David Thompson


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November 15, 2010



The Guardian's been doing "violence" to langauge and logic for years. I suggest a coach party down to King's Place to smash a few windows and set stuff on fire. It's only fair.

carbon based lifeform

"As the basis of protest, non-violence has been perverted… into a subterfuge for rulers, a pious excuse to protect them from the consequences of their actions. When that fails, out come the arrests and intimidation, as with the police hunt for those who occupied the Millbank building. We must not tolerate this demonisation of those who attempted to symbolically reclaim their country."

So an elected government should face the consequences of its actions by having Tory HQ trashed and set on fire. But the fuckwits doing the trashing and nearly killing people should get away with it... because the country belongs to them.

That's Guardian-strength stupid.


Well, quite. According to Ms Gopal only *certain* people should answer for their actions. Like so many of her colleagues, Ms Gopal has a certain… obliviousness. But her assumptions and attitude match those of several thugs and cretins featured in the video. Including the one who surveys the rioting and tells the cameraman, “It’s the only way. The Tories won’t listen to what we have to say.” Being heard and being *obeyed* are, to some, synonymous. And if the protestors aren’t getting what they want – more of other people’s money – then of course they’re perfectly entitled to smash up other people’s property.

I’m told it’s called “social justice.”

Torquil MacNeil

The only think that isn't 'violent' is taking people's money in the form of taxes.


Violence is OK, so long as it's done by an unofficial (nudge nudge wink wink) arm of the socialist state. Are these "protesters" related to the so-called "anti fascists" doing similar violence in Europe?

Karen M

"anthropology lecturer David Graeber, who has “written widely on the relation (real and potential) of anthropology and anarchism,” and on “magic as a tool of politics,” and who announced he was “very proud” of the rioting students"

Obviously Goldmsiths deserves more public money.


I wonder what would happen if disgruntled taxpayers embraced a similar ethos to that of Mr Graeber and Ms Gopal, or Luke Cooper, an assistant tutor in international relations, who feels government buildings are “legitimate targets for protest and occupation.” Perhaps something similar might apply to some academic departments or the Goldmsiths faculty lounge and Student Union.


"They lit bonfires, smashed windows, occupied the roof of an unlovely building and ill-advisedly hurled the odd inanimate object."

Unlovely... ill-advisedly... the odd inanimate object... She SO wants to excuse those fuckers.


Wait...these "anarchists" are rioting because the State isn't confiscating enough in taxes from the productive to fund their obviously ineffective educations?? These must be some of those big-government anarchists I've heard so much about.


She SO wants to excuse those fuckers.

I must disagree. She HAS excused them.

Kevin B

Well the students might be mad that they may have to pay a bit more for their useless degrees, but the lecturers are scared that the cuts might mean a decline in the market for post colonial studies lecturers or even anthropology lecturers.

"So, students, your assignment this weekend is to smash up Tory HQ in order to keep your teacher in a job."


Brownshirts, all. Gopal is an intellectual Brownshirt...


Jonah Goldberg in Liberal Fascism quotes Orwell in the struggle to define fascism as "anything undesirable". SSDD.

Andy H

Extraordinarily, Google suggests she is Dean of Churchill College, Cambridge.

One wonders what she makes of Churchill, and why she has not seen fit to share with us. For that matter, one wonders what Churchill would have made of her.

Wacky Hermit

It never ceases to amaze me how some people think things like cuts to public spending are "violence." I can only surmise that such people are either so over-exposed to violence that they jump at everything that might possibly lead to it, or so under-exposed to actual violence that they truly don't know there's a difference.

I had a conversation with a student of mine once. She maintained that calling a boy a "sissy" was violence against women. I was able to get her to clarify that she wasn't saying it was "like violence," or "equivalent to violence," or "could lead to violence"-- no, she stuck by "is actual violence, just like hitting". Honestly, anyone who's ever been hit would probably know the difference between being personally hit and having someone call someone else a name.


I like how she compares arson and vandalism with "hypocritical language".


How are the rioting and threats of violence different from a protection racket? "nice place you got here. It would be a shame if something was to happen to it." Pay up or else is the message.


These people have obviously never heard the dity:

"Sticks and stones can break my bones, but words can never hurt me." I thought this was taught to all 2-year olds as part of civilizing them. But then, maybe it is the role of universities to unteach this lesson...

Georg Felis

Georg's Law: As any Liberal drifts closer to idiocy, their language drifts closer to a Monty Python skit.

DENNIS: Ah, now we see the violence inherent in the system. ARTHUR: Shut up!


