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The truth about KCL’s ‘indoctrination’ scandal A civil-servant whistleblower isn't telling the whole story

Not a student at KCL (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

Not a student at KCL (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)


January 23, 2024   5 mins

In the week following the killing of George Floyd in 2020, a group of Columbia University students, flushed with ideological fervency, sent a petition to the Dean of the university’s School of International and Public Affairs (SIPA). Signed by more than 200 SIPA students and alumni, it castigated the school for its “structural racism” and called for more courses with a focus on racial justice, more black students and faculty, and more minority-owned catering services at university events. Its organisers also demanded the removal of Mitchell Silber, an adjunct professor who ran a course titled “Modern Urban Terrorism”.

To read the accusations levelled at Silber, you could be forgiven for thinking that he was a blood-curdling white supremacist who turned up to class in white robes and a pointed hood. His sins, however, were somewhat different: his course focused on Islamist terrorism, he had previously worked for the New York Police Department (NYPD) as Director of Intelligence Analysis (2005-2012), and he had co-authored a NYPD-sponsored report of jihadist radicalisation. “It is extremely and violently Islamophobic, racist, unconstitutional, and imperialist,” wrote the organisers, referring to the course, without bothering to substantiate how or why it was all of those things. “Hence, another key demand,” they went on, “is that Silber be fired, his course cancelled forever.”

I drag up this pitiful episode from the US-Derangement File because it sharply parallels a recent case that has been doing the rounds here in the UK: the demonisation of King’s College London (KCL) as a citadel of progressive infantilism that endangers the British security state. It all started on 9 January, when a journal that nobody had heard of (Fathom) published an article by a former civil servant that nobody had heard of (Anna Stanley). Within days of its publication, Douglas Murray (who everybody has heard of) was calling for the suspension of a senior KCL academic; and now the Security Minister Tom Tugendhat has ordered a review into “biased” civil service training.

There are differences between the two cases: most notably, the cancellation effort aimed at KCL is coming from the Right, whereas Silber’s antagonists were coming from the Left. But in their ideological zeal and hyperbole, KCL’s most vocal critics sound every bit as puritanical as the progressive types they loathe.

In her article, Stanley recounts a three-day course she attended last year at KCL while she was working at the Foreign Office as an open-source intelligence analyst. The course, “Issues in Countering Terrorism”, was organised by the Centre for Defence Studies and was attended by around 40 civil servants from the Foreign Office, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defence and Home Office.

It was “a deeply, existentially depressing experience”, she wrote. This was not because of the dark subject matter of the course, but rather because so much of its content was informed by “typical post-modern identity politics”. Indeed, she charged, the course was not so much an educational training programme as a form of anti-government “indoctrination” that downplayed the threat of Islamist extremism, which, she rightly pointed out, remains the most serious security threat in the UK.

According to Stanley, the course went downhill as soon as it started. It began with definitions: “What is Terrorism? Without anyone providing an opposing standpoint, we were taught the adage, ‘One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist’.” This was rank “cultural relativism”, she argued. One lecturer told the class that “labelling a group terrorist can increase the state’s power”, while another used slides that showed Left-wing inanities about how condemning terrorism is siding with the oppressor and how the real problem isn’t terrorism but state power. Yet another lecturer, Stanley alleged, smeared William Shawcross, the government’s independent Prevent reviewer, as an anti-woke zealot and spoke scathingly about Douglas Murray and podcaster Joe Rogan: they were far-Right demagogues and needed to be suppressed, the lecturer said.

It is hard to know what to make of these accusations. On the one hand, they are extremely damning, suggesting that instead of cultivating an atmosphere of open inquiry about a subject as fiercely contested as terrorism and national security, KCL was imposing a radical pedagogy fundamentally at odds with official government policy on terrorism. But on the other hand, as Stanley herself partly concedes, many of the progressive platitudes she mentions were obviously used to facilitate discussion and were not intended to express the views of the lecturers.

If the KCL lecturers had indeed sought to impose their “post-modern identity politics” onto students then this would be an unforgivable breach of their calling as educators, and the government should never work with them again. But the problem with Stanley’s polemic is that it’s short on supplying the contextual evidence to prove this, whereas the problem for KCL is that it will need to prove otherwise if it is to keep the public’s and government’s trust. “What I want to know,” a senior KCL academic who had no part in delivering the course told me, “is were they [the course’s attendees] exposed to a range of views, or was it all completely one-sided?”

The lecturer who made the disobliging remarks about Shawcross, Murray and Rogan, and who Stanley chose not to name in her article, has since been outed by Murray as Peter Neumann, who is Professor of Security Studies at KCL and the former founding director of the International Centre for the Study of Radicalisation. Neumann, for his part, rejects Stanley’s portrayal of the course and the academics who taught on it. He told The Times that, far from being a woke ideologue, he was in fact a “centre-right liberal and, as such, am highly critical of ‘cancel culture’, whether from the Right or Left”. However, he did acknowledge that he had “criticised the Shawcross review for prioritising the threat from jihadism at times when security agencies said that Right-wing extremism was more dangerous”. What he neglected to say is whether he’d described Murray or Rogan as Right-wing.

