Tag: Anarchy in the UK

Save IR and Politics at University of the West of England

Earlier today, I received an email alerting me to the fact that the University of the West of England’s Academic Board supported a recommendation from the Vice Chancellor’s Executive Group to close all international relations and politics programs.

Apparently, the plan is to refocus the university (one of the ten largest in England) on skills-based learning and vocational courses, which essentially means that arts and social sciences have no place in future plans. As long-time Duck readers know, I think this is a very bad idea — and some much-discussed research strongly supports the value of liberal arts education. Indeed, this research suggests that liberal arts students even out-perform vocationally trained students in the job market. In IR at UWE, 95% of “Students [are] in work / study six months after finishing” their course.

Unsurprisingly, students are very happy with the education they receive at UWE:

In the last five National Student Surveys History at UWE has consistently scored over 90 per cent in the overall satisfaction ratings and Politics at UWE has scored close to 90 per cent. In the 2011 Guardian University League Tables Politics at UWE scored 91 per cent for overall course satisfaction.

Indeed, the students are campaigning  to save their programs. They have set up an online petition. They also have a Facebook page. An especially resourceful Politics/IR student at UWE made the following video about the pending decision and the value of the programs: Continue reading

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The soundtrack of barbarism…

…sounds something like this.

Why are these urban riots happening on this side of the pond?

Predictably, two strong lines of argument are forming. Both of which can be supported from that interview.

The ‘mere criminality’ school finds that these youths are robbing and looting out of sheer, brutal opportunism. Whereas the ‘material deprivation’ school sees these riots as the upsurge of social distress, misdirected political rage and alienation in the wake of government cuts to social services, the widening gap between rich and poor, etc.

Who is right?

A strong case could be made that the causes have come in waves. This whole thing kicked off from what was supposed to be a peaceful protest against a police shooting. That is, it began in political form. (‘Political’ here meaning an attempt to challenge or defend the use, distribution or possession of power in a fundamental way, rather than the fleeting local redistribution of power through robbery).

But then, after the first night’s riot, the word got out that people could rob and burn because they could get away with it. And they were right. Whatever the root causes of mob behaviour, this is clearly not a wild outburst of political rage, like some riots have been historically. It has much more to do with raw calculations about power and opportunity. Most groups are not randomly burning down bookstores or MP’s offices, but are prioritising phone stores, clothing outlets and banking machines. The two girls paid lip service to ‘getting rich people’, with the bemusing idea that anyone who owns a shop counts as wealthy, but the spirit of their activities is clearly a sense of exhilaration and pleasure.

Putting it another way, consider this savage little episode. Even if we acknowledge that government cuts have made people angry, its a stretch to argue that as this youth pitilessly robbed a wounded young man, his driving force was distress caused by financial reductions in 2010 to local libraries and youth recreation centers.

I’d be willing to bet that had he been confronted with similar circumstances in sunnier economic times in 2007, or 2005, he would have acted similarly. He and his ilk do not seem to be voicing substantive political outrage about class conflict or injustice, but are exalting in their newfound street power.

But is this behaviour still linked to underlying inequalities, to the disturbing social fact that many of these folk seem not to believe they have a stake in an orderly society? Quite possibly. But I’m just a bit skeptical that its really ‘because’ of recent cuts to services more than very remotely. Conservative moral panics are not the only superficial response to this problem.

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Hugh Grant the Unlikely Victor in the News of the World Battle


The highlights of this story are largely well known: At a pub in Dover Hugh Grant secretly records former News of the World (NoW) reporter Paul McMullan detailing how NoW had regularly hacked into phones and raided the trash of celebrities to get the inside scoop. A feature is printed in the New Statesman. Further allegations come to the fore- including that the phone of former missing youth Milly Dowler, as well as the phones of deceased servicemen, have been hacked. Rupert Murdoch is shocked. The NoW is shut down as of Sunday July 10th.

It’s hard to know what to make of this story- complete with an absolutely unlikely list of characters. In keeping with all great news stories, this one has a couple of notable “good news/bad news” elements.
First, the good news is that the News of the World has been shut down. Seriously, with a list of headlines that include

My Big Fat Gypsy Divorce at just 19
FI Boss Has Sick Nazi Orgy With Hookers

Boozy bro Andy Carroll gave me black why eye

it can’t be considered much of a loss for the British media.

The bad news is that Rebekah Brooks, the former editor of NoW and current CEO of Rupert Murdoch’s News International has managed to avoid loosing her job and avoid charges- despite reports that she knew about the hacking. Brooks seems to have enough friends in high places to allow her to walk out of this scandal untouched. There are stories of her and Prime Minister David Cameron going horse-back riding regularly and the best man at her wedding in 2003 was the director of the Press Complaints Commission. Is the end of NoW a case of destroying Frankenstein but not his creator?

Second, the good news is that Hugh Grant has been catapulted into the spotlight again after a few years of making largely forgettable films. Grant looked intelligent, professional, and- quite frankly- dashing.
The bad news is that it’s hard to know if Hugh Grant’s role in bringing The News of the World to its knees this week should be seen as a sign of Grant’s talent as an investigative journalist, or of the depressing state of the British media. Furthermore, Paul McMullan- whom Grant recorded- had himself been trying to blow the whistle on the newspaper for some time, largely to deaf ears. Does this mean that it takes the power of celebrity rather than an inside journalist to get the media and public’s attention?

At a final glance the only clear winner in this whole story is Hugh Grant. He’s redeemed himself for his own NoW scandal involving a prostitute in 1995 and eclipsed that story (and the image of his infamous mug shot) with a story of his own investigative journalism that led to the end of an era in British media history.

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