Saturday 15 June 2024

Amia Srinivasan bigger bigot than Biggar?

Amia Srinivasan asks in the LRB- 

Do we think that students should be able to trigger investigations into academics on the grounds that their extramural speech makes them feel unsafe?

Yes. Students are customers. Academics are employees paid to serve those customers. Obviously, if the academic has something of genuine epistemic value to offer, she can get paid for doing something better than glorified child minding. There may be a trade off whereby you have to accept that only pedophiles will take on the inglorious business of imparting paideia.  

Do we want to fuel the right’s sense of grievance towards the university, when their minority presence within it is owed to the robust correlation between education and political liberalism, not some Marxist plot?

This question presupposes that the true purpose of an University is to piss off some political adversary. Imparting education does not matter. Alethic research does not matter. Gesture politics is all that matters.  

Do we want to empower university administrators to fire academics on the grounds that they are attracting negative publicity?

They have that power already. Every employer can get rid of an employee whose marginal product is negative.  

Do we think there is any guarantee that a further strengthened institutional power will only be wielded against those whose views and politics we abhor?

This is irrelevant. Employers pay employees to add value. They should fire them if they destroy value. 

If we say yes, what picture of power – theirs and ours – does that presume?

It presumes that employees are paid to add value and should be fired if their net marginal product falls below their wage. True, a monopoly or other rent extracting institution may be able to avoid following this logic - e.g. hiring useless tossers because the customer has little market power- still, in the long run, which is when all economic rent disappears, it must prevail.  

To which​ a devil’s advocate might say: isn’t that a mug’s game?

It is the game this cretin has chosen to play. If she was smart, she'd have become a billionaire like Vivek Ramaswamy.  

Maybe. As I’ve argued in the LRB before, ‘free speech’ and ‘academic freedom’ are, for many on the right, ideological notions, weapons to be wielded against the left and the institutions it is (falsely) believed to control, the university most of all.

This cretin has no interest in ideas. She thinks they are weapons. They aren't. Guns are weapons. Ideas either enhance productivity or are useless or mischievous.  

Some conservatives have, admirably, stood up for academic freedom in recent months, even where it presumably hurts them to do so; both the Princeton professor of jurisprudence Robert P. George

a professor of jurisprudence, by definition, has shit for brain and does not understand that the Law is merely a service industry. If it does not promote allocative efficiency- which involves sacking people whose net marginal contribution is less that their wage- then it will be disintermediated.  

and Sohrab Ahmari,

Catholics are bound to go back to their bad old anti-semitic ways 

the editor of Compact, spoke out against the suspension of Dean while objecting strongly to her views.

Nobody should be fired because I don't want to be fired. This is merely special pleading.  

But notably absent from the letter in support of Dean were the signatures of many prominent free-speech warriors, including Steven Pinker, Greg Lukianoff, Jonathan Haidt, Conor Friedersdorf, Jordan Peterson and Bari Weiss.

Why are they not defending a silly woman who feels 'exhilarated' when women are raped and killed?

The free-speech brigade has also found justifications for the draconian repression of student protest.

Students should be studying, not protesting. Still, if they have market power, they will get what they want.  

Weiss, citing the appalling, albeit rare, instances of antisemitism in the student protests,

not to mention the rare instances of antisemitism exhibited by Hamas 

has complained that universities are going soft on them because of left-wing bias. Peterson has cheered on university presidents as they order the dismantling of what he calls ‘pro- Hamas’ encampments.

Why aren't we providing opportunities to our young people to rape and kill and kidnap?   

Lukianoff, in a piece for the Sunday Times, offered a lukewarm defence of students’ right to free speech,

which should not interfere with the right of other students to get the education they paid for

before arguing that the current protests aren’t exercises of free speech directed at an inhumane war,

most wars involve giving hugs and kisses to the enemy 

but rather the expression of ‘groupthink’ cultivated ‘through ideological filters on hiring, promotion and even teaching’.

i.e. the sort of shite which secured this silly woman affirmative action 

Pinker has called Harvard’s student protesters ‘poisonous’ to the university’s ‘mission’, and argued that it would be justified in calling the cops on them. Like Lukianoff, Pinker draws a contrast between genuine free speech and the speech of the student protesters: ‘A university should be a forum in which people offer arguments backed by reason and guided by the search for common ground,’ he says, not ‘a place where they issue “demands” chanted in rhyming slogans’.