For what it’s worth, I think Neumann is wrong about Shawcross and the severity of the jihadist threat, but as academics we’re allowed to disagree over these sorts of things. And quite what Neumann was doing in bringing up Douglas Murray and Joe Rogan in a counter-terrorism class isn’t clear. Perhaps he was discussing the opinion, common among progressives, that they have provided rhetorical cover for dangerous far-Right extremists. But whether or not Neumann actually believes this, he is nonetheless entitled to express it in his classes. What he isn’t entitled to do is foist off his views onto his students, and Stanley supplies no evidence to show that he had tried to do so.

Stanley is no doubt right to worry about the civil service being captured by progressive ideologues and the most damning observations in her article concern the robotic Left-wing platitudes of the participants she attended the course with. One, apparently, gave a biased talk on Prevent — accusing it of being racist — and had a brother who went to Syria to join Isis, both of which are hardly the fault of the course’s organisers. But it’s a bit of a stretch to think that KCL’s security department is a bastion of progressive radicalism or that Neumann, a centrist who himself has been subject to accusations of Islamophobia, is its dastardly avatar.

There are certainly far more deserving targets, such as the dismal apologia of a recent hire at KCL, a certain Doerthe Rosenow, who reposted an appalling tweet celebrating the October 7 attacks on the very day they took place. The tweet, posted by another academic called Kai Bosworth, showed a photo of Hamas militants breaching into Israeli territory with a bulldozer. It was captioned: “Seeing these border infrastructure come down just so fucking beautiful. this could become the dominant image of our future, if we make it so.”

Rosenow, who is a lecturer in international relations, was not on the staff delivering KCL’s counter-terrorism course, according to an anonymous source at KCL. But in her unreadable prose and radical politics — she aspires to “move understandings of (global) colonialism(s) beyond unitary and homogenous notions grounded in predominantly Anglo-American experiences” — she is indicative of a broader rot in UK academia. And had Stanley been minded to find further evidence of it she wouldn’t have needed to venture far.

She would, for instance, have found no shortage of low-hanging fruit to pulp from my own field of criminology, where abolitionist sentiment and liberal sentimentality towards terrorists, such as Usman Khan, is common and of a piece with the kind of ideological puritanism that came for Mitchell Silber in 2020. But instead she chose to identify a problem where there probably isn’t one. And unsurprisingly, it seems to have backfired, alienating potential allies while soothing sworn foes.


Simon Cottee is a senior lecturer in criminology at the University of Kent.


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David McKee
DM
David McKee
3 months ago

Having recently (graduated 2021) been a student in an academic institution about two miles from KCL, I think I am qualified to comment.

Good academics do _not_ peddle propaganda. They leave their personal politics at the lecture-room door. They will challenge lazy thinking in tutorials, by putting forward new and occasionally provocative arguments. They expect students to argue back.

If you want to be told what to think, go on a car mechanic’s course at your local college of FE.

Stuart Bennett
SB
Stuart Bennett
3 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

Pardon? Car mechanics have a more direct and meaningful use to society than ivory tower academics, my friend. They’re told what to think about fixing cars. Not what to think about, for example, which journalists they should be slandering. I also don’t recall any car mechanics from local FE colleges being involved in terrorist attacks whereas KCL and other supposed elite academic institutions have proven remarkable good at churning them out.

Jon Morrow
JM
Jon Morrow
3 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

Not even car mechanics within 2 miles of KCL?

Andrew Vanbarner
AV
Andrew Vanbarner
3 months ago
Reply to  Stuart Bennett

A further point might be that one’s ideology can’t help but influence one’s professional opinions.
The Rotherham abuse and trafficking affair was a clear example of this. Tommy Robinson aside, it’s fairly clear that local authorities avoided investigations of Asian men who were victimizing vulnerable women and girls, as those local authorities didn’t wish to appear xenophobic or racist.
Similarly, officials who are trained to place the sensitivities of ethnic or political groups over public safety can fail spectacularly at protecting the public.
Islamic terrorists do exist, and they’re dangerous to all. Sympathizers to their cause also exist, and communities that are hostile to their home governments do as well. Authorities taught to view terror cells or other violent operatives as harmless activists or as “freedom fighters” will be that much more reluctant to do their jobs.

Flibberti Gibbet
FG
Flibberti Gibbet
3 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

You mention “good academics” and I have no reason to doubt your experience.
Many of us are more concerned about the detrimental effect bad academics are having on our society. We have learned today about the heinous actions of 380 academics at the Open University.

Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago

The two cases cited by the author are not remotely similar. The first occurred to a professor teaching students. The more recent example involved govt workers from the Foreign Office taking a three-day course.

The govt is essentially paying a contractor to deliver services. Under no circumstances should it pay for garbage like this. You don’t have to like it, but it’s up to the govt to determine what constitutes a terrorist. Don’t hire contractors who have contradictory definitions.

