(Update: Toby Young stepped down from his post at Office For Students on January 9th)
(Update: Jo Johnson was reshuffled to the Department For Transport on January 9th)
The Tory government feels compelled to attack universities constantly.
Knowledgeable academics are ignored by the government for expert advice in favour of a symbiosis between government and dumbed-down right-wing think-tanks. Academics who seek to express a learnèd opinion backed by facts are shunned and attacked. For example, Tory MP Chris Heaton-Harris harassed universities by demanding lists of academics who are opposed to Brexit: Heaton-Harris letter.
The Tory government and its cohorts are anti-knowledge. This stance includes opposition to knowledge of history, particularly British history. A current theme of this opposition is the attempt to re-write the history of the British Empire both by hiding knowledge of its savage effects and by promoting a rose-tinted account that invents its benefits. A recent example of the removal of problematic knowledge is the apparent “loss” of thousands of historical documents many of which detailed war crimes by the British government: Lost archives.
A false presentation of the effects of the British empire was proposed by Nigel Biggar. His proposal, bereft of intelligent analysis and entirely conclusion-led, was rightly criticised by many academics at Oxford University: Academics oppose Biggar. This criticism was not an attempt to deny free speech; it was a valid assertion that Biggar’s aims were not in tune with a place of learning because of the lack of intelligence and lack of didactic reasoning in his plans. He was recognised immediately as a professional troll and called out for it. The response to the reasonable attitude of the sixty academics has been a coordinated, dishonest and directional attack on their integrity that has included the repeated false claim that they are denying free speech. Opposing a charlatan talking drivel is not opposing free speech.
The dispute between Biggar and his academic colleagues encouraged witless Tory Higher Education Minister and exponent of random bigotry Jo Johnson, brother of witless Tory Foreign Secretary and exponent of random bigotry Boris Johnson, to state that the government’s misnamed interferring quango, Office For Students, will stop criticism of any gormless, vacuous, mendacious use of university venues and money such as Biggar’s plan. Johnson said that universities could be fined if they do not allow idiots to waste time and money with concocted anti-knowledge garbage: Johnson to fine universities.
However, wholly contradictory to his stated belief in free speech and in access to a variety of views at schools and universities, Johnson is a keen supporter of Prevent, a programme that clamps down on the expression of some political views in education. In 2015, Johnson criticised the National Union of Students for their opposition to Prevent: Johnson criticised NUS. Johnson’s duplicity emphasises the lack of conviction in any opinion he pretends to express.
Johnson needed to appoint someone to act as a spokesperson/consultant at the Office For Students who could try to promote and to enable the strategy of attacking universities that choose to deny space to right-wing anti-intellect professional trolls and screaming heads. The qualities that such an appointee required were
- Absence of personal and professional integrity
- Shamelessness and total lack of self-awareness
- Extreme bigotry and offensive far-right prejudiced political views
- Continuous professional failure
- Obedient gimp
- Intrinsic liar
Who could Johnson find that satisfied the above requirements and who has also developed conspiratorial relationships with pliable media over several years of duonistic mendacity?
The answer, apparently, was Toby Young, the favoured screaming head for contrary garbled poorly researched claptrap on many TV and radio shows and a purveyor of a plentiful supply of deliberately offensive essays designed to distract and to dumb-down debate.
A few lowlights from Young’s “career” as an opinionator are
- He wants people in wheelchairs to be excluded from education: Ban Wheelchairs.
- He flatly denied (lied) that ‘I, Daniel Blake’ portrayed accuracy in the benefits system despite evidence that proved it did: Young vs. Daniel Blake.
- He objected to working-class students at Oxford University: Young snobbery.
- He claimed that low income is due to genetic conditions rather than economic issues: Young’s Behavioural Genetics. This essay advocated the intervention of genetic engineering to help social mobility, which is an entirely false argument, deeply offensive and designed as a means of absolving the exploitative capitalist system as the cause of economic imbalance.
Young’s political stance and pseudo-academic perspective are as (offensively and anti-intellectually) extreme as any activist who remains at large in society. He has been appointed at Office For Students to make it easier for extreme-right speakers to be invited to universities. His complete lack of integrity and his imbued dishonesty make him immune from any consideration of academic professionalism. His witlessness means he will not be distracted by reasoned argument or facts. Like all far-right gimps, his stupidity is an asset for those who employ him.
Jo Johnson wants the universities to be infested with streams of ignorant, deceitful bigots and/or economic con artists like, for example, Douglas Murray, Adam Perkins, Ben Shapiro, Milo Yiannopoulos, Julie Lenarz, Melanie Phillips and Niall Ferguson. He wants to replace the intelligent, thought-provoking and useful speeches, seminars and Q&As with dumb, brain-numbing idiocy that promotes prejudice.
The appointment of Young by Johnson exposes the intent of Office For Students. It is a vessel to enable the government to interfere in universities and colleges. Johnson’s hypocrisy regarding no-platforming versus Prevent is clear but they are contradictory positions driven by the same intent: The Tories want to monitor and restrict education.
Neither Jo Johnson nor Toby Young should be anywhere near education. They should be nowhere near a TV studio, or a laptop or government.