A discussion today on cases of intrigue in our very own gulags of absentmindedness:

Two cases of note:

Row after university suspends lecturer who criticised way student was treated

Rod Thornton accused Nottingham University of trying to discredit student, who downloaded an al-Qaida training manual

Jeevan Vasagar, education editor
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday 4 May 2011 19.09 BST
Article history

A view of Nottingham University’s Jubilee campus. The suspension of lecturer Rod Thornton has led to a row about academic freedom. Photograph: Zander Olsen

A university has been plunged into a row over academic freedom after suspending a lecturer who criticised its treatment of a student who researched al-Qaida.

Rod Thornton, an expert in counter-insurgency at Nottingham University, was suspended on Wednesday after he accused the university of passing “erroneous evidence” to police and attempting to discredit a student who downloaded an al-Qaida training manual from a US government website.

A member of staff at the university also lobbied successfully for Thornton’s article to be taken down from an academic website, arguing that it contained defamatory allegations.

The masters student, Rizwaan Sabir, was arrested and detained for six days for downloading the al-Qaida material.

A university administrator was also arrested after Sabir asked him to print the document because the student could not afford the printing fees. Both were later released without charge.

In the paper, Thornton wrote: “Untruth piled on untruth until a point was reached where the Home Office itself farcically came to advertise the case as ‘a major Islamist plot’ … Many lessons can be learned from what happened at the University of Nottingham.

“This incident is an indication of the way in which, in the United Kingdom of today, young Muslim men can become so easily tarred with the brush of being ‘terrorists’.”

Thornton’s article was prepared for the British International Studies Association (Bisa), which promotes the study of international relations and held its annual conference in Manchester last week…. (continues)

AND:
(LETTER TO FRFI)

Honorary Fellow sacked for supporting Millbank occupiers

I am a founder member of the University of Kent Law School and Kent Law Clinic and principally responsible for its international reputation as a critical law school. I was appointed an Honorary  Fellow in January 2007 as part of a settlement for breach of contract.

I was interviewed by the media after the Millbank occupation by students opposed to the rise in fees and gave unconditional support to the actions of the students. My comments appeared on the University of Kent’s Centre for Journalism website and in consequence the university demanded the article be taken down. The Centre’s director, Tim Luckhurst, refused to do so.

The university then sought to terminate the Honorary Fellowship and ordered me to remove Kent Law School as the mailing address of the National Critical Lawyers Group (NCLG) (founded in 1987 with this address, see http://www.nclg.org.uk). I was ordered not to associate myself in any way with Kent Law School and to leave my office with one day’s notice. Kent Law School then suspended the NCLG mailing list of over 3,000 and ordered the removal of NCLG from university internet servers.

Before the suspension, over 60 members of NCLG emailed the Vice Chancellor and Kent Law School head of department protesting strongly at my sacking – the protests came from barristers, solicitors and professors, staff and students at other law schools.

No one in Kent Law School staff and students has dared to say anything about these events, fearing the consequences, although there have been private messages of support. The university is in fascist mode, as are many other universities at this time.

I have received limited support from my union UCU, consisting of one visit to the Vice Chancellor who refused to talk. The union has failed to take any other action. The student union has a no victimisation policy but has also failed to support me, even though I was the legal adviser to the magnificent Kent occupiers who kept their occupation going from 8 December to 5 January.

UCU legal committee is meeting on 4 February to consider whether to support me legally, but this is not the best option.

I am a supporter of the RCP – now the Spiked Group – but have received no support whatsover from my former comrades; one at Kent Law School has worked actively against me. The SWP know about these events but they have so far failed to give any support. Similarly Dave Nellist of the Socialist Party and the Coalition of Resistance, including Clare Solomon, have not supported me.

The university has cancelled our booking for the NCLG bi-annual conference in March at Kent University and we have found it impossible to get a booking in London. SOAS accepted our booking then cancelled under pressure from some of their law professors. I suspect the NCLG has been blacklisted.

I would like to thank FRFI for their comradely support.