It sucks when a govt is so disconnected that it starts designating legitimate political opponents as terrorists. I’m thinking Canadian truckers. It’s up to us as citizens to vote out these clowns or voice our opposition through protests.

Jeremy Bray
JB
Jeremy Bray
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

KCL provided a 3 day course on ‘Issues in Countering Terrorism’. “Organised by the Centre for Defence Studies, it was designed for civil servants and professionals in Counter Terrorism. Staff from the Foreign Office, Ministry of Justice, Ministry of Defence and Home Office attended.”

The problem here is large numbers of civil servants are taken away from practical tasks for which they are employed in order to listen to apparently unfocused and general discussions of only tangential relevance to what they are supposed to be doing. From the sound of these courses it seems unlikely the civil servants will come away better able to identify and deal with terrorists (ie those liable to kill and injure citizens in the alleged furtherance of some ideological cause) and do something about it if that is in fact their job.

We know that civil servants are either woke or know that advancing criticism of woke ideology will not advance their careers. Hence the blank stares when criticism was delivered in respect of woke truisms as mentioned by the original critical article.

The problem is not simply the woke nature of the lectures or the the conformist response of those attending but the fact that civil servants are constantly being taken away from dealing with the practical issues they are employed to deal with to listen to generalised mood music lectures. The evidence seems to be for example that DEI talks make no impact in practice. So those attending this 3 day course are unlikely to come away better able to identify a terrorist and ensure he or she is less likely to commit an atrocity. They are for the most part useless exercises in navel gazing and an excuse to slack off for a few days.

David McKee
DM
David McKee
3 months ago
Reply to  Jim Veenbaas

Wrong, Mr. Veenbaas. The two examples are not just similar, but identical. They involve the transmission of knowledge through the medium of teaching.

The academic’s stocks in trade are evidence-based knowledge (as opposed to opinions or prejudices), and rigorous thinking. They are there, as I pointed out earlier, to challenge lazy thinking. They are not there to tell people what to think.

Jeremy Bray
JB
Jeremy Bray
3 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

I think you have missed the distinction Veenbaas has drawn. There may be some value in an academic setting to putting forward concepts for the students to critique. But this was a three day course whose only conceivable justification was to ensure that the civil servants attending it would be better at identifying and dealing with terrorists – ie those intent on causing physical harm to British citizens apparently motivated by some ideological aim.

They should not have been there for philosophical discussion. They can challenge any lazy thoughts on philosophical questions in their own time should they so wish. There may be an argument for saying that someone who attacks the officials of an oppressive totalitarian state might be regarded as a freedom fighter but this is irrelevant in the context of threats to ordinary civilians in the UK. The lecturers were straying into areas they should have left alone as irrelevant.

Unfortunately there are far too many courses of an ideological rather than practical nature that waste the time of civil servants.

Alex Lekas
AL
Alex Lekas
3 months ago
Reply to  David McKee

They are not there to tell people what to think.
You keep telling yourself that.

Moshe Simon
MS
Moshe Simon
3 months ago

“….a journal that nobody had heard of (Fathom)…”
Simon Cottee would do himself a favour were he to expand his horizons and read Fathom. Other excellent such journals are Tablet, Quillette and EMET.

Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago
Reply to  Moshe Simon

Quiklette and Tablet are excellent. I’ll have to check out the others.

Simon Davies
SD
Simon Davies
3 months ago
Reply to  Moshe Simon

Pimlico journal and Compact are good as well.

Peter Principle
PP
Peter Principle
3 months ago

The KCL course taught that ‘One man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist’. As an empirical observation about people’s attitudes, the assertion is obviously true. Indeed, its inclusion in the course material betrays a patronising attitude to the attendees.
The views of a section of the public towards the perpetrator does not affect whether an action is classified as terrorist, though it might affect the cooperation that the security services receive.
Without knowing more about the context, it is hard to assess the ‘relativism’ of the assertion.

Jerry Mee-Crowbin
JM
Jerry Mee-Crowbin
3 months ago

I cannot agree with the statement that one man’s freedom fighter is another man’s terrorist. This is patently untrue when one considers muslim extremism in the UK, where we have suffered greatly from muslim terrorism when compared with any other form of terrorism in recent years.
We take pride, rightly, in my view, in our willingness to accept those who do not share our view of religion. We allow them, indulge them, even, to the point where they are able to build their own places of worship, and even tolerate some rather odd and un-British religious based laws, such as sharia. Nevertheless, there are some muslims who, in spite of this, feel a need to kill and destroy our society as they wish to enforce their religion on us. They already have the freedom to practice their religion. What freedom are they fighting for?

