More bigotry at Britain’s National Union of Students

On the Right we have a bunch of regressive conservatives who demonize minorities and women and have no sympathy for the downtrodden, while on the Left we have regressive Leftists who try to censor people’s speech, take the side of extremist Islamists against women and gays, and shut down disagreement by other Leftists who aren’t pure enough. What is a person to do? The answer, of course, is to call out both sides for regressive behavior.

And so I’ve been criticizing Britain’s National Union of Students (NUS), which is about as regressive as a “progressive” organization can be. We all know, of course, of their “no platforming” policies that are, in effect, codified denial of free speech. One further odious example: the NUS’s LGBT+ campaign called for removing gay males from their annual conference because gay males weren’t sufficiently oppressed.  As RT reported:

The campaign also seeks to push LGBT+ societies into scrapping the position [gay male representatives] completely.

“The reps system exists to ensure that committees can always have a reserved place for groups which disproportionately face oppression within the LGBT+ community,” the motion said.

“Gay men do not face oppression as gay men within the LGBT+ community and do not need a reserved place on society committees.”

The motion also addresses the contentious “no-platforming” debate, whereby speakers are denied a platform to express their views if they are thought to be “bigoted.”

“Students’ Unions have a choice of who to host as speakers, and denying them that platform is a choice that SUs should feel free to make on ideological and welfare-based grounds. We reaffirm our commitment to a policy of no platform for fascists,” it reads.

This, of course, codifies what we all know to be true: the Regressive Left is establishing a Hierarchy of Victimhood, in which people are classified as worth more or less depending on how many oppressed groups they belong to, and how oppressed those groups are deemed to be.

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And the new president of the NUS, Malia Bouattia, isn’t going to help matters. Once the NUS Black Students Officer, she had a history of problematic statements about Jews, which in my view bordered on anti-Semitism (see my posts on Bouattia here and here). After election she promised to do better, and pay attention to the concerns of all students, including Jews, but I was doubtful. The student unions of Newcastle, Lincoln, and Hull then disaffiliated from the NUS, while Oxford voted narrowly to remain. Still, I decided to wait and see if she made good on her promise to be more inclusive.

I’m not waiting any more As I suspected, Bouattia has a covert agenda, and it’s just become more overt: she has taken away from Jewish students their traditional right to select a representative to the NUS’s Anti-Racism, Anti-Facist taskforce. As the Torygraph reports:

Previously the Union of Jewish students was consulted and talked to about the identity of the Jewish representative on the committee.

But from now on the Jewish member will be decided by the National Executive Council (NEC) and President Malia Bouattia, after the NUS passed a motion that brought the changes to effect.

The Union of Jewish Students (UJS) have condemned the decision saying that it is just another example of “Jews being pushed out of university life.”

An UJS spokesman said: “It was no surprise that the NUS President, Malia Bouattia, who had the deciding vote once again showed that she has absolutely no interest in defending Jewish students’ interests by voting to remove the ability of Jewish students to shape for themselves the student movements’ fight against racism and fascism.

Malia is still yet to adequately answer the concerns of Jewish students regarding her past rhetoric and today provided further proof that Jewish students are right to feel unsafe in the national union that she leads.

“After today’s vote it is clear that NUS and specifically the NUS President has no desire to listen to Jewish students.”

It’s not clear to me what reason Bouattia or the NUS would have to deny the right of a group to select its own representatives, especially since that was okay in the past. The only rationale I see is a wish to control the composition of that committee.

This wouldn’t concern me so much but for two things: the rising tide of anti-Semitic views in Britain (and since a rising tide lifts all boats, that bigotry extends to Muslims as well), and the fact that NUS officers often transition to secular politics. Bouattia’s actions are in spirit if not letter anti-Semitic, and she has no business representing a diverse group of students. But, NUS students, you get whom you vote for. Good luck.


Malia Bouattia

Thank Ceiling Cat there’s no such thing as a National Union of Students in the U.S.!


  1. Damien McLeod
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Good post Dr. Coyne. I agree.

  2. Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    How on Earth did we get to the point that the descendants of the Civil Rights movement have devolved into a bunch of homophobic, racist, sexist bigots? And in a mere few decades, to boot!

