Friday, 4 January 2013

Queen Mary: where signing a terrorist propaganda statement on a terrorist supporting blog counts as a media appearance

Queen Mary University of London has a reputation as being a place that is intimidating for Jewish students and staff because of its long history of Islamic fundamentalism on campus and numerous invitations by the Muslim students association of openly anti-Semitic hate speakers (see here and here for just some of the recent stuff).

Now it appears (see below) that QM also sees itself as being in the business of pumping out anti-Israel  propaganda disguised bizarrely as "Queen Mary media appearances" on its public website. The fact that it is neither a media appearance nor news does not bother the Principal Simon Gaskel. Nor does the fact that publicising this kind of nonsense in QM News has exactly the opposite impact of what was intended (it brings disgrace and ridicule on the College).

In November 2012 when the Palestinian terrorist group Hamas who run Gaza started a conflict with Israel by firing hundreds of rockets against civilian targets Queen Mary University of London  published an article on its website section "Queen Mary Media Appearances" titled:

"Linguists including Noam Chomsky condemn Gaza coverage"

The link takes you to the following QM news page

http://www.qmul.ac.uk/media/qmnews/items/86810.html

that says
"Linguists including Noam Chomsky condemn “reprehensible” Gaza coverage.
Global Peace and Justice Auckland blog
Professor Borer has joined an international group of academics, including Noam Chomsky, to condemn the failure of major media outlets to report on recent killings of Palestinian civilians by Israeli forces in Gaza."
(Note that the Queen Mary person 'in the media' is not the well-known anti-American and anti-Israel academic fraud Noam Chomski in the misleading heading of the article but the unknown Prof Borer.)

This page in turn links to the "news item" in question
http://gpjanz.wordpress.com/2012/11/16/linguists-including-noam-chomsky-condemn-reprehensible-gaza-coverage/

This is clearly NOT a news item at all. The Global Peace and Justice Auckland blog is an anti-Israel forum. The (only) 'news outlet' which posted the actual statement that was signed by a Queen Mary Professor was the notorious anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist website "The Electronic Intifada".  Indeed, the blog article begins with the statement "The Electronic Intifada received today the following statement from international academics who recently participated in a conference on linguistics at the Islamic University of Gaza..."  Presumably even Prof Borer would have realised it was not a good idea to be bragging about an appearance on a blatantly anti-Semitic website. 

The signed statement is so full of blatant lies (for example "News items overwhelmingly focus on the rockets that have been fired from Gaza, none of which have caused human casualties") that no serious media outlet would have associated themselves with it. The whole QM spin on the story about “reprehensible” Gaza coverage by the media is the ultimate inversion of reality. What was truly reprehensible about the media coverage were the numerous cases of genuinely false reporting. This includes the several cases of pictures of 'dead Gaza Palestinian children' that were actually proven to be photos from Syria, the case of the dead Palestinian baby who was actually killed by a Hamas rocket, and the complete failure of the media to report on the 1000 rockets launched from Gaza against Israeli civilians in the 2 weeks BEFORE Israel finally responded by killing the Hamas military commander (who had been conducting the rocket attacks) in a precision-targeted strike.

When a member of staff complained about the article (details below) the College refused to dissociate itself with the article, and also refused any direct right of reply to it. When the Principal eventually responded (after more than 3 weeks) he implied that  it was an honour "being referenced alongside high-profile academics such as Noam Chomsky". This claim might be valid if the reference was related to the academic's research or teaching. But that is certainly not the case here.  Noam Chomsky is 'high-profile' not for his academic work in linguistics but for his extreme political activism including support for Islamic terrorist groups. He is also known for his great dishonesty, fanaticism and genocide denial. (see for example, here and here).

Indeed, it is no coincidence that Chomsky chose the Islamic University of Gaza for his 'linguistics' conference. This institution is wholly under the control of the terrorist organisation Hamas, having been co-founded by the original Hamas leader Sheikh Ahmed Yassin in 1978 and with its current leader Haniye on its board of trustees. Even the Palestinian Authority designated it as a terrorist organisation in January 2007 when its security forces seized assault rifles and rocket-propelled grenades during a raid. IUG is also known to be a favourite recipient of donations collected by organisations comprising the Union of Good, a worldwide collection of charities collecting money for Hamas and headed by global Muslim Brotherhood leader and Jew-baiter Youssef Qaradawi. The IUG is also well known for its promotion of vicious antisemitism (see, for example here, here, and here). 

