What's this blog about?

As a result of a combination of factors, culminating in the shameful UCU boycott-in-waiting of Israel, I've grown alienated & silenced, working here in one of the UK's finest universities all the while feeling like a Boycotted British Academic, alone in facing some dilemmas of the moment. In this generally chilling environment, it's hard to speak out and be heard, and hear others...and I find myself writing this blog.

What's it about? At present, it seems to me like a rather tortured articulation of the state of being silenced & mute, beyond words; struggling for the right even to use them, for a voice which can still be heard. When it started, all those successive boycott motions ago, I'd hoped it would function as a blog forum of support & solidarity amongst academics similarly-situated to BBA, to help us break through the boycott movement's silencing strategies. That hope remains notwithstanding this silence... Perhaps it lives in trying to articulate beyond the filter of these coping mechanisms of old (denial, avoidance, withdrawal); by way of this labour of finding the words, this voice...
[A forum of sorts has also arisen in the blog's comments, in which others have adopted the BBA moniker in case of need (e.g.
and here exposing the racist hate speech which masquerades as UCU solidarity activism).]

Sunday, 2 December 2007

UCU Activist List (aka the "Bigot's Playground")

Anyone following this bonkers boycott might well think the whole thing's over, finished, one for the history books (see under: racism in the British union movement).

Not judging by the UCU activist list - aka - the bigot's playground: we are already familiar with the sort of bigotry which comes courtesy of this List, since it's made its appearance on here before (the link is to that post's update and to the anon. comments it attracted, some of which have also appeared on Harry's Place).** Yes, that toxic forum which UCU offers, and here's the official line, to encourage its members to become more active in union business. This is classic UCU-speak which needs translating. In reality, it's the UCU encouraging its members to become victims of the boycotters' bullying, for this is how I've experienced the period since acquiring the 'privilege' of having my inbox polluted by the filth which passes for international solidarity work on there.

Just for confirmation that the boycott movement is as alive & kicking as ever within UCU politics, one recent thread on the list ends with the following war cry:

Let the mad people rant on... The boycott just will not go away! Why should it ...
(note the absence of a question mark!)

So that you can get the measure of the truly poisonous nature of this debating forum, this last message was written to end an unending conversation which had caused one academic, an expert in the field, to exclaim at an earlier stage in the debate:

I don't think I have ever seen such an archetype acrobatic of apologetics for contemporary antisemitism listed in so perfect a fashion. May I use it as a research document?

I am prevented from talking in too much detail about the List as it operates according to the most Stalinist of structures & rules, resulting in the eventual exclusion from the list of some of the best anti-boycotters posting on there. I say Stalinist because only anti-boycotters have been excluded in this way (never the boycotters); and only the most effective & trenchant among them, those posters putting arguments to which the boycotters could find no response other than this dirty trick of exclusion. I say Stalinist because you don't get excluded for posting antisemitism; you get excluded for quoting it outside the list! It's OK to post antisemitism to 700-odd people but it's not OK to give such antisemitism yet further publicity beyond this 'select' public! I say Stalinist because anti-boycotters have been prevented from posting messages from outside sources, even though many on the list do so without objection. Frequently! Only the anti-boycotters have been silenced in this way. [the link is to David Hirsh's comment on that thread]

Think of the ugliness which appears on an I/P thread on any day of any year on CiF. Think boycotting academics with apparently WAY too much time on their hands. And you've roughly got the picture!

The List is dominated by the boycott movement and arguments about the antisemitism which it symbolizes, together with other nefarious manifestations of the politics sustaining the movement. It is not about becoming more active in union business; it is about ensuring that everyone is so detained in this one issue that they have neither the time, nor the space, nor even the will to discuss anything else, let alone the bread & butter issues which a union should be deliberating, especially at a time such as the present, when British academia is facing such grave problems.

Perversely, for some UCU members, the picture I have painted gets perceived from their perspective as a debate forum which seems to offer a kind of diverting & entertaining sport. One recent poster explained how he was returning to the debate as a "nice break" from marking - "to see how the debate was going"!!

For the rest of us, however, as David Hirsh has put it, it's "puerile, toxic, boring, repetitive and dangerous." And damaging and distracting and debilitating... etc ETC ETC

My last post, on having A Room of One's Own, was motivated by witnessing the latest fight on the List, yet another in a long and shameful line, and particularly the efforts of one fine academic on there who was speaking for so many of us in taking on the hate-filled messages being dumped on there by our boycotting 'colleagues.' Quite apart from the toll such activity must take, both psychologically and in terms of an academic's ability to produce excellent scholarship (which is the phenomenon Woolf was describing in a different context), I wondered how this academic could manage to absorb such hate, contain it, and then proceed to reply with cool logic & reason when, to me, the only response which seems fitting is a loud

F OFF!!!!