A University is a place which can be attacked by a crazy mob and burnt to the ground. After Mao used the students to beat the shit out of his potential rivals, the got the workers out of the factories to beat the shit out of the students and to chase them into the countryside.  

In so arguing, Lukianoff and Pinker aren’t simply denigrating the antiwar student protesters as mindless woke drones.

Nope. That's about the size of it.  

They are implicitly equating freedom of speech with freedom of discussion and debate.

Free speech explicitly means free discussion and debate.  

But protest, too, is a mode of public speech,

No. It may be accompanied by 'public speech' but it may be a 'dirty protest' and involve smearing the walls with your own shit.  

which – like free discussion – is vital to democracy.

No. It is unconnected to it. One may say, voting and canvassing for votes obviates the need for any other sort of demonstration of 'preference intensity' 

Self-styled defenders of ‘free speech’ like Pinker and Lukianoff ignore this fact,

It isn't a fact. Why not claim that raping and decapitating people while eating your own shit is vital for democracy?  

allowing them to square a commitment to free speech with the repression of protest.

Not to mention a commitment to not eating one's own shit or letting some nice terrorists gang rape and decapitate the kids in the school down the road.  

As the University of Chicago philosopher Anton Ford


recently put it in the Chronicle of Higher Education, ‘if a university only acknowledges expression aimed at discovering truth,

rather than expression aimed at eating your own shit in between sodomizing and decapitating kids so as to protest Neo-Liberalism 

then all campus speech is measured by the yardstick of a seminar discussion, and basic democratic values are sacrificed.’

We need more seminars where people eat their own shit while decapitating each other.  

Ford traces this narrow construal of free speech to the Chicago Statement, an approach to campus speech that was adopted (without, ironically, faculty or student consultation) by the University of Chicago in 2014,

Worse yet, the University authorities took a dump without prior consultation with the faculty, the student body and the custodial staff.  

and which has since been adopted by more than a hundred US higher education institutions – including many that have (like the University of Chicago) forcefully repressed student protests in recent months.

Which they were permitted to do in any case.  

While the Chicago Statement nods to the right to protest – and has been used by universities to defend that right – it nonetheless takes reasoned discussion as the paradigm of free speech.

It is shocking that Universities are promoting 'reasoned discussion' instead of eating your own shit in between raping and killing kids.  

‘The University’s fundamental commitment,’ the statement says, ‘is to the principle that debate or deliberation may not be suppressed.’

By nutters like Amia.  

The word ‘protest’ is used just once in the statement, to describe an attempt to silence speech.

By the Left.  Apparently there's a little money to be made in pretending to fight those nutters. 

The Foundation for Individual Rights and Expression (FIRE), of which Lukianoff is president and CEO, led the campaign to have the Chicago Statement widely adopted by US educational institutions. FIRE recently published a statement arguing that university bans on encampments do not violate the First Amendment, since free speech can legitimately be subject to restrictions on ‘time, place and manner’.

What is even more surprising is that Netanyahu did not offer to suck off every single member of Hamas to show his appreciation of their exercise of free speech and killing.  

That is indeed the standard understanding of how the First Amendment works. But one crucial test of ‘time, place and manner’ restrictions is that they be as narrowly tailored as possible (only as stringent as needed to protect the normal functioning of the relevant institution), thereby leaving ample room for expressive conduct.

So, if protestors are disrupting the education of others, they represent a nuisance which must be curbed.  

Many universities have failed this test.

Also, they haven't made coprophagy compulsory.  

The temporary student encampments are often consistent with the normal functioning of universities, for example by observing ‘quiet hours’, not stopping students from attending classes, and even hosting classes and study groups.

In which case, why not have them all the time and for any purpose?  

Where they are not – where, for example, the noise from an encampment disrupts classes – administrators should impose the minimal measures required for normal functioning to resume.

Normal functioning should involve student encampments for the Moonies so they can recruit impressionable cults.  

And where student protesters engage in violence or harassment, a university’s disciplinary codes should be fairly applied.

No. The police should arrest such students and courts should send them to jail. 

