Tendance Coatesy

Left Socialist Blog

‘Conspiracy Theorist’ David Miller Gets Academic Backing.

with 15 comments

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Academics defend “eminent scholar” David Miller.

The prestigious site Spiked led,

Even conspiracy theorists must have freedom of speech

Frank Furedi (Emeritus Professor of Sociology, University of Kent).

David Miller has an unpleasant and prejudiced worldview. But Bristol University should not sack him.

I don’t know what’s going on inside the head of Professor David Miller of Bristol University. I do know that he is a fantasist devoted to conspiratorial thinking. I also know he hates Israel, and Jewish people who take exception to his vile polemics against Zionism. And I know that despite the distorted version of reality he promotes, and his obsessive fantasy about Zionism being responsible for the evils of the world, it is wrong to call on his university to fire him. I believe academic freedom is a foundational principle of university life and that it would be far better to challenge Miller’s abhorrent views rather than suppress them.

‘Educators’ (educator, noun, mainly US,  a person who teaches people) and ‘researchers’ someone who conducts research, i.e., an organised and systematic investigation into something) have been bolder, a lot bolder…

Educators and Researchers for David Miller

Re: Academic freedom and the harassment and victimisation of Prof D Miller

We wish to express our serious concerns about the unrelenting and concerted efforts to publicly vilify our colleague Prof David Miller.

Prof Miller is an eminent scholar. He is known internationally for exposing the role that powerful actors and well-resourced, co-ordinated networks play in manipulating and stage-managing public debates, including on racism. The impact of his research on the manipulation of narratives by lobby groups has been crucial to deepening public knowledge and discourse in this area.

……….

As public intellectuals and academics, we feel duty-bound to express our solidarity with Prof Miller and to oppose such efforts to crush academic freedom. Given your roles within the University and your responsibilities to the wider academic community, we urge you to vigorously defend the principle of academic freedom and the rights to free speech and to evidence-based & research-informed public discourse. We hope that you will uphold the integrity of academic debate.

Prof Sarah Purdy Pro VC (Student Experience)
Prof Tansy Jessop Pro VC (Education)
Mr Jack Boyer Chair, Board of Trustees
Dr. Moira Hamlin Vice-Chair, Board of Trustees
Prof Judith Squires, Provost
Ms Jane Bridgwater, Director of Legal Services
Prof Simon Tormey Dean, Faculty of Social Sciences and Law

Yours truly

Professor Noam Chomsky, University of Arizona, Linguistics
Professor Judith Butler, UC Berkeley Comparative Literature
Mr. John Pilger Journalist, author, film-maker, London.

…..

Professor Roy Greenslade, City, University of London, Journalism.

….

Professor Alex Callinicos, King’s College London (Emeritus)

And lots of others (see link).

 

Not everybody is happy:

 

Reminders:

And,

And another reminder:

Here is another petition by a public intellectual and expert on the Middle East;

Tony Greenstein finds time in his busy job publicly intellectualising  to comment on Tendance Coatesy:

you are a scab Jim Denham. The demand to sack a lecturer for speaking out on the oppression of Palestinians and the activities of the Israeli state via its proxies, which is what the Union of Jewish Student is, shows just how much you have degenerated politically.

Andrew Coates is no better.

You are both disgusting scabs.

Today he has expanded his field,

Being a scab Denham you wouldn’t understand. However it is a widely used substitute for ‘Keir’ as Keir Hardie was a socialist whereas Starmer and you aren’t!!

Tony Greenstein is expected to play a leading role in tomorrow’s Labour in Exile Network (LIEN) Conference

Today he offers it extensive publicity on his Blog:

Labour In Exile Network Conference – This Saturday February 27th

Labour In Exile Network was formed in the wake of Jeremy Corbyn’s suspension and the ensuing suspension of officers of the Labour Party who had the temerity to allow their parties to discuss such mundane matters as whether Starmer was out of his reactionary mind to suspend his predecessor.