Paul Beardsell
Paul Beardsell
3 months ago

In a comment elsewhere here I remark that terrorism is not common and that Christians who commit violence are often called mad but if a Muslim does so the default is to label the perp a terrorist. Given 1 in 1000 of us is violently mad it does seem odd that there is such little public violence, don’t you think? It seems that 2000 of the 2million UK Muslims must be similarly insane, but anything that 2000 does is given the terrorist label. The Christian Glaswegian truck driver was mad. The Muslim Nice truck driver was religiously inspired. There’s very little evidence for either assertion save our prejudice.
If Islam innoculates so well against madness, perhaps the medical establishment misses a trick.
If what counts is the violence rather than (our idea of) the motivation would you be interested to learn that in aggregate there is in the UK within the same social strata less violence pro rata by nominal Muslims than there is by nominal Christians? I suggest this is because alcohol abuse is more rampant among Christians and extended families more prevalent among Muslims.
Sure, I acknowledge some occasional violence is religiously inspired, but given the one or two attacks a year, and the impossibility of detecting these in advance (we never do – if we did why could we never prevent bank robberies?) then what damages society is the panic about terrorism driven by the security state. And which is so warmly embraced by those who cultivate reasons to despise the Other.

Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul Beardsell

I agree with the general premise of this comment, but if the Christian or Muslim is creating violence on behalf of their religion, isn’t that the thing that makes it terrorism? I read somewhere that 15% of Muslims are radicalized jihadists.

Julian Farrows
Julian Farrows
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul Beardsell

I can’t find anything online about a Christian Glaswegian truck driver. What did he do?

Paul Beardsell
Paul Beardsell
2 months ago
Reply to  Julian Farrows

That makes my point! If he had been Muslim then you would remember him because it would have been terrorism. However, this incident did make the headlines. He “lost control” of his truck, there is speculation but no evidence of a medical episode, and drove into a row of pedestrians. But if his first name had been Ali or Mohammed then the speculation (and no evidence) would have been Islamic extremism. Just like the Nice truck driver. My point is this: BOTH the Christian and the Muslim truck driver were likely mentally unstable.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul Beardsell

Your feeling sorry for The Other refers to the times when The Other was weak and voiceless. Power relations have changed now.

Paul Beardsell
Paul Beardsell
2 months ago
Reply to  UnHerd Reader

I don’t feel sorry for the Other, or if I do that isn’t the point. I note the common phenomenon, of which you must be aware, of blaming the Other for one’s own problems.

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
3 months ago

Your statement is wrong if there is just one individual who is a freedom fighter to some and a terrorist to others. Here is one such exmple: Nelson Mandela. To many, he was a freedom fighter, yet he was a member of the ANC, which was condemned as a terrorist organisation by the governments of South Africa, the United States, and the United Kingdom. So that provides you with the example of one man’s freedom fighter being another man’s terrorist.
Terrorism is the use of violence on a civilian population to force some political change. In my opinion, terrorism is terrorism, whoever is behind it and however “noble” their stated goals might be.

Ron Kean
RK
Ron Kean
3 months ago

The theory of, ‘One man’s freedom fighter…’ always made me pause. Is it true? It may be when the goal is a peaceful moral outcome like a democracy or a republic, terrorist tactics are excused like the American guerrillas sniping at Hessian soldiers or the Ergun in the late 40s in Israel. Now it’s different. Terrorist tactics are used and the outcome is permanent terror like women fearing a beating, gays fearing the noose, people fearing arrest for speaking or others who fear simply praying to their God.

Peter Principle
Peter Principle
3 months ago
Reply to  Ron Kean

Hi Ron. The reason that I picked on that quote from tghe KCL course is that it is such a statement so weak, it is practically vacuous. For it to be true, you only need one example of an individual who is regarded by some as a freedom fighter and by others as a terrorist. The example I used in response to Jerry (above) is Nelson Mandela, a member of the ANC, what was proscribed as a terrorist organization by South Africa, the USA and the UK, yet Mandela was hailed as a freedom fighter.

Martin Bollis
MB
Martin Bollis
3 months ago

This was unconvincing. The author acknowledges that Neumann believes right wing terrorism to be a bigger threat than Islamic terrorism. Those kind of delusions are ideological not evidential. Anybody holding them is not from the centre right and shouldn’t be running courses like this.

Andrew Vanbarner
AV
Andrew Vanbarner
3 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Exactly right. There are almost no “right wing extremist” acts of violence beyond the rare, lone wolf types – deluded, deranged individuals who are often untreated schizophrenics.
Horribly destructive, military style, sophisticated attacks committed by ideological groups are far more deadly, and are a tangible, credible threat.
Clearly the latter of the two can and should be the focus of the government’s attention. The former are a public mental health matter, albeit a very neglected one.
To train civil servants to focus on the dangerously mentally ill, rather than on the extremely politically motivated and violent, is obviously foolish, no matter how one feels about Islam or Muslims.

Allison Barrows
AB
Allison Barrows
3 months ago

Here in the US, right wing terrorists are so rare that the FBI has to LARP them.

Jim Veenbaas
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago

To be fair, they have LARPED Muslim terrorism too.