    For let’s not pretend otherwise: those who would “no-platform” gay men and Muslim women and Jews, for any reason…they are the very definition of homophobic, racist, and sexist. Even if they’re themselves the victims of other forms of discrimination.

    Indeed, their own victimhood makes their actions worse. They themselves should know firsthand the pain victims of bigotry suffer; they have less excuse than the Trump-style bigots. Theirs is the shame of battered wife who beats her children.


    • Stephen
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 12:56 pm | Permalink

      Ben, one of the saddest things I’ve ever seen was right before the Supreme Court decision last year legalizing Gay marriage, when a group of Black ministers here in DC, many of them veterans of the Civil Rights movement, came out publically against Gay rights.

      The image of a group of people who had experienced discrimination, not because of anything they had done but because of who they are, openly advocating discrimination against other people, not because of anything they had done but because of who they are, filled me with despair.

      Religion poisons everything.

      • DiscoveredJoys
        Posted July 21, 2016 at 2:40 am | Permalink

        Religion poisons everything.

        Very true. But I’s extend that idea by saying that any overwhelming belief system poisons everything. Extreme political beliefs, extreme philosophical beliefs, and extreme cultural beliefs can take over a person’s worldview and poison their thoughts against ‘the other’. Religion and politics are the worst poisoners (YMMV) because they are not subject to empirical confirmation and are resistant to change (Confirmation Bias). Philosophical beliefs are not so dangerous because they are often at odds with ordinary expectations and so don’t benefit from human nature. Cultures tend to change at least slightly every generation and so don’t get ‘fixed’ so easily.

        My view of the NUS is that they were always a politically orientated organization but this has now become primary rather than secondary to the aims of student representation. And a ‘fixed’ political organisation becomes a ‘machine’ organisation where the internal games become the most important drive.

        You can probably think of some religious factions that have become ‘machine’ religions where the (alleged) care for souls has become secondary to the continuity of the organisation itself.

        • Posted July 21, 2016 at 11:22 am | Permalink

          But I’s extend that idea by saying that any overwhelming belief system poisons everything. Extreme political beliefs, extreme philosophical beliefs, and extreme cultural beliefs can take over a person’s worldview and poison their thoughts against ‘the other’.

          Woah there — that’s going way overboard.

          I have an overwhelming belief that the Copernican heliocentric model of the Solar System is a good rough approximation of reality, and that Newtonian Mechanics is an equally good description of the temporal evolution of the Solar System. And I have an overwhelming belief that governments derive their just powers from the consent of the governed, as well as that a person’s worth is entirely independent of the person’s melanin expression or gender identity. I also have an overwhelming belief that clear daytime skies are blue.

          What on Earth should make you think that any of those beliefs would somehow “poison” my thoughts against “the other”?

          If somebody comes to me and tries to sell me on the Flat Earth, I’ll patiently explain how we knot that ancient superstition to be worng — and it won’t upset me in the slightest should that person persist in the delusion.

          If somebody else tries to discriminate against people, I’ll do my best to protect those being discriminated against; but any action against the bigot would be limited to that minimally necessary to protect others from bigotry.

          And, as you just saw, if somebody tries to convince me that corporations are people, too, my response will be reasoned and evidenced argument — not pistols at dawn.

          Yes, tribalism can lead to “othering” and to violence — but overwhelming belief doesn’t itself lead to tribalism. Methinks you might want to reconsider this particular overwhelming belief of yours about overwhelming beliefs….




    • Zado
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:59 pm | Permalink

      How on Earth did we get to the point that the descendants of the Civil Rights movement have devolved into a bunch of homophobic, racist, sexist bigots? And in a mere few decades, to boot!

      Easy — these people are not the descendants of the Civil Rights movement.

      The Civil Rights movement was waged within the broader context of human rights and constitutional liberty (read: liberalism). These people are the descendants of the leftist fringe that retreated into the universities during the 70s (read: Marxists).

      Marxists are not liberals, and many have a deep-seated hatred of liberal principles since, much like their counterparts on the right, they are authoritarians at heart.