……

To Labour’s racist leader this is in itself a crime.  The only acceptable Black people to this Zionist ‘without qualification’ are the David Lammy’s of this world.

LIEN has received considerable publicity in its call for an explanation from Starmer as to why he employed an Israeli spy, Assaf Kaplan, as a member of his staff, with the remit to snoop on members.

I sometimes despair at what I call the Stupid Left – Momentum and their fellow travellers.

Today even the most stupid member of Momentum realises that Starmer is a liar.

…..

The Corbyn Project attracted hundreds of thousands of people to the idea that a better world was possible.  They were betrayed by people like Jon Lansman and John McDonnell who thought they could trim their sails to the wind and bow to the ruling class ‘anti-Semitism’ attack that was launched against Corbyn and his supporters.

 

The doolally gent concludes,

Looking forward to seeing everybody

Tony Greenstein

Anybody ‘stupid’ or not can expect a warm welcome.

Written by Andrew Coates

February 26, 2021 at 11:12 am

15 Responses

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  1. I recently logged on to the Labour in Exile Network site to see what our former erstwhile comrades were up to. One of the links was to “LIEN in the Press”. Curious to see what the Guardian, Le Monde, the Washington Post and the BBC were saying about them, I came away deflated to find “The Press” consists of simply……The Canary, the Morning Star and Skwawkbox. Nothing better ilustrates the narcissistic little oubliette that some of the left now happily live in.

    david walsh

    February 26, 2021 at 12:09 pm

  2. There is another thing about these fighters “for academic freedom”: Many of them are supporters of the BDS campaign, which only exists to propagate a boycott of Israeli citizens including Israeli academics outside Israel. Which means they are not against boycotts, but only against being boycotted themself.

    What they won’t even become. Boycotting means not to engage with someone (for example a company) at all because for something special (eg. deploying child labour). Its arguable that this is justified in many cases, but this doesn’t happen here. If I don’t buy someones products, because they are of poor quality, I don’t boycott, I just don’t buy. David Miller isn’t the owner of a barber shop faced with the demand that nobody can get their hair cut with him because of his views on Israel. He is a professor who refuses to think and teach about reality, and spills out conspiracy theories instead. Which is the very definition of not doing his job.

    But even if there would be a call for boycott, there would still be the difference between boycotting on the base of an opinion which the persons being boycotted can be made responsible for, and being boycotted for being a citizen of a state. And now let me think: Which one tends to be the racialising variant here?

    jm

    February 26, 2021 at 1:39 pm

    • My main gripe is that go to great lengths to talk about Miller is the gobshite they come out with such as “weaponisation of the positive impulses of anti-racism so as to silence anti-racist debate. ” “attempts to denigrate a lifetime’s scholarship..”

      As Bob says on Twitter, at least the Spikey ones do not attempt to do that. All Frank Furedi does is defend a nutter’s right to free speech.

      David, on LIEN, yes you would have expected some lien (as we say in French, link) with the New York Times and other US outlets. I mean look Greeney gets US support sas Asa Winstanley writes “has just started a petition in defense (sic) of David Miller.”

      Surely they will at least link to Greenstein’s Blog Post….

      Andrew Coates

      February 26, 2021 at 2:23 pm

      • I’m mostly with you here. Concerning “attempts to denigrate a lifetime’s scholarship..”: Let’s see, how his supporters describe this scholarship: “Prof Miller is an eminent scholar. He is known internationally for exposing the role that powerful actors and well-resourced, co-ordinated networks play in manipulating and stage-managing public debates, including on racism. The impact of his research on the manipulation of narratives by lobby groups has been crucial to deepening public knowledge and discourse in this area.”

        So there are two possibilities here: Either his supporters reduce his life’s work to the antisemitic parts of it and make him worse than he is, or he never did anything else and he is as worse as they denounce him. This is because describing the reality of a capitalist society as a result of the actions of superior strength behind the scenes (they have to be exposed), of their manipulation and of stage-managing, and not as the result of the contradictory and compelling power of it’s institutions like private property, the state or the rule of law, is exactly what the core of antisemitism is all about. Assuming that this power is “jewish” or “zionist” and identifying it with actual Jews or Israelis is just the last step. Phantasizing it as hidden and co-ordinated is the first. In reality, all this power is necessarily out in the open, in part because people are supposed to follow the laws, and in part at least after it has been explored by scholars other than Miller.

