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Nearly 50 British University Academics Sign Open Letter Demanding MILO Ban

Numerous Kent-based academics and educators, including a list of those from a number of prominent universities, have endorsed an open letter condemning Breitbart Senior Editor MILO.

The letter contains many of the smears and falsehoods currently circulating in the mainstream media about Breitbart and MILO. The letter wrongly and hysterically claims the Breitbart editor is “hardline misogynist, white supremacist, and xenophobic”, while also mislabelling him as a one of the “spokesmen” for the alt-right.

Writing the letter in response to Yiannopoulos’ now cancelled talk at his old school, Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys, the academics cite an opinion piece from the Guardian to attack Yiannopoulos as an extremist who should be banned from interacting with teenagers.

“For those who are unaware, Milo Yiannopoulos is a public speaker who, in recent years, has become one of the most prominent far-right agitators and is frequently considered to be one of the unofficial spokesmen of the “alt-right movement” in the United States” claimed the letter.

“His position as a senior editor for the ultraconservative Breitbart News website enables him to openly articulate his hardline misogynist, white supremacist and xenophobic ideas to an online audience that is expanding at an alarming rate.”

“Most of Milo´s ideologies and terminologies have their roots in the realm of so-called “men’s rights activism”, a movement that is often loosely affiliated with the “alt-right” and whose main fundamental objective is to destroy feminism and glorify a traditionalist heteropatriarchal idea of masculinity” it continued.

“It is their perception that feminism, far from being an equalizing force, has in fact been taken too far and is now to blame for most of society’s ills. They frequently rely on tenuous fallacies that deal with supposedly inherent biological differences between men and women, and assert that the very idea of feminism goes against human nature. Some of their most extreme elements even go as far as to actively advocate violence against women.”

Displaying their hypocrisy by noting that bringing in speakers is “very healthy and intellectually challenging”, the academics continue to proclaim that “On the other hand, we strongly disagree with the idea of exposing teenage pupils to a speaker such as Milo, who has the capacity to be highly persuasive, mesmerizing and inflammatory.”

“To suggest that this preacher of hate and intolerance, this professional provocateur, this glorified internet troll and guru of cyber-bullying, is in any way equivalent or counterpart to people devoting their lives to tackling discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and LGBTIQ+ communities is wholly unacceptable” declared the letter, before bizarrely defending “the intellectual Left”.

“In the same line, the insinuation that “people on the Left” have created Milo by denying “free speech to people on the Right” is not only false but also obnoxious. The intellectual Left do not create neofascist movements, nor do they feed them” they claimed.

“Indeed they have been repeatedly and systematically exterminated by fascist regimes throughout history for opposing them. At this point, it must also be pointed out that women do not create misogyny, black people do not create racism, immigrants do not create xenophobia and transgender people do not create transphobia.”

The academics then go on to undermine students between the ages of 16 and 18, writing “how can we then expect Sixth Form students to be able to critically deconstruct it?, before declaring that the school “should not conflate the defense of freedom of speech with complicity with the institutionalization of extremist discourses and hate speech”.

The open letter was signed by 47 academics ranging from Canterbury Christ Church University, and the University of Kent, to Goldsmiths, and a number of retirees.

Several students also endorsed the letter, including President of Kent’s Palestinian Solidarity Group Eman Salem, while one of the academics to sign was the “Director of the Centre for Gender, Sexuality and Writing”, Dr Declan Kavanagh.

Yiannopoulos’ talk at the Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys was involuntarily cancelled this week, after the school received advice from “the Department For Education’s counter extremism unit”.

“Who even knew the DoE had a “counter-extremism” unit? And that it wasn’t set up to combat terrorism but rather to punish gays with the wrong opinions?” said Yiannopoulos in a statement. “Perhaps if I’d called my talk “MUSLIMS ARE AWESOME!” the National Union Of Teachers (NUT) and Department of Education would have been cool with me speaking.”

You can read the full open letter below:

(May the reader take note that as of today (21/11/1016), the Milo Yiannopoulos event at Simon Langton Grammar School has been cancelled after the school received advice from the Department for Education’s counter-extremism unit. Whilst this is what we had been hoping for and undoubtedly a very positive outcome, we believe we should continue circulating this open letter as a symbolic gesture of our oppositional message. We find the explanation offered in the School’s official statement (“the threat of demonstrations at the school by organised groups and members of the public and our overall concerns for the security of the school site and the safety of our community”) completely unsatisfactory. We do not agree that the intellectual opposition of activists and “the public” represents a danger for the community and that is essential to understand the concept of freedom of speech. The letter that follows the lines, written before the cancellation after a spontaneous reaction of independent members of the academia, is an example of peaceful and reasoned intellectual opposition.)

An open letter to the Head Teacher of Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys, the parents and the local community

Dear readers,

(This is NOT an official statement. The letter does not reflect the official view of the universities (UKC or CCCU) or the student unions, but will hopefully reflect the views of many academics, administrative staff, graduate and undergraduate students at both UKC & CCCU.)