As the member of staff pointed out to the Principal, perhaps it would be more appropriate to look into why a Queen Mary Professor was allowed to attend such a 'conference' (presumably funded through QM and tax payer money) during term time, rather than promoting their ignorant and biased views as some kind of honour.


The member of staff at Queen Mary contacted the PR department on 21 Nov 2012 to complain, raising some of the above points and concluding:
As this piece of terrorist supporting anti-Israel propaganda does not actually constitute a "Queen Mary media appearance"it should never have been included irrespective of the underlying propaganda.

So what should happen now? As the e-bulletin was sent to all members of staff and the article appears on the public website, you should issue a statement apologising for that item ever having been included, and a strong statement disassociating QM with the views that were contained therein. Also, since readers were linked to the outrageous Electronic Intifada statement, there should be a link to a site which has done a proper analysis of media reporting of the conflict (including exposing the lies) such as this one:

http://honestreporting.com/

Only after several follow-up emails and telephone calls did the member of staff get the following response from the Acting Head of Public Relations (name reomved to preserve confidentiality):

As the College's PR Team we are here to impartially report where and when our academics have appeared in the news.
Perhaps if you have an issue with the content or tone of the article that should be taken up with the academic in question.
Many thanks

Dissatisfied with this response the member of staff wrote the following to the Principal Simon Gaskel concluding with:

Whether or not I choose to take this up with the academic in question is of no concern to XXXXX (and I have told her this). What is a concern to Queen Mary is that a decision was made by someone in PR to publish this article under "Queen Mary media appearances". It was neither a media appearance nor news but it was extremely offensive to people like myself. 

I made it clear what the response should be in my original email message and I expect that to happen.

Yours
After numerous follow-ups the Principal finally replied on 17 December 2012

In addressing your concerns, the first point that I note is your observation about the validity of the item that was highlighted in the ‘QM in the News’ email. Blogs and ‘citizen journalism’ are an accepted and growing element of today’s media and this is an arena where QM academics will increasing seek to express their findings, observations and views. It seems entirely appropriate to me that we should be active in these media channels and that the Communications Team should highlight these appearances. For the sake of clarity, a note has been added to the ‘QM in the News’ emails, which states that these bulletins cover ‘blogs and other forms of citizenship journalism in the public domain’.

Secondly, I would like to turn to the specific item that you have referenced in your email. The Communications Team linked to this item as it featured a QM professor being referenced alongside high-profile academics such as Noam Chomsky. In making this link, they were acting impartially and in line with our policy of freedom of speech and expression, which allows members of our university community to hear and express diverse views, as long there is no evidence of illegality (related to the written or spoken word) associated with those making these statements. As such, the inclusion of the item in ‘QM in the News’ was not inappropriate and I will not be asking for any direct action to be taken in relation to the article in question.

I acknowledge that you found the highlighted statement distasteful, but our commitment to freedom of expression is often most tested in circumstances such as these. At QM will we continue to operate a policy where we promote freedom of expression within the law, trusting in our staff and students to discern when to engage with and challenge opinions that are expressed in a legal manner. The Communications Team will periodically review its policy in relation to blogs and citizen journalism to ensure that our principles are applied consistently in what is a rapidly changing environment.

Regards
The member of staff's  reply detailed the Chomsky and Islamic University of Gaza issue and also included:

If I have understood you correctly this seems to be saying that the item was NOT a valid news item according to the definition used AT THE TIME of its publication. When you say "For the sake of clarity, a note has been added..." that sounds to me as if you have decided to retrospectively redefine what constitutes a valid news item.
 ....
It seems to me that Queen Mary has made a decision that the feelings of Jewish staff and students are the ones that are most easily ignored. I made clear in my emails to you that there was a much broader context of  antisemitism and Islamic fundamentalism at QM that has been going on for a long time without any intervention. You have not addressed this in your response.
...  presumably you fully agree with the right of reply to the offending article. I already twice suggested such a response in my messages to you.
 Here is the full and final response from the Principal:

Thanks for your email. To clarify, the policy on blogs being an accepted definition of a news item was in place prior to publication of 'QM in the News' on the date in question. A statement has now been added to the emails making this policy position explicit.