Readers, you'll have realized by now that I'm not of a disposition & nature to have what it takes to respond in this vein. Instead, I just watch on in silence, paralyzed, like a rabbit trapped in the glare of headlights in the middle of a motorway.

Worse, instead of just closing down the window through which all this filth enters my life - to get on with that life, as best I can in the circumstances - I squander most of my productive time, detained in thinking how and by what means I might acquire the constitution to respond to this sort of venom. It seems to be beyond me - I am not, as an academic, used to dealing with argument waged in these uncivil and pugnacious terms; and I don't seem to have developed the skills required. All I can do is look on, in horror, at the messages being submitted by the boycotters - horror, I tell you; and in admiration, at the messages posted by those few valiant academics on there who manage, somehow, and at great cost, to take these disgraceful boycotters on.

I am amongst those silent on-lookers mentioned by Eve Garrard in an excellent blog post which makes me feel so ashamed about my (non)response to all this. Her post describes just one of a countless multitude of offensive, shameful postings and observes that

the most striking feature of the remark was not that it was made by a pro-boycotter, nor that it reeks of classic anti-Semitic thinking about the power of Jews... It wasn't even that none of the pro-boycotters disowned this remark or spoke out against its being made, though that was indeed the case. No, the most striking aspect of the whole event was that not one single person, from all of those relatively unengaged UCU activists who read the remark, found anything worth objecting to in it. None of them protested about it. Such things have indeed become normalized, unexceptionable, unworthy of remark - and this in an academic sub-culture which prides itself, as the UCU vociferously does, on its anti-racist commitment.

There is the shadow of a dying rat in the corner of the room, and people don't remark on it. It's not polite - in fact it's offensive, insulting - to mention the matter.

I wonder if Eve has underestimated a sub-category of silent UCU member on the List, one in which I count myself: those who are unable to object & fight back; those for whom the forum is so brutal & belligerent that they are cowered & shocked into silence but whose silence should not be taken to signify acceptance; quite, quite the contrary!

As I've said, the List is pretty much a single-issue platform, dominated and paralyzed by the boycott movement, to the detriment of its furtherance of core union aims. From time to time, however, the occasional message does get posted on there which addresses more standard union business (without eliciting great interest, I might add, everyone apparently too spent & disgusted by the 'solidarity work'). One such: bullying at work.

The definition given by the Andrea Adams Trust - which recently coordinated a Ban Bullying at Work Day, welcomed by UCU and trailed on the activist list - describes perfectly the bullying which passes for international solidarity work on the Activist List, as well as the likely effects this bullying has on those of us who have the misfortune to have to be subjected to it, just for being part of our union:


When we talk about bullying at work we are referring to an abuse of power or position. It is offensive discrimination through persistant [sic], vindictive, cruel or humiliating attempts to undermine, criticise, condemn, and to hurt or humiliate an individual or group of employees.

It can make employees lives a misery, affect their performance and damage their careers. It can also have a serious impact on organisations: indeed, statistics show that each year as many as 18.9 million working days are lost to bullying and up to a half of all stress-related illnesses are a direct result of bullying.

I couldn't help but notice the contradiction of our union showing concern for this issue at a time when bullying was being conducted on the List itself, courtesy of the boycotters (including those on my campus, a fact which serves to augment the pervasiveness of their bullying for I can't even conceptually contain them in that virtual madness which is the UCU Activist List!).

It always seemed odd to me that UCU should stand so staunchly against campus bullying, UCU HQ having apparently taken an active role in the initiative, on the one hand, and yet be the institutional facilitator of precisely that, through the bullying boycott, on the other. This includes the List moderators working at HQ who allow all sorts of antisemitic claims, and indeed in effect an antisemitic campaign to be waged, on the List itself. Who is UCU to preach when they don't practise?!

It is the bullying ways of the boycotters which serve to explain the group of silent UCU members of which I'm part: the horrified & terrorized on-looker, watching the List muzzled & mute. It's just this kind of bullying which has rendered me silent & voiceless in the bigot's playground. That is what bullying does.


** there's a fake BBA poster who occasionally posts on the HP site - fake, in the sense that it's not me (that is not BBA's e-mail, for starters!) but someone who has performed the necessary task of exposing, in this name, what passes for international solidarity work in our Stalinist union! There's another going by the name of UCU Whistleblower, a moniker which is equally apt. The BBA blog is meant to be a resource for other academics facing similar conditions to those I am experiencing and so it is only fitting that others should adopt the BBA moniker (as I've noted in another thread, this is fair enough): let it be one adopted by those for whom it captures the condition of being a Boycotted British Academic. This blog forum began as a way of finding a voice and I hope this process of articulating that voice on this blog can help all of us!


Anonymous said...

Good post BBA.

