’- themed noise-making.'

'In the the immediate aftermath of the Willetts action, there were plenty of predictable, well-rehearsed, lazy,  noise-making attempted justifications of shouting down a minister of a democracy, such as 'LF on free speech.'

'She says of the invitation to David Willetts to speak, 'we regarded the event itself as an improper procedure.' She declares that it's improper so it must be improper. The dogmatic assumption, the unquestioned assumption of absolute rightness is completely obvious.  In 2013 she contributed to an event in Cambridge on various aspects of free speech. Her talk had the title, 'Free Speech as Liberal Fiction.' '


When the invitation which had been made to Jordan Peterson to become a Visiting Fellow at Cambridge University was rescinded, Dr Gopal was very pleased. On her Twitter page, she wrote, in the scathing and sarcastic tones which  she could have used in connection with Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, but didn't, she wrote (20 March, 2019) this


'Jordan Peterson to be my colleague later this year? So EXCITED. So much to learn, so much wisdom to glean. Well done, Cambridge, no better way to signal our commitment to diversity and decolonization.'


and this


'The truth is Cambridge just doesn't have enough sage authoritative white men who believe they know better than everyone else and can tell the world how to run itself. We need to ship them in from outside.'


But surely, Priyamvada Gopal is a sage, authoritative woman who believes she knows better than everyone else and can tell the world how to run itself! She's set herself up as an authority, an arbiter.  If Dr Gopal airily decides that Israel is so much more cruel a country than Iran, why, this must be so. This is simply a reality. If she accuses King's College porters of racism - after all, they didn't show due deference, they didn't call her Doctor Gopal - then they must be racists. She imagines that the only thing they can do is admit their guilt and recognize her intrinsic superiority. The section which follows this, Dr Priyamvada Gopal's Rules of Etiquette mentions  Dr Gopal's outspoken but very brief comments on me.


She would do well to use Twitter rather less and try to bring forward argument and evidence rather more - much, much more. She likes adding her name to those lists of names which demonstrate beyond all doubt, or at least to the people who sign, that they belong to a higher plane. So, she joined Dr Lorna Finlayson and Dr Mark Berry in calling for a boycott of Israeli universities and assuring the academic world, and the wider world, that they personally 'have pledged to not accept invitations to visit Israeli academic institutions, act as referees for them or take part in events organised or funded by them.'


If they could take a closer look at Iranian universities, they might well be surprised at what they found.  A previous call for a boycott of Israeli universities was signed by an international conglomerate of academics and others associated with universities, including many Iranian universities. Dr Gopal and others may not realize this, but academics and students at Iranian universities are subject to the death penalty if they engage in gay sex or commit adultery, just like other Iranians.


Dr Gopal and others could extend their search, although the risks to their manicured self-images are substantial. Thy could consider, for example, a Palestinian university. From my section on Lorna Finlayson:

'The Nov. 5 demonstration on the Al-Quds campus involved demonstrators wearing black military gear, armed with fake automatic weapons, and who marched while waving flags and raising the traditional Nazi salute. The demonstration took place in the main square of the Al-Quds campus, which was surrounded by banners depicting images of “martyred” suicide bombers.'


Also from this section on Lorna Finlayson:


'The statement signed by those academics made a comment on critics who assert, correctly, that these people are 'singling Israel out’.

'As many have persuasively argued over the last few weeks, it is Israel that singles itself out:  through its claims to moral impeccability, its celebrated status as a democracy, through its receipt of massive support from the US and other nations, and through its continual abuse of the legacy of the holocaust in order to deflect criticism and to discredit the Palestinian struggle.'

'What? Its 'celebrated status as a democracy' is supposed to count against it? 'Abuse of the legacy of the holocaust' is beneath contempt.'


I intended to include on this page a detailed record of some of the Statements Attacking Israel signed by Cambridge University academics over the years, and Statements to do with other issues, such as a Statement in support of Owen Holland, with comments on some of the academics who signed. I decided not to. It's possible that in some cases, their views have changed. I mention some of these Statements on this page but otherwise, I'll let these Statements remain in obscurity. Anyone who thinks differently can rescue them from obscurity and 'celebrate' them. Future statements are a different matter. I intend to provide detailed coverage if I think the Statement is biased and obnoxious. Anyone who disagrees with my estimate is welcome to challenge it. Anyone who disagrees with the views on this page (or any other page of the site) is welcome to challenge them.


Academics and students in Gaza, like others subject to the legal system in Gaza, at least are spared the death penalty if they engage in same-sex relationships or have babies when unmarried. The maximum penalty for gay sex in Gaza is a mere 10 years imprisonment, the penalty for having a baby in the unmarried state in Gaza is just a few years imprisonment. If Dr Gopal isn't aware that in Israel, gay sex and gay relationships are completely legal and that there are absolutely no laws against unmarried sex, then they are even more ignorant than I thought.


I don't exclude the possibility that she can be critical of someone who happens not to be white, but she'd probably prefer silence to criticism. So, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad (non-white) is not just low censure on the censure scale but seems not to register at all. Jordan Peterson and David Willetts are high on the censure scale.  So are those King's College porters who failed to address her as Dr Gopal. This is a hideous reversal of the intuitive but strongly based judgment that Mahmoud Ahmadinejad should be the one singled out for condemnation.  Whatever flaws Jordan Peterson and David Willetts and the King's College porters may have or may not have, these flaws are minute in comparison with the flaws of Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. Whatever flaws the state of Israel has, Iran is vastly more deserving of censure. Priyamvada Gopal obviously thinks differently.


What I refer to here as the 'censure scale' could perhaps be named The Gopal-Berry Scale, full name The Gopal-Berry Censure Scale, a system of hideously distorted censure, after those academics Dr Priyamvada Gopal and Dr Mark Berry, who is also criticized on this page. Both of them believe that Israel is far more deserving of censure than Iran. Here, the Gopal-Berry scale inverts. Dr Berry calls Jacob Rees-Mogg a Nazi and refers to 'The Spectator' as 'a cesspit of unabashed Nazism.' I'm sure that he does recognize that there are differences between Nazis and Nazism on the one hand and the objects of his scorn on the other, but he recklessly and stupidly expresses censure in a way he can't possibly defend.


From the Home Page of this site:


'My approach is in part systematic and rigorous, sometimes at a high level of abstraction, but I see no contradiction between system and rigour on the one hand and on the other, passion, compassion, activism, humour, an intense concern for the health of language and the vitality of culture, a whole range of other concerns. A systematic study can reveal gaps very clearly. The meticulous work of cartographers helped to show explorers which regions were still unexplored, to suggest new areas for risk and discovery.'


Ethical theory is a very strong interest of mine - see the page Ethics: theory and practice. Perhaps the term 'ortho-ethics' would be a useful addition to the terms available to ethical theorists. An ortho-ethical censure scale would recognize that the state of Israel has faults and the state of Iran has faults but the state of Iran is vastly more worthy of censure. It would recognize that any faults that the faults of Nazis and Nazism are vastly more worthy of censure than any faults of The Spectator and Jacob Rees-Mogg.


Professor Priyamvada Gopal's Rules of Etiquette


Dr Priyamvada Gopal of Churchill College Cambridge is now Professor Priyamvada Gopal. I've left the wording of the original unchanged, as originally written and published.


Etiquette, entry in Collins English Dictionary: '1. The customs or rules governing behaviour regarded as correct or acceptable in social or official life.'


In this section, I mention Dr Gopal's very different views concerning acceptable treatment of people belonging to very different positions in society. To summarize:


The porters at King's College, Cambridge: obnoxious and baseless accusations of racism.


Myself: (in an email to me) ' 'What a sad sack you are ! Get a life, kid.'


David Willetts, who came to give a speech at Cambridge and wasn't able to do that. He was shouted down. Priyamvada Gopal fully agreed with the action.




Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, then President of Iran, who came to speak at Columbia University. He was described by Lee Bollinger, correctly, as a 'petty and cruel dictator,' but Priyamvada Gopal found that shocking.


Priyamvada Gopal may not be cruel but she's petty, as well as smug and snobbish, with a view of her own importance which is grotesquely inflated. A perceived slight to herself becomes something of massive importance. She really does seem to believe that when she uses the accusation 'Racist!' then she's obviously right and the person she accuses has no defence at all.


She claimed she was subject to 'racist' treatment from King’s College porters. She said she would stop tutoring students at King's due to “consistently racist profiling and aggression by porters” at the college. Refusing to tutor students at the college was a ridiculous reaction, over-the-top, indefensible.


