David Thompson


Blog powered by Typepad

« Texture | Main | Friday Ephemera »

December 15, 2010



"Oh no, they're fighting back with abstract disco."

That's a hell of a lot of booty jiggling about. ;)


"Such displays could easily be dismissed as infantile..."

He should've stopped there, everything else just makes it worse. But it's good to know this clown will soon be teaching.


And then you'll STILL be paying him to be a berk.


"hoping to be a lecturer and teacher when I ‘grow up.’"

You've misquoted him. That "when" should read "instead of"

Dan Collins

I, for one, welcome our post-cubist humanoid masters.


> And then you'll STILL be paying him to be a berk.

Oh I don't know, soon the dose of financial realism will be sweeping through Degree choices, and a negative investment like an Art-Degree will only be available to those with parents with more money than sense, and that will put pressure on Universities with expensive staff.

I see him returning to the call centre. Until someone like me automates him out of that and he finds his burger flipping career.


Oh, there’s more. On his blog, Mr Harper tells us that “music really is an important part of our political lives” and that changes to funding constitute the “destruction of arts and humanities in higher education.” Naturally, Mr Harper has internalised the obligatory anti-capitalist sentiment expected of students and claims that music’s role is “marginalised” in “Western, capitalist societies.”


Yes, those capitalist societies that produce and consume more music than any other in history, where music making and distribution are cheap, commonplace and have global reach, and where you can explore the entire history of recorded music from practically everywhere on the planet. Fancy some Tuvan throat singing or Balinese gamelan? Jon Hassell? Woob? Bear McCreary? How about some early Toru Takemitsu? Third shelf down. Thanks to that pesky capitalism.

But no, capitalist societies – where music can be put to almost any use imaginable, social or solitary, and can be composed in any number of ways using all manner of tools – *these* are the societies that are “marginalising” music.


the “destruction of arts and humanities in higher education.”

Wasn't that precisely the main war aim of Derrida, Adorno et al? This young man seems a little confused.

As for outward confidence and inward morale, what these young upstarts crave at all costs is reassurance that they are above the common herd. If the world doesn't take them at their own exalted self-estimation, they just turn up the volume of their long, shrill, infantile scream for attention.

sackcloth and ashes

'After I finished my degree I did in fact work in a call-centre for two years to fund my postgrad work. Now I’m doing PhD research, hoping to be a lecturer and teacher when I ‘grow up.’'

I think he'll find himself going back to the call-centre. Academic jobs are thin on the ground right now, and the situation is not likely to change anytime soon.


"I think he'll find himself going back to the call-centre."

But he's got so much to tell us about music and capitalism...


I rather like “HUMBUGS ARE ZEBRA EGGS”. But perhaps that is just me.


'claims that music’s role is “marginalised” in “Western, capitalist societies.”'

Didn't the infernal Che Guevara haaaaate commercial music on account of it being all capitalist and stuff?



“Rock and roll as well as jazz was what they called ‘imperialist music’… He hated artists, so how is it possible that artists still today support the image of Che Guevara?”



'claims that music’s role is “marginalised” in “Western, capitalist societies.”'

He seems to be confusing capitalist societies with Islamist societies:



"giant polystyrene shields... each covered and painted to look like a famous work of philosophy, political theory or literature."


Talk about badly made…

These people are supposed to be *art* students, right?


I see there's another CiF column wondering where all the protest songs are for this 'popular youth movement'...


"giant polystyrene shields... each covered and painted to look like a famous work of philosophy, political theory or literature"

Or each covered and painted to look like a bored five year old from nursery had been given ten minutes to play with an old brush and some black paint.

"Such displays could easily be dismissed as infantile and hedonistic"

Dismissed? Yes. Infantile? Yes. Easily? Hmmm, what makes you say that?


Forgot to add: I bet the 'students' didn't pay for the polystyrene either. Probably nicked it from the art department

Amy Alkon

music’s role is “marginalised” in “Western, capitalist societies.”

