David Miller and the University of Bristol

The University of Bristol has come under huge pressure to sack one of its senior academics, Professor David Miller. Allegations have been made about the content of a lecture he delivered in 2019 and subsequent statements. His accusers at the university have been supported by external bodies alleging that his teaching, research and public statements are antisemitic.

Indeed it is on his public statements, which reiterate forcefully his analysis of the role and influence of Israel and of Zionism, its supporting political ideology, that the attack has concentrated.

We recognise that there are people who have been offended by what he has said. But we stress that there is no right not to be offended. And, in our view there is no supporting evidence to suggest that Miller’s views are motivated by antisemitism. For the university to “cancel” his job would be a truly extreme case of no platforming.

The demand for David Miller’s sacking has been substantially based on the IHRA working definition of antisemitism, a widely criticised document which universities have been under great pressure to adopt. But even that document stresses that whether statements should be regarded as antisemitic or not depends on ‘the overall context’ in which they were made. In this case the context is Professor Miller’s academic specialism.

He teaches political sociology, and researches in particular corporate and state power, lobbying tactics and Islamophobia. He is on the Board of Directors of the Organisation for Propaganda Studies, and is central to SpinWatch, an organisation that focuses on the networks of powerful individuals and institutions shaping the public agenda.

Many have taken exception to the conclusions he has drawn from this research. It is not unusual for academic research to encounter strong opposition but disagreement with his conclusions is no grounds for calling for his sacking.

Freedom of speech in this country is protected by Article 10 of the Human Rights Act 1998. Freedom of expression is still more rigorously protected at universities by the Education Act. Section 43 states that

Every individual and body of persons concerned in the government of any establishment to which this section applies shall take such steps as are reasonably practicable to ensure that freedom of speech within the law is secured for members, students and employees of the establishment and for visiting speakers.

This is unambiguous. Nothing that David Miller has said is unlawful. Should the University of Bristol attempt to dismiss him it would be in violation of this legal protection.

Were the campaign against Professor Miller to succeed the shock waves would resonate through Britain’s academic community. The protections for academic freedom would have been shown to be inadequate, the enemies of open discussion would feel empowered, and many individual academics would start to self-censor lest they too should become a target. If Britain’s academic system has values worth defending, the University of Bristol must resist calls to sack David Miller.

 

 

Comments (15)

  • Mary Davies says:

    Solidarity with the courageous David Miller.

  • Philip Ward says:

    Interesting to note that the Charity Commission quickly investigated the National Trust after 3 people complained to it about the Trust’s efforts to link some its properties with the history of slavery and colonialism. Interesting also that the Commission is not preprared to stand up to an organisation with 5.6 million members so it has (rightly) “exonerated” the National Trust.

    The “Campaign Against Antisemitism” has about a dozen articles vilifying David Miller. Thousands of people have complained to the Charity Commission about the CAA, which is doing its best to confuse the public about the real nature of antisemitism and thereby doing all Jewish people a terrible and dangerous disservice. There’s not been one word from the Commission after about four years.

  • Andrew Hornung says:

    I don’t know how long Richard Lynn, labelled by many as a white supremacist, lectured at Bristol. His published works largely deal with alleged racial differences in intelligence with – you guessed it – Africans coming bottom of the pile. Did the same bodies that are attacking Miller go for Lynn?
    It should be said, though, that Bristol University did not cave in to calls to sack Rebecca Ruth Gould when bigots like Lord Pickles (head of the UK delegation to the IHRA, incidentally) called for her sacking.

  • Shuaib Manjra says:

    Stop the attack on academic freedom

  • Jackie Hilton says:

    I fully support David Miller

  • Stuart Graham says:

    David Miller has done nothing wrong. He knows of what he speaks. I hope the University doesn’t cave in to the lies and smears.

  • Leon Waksberg says:

    I note that some of the people who often sign your letters have signed the statement from academics criticising Miller and calling for his university to take action against him.

  • Lise Korson says:

    David Miller uses propaganda & his org @forPropaganda to directly disseminate Palestinian Propaganda. He quotes directly fr the Pal Charter which repeatedly espouses jihad until the Jewish State is destroyed. Miller should NOT be permitted to continue poisoning young minds on campus or anywhere else.

  • Anthony McCabe says:

    I support this statement in defence of freedom of speech in the UK, and in defence of Professor David Miller against the campaign to get him dismissed by his employer.

  • Sally Eason says:

    I’m also facing the same attacks from the Israel Lobby front charities CST and CAA except they picked on the wrong Jew this time. Trust me.

  • Truth and exposing apartheid is necessary for decent society .Professor David Miller speaks for so many of us . Israeli gov’t has to change . Palestinians must be free . Thank you , Jewish Voice for Labour .

  • Mordko Rainer says:

    I’d say calling Jewish students foreign agents and claiming that Jews and Muslims sharing soup is a “Zionist ploy” falls under any definition of antisemitism.

  • Michael Pierse says:

    This is a very fair assessment of the situation. Free speech is a cornerstone of democracy and a diverse, open society.

  • Liam Cusack says:

    The deliberate conflation of being anti Israeli position on Palestine, and being anti Semitic is going to backfire.
    I Support Israel’s right to exist.
    I condemn what Israel is doing to the Palestinians.
    Judaism is a religion and I have absolutely no problem with that .

  • Kate Mann says:

    He must not be dismissed. He is doing good work and has a right to be heard. You may not agree with his opinion but this is a University. Debate should be encouraged.

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