'“I repeatedly asked them to address me as 'Dr Gopal' she says. Anybody who demands this of porters is a fool with delusions of importance.

“We have investigated the incident and found no wrongdoing on the part of our staff,” a spokesperson said.  We categorically deny that the incident referred to was in any way racist.” The spokesperson said it had completed its investigation and cleared its porters. 


My employment has been quite varied over the years. My first job was as a builder's labourer. My employment also included a year working 11 hours a night as a night porter in a four star hotel. I never experienced obnoxious behaviour on the part of the hotel guests. None of them tried to put me in my place. Dr Gopal, I think, does like putting people in their place.

Very, very unwisely, Dr Priyamvada Gopal  made it completely clear her view of what was  'correct or acceptable' when David Willetts came to speak at Cambridge University and Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to speak at Columbia University. David Willetts was Minister of State for Universities and Science from 2010 to 2014.


Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was President of Iran from 2005 to 2013. Whilst he was President, men and women were stoned to death for adultery, amongst other offences. According to Amnesty International, about 5000 men and women have been executed for same-sex activity since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979. On the Holocaust (statement of September, 2009):


'They [the Western powers] launched the myth of the Holocaust. They lied, they put on a show and then they support the Jews."  Mohser Amir-Aslani was arrested for 'insulting the prophet Jonah' and for making changes in religion. He was executed in 2014.



Mahmoud Ahmadinejad came to give a speech at Columbia University in New York City. Lee Bollinger had referred to the President as a 'petty and cruel dictator.' Dr Gopal referred to this comment as 'demeaning.' She couldn't possibly agree with this breach of decorum. She wrote,

'There is no excuse for inviting an elected leader to talk at your university only to undermine him as lacking in "intellectual courage" before he has had a chance to speak.

I emailed some members of the English faculty, including Dr Gopal, to draw their attention to this material on Iran. After some time, she sent me this email. It was obvious she didn't like what I'd written, not one bit. She didn't offer any arguments and evidence. She wrote in her email to me,

 'What a sad sack you are ! Get a life, kid.


The protest that gave David Willetts no chance to speak is described in the section above on Owen Holland and the  English Faculty.


The YouTube video which records the protest:


She was completely in agreement with the protest, including the chant beginning at 11.45.


What about Mahmoud Ahmadinejad? In the image above, a woman is shown about to be stoned to death in Iran. Whilst he was President, about 6 people were stoned to death. For example, in 2009, two people were stoned to death in Mashhad  for adultery.  The 2008 Islamic Penal Code specifies the size of the stones to be used - the stones are not to be so large that they will kill quickly.

In 2005, Mohser Amir-Aslani was arrested for 'insulting the prophet Jonah' and for making changes in religion. He was executed in 2014.

Iran has been a prolific executioner of homosexual/gay people. Any kind of sexual activity between two partners other than in a heterosexual marriage is illegal. According to Amnesty International, about 5000 men and women have been executed for same-sex activity since the creation of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Female homosexuality is treated more leniently than male homosexuality, but this is Iranian Islamist leniency, not leniency as we know it. Lesbian acts (mosahegheh) between people who are mature, of sound mind, and consenting can be punished by 50 lashes. If the act is repeated three times and punishment is enforced each time, the death sentence applies on the fourth occasion.

Mahmoud Ahmadinejad seems to have overlooked the many people executed in Iran for same-sex relations when he claimed,

"'In Iran we don't have homosexuals like in your country ... In Iran we do not have this phenomenon. I don't know who's told you that we have this.'

On the Holocaust (statement of September, 2009.):

'They [the Western powers] launched the myth of the Holocaust. They lied, they put on a show and then they support the Jews."

Wikipedia is obviously a source of information which is vastly less important than the sources of information available to Cambridge academics - or is it? Not always. This is an invaluable Wikipedia article  on the 'International Conference to review the global vision of the Holocaust in Tehran.'

The Iranian President's comment on the terrorist attacks of 9/11:

'Some segments within the American government orchestrated the attack to reverse the declining American economy, and its grips on the Middle East, in order to save the Zionist regime.'

 And, on a lighter note, in December 2005, he banned Western music from state-run TV stations. In July 2010, he issued a statement on the wearing of ties:

'The supreme guide [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei] himself has said in a fatwa that the wearing of ties or bow ties is not permitted.'

What does Dr Gopal's rule book have to say about the proper way to receive such a guest speaker?  Very, very unwisely, she put it in writing. He came to speak at Columbia University. Lee Bollinger had referred to the President as a 'petty and cruel dictator.' Dr Gopal referred to this as 'demeaning.' She couldn't possibly agree with this breach of decorum. She wrote,

'There is no excuse for inviting an elected leader to talk at your university only to undermine him as lacking in "intellectual courage" before he has had a chance to speak.

I emailed some members of the English faculty, including Dr Gopal, to draw their attention to this material on Iran. After some time, she sent me this email. It was obvious she didn't like what I'd written, not one bit. Instead of defending her view of Iran's President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and giving her reasons why David Willetts should be treated much more harshly, instead of opposing my arguments and evidence by giving arguments and evidence of her own, she chose the easier way:

'I just thought you'd like to know that every time you send one of these emails it causes huge ripples of merriment. What a sad sack you are ! Get a life, kid.


 I would have thought that 'Get a life' is a kids' phrase. Someone with a PhD, a fellowship at Churchill College Cambridge and a post in the Faculty of English at Cambridge can do much better than that. If they can't, then so much the worse for the Faculty of English.

I sent her this reply:

Dear Dr Gopal,

I'm dismayed by your recent email:

'I just thought you'd like to know that every time you send one of these emails it causes huge ripples of merriment. What a sad sack you are ! Get a life, kid.'

Most of all, this part, 'What a sad sack you are!Get a life, kid.'

I know there are many demands on your time, but I ask you to retract this part of your email. I don't think you can possibly justify it. If you're not willing to retract it, then I ask that you give me permission to quote it.

You may wonder, why don't I just go ahead and quote it? Why do I need to ask? For this reason, that I've a policy on quoting emails sent to me, and this is it:

'Emails sent to me won't be released into the public domain, including publication on this site, unless I have the permission of the sender. Anyone who emails me can criticize me as much as they want and the matter will remain private.'

You can do one of these things:

Email me to tell me that I shouldn't quote the email. In that case I won't quote it. It will remain private.

Email me to tell me that I can quote it. If so, then I'll quote it.

Or do nothing. If I don't hear from you in the next few days, I'll assume that you don't particularly mind if I do mention it.

Best Wishes,

Paul Hurt

She chose the third option. I haven't heard any more from her, so I'm quoting her email now.

She urges me to 'get a life, kid.' I don't have to painstakingly give evidence to the contrary and then ask her to reconsider.

Dr Gopal seems to do a great deal of lecturing, apart from lecturing her students in lecture theatres. If she's ever inclined to lecture non-university people again, and particularly people in an older age group, she'd do well to avoid phrases like 'What a sad sack you are! Get a life, kid.' Otherwise, she may get a reputation for patronising and demeaning language, and even a reputation as a First Class (not a 2: 1) Arsehole. I realize that according to one influential view, very common in universities, only white males like me can use 'patronising' and 'demeaning' language - so much the worse for ideology.



I don't know nearly enough about Dr Gopal to make sweeping, wide-ranging criticisms. She didn't know nearly enough about me to make the moronic comment 'Get a life, kid,' but went ahead anyway - and was so clueless that she allowed the moronic comment to be put into the public domain. All she had to do was email me to say that she didn't want this comment of hers to be published. It would have taken next to no time.


Dr Gopal may well be a delightful person with many strengths. All I do here is point out some weaknesses which accompany whatever strengths she may have.

I'm surprised that Dr Gopal and other people in the Cambridge English Faculty found such 'merriment' in my emails. In almost all cases, these people have received only one email. They were factual. I simply drew their attention to the material on this page. I did, though, take the trouble to find out more, sometimes much more, about the person I was emailing, and changed the wording of the emails accordingly.


Clive Betts MP LFPME: Israel, irregularities, expenses



By Chris McAndrew



Clive Betts MP was educated (or trained) at Pembroke College, Cambridge. He's  a member of Labour Friends of Israel and the Middle East (LFPME) and one of the many MP's  I list and discuss in my very critical section on the group on my page on Israel.