Funny, I hear it everywhere, including right outside my gate last night at 2 a.m., where some jerks were playing something with a heavy bass line with their car door open (four feet from houses). No, it's not a Hollywood set; real people live in them!


"attempts to counter police force with thought"

The police are so dumb and we students are so clever. Now give us your money.

Abe Froman

Didn't Shakespeare say "Kill all the university students".

If not, I am sure he meant to.


Hegel, Derrida, Adorno

So, shitty philosophers and pseudo-philosophers.


I really pictured lavish recreations of book covers when I read Harper's description of those polystyrene shields. I'm staggered, and saddened, at how crap they are.


We need a famine...

David Gillies

This is the pretentious Lefty incarnation of Poe's Law (not the Edgar Allen version, the other one.) It really is hard to see how if this were in the Daily Mash rather than the Dragunia anyone would be any the wiser.

And to think, I spent three years learning Stokes's Theorem and how klystrons work when I could have been ponceing about with polystyrene foam and poster paints in my pink Storm Trooper costume like an overgrown toddler. Actually the toddler analogy is apt: I remember P. J. O'Rourke (PBUH) comparing smug, unreflective, self-satisfied cockwaffle like this to the look of a two year-old on a pot after a particularly prolific evacuation (although he was talking about the creepy We Are the World performers, a similar sense of vapid righteousness prevails.)


Next thing you know, they'll be using irony and sarcasm! We're DOOMED!



What'll he do when we automate him out of his burger-flipping career as well?


"By Muhammad’s beard."

Don't you mean "by the hair of Muhammad's chinny chin chin"? That should be worth at least one fatwa.



I have nothing to add to your portrait of silly Mr Harper.

Just a few thoughts on capitalism and music. I think it's more complicated.

I believe Jon Hassell got a grant from the US government to go and study with Stockhausen. I'm not sure, but such grants were very common at the time.

Many of Britain's great pop musicians, who subsequently paid lots of money in taxes, went to art school at the taxpayer's expense. Others lived on the dole while they got their act together.

Miles Copeland - whose own politics are very right wing - said that British bands in the 70s and 80s were generally more interesting than American bands because of the dole. American bands had to start earning money immediately, and the temptation to fit in with what was already popular, rather than find your own voice, was harder to resist. Another factor was cheap accommodation in London. Living in squats was common among musicians in the 1970s and 80s.

As always, these arguments polarise. I'm simply pointing out that certain features of welfare state Britain clearly did help make British music more interesting from the 1960s onwards, and that the most successful bands (and their record labels) went on to pay lots of money back into the treasury. I'm not advocating Soviet, Cuban, Taliban or Saudi state policies towards the arts.



“I believe Jon Hassell got a grant from the US government to go and study with Stockhausen. I’m not sure, but such grants were very common at the time.”

I couldn’t say whether he did or not. And I wouldn’t care to speculate on the value of studying with Stockhausen, a man whose music is largely unlistenable. But as I said earlier, public subsidy for particularly gifted individuals is one thing. Extending that subsidy to ever greater numbers and to people who are by no means as talented in subjects of no obvious commercial value - all on ideological grounds - leads to bizarro-economics. It becomes unsustainable, as we’ve seen:


“Many of Britain’s great pop musicians, who subsequently paid lots of money in taxes, went to art school at the taxpayer's expense.”

So? Won’t pop music survive without public subsidy?

“I think it’s more complicated.”

Yes, it’s complicated. And I’m not taking a particularly doctrinaire position. I’m trying to point out the doctrinaire positions of people who don’t seem to realise just how doctrinaire their positions actually are. For instance, scanning various threads on the subject can be quite revealing. One thing that crops up repeatedly is an assumption that a student has some unchallengeable “right” to spend someone else’s money studying X because they don’t feel that a degree in X is worth paying for themselves, even with generous credit. (If a degree in X has insufficient monetary value for the student - the supposed beneficiary – then why is it presumed to have value for complete strangers with priorities of their own? If there’s no likelihood of a return on the investment for the student, who’s going to compensate those who had to pick up the tab? If they aren’t compensated, how long can it go on? And remember, public sector salaries - in teaching, etc, where ‘soft’ subject graduates are often employed - are funded by the taxpayer.) For those who take this view, the fact that a degree in X may have limited market value, or no value at all, doesn’t seem to register as particularly important, except insofar as some students imagine that suitable jobs “ought” to just be there.