(As the legal philosopher Brian Leiter observes, ‘such incidents do not justify ending the protest and encampment, except under an indefensible principle of collective punishment.’)

No 'collective punishment' is involved if people are not permitted to commit a nuisance. Thus, if the police shut down a noisy party and latecomers don't get a chance to get their booze on, though they may feel aggrieved, it is not the case that they have been unfairly punished. 

Another crucial test is that ‘time, place and manner’ restrictions, and their application, be politically neutral.

Only if the institution in question has a prior commitment to such neutrality. It is perfectly legal to have a well defined political agenda and to forbid any expression of opinion which contradicts it. Academic freedom can mean freedom for the student or freedom for the Institution.  

But it is no secret that university administrators, in their decisions about how to handle the protests, are bowing to partisan political pressure from pro-Israel legislators and donors.

Not to mention the Legislature.  

On 10 November, Columbia suspended its chapters of Jewish Voice for Peace and Students for Justice in Palestine, invoking a new policy that had been revised, unilaterally and with minimal communication to the student population, by top-level university administrators just two weeks earlier.

Columbia's new President kicked ass at the LSE. Let us see if her tough tactics succeed on the other side of the pond. 

After signing the letter criticising the investigation into Cofnas,

a racist nutter  

I was written to by someone from the Committee for Academic Freedom, which bills itself as a non-partisan group of academics from across the political spectrum.

Academics have shit for brains.  

He asked me whether I might consider signing up to the CAF’s ‘three principles’. I looked them up: ‘I. Staff and students at UK universities should be free, within the limits of the law, to express any opinion without fear of reprisal.’

This is foolish. We expect something more from an employee than abstention from criminal behavior. Students, too, benefit if the credentials they gain are alethic signals that they habitually express themselves in a manner much superior to the average drunken hooligan.  

‘II. Staff and students at UK universities should not be compelled to express any opinion against their belief or conscience.’

Staff should be compelled, on pain of termination of employment, to express such beliefs as are required for the proper discharge of their duties. Thus, if you are teaching a bunch of cretins you have to pretend they aren't cretins. My personal tutor at the LSE, who was Israeli, did not understand this. When asked by potential employers about my character and intelligence he firmly stated that I was lazy and virtually illiterate. Oddly, this was seen as a recommendation by employers in the City of London. 

As for students, they must be taught that they should pretend that potential employers are sweet and nice. Don't tell them that they are evil capitalist bastards who should be strung up from the nearest lamp-post at your interview.

‘III. UK universities should not promote as a matter of official policy any political agenda or affiliate themselves with organisations promoting such agendas.’

That is by itself an agenda. These nutters are saying 'sign a piece of paper saying that it is wrong to sign this piece of paper.'  

I thought about it for a bit. I’m on board with Principle II,

because you are a cretin. The fact is, Amia probably has written glowing references for all sorts of half-wits. She kept her true opinion to herself. But this was justified. She was fulfilling her duty to promote the interests of her students even if she personally thought of them as a waste of space. 

so long as we don’t think that asking staff and students to use someone’s correct pronouns is akin to demanding they swear a loyalty oath.

There are no correct pronouns. There are only preferred pronouns.  

Principle I is problematic, because it doesn’t register that academic freedom essentially involves viewpoint-based discrimination – that indeed the whole point of academic freedom is to protect academics’ rights to exercise their expert judgment in hiring, peer review, promotion, examining, conferring degrees and so on.

No. Academic freedom refers to the freedom of an Academy to hire who it likes, etc. An employee of an Institution has no freedom to hire his g.f as his personal Fellatio Tutor nor can he confer degrees on his granny and aunties.  

And Principle III would prevent universities from condemning, say, Israel’s systematic destruction of universities and schools in Gaza, which I think as educational institutions they are entitled to do.

No. Principle III is meaningless. It does not prevent anything at all. Any nutter can pretend they don't have an agenda. You can't prove otherwise.  

I then clicked on the CAF’s ‘Who We Are’ section, and found that one of the organisation’s seven advisory board members is Nigel Biggar. In my piece on free speech last year, I had noted that Biggar was a member of the FSU; I described him as ‘the emeritus Oxford theologian who has insisted that the British Empire “was not essentially racist, exploitative or wantonly violent”’;

In which case people who emigrated to Britain from former colonies were not voting with their feet for racism, exploitation and wanton violence- because the alternative was darkies turning their homelands into shitholes.  

and I said that he is among those who long for ‘a more traditional – often explicitly Christian – social morality’.