In solidarity and onwards to a better world,

Ian Grigg-Spall

Canterbury

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Comments

  • lost  On 06/05/2011 at 11:55 am

    i am horrified by both these accounts and the lacmk of support from the “forces”of the left.even if our forces are weak,it does’nt take much to send a message and to do what we can.

    it seems to me that our ruling class now hold terror over our heads whilst slicing reality so thinly that they actively constructa climate not simply of mistruct but in which too many of us,me included into a climate in which their view of reality appears to be both the actual reality which is taken as natural and inevitable.none of that is the case,and we have to challenge it and break with it.

    it seems we are being asked to collude in a social relaity/social relaqtions which is like the realities this nation state condemns elsewhere like syria or the old soviet union.

    it creeps up on us an takes us unawares and if we are not careful,we end up acting that the sugar sweet voices of that state of affairs ourselves.my employer expects us to be ambassadors ofa the service outside our working hours,to present a positive image of it,not to criticise it and to be on our best behaviour as if we represent it at all times.i have not been victimised in the manner described in these postings,but i recognise the possibilty.i hope if it comes for me i will have to courage to condemn and/or not collude with it.

    unfortunately we live in times where beneeath the pretence,the hypocisy and lies,lines are drawn and we need to choose sides.that means standing up and showing solidarity and support for each other.

    to hell with their rotten system.all of it.we now need actively to work together to build something different.life and the social relations within the life we lead can be different.we need to do it now,not to either wait for some otherf day but to build it into the means as well as the ends ofa better society.we have world to win and a world to win.each of us can do what we can.

    lost 06/05/2011

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  • black sheep  On 06/05/2011 at 8:54 pm

    OK right from what I understand:

    You have a foreign student downloading info about a terrorist group. Fine. He is from a country known to send people here to train up. Not so fine. It is all this romantic thinking that led to 7/7.

    You have a professor offering support to people who threw fire cannisters off a roof and almost brutally murdering people. Now he’s been sacked. What a tragedy.

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    • john hutnyk  On 06/05/2011 at 10:03 pm

      Hi Black Sheep

      So, plenty of people downloaded that file – from an allegedly rather reputable US source, I think we find – reputable as far as Governments go I suppose, in this case, its the US Government itself that hosts the site with the said downloaded ‘terror’ materials. And as far as we have to comment on support for Millbank, I can vouch personally this was not provided by one Professor alone, just as there were not plural canisters. And to be precise, the Prof from Kent’s not been sacked so much as an honourary position has been terminated. No money changed hands. Nevertheless, Millbank deserved support, not denunciations from soon to be ex-NUS ‘leaders’ and persecution tariff punishments on the perpetrator of said canister incident – On Millbank in general, I am on record to say it was pretty inspiring to see a bit of life in the UK after all – more thrilling than the recent, ahem, referendum on Clegg, don’t you agree. Not ‘very’ thrilling though – this country needs quite a bit more than a cracked plastic window to transform the game.

      Let me assure you though that I am not trying to return to old done and dusted scores. Whatever the details, it behoves us to defend the right of people to be outspoken as we are not yet living in a totalitarian state, or so we are led to believe in this land blessed with pageantry and princely marriages, to say nothing of the glorious triumphs of our armed forces over the infidels.

      Or in other words, what the fuck are you on? – ‘romantic thinking led to 7/7′. That’s plain offensive. And on the day of the inquest report and all.

      Thanks for stopping by.

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  • black sheep  On 06/05/2011 at 10:52 pm

    I voted Conservative.

    I am just saying that, like the US gov. who have specifically warned the UK about terror threats, esp. re. UCL, that maybe the police know additional stuff. Those Muslims were radicalised here.

    The protesters achieved nothing except almost killing people.

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    • john hutnyk  On 07/05/2011 at 12:59 am

      it was a referendum, you were supposed to vote yes or no.

      Ahh, I get it, you mean in the general election last year. OK, so we know who to blame – I mean, besides blaming the labour wretches, and the libdem opportunists, but yep, no excuse at all for voting for rampant tory mania. We’ll have to blame you for that lamb chop.