We will continue to apply our policy of freedom of expression within the law (and with regard for public safety when assessing events) to all activities at QM in a consistent and impartial manner. I did not see your suggestion of a right to reply in your earlier email but of course you have the option to do this through whichever media channel you see fit.

Note that, contrary to what Gaskel writes,  'freedom of expression' was never an issue for the member of staff complaining. Nobody was saying that Prof Borer should not be allowed to 'publish' their political views (although it is interesting that universities do not insist that such views should be published on personal web pages and blogs rather than using the university web pages and resources - a similar issue is raised here).

But note that Gaskel does qualify what type of (legal) freedom of expression he will apply. There is a very good reason why he says "and with regard for public safety when assessing events". While Queen mary has been happy to allow anti-Semitic, terrorist supporting Islamic speakers to spew their hatred on campus they have a history of NOT allowing freedom of expression to anybody expressing views that the Islamic extremists do not like. For example they cancelled a meeting of the Queen Mary Atheism, Secularism and Humanism Society on ‘Sharia Law and Human Rights’ after threats of violence from Islamic extremists. This is also the reason why, for example, the Jewish Society at Queen Mary has long since given up inviting any speaker who shows any kind of sympathy to Israel. So Gaskel's cherished freedom of speech at Queen Mary turns out to be highly selective.
Also QM's policy seems to suggest that it would be happy to publice as a news item anything that any member of staff wishes to say on a blog - no matter how obscure. So if a Queen Mary member of staff publishes a blog statement demanding, for example, that the Queen be forced to appear naked on Channel 4 - or maybe even demanding the resignation of the Principal - then they would rightly argue discrimination if their statement was not publicised in Queen Mary News.

Monday, 20 August 2012

Prof Mackay (Government Chief Scientific Adviser, Dept Energy and Climate Change): extreme political activist who is not qualified for the job

Professor David Mackay is the Government’s Chief Scientific Adviser on Energy and Climate Change - a position that is for four days per week (according to his Cambridge University website) and he is also in charge of a new team of scientists and engineers looking at setting the UK's future energy policy. Mackay has just been given a budget of £40 million for new R&D into ways that the UK can meet its Kyoto obligations. I have always found it curious that Mackay should be advising on Energy and Climate change because not only is he unqualified to do so (he is a Professor of Natural Philosophy whose research expertise is in machine learning and statistical inference) but because his amateur views on the subject (which are spelt out in his book ‘Sustainable Energy - Without the Hot Air’) are, like his politics, extreme; he seems to believe in an imminent apocalypse that can only be avoided if everybody in the Western world stops driving cars and using energy.

Prof Mackay is also an extreme political activist, whose views include equating the actions of British and American soldiers with Al Qaeda and Taliban terrorists, and also encouraging people to stop paying taxes as an 'anti-war' protest. Until September 2009 all of these views were hosted on his Cambridge University home web page where he attempted to force his political views on his students. His website also contained deeply offensive cartoons ridiculing Jesus and Christianity. A friend of mine made an official complaint to Cambridge University about this in 2007 (correspondence below) when, as you can see, the University refused to even ask him to separate out the political material from his teaching and research material. The offensive material was, however, taken down in 16 September 2009 when Mackay posted a statement saying “Civil servants aren't permitted to be politically active, so I have removed my political links from this website”. This coincided with his appointment by Ed Milliband (who was then the Government Minister for Energy and Climate Change) as his adviser. When I discovered in 2009 that Mackay had been appointed to this post I wrote a letter of complaint to Ed Milliband (but never received a reply). My complaint contained a copy of the 2007 Cambridge correspondence.

While I can understand why global warming fanatics could be seduced into giving Mackay a position of authority in government, I was surprised that a government under Conservative leadership could have continued and even expanded his role. It is possible David Cameron is unaware of his radical political views (imagine how voters would feel if they knew that millions of pounds of tax payers' money was being given to this man who has already forced his poisonous views on his Cambridge students). This is a man who has advocated not paying taxes to protest ‘against war’. For consistency it should therefore be acceptable, in his view, not to pay taxes to protest against other government policies – such as the Government’s energy and climate change policies which many people feel are fundamentally flawed and will lead to disaster. Those are the very policies being imposed by Mackay and his colleagues.