Paul Beardsell
Paul Beardsell
3 months ago

I note that Christian perpetrators of mass murder are very often said to be scizophrenics or otherwise mad whereas Muslim mass murderers are never allowed the “mad” excuse. I remember the (Christian) German pilot of the airliner who deliberately flew his passengers into the Alps was said to be mad on very little evidence, and the (Muslim) truck driver who mowed down a row of pedestrians in Nice was considered a religiously inspired terrorist also on very flimsy evidence. The (Christian) Glasgow truck driver who did something similar was said to be mad. The (Muslim) factory worker who set fire to his factory was widely reported as a terrorist, whereas he had a grudge against his boss.
Given the innoculation to madness that comes with adherence to Islam it seems that the mental health establishment is missing a trick.

Martin Bollis
MB
Martin Bollis
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul Beardsell

Waiting for examples of mad right wingers that have brought down skyscrapers or blown up trains.

Paul Beardsell
Paul Beardsell
2 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

McVeigh

Ian Dale
ID
Ian Dale
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul Beardsell

Not to speak of “right wing Christian” organizations speaking up in favour of any kind of “mass murder” or declaring the perpetrators to be martyrs for the faith.

Paul Beardsell
Paul Beardsell
2 months ago
Reply to  Ian Dale

Straw man! My point is that every Christian mass murderer is said to be mad. And that any Muslim mass murderer is not allowed to be mad, they must be religiously inspired. I am not denying the existence of some Islamic extremist terrorism. I merely make the point we overcount it.

William Cooke
William Cooke
2 months ago
Reply to  Paul Beardsell

“The (Christian) Glasgow truck driver” do you mean the bin driver who had a heart attack?
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2014_Glasgow_bin_lorry_crash

Chipoko
Chipoko
3 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

Quite so!
The BBC routinely trots out the ‘Far-Right’ bogeyman threat to UK security and glosses over the real, deep-rooted threat: Islamic terrorism.

Paul Beardsell
Paul Beardsell
3 months ago
Reply to  Chipoko

Yes, the BBC is not without bias, but the idea that Islamic terrorism is a significant threat must be a nonsense too. The idea that the security services are all that stands between us and daily terrorism is false. If the police could never stop bank robberies (back in the age of cash) what makes you think they can or do stop terrorism? Bank robberies require a lot of planning and an escape plan. Terrorism requires neither, it’s two blokes and a big knife, or a car. Terrorism can not be detected up front, in advance, and prevented, anymore than bank robberies could be. We are not seeing terrorism incidents weekly, and we would, were they the danger you seem to would like them to be. There’s a reason the state talks up terrorism. What’s your reason?

Peter Drummond
PD
Peter Drummond
3 months ago
Reply to  Paul Beardsell
Samir Iker
Samir Iker
3 months ago
Reply to  Martin Bollis

The problem is when you start comparing “right wing” and Islam to begin with.

Right wingers, those horrible white people, are all for equal rights for all religions, don’t blow up my temples, don’t form gangs to prey upon other people’s daughters, don’t consider me to be a sub human Kaffir just become I am a non Christian Hindu, don’t form armed mobs in Leicester to attack Hindus….

Remind me again why I should care about the threat from those “right wing” threats?

Stephen Walsh
Stephen Walsh
3 months ago

The headline and subheading here are reminiscent of an article published by the Sun newspaper on 19 April 1989, and I suspect will age just as badly. A Spectator article from 4th October 2019 “What Michael Gove really said at the German embassy”, provides useful context on the respective reliability of Douglas Murray and Peter Neumann.

A D Kent
AK
A D Kent
3 months ago

 ­The KCL story was always fishy.

First there’s the fact that KCL, far from a hot bed of anti-Western wokery is in fact riddled with declared and less well known connections to the British Security State. It has all sorts of deals with the UK Government, MoD as well as the US DoD. These are quite clear in their Department of War Studies, but also the MoD heavily funds their Institute of Psychiatry. They’ve got lots of partnerships with the military-industrial-think-tank complex with the likes of the IISS, RUSI and Atlantic Council – none of whom have covered themselves in glory with their way-off-target prognostications about Russia over the last few years.

Their links with the British Intel cut-out Bellingcat are also interesting to anyone who has been following them (their propagandist in chief, Elliot Higgins was given a special post at KCL and at least half a dozen of their OSInt cut-and-pasters have done courses there.

Then there’s the Douglas Murray aspect. He may or may not be right-wing, but he’s definitely a neocon and certainly a monstrous ring-piece. His latest Holocaust revisionist ‘Hamas are worse than the Nazis’ schstick being just par for the course (no the Germans didn’t have to get drunk after they shot all those Jews Dougie – if they did so at all, they did so to celebrate).  

A D Kent
A D Kent
3 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

Getting the typical number of downvotes here when it comes to anything geopolitical. Thanks.

Just in case anyone is in any doubt about Murray’s batshit neoconservatism, read his 2006 book ‘Neoconservatism: Why We Need It’ – that was 3 years into the debacle in Iraq. Establishment lackey through and through. He’d fit in just fine at KCL.

Tyler Durden
TD
Tyler Durden
3 months ago

Largely a case of revenge from podcasters and polemicists whom the Web has given far too much cultural heft in recent years.

Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago
Reply to  Tyler Durden

What does this even mean?

Kathleen Burnett
Kathleen Burnett
3 months ago

The author’s attempt to portray Neumann as a neutral, misunderstood, harmless centrist, doesn’t accord with Douglas Murray’s depiction of him in the 04/10/19 Spectator article alluded to in this discussion (well worth the read).

A D Kent
AK
A D Kent
3 months ago

The author doesn’t portray Douglas Murray as anything other than famous (everyone has apparently heard of him). Murray though is an unrepentant neoconservative, a member of the Henry Jackson Society and part-time Holocaust revisionist (he has claimed more than once recently that the Nazis had to drink to get over the guilt of all those mass shootings). I’m old enough to remember when such claims were antisemitic

goloss
goloss
3 months ago
Reply to  A D Kent

and part-time Holocaust revisionist 

I must acknowledge that this is quite a creative interpretation of Murray’s remarks on Nazis grappling with guilt through drinking. Murray emphasizes the horrific nature of the Nazis and contends that Hamas terrorists managed to surpass even the atrocities committed by the Waffen-SS.

Alex Lekas
AL
Alex Lekas
3 months ago

The planet is off its axis when Joe Rogan – JOE ROGAN! – is called right wing. You cannot take people who say that sort of thing seriously. They can and should be mocked repeatedly. Joe was a Bernie guy. He’s an old fashioned liberal, the kind that is on the verge of extinction under the new Jacobin rule that has taken over the left.
As to this course, by what calculus does Professor Neumann see “right-wing extremism,” whatever that is, as more dangerous that Islamic jihad, which anyone can define? Are right-wingers run amok in the UK? I keep hearing about rampant white supremacy in the US but the demand for these people keeps outpacing the supply. The discussion has become so ludicrous that everything from punctuality to saying 2+2=4 is “evidence” of supremacy. We’ve gone mad.

Andrew Vanbarner
Andrew Vanbarner
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Which demonstrates the dangers of changing the meanings of words and concepts to suit political agendas.
“Diversity,” “inclusion,” “liberal,” and “democracy” come to mind, as terms that have been so thoroughly re-defined as to become, in modern parlance, oxymoronic.
“Right wing” is now defined as “anything or anyone who dissents.”

Samir Iker
SI
Samir Iker
3 months ago

No, that’s far right.
Right wing is someone who holds views that were considered left wing 20 years back.

Paul Devlin
PD
Paul Devlin
3 months ago
Reply to  Alex Lekas

Young men are being given 7, 8 even 11 year prison sentences in the UK for being far right and possessing digital copies of the Anarchists Cookbook which was freely available to buy for decades. No membership, no guns or explosives, just that file and far right views. It’s insane

John Tyler
JT
John Tyler
3 months ago

“whether or not Neumann actually believes this, he is nonetheless entitled to express it in his classes. What he isn’t entitled to do is foist off his views onto his students, and Stanley supplies no evidence to show that he had tried to do so.”
This is similar to the BBC’S claim that it is unbiased in the Israel/Gaza situation. It claims to put both sides, but holds each side to a different standard and uses different language to describe events and people. The result is a tone that indicates a particular world view, i.e. bias.
In KCL’s case. the offhand denigration of those seen as anti-woke and equally offhand acceptance of the language of critical theories and post-modernist realism is clearly biased, though not perhaps to the degree expressed by equally biased opponents! Did any of the participants dare ask how many “far-right” murder plots had been uncovered in the preceding year compared with comparable Islamist plots? Did anyone feel safe to ask how many of the “far-right” plots were concocted by people who also happened to be Islamist? Did anyone feel comfortable asking how many “far-left” plots have been investigated?
When the convenors of such courses – distinguished academics – are so certain of a particular world view it somewhat closes down any balanced discussion.

R Wright
RW
R Wright
3 months ago

The author is a useful idiot that is contributing to the destruction of this country.

Dougie Undersub
DU
Dougie Undersub
3 months ago

The author is being disingenuous. There’s a big difference between the approach appropriate to a degree course and that appropriate to a 3-day training course. The latter should be focused on enabling the participants to carry out their roles more effectively. In this case, has the course enabled them to be better at countering terrorism? It sounds like the answer is no.

Nick Croft
NC
Nick Croft
3 months ago

I’m posting this on behalf of Professor Alan Johnson, the Editor of Fathom, as he does not have an Unherd subscription.