“I like how she compares arson and vandalism with ‘hypocritical language’.”

Gopal’s article is actually quite surreal. She starts with, “Hurling a fire extinguisher into a crowd is clearly wrong…” and then proceeds to tell us why such violence is necessary and justifiable: “Non-violence has been perverted… into a subterfuge for rulers… genteel rallies do not put sufficient pressure on the political class.” She then claims that setting fire to occupied buildings isn’t “real” vandalism and that bringing those responsible to account is “demonisation” and “intimidation.”

Unlike having your building set on fire and your windows smashed, while bricks and fire extinguishers fall from the sky. That’s not intimidating at all.

Maybe now’s a good time to buy a T-shirt…



"Like so many of her colleagues, Ms Gopal has a certain… obliviousness."

I wonder anymore. This kind of facile sophistry is always deployed in the service of power-seeking, and those who seek power over others are anything but clueless about what they want.

It only *looks* oblivious from the standpoint of those who still expect some kind of intellectual honesty--or a reasonable attempt at same--from their opponents.

Shannon Love

There is a very dangerous subtext to defining budget cuts as "violence."

In almost all moral systems, it is permissible to use violence in response to violence. Therefore, if you define non-violent action as violence, then you create a moral justification for using violence in response to non-violent actions. By equating non-violent budgeting disagreements with overt acts of violence, Gupta is creating a rationale for killing people just because they disagree with her on minor political issues.

This is the primary rational used by violently oppressive and mass murdering regimes. They justify police states and mass killings by equating non-violent opposition or even failure to overtly and publicly disagree with a physical attack on the whole of society.

Of course, her belief that disagreeing with her is a transgression deserving of a violent response, is really just a statement of her own narcissism and hubris. She thinks herself so fantastically intelligent, moral and infallible that her word alone defines the greater good to such an extent that frustrating her will is a crime punishable by death.

Gupta is just a silly uniform and a catchy hand gesture away from causing serious trouble.


Non-violence hasn't been perverted into a subterfuge for rulers, it's that the causes being advanced by the protests - violent or otherwise - are themselves perverted and corrupt. The current case is a perfect example: There is no open-ended "right" to a permanent draw on the public purse for your college education, and indeed there cannot be such a right unless we bring back the insitution of involuntary servitude, this time in the form of forced labor for university students.

So get over it, kiddies. If you think that Womyn's Studies degree is worth it, prove it by paying for it. It's not our obligation.


Shannon Love wrote: "This is the primary rational used by violently oppressive and mass murdering regimes. They justify police states and mass killings by equating non-violent opposition or even failure to overtly and publicly disagree with a physical attack on the whole of society."

I might suggest that a similar rationale is used by Islamicists and their apologists. Islam only condones violence, they assert, in defense of the faith against attacks. But it turns out that an "attack" worthy of a murderously violent defense might be a cartoon, or a proselytizer for another religion, or a comment on a blog. Like this one. Which is why I might suggest this, but I won't.


“Wait...these "anarchists" are rioting because the State isn't confiscating enough in taxes” – Exactly.
So I take it, it was by her definition of “violence” that the news reports I read on this side of the pond about the protests being largely “peaceful” were written. Makes more sense that way.

And since we're playing all fast and loose with meanings of words and such, here's far less of a stretch: “...occupied the roof of an unlovely building”…hmmm, and the implications of applying this line of logic to sexual assault would be…?


"to frame those measures as violence – and by implication as analogous to rioting and deserving of payment in kind – is not a manoeuvre that resounds with good faith."

But if spending cuts are 'violence' it means I'm *entitled* to smash stuff and threaten people because I'm only retaliating.


“But if spending cuts are ‘violence’ it means I’m *entitled* to smash stuff and threaten people because I’m only retaliating.”

And you can imagine the appeal for people with certain… urges.

It’s interesting to contrast Gopal’s romanticising of mob violence with the footage of actual events. She talks about “the violence of an entitled few” (meaning the policy of an elected government) being challenged by “the ordinary majority” (meaning a special interest group, some of whom were indulging in thuggery). Gopal would have us believe that a handful of “young people in search of social justice” were pitted against the massed forces of the Hegemon.

But look at the videos. Who had the power there? The police? Taxpayers? The people who discovered their offices were on fire?

David Gillies

"They lit bonfires, smashed windows, occupied the roof of an unlovely building and ill-advisedly hurled the odd inanimate object."