Which isn’t an entirely credible outlook to encourage.

Karen M


Oh no. Mr Harper’s on Twitter. http://twitter.com/RougesFoam

"so my Cif piece on the art of the protests had led to this lovely little hate page about me:" [links here]

Yes damn you, you've written a "hate page". =:0


This is just snark. Not worth the effort.



“This is just snark.”

Yes, I suppose it is, but not undeserved and not entirely without a point. If you follow the links in the snark, you’ll find earlier, more substantial comment on the issues with links to figures and other material. See, for instance, this:


And this:


As it’s you, I’ll summarise.

Given New Labour’s massive expansion of higher education (and of the state in general, around 17%), inter-generational subsidy via taxpayers is becoming unsustainable. The shift from taxpayer subsidy to student loans and variable fees was all but inevitable – a consequence of egalitarian policy and a belief that 50% of young people “ought” to be in higher education.

Some students may feel that their courses simply aren’t worth the cost, albeit a cost deferred until they earn an average salary and written off if they don’t. They may well be right. As noted earlier, the average lifetime financial return on an arts degree is estimated at around £30,000. Set against the cost of courses, accommodation and lost earnings during the period of study, the net result is most likely a *reduction* in lifetime earnings. But the cost being railed against is a consequence of socialist ideas and an education bubble created largely (though not entirely) by the left. Perhaps you feel that taxpayers should subsidise students in any number on an indefinite basis, regardless of whether their studies have economic value and regardless of whether the taxpayer will ever be compensated. But if so, that doesn’t sound entirely fair.

It seems to me that a key issue is this. New Labour made fees and loans uniform, supposedly in the name of equality, with all courses charging the same amount. So if a student chose a course in something of negligible economic value and couldn’t find a job at the end of it, the taxpayer was obliged to foot the bill anyway with no hope of compensation and no mechanism for correction. An important consequence of a person’s choice was displaced. Inevitably, the process escalated with grade inflation, a devaluing of degrees in general and an expansion of courses of questionable substance. Unsurprisingly, this has proved unsustainable. After the reforms, fees and loans will start to vary according to (among other things) the economic utility of any given course and the likelihood of a return, shifting some responsibility back to the student. Is that so disagreeable?

carbon based lifeform

"Demonstrations cost students support."


Heh. Must be all that hate.


"so my Cif piece on the art of the protests had led to this lovely little hate page about me:"

Another fail. No, we don't hate your kind, Adam. We wouldn't sink to the level of your subsidy-dependent mates and the ones who enjoy violence.

What we dislike is the assumption the world should pay (and pay again and again without question) for lazy or incapable students to come up with drivel and junk which they pretend is important. You yourself used the word 'infantile' to describe it so, with respect, we are merely agreeing.

Dr Cromarty

"so my Cif piece on the art of the protests had led to this lovely little hate page about me:"

"You all hate me!" "You are ruining my life!" "This is the worst day of my life!"

The cry of the teenager throughout history.

Grow up.


Darleen Click

"Placed in front of banners reading “Art Against Cuts” was a post-cubist humanoid figure assembled from found objects and painted silver."

How did he get there from Santa Monica?

Darleen Click

oops... link fail

he =



"When the two sides clashed on Whitehall, the book bloc's attempts to counter police force with thought..."

Funny how he doesn't mention who *started* using force -throwing snooker balls, concrete and bottles of piss at the police 3 hours *before* the kettling that's supposed to have kicked it off.