        What the “positive impulses of anti-racism”, which are said to be weaponised here, might be, is a little bit of a mystery to me. I guess it is something like thinking that even Jews shouldn’t be denied basic human rights. That would be the gesture “of course we understand if you have that impulse, we are all human, but if you think about it you will detect that sympathy just helps the evil to disguise behind naivete”. A classic rationalization of an aggressive impulse, a very common psychological effect in the process of identification with the assumed powers to be. Authoritarian to it’s core. But as I said this is just a guess, I am not sure if this fits here, but It may well be.

        jm

        February 26, 2021 at 5:44 pm

  3. Yes. On LIEN, I came across this extraordinary letter in the Weekly Worker today; “Labour Party members have staged an extraordinary online picket of a shadow minister to protest an alleged purge in the party.
    During an online Labour Party meeting shadow minister Andy McDonald was unexpectedly bombarded with questions about the suspension of hundreds of members since Keir Starmer became leader. McDonald, shadow minister for employment, refused to answer the questions and one questioner, Norman Thomas, was ejected from the meeting, which was about protecting rights at work. “We have been driven to take this action by the outrageous injustices which are happening under the leadership of Keir Starmer. We are fighting for free speech and democracy in our party,” Thomas (himself a suspended member) said. “I could see the shadow minister reading our questions, but he didn’t respond. My last question was: ‘Why won’t you answer these questions?’ Then they kicked me out of meeting.”

    Now Andy,who I know, is the MP for my neighbouring constituency. He has worked in the field of Labour Law snce he was a nipper, and this, despite being a left surviver of the Corbyn Shad Cab, has led to him retaining his role. He is a decent Labour MP grappling with the challenges posed by the gig employers and looking to structure Labour’s programme for workers rights. And this is all he gets – when there are countless other avenues for these concerns to be raised.

    david walsh

    February 26, 2021 at 3:22 pm

  4. University lecturers explore and express ideas. They should be free to do that no matter how outlandish the ideas or how offensive those ideas may be to some people. University lecturers also teach and assess students and colleagues, thereby wielding some power over them. In that capacity they must be scrupulously impartial. On the one hand, expressing ideas should not become a disciplinary offence – it’s the thin end of a very thick wedge. On the other hand, abuse of power, e.g. discrimination against those with the wrong opinions, on the part of a university lecturer is serious professional misconduct and should not be tolerated – it’s the thin end of another, equally thick wedge. Most of the gripes about David Miller cited here seem to concern his opinions. Whether or not he keeps his job should be decided solely on the basis of his conduct and professionalism in performing his duties as a lecturer.

    Francis

    February 27, 2021 at 1:20 am

    • The first post on this Blog about Miller questioned his behaviour towards students.

      This post discusses Miller’s opinions because the academics who have signed this letter have engaged in lengthy praise for the way he presents them with ‘evidence’.

      Andrew Coates

      February 27, 2021 at 8:07 am

  5. And as you rightly said in the first post, it’s up to Bristol University to decide whether he broke the rules. But many of the outraged tweeters you cited seemed to think that David Miller should be sacked because they disliked his opinions. For me the important principle is that only misconduct should be a disciplinary matter. Arguments should be fought with counterarguments, not by weaponising HR departments and procedures..

    Francis

    February 27, 2021 at 11:27 am

    • No, science is not about opinion. It is not about “facts” either, it is about reasoning, and antisemitic conspiracy theories are an offensive and aggressive refusal to do so.