In advance of the impending visit of Milo Yiannopoulos to Simon Langton Grammar School for Boys, where he is set to address an audience of Sixth Form pupils on Tuesday 22nd November, a group of scholars from both the University of Kent and Christ Church University have come together on account of the shared concerns that they have regarding this event. It is our duty, as independent members of the British Education System and the academic and scientific community, to demand responsibility from the School’s administrators and urge them to take back the invitation to Mr. Yiannopoulos. We will now go on to explain our reasoning.

The motivation of this open letter is our justified fear that exposing a group of teenagers to this speaker would have extremely harmful effects at different levels. Firstly, this invitation would set a dangerous precedent in the UK. Secondly, it could contravene with school regulations surrounding extremism and radicalization. In July 2016 an Ofsted report concluded that further education providers are “falling short in protecting learners from risk of extremism”. Although the report was primarily concerned with Islamist extremism, we believe there are other forms of extremism that need to be discussed and tackled. In reference to this, a few days ago The Guardian published an article entitled “We need to talk about the online radicalisation of young, white men” (Abi Wilkinson, 15/11/16) analyzing the connection between the “alt-right” movement and “the rise of neofascism” in the context of the recent presidential election in the USA.

For those who are unaware, Milo Yiannopoulos is a public speaker who, in recent years, has become one of the most prominent far-right agitators and is frequently considered to be one of the unofficial spokesmen of the “alt-right movement” in the United States. His position as a senior editor for the ultraconservative Breitbart News website enables him to openly articulate his hardline misogynist, white supremacist and xenophobic ideas to an online audience that is expanding at an alarming rate.

Most of Milo´s ideologies and terminologies have their roots in the realm of so-called “men’s rights activism”, a movement that is often loosely affiliated with the “alt-right” and whose main fundamental objective is to destroy feminism and glorify a traditionalist heteropatriarchal idea of masculinity. It is their perception that feminism, far from being an equalizing force, has in fact been taken too far and is now to blame for most of society’s ills. They frequently rely on tenuous fallacies that deal with supposedly inherent biological differences between men and women, and assert that the very idea of feminism goes against human nature. Some of their most extreme elements even go as far as to actively advocate violence against women.

Inviting key note speakers to debate with students as part of the philosophy of the School deserves all our praise because it is very healthy and intellectually challenging for them. On the other hand, we strongly disagree with the idea of exposing teenage pupils to a speaker such as Milo, who has the capacity to be highly persuasive, mesmerizing and inflammatory.

In the School’s official statement it is affirmed that Milo Yiannopoulos is a charlatan. The distinction between these kinds of populist discourses and an academic lecture must here be emphasized as the opposition between rhetoric and rationality. In this respect, the School’s capitalization on the recent visit of a scholar from the University of Kent to discuss feminism, civil rights and LGTBIQ+ issues in order to justify inviting a charlatan is beyond offensive. To suggest that this preacher of hate and intolerance, this professional provocateur, this glorified internet troll and guru of cyber-bullying, is in any way equivalent or counterpart to people devoting their lives to tackling discrimination against women, ethnic minorities and LGBTIQ+ communities is wholly unacceptable.

In the same line, the insinuation that “people on the Left” have created Milo by denying “free speech to people on the Right” is not only false but also obnoxious. The intellectual Left do not create neofascist movements, nor do they feed them. Indeed they have been repeatedly and systematically exterminated by fascist regimes throughout history for opposing them. At this point, it must also be pointed out that women do not create misogyny, black people do not create racism, immigrants do not create xenophobia and transgender people do not create transphobia. On the contrary, they are the ones who suffer the consequences of these forms of bigotry, and this increasingly fashionable assertion that oppressed minorities are somehow to blame for the rise of this ideology is nothing short of victim-blaming. Milo is a creation of those who need Milo to take advantageous positions in the ‘language battle’ and those who provide him with platforms from which to spread his ideology. We believe that the term ‘alt-right’, far from suggesting anything new or alternative, is just an attempt to rebrand the same old misogyny and racism in this era of extreme relativism which Zygmunt Bauman named as the ‘liquid modernity’ (see the foundational works Liquid Modernity and Liquid Times: Living in an Age of Uncertainty).

As you may be aware, bullying and cyber-bullying are increasing problems in the UK’s Education System. Bearing in mind that Milo Yiannopoulos was permanently banned from Twitter following a recent cyber-bullying campaign against the actress Leslie Jones, of which he was the instigator, we are unconvinced of the reasoning behind inviting one of the figureheads of online bullying to address school pupils. We cannot fathom how a masterclass on how to make a living by being abusive would be a remotely beneficial contribution to eradicating these problems from our schools.

Although we accept the idea that an audience of teenagers can intellectually process the ideas presented by the speaker, we strongly disagree that they will be able to decipher the full implications of his message. Considering that this complex phenomenon represents such a paradigmatic historical shift that it has been very difficult to reach a consensus on how to approach it even in academic spheres, how can we then expect Sixth Form students to be able to critically deconstruct it?

