Dr Harshad Keval explains how recent comments by the actor Liam Neeson need to be considered within context of racism and society.
Dr Michael Goodrum, Senior Lecturer in the School of Humanities, discusses Kellogg’s decision to pull its advertising from Breitbart and its history of decision-making based on values.
The cereal giant Kellogg’s has pulled its advertising from Breitbart, the alt-right news service that has attained recent prominence thanks to the appointment of its executive chairman, Steve Bannon, as President-elect Donald Trump’s chief strategist.
In a statement, Kellogg’s announced that their decision was based on Breitbart not being ‘aligned with our values’. Breitbart has responded by declaring war on the company, running a series of derogatory stories and sparking a social media campaign through the hashtag #DumpKelloggs to encourage its readers to do precisely that. Kellogg’s decision fits into the broader pattern of economic warfare currently being waged by the group Stop Funding Hate, who also use social media to advance their cause. This group campaigns to get companies to pull their advertising from publications that publish stories deemed to be inflammatory.
Kellogg’s, however, has faced down right wing opposition before in a very similar situation. In 1946, Kellogg’s was the main sponsor of the Superman radio serial in the US. The serial was broadcast five times a week, and was nationally syndicated. According to contemporary Hooper ratings, it regularly attracted the highest juvenile audience of any radio show. Kellogg’s ran tie-in campaigns, and also ran adverts within the show, meaning the brand was closely aligned with the superhero.
This was seemingly just another sponsorship deal until, in 1946, the writers of the serial took a socially relevant direction. In a story known as ‘The Clan of the Fiery Cross’, Superman and his friends from the Daily Planet Lois Lane, Jimmy White, and Perry Olsen, took up the fight against a Ku Klux Klan-like organisation who sought to drive a Chinese American family out of Metropolis. Thanks to information gathered by the journalist and political activist, Stetson Kennedy, who went undercover in the newly reformed KKK, the writers of the serial had genuine information on passwords and rituals to place in their scripts. The Klan reacted furiously and, like Breitbart, declared war on Kellogg’s, urging their sympathisers to boycott Kellogg’s and staging pickets outside shops to press the issue. Kellogg’s refused to back down; Superman’s defeat of the Klan, or at least its thinly veiled allegory, rendered them ridiculous. The stream of stories issuing forth from Breitbart on the issue seems to be achieving the same function, even without Superman’s help.
Dr. Fahid Qurashi, Lecturer in the School of Law, Criminal Justice and Computing, explores the issues around the Government’s Prevent strategy and the impact it has on UK schools.
The 88th Academy Awards took place in Hollywood on Sunday, with much talk in the lead-up to the ceremony about whether Leonardo DiCaprio would finally win Best Actor. But the Oscars made the headlines not just to announce this year’s nominees, but for the lack of diversity, with renowned actors Will Smith, Jada Pinkett Smith, and others, boycotting the event.
The recent terror attacks on the streets of Paris, the beaches of Tunisia and other places across the world have dominated the media in recent months, as has news of young people seduced by the idea of Jihad.
Professor Linden West, Director of the M.Phil and PhD programme in the Faculty of Education at Christ Church, explores racism, fundamentalism and democratic education.
There was an editorial in last Sunday’s Observer (24.1.16) – Point-scoring no help in tackling radicalisation, which I think raises important issues. I think, like the editor of the paper, that we need a more nuanced and responsible approach to these difficulties. Multi-culturalism’s success depends on hard work to build relationships and self-confidence within communities. But to associate Muslim women’s lack of English with the problem of radicalism might risk, among other factors, turning communities inwards.
Most of us will agree that it is time for serious thinking and debate. I have spent a number of years researching, in-depth and using narrative enquiry, particular communities, both white working class and Muslim, to illuminate either the allure of racism or of Islamism among some young people. The stigmatisation of specific communities does not help: in the language of moral fecklessness, laziness, benefit cheats or Chavishness directed at working class communities, for example. Or in the virulence of Islamophobia, and accusations of anti-Britishness, misogyny and now illiteracy targeted at Muslims. Getting close to actual people reveals the anxieties they face, and why some people in white estates are attracted to the BNP or EDL; or in Muslim communities, to the radicalisers. In the post-industrial city, Stoke, where I researched, these tendencies are set within a context of rapid industrial decline, the loss of low skilled jobs, the emptying out of representative democracy, the weakening of local government and high levels of mental ill-health. The Prevent Strategy in the city has also been under-resourced, with a high turnover of staff. Moreover, teachers in schools can feel under-prepared to handle the multi-cultural classroom, their instrumental training failing to equip them to handle the complexity, while bodies, like the Workers’ Educational Association, having done sterling work to bring white working class and Muslim women together, in innovative health programmes, struggle with inadequate funding and short-termism.
There are resources of hope in the city, which include proud local histories of Stoke miners and their resistance to Nazi barbarism. They expressed solidary towards their Czech comrades in the War and helped rebuild the town of Lidice afterwards (a mining community obliterated by the Nazis in 1942 in retaliation for the assignation of Reinhard Heydrich). The campaign was labelled Lidice shall live, in contradistinction to the Nazi’s Lidice shall die. It was led by a local GP, himself a refugee from Polish pogroms. The Lidice shall live history has been resuscitated in particular schools, as a means to teach about the other, and how his or her presence should be welcomed rather than feared; and of how local people have a proud and principled history as a basis for renewed civic confidence. Moreover, the city boasts a strong history of workers’ education, which once provided local people with the confidence and knowledge to become active citizens. The past can be a resource in thinking about what we might do, responsibly, in the present.
Professor Linden West will be giving a public lecture, Racism, Fundamentalism and a Democratic Education: The Challenge for Us All, on some of these issues on Thursday 11 February at 6pm, in the Old Sessions House on the North Holmes Campus of Canterbury Christ Church University. The lecture is free and open to all. Book a place.