Unlovely? Presumably we are meant to make the inference that if they'd tried to brain a copper with a fire extinguisher from the roof of the Greenwich Naval College, that would have been unconscionable, but if it had been Centre Point then that's just hunky-dory. Or we could make the inference that Gopal is an idiot who is unaware of how semantically useless that particular adjective is under the circumstances.

We learn from Wat Tyler over at Burning our Money that government expenditure now accounts for 53p in every pound of GDP (factor GDP, that is). As a commenter at Tim Worstall's points out, that doesn't mean they're actually taking 53p in every pound in taxes, but more like 45p (still ruinous) and running up the 8p gap in debt that will perforce be paid by later generations. People know this, and I think it is why the anti-cuts protesters were getting pretty short shrift from the general populace even before they resorted to destruction of property, arson and attempted murder.

Craig Mc

The government should announce that all riot damage will be paid for out of the existing education budget.


The fire extinguisher guy has been arrested. He's a Cambridge student –wonder if he's one of Gopal's students?



The left always gets involved in violence; it is their standard response. We are often told that say, "muslims fear a backlash from the right wing" after some islamist atrocity, but it never comes. However the left will eagerly smash in a McDonalds window, hurl bricks, talk the language of destruction and anarchy (forgetting that in the brave new world of real socialism and communism such things are very much forbidden to the point of exile) while the champions of such ill-considered philosophies will rattle and prance their 'support' in the media.

But hey, it's cool to be young and excited and socially aware, even if you are not aware of consequences.


Thanks for the fisking, David. What a strange and unpleasant person she is.

Shorter Gopal:

Political decisions I disagree with are 'violent' (by definition) and will result in riots and 'bloody mayhem' (which is okay because vandalism and attempted murder aren't 'real' violence).

Throwing fire extinguishers off rooftops into crowds is 'clearly wrong' but violent protest is necessary to make people listen (and obey).

A few thousand protestors should decide the UK's economic policy because the actual, elected government 'has no mandate'.

There's a classic in every paragraph.


“There’s a classic in every paragraph.”

For the sake of her students, let’s hope Ms Gopal’s lectures are more honest and coherent.

There is, though, a larger issue: the sustainability of the higher education bubble – a bubble inflated and devalued under New Labour, with widespread grade inflation, insubstantial courses and an arbitrary target of 50% of young people in higher education, supposedly in the name of fairness.

Some view “free” higher education as an entitlement warranting violence. But who’s going to pay for this “free” service when its value is increasingly in question? One complaint is that many students will be left with large debt (or theoretical debt) and limited prospects of a suitable job. But if so, doesn’t that call into question the value of what’s being demanded? If the investment of time, effort and (other people’s) money doesn’t pay off with a lucrative and fascinating career, and a return via taxation, then how is the process justified in its present form? What is a degree in X worth, if a degree in X proves little and has negligible value outside of academia?

You’d think of spot of rioting would be saved for the egalitarians who devalued the investment.


Jonathan Rauch in the Kindly Inquisitors (1995) made a similar point: if words hurt me and words are violence, then I get to respond with violence--bullets. Denouncing the foolish sixties' redefinition of "violence" and "obscenity" is a nice sentiment. Didn't work in the 1960s. Or 1970s. or 2010s, apparently. Unfortunately millions of people, especially cultural and intellectuals leaders, believe this nonsense.

Then there is the questions: when is violence (the real kind, not budget cuts), a proper response to speech? Imagine if the authors of the Protocols of the Elders of Zion had been killed just before the book went to press.


Just once I'd like to meet someone who claims "the real violence is [something other than physical violence]" and "refute it thus."

John D

"anthropology lecturer David Graeber, who has "written widely on the relation (real and potential) of anthropology and anarchism," and on "magic as a tool of politics," and who announced he was "very proud" of the rioting students, adding: "They are going to represent us as thugs but really they are the thugs and we are representing civilisation."

A dick, in other words.


“A dick, in other words.”

More to the point, a dick with fantasist tendencies. At risk of pointing out the obvious, people can, and do, lie - not least if they need to see themselves as unassailably righteous. As, for instance, when NUS president Aaron Porter appeared on TV denouncing the vandalism and violence that, several hours earlier, he’d been hinting at excitedly. Or when student union leader Claire Solomon told BBC News that the protestors had been “forced into violence” by the police, who, she claimed, were its instigators. (Readers may want to contrast this claim with actual footage of the event.) Ms Solomon then cast doubt on her own assertions by adding, “This is only the start.” Solomon has subsequently all but promised “riots” if police persist in their “provocation” (i.e. preventing property destruction and defending local residents). She follows a familiar pattern of moral incontinence: In casting herself as the victim of her own drama, she evades any responsibility for her own actions.

