Tag Archives: Bahar Mustafa

Goldsmiths College – It Just Gets Worse

On the surface, this is Bizarro World stuff. A bunch of reactionary male religious fundamentalists attempt to disrupt a talk by an ethnic minority woman they don’t like after claiming the event was “violation of their safe space”. And then the same college’s Feminist Society issues a statement of solidarity with these men. What in Cthulhu’s name is going on?

Who else thought the disgraced Welfare & Diversity Officer Bahar Mustafa wasn’t just a single bad apple but a symptom of something more deeply rotten at the heart of Goldsmith’s College?

Some people try to shut down us white male liberals when we criticise the excesses of identity politics or the misuse of “safe spaces”. But the terrible events in Paris ought to serve as a reminder of why extremism is everyone’s business and everyone’s problem. The people who were gunned down in cold blood at The Bataclan did not enjoy the luxury of a safe space. And the mealy-mouthed victim-blaming response to the earlier Charlie Hebdo massacre by the repellent Arthur Chu serves to remind us that some so-called “Social Justice Warriors” are themselves part of the problem.

I have no idea whether or not Goldsmith’s College is a hotbed of ISIS sympathisers, but I would not be the least bit surprised if it was. And when London suffers the inevitable Paris-style attack, I wouldn’t surprised either if any of the terrorists turned out to have some connection with Goldsmith’s.

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Goldsmiths student union implodes

The saga of Bahar Mustafa takes another turn with  apparent implosion of the entire executive of the student’s union. President Adrihani Rashid has resigned citing bullying and a hostile work environment. Bahar Mustafa, the controversial Welfare and Diversity officer has also resigned stating her desire to clear her name of accusations of bullying.

Given previous controversies including refusing to commemorate the holocaust because it was “Eurocentric” and refusing to ban ISIS propaganda because that would be “Islamophobic” makes me wonder if the fallout from the terrible events in Paris was the final straw for some people.

And, presuming there’s some truth in the bullying accusations, it’s yet another example of social justice identity politics enabling a sociopath. It’s almost certainly the law on unintended consequences in play, but it’s almost as if some of the rhetoric and ettiquette was designed by and for people like her, bullies who dish it out but can’t take it.

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This Royal Throne of Feels: Popehat on Bahar Mustafa

Bahar MustafaI am seeing some schadenfreude from some of the more libertarian-minded people in my social media feeds over the news that Goldsmith’s College Student Welfare and Diversity Officer Bahar Mustafa has been charged with malicious online communication and is to appear in court.

But while it may amuse some to see a “Social Justice Warrior” (I still hate that term) hoist on their own petard, there are much more important principles at stake, and anyone who considers themselves any form of liberal ought to understand.

The best words on the subject come from a lawyer from the land of the First Amendment, Ken White of Popehat:

The hashtag “#killallwhitemen” is an in-joke, an example of somewhat belabored signalling and irony with a dash of trolling. It’s meant in part to ridicule overblown rhetoric directed at people like Mustafa. It’s not a true threat (no men are specified, no time or place is specified, no means are specified, and it’s obviously not meant to be taken literally) nor a genuine exhortation to violence (ditto). In a sensible legal system it shouldn’t generate anything more than an eye-roll. But in a feels-based legal system, it’s actionable.

And it teaches a few lessons.

First, you censorious Guardians of Feels on the Left: if you thought that the norms you created wouldn’t be used against your “own side,” you’re fools. It is apparently your theory that the law is sexist, racist, and every other -ist, driven by privilege and wealth, and that free speech norms serve to protect rich white guys — yet somehow exceptions to free speech norm will be imposed in an egalitarian, progressive way. That is almost indescribably moronic. Go sit in the corner and think about what you have done.

I have very little time for the speech-policing identity politics driven by postmodernist critical theory that’s taken root in parts of academia and the media; it’s profoundly illiberal. But if freedom of speech is to mean anything at all, it means the right to speak ill-informed complete cobblers that others may find offensive. And the right to ridicule that ill-informed complete cobblers without mercy.

Sustained targetted harassement and direct threats of violence are another issue entirely, but I have yet to see any suggestions that Bahar Mustafa has engaged in anything beyond playground-level name-calling. The law is a very blunt instrument for dealing with such things. Prosecution sets a dangerous precedent.

Even if Bahar Mustafa takes advantage of freedoms she would seek to take away from others, that’s still not the point. If they come after her, who will be next? Will you risk jail time for calling George Osborne a bellend?

Update: There are suggestions on Twitter that the court summons isn’t in connection with any of those controversial tweets from months ago, but much more recent tweets that could be interpreted as a direct incitement to violence in connection to the Tory conference in Manchester.

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Culture Wars Battle of the Week

Bahar MustafaThis week’s social media outrage is all about Bahar Mustafa, the Diversity Officer for the Student Union of Goldsmiths College in London. First there was some controversy surrounding a diversity event from which white men were excluded, which quite probably got blown up out of all proportion. Then there were some allegedly offensive posts on Twitter using the #KillAllWhiteMen hashtag.

Now it’s all over the media, and she could end up losing her job.

Her defence of her behaviour isn’t helping.

She then defended her position on camera, saying ethnic minority women cannot be racist as they “do not stand to gain” from inequality.

Now I know that the American-originated Critical Race Theory redefines racism as “prejudice plus power”. But that not what the word means in common everyday usage in the wider world. Not only that, Britain’s laws on racial discrimination use the older and more widely understood definition.

But she added the uses of hashtags such as “kill all white men” on her personal account were “in-jokes and ways that many people in the queer feminist community express ourselves”.

Ah yes, the old “It’s just banter” defence. That worked so well when used by racist footballers. My own use of social media follows the principle “Never say on Twitter what you can’t justify to your employer or your mum”. That would have been good advice for Bahar Mustafa, or indeed anyone in a highly visible public position.

At this point it would be easy to paint Bahar Mustafa as a bad actor in the same vein as Lutfur Rahman or Benjanun Sriduangkaew. But a more charitable explanation might be that she simply lacks the self-awareness to realise how her remarks could be interpreted outside the self-referential bubble of academic leftism.

If there is a genuine need for so-called “safe spaces” for minorities at Goldsmiths College, then surely it ought to possible to articulate the reasons for them without using risible canards that play into the hands of white racism.

On the other hand you do wonder whether the middle-class identity politics that constantly casts white men rather than the wealthy elites as the villains actually achieves much when it comes to tackling serious structural inequality. When taken out of academia into the real world, it certainly won’t be terribly effective at winning over the traditional working-class vote that progressive forces need if they are ever to win elections and form governments.

Still, calls for Bahar Mustafa to be prosecuted are utterly ridiculous. As to whether she gets to keep her job is a matter for her employer, Goldsmiths College Student’s Union, not a mob of random people on the internet with virtual torches and pitchforks.

And nobody deserves death threats, no matter who they offend.

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