Screenshot of David Mackay's home page in 2007 (click to enlarge)


Cambridge University Correspondence in Chronological Oder

****************************************************************
To: v-c.office.online@admin.cam.ac.uk
Sent: Friday, 1 June 2007, 16:41
Subject: Offensive content on website of one of your members of staff

Dear Professor Richard

I was disappointed and somewhat alarmed at some of the material on the home page of one of your Professors. Specifically, the home page in question is:

http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/mackay/

The home page, which clearly contains a lot of important and useful information for the Professor's students, is unfortunately interspersed with political messages and slogans that have nothing whatsover to do with the Professor's work at the University. Moreover, the home page contains links to other pages on the site which are extremely offensive, such as:

http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/mackay/Political.html

These include deeply offensive cartoons ridiculing Jesus and Christianity.

There are two new prominent links on the right hand side:

(together with a cartoon link)

and


The first of these links is to a campaign encouraging people to withhold paying their income tax in protest against 'the war'.

The second is a piece which appears to have been written by Prof Mackay himself; it makes an explicit 'moral equivalence' argument that American and British soldiers are no different from Al Qaeda terrorists and the Taliban.

The reason I came across this site is that my daughter is considering applying to Cambridge for one of the sciences. Prof Mackay is of course perfectly entitled to hold these personal views, no matter how repugnant many of us find them. However, he is not entitled to force these views on impressionable students trying to find course notes and other information relevant to his and his department's teaching and research.

I think it would be in the University's best interests if the political material was removed and I look forward to hearing from you that it has been.

Yours sincerely


Mrs XXXXX

*****************************************************************************


From: I.J. Lewis <ijl20@cam.ac.uk>
To: XXXXX Sent: Friday, 8 June 2007, 17:24
Subject: Re: Further offensive material on same site

Dear Mrs.
XXXXX ,

I am sorry you were disturbed by some of the web content posted by a member of staff here at the University of Cambridge. We have policies in place to prevent misuse, enforced via the University Computing Service under authority formalised in the University Ordinances. With a large body of people here at the University, particularly including the undergraduates, we do routinely take action where that is necessary.

My staff have made a careful review of the content causing you concern, and it will, I'm sure, surprise you to learn that the content does not fall foul of our policies. The author is expressing a personal political opinion and in this case has separated that content onto the 'non-work' half of his homepage. These personal pages are hosted on University servers, but our policies expressly allow this.

Our policies are designed to protect other users as well as the reputation of the University, but also to protect freedom of expression and intellectual endeavour. This is generally straightforward as the vast bulk of material produced by members of the University is relentlessly academic to the highest standard and the misuse of the network, typically by undergraduates with an entrepreneurial flair, is easy to determine. We are cautious about overstepping our authority regarding personal homepages of staff or student and will not take action in this case.

I hope I have given you some insight into the environment here at Cambridge, and assure you it retains a vibrant atmosphere of academic excellence which remains undeflected by the considerable freedom personal expression you have witnessed.

I hope that your offence at a web page from over 100,000 hosted here at Cambridge doesn't give you the wrong impression of the place, and that your daughter has a successful academic career here if that is her choice.

If I can help further feel free to call my at my office on 01223 334 702.

Regards,
Ian Lewis,
Director, University Computing Service.
University of Cambridge

**********************************************************



From: XXXXX
To: I.J. Lewis <ijl20@cam.ac.uk>
Sent: Monday, 11 June 2007, 11:32
Subject: Re: Further offensive material on same site

Dear Mr Lewis

Thank you for your response.
But I have to point out a fundamental error in it. You say that that "the author is expressing a personal political opinion and in this case has separated that content onto the 'non-work' half of his
homepage." That is not correct. There is no division of this home page into 'work' and 'non-work'. For example, links to the author's Information Theory notes and the notes about examinations are nested between blatantly political statements and links. Students trying to find such important information  have no option but to be exposed to the authors' political views. There is NO OTHER page through which students could find the course notes. Hence, as I stated in my previous email, the author is forcing these views on impressionable students trying to find course notes and other information relevant to his and his department's teaching and research.

