‘The Fall’ as an Act of Refusal

 

Dr David Bates, Director of Politics and IR at Canterbury Christ Church University, reflects on the political nature of the work of singer Mark E. Smith and argues that it presented in many ways an act of refusal.

Mark E. Smith, who died on 24 January 2018, was the lead singer of the North Manchester ‘Post-Punk’ band ‘The Fall’.

The title of the band was taken from a work of that name by Albert Camus (in French La Chute). Beyond Camus, Smith was influenced by a number of writers and artists – from the philosophy of Nietzsche, the music of Can, and the dystopian science fiction of Philip K. Dick. These influences he reintroduced through his own form of amplified distortions into the Manchester of the late 1970s.

Smith’s outpouring of work over the next 40 years was immense (32 studio albums and 46 singles).

This work was not always – indeed rarely – easy on the ear. But it was not intended to be. (Smith once remarked to one of his musicians ‘if you’re going to play it out of tune, then play it out of tune properly’.)

What the fall for me represented was a possibility of a form of ‘pop’ music which simultaneously refused the rules of pop. The Fall produced music often so distorted that it would have seemed impossible to commodify. They made an anti-commodity commodity. Their very existence 40 years after their formation was a refusal of the power of Simon Cowell and others like him, who have done so much to hollow out the power of popular culture in order line their own pockets. To this extent, The Fall were political in a very real sense.

Though Smith would have loathed my pretention – he was serious about his art. (Indeed in 1988 The Fall provided the soundtrack for the ballet ‘I am Curious Orange’ by the Michael Clark Ballet Company.) The Fall were performance art at its most visceral. They produced a form of pop music which negated Ed Sheeran. And I would listen ten times to the Fall’s C.R.E.E.P than I would to Shape of You!

Mark. E. Smith
5 March 1957 – 24 January 2018

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We are not sheep: A student response to the Daily Mail

Ned Watkinson, one of the winners of our Jean Monnet Chair’s ‘Blog on Europe Competition‘, responds to Eleanor Harding and Tom Witherow who singled out his blog post in their Daily Mail article but not only misrepresented his point but also failed to comprehend that students are not sheep that can be ‘brainwashed’ by their lecturers.

The recent Daily Mail article, as a proxy justification to the recent actions of Chris Heaton-Harris MP, accuses university lecturers of marking down students who write pro Brexit essays. They cited Canterbury Christ Church’s Jean Monnet blog contest as an example, stating that “Ten of the 12 winning entries were pro EU, one was Neutral, and only one- talking about the EU’s failure to intervene in Catalonia – was negative”.

As the student responsible for writing the “only one” negative EU blog post, I would like to correct Eleanor Harding and Tom Witherow who seem to have entirely missed the point of my piece. Being critical about certain EU policies does not mean I hold the EU in a negative light as the article states.

In addition, to include my piece under a subheading titled “top prizes go to remainers” is disingenuous and I resent my work being used in such a fashion. If the editors of The Daily Mail had read my piece they would know that as it has no content related to Brexit whatsoever. Regarding said subheading, as Professor Amelia Hadfield corrected the Daily Mail, we as students are under no pressure to write positive essays. The Jean Monnet funding is not given for writing about the positive aspects of the EU, but objective and analytical teaching and research on Europe.

I will also take a moment to clarify: the attempt by Heaton-Harris to create a ‘hit list’ of university lecturers personal political stance is in equal parts horrifying and contemptible. It is pleasing that he was so quickly rebutted by academics, officials and members of his own party. Academic freedom is enshrined in law, to explore ideas and events free from government intervention.

The assumption underpinning this entire debate, and the request by Heaton Harris, is that students are easy to manipulate and mislead. This is not a new phenomenon; when Sir Julian Brazier lost Canterbury after being its MP for 30 years, he blamed his loss on Labours promises to ‘naïve young people’. A statement showing a lack of cognisance and a less than graceful defeat. It is very sad that it has become the norm to think universities are creating brainwashed pro-remain students. It is sad that this discourse is commonplace, and is used as a shield from criticism. If you seek to brainwash a population, you don’t start with universities. As students we are, by nature, critical, self-driven and independently minded. I would also like to state that I am not a fresher. I am a third-year politics student, and so were many others who wrote blogs for the competition. I have studied the EU in modules and independent study in my first and second years, and I have spent the best part of three years studying politics and international relations. I am entitled to have my work free from this insinuation that I have been brainwashed by my lecturers, I am entitled to be taken seriously. The Mail is more welcome to contact me to discuss the meaning of my piece, and my personal conclusions from my studies, free from university interference.

It is no secret that the majority of young people voted to remain in the EU, so what is more likely: That every anti-Brexit or pro-EU article written by students results from systematic brainwashing, or that students see for themselves that there is some truth to the notion that we stand to lose more than we gain by leaving the European Union?! If politicians, newspapers and older generations, choose to ignore and dismiss the opinions of the next generation, they are digging themselves into a hole. Then they are in a far better position to stick their heads into the sand while the world goes to buggery. No matter how abhorrent the political situation gets, and how those in power try to curtail freedom of speech and expression, we will not be intimidated, we will not be dismissed. We are not sheep.

______________________

The blog posts of Ned Watkinson and the other winners of the Jean Monnet ‘Blog on Europe’ competition can be found here.