“You write that no one has heard of Fathom journal. Well, these people have.
‘In 10 years Fathom has already published half a century’s worth of critically important essays and reviews’. Michael Walzer, Professor (Emeritus) of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, NJ; author of Just and Unjust Wars (1977), among other books; former co-editor of Dissent magazine for twenty years
ON FATHOM
Indispensable reading for anyone who wishes to understand Middle Eastern politics; well researched, balanced, deeply committed to Israel but equally ready to ask tough questions about its policies; a unique combination of values and realpolitik. Shlomo Avineri, Professor of Political Science at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem and member of the Israel Academy of Sciences and Humanities.
Fathom is a great publication that I thoroughly enjoy and always find useful. – Hussein Agha has been involved in Palestinian politics for almost half a century. He was an Academic Visitor at St. Antony’s College, Oxford and is co-author of A Framework for a Palestinian National Security Doctrine.
Fathom’s great: accessible and expert analysis on strategic, cultural and economic issues relating to Israel. Amidst a lot of a sloganeering, Fathom provides nuanced discussion. As such, it fills a real gap. Amnon Rubinstein, Israeli law scholar, politician, and columnist. A member of the Knesset between 1977 and 2002, he served in several ministerial positions.
The importance of the Israel/Palestine conflict for world peace is sometimes exaggerated, but for those of us focused on the conflict, for those of us who hope for peace here, even amidst the surrounding chaos, ‘two states for two peoples’ remains the necessary guiding idea. Fathom magazine is one of the key places where that idea is explained and defended; it deserves our strongest support. Michael Walzer, Professor Emeritus at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, and editorial board member of Dissent magazine.
Fathom has become a highly respected, leading publication of both in-depth analysis of fundamental developments and trends in the Middle East alongside serious studies of key events and trends that characterise the fast changing domestic Israeli scene. Fathom’s highest quality editorship and insistence on careful fact-checking is fast propelling the journal into becoming essential reading for every person involved in policy and politics in the region and on the international scene. It entertains orthodox views and approaches alongside highly conflicting and provocative analyses that are thought provoking and often allow extreme protagonists to state their cases.
The opportunities Fathom affords critics and adversaries of Israel to state their case lends a unique quality to this product of BICOM – they enjoy a fair chance to state their views and air their concerns and also benefit from the very best available products of Jewish and Israel Advocacy. That is why Fathom has become the platform where several hundreds of thousands of readers learn, debate and disagree, but never fail to read every word printed. Efraim Halevy was director of Mossad and head of the Israeli National Security Council.
For objective insights into Israeli politics, society and its relations with the wider world, few can match the scope and quality of BICOM’s work. Professor Clive Jones, Chair in Regional Security School of Government and International Affairs, University of Durham.
BICOM and Fathom facilitate meetings between the two sides, scrutinise what went right and what went wrong in the process of negotiations over the past two decades. Only by understanding the other and accepting the others existence can the Arab-Israeli conflict be solved. BICOM and Fathom are leading both of us closer along that route. BICOM and Fathom have leverage that many lack and serve as one of the major catalysts that can remove obstacles on the road to peace. Elias Zananiri is Vice-Chairman of the PLO Committee for Interaction with the Israeli Society. He is a former journalist and spokesperson for the PA’s Ministry of Interior and Internal Security.
BICOM and Fathom have played vital roles at a time when political and intellectual dishonesty seems to prevail in so much discussion about Israel and the Mideast. They have countered it with energy, integrity and balanced understanding. Mitchell Cohen, Professor of Political Science at Bernard Baruch College and the Graduate Center of the City University of New York and Editor Emeritus of Dissent.
As an Israeli concerned for Israel’s future as the nation state of the Jewish people and for a peaceful resolution of Israel’s conflict with the Palestinians people, I sincerely believe that Fathom’s Peace and Coexistence Research Project is a critical component of the ongoing struggle to maintain the political relevance of the Two-State solution. The sense in some circles that this solution might no longer be relevant is potentially extremely dangerous for both Israelis and Palestinians. Fathom is, therefore, worthy of every support. Asher Susser, Professor Emeritus of Middle Eastern History, Tel Aviv University, Israel.
Fathom is a beacon of light in difficult times. ‘Two states for two peoples’ remains a vital interest for the State of Israel and Fathom promotes a creative, yet practical discourse that contributes towards that goal.’ Prof. Jonathan Rynhold, Director, Argov Center for the Study of Israel and the Jewish People, Deputy Head, Dept. of Political Studies, Bar-Ilan University.
Many people have deeply held beliefs and passionate opinions about Israel and the Middle East. Very few people actually know about Israel and the Middle East. Fathom is an excellent source for those who wish to join the camp of those who actually know something about Israel, rather than just have an opinion about it. Einat Wilf, a member of the Knesset for the Labour Party and Independence from 2010-2013.
Fathom is a very impressive publication. I congratulate the editors for filling an extraordinarily important gap on the UK intellectual/political scene. Steven J. Zipperstein, Professor of Jewish Culture and History, Stanford University.
Fathom is fascinating! A genuinely interesting, well-designed and thought-provoking quarterly journal. We are delighted to include it in the INSS library collections.’ Moshe Grundman, Director of Publications at the Institute for National Strategic Studies, Tel Aviv, Israel.
For anyone interested in Israel and its neighbourhood, Fathom is certainly one of the very best sources – thoughtful, excellently informed and fully reliable. Alexander Yacobson, Associate Professor of Ancient History at the Department of History at the Hebrew University of Jerusalem.
People in the West, and particularly Britain, are largely ignorant about Israel and its relationship with its neighbours, and mainstream media comment is often superficial and simplistic. Fathom’s editors seek to provide realistic, in depth and comprehensive coverage, and to portray Israel in all its complexity without shunning the difficult questions. Mike Whine, author of many publications, including The Radical Right in Europe (2012).
As a British-Israeli it is a breath of fresh air to see such a diverse range of informative articles and opinions within one journal. If you want to understand the complexities around Israel and Israeli society this is invaluable. Elizabeth Harris-Sawczenko, Council of Christians and Jews.
ON MAPPING THE NEW ANTISEMITISM: THE FATHOM ESSAYS (Routledge 2023)
‘Antisemitism has often presented itself as a satisfactory explanation for what is wrong with the world, and repeatedly offered tragic recipes for how to improve that world. Do our moral and political ideals today reproduce past prejudice and projection? We cannot know without reflection, and it is difficult to imagine a better stimulus to reflection than the essays gathered in this informative, wide-ranging, and important volume’.
David Nirenberg, author of Anti-Judaism: The Western Tradition
‘This is an indispensable volume on an unignorable subject’.
Anthony Julius, author of Trials of the Diaspora: The History of Anti-Semitism in England
‘Written by many of this generation’s leading scholars, Mapping the New Left Antisemitism: The Fathom Essays is a valuable compilation of learned, deeply insightful analyses of contemporary anti-Jewish hostility prevalent in significant strains of western political thought. An eye-opening, much-needed collection, it offers critically important reflections on a phenomenon too often overlooked or denied: the pernicious links between “anti-Zionism” and antisemitism within the political left’.
Alvin Rosenfeld, Professor of English and Jewish Studies and Irving M. Glazer Chair, Jewish Studies Director, Center for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, Indiana University at Bloomington, USA
‘Fathom has played an invaluable role challenging some dangerous myths concerning Jews and Zionism that have corrupted parts of the left. This wide-ranging collection will compel anyone concerned with a future left to worry about intellectually and historically simplistic formulas’.
Mitchell Cohen, Professor of Political Science at Baruch College of the City University of New York and the CUNY Graduate Center. 1991-2009 co-editor of Dissent, one of the United States’ leading intellectual quarterlies, now an Editor Emeritus
‘Mapping the New Left Antisemitism is essential reading for anyone interested in one of the most destructive ideologies of the 21st century. It includes essays by some of the most pertinent scholars on antisemitism from the political left and makes the case for the urgency of combating antisemitism in its most modern forms’.
Gunther Jikeli, Erna B. Rosenfeld Professor in Jewish Studies and Associate Director at the Institute for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, Indiana University Bloomington, USA
‘This collection of essays on contemporary left antisemitism showcases the best qualities of Alan Johnson’s Fathom, which focuses relentlessly on the heart of the problem of how people relate to Israel. People who consider themselves to be well-informed and anti-racist are too often confused about the facts and prone to stumbling into antisemitic ways of thinking. Johnson is attentive to the temptation to use an invented notion of Jews or Zionism to make sense of a frightening world. He educates about the situation and provides a platform (through Fathom) for smart people writing from diverse viewpoints’.
Rosa Freedman, inaugural Professor of Law, Conflict and Global Development at the University of Reading, and a Research Fellow at The London Centre for the Study of Contemporary Antisemitism, UK”

