Yesterday I wrote about a letter that was in the Guardian on Monday defending Jeremy Corbyn from accusations of anti-Semitism. In particular I noted that the signatories of that letter, who the Guardian described as being ‘forty senior academics’, were nothing of the sort. By way of example I gave readers one William Proctor from the University of Bournemouth, whose field of expertise turned out to be One Direction and Star Wars.
Sadly he is not alone. Further research reveals that the rest of the list of fourth-rate figures named as ‘senior academics’ by the Guardian includes:
- A saxophonist
- A zombie expert
- An expert in videogames
- Someone whose listed university has never heard of her
- Jonathan Eato is a ‘composer and saxophone player’ who is also director of the university’s jazz orchestra at the University of York.
- Jane Dipple, of the University of Winchester, wrote her PhD on ‘Zombies in Britain: from cinema to counterculture’
- Seth Giddings of the Winchester School of Art at the University of Southampton wrote his PhD on ‘videogames and technocultural theory’.
- And Zeta Kolokythopoulu, who is listed by the Guardian as being at London South Bank University, is not known to the university in question. I checked with them and they have no such person on their staff. A separate website suggests she may be a PhD candidate. Less surprisingly she also apparently holds an MA in ‘Culture Industry’ from Goldsmiths.
Well good for her, I hear you say. And quite so. I like a PhD candidate as much as the next person. But why a candidate for a PhD should be described as a ‘senior academic’ in a paper like the Guardian is quite another matter.
Elsewhere it has been pointed out to me that the preponderance of Goldsmiths signatories on the Guardian letter – and indeed the letter itself – may have something to do with the signature of Becky Gardiner. Becky used to be Seamus Milne’s colleague at the Guardian. Now she is teaching ‘media and communications’ at Goldsmiths, where she is guiding a new generation of students into unemployment.
Among happier news, ‘Margaret Gallagher’ has been sighted. Thanks to an eagle-eyed reader. It transpires that this ‘senior academic’ – listed even in the Guardian as of no fixed abode – does indeed still have absolutely no position in academia. Given that her ‘expertise’ is in ‘gender and media’ this may surprise readers. However, she does claim to have ‘carried out research’ for projects of the UN and the European Commission. Presumably through the medium of interpretative dance. A box of Roses chocolates is winging its way to the lucky reader.
Why does this matter? Well firstly because the Guardian should not be allowed to push around fake news. Though I see no likelihood of a correction in a paper that rarely admits to its own untruths, it is useful for us all to be reminded of the paper’s low, sectarian standards. Secondly – and more importantly – because the whole business helps to turn over a few academic pebbles and reveal the ugliness beneath. There are some fine people from second-rate universities. And many of the finest people have never been near any university at all. But it seems to me a national scandal that students are still encouraged to get into debt to study under people whose only expertise is in Star Wars, zombies, computer games and the putting together of crock letters for the pages of the Guardian.