The capacity for dishonesty and role-play shouldn’t be underestimated.


I've been thinking about what people like Ms. Gopal are trying to do to our society, and I am now starting to understand her argument. She is trying to change the society, and she does not have many really useful tools to move it the way she wants it to go, including even real violence - her supporters are not really ready to pledge their lives, fortunes, and sacred honor to do real violence against the establishment. So, instead, they substitute a guerilla warfare of words, using the free press and now the internet to insert their ideas into the societal psyche. She is using words as weapons in a stuggle for the heart of the society. And we all know that weapons are used to make violence, so it is a short step to the conclusion that words can do actual violence. And the acts that she complains about, such as the cutting of funding, are just reactions by the current society to the actions that her supporters instigated in order to support their vision of the future. It is all part of the "culture wars", and seen in this context, the words and acts are just a form of violence without the blood.

I hope she realizes that a LOT of the people she complains about have REAL weapons that can do REAL violence to people they do not like, if they are pushed far enough. But she is certain that she will be able to convince these people, once she figures out what to say to them (see, e.g, communications skills of Barack Obama).


Personally, I think she has mental health problems, as most Guardian commentators appear to have. Unfortunately people like her, large numbers of them, run this country. They hold positions of power and influence way beyond what is proportionate to their number. They are what used to be called "the Establishment". They control the Home Office, education (local and national), the Media, law.

Who is Prime Minister or in government is almost irrelevant. Short of political dynamite you aren't going to shift them.


[Western] modernity that has “little to offer Afghans other than bikini waxes and Oprah-imitators.

Western modernity, sweetheart, offers the possibility of doing and saying more or less what you want without looking over your shoulder in fear of some nutter with a beard; it offers the pleasure of having ambition and planning for a future you know will almost certainly arrive, even if you get ill or have a serious accident, because you will be taken care of; it offers the security of knowing that by working in a shop or in a factory, for 40 hours a week, (or even doing nothing at all), you can live a life of comfort inconceivable to 90% of the world's peopole; it offers freedom from the constant round of backbreaking chores that must be carried out daily just to be able to live, and gives time to study, to discover and expore art, to travel, read, to not be always exhausted, cold and afraid, to lie on the sofa watching Oprah, to go out and try to make the world a better place- whatever turns your fancy.

The greatest luxury in life is being able to lie on the sofa with a beer in your hand and not have anything to wory about. Earning a very confortable living by wittering on to students about your personal `rejudices and calling it cultural studies is a luxury beyond imagining. If the women of Afghanistan ever realize that this woman and others like her are actively trying to prevent them from having these things, she will have to run very fast indeed.

sackcloth and ashes

'The greatest luxury in life is being able to lie on the sofa with a beer in your hand and not have anything to wory about. Earning a very confortable living by wittering on to students about your personal `rejudices and calling it cultural studies is a luxury beyond imagining. If the women of Afghanistan ever realize that this woman and others like her are actively trying to prevent them from having these things, she will have to run very fast indeed'.

It is indeed strange that the most avid critics of Western lifestyle are not exactly ready to experience its alternatives, nor do they realise that many non-Westerners aspire to the standards (free speech, government by consent, the ideal of equality before the law etc) that people like Gopal take for granted. I compare her with the Afghan students who have the chance to study in the UK - thanks to my alma mater, Durham - and I can't help feeling that we should do a like-for-like swap. For every citizen of Afghanistan who comes over to study, work or even live her we should send the likes of Gopal to a Helmand village to spend the rest of her life away from the debased Western culture she affects to despise:


Cristina R.

I couldn' but laugh at this insight from Ms Gopal:

"A modernity that has “little to offer Afghans other than bikini waxes and Oprah-imitators.”"

I've long known--thanks to a friend who had lived in several parts of the Middle East--that excess body hair, especially in the genital area, is a big deal in Islam, ritually and sexually, and has a history much longer than the "bikini wax," including in Western art, where female nudes were represented without pubic hair (interesting bit, isn't it?)

A simple google search renders these splendid items:



Now, I'm fully aware that Afghan women don't have liberal access to blades, but warm waxing is centuries, if not millenia, old technique.


Hurling a blizzard of half-bricks into a gathering of Marxist professors is clearly wrong but.... :-D


Whilst opting to keep bikini hair may be claimed as a SIGN of courage, voluntarily going through with a bikini wax surely removes all doubt

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