      And there is another point which makes your position a conservative one: Reasoning within a society full of contradictions and power differences produces ideology (which is not the opposite of science), and it is our task to tackle the dominance of ideology within science. For example capitalist discipline of mind and body in order to produce subjects which are able to work has been very brutal throughout the centuries and produced many racist fantasies about blacks being inferior because they aren’t able to discipline themselves and instead need to be brought to work by force and be kept away from influence.

      The knowledge universities produced and still produce, for example in biology and medicine, are full of such legitimizing shit, especially about race and gender, and even the faintest fear that the power of spreading it may be reduced makes conservatives panic. Which is why Gavin Williamson plans to make another law to keep things unchanged:

      https://www.theguardian.com/education/2021/feb/27/gavin-williamson-using-misleading-research-to-justify-campus-free-speech-law

      Of course this panic is exaggerating the real thread “woke culture” poses to them by far. But the point here is another one. It means that it is called supporting free speech if universities are forbidden to decide for themselves whom they invite and hire, and are instead forced by law that some positions are not allowed to be canceled. This and your principle makes it seam that it is everyone’s dignity that a particular person should hold an irredeemable position of power. Is Miller the pope? Defending every “opinion” on principle is always supporting the status quo. There is no way around judging what people think if you want to decide whom you support in the conflicts within society. Which, of course, includes reflecting on your own thinking.

      jm

      February 27, 2021 at 1:29 pm

      • Of course, I’m not defending David Miller. I’m defending myself, and my own right, as a university lecturer, to form and articulate my views on things without worrying about disciplinary proceedings for doing that. Other people, inside and outside academia, have the same right to argue their views, disagree with mine, prove me wrong, or whatever. I have no right to oblige anyone to accept my views, or penalise anyone for disagreeing with me, and similarly, nobody else has any right to oblige me to accept their views. If that is conservatism, so what? I have something worth conserving – the understanding that misconduct will get me into trouble, but dissent won’t. That understanding – ‘academic freedom’ – is under attack from all sorts of quarters, ‘left’ and right, official and unofficial. I think it is worth defending, even if that means that a few people with very weird ideas remain in post – so long as they don’t abuse their positions.

        Francis

        February 27, 2021 at 8:03 pm

        • Ok, I get where you are you coming from and why you make that point, and I don’t think it’s conservative to want to keep your job. But keeping your job and keeping society the same are two different things. It is conservative to make it a principle that everyone should keep it’s job in academia, no matter what he or she teaches, because the university is the result of the current state of society and of it’s history.

          I also understand that it is tempting to claim such a right in a defensive situation. It might be better than nothing. But claiming a right includes looking at the bigger picture, and that is very different.

          Let’s take your distinction between opinion and misconduct and consider not what you wish how academic institutions deal with misconduct, especially sexist and racist ones, but how they really do. There are reasons why they are traditionally male and white. They didn’t develop that way because misconduct happened and was ignored. It’s the other way round. They were build on them happening and being covered up at the same time. That, and having the general power of society in its back, is what makes the micropower-relations of those institutions so impenetrable.

          Even those in academia who want to be different than that have to engage in these relations. They have to fight for having “opinions” which are not part of the cultural habits of the institutions. At least if they teach humanities or social sciences this also affects the scientific content. I suppose you have your job because you and/or some other people managed to succeed in this. It is not “academic freedom” which gives you this security, but this engagement in the past and the prospects for continuation.

          I referred to Williamsons initiative not as an example of a conservative attack on academic freedom. It is the opposite. I wanted to point out that academic freedom might be a push back mechanism. If you support and question “opinions” that are too far away from those cultural habits, it quickly may be you who becomes the one trying to attack the academic freedom of the majority. And yes, that’s a paranoid way of thinking and acting, but that’s how conservatism works these days.

          jm

          February 28, 2021 at 1:06 pm

  6. Good to see comrade Roy Greenslade on the list. He’s been rather quiet lately

    Dick Velcro

    March 2, 2021 at 6:59 pm

  7. A text worth reading, makes many very valid points:
    https://fathomjournal.org/fathom-long-read-the-meaning-of-david-miller/

    jm

    March 4, 2021 at 12:15 am


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