A few days ago Milo Yiannopoulos made an appearance on Channel 4 News which has drawn a lot of public and media attention to him, which makes his visit to Canterbury much more significant than the school’s claim that it will be just a “low-key event”. The whole nation will be watching and expecting responsibility from the school administrators, who should not conflate the defense of freedom of speech with complicity with the institutionalization of extremist discourses and hate speech.

Finally, we would like to reiterate, as Kent-based independent academics, our most earnest recommendation that the School revoke their decision to host this event and that they honour the Simon Langton school motto, Meliora sequamur (“May we follow better things”).

Sincerely,

List of academics and professionals from the education sector based in Kent who sign/endorse this open letter (in alphabetical order):

Dr Adriana Consorte-McCrea (Wildlife & People Research Group- ERG, Canterbury Christ Church University)

Dr Amanda Carr (Director of Psychology, School of Psychology, Politics and Sociology, Canterbury Christ Church University)

Dr Ariane Mildenberg (Lecturer, University of Kent)

Professor Bee Scherer (Director, INCISE research centre Intersectional Centre for Inclusion and Social Justice, Canterbury Christ Church University)

Dr Britta Osthaus (Senior Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University)

Cathy Norman (Research Support Officer and Postgraduate Student, University of Kent)

Dr Christin Hoene (Leverhulme Early Career Fellow, University of Kent)

Claire Hurley (Assistant Lecturer, University of Kent)

Clémence Ardin (Graduate Teacher Assistant, University of Kent)

Dr Declan Kavanagh (Director of the Centre for Gender, Sexuality and Writing, University of Kent)

Dr Derek Ryan (Senior Lecturer, University of Kent)

Daniel Beizsley (Doctoral candidate, University of Kent)

Dominique Carlini Versini (Doctoral candidate, University of Kent)

Dorothy Lehane (Lecturer, University of Kent)

Dr Eleanor Perry (Assistant Lecturer, University of Kent)

Emilio Gómez-Barranco (Graduate Teaching Assistant, University of Kent)

Emma Pole (Graduate Researcher, Canterbury Christ Church University)

Francisca Stangel (Graduate Teacher Assistant, University of Kent)

Gillian Withington (Senior Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University)

Grant B. Gosizk (Assistant Lecturer, University of Kent)

Harrison Sullivan (Doctoral candidate, University of Kent)

Isabella Norton (AAL and PhD student in the school of English, University of Kent).

Dr Jennie Batchelor (Professor, University of Kent)

Dr Juha Virtanen (Lecturer, University of Kent)

Jim Grogan (Retired Headteacher)

John P Gilmore (Senior Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University)

Katharine Peddie (Assistant Lecturer, University of Kent)

Katja May (Doctoral candidate, University of Kent)

Dr Katja M. Hallenberg, (Senior Lecturer in Criminal Psychology, Criminology and Policing, Christ Church University)

Marine Authier (Associate Lecturer, University of Kent)

Marissa Dainton (Senior Lecturer, Christ Church University)

Nicholas Furze (Ph.D. Candidate and Sesssional Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University)

Dr Ole Laursen (Visiting Fellow, Goldsmiths)

Peter Adkins (Assistant Lecturer, University of Kent)

Philippa Katharine Doran (Retired Senior Education Officer)

Raquel García-Cuevas (Assistant Lecturer, School of English)

Rayya Ghul (National Teaching Fellow of the Higher Education Academy, Principal Lecturer, Canterbury Christ Church University)

Rebecca Pope (Doctoral Candidate, University of Kent)

Dr Robbie Richardson (Lecturer, University of Kent)

Dr Rosanna Cox (Lecturer, University of Kent)

Dr Sara Lyons (Lecturer, University of Kent)

Dr Sarah James (Senior Lecturer, University of Kent)

Dr Stella Bolaki (Senior Lecturer, University of Kent)

Steve Noyes (Doctoral candidate, University of Kent)

Dr Tobias Kliem (Law Programme Director, School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing Canterbury Christ Church University)

Tung-Wei Ko (Doctoral candidate, University of Kent) Dr Vinita Joseph (Associate Lecturer, University of Kent)

The letter has also been endorsed by the following students, professionals and associations:

Catherine Greenwood ( MA, University of New Brunswick)

Emily Louise Clare Shand (Postgraduate student, University of Kent)

Gillian Laker (MA, University of Kent)

Kent Palestinian Solidarity Group on the University of Kent:

Eman Salem – President, Kent Palestinian Solidarity Group

Sari Salti – Vice President

Ellen Lee – Secretary

Narjis Maroofi – Treasurer

Eileen Taylor – Social Media Officer

Ricardo Pereira da Silva (Postgraduate Student, University of Kent)

Tizane Kite (MA Student, University of Kent)

Charlie Nash is a reporter for Breitbart Tech. You can follow him on Twitter @MrNashington or like his page at Facebook.

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