Professor Amelia Hadfield’s reponses to the letter by Chris Heaton-Harris and to the Daily Mail article can be found here:

“Safeguarding Academic Freedom: A Response to Mr Heaton-Harris”

“Professor Hadfield’s reponse to Daily Mail Article”

Professor Amelia Hadfield’s response and corrections to Daily Mail article

In response to a Daily Mail article entitled ‘Students afraid of being marked down if they support Brexit in essays: Some undergraduates say they fear debate being ‘shut down’ by pro-Remain lecturers, published both online and in hard print on Monday 30th October, Professor Amelia Hadfield has written the following letter for the attention of the Daily Mail Editorial Board. The article primarily focused on concerns from select students at Universities relating to the impartiality of teaching on Brexit; but also included a sub-feature on the Jean Monnet Chair and the recent essay competition run by the Centre for European Studies (CEFEUS) at Canterbury Christ Church University. The following is a copy of the letter submitted at 13:00 today:

Dear Sir,

I’m delighted to correct a few points from today’s Mail Online article by Eleanor Harding and Tom Witherow.

First, the Jean Monnet structure. This is an international mark of distinction for excellence in teaching, awarded to academics the world over who engage in high-quality, innovative and critical teaching. Its objectives “promote excellence in teaching and research in the field of European Union studies worldwide” both on EU issues as well as the study of Europe in its entirety.  

Jean Monnet scholars are therefore responsible for promoting world-class teaching and research on Europe, objectively and analytically. Not for promoting the EU, or attitudes for or against it. Our goal is pedagogic, not polemic. We teach our students to think, write and speak intelligently on the basis of fact, rather than fiction, using evidence, rather than emotion.   

Second, our 2017 Blog Competition was open to all our incoming Freshers, and due to its success, Honours students. There was absolutely no pro-EU bias in the conditions. Students were encouraged to write on ANY aspect of European democracy, migration, security, identity, economics or Brexit-EU relations. Of the 12 winners, 4 wrote on Brexit, 3 on European identity, 2 on economic and fiscal matters, 2 on Austria and Spain, and 1 one foreign policy. Hardly a pro-EU outpouring. Indeed, the blogs reflects students’ ideas on the most salient issue of their generation. The awards were therefore made on the basis of insight and appraisal, whatever the student’s attitude to/against Europe.

Finally, students have a perfect right, and one enshrined in law, to express their opinion, whether they support or oppose EU integration, or Brexit itself. Jean Monnet structures are a key part of encouraging students to think critically and creatively about future UK-EU relations.

Best wishes

Professor Amelia Hadfield

Jean Monnet Chair in European Foreign Affairs, Director of the Centre for European Studies 

Safeguarding Academic Freedom: A Response to Mr Heaton-Harris

By Professor Amelia Hadfield, Canterbury Christ Church University

On Tuesday 25th October 2017, The Guardian published an article entitled “Universities deplore ‘McCarthyism’ as MP demands list of tutors lecturing on Brexit”, regarding a letter written by Chris Heaton-Harris, MP for Daventry and Assistant Whip, to UK university Vice Chancellors. In the letter, Heaton-Harris asks for “names of professors involved with teaching of European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit. Furthermore, could (I) be provided with a copy of the syllabus and links to the online lecturers.”

At best, the request represents a moment of pure idiocy. At worst, as per Professor Kevin Featherstone, Head of the European Institute at the London School of Economics, it’s “McCarthyite” in nature… “It smacks of asking: are you or have you ever been in favour of remain? There is clearly an implied threat that universities will somehow be challenged for their bias.” [1] The outrage it provoked in universities and academic associations across Britain was impressive, but not surprising.

Conservative MP Chris Heaton-Harris and a copy of the letter to VCs as obtained by The Guardian

Continue reading “Safeguarding Academic Freedom: A Response to Mr Heaton-Harris”

The academic voice on Brexit must not be silenced

Dr Sarah Lieberman, Senior Lecturer in Politics & IR at Canterbury Christ Church University, comments on Chris Heaton-Harris’ request for names of academics teaching European politics and warns that the government must not be allowed to silence the voices of academics and experts on Brexit.

The news that the Chief Tory whip wants all academics working on European Politics or Studies to submit their syllabus, lecture plans and all online lectures relating to this area – presumably to be analysed for anti-Brexit sentiment – has left me both speechless and apoplectic with rage. The Right Honourable Chris Heaton-Harris has written to all British Vice-Chancellors and asked for names of those teaching European affairs, with particular reference to Brexit.

A copy of the letter by Conservative whip Chris Heaton-Harris to university VCs obtained by The Guardian

The Guardian notes that professors feel this may be ‘sinister’ or ‘McCarthyist’. The Guardian further notes that “within university departments focussing on European affairs Brexiters are a rarity”.

There may, after all be a reason so few academics, and specifically European politics / studies / affairs academics are pro-Brexit, and this reason is that they actually understand the politics behind the UK’s membership of the European Union.

These academics could tell you why the 27 Member States of the EU cannot discuss Brexit with Britain, and why a trade deal cannot be negotiated alongside the exit discussions. These academics have analysed the founding treaties of the European Union, and have analysed Article 50. These academics understand decision making in the European Union, and have spent years collecting the pros, the cons, the benefits and the downsides of membership. And, overwhelmingly, those academics, those experts who have devoted their working life to understanding this peace project, this trade body, this protectionist behemoth are overwhelmingly in favour of continued membership.

In the run up to the Brexit referendum, ‘experts’ were discredited. Experts were put into a category of suspicion, and experts included academics. This is a dangerous precedent to set, and one whose logical next step is Chris Heaton-Harris’ request.

I do not yet know what the UK’s Vice Chancellors will do: I hope in the spirit of equality and fairness that Mr Heaton-Harris will be told that if he wants to see lecture slides, he should pay his fees and attend class. I certainly hope that they will respond that lecturers should, can and do teach to their own expertise and will continue to do so. Any deviance from this position is a very dangerous place to find ourselves.

Do not fool yourselves. The government is trying to stifle opinion, trying to quieten academics and trying to quash all opposition. Do not allow this to happen.