  3. Historian
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:03 am | Permalink

    These students are too young and naïve and lack historical understanding to realize that their actions may produce a reaction so strong that the groups they champion will suffer even greater “oppression.” For a social group to ultimately achieve its goals, it must convince the larger society of the merits and fairness of its cause. In the United States, the cause of same-sex marriage gained majority support because gay groups convinced the American public at large (particularly younger Americans) that such marriages presented no harm to anyone. Malia Bouattia seems oblivious to understanding what it takes for a social movement to succeed.

    • Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:43 am | Permalink

      At least, black people are unlikely to suffer a backlash because of Ms. Bouattia. She throws around her black identity to claim victimhood but, to me, her photos show her about as black as Rachel Dolezal.

    • Cindy
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 5:58 pm | Permalink

      They are incredibly ignorant of history.

      • somer
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:33 pm | Permalink

        I really don’t think they care about history – for them history is all a big made up conspiracy

  4. Christopher
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:06 am | Permalink

    Gay men aren’t oppressed! What great news! I’m sure Mathew Shepard, Harvey Milk, and Alan Turing would have been so pleased to hear that…if they weren’t dead.

  5. Mark Sturtevant
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:08 am | Permalink

    But dropping gay men from having a role means that gay men have less of a voice and so are more repressed!

  6. Draken
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:19 am | Permalink

    I think the NUS should team up with the BNP. They now have so much in common, they could easily iron out the differences.

  7. Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    I checked what Malia Bouattia is studying. According to her Wikipedia article, she has “read culture studies” and now is pursuing a degree in “post-colonial theory”, whatever this is. I wish someone purges universities of these made-up fields that exist just to give degrees and positions to regressive-left bullies.

    • Richard
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:10 pm | Permalink

      I suspect that “post-colonial theory” can be explained simply by the mantra

      Black Men Good, White Men Bad

      though somehow that makes me think of sheep…

      • Posted July 20, 2016 at 5:19 pm | Permalink

        You forgot the “Black Women Better” part.

        • Richard
          Posted July 21, 2016 at 3:55 am | Permalink

          No, I think black women are the best! 🙂

    • somer
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:14 pm | Permalink


  8. Cameron
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:48 am | Permalink

    “We reaffirm our commitment to a policy of no platform for fascists” Really? Has their ideology gone so far that they are freely redefining what common words mean? Fascism was born from a global left-leaning movement (progressivism in North America, and now shared by left and right), and what we now know to be hallmarks of fascism is it’s control over speech and thought by a powerful government body. If anybody can be called fascist it’s the NUS. They epitomize the very definition of the word (except for the nationalism part).
    Also, Malia is black? Is “black” different in Britain? Honestly, I can’t tell from her photos. She’s like Kim K white. Does anyone know where the “white line” is drawn to determine who’s privileged white and who’s an underprivileged visible minority? So confused.

    • Richard
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:15 pm | Permalink

      No, “black” isn’t different in Britain. She probably simply “identifies” as black because that places her further up the victimhood hierarchy, thus giving her more power.

    • Historian
      Posted July 20, 2016 at 3:42 pm | Permalink

      “Fascism was born from a global left-leaning movement (progressivism in North America, and now shared by left and right), and what we now know to be hallmarks of fascism is it’s control over speech and thought by a powerful government body.”

      Your assertion that fascism grew out of North American progressivism is absurd. Progressivism in the United States usually refers to the period from approximately 1900 to 1916 when reformers such as Theodore Roosevelt and Woodrow Wilson attempted, by different methods, to reign in the growing corporate dominance of American political and economic life while maintaining capitalism as the American economic system. Fascism is a term that is pretty hard to define. See the Wikipedia article “Definitions of Fascism.” It states that “originally, ‘fascism’ referred to a political movement that was linked with corporatism and existed in Italy from 1922 to 1943 under the leadership of Benito Mussolini.”

      There may be some left wing influences on the development of fascism. See the Wikipedia article entitled “Left-wing fascism.” It states that “Left-wing fascism and left fascism are terms that have been used to describe tendencies in left-wing politics that contradict or violate the progressive ideals with which the Left is usually associated, such as free speech.” To the extent that this is true, it does not apply to the American progressives of the early 20th century. In fact, there are some historians who do not even consider the progressives as particularly left wing (although hardly fascists in any sense of the term).