Supplementary information, an extract from Wikipedia:


'Betts was suspended from the House of Commons for seven days for irregularities involving the employment and visa of Jose Gasparo ... the Daily Telegraph newspaper reported on 10 July 2010 that Betts' partner and parliamentary assistant, James Thomas, had tried to edit this fact from Betts' English Wikipedia page in an attempt to cover it up.


'Betts was found guilty of breaching the MPs' code of conduct, with the Standards and Privileges Committee   stating that he had acted "extremely foolishly" and had risked damaging public confidence in the integrity of Parliament. Particular concerns involved Betts' failure to disclose Gasparo's background to Parliamentary authorities and the fact that Betts had knowingly photocopied an altered document on Gasparo's behalf. Betts gave an "unreserved apology" in a personal statement to MPs when the report was published.

'In 2003, Betts was subject to criticism for his accommodation expenses after he had previously campaigned for an increase in MPs' entitlements on the ground of "hardship". It was reported by The Times ythat Betts had "flipped" his designated second home to Yorkshire before buying a 'country estate' there, before "flipping it" back to London and taking out a larger mortgage on his flat there. Betts denied wrongdoing, arguing the Yorkshire property had been 'two dilapidated listed buildings' and that when he became a whip he had to declare his main residence as his London flat.




'He faced further criticism in 2010 after it was reported that he was one of eight MPs who were renting out a 'second home' in London whilst claiming for the cost of renting a 'third home' in the city at taxpayers' expense. Although legal, critics argued the 'loophole' was allowing MPs to increase their income after the rules on parliamentary expenses were tightened.'

'Betts employs his partner as his Senior Parliamentary Assistant on a salary up to £45,000 ... Although MPs who were first elected in 2017  have been banned from employing family members, the restriction is not retrospective - meaning that Betts' employment of his partner is lawful.'


Clive Betts was involved in an expenses scandal involving colossal sums of money - the grotesque story of The World Student Games. At the time, these games were described as second in importance only to the Olympics, games which would put Sheffield on the map. The games are forgotten, but the waste of money shouldn't be forgotten, and Clive Betts was leader of Sheffield City Council at the time.


From the BBC report of 14 July, 2011:


The World Student Games which took place in Sheffield 20 years ago ran up an overall debt of £658m.

Sheffield Council, which funded the 1991 games, has revealed it will continue to repay £25m a year until the debt is paid off in 2024 despite having to make savings of £80m this year.

Lib Dem group leader Shaffaq Mohammed branded the games a financial disaster.



As part of the project for the World Student Games, the council built large sporting facilities in Sheffield to host events, including Don Valley Stadium, Ponds Forge, Sheffield Arena and Hillsborough Leisure Centre.

Following a request by the BBC, the council released figures stating that the cost of building the facilities totalled £147m and a further £21.4m was spent on staging the games.

It said £297m has been repaid, however the final amount will not be fully repaid until April 2024.


Daniel Zeichner MP LFPME



Daniel Zeichner is, of course, the MP for Cambridge. He read history at Cambridge (Kings College).  Like Clive Betts, he's a member of Labour Friends of Palestine and the Middle East (LFPME). My page on Israel has information and opinion on this Society of Friends (friends who in some cases hate each other.) In 2010, he used the word 'fascists' of the Polish Law and Justice Party, which sits with the Conservatives in the Alliance of European Conservatives and Reformists. He performed a Nazi salute during a debate at the Cambridge Union Society. Rabbi Reuvan Leigh: ' 'To make light of the Nazi salute and to accuse these parties, who are not anti-Semitic,  is absolutely disgusting.' It may be said that Daniel Zeichner is too dull and dismal to be capable of disgusting behaviour, but I differ. His stupefyingly dull Website - standard stuff from start to finish - shouldn't, I suppose, be blamed on his Cambridge education. A comforting thought - not every constituency gets the MP it deserves. The excellence to be found in Cambridge, sometimes in the most unlikely places, such as the Faculty of English and even the Faculty of Theology (but not for its thelogical work) deserves a far better MP than this one.



Cambridge feminism and slavery


My page on feminist ideology is much more comprehensive than this section. Underneath the image of a slave who has been flogged and an image of a slave owner with her two slaves, there's material on slavery which will raise very, very difficult issues for many, many feminists, including Cambridge feminists. Whether they will be willing to confront the issues honestly remains to be seen. (The same images are used in my page on Christian religion, with material on the Church of England's linkages with slavery.)


From Sally Weales's article published in the Guardian (30 April, 2019).


The University of Cambridge is to launch a two-year academic study to uncover how the institution contributed to and profited from slavery and other forms of coerced labour during the colonial era.

Two full-time post-doctoral researchers based in the university’s Centre of African Studies will conduct the inquiry to uncover the university’s historical links with the slave trade.



Their brief is to find out how the university gained from slavery, through specific financial bequests and gifts. They will also investigate the extent to which scholarship at Cambridge might have reinforced, validated or perhaps challenged race-based thinking at the time.

Vice-chancellor Stephen Toope has appointed an eight-member advisory panel to oversee the research and ultimately recommend ways to publicly acknowledge the institution’s past links to slavery and address its modern impact.

The way universities and museums deal with the legacy of slave-owning benefactors has become a key area of debate within academia, highlighted in recent years by protests from students such as the  "Rhodes must fall" campaign at the University of Oxford.


The history of slavery poses wide-ranging problems for scholarship at Cambridge. Slavery poses very difficult problems for Cambridge feminists. The extract:


'In North and South America there were large numbers of women slave owners. The majority of the slaves were men. In Britain there were many, many slave owners. When slavery was abolished throughout the British colonies in 1833, over 40% of the 46,000 people who claimed compensation for their loss of property, and were generally successful, were women. There was 'gender inequality' in this form of property ownership but the 'gender property-gap,' the 'gender slave-owning gap,' was not so very great. The feminist Caroline Lucas of the Green Party wants to ensure 'that 40% of board members (of companies] are women.' If this is a target for women's representation, then women slave-owners met the target with ease.


'Of course, 40% women, 60% men isn't 'gender equality.' 50% women, 50% men does amount to gender equality - but to suppose that the  mathematical concept of percentage can be applied to these complex realities of human life is ridiculously simple-minded. Even the ridiculously simple-minded Green Party concedes that the 50% target may be unattainable, that strict equality is unattainable.

These are some reminders that women have often been immeasurably more fortunate than men and that Professor Susan James' generalization and the generalization of her husband, Professor Quentin Skinner amount to gross distortion. She claims (in the 'Concise Routledge Encyclopedia of Philosophy')

' 'Feminism is grounded on the belief that women are oppressed or disadvantaged by comparison with men ... '

'He claims (in an interview)

' 'Everything remains harder for women, at every stage ... '

'What of slave men and free women, such as the many free women  who owned slaves? (More information about these slave-owning women very soon.) Were these women 'oppressed' or 'disadvantaged' by comparison with male slaves, such as the male slaves in the photographs here? Was everything harder for these women? Did these male slaves have it easy?

'Below, and in other places on the page, I give examples from many other fields which call into question their  ignorant generalization. Ignorant generalizations are still ignorant generalizations when they're pro-feminist ignorant generalizations.

'... What do Susan James, Quentin Skinner and others make of this, on the compensation of slave owners, including women slave owners?

'On 28 August 1833, the Abolition Bill received the royal assent: slavery would be abolished throughout the British colonies. Later in the year, the Slave Compensation Commission was established. It awarded compensation to the slave owners for loss of the property they owned - the slaves. The slaves themselves, 800,000 in number,  received no compensation. The Commission paid out the staggering sum of 20 million GBP, the equivalent of 17 billion GBP in current values. The slave owners who were compensated so generously - 3,000 of them living in this country - included many, many women.  Over 40% of the 46,000 people who claimed compensation for their loss of property, and were generally successful, were women. This is not so far from the all-important figure (for gender theorists and feminist egalitarians) of around 50% of course.


'The section on 'Slavery and Serfdom' gives more information about the Slave Compensation Commission. Its records give astonishing insights not only into slavery and its horrors but the status of free women slave owners at the time - the women who helped to nurture slavery. One of these is Dorothy Little who showed great energy in pursuing her callous and self-seeking interests.

'Women like Dorothy Little who had inherited slaves and lived off the income from slaves until they were compensated for the loss of their slaves - what is a feminist to make of this?  Hugh Thomas, writing about the Dutch trade in slaves, noted that 'planters preferred slaves whom they could work hard and then discard, or leave to die, without the trouble of having to rear their families.' (The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 1440 - 1870.') Were  women slave owners, or many, many free women who were not slave owners, for that matter, 'oppressed' or 'disadvantaged' by comparison with the male slaves who were worked to death? Were these male slaves privileged?


