[URBANTH-L] NEWS: Anthropology Under Attack: Univ of East London Punishes Chris Knight

Angela Jancius jancius3022 at comcast.net
Fri Apr 3 10:45:08 EDT 2009

Anthropologist Under Attack: University of East London Punishes Chris Knight 
Over His Public Speech

by Maximilian Forte on March 28th, 2009


The latest assault against the freedom of academics as public citizens in 
alleged "liberal democracies" comes from the U.K., in the form of the 
University of East London's decision to suspend Dr. Chris Knight, an 
anthropologist and member of the Radical Anthropology Group, over 
observations he made on BBC Radio 4 concerning the public rage against 
bankers. The university stated: "Professor Chris Knight has been suspended 
from his duties at the University of East London, pending investigation. In 
order not to prejudice this process we cannot make any further comment." As 
related previously by antropologi.info, Dr. Chris Knight together with his 
colleague Dr. Camilla Power (also an anthropologist at UEL), have taken 
leading roles in preparing for what are expected to be massive and 
unprecedented public demonstrations at next week's G20 summit in London, on 
April 2nd. They plan to lead a protest that will lay siege to the Bank of 
England, part of the activities planned by the organization set up for the 
occasion, G-20meltdown.org, that will feature protest actions today (28 
March), on April 1st and April 2nd (see them also on Facebook and Twitter, 
where they have live tweets from the protest actions).
Dr. Knight appears to be confronted by several restrictions simultaneously:
(a) the University of East London functioning as a police institution, 
apparently claiming total authority over the entirety of the lives of its 
faculty - as if one's place of work determined what one could say, and not 
say, in public (keeping in mind that Dr. Knight does not work for an 
intelligence service, the Vatican, nor does he hold a seat in Cabinet);
(b) the use of restrictions implanted within the European Union's convention 
on Human Rights, added to the fact that the U.K. has already become a 
laboratory for domestic imperialism that has set the precedents for 
"homeland security" followed by the U.S. and Canada;
(c) the attempt by the powers that be to curb public outrage against 
corporate wrongdoers who are being bailed out with a vast fortune of public 
money; and,
(d) the desire by the authorities to restrict critical opinion by minor and 
vulnerable influential figures, such as academics, in an attempt to create 
the illusion of consensus, by force.
On Thursday, 26 March, 2009, the BBC reported that Dr. Knight made the 
following comments in an interview with BBC's Radio 4:
"We are going to be hanging a lot of people like Fred the Shred [Sir Fred 
Goodwin] from lampposts on April Fool's Day and I can only say let's hope 
they are just effigies.
"To be honest, if he winds us up any more I'm afraid there will be real 
bankers hanging from lampposts and let's hope that that doesn't actually 
have to happen.
"They [bankers] should realise the amount of fury and hatred there is for 
them and act quickly, because quite honestly if it isn't humour it is going 
to be anger.
"I am trying to keep it humorous and let the anger come up in a creative and 
hopefully productive and peaceful way.
"If the other people don't join in the fun - I'm talking about the bankers 
and those rather pompous ministers - and come over and surrender their power 
obviously it's going to get us even more wound up and things could get 
nasty. Let's hope it doesn't."
As far as "threatening" speech goes, this is possibly one of the most 
ambiguous expressions of an alleged threat that one may see in a very long 
time. Most of the comments are in the form of an observation that Dr. Knight 
is making about public outrage, which certainly does exist, independent of 
his perceptions of it. In the same BBC report just quoted, the home and car 
of former Royal Bank of Scotland chief Sir Fred were attacked this past 
Wednesday (25 March); the BBC report added: "There has been widespread 
public and political anger over a pension payout worth about £700,000 a year 
to the 50-year-old former chief executive Sir Fred. He took early retirement 
from RBS last year after the bank needed a £20bn bailout from the 

Dr. Knight does not appear to be "calling" for anything that is not already 
happening. Moreover, his comments are echoed by the BBC itself in its own 
observations. Perhaps the most "threatening" thing Dr. Knight has said is to 
caution the police not to use violence. He is making a perfectly legitimate 
point, that has been made many times over the centuries, even from the seats 
of monarchic power and the Vatican: closing off avenues for peaceful protest 
and dissent will justify, legitimate, and even mandate more violent action 
for necessary and urgent change.

The University of East London has a special interest in supporting the banks 
and other corporate elites, as stated on its website:
"In today's highly competitive and dynamic business environment, 
organisations are continually striving for innovative ideas that give them a 
competitive edge. UEL can assist in providing organisations with solutions 
to their challenges and help in developing strategic thinking.
"Outstanding research capabilities coupled with the best in 'new thinking' 
have led us to be enlisted by many SMEs, public bodies, governments and 
multinational companies.
"At UEL we take our collaboration with business very seriously. We are 
committed to do all we can to ensure that our expertise is made available to 
benefit business and society. Utilising the wealth of expertise, research 
capabilities and facilities at UEL, our solutions help companies to become 
more profitable, more competitive and more sustainable."
This translates into a political alignment that, wrongly, curbs academic 
freedom by apparently expecting all of its faculty to fall in line, at the 
most amazingly inappropriate time when the broad public sees the corporate 
elites as tantamount to blight. To call UEL's suspension impolitic, is to be 
too polite, as it oversteps its bounds and acts as a branch of the police.
This is not to say that Dr. Knight has the full force of the law on his 
side - the European Convention on Human Rights, incorporated as domestic law 
in the U.K., states the following under Article 10:
1. Everyone has the right to freedom of expression. This right shall include 
freedom to hold opinions and to receive and impart information an ideas 
without interference by public authority and regardless of frontiers. This 
article shall not prevent States from requiring the licensing of 
broadcasting, television or cinema enterprises.
2. The exercise of these freedoms, since it carries with it duties and 
responsibilities, may be subject to such formalities, conditions, 
restrictions or penalties as are prescribed by law and are necessary in a 
democratic society, in the interests of national security, territorial 
integrity or public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime, for the 
protection of health or morals, for the protection of the reputation or the 
rights of others, for preventing the disclosure of information received in 
confidence, or for maintaining the authority and impartiality of the 
Clearly UEL is focusing on "national security, territorial integrity or 
public safety, for the prevention of disorder or crime" - but again, with 
what authority? Surely if there is any threat, it is a matter for the police 
and judiciary to decide? Dr. Knight is being suspended for "misconduct" - 
but not research misconduct, rather his conduct outside the university as a 
public citizen, something over which UEL has asbolutely no rights. Given the 
various acts of persecution against North American academics, such as Ward 
Churchill, whose case is being covered extensively on this blog, Dr. Knight 
may be best advised to immediately retain the services of an attorney and 
launch a lawsuit against UEL.

In the meantime, two Facebook groups have been set up to support Dr. Knight:
Reinstate Professor Chris Knight and Chris Knight Reinstatement Solidarity Group
As taken from the G20Meltdown Facebook group, and contrary to UEL's absurd 
and outrageous "misconduct" allegation, this is "the spirit of the new age 
we're creating" - watch this, as it may be the the most beautiful music 
video on the Internet, thanks to Playing for Change, and the immortal spirit 
of Bob Marley: 

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