      Barring clarification, your assertion makes no sense and seems to reflect a lack of understanding of American history.

      • jay
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 5:52 pm | Permalink

        Communists controlled ownership and means of production, fascists left the ownership but kept control. The traditional ‘left right ‘ dichotomy is a fantasy created by the left primarily to excuse Stalin.

      • jay
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

        Progressivism was never really about free speech (except when they felt their speech was threatened). It was about uniformity under the benign (yeah) control of the state.

        Some of the cornerstones of progressive ideas; free government schooling, government sponsored retirement pensions were originally advocated and somewhat implemented by Bismark. State control of education provided the means to propagandize the young, standardization of work conditions, retirement benefits kept the population weak and passive. Dependency on the government kept the government in power.

        Even later, icons of the left (names like Seeger, Robeson, and many others) were deluded apologists for Stalin and later Soviet ignored the brutal killing, and occasionally tried to justify it. Woody Guthrie could put ‘this machine kills fascists’ on his guitar and yet feel good about supporting the equally evil communist empire.

        • Historian
          Posted July 20, 2016 at 7:42 pm | Permalink

          Keep the faith, baby. Maybe your libertarian ideas will be tested someday. Perhaps it will be the same day Jesus returns.

        • Posted July 21, 2016 at 4:34 am | Permalink

          + 1. Many of these ideas are well developed in “Omnipotent Government” by Mises, a book devoted to the genesis of Nazi Germany written by a Jew who had to flee from the Nazis. I do not understand why so many atheists think that libertarian arguments should be countered not by arguments but by simple disbelief and insults.

      • somer
        Posted July 20, 2016 at 11:27 pm | Permalink

        +1 except there has always been a liberal and illiberal, authoritarian Left

  9. Posted July 20, 2016 at 1:12 pm | Permalink

    Reblogged this on The Logical Place.

  10. Heather Hastie
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 2:13 pm | Permalink

    Ms Bouattia’s bigotry against Jews has always been clear imo. In the past she has shown herself unable to condemn Palestinian terrorist groups and when pushed has even appeared to express support for them.

    Her reasoning about gay men seems to be similar to that of US racists: we have a black president which proves there’s no racism anymore so any problems you face are your own fault.

    I wonder if she realizes that for the sake of consistency she should use the same reasoning about sexism as she does about homophobia? And that if Jewish students can’t choose their own representative, no other group should be able to either.

  11. jay
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    I was recently reading an article by Milo (yes him) written almost exactly one year ago. He predicted this very thing.

  12. Posted July 20, 2016 at 6:03 pm | Permalink

    it is not that white gay men are more accepted

    but it does need to be acknowledged that

    1. they were the first able to be out

    that male clout of social privileged…

    2. white women make queer something white people did

    3. without the American Gay Men who could afford medical access, AIDs would have been a worse pandemic than it was. Australia is calling it solved.

    the community that I came out in the 1990s, is a lot bigger, and a market niche and a legal person in many nations.

    it’s not that we don’t apreciate the white gay guys, and it’s not that they are any safer

    it’s just that they do have the most privledge and so do white lesbians – who have appalling supporting conservative politics

    throwing the rest of us under the bus

    and we all need a seat and a turn…

    so the needs of the many needs to be addressed in a community that does not really get along internally any better than we do at the fringes of the heterosexual mainstream

    which only now is including some

    but people are not just this or that demographic

    black live matter, queers ones do as well

    and we need to work better together

    because that right wing is united homogenously

  13. Henry Fitzgerald
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 7:09 pm | Permalink

    Also, the very idea that a group doesn’t need representation, because they’re not oppressed!

    One point of representation is to prevent a group from becoming oppressed.

  14. somer
    Posted July 20, 2016 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    Bouattia is poisonous. And she’s definitively not “black”.

  15. Tim Harris
    Posted July 21, 2016 at 5:35 pm | Permalink

    Let us hope that university student unions in addition to those that have already done so disaffiliate themselves from the NUS so that Ms Bouattia is left holding nothing or very little.

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