"reality itself is the territory"

sackcloth and ashes

Adam Harper does actually have the option of coming onto this site and fighting his corner. The fact that he hasn't speaks volumes ...


Harper strives for Derridan incomprehensiblity but fails. Is "thought created images" supposed to be punctuated "thought-created images" or "thought--created images--." The former is merely dim; the latter useless verbiage.

Adam Harper

I would have been inclined to fight my corner with actual political argument if I weren't so sure that I'd have already lost long before. There seems little point in trying when your perception of me and my ideas appears to border on the delusional, so all I can do is attempt to point that out. You've taken cherry-picked quotes way out of context, ignoring and editing out the parts that would have properly explained them to suit your snide impression, injected your own weighty and paranoid assumptions about me and arguments, helped yourselves to some ugly ad hominems and generally twisted me and my writing into a straw man beyond recognition.

What for me was just a modest little piece simply covering the more eccentric fringes of creativity in the protests has for you people, with the help of David Thompson, been transformed into some pretentious art review through which I (and you've entirely imagined this) attempt to prove that public subsidy is a no brainer. It was clearly nothing of the sort, and it's ridiculous to believe it ever was - Harry Potter references? Santa outfits? As an argument for public subsidy? Come off it.

You realise that with CiF pieces the writers almost never actually write the headline or the subtitle - they're designed to be provocative by often cynical editors - and yet most of the trolls use them make their minds up before the article actually starts. I certainly wouldn't have written either of them in this case. As I said, these little ironic displays only really boost morale, they're not intended as 'putting a message across' much less proof of students being worth the money - God no. Nor would some objective evaluation of artistic merits have anything to do with the issue since it's not as if the protesters were all art students submitting the entire protests as coursework.

But I don't expect to have convinced you people of anything. You clearly go out of your way exclusively to read, distort and believe whatever bolsters your narrow and frightened opinions about a complicated world. The students have dared to think bigger (it's what they're taught to do, after all) and you resent them for it.

Mr. Thompson even if I don't agree I do respect your position on low taxation and the financing of higher education - you know your stuff and you argue persuasively elsewhere. But if you just want to be a bully, do it to someone else.


"The students have dared to think bigger (it's what they're taught to do, after all) and you resent them for it."

Wow. That's a keeper. No conceit there...

Dr Cromarty

Didddums! A whole bunch of people didn't like the pretentious BS you wrote. Well, welcome to the world outside the pages of CiF. You are aware that in the Middle Ages that one group of professors in Paris needed an armed guard to protect them from the followers of a rival set of academics, aren't you? It's really only been in recent centuries that an awed public has sat and stroked their beards in an appreciative manner at some of the crap that masquerades as academic discourse in some quarters. Some of DT's readers, myself included, are unwilling to take that crap lying down and if you don't like the respones - tough.

If you think the "more eccentric fringes" of this protest deserve anything other than contempt, more fool you. That's my money, they're doing it with - I think I should have some say in that.

That really is a cynical, weaselly whine of an excuse "The nasty, cynical sub-eds made up the title". If you didn't like it - pull the piece. Your vanity made you publish despite the title. Correct me if I'm wrong but the sub-ed would have contacted you about the title first, no? that's usual practice. Why didn't you pull the piece if you didn't like the title? Grow a spine for goodness' sake.

As for the "bully" tag, LOL. If you can't take the rough and tumble of someone critiquing your published work, then it may be that academic life just may not be for you.

As my kids would say: "POWNED!"


“You clearly go out of your way exclusively to read, distort and believe whatever bolsters your narrow and frightened opinions...”

Of course, see above:

“…if I weren't so sure that I'd have already lost long before. There seems little point in trying when your perception of me and my ideas appears to border on the delusional, so all I can do is attempt to point that out.”

Perhaps humbugs truly are nothing more than zebra eggs. Though more precisely, a wink’s as good as a nod to a blind bat. Samuel Beckett, call your office.

carbon based lifeform

"if you just want to be a bully, do it to someone else."