Biggar is a Christian. He should be longing for an explicitly Satanic social morality.  

This was the sum total of my comments about Biggar. So I was surprised – genuinely surprised – when Biggar retweeted a post by the conservative academic Bruce Gilley,

who is as stupid as Amia 

which linked to my piece with the following description: ‘Tenured South Asian radical @amiasrinivasan says @NigelBiggar should be fired for rejecting the mantra that “Britain must own up to its colonial past” and saying “the British Empire was not essentially racist, exploitative, or wantonly violent.”’

I decided to write an email to Biggar, with the subject line ‘collegiality’:

Dear Nigel,

I was stunned to see that you had retweeted a tweet by Bruce Gilley claiming that I had said in the LRB that you should be fired for your views on British colonialism. Evidently, you did not read the ten thousand-word piece Gilley cited,

who would read ten thousand words of crap?  

since in it I say no such thing. I mention you and your views only in connection with your work with the Free Speech Union and the broader network of academics and politicians who helped usher into existence the new academic freedom Act. While I don’t agree with many of your substantive views, I never suggest that you should be in any way censured for them.

Because once Professors of useless shite start getting fired, people may realize we would be well advised to get rid of the whole lot of them. 

On the contrary, in the piece I vociferously defend the rights of academics not to be fired

because Amia doesn't want to be fired. People doing a particular job have a vested interest in condemning anybody being fired for doing that job in a crappy fashion.  

for the exercise of their academic freedom, condemn several cases in which students have called for professors’ heads (including Finnis and Stock), and criticise the ‘university administrators who ... too often cravenly seek to appease’ students.

Fire university administrators. They are useless.  

All this you would know had you taken the time to read the piece yourself. Indeed I cannot quite believe that I am having to write this email to a fellow academic – effectively saying the thing I say far too often to my students: have you actually done the reading?

If you haven't how do you hope to ever match my stupidity?  

Clearly for Bruce Gilley careful reading and truthful representation do not matter; my piece becomes an occasion for another salvo in whatever ideological battle he is fighting. But I would have hoped for better from you, as an Oxford colleague.

Because Oxford is nice. Other Universities are shit.  

Finally, I wonder what you make of Gilley calling me a ‘tenured South Asian radical’? Do you think it’s dialectically useful to reduce people to their ethnic origins?

It was useful for Gilley. His point is that if British rule was so horrible, how come so many darkies ran away from ex-colonies and ended up in the UK?  

Do you think this is an intellectually respectful thing to do to another academic?

The intellectually respectful thing to do to academics is to fart in their face.  

Would you encourage Oxford students to introduce the authors they read with reductivist demographic labels?

Like mentioning the fact that the guys who wrote the Bible were Jewish?  

I attach both a screenshot of the tweet, and a PDF of my LRB piece. I look forward to your reply.

All best wishes,


I sent the email in June 2023, and am still waiting for Biggar’s reply. Last time I checked, the retweet was still there.

Biggar, it seems, is not keen on reading Amia's turgid trash. Boo hoo.  

The latest​ open letter I have signed was drafted by some of my colleagues at Oxford, in support of a student pro-Palestinian encampment set up early on the morning of 6 May on the lawn outside Oxford’s Pitt Rivers Museum. Before the letter was published, signatories were asked discreetly to spread the word among like-minded colleagues, asking whether they would be willing to add their names to it. One replied that he had talked it over with his partner, who is of Jewish heritage. They both had reservations about the letter’s claim that Israel is committing genocide; he thought that thus far Israel’s actions were better described as ‘ethnic cleansing’, though he believes the risk of genocide is real. ‘But I don’t think,’ he finished, ‘it would be morally or politically proportionate for me to let that reservation stand in the way of expressing solidarity with a student action that I think is overwhelmingly justified.’ He signed the letter.

Students should set up encampments to protest against not just Death but also Old Age and Disease. Professors should sign lots of letters supporting such encampments. What else are they good for?

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