'More on slavery in Brazil. Charles Darwin, 'Voyage of the Beagle:' 'On the 19th of August [1832] we finally left the shores of Brazil. I thank God I shall never again visit a slave-country ... Near Rio de Janeiro I lived opposite to an old lady, who kept screws to crush the fingers of her female slaves. I have staid in a house where a young household mulatto, daily and hourly, was reviled, beaten, and persecuted enough to break the spirit of the lowest animal. I have seen a little boy, six or seven years old, struck thrice with a horse whip (before I could interfere) on his naked head, for having handed me a glass of water not quite clean ... Those who look tenderly at the slave-owner, and with a cold heart at the slave, never seem to put themselves into the position of the latter ... picture to yourself the chance, ever hanging over you, of your wife and your little children ... being torn from you and sold like beasts to the first bidder!' 


'Brazil was the last country in the Western world to abolish slavery, in 1888. (Not so long before abolition, four male slaves were flogged over a period of six days. Each slave received 300 lashes.)


'The section includes this testimony:


' '... She was a fearful woman, and a savage mistress to her slaves.


' 'There were two little slave boys in the house, on whom she vented her bad temper in a special manner. One of these children was a mulatto, called Cyrus, who had been bought while an infant in his mother's arms; the other, Jack, was an African from the coast of Guinea, whom a sailor had given or sold to my master. Seldom a day passed without these boys receiving the most severe treatment, and often for no fault at all. Both my master and mistress seemed to think that they had a right to ill-use them at their pleasure; and very often accompanied their commands with blows, whether the children were behaving well or ill. I have seen their flesh ragged and raw with licks. They were never secure one moment from a blow, and their lives were passed in continual fear. My mistress was not contented with using the whip, but often pinched their cheeks and arms in the most cruel manner. My pity for these poor boys was soon transferred to myself; for I was licked, and flogged, and pinched by her pitiless fingers in the neck and arms, exactly as they were. To strip me naked - to hang me up by the wrists and lay my flesh open with the cow-skin, was an ordinary punishment for even a slight offence. My mistress often robbed me too of the hours that belong to sleep. She used to sit up very late, frequently even until morning; and I had then to stand at a bench and wash during the greater part of the night, or pick wool and cotton; and often I have dropped down overcome by sleep and fatigue, till roused from a state of stupor by the whip, and forced to start up to my tasks.'


'The Rhodes Must Fall Group demanded the removal of a statue of the colonialist Cecil Rhodes from the buildings of Oriel College, Oxford, and 'a commitment from Oxford University to 'recontextualising iconography celebrating figures of grave injustice' They added, 'Murderous colonists and slave-holders belong in books and museums, not on the sides of buildings. This requires the removal and rehousing of statues and portraits and the renaming of buildings.'

The group seems to be unaware of the contribution of black women to the injustice of slavery and the contribution of black societies in Africa to the injustice of slavery. As a contribution to freedom from illusion (not that I expect the ideologists of the Rhodes Must Fall Group any more than ideological feminists to embrace freedom from illusion), a quotation from 'Slavery and Free Women of Color in Antebellum New Orleans' by Anne Ulentin. It gives information which is resistant to feminist interpretation as well as the activists of 'Rhodes must Fall:'



' 'My research shows that free women of color traded slaves of all ages - from infants to 60 year-olds. The majority were between the ages of 11 and 30, when they were the most valuable ... Some documents show that slaves ... were to be handed down from parent to child just like any other possession ... The free women of color, for whom we have inventories, often owned significant property, including slaves, houses, lots, and furniture ... It was very common for these women to choose not to emancipate their slaves, and instead to pass them down to children or other relatives ... it is difficult to ignore evidence that free women of color, like whites, engaged in slavery for commercial purposes, and that, in doing so, they prospered.'


'According to many gender theorists, of course, to be black and a woman is to be doubly oppressed.

'From 'The Slave Trade: A Reflection' (the closing chapter of Hugh Thomas' 'The Slave Trade: The History of the Atlantic Slave Trade 140 - 1870'):


'Some slaves were stolen by Europeans ... and some, as occurred often in Angola, were the victims of military campaigns mounted specifically by Portuguese proconsuls in order to capture slaves. But most slaves carried from Africa between 140 and 1870 were procured as a result of the African's interest in selling their neighbours, usually distant but sometimes close, and, more rarely, their own people.' And,


' '... most of the millions of slaves shipped from Africa were ... ordinary farmers or members of their families, suddenly deprived of their liberty by fellow Africans in response to what a modern economist might call 'growing external demand.' '


Professor Rae Langton, WOWSER


Professor Langton is a Fellow of Newnham College, Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge University and a WOWSER.


WOW stands for 'Women of the World.'


'Man of the world

ALSO woman of the world

Someone who has a lot of experience of life and can deal with most situations

(Definition from the Cambridge Dictionary.)


 Professor Langton took part in the 2015 and 2016 WOW festivals so I refer to her as a 'WOWSER' here. WOWSER has a meaning  she may not find completely to her liking. She has Australian as well as British citizenship and Collins English Dictionary gives this for 'Wowser:'  'Austral. slang 1. A fanatically puritanical person.' Feminists - fanatical? puritanical? This would irritate the people who took part in the fun-filled feminist festival which is WOW, I think. But I don't use WOWSER in this sense. I use it to mean 'Woman of the World' who supports events like the Cambridge Woman of the World festival - but not a woman of the world who 'has a lot of experience of life and can deal with most situations.'


These women of the world aren't like that.


At the 2015 WOW Festival Rae Langton chaired a panel calling for an end to all violence against women: 'Enough! Ending Violence Against Women.'


The programme explains: 'Gender-based violence in its many forms seems to have become an almost accepted backdrop to society. This session will challenge this 'normalisation' and put the case that to live in a world where women are not attacked or hurt in their daily lives - physically, sexually or virtually is possible.'


Does she think that it's possible to end all violence against women, physical, sexual and virtual? If she does, she's disastrously misguided. Can we expect to see a world where Islamist suicide bombers spare the women and only target the men, or people high on drugs murder only men and never women? Is this an achievable objective?


If Rae Langton doesn't agree with those WOWSERS who think that the utopian, impossible deluded, deranged dream of a world without those harms is perfectly possible, after so many centuries, after so many millennia of violence, cruelty and hurt, then she should put on record her disagreement and the extent of her disagreement. She should make it clear to other WOWSERS, other Cambridge 'Women of the World' that she doesn't share the views of some of them, that she can't possibly endorse them.


She chaired this panel. What did she say at the time? Could she make clear what she said at the time? I've no record of the outcome. It may be that the WOWSERS saw sense and rejected the programme's claim, but why did Rae Langton, a Professor of Philosophy agree to chair the panel at all?

By 'hurt in their daily lives' the programme refers, of course, to a wide range of experiences, no doubt including 'everyday sexism,' which also covers a wide range, including all sorts of slights and irritations and annoyances - to be defined and interpreted by the feminist philosopher-queens, of course. Is it a feasible objective to put an end to these as well? What does Rae Langton think?


How is this miraculous transformation to be achieved? How is the influence of the Cambridge WOWSERS and people who think like them to reach every city, town, village and settlement in the land and modify the words and actions of so many people - and and billions of people in other lands, of course. If it's a realistic and not a deluded objective in this country then it's a no less realistic objective in other countries, including Islamic countries. If the lives of women in this country can be transformed - and this would be the most radical transformation in the whole of recorded history - then surely the lives of women in Saudi Arabia, for instance, can also be transformed. What does Rae Langton think?

This is the Magic Wand school of thought. It may  flourish at Cambridge, or pass without comment, but it's contradicted by reality, falsified by reality.


I've been an activist in very varied fields, including human rights. For about twenty years, I was an active member of an Amnesty International group, for example. For most of that time I was the death penalty co-ordinator for the group but I worked on almost the full spectrum of Amnesty International cases. The experience left me with an overwhelming sense of the difficulties and disappointments which accompany the successes of human rights campaigning, the enormous amount of work needed to improve human rights, to help, it may be, just one person - without any guarantee that the improvement will be long lasting.


If it's a perfectly feasible objective to bring into being a world in which men never attack or hurt women - physically, sexually or virtually - could WOWSERS please explain, could Rae Langton please explain, why it's not a perfectly feasible objective to bring into being at the same time a world in which women never attack or hurt other women - physically, sexually or virtually. Could WOWSERS explain, could Rae Langton please explain, why it's not a perfectly feasible objective to bring into being a world in which women never attack or hurt men - physically, sexually or virtually?