Now for some straightforward COMPARING and CONTRASTING:

"Nazis like Griffin and Irving have absolutely no place on our campuses and it beggars belief that they have been invited to a debate given debate is
something they seek to stifle at all cost ... I would be more than happy to contact the VC/students union president at Oxford to voice my concerns that this meeting is planned and urging it be canceled"
(A.S., 16 Oct 2007)

"There's a long and proud history of standing up to the Nazis in Oxford."
(A.A., 17 Oct 2007)

"we should not delay any further in the face of this atrocity."
(H.B., 17 Oct 2007)

"I would like to inject a note of controversy here. On what grounds are we calling for people to be banned or for meetings to be cancelled? To me, Nick Griffin and David Irving are not in the same category. Griffin runs a party which can be described as fascist and inciting racial hatred; I still fail to understand why that jury didn't convict him and his sidekick for the speeches recorded by the undercover BBC reporter. Irving, however, is not a member of any far-right party to the best of my knowledge: he is a holocaust denier, which is odious but in my opinion should not be illegal in itself."
(S.B., 17 Oct 2007)

"I see attempts to ban speeches as problematic with regard to the important civil liberty of freedom of expression. Once it becomes legally or politically possible to ban speakers, I tend to find it's the rich and the powerful who start winning, partly because
they have better access to government and are better at manipulating the law."
(J.C., 17 Oct 2007)

"Two facts are important here:
1) Irving's prominence as a holocaust denier and
2) his association with the BNP and other neo-nazi groups.

I would argue these are grounds for calling for him to be denied a
platform as an active nazi, not merely a racist.

Why ban nazis? Because they operate primarily on the basis of
violence and intimidation rather than debate, and that the curtailing of their freedom of speech (and action) is a requirement in the defence of the freedom of speech of all in society...The Oxford Union should be thoroughly ashamed of themselves."
(S.W., 17 Oct 2007)

"I would say that an invitation to Griffin to talk about his racist views or Irving to expound on his Holocaust denial would be wrong - this isn't censorship, as such, but refusing a platform to racists (for Griffin) or refusing to elevate Holocuast denial to the level of a debate (for Irving)
From what I can see, they're being invited to talk about free speech (and its denial). Irving, at least, has a point - he was jailed for what he said, which is censorship by any definition."
(S.F., 17 Oct 2007)

"Having been on the receiving end of nazi violence, I don't find
fascists the least bit amusing.
Of course you and I may ignore them. This is, frankly, not the point! Their squalid violent little coterie get enthused by the publicity and credibility, and use this as a basis to organise. They want to find one or two damaged individuals and recruit them to their world-view...what can the Oxford Union think that they hope to gain by association?
The man is a convicted liar. Why should he tell the truth in person? I would venture they are doing this deliberately to stoke up a controversy and get publicity.
This is - at best - contemptible, dangerous and stupid."
(S.W., 17 Oct 2007)

"the exclusion of "the violent" on the basis of free speech is a very dubious principle, if not further qualified. Frantz Fanon, Jean-Paul Sartre, Michel Foucault and Malcolm X all, at different times and for reasons many of us might find persuasive (anti-colonialism, anti-racism, emancipation, etc.), advocated some form of political
violence. The idea that they would be denied a platform on that basis is absurd."
(A.T., 17 Oct 2007)

"I am glad that people agree that "advocating violence" does not consist of grounds for restricting freedom of speech. This is very dangerous as one person's "violence" (or indeed 'offence') is another's legitimate protest ... However the argument of no platform for fascists - and this is defined very specifically - is not limited to a question of advocating violence ... It is based on an understanding of what fascism is. Fascist organisation, however rudimentary, is an attempt to build the army of brownshirts that A. refers to. This involves attempting to win public acceptance for their right to promulgate their views, and
developing a hard violent core ... Rehabilitating Hitler, anti-semitism and the holocaust is important in European fascism, precisely because it provides an internal ideological 'coherence' that much of the public propoganda of the BNP lacks ... I therefore maintain that it is right and proper to stop Nick Griffin
from speaking - as colleagues did when he threatened to come to Bath
last year."
(S.W., 18 Oct 2007)

"It is unfortunate that a charlatan and fraud like David Irving has become a martyr
in the name of free speech, especially as he's tried to deny said right to others.
But, as has been said before, if you don't support free speech for people you don't like, then you don't support free speech at all."
(S.F., 18 Oct 2007)

"I do not accept that simply writing books denying the Holocaust
is alone grounds for "no-platforming" people. Otherwise where do we draw the line?

I DO accept that if he's an active nazi he should be no-platformed.
For me the crucial difference is whether he is abusing his freedom
of speech to inhibit other people's freedom of speech and indeed their freedom to walk the streets in safety. That rather depends on the context in which he does his holocaust denial."
(S.B., 18 Oct 2007)

UCU Whistleblower

Anonymous said...