      The police of course know all this ‘stuff’. Lucky they keep our files in order huh. Oh, and they kill. ‘unlawfully’ (as if there were a lawful way in this country).

      As to what the protesters achieved – there is plenty we could suggest, but ultimately it is far too early to tell. We could hope that with a little more work it becomes the social and political movement this place sorely needs, sweeping away the grotesque inequalities of privilege based upon property, white entitlement and toff schooling, secured by crazed weapons systems and arms trade, financed by mineral wealth extraction and colonial theft (ongoing colonial theft aka Riotinto) and … well, I could go on, but I expect I lost you at Hi Black Sheep. Thanks for stopping by. again.

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  • lost  On 07/05/2011 at 1:53 am

    i am proud to still be at 57 years old a revolutionary libertarian socialist.in the distant past i remeber times when friends,colleagues,comtades were arrested under various sort of legislation usually either in making a stand against fascism or in carrying out their ordinary lawa abiding work or simply walking down the street to “our “house,were arrested under 1976 prevention of terrorism act.on some occassions they were shown pictures of me and others and invited to identify andsometimes in some way “denounce”us.those were times when members of the left often regarded the belief that their telephones were tapped as a mark of honour.

    i am not stupid nor naive.i have indeed sometimes met or engaged with dangerous people.for some years that has been my job in the criminal justice system,although i do not wish to mislead anyone,i have not knowingly met “terrorists”or associates in that role.i have met in passing people who claimed to be in the ira.i also met seperately 2 members of the angry brigade,years after the events and was briefly peripherally involvced in the entirely law abiding publishing programme of one of the,i did
    not suppport terrorism or terrorists either then or now.it is immoral,obscene,counterproductive and as i believe leon trotsky indicated the politics of despair.it is not possible to bomb people into respect for a particular view,to convert them nor to bring “the war home”(any war)=home to the dead.

    beguiling though our rotten capitalist society is,neither do i know or believe that the state itself is always right.indeed the hearings on the 7/7 bombings in britain,completed today criticises beirish security services on a number of serious points.

    there are absurdities in the history of terror,surveillance,counter-insurgency at a whole range of levels.i would argue that the way state security handled Waco rendered it a self fulfilling prophecy.there is ajoke that to have a beard,and live near a mosque defines a terrorist.

    i was not aware that reading material,writing about that material or even writing in praise of it makes that person into anything,inclduing a terrorist.and i think i would be supported in this by matthew paris,a journalist and ex tory mp,who joined if not starte the camapign to have a young female muslim relaesed from prison,found guilty of writing poetry in praise of suicide bombers.i am not aware that writing peorty about anything,even if it was bad poetry is illegal yet.

    but then i understand that in the usa,if i borrowed a book on marx from the library,for say an essay on how labour creates value in commoditiesd i might be arrested and jailed as either a communist or a terrorist.but then i hear that librarians went on strike to break/end that section of the patriot act.

    last friday the day of that wedding british ppolice made pre-emptive strikes on houses to stop people even thinking about demonstrating or protesting.this tactic is being increasingly used.

    i for one will be among those who stand up to defend those people anmd that democratic right.more stupidity and actions by armed men of the state add to the conditions that might eventually lead to terror.yesterday a newspaper seller was found to have been unlawfully killedx.the evidenec shows a thug dragging a demonnstrator and ramming another against a vehicel door befor knocking a bbc camera man to the floor.he then went on to baton the victim in the legs from behind and push him to the floor.the victim got up before collapsing a fedw yards away where the female m,edical student who went to his aid was warned away and threatened.the victim died.the man doing the attacking is a thug-in police uniform.one of the body of armed men who exist to beat the hell out of us if we disagree enough/

    we need to be vigilant.if we have to have these security services they need to excercise care and vigilance too,but then the joke is that police intelligence is a non sequitur.

    terrorism is wrong whether it comes from wrong headed fanatics or from the state.we need to defend our right to our critical faculties and freedom to excercise thos faculties.how can we come to any assessment in any of thagt agenda when the intelligence is both possibly innaccurate and certainly secret.

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