I suspect that the policy you are referring to allows a member of staff to have a link on their home page to their 'personal pages'.  I do not believe it allows  for the home page itself to be the personal political bulletin board as in this case.

There is a very simple solution. The author must be advised to genuinely separate out all the 'non-work' links and material. The home page with the url
http://www.inference.phy.cam.ac.uk/mackay/
should contain only work-related material and there should be a single link to a different 'personal' page. That is surely the intention of the University's policy.

Yours

Mrs XXXXX

******************************************************************



From: I.J. Lewis <ijl20@cam.ac.uk>
To: XXXXX
Sent: Monday, 11 June 2007, 13:07
Subject: David Mackay homepage

Dear Mrs. XXXXX ,

thank you for your reply. Having reviewed David's homepage we have determined not to take action to force a change or its removal.

I would like clarify a couple of possible misunderstandings. David's separation of information on his homepage into 'work' and 'non-work' is on his own initiative, not a requirement of a policy here. And for what it's worth, his column headings are "What's new at work" and "What's new (non-work)" which suggests a division of some kind which you appear to have missed. Forgive me if I have misunderstood your comments in this regard.

Regards,
(Dr.) Ian Lewis

***********************************************************************


From: XXXXX
To: I.J. Lewis <ijl20@cam.ac.uk>
Sent: Monday, 11 June 2007, 17:57
Subject: Re: David Mackay homepage

Dear Dr Lewis
I find your decision extremely disappointing. My proposed solution  (i.e. just move the 'non-work' material to a different web page, with a link to it) is so simple that surely the Professor would have no objections to doing it. Have you asked him? If he really did say no then at least we know where we all stand (i.e. that he is deliberately setting out to force his political views on naive and impressionable young people). Given his prominent and deeply offensive article claiming moral equivalence of British soldiers and Al Qaeda terrorists I am sure that would be a matter of interest to certain national newspapers.
I also dispute your claim about the obvious division of material. For a start there is a political banner about nuclear weapons that runs across the top of the page and secondly students trying to find course information on the page would have much more difficulty finding it than, say, finding the above mentioned offensive article.

Yours

Mrs XXXXX 

*******************************************************************
 
There was no reply to the last email letter.

We have a snapshot of the home page as it was in 2007 and a snapshot of two of the offending articles linked from the home page (linked above). By the time of Mackay’s appointment in September 2009 these articles and the other offensive links were removed - but only because Mackay was forced to do so due to his appointment as a Civil Servent.


Sunday, 19 August 2012

From Prof David Mackay's web page: How to avoid paying for war

This page was on Prof Mackay's website  in 2007 - prominently linked from his home page.


The full text is as follows:

Declare your conscientious objection to paying taxes for war with the new 2005 Peace Tax Return

It is not an official Inland Revenue form but we believe it should be one page of the official Inland Revenue Tax Return - we've even designed it for them! If you object you should make a declaration every financial year by completeing a Peace Tax Return. Print it out, fill it in and post it today.

Download a 2005 Peace Tax Return (290k)
Also available in Welsh.

This form is for anyone with a moral or religious objection to military spending, on grounds of conscience, who wishes to declare their objection to the UK Government. It is suitable for employed and unemployed people, students, pensioners, in fact everyone who objects to paying for war.

Everyone pays tax - VAT, fuel/alcohol/tobacco/vehicle tax as well as income tax etc.- so anyone can complete a Peace Tax Return who objects to paying for the military on grounds of conscience. If you object, download a PTR now and tell the Government how you feel.

A PTR is a one-page form which we believe should be just one page of the official Inland Revenue Tax Return. Many people in the UK already complete an official Tax Return from Inland Revenue - usually the self-employed and people who have some taxable earnings not already taxed at source via PAYE.

Conscientious objectors to war should be able to legally declare their objection to paying tax for military purposes in their Tax Return. Their tax code should then be altered to reflect this and they would be secure in the knowledge that Inland Revenue will divert the percentage of tax that they usually pay to the military to a Non-Military Security Fund instead.

conscience believes that this system is not too taxing for Inland Revenue to manage and nedd not be expensive to administer.

How to fill in your Peace Tax Return

Download the PTR. The form is in two parts - Part A and Part B. You should complete EITHER Part A OR Part B.