Are the WOWSERS thinking of - or rather imagining - a partial utopia? To give only a single instance, Lavinia Woodward, an Oxford student, stabbed her boyfriend whilst drunk - and was spared imprisonment. WOWSERS imagine a world in which men no longer stab women, drunk or sober, presumably, high on drugs or without the influence of drugs  (and never use 'sexist' language, whether drunk or sober, high on drugs or without the influence of drugs, presumably.) Will WOWSERS prevent the harmful actions of women as well as those actions of men?


Or do they think of women as weak, impossible to control?

Another event: the Eighth Cambridge Festival of Ideas. I couldn't possibly do justice to the wealth of ideas on offer.  Not so much wealth- the festival is very, very selective about the ideas on offer. Don't expect to find any criticism of feminism or Islamism, for example.


One of the events was concerned with 'The politics of pornography, objectification of women and censorship.' As I didn't attend, I can't say if any of the speeches or discussions had any trace of puritanism or any trace of fanaticism. One of the WOWSERS taking part in this event was Professor Rae Langton. On the question of censorship, I do hope that, as a good philosopher, she pleaded for the right of anti-feminists to have their voices heard as well as feminists, that she pleaded with feminists not to make any attempt to censor the views of anti-feminists.


And there was this event:


I don't know if the mention of Male Perspectives bothered anyone who took part in the feminism-filled-Festival, such as Professor Langton. I don't know if anyone who attended brought up some difficulties, to give just one example, Sura 4:34 of the Quran. I know that Tommy Evans has been spending a great deal of time studying the Quran. He will have read and perhaps intensively studied this Sura.

It's interpreted by many, many people as sanctioning the beating of wives. The man who appears in this video certainly seems to think so:


An article in the New York Times has this:


'The hotly debated verse states that a rebellious woman should first be admonished, then abandoned in bed and ultimately "beaten" - the most common translation for the Arabic word "daraba" - unless her behaviour improves.'

But many people at Cambridge, including, perhaps, Rae Langton, may well think it's bad manners to mention such things.


From the Website of Newnham College, Cambridge:

'I have been Professor of Philosophy at Cambridge, and Fellow of Newnham, since September 2013. I chose to join Newnham because of its people, its commitment to women’s education, and its inspiring history. I’m delighted to be in this latest chapter of a story that includes the heroic figures of Henry Sidgwick, Virginia Woolf, and so many more.'


It may be that Professor Langton hasn't given nearly enough attention to the feminism of Virginia Woolf. Here, I put the case against:


Like so many feminists and proto-feminists, Virginia Woolf's attitude to women not of her class, not at her level of accomplishment, not at her level of sensitivity, supposedly, was completely insensitive.


From an article in 'The Guardian,'


'In 1938, an unemployed weaver from Huddersfield called Agnes Smith wrote to Virginia Woolf in angry response to her book Three Guineas. She was scathing about the portrayal of the working class, writing that 'to hear some people talk you would think that ... a kitchen maid [was born] of a union between the cooking stove and the kitchen sink'.


'This is the rebuke that none of Woolf's servants puts in writing; unlike the author, who scribbled furiously in private as well as in print, their voices are harder to reconstruct. A writer who attempted to put the hidden folds of consciousness on to paper none the less regarded her servants as functions relating to herself. Their clamorous demands and demurrals she found largely baffling and frustrating, and the resulting friction generated screeds of writing, much of so crazily personal a nature that they prompted Alison Light to explore this fraught psychic territory in a scintillating meeting of biography, social history and literary criticism.


'Until at least the Second World War, British society ran on servants. Most British women, as Light explains, would either have been in service or employed servants. She approaches this subject through perhaps the most minutely examined psyche of British modernism. Although Woolf devoted hours to probing her own consciousness, those of her servants remained hazy to her: it's somehow symptomatic that Woolf always misspelled her cook's first name as 'Nelly', rather than the actual Nellie. Even though they were subject to terrible mental and emotional distress, Woolf dismissed her servants' fury or misery as hysterics, as if sensitivity only kicked in on a certain rung of the class structure.'


From the page


' ... without all the domestic care and hard work that servants provided there would have been no art, no writing, no "Bloomsbury".


'Independence was the great goal of Woolf's generation of feminists - economic, psychological, emotional. Woolf's sympathies led her to champion the needs of women whose lives had long been obscured from history ... Yet her polemical, political writing about women sits uneasily alongside her obnoxious comments on Nellie and the spasms of disgust that disfigure her responses to working women in the flesh.'


But again, we come back to the importance of technology. From 'The Horror of Dirt: Virginia Woolf and her Servants,'


'Technological advances that Americans were quick to adopt–water heaters, vacuum cleaners and other time-saving devices–crept very slowly into British homes. One of the fascinations of Light’s book is its scrub-by-scour account of a servant’s typical day–the beating of rugs and curtains, the emptying of chamber pots, the carrying of buckets of boiling water up many flights of stairs so that the employers could have warmish baths that servants did without, and a great deal more, from dawn until late at night. The kitchen was typically in the basement, which meant cooking with very little light, often with no running hot water, on a temperamental range that needed frequent fueling and stoking.'


Without technological advances, almost entirely the work of men, as a matter of strict fact, contemporary feminists would have hardly any leisure to write their condemnations of patriarchy. Technological advances, such as the railway, had already benefitted Virginia Woolf and her class to a massive extent. Virginia Woolf had no need to live in a shelter made of branches and wash in a stream because of technological advance. For Virginia Woolf's works to be printed, the printing press first had to be invented. As a matter of strict fact, the original printing press and the development of the printing press were the work of men.


I don't claim that Rae Langton is insensitive, only that her sensitivity is subject to very severe {restriction}, like the highly developed sensitivity of Virginia Woolf. The sensitivity of George Orwell is of a different kind, a different order. George Orwell, writing in 'The Road to Wigan Pier:'


'This was March, but the weather had been horribly cold and everywhere there were mounds of blackened snow. As we moved slowly through the outskirts of the town we passed row after row of little grey slum houses running at right angles to the embankment. At the back of one of the houses a young woman was kneeling on the stones, poking a stick up the leaden waste-pipe which ran from the sink inside and which I suppose was blocked. I had time to see everything about her - her sacking apron, her clumsy clogs, her arms reddened by the cold. She looked up as the train passed, and I was almost near enough to catch her eye. She had a round pale face, the usual exhausted face of the slum girl who is twenty-five and looks forty, thanks to miscarriages and drudgery; and it wore, for the second in which I saw it, the most desolate, hopeless expression I have ever seen. It struck me then that we are mistaken when we say that 'it isn't the same for them as it would be for us,' and that people bred in the slums can imagine nothing but the slums. For what I saw in her face was not the ignorant suffering of an animal. She knew well enough what was happening to her - understood as well as I did how dreadful a destiny it was to be kneeling there in the bitter cold, on the slimy stones of a slum backyard, poking a stick up a foul drain-pipe.'

More on the WOW factor:


The Twitter page of  WOW Cambridge (Women of the World Festival, Cambridge)

is referred to as twit-WOW here.

WOW Cambridge, which appears on some official Cambridge University pages, including this one

is referred to as official-WOW.


There are semi-scholarly and even scholarly pages on this site, but this page isn't one of them. I hope that feminist academics will be prepared to overlook the lack of scholarly citations here (such as the year, month and day of twit-WOW quotations.)


Some Food for Thought from WOW-twit.

'There's no one better at being you than you, you are your own creativity'


This is Junk-Food-Thought, but not the kind of junk food which does contain protein and vitamins and other very useful nutrients.


FreddyHarrel (Frédérique Harrel) endorsed it. She was obviously prepared to overlook its deficiencies. She describes herself on Twit-WOW as a 'Top UK Blogger/Stylist/Confidence Consultant/Digital Strategist' who provides 'Confidence & Style Workshops for women.'

 Nothing so commonplace, but useful, as 'Top UK roofing contractor' who provides 'repairs for your roof when the rain's coming in.'  (Contractors who amongst other things work outdoors in the Winter with bankruptcy likely or inevitable if they don't work outdoors in the Winter.)