Thomas Wagner
TW
Thomas Wagner
3 months ago

Thank you for linking Rosenow’s “unreadable prose”. From the abstract of the linked document:

At play is an unacknowledged ontological investment in ‘security’, structured by disciplinary commitments and policy discourse putatively critiqued.

What, if anything, does that mean?

Jim Veenbaas
JV
Jim Veenbaas
3 months ago
Reply to  Thomas Wagner

Wow!!! Completely unintelligible.

UnHerd Reader
UnHerd Reader
3 months ago

If the vast majority of terrorism was perpetrated by white men, there would be no such prevarication. Honestly, these people are lunatics. They are terrorist sympathisers so long as the terrorism is perpetrated against the correct targets – ie – us.

Victoria Cooper
Victoria Cooper
3 months ago

There’s naught so right wing as an Islamist.

William Brand
William Brand
3 months ago

Islam has a strategy for conversion that they have followed for 1300 years. Conqueror a nation and then reduce the citizens to resident aliens. Then offer citizenship to all who will convert. The first generation will be hypocrites and collaborators. The next pious Moslems. They are trying this in Africa and anywhere they can conquer. It’s a conquistador religion. Moslem immigrants in the west are required by religion to be a 5th collum in a war against their new country. It’s pure colonialism and this time we are to be the colonized. Woke does not seem to be aware of this when defaming colonialism.

Denis Stone
DS
Denis Stone
2 months ago

So what we are being told is that one of the 40 Civil Servants entrusted with looking after the UK’s interests openly “gave a biased talk on Prevent — accusing it of being racist — and had a brother who went to Syria to join Isis.” Am I not allowed to feel uncomfortable that the Civil Service has recruited such a person into a role that is there to support the UK government (whether right or left)?