Karen M

Sorry Adam, you're backpedalling. If DT is supposed to have taken quotes out of context (where?) and 'twisted' your meaning why were you getting the piss taken in the Cif comments too? ("This article represents 'student' politics at its most self-indulgent", "What utter self-congratulatory tripe." etc

Even Guardian readers laughed at you.


"The students have dared to think bigger (it's what they're taught to do, after all) and you resent them for it."

Adam, you’re the one who's shooting straw men. Nobody is 'bullying' you. But your article sounds pretentious and conceited - just like your reply. Is that 'taken out of context'? Don't you hear how silly and immature you sound? That's why people have been mocking you.

Elephants Gerald

Musicology - is that like astrology but with chords....

the following seem somehow appropriate...



Adam Harper

Karen M, you must admit, everyone gets the piss taken out of them at CiF because it's notoriously patrolled by Guardian haters like yourselves who deliberately make it their business to have a go. The two responses you give are typical of CiF trolls, aren't they, and don't actually argue a convincing point, do they?

Dr Cromarty, I wasn't consulted about the headline or subtitle prior to the article's being published, but neglecting to get an entire article removed over a relatively slight discrepancy in meaning (which was then unsupported in the body of the text anyway) makes me spineless? Really?

And you raise a good point, I have experienced my fair share of 'rough and tumble' in academia, journalism and blogging, but what DT's done here is certainly not a passable 'critique'. All he's done is ignored my exposition and conclusion then picked some of the descriptive passages from the middle, interspersing them with bitterly sarcastic comments alluding to artistic value and funding that are somehow meant to reflect and satirise the points I was supposedly trying to make but that have actually been dreamed up quite out of the blue. I don't know what that is but you can hardly call it a critique. It's way below the standards of twenty-first-century academic (or even rational) debate, in any case and if I'm 'conceited' or 'pretentious' to burst that bubble then fine.

It's not even that amusing, just embarrassing that he felt the need to do it, frankly, when he's clearly so good at arguing his case properly. So my complaint is not merely that I can't take being challenged (ha), but that you're queuing up to slap yourselves on the back over the perceived ridiculousness of an obvious misrepresentation of me and my article. But whatever floats your boat.

Karen M

Adam, your conclusion:

"The students' creativity must now turn to finding new ways to communicate these realities independently of the mainstream media they feel is routinely misrepresenting them. These approaches should complement the more carnivalesque elements in the movement rather than sideline them as being flippant, however. It's not just their pain and anger that have made these protests so remarkable, but their joy too."

Judging by the examples YOU quoted the students aren't being very creative, are they? It's not 'carnivalesque', just arrogant and silly. You used the word 'infantile'. (But we mustn't call it 'flippant', eh?) And are they really being misrepresented? Their own people are on TV and radio sounding like spoiled children. Most of them don't even understand the economics of it or who caused the problem. DT has shown two of them lying about the violence.

I don't think I'd trust them to 'communicate reality'. And I don’t think I'd trust you either.

Adam Harper

"Judging by the examples YOU quoted the students aren't being very creative, are they? It's not 'carnivalesque', just arrogant and silly."

Well then obviously I disagree with you - we simply disagree, that's perfectly fine. It's not an argument, it's certainly far from somehow self-evident to me that the students 'aren't being very creative' based on my own examples.

And I said they *'feel'* they're being misrepresented. I was merely reporting on the mood of the student movement. I couldn't possibly say whether the protests are 'actually' 'objectively' being misrepresented. Read and respond to what I wrote, not what's in your paranoid minds.



You're arguing with someone who thinks we're 'narrow' and 'frightened' and 'paranoid' and we 'resent' 'creative' students who 'dared to think bigger'.

And he thinks David is 'bullying' him.