For Freddy, it seems, work has to be fulfilling. Work which isn't particularly fulfilling for the worker, work which isn't in the least fulfilling for the worker, work which is difficult, dirty and dangerous - even if the work is needed to produce materials essential to the well-being of feminists or to take away the sewage of feminists, for that matter - work which is essential for the whole of society, seems not to meet her approval. The work of Care Home Assistants, who aren't able to skip work on a Thursday, who aren't in the least willing to abandon the people they're looking after on a Thursday - is work which seems to be just as much beyond her comprehension. 


Let's hang this Thursday! We're talking being fulfilled at work with @StylistMagazine ...


Parents can be concerned about their own lack of fulfilment and try to increase their fulfilment, but the dangers of paying too much attention to FreddyHarrel or Stylist Magazine - or any attention to them - should be obvious.


This is Paul, a male feminist, writing for twit-WOW:


"Pessimism is passive, optimism is active", says Jude – we've all got to make changes we want to see happen.

The threats to the steel industry in this country (it's not likely that these threats have preoccupied too many feminists) are immense. Have the steel workers and their supporters 'got to make changes they want to see happen?' If they are pessimistic, are they in danger of forgetting that 'pessimism is passive?' Or is it more difficult than that, far more difficult than that? The extreme difficulties and dangers in Syria. Do humanitarians, and the people they want to help, simply have to ensure that they make the changes they want to see happen? If they are pessimistic, are they in danger of forgetting that 'optimism is active?' Or is it more difficult than that, far more difficult than that?


By the way, who is this 'Jude?' Could it be Jude Kelly, of the South Bank Centre in London? The woman who founded WOW? I haven't though, been able to confirm that she did actually say or write, 'Pessimism is passive, optimism is active.'


Official-WOW is different in tone but, like twitter-WOW is complacent and evasive. Like twitter-WOW, it treats feminism as established truth, beyond the petty sphere of argument and evidence. Their mind is on other things, such as recruitment of  'WOWsers,' who according to the Cambridge University site will have have the privilege of 'Managing WOW Cambridge's social media presence' and 'Escorting VIP's to events.' Not only that, but 'All WOWsers gain a certificate of participation from the University of Cambridge.'


Sorry to be pedantic, but on the page which outlines the benefits of being a WOWser,


there's this, without a question mark:

'What is WOW'


For this question, I do supply a question mark,

'Is Cambridge University an unimportant place for  mediocrities as well as a 'centre of excellence?'


The page 'Sessions'


includes this,


'Make way! Women in politics.'


'2015 saw the launch of the Women’s Equality Party and new momentum to ensure women have a voice within politics and social change. A discussion of changing times, chaired by journalist and Principal of Lucy Cavendish College Jackie Ashley and featuring Halla Gunnarsdottir from the Women’s Equality Party, Frances Scott of the 50:50 Campaign, Priscilla Mensah, President of the Cambridge Student’s Union and Dr Helen Pankhurst.'


Completely missing, any acknowledgment that women in politics will again and again have irreconcilable differences - women in UKIP, women in the Labour Party who support Jeremy Corbyn, women in the Labour Party who oppose Jeremy Corbyn, Israeli women and Palestinian women, women who admire Margaret Thatcher and women who loathe Margaret Thatcher ... and that the Women's Equality Party has to have, but doesn't have, policies and expertise in all the areas which are essential for the survival and success of a democracy, not forgetting expertise in defence of this country against terrorists and other aggressors (aggressors which have many, many women supporters, by the way.)

The section 'To infinity and beyond' (a title with many philosophical difficulties, of course) includes this:

Are feminism and gender equality changing the universe? A lively panel assesses the difference activism, science, representation and comedy can make. With radical feminist Dr Finn Mackay ...


Finn Mackay's site is grotesque, listing  achievement after achievement, or her view of achievement, in a list which isn't endless but seems it, appearance after appearance at some event or other: the appearance is the achievement, it seems.

She'd claim, perhaps - or probably - that she's deeply oppressed, but she can't possibly claim that life has been completely unfair to her. She's a Senior Lecturer at the University of the West of England. This is her profile on the University site:


The 2016 sessions included some teaching on how to 'punch and kick like a woman!'

Dr Lauren Wilcox theorizes Embodied Subjects


Dr Wilcox is a Fellow of Selwyn College and the Deputy Director of the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies. The director of the Centre is Jude Browne.  I can't write very much more about Lauren Wilcox because I still have to study her book 'Bodies of Violence: Theorizing Embodied Subjects in International Relations,' with particular reference to 'Explosive Bodies: Suicide Bombing as an Embodied Practice and the Politics of Abjection,' published by the prestigious (or Very Prestigious) 'Oxford Studies in Gender and International Relations.'


By the standards of modern terrorism, the Provisional IRA were ruthless terrorists but not the most ruthless.  They gave warning to civilians of bomb blasts, but sometimes, simple incompetence led to  unexpected problems - and people died and were horribly injured.


From my page Ireland and Northern Ireland: distortions and illusions:

I lived in Northern Ireland during the Troubles, when the Troubles were at their worst. My visits to Belfast left an indelible impression but I was based in one of the safest areas of Northern Ireland. Even so, a few days before I left the Province for England, I heard a massive explosion in Coleraine which killed six pensioners and injured 44 people, including schoolchildren.

Above, the effects of the car bomb planted by the Provisional IRA in Coleraine, County Londonderry.


From the Wikipedia entry on the bombing:


'Several of the wounded were maimed and left crippled for life. The bomb left a deep crater in the road and the wine shop was engulfed in flames; it also caused considerable damage to vehicles and other buildings in the vicinity. Railway Road was a scene of carnage and devastation with the mangled wreckage of the Ford Cortina resting in the middle of the street, the bodies of the dead and injured lying in pools of blood amongst the fallen masonry and roof slates, and shards of glass from blown-out windows blanketing the ground. Rescue workers who arrived at the scene spoke of "utter confusion" with many people "wandering around in a state of severe shock". Five minutes later, the second bomb went off in the forecourt of Stuart's Garage in Hanover Place. Although this explosion caused no injuries, it added to the panic and confusion yielded by the first bomb.


'In the immediate aftermath of the blast, there had been several seconds of "deathly silence" before "all hell broke loose", with hysterical people rushing from the scene and others going to tend the wounded who were screaming in agony.'


See also my poem Sailing from Belfast, at the time of the Troubles.



The IRA terror, for all its horrors, was never unrestrained. That is, it was subject to {restriction}. The IRA never carried out suicide bombings I'm eager to find what Dr Wilcox has to say about the subject - or has to theorize about the subject. Although I'm well read in the literature of the subject - including Popper's works on theory - I'm not in the least convinced that in the case of suicide bombing, theorizing can take the place of thinking in terms of human values, practicalities, realism which takes account of hopes that the harshness of reality can be made less harsh.


Some gender theorists seem to take a very earnest view of the 'theory' that is gender theory, regarding it as akin to scientific theory or as truly scientific, and offering the best, or only, way to solving many practical problems. They are pathologists who examine the diseases caused by 'sexism' and can cure the diseases.


An abstract of the book: 


'The bodies produced by the violent practice of suicide bombing are a source of horror and disgust. They are, in feminist psychoanalyst Julia Kristeva's concept, abject: that which defies borders and is expelled to create the self. As ‘abject bodies’, suicide bombers' bodies frustrate attempts at calculation and rational control of security risks, and, in their mutilated flesh, expose as unstable the idea of the body as a whole with clearly defined boundaries between inside and outside. Female suicide bombers, whose bodies are already considered ‘abject’, produce a politics of the body that exceeds narratives of victimhood, and whose very monstrosity symbolically threatens the foundations of the nation-state. Attempts at constructing subjects out of the mutilated bodily remains of victims and perpetrators of suicide bombings are key practices in the production of the state and gendered subjects. The practice of suicide bombing and efforts to recover and resignify bodies reveals how power molds and constitutes the border of the body and state simultaneously. The explosive body of the suicide bomber thus has destabilizing effects beyond the motivations of its perpetrators and exposes the political work necessary to maintain the illusion of secure, bounded bodies and states.'


A preliminary view: the author gives, in stilted language, a view of suicide bombing which is deadly - deadly to the reputation of the writer, that is - crystalline in superficial appearance, crude, vague, mushy and confused in reality. What are efforts to 'recover' and 'resignify' bodies? The border of the body and the border of a state are so different in kind that 'molding' (or 'moulding') and constituting the border of the body and the state simultaneously is without meaning - this comment from someone whose site has linkage as a central organizing principle (but also contrast.) The distinction is made between male and female suicide bombers (only the female suicide bombers have bodies which are 'abject,' presumably because the female suicide bombers, unlike the male suicide bombers, are 'oppressed.') The abstract is ideological rubbish which has no linkage with the world of innocent people caught up in the deluded violence of fanatics. At first sight, this is yet more writing which calls into question the  Cambridge reputation for excellence.