Instructions for Part A

Part A is for those people who are taxed at source (i.e. those people who do not complete a Tax Return from Inland Revenue). If you pay income tax under the PAYE system, or pay no income tax at all because you are unemployed, you should complete this part.

Part A is also for those people whose income tax is self-assessed (i.e. those people who do complete a Tax Return from Inland Revenue) but do not wish to try to withhold or divert the part of their taxes that contribute to military spending.

After signing and dating the declaration in Part A you should post the form to:

Paymaster General, HM Treasury, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ.

Instructions for Part B

Part B is for those people whose tax is self-assessed (i.e. those people who complete a Tax Return from Inland Revenue) and whose conscience directs them to withhold or divert the part of their taxes that contribute to military spending.

Please note that withholding or diverting taxes due is likely to incur financial costs and may result in legal action being taken against you.

To make the Peace Tax Return a formal part of your official Inland Revenue Tax Return you should make reference to your declaration of conscientious objection in the 'Additional information' box on Page 9 of your Inland Revenue Tax Return by inserting the words "Please see attached declaration of conscientious objection to military taxes" or similar.

After signing and dating the declaration in Part B you should post the form to your tax office with your Inland Revenue Tax Return.

Download a 2005 Peace Tax Return (290k) - print it out, fill it in and post it today. Also available in Welsh.


What is an Illegal Combatant? (Article that appeared on David Mackay's homepage 2007)

What is an Illegal Combatant?

George This is George. George is employed as a soldier by the government of a country, to do what they tell him.
Ben This is Ben. Ben is employed as a soldier by the government of another country, to do what they tell him.
One day, George's employers tell him to go into the other country and point his gun at Ben, and overthrow the government there. In response, Ben is instructed to point his gun at George. This makes Ben an illegal combatant.
George
Ben

I'm sorry, I don't understand

Isn't it clear? Ben is pointing his gun at George. This is illegal, because George is an American and is therefore Good. It is illegal to point a gun at a Good person.

They are both pointing their guns at each other, so what's the difference?

Isn't it clear? George is Good; Ben is Bad!

Hang on, how do we know that Ben is Bad?

We can tell that Ben is Bad because he is pointing his gun at George, who is Good. Only Bad people would do such a thing.

Aren't they both just doing their job?

Look, George's actions are legal because he was told to do them by the American government. Ben is an illegal combatant because the government he is working for is illegitimate.

How did you figure that?

Because Ben's employers, the Taliban, are Bad. They came to power by accident when the Mujahadeen (who were freedom fighters, and therefore Good) used their American training and military resources to take over Afghanistan. This wasn't part of The Plan, so it was the start of something Bad. Look, these legal details are a bit complicated, but all you need to know is what many people, I believe, increasingly feel is common sense: the Mujahadeen may once have been Good, but the Taliban (even though many of them are Mujahadeen) are Bad. The change of name makes it easy to keep track of this change in history.

So what happens to Ben?

Like all illegal combatants and Bad men, he gets what's coming to him (and seeing this, all Good Americans should shout "woo, woo, woo, USA, USA, USA" and cheer because, lo, they have won again). Anyone who expresses concern for Ben is at risk of being branded Bad, insensitive to the victims of terrorism, or Liberal.

When I went to school in America, our daily Pledge of Allegiance said ...with Liberty and Justice for All. Why is Ben not receiving normal standards of Justice?

You are quoting out of context. The idea being expressed is `Liberty and Justice for all Americans'. We can't impose our ideals on other people. Obviously, we couldn't have Liberty and Justice for all, because that would severely restrict the ability of the US government to do what it wants. For example, when we need to arrest a drug dealer in Panama (a Good thing), if we had to care about all, not just the Americans, then it would be Bad to slaughter hundreds of Panamanian civilians during the arrest operation.

Doesn't this dual standard explain the hostility that some people feel towards America?

Officer, arrest this person, he is obstructing the sidewalk, inciting civil disobedience, giving succour to terrorists, and supporting the overthrow of the government of the United States.

"The only thing I know for certain is that these are bad people," G.W.Bush, Friday July 18 2003. . . ... two years later ... 5 Guantanamo Bay detainees released without charge

Overheard by David MacKay
Last modified: Thu Mar 11 18:08:14 2004