'[I do not] accept that it is necessary to vet speakers invited by our affiliated organisations. Such a stance would make a mockery of academic freedom ... As far as I am concerned, I would support an invitation to a speaker from Hezbollah.'
(S.W., 20 November 2007)

'Mousawi is not such a bad character! In fact he is similar to George Galloway in many respects !'
(B.N., 20 November 2007)

'I am extremely disturbed by statements [attributed to Mousawi] but I am not sure whether Mousawi said this, or it was a mistranslation, or someone else said it in the programme in question ... You are, I believe, well aware of the problems associated with conflating Arab rejection of Israel with European anti-semitism ... Anti-semitism is far more than collocating the word Jew with a negative ... It is part of the collective tragedy of Zionism that, along with imposing a colonial project in the Middle East, it has breathed new life into a racist discourse that should have long been consigned to history.'
(S.W., 20 November 2007)

The "Israel lobby" operates by branding all criticism of Israel as anti-Semitic and seeking to close down debate. It was instrumental in urging the Iraq invasion.'
(B.W., 20 November 2007)

'It seems clear to me even if half the accusations against Mousawi are true, he has to be considered an anti-Semite ... The question we then have to ask is – what follows? ... should Mousawi be at the StWC rally? Here I take [the] common sense view that if the organisation's current priority is to prevent an attack on Iran, and he speaks to that brief, then he has a place. Such is the nature of coalitions. If he uses the rally to promote blatant anti-Semitism then he is out of order and it is a job for whoever is chairing the meeting.'
(B.W., 22 November 2007)

'What S.W. said was that this anti-Semitism is being caused by Israel, not that it was being caused by Jews ... So now Arabs, who had no systematic history of anti-semitism, have picked up some of the most disgraceful outputs of European anti-semitism as a means of getting back in propaganda what they have lost in every other way ... I abhor this use of anti-semitic propaganda even though I can see just why it is happening. What a state does is not the responsibility of its whole population, never mind of a whole cultural group it claims to represent. However in my view this campaign by colleagues on the list is intended to:
a) Try eventually to withdraw UCU from StWC on the grounds that it is either inherently anti-semitic or at best an apologist for anti-semitism;
b) Categorise all opposition to Israel as anti-semitic and thus implicitly justify Israel's policies.'
(R.A., 23 November 2007)

'What this Stop the War issue shows is the way the protection of Israel comes before everything else and in everything whether it is a discussion relating to domestic or international issues. And if this is there in our union and it clearly is then it should be out in the open. So I must say, I am quite glad that some of these ugly postings are being seen for what they are. This protection of Israel at all costs approach is about doing exactly what it is doing right now. There is no clarity. It is like a madness.'
(KH, 24 November 2007)

UCU Whistleblower

Anonymous said...

R.A. states that,
"What a state does is not the responsibility of its whole population, never mind of a whole cultural group it claims to represent.".............
An interesting argument coming from a person whi has supported the boycott of academics!!

comfort from the storm said...

BBA. I have just seen your site for the first time. It is good to know that when reading what passes for comment on the UCU and feeling alone and, to be frank, scared of those with whom I always imagined solidarity, there is someone, somewhere who like me is also frightened and alone and yet is not afraid to enter the fray in their own way. Your comparison with bullying hit the nail on the head to how I felt as I wadw thought the muck. Keep up the good work.

Boycotted British Academic said...

UCU Whistleblower -- great, great comments! Thank you.

The contrast is indeed stark & sickening. I thought the same thing - well done for bringing it out so clearly.

People may not appreciate how time-consuming this task must have been for you, having to wade through List messages, many of which are long and reproduce the message thread to which they are answering. To get to the next message on the thread, readers have to scroll through messages they've already read and it's literally nauseating seeing the screen whizz down. My eyes just glaze over and sometimes even totally cross over upon sight of some toxic posting or other from the boycotters!

Comfort from the Storm -- how great to hear from you. Thanks so much for leaving your encouraging message. If only for your message, this blog has been worthwhile!! Like you, it's a relief to realize that I am not alone in feeling this way.

I think one of the reasons things have managed to get this bad over here, why the boycott movement developed as far as it did, is that people like us feel silenced, alienated & alone.

If you'd like to write something on this blog, please do. Same goes for others feeling this way. I always hoped this Forum would become a collaborative effort for all of us BBAs out there who feel the need for it.

If anyone wants to contribute a blog post, please leave a message on here and we can take it from there - I'll post up BBA's email or something.

Finally, to the anon. poster (3rd message) -- hi!

You make a good point! Yet another manifestation of the unbelievable hypocrisy of the boycotters...

Please take on a pseudonym next time you post so that I can know it's you; otherwise things get a bit confusing. Thanks for your contribution - I hope you visit & post again.