Professor Sandra Harding and the R word



Professor Harding was a Visiting Professor at the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies for the Academic Year 2017 - 2018.


Sandra Harding's 'The Science Question in Feminism' is the book that contains the deranged claim that Newton's Principia Mathematica is a 'rape manual' because, she alleges, 'science is a male rape of female nature.'


She regrets now this particular claim - her regret may or may not be sincere - but her view of science is still deeply disturbing. Cornell University Press, publishers of  'The Science Question in Feminism,' includes this in its current promotional material,


She regrets now this particular claim - her regret may or may not be sincere - but her view of science is still deeply disturbing. Cornell University Press, publishers of  'The Science Question in Feminism,' includes this in its current promotional material, 'science ...  steeped in Western, masculine, bourgeois endeavors ... ' Quantum mechanics, then, is 'steeped in Western, masculine, bourgeois endeavors.' Sandra Harding, of course, has a very comfortable 'bourgeois' income. The aircraft used by Sandra Harding to get to get to places in England, such as the University of Cambridge Centre for Gender Studies, do, as a matter of strict fact, make use of innumerable scientific discoveries, mainly, as a matter of strict fact, the work of men. This page discusses many, many other benefits of 'masculine, bourgeois endeavors,' such as the provision of safe drinking water, the treatment of sewage - with benefits to the control of infectious disease which are incalculable - and contraception: the ending of the Malthusian nightmare of very high birth rates and very high death rates.

Sandra Harding obviously decided that the pollution from jet travel - which of course has a great impact on arctic ice -  was unimportant when compared with the benefits of  spreading the feminist message in the Arctic. In 2012, she visited the Arctic Centre and the University of Lapland to give lectures on topics such as 'methodologies and postcolonial and feminist science.' Such is the determination of a feminist missionary, eager to spread The Word about such things as 'methodologies and postcolonial and feminist science' to all corners of the world. A feminist missionary has preached the Postcolonial word in the Arctic then, although not yet in the Antarctic and the Amazon region, so far as I know. For the time being, getting to the Arctic, the Antarctic, the Amazon and Cambridge, England from California makes use of enormously complex and enormously sophisticated technology based upon enormously complex and sophisticated science, the product of gendered, colonized thinking, according to so many feminists.



Dr Rachel Bower and the F word


Dr Bower isn't currently at Cambridge. 


From her Website, 'Rachel has a PhD in English  from the University of Cambridge, and reviews regularly for journals and magazines including Stand and Wasafiri. Rachel is also the founder of Verse Matters, a feminist arts collective in Sheffield.' 'Rachel founded Verse Matters, an intersectional feminist arts collective, in June 2015. Verse Matters runs regular arts events in Sheffield, creating a supportive space for people share poetry, music, dance and stories.' (a 'to' is missing here, obviously.) 'Rachel is a poet, academic and editor. She is a Leverhulme Research Fellow at the University of Leeds.'


'The F Word' is a well known feminist Website. Rachel Bower is a feminist but 'The F word here is 'fantastic,' not 'feminism' or 'feminist.' To provide the best possible reading experience, this section is presented in a larger font size than the other sections on this page.


This is Dr Bower in full flow:


'Verse Matters is back tonight (Thurs 7 April) for another FANTASTIC night of poetry, music and solidarity at the Moor Theatre Delicatessen ...   

'There will be FANTASTIC performances ... It’s going to be FAB!'

Businesses who want to sell things don't usually have any concern for the health of language. They've not in the least bothered if the language they use is stale:

 'Win a FANTASTIC prize in our FANTASTIC prize draw!'

Again and again, Rachel Bower's use of language is just as mechanical and unthinking - the evidence is overwhelming. Poets, at least poets like Rachel Bower, can be abysmally bad users of language. The Website of 'Stand magazine' gives the information that she 'contributed six times between 2016 and 2017' - and the information that 'Stand' 'is now edited from the School of English at the University of Leeds.'

Much, much higher standards can be found in unlikely places. Rachel Bower lives in Sheffield.  If she ever reads the football results in our local newspaper, 'The Star,' she'll know that the language of the writers is far from tired or debased. A report on a Sheffield Wednesday match, for instance, will never include phrases such as 'FANTASTIC match! FANTASTIC goals!' Instead, language which so often is varied and interesting. Even people without much interest in football can find interest in these reports. In football,  harsh realities intrude. Most football clubs can't possibly satisfy the hopes of their supporters for any length of time. It would be excessive to talk about 'the dark night of the soul,' but football supporters are never likely to be spared disappointment for long. In the world of feminist poetry, it seems, there's relentless uplift. Everything is 'fantastic,'

Rachel Bower seems to live in a fantasy world where 'fantastic' achievement is the norm - provided that the 'achievers' are ideologically sound, of course. She seems to believe that because she calls something wonderful, amazing - FANTASTIC - then it must be wonderful, amazing, FANTASTIC.

Dr Bower's world isn't completely fantastic - for these feminists, men are the problem, men are the difficulty, men blight this carefree fantasy world  - which would be anything but  carefree without the massive achievements of men.  in bringing safe drinking water to feminists, to mention just one achievement. Feminists who find life hideous in the world of patriarchy would find life infinitely more hideous in a world of unsafe drinking water and untreated sewage, a world of rampant disease and premature death. The illusions of feminists are sustained by massive engineering achievements which have solved problems which are infinitely more serious than the problems which preoccupy them.

So, some extracts from Rachel Bower's pages.

Review: Poetic Collaboration in Iraq and Palestine

June 7, 2016

This is the proof of a review that was recently published in the FANTASTIC  poetry magazine, Stand 14.2 (2016) in Leeds ...


Poetry & A Pint’ and ‘Lyrical’

April 13, 2016

  I have guest slots at two FANTASTIC poetry nights this week ...


Verse Matters: International Women’s Day

March 8, 2016

We had a wonderful first night at the Moor Theatre Deli to celebrate International Women’s Day 2016 as part of SheFest Sheffield. Amy Kinsman (Poet) performed a FANTASTIC set of poems ...


Verse Matters on Sheffield Poetry TV

February 17, 2016

I was recently a guest presenter on Sheffield Poetry TV for a special episode on Verse Matters. The Verse Matters episode is now available to watch online ( Check it out for FANTASTIC poems from Louise Clines ...


From Mugen to the Moor Theatre Deli

February 17, 2016

We had a brilliant last night at the FANTASTIC Mugen Tea House on Scotland St on Thursday 4 February ...

Education, Rights and Migration


February 10, 2016

There are lots of FANTASTIC events happening at Universities across the North of England which connect local and international issues.  

I’m excited to announce that we’re moving Verse Matters to the FANTASTIC Moor Theatre Delicatessen in March. We’re super happy about the move ...

We are, of course, very sad to leave Sarah Haigh at the Mugen Tea House who has been AMAZING! Please come along and say thanks to her next week at Verse Matters – February at the Tea House on Thursday 4 February. More details about the next event, which includes FANTASTIC performances from Sai Murray (Tangled Roots Poet), Hannah Chutzpah (Performance Poet) and Arian Sadr (Musician) plus loads of brilliant open mic performers can be found on the Verse Matters Facebook event page.


“Put all weapons down”

January 14, 2016

It was another full house at Verse Matters in January, with 90 people squeezing into the Mugen Tea House for a night of solidarity and FANTASTIC performances. 


SolidarityStarDust 2016

January 7, 2016

Verse Matters is back this Thursday (7 Jan) with another FANTASTIC line up! Sprinkle the start of 2016 with some solidarity star dust! Don’t let January finances stop you – it’s pay what you can on the door. There’s FANTASTIC comedy and poetry from Chella Quint, brilliant poetry from the wonderful Gav Roberts and exciting music…


Soul Seed

December 4, 2015

My poem,”Soul Seed” featured on Pankhearst’s FRESH site yesterday. Pankhearst is a FANTASTIC collective of independent writers ...


Poetry and Sufi Soul

November 11, 2015

It’s the last Verse Matters of 2015 tomorrow! Join us at the Mugen Tea House (Scotland Street) for FANTASTIC poetry from Kate Garrett and Gina Elbow ... 


Freeing verse. And saxophones…

October 27, 2015

There was a FANTASTIC mix of words and music at Verse Matters in October. 


Verse Matters – September

September 15, 2015

Verse Matters was back in September with a fantastic line-up. Everyone loved the featured artists:


Verse Matters – September

September 7, 2015

After another FANTASTIC night in August, Verse Matters is back on Thursday 10 September with more talented artists. There’ll be FANTASTIC poetry from the formidable Toria Garbutt (A Firm of Poets), 


Verse Matters – September

September 7, 2015

After another FANTASTIC night in August, Verse Matters is back on Thursday 10 September with more talented artists. There’ll be fantastic poetry from the formidable Toria Garbutt (A Firm of Poets), 


You have reached your destination!

July 14, 2015

The launch of Verse Matters was wonderful. Helen Mort kicked the evening off by reading a few of her FANTASTIC new poems, 


Once I caught a fish alive…

June 25, 2015

There’s some FANTASTIC spoken word and poetry events going on in Sheffield at the moment


A busy old weekend in Yorkshire

June 7, 2015

It’s a busy weekend in Yorkshire for poetry. Big ROMP kicked us off on Friday night in Rotherham with the usual warm welcome and FANTASTIC poetry. 


South Yorkshire Poetry Festival, 22-24th May

May 22, 2015

There are some FANTASTIC events on this weekend in South Yorkshire. 


Verse Matters: A Feminist Arts Event

May 21, 2015

We’re getting closer to going live with Verse Matters: a new feminist arts event that I am setting up in Sheffield. We’re teaming up with a FANTASTIC new cafe at The Hide on Scotland Street ..






For a time, this column contained material on an Open Letter, 'Academics against the Arms Fair.' The starting point was  criticism of some academics at Sheffield University who signed the letter. At the time I added the new material, this page had well over 100,000 words. I decided to start a new page Academics against armaments. The material on the issue which was here has been transferred to the new page.

Sheffield University modern architecture: not award-winning

This is 'The Diamond,' the Sheffield University building which houses engineering specialities. My own MP, Paul Blomfield, claimed that the building would be  'the jewel in the crown not only for the University itself, but also for the city.'  It's detractors, and I'm one of many, think otherwise. I've reason to think that Paul Blomfield is mistaken about many things and reason to think that Paul Blomfield is mistaken about this building.

From a page on 'the ugliest University buildings in the UK

Any Sheffield students laughing at Hallam's inclusion [for the Sheffield Hallam University Student Union building] can stop now. This red brick uni boasts one of the country's strangest modern buildings in The Diamond. The £81m monster hosts Sheffield's engineering department and was nominated for the 2016 Carbuncle cup, the prestigious prize for the worst new building in the country.


Sadly, the Diamond wasn't thought as bad as the building which did win the award for worst new building in the country in 2016. It was another building which was 'award-winning.' 'Twelve Architects,' the architects who designed the building, came away with nothing on this occasion. They weren't 'award-winning' architects.


The page


has more on the matter. The reference to 'carbuncle' in the name of the award refers to a comment made by Charles, Prince of Wales, an opponent of some modernist styles, who described the proposed extension of the National Gallery in London as 'a monstrous carbuncle of a much-loved and elegant friend.' His phrasing was surely faulty, but I won't explain why I think this here.


I think that the corner view shown in the image above isn't the best side of the building - any view of the building reveals its flaws, I think - but this corner view is significant. It gave an opportunity for a bold use of chevrons, an opportunity which could have led to an outstanding example of modern architecture.


Chevron, a dictionary definition: 'chevron  a figure, pattern, or object having the shape of a V or an inverted V,  worn on the sleeve by noncommissioned officers including police officers, as an indication of rank, service etc.

A towering, soaring succession of chevrons at the corner - only a few, not so many as to appear cluttered - would have given a focal point, would have formed a welcome contrast with the facades of the building, which aren't completely unsuccessful -  the projecting diamond shapes, made of anodised aluminium, give three dimensional interest to the building, or would do, if the diamond shapes hadn't been chosen incompetently.


As it is, only traces of a bold arrangement of chevrons are visible. The chevrons are broken up, partly submerged by an incoherent mass of detail smeared over the corner.


The facades too are ruined by an incoherent mass of detail, an excessive number of small diamonds. By some remarkable oversight, this time to do with materials not the organization of shapes, the exterior glass cladding resembles nothing so much as plastic, and not plastic of the best quality.


This is another carbuncle in the crown of Sheffield University Modern Architecture, the Students' Union building.



The colour clash, the refusal of brown to integrate with the dominant colour of the building, is one obvious flaw, as I see it. In the case of the Leaning Tower of Pisa, the tilt is due to soft ground which could not properly support the weight of the structure. Since then, the tilt worsened but remedial work between 1993 and 2001 reduced it.


The tilt all too obvious in two of the components in the Students' Union Building isn't due to soft ground or a Sheffield earthquake but was a deliberate act of the architect or architects, deliberate instability with no aesthetic advantages.  It's surely a defective design. Would remedial work improve the aesthetics? It would, but is out of the question.


Does Sheffield University have a School of Architecture? It does. Do the academics who teach and do research there have a grasp of aesthetics as well as the practical bits of this demanding field? I wouldn't be too certain of that.


But the modern buildings of Sheffield University are far from being complete dross. This is a much more successful building, the Information Commons, with its distinctive, expanses of copper sheeting.



The contrasts of form between the four taller structures on the left and the lower, much broader structure on the right, are very successful. The contrast between the regularity of the openings in the four taller structures and the pleasing variation of size and placement of the openings in the structure to the right seems to me very successful. Those enthralling expanses of light green give a satisfying unity to the whole.



Above, construction of yet more student accommodation. Universities have become bloated. Universities employ far too many people - but not in such faculties as science, engineering, law and medicine who in a rational world should be almost unemployable, at least in the university system. I write from long immersion in the dull, deadening, lifeless writings emanating from so many of these places. Plagiarism is not just discouraged but subject to sanctions where students are concerned, rightly so, but these academics are big, big copiers, adding nothing to the half-baked theories and theoreticians so many of them follow - and so many students lap it up, knowing nothing better. So many students are perfectly happy to be assessed by these academic automatons. Vast numbers of students require accommodation - and it had better be stylish accommodation, to meet the needs of many of their number. All this is with the recognition that this is the part, not the whole.


More on architecture and the university:

30 March, 2012 

Procurement reform campaigners have blasted the University of Sheffield for abandoning its £25 million ‘Pearl’ music centre contest and wasting up to £1 million of bidders’ resources

From a Sheffield University statement on the matter:

We recognise that this is disappointing for those architecture firms that have submitted bids. However, we will keep interested architecture firms informed about future opportunities with the university.’

In response, Project Compass director Russell Curtis said: ‘This tender process raised some serious concerns from the outset, with interested architects expected to prepare sketch proposals for free for a building seemingly without a brief. The late cancellation of the project just adds insult to injury. If the best that the university can guarantee is that they “endeavour to only advertise opportunities where there is a strong likelihood of proceeding” then they really should take a long, hard look at how they go about it.’

‘Such a laissez-faire approach really does demonstrate a profound misunderstanding of how much time and effort goes into responding to these things. The university claimed they had around 150 expressions of interest, which could well have resulted in over a million pounds’ worth of wasted work.’

Commenting on the lack of a detailed brief, Curtis said: ‘Questions raised during the tender process do nothing to dispel the impression of an inept and exploitative exercise. There’s no sign of even a rudimentary feasibility study to establish the suitability of the site for a project of this scale, nor to set out a basic accommodation schedule on which to base the concept proposals.

‘We sincerely hope that Sheffield University undertakes fundamental reform of its practices before embarking upon the procurement of any future projects.’

One bidder – who preferred to remain anonymous – commented: ‘It’s quite symptomatic of what is going on at the moment with clients who do not have any sense of the burden of wasted time and cost they place on the architectural profession when they have either not organised the project or the selection process adequately or are not realistic about their aspirations. It seems to me no other profession has to go through the hurdles architects are being asked to jump over at the moment when the competition is very intense.’

The bidder continued: ‘A large number of frameworks produce no work and, even when an architect gets on one, they have to go through a selection process again. For even small projects, submissions are either very extensive and unnecessary or compounded by 15-plus architects being approached for the work. I don’t think contractors accept being on a list any bigger than four or five, so why do architects have to be put through this?

‘In reality the site they picked would have been very difficult to make work for the concert hall they wanted, so I think this may have contributed to why they are not going ahead with it.’











  {} Cambridge University: excellence, mediocrity, stupidity    With material on other universities