Dr Cromarty

I repeat: if you don't like the headline, pull the article. Or publish elsewhere. I suspect the kudos (if that's the word) of a CiF piece (*snorts*) blinded you to the headline and now you're bleating that the title wasn't yours. The piece has your name on it, it's yours. If you don't like the headline, pull. Like I said before - grow a spine and stop bleating ("It wasnae me! A big boy did it and ran away").

DT took your words and fisked them. Get used to it - it's called peer review, though I'm not sure given the whining we've had from you that you qualify as the good Mr Thompson's peer.

"It's way below the standards of twenty-first-century academic". You wish. To be honest, Mr T's ripping you a new hole is way ABOVE the standard of most debate in the humanities.

You should thank him for the service he's done you.

Adam Harper

"it's called peer review"

"To be honest, Mr T's ripping you a new hole is way ABOVE the standard of most debate in the humanities"

I'm speechless. We are talking about this http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/jrma sort of thing, right? If you are in fact a scholar of the humanities like I am, and not just making an obscenely massive assumption about them based on trenchant hearsay (way to have a reasoned political position), then perhaps we really do live in completely different realities. As I said, there's little point in hashing this out with you. Simply by appearing in the Guardian - *once* - I was already irredeemably guilty.

Dr Cromarty

Well, since you ask I peer review for four medical journals, two international that you will have heard of, two national specialty journals that you won't have.

My use of the term "peer review" was loose in this context. But if you insist on publishing mendacious rubbish and then whine about the title, and if Mr T shreds your text, peer-review just about covers it. he's something of an expert in carving apart the kind of crap you wrote with such glee. He does it with some elegance. You just can't take hearing a contrary view without crying like a girl.

"Simply by appearing in the Guardian - *once* - I was already irredeemably guilty."

Oh, do grow up.

Dr Cromarty

"Mendacious" should have read "meretricious".

Adam Harper

Well I'm a little surprised to hear someone who peer reviews four medical journals using the phrase "crying like a girl". Very impressive.

Simen Thoresen

As a foreigner, I don't have much of a bone her. Still, I do recognize 'crying like a girl' as a medical term.


Dr Cromarty

Oh, sorry Adam. Which part of "crying like a girl" did you not understand?

Adam Harper

The part where you resorted to it in a pathetic attempt to hold your ground. Stylish - real big and clever.


Dr Cromarty: maybe he's a Northern type? Try "crying like a big girl's blouse".

"Still, I do recognize 'crying like a girl' as a medical term."

It sure is, as we doctors call it: bleedinheartgrauniadpseuditis. It can be infectious, but once immunised, it can be a great source of amusement.

Dr Cromarty

Just telling it like it is, Adam. Don't shoot the messenger.


So this is what happens when I take a day off. Well, before things get too personal and unpleasant…

One point I’d hoped to convey is this. The students’ work mentioned in Adam’s article and similar efforts seen locally are presumably the result of strong feeling and strong motivation. There’s a peer group cause, something to get excited about, something close to home. Despite this, it doesn’t impress. Nor does it serve the function apparently assigned to it. If the object is in part to make the public see how valuable art students are, and how valuable unchecked subsidy is, and to make taxpayers do without in order to pay for more of this… then, well, it’s not a tremendous success.

So far as I can make out, the “surrealism” mentioned above doesn’t add depth to the issue; it doesn’t address the economics or the root of the problem; it doesn’t offset the violence and dishonesty we’ve seen, nor does it diminish the prevailing sense of indulgence and entitlement. If anything, it amplifies that impression and confirms expectations. As a “radical” way to argue for public subsidy of art students (for instance), it doesn’t cut much ice. Better ways may exist, but they aren’t in evidence above.

On a more quantifiable note, BOM raises another economic point. The public sector employs around 20% of the UK’s workforce - notable in itself - and *40%* of our graduates. As graduates in ‘soft’ subjects are particularly likely to wind up in the public sector, the taxpayer is picking up the tab for their studies and their subsequent paycheques. And so a question arises. Is it sustainable to have 40% of graduates in parts of the economy that produce no wealth?


Simen Thoresen

And so a question arises. Is it sustainable to have 40% of graduates in parts of the economy that produce no wealth?

This is a bit harsh. The problem with teachers, health-workers, sanitation-personnel and others in the employment of the state is not that they don't produce any wealth - they do for sure. The problem is that since their services are tax funded and their salaries are government regulated, the wealth they produce cannot be determined by the market. While we do know what their services cost, we cannot know what they are worth - ie how much we rather would pay for them than for something else.

Thus the problem is not that they are employed by the state, but rather that they are /only/ employed by the state. We have no competitive and fair market-mechanisms that can determine their worth and thereby determine whether they are worth the price they currently are charging.

I'd be happy to keep the Norwegian state -provided services if they were commercially operated in fair and non-preferential competition with other providers.

Respectfully yours,



“This is a bit harsh.”

I don’t mean to sound pejorative about the public sector per se and I take your point about the problem of value measurement. But the general structural issue is worth noting. Especially if we consider graduates whose degree isn’t directly relevant to the job they find themselves doing, except insofar as “a degree” is expected and used to justify salaries and benefits.

Elephants Gerald

This seems appropriate.....

"There is an oversupply of PhDs. Although a doctorate is designed as training for a job in academia, the number of PhD positions is unrelated to the number of job openings. Meanwhile, business leaders complain about shortages of high-level skills, suggesting PhDs are not teaching the right things. The fiercest critics compare research doctorates to Ponzi or pyramid schemes… Many students say they are pursuing their subject out of love, and that education is an end in itself. Some give little thought to where the qualification might lead. In one study of British PhD graduates, about a third admitted that they were doing their doctorate partly to go on being a student, or put off job hunting. Nearly half of engineering students admitted to this."


Adam Harper

David, thanks indeed for a reasoned response! The only point I would make is that the displays that I wrote about weren't intended as carrying a direct political message (only in the most abstract sense, re: dreams / reality metaphors), much less argue and demonstrate the value of public subsidy, nor (I hope) did my article actually imply that. I wasn't 'making a case for public subsidy' but merely reporting on some of the stranger things I'd seen, which were certainly far from being the "work" of "art students" (which I hadn't in fact suggested was the case). All kinds of students have done handmade stuff for the protests, it never looks dazzling, and for every example of this weirdness there are countless more conventional arguments / demonstrations of intent on display on the streets, on the internet and in the media.

The protests are just protests, and can't be read as funding applications or exams. The object of the surrealism isn't to make the public see how valuable or clever [art] students are (which I never argued, though which you saw being implied and I guess I can understand that), but just to have a bit of light-hearted, potentially subversive fun. If it's not your bag, I understand, but as I said it's much more of an internal morale / confidence thing than PR, just part of the 'joy' of the protests. In fact I agree that were I actually to have been making a case for public subsidy, it would have been worse than ridiculous (borderline offensive!)

It's not like there were many undecided members of the public visiting the UCL occupation who would have been swayed by those references and puns. Students aren't that ridiculous. And I'm not ridiculous enough to believe that listing these bizarre displays is at all a convincing argument for the students' cause (give me some credit!). Yes, I'm a student myself, but the article wasn't making a straight up pro-protestors political argument, if you think about it, even if it did appear in the Guardian. If there was any aim at all other than the reporting of some scenes I found interesting, it was to remind people that not all students throw fire extinguishers and concrete. Even if the surrealist displays themselves 'don't address economics or the root of the problems', I hope they go some way in 'offset[ting] the violence and dishonesty we've seen' (incidentally, that's exactly how many students feel about the government and the police but that's by the by!). You're naturally welcome to remain unconvinced.

And I wouldn't even say there was much of a link between what I'd described and taxpayers' money. None of it was very lavish at all, and I'm sure the relevant funding councils didn't cough up for a stormtrooper suit or a mobile soundsystem. So I wonder if it's a bit of an exaggeration to claim that what I wrote about is or will be what taxpayers are paying for, or in any sort of correlation to public subsidy itself. It's a protest, after all.



“The object of the surrealism isn’t to make the public see how valuable or clever [art] students are… but just to have a bit of light-hearted, potentially subversive fun.”

Well, I disagree; whatever else may be in play, there’s an assumption of entitlement to subsidy. A self-righteousness, if you like. And people who imagine they’re being “subversive” are very often self-absorbed and arrogant. (See the archives for dozens of relevant examples from artists and academics.) It’s worth bearing in mind that some people – perhaps quite a lot of people – will see the displays of “subversion” and “surrealism” as objectionable self-indulgence based on presumed entitlement. Not an ideal way to elicit sympathy in those being told to fork over their cash. (And mentioning, for instance, Derrida, an incorrigible charlatan, isn’t the best way to convince the wider public that one’s cause is noble or deserving.)

“If there was any aim at all other than the reporting of some scenes I found interesting, it was to remind people that not all students throw fire extinguishers and concrete.”

I don’t know anyone who believes that “all students” are bent on violence, intimidation and attempted manslaughter. I’m not sure I’d care to meet anyone who does, assuming they exist. And I think it’s pretty obvious that your piece is more than mere reporting. Hence the ribbing.

Adam Harper

Well no, it's not a news piece of course. Just 'scenes I found interesting'.

Anyway, thanks again for heightening the tone. Merry Christmas!



long time lurker

The two student protests near where I live just left tons of litter for someone else to clean up. Kind of symbolic. The university 'occupation' backfired too. What's the message they're sending? "Fuck everyone else, this is MINE. I'll just TAKE it".


“Kind of symbolic.”

What’s interesting to me is the number of protestors and ‘activists’ who aren’t quite grasping what it is their actions are conveying beyond their immediate circle. To date, the more vehement (or “subversive”) those actions have been, the less they seem to have achieved the intended effect. (Unless one counts the threat of violence and mass disruption as acceptable leverage in such disputes.) I suppose it mirrors the idiot Marxists who dominated one local protest and who believed that waving symbols of Soviet totalitarianism and mass murder was a way to signal the worthiness of their cause and their personal righteousness.

Strange, really.

Dr Cromarty

What’s interesting to me is the number of protestors and ‘activists’ who aren’t quite grasping what it is their actions are conveying beyond their immediate circle.

The history of the 1970s in a nutshell. Militancy, campus radicalism and industrial disruption on an unprecedented scale. In 1979 Mrs Thatcher was delivered to power.

Go figure, students.

Karen M


Harry's Place jumps the shark. "Laurie Penny: Voice for a Generation"



“Laurie Penny: Voice for a Generation.”

Oh wow. I glanced at it earlier and assumed it was a spoof. Apparently not.

I suppose this takes us back to the alleged “misrepresentation.” I can certainly understand students who don’t wish their feelings to be associated with the violence and thuggery enacted in their name. But the images of violence aren’t the only problem. The protestors’ more prominent spokespeople include Aaron Porter, Simon Hardy and Clare Solomon, none of whom are exactly credible or persuasive figures, not least because of their wilful unrealism and repeated dishonesty. Nor are David Graeber and Priyamvada Gopal, both lecturers, and both reliably absurd. How credible are the Goldsmiths lecturers who described government buildings as “legitimate targets,” who defended arson and vandalism, and who redefined “violence” so as to exclude punching, kicking and attempted murder? What about Terry Eagleton, an embittered Marxist who described suicide bombers – who murder and dismember people arbitrarily - as “tragic heroes” and akin to avant garde theatre?

Now Michael Ezra asks, “Who is there to speak up on behalf of the students?” Bizarrely, he suggests Laurie Penny, a narcissist confabulator who equated a modest cap on housing benefit with the Nazis’ Final Solution.

sackcloth and ashes

Incidentally, I understand that Nelson Mandela's statue was amongst those vandalised during the 'protests'.

The comments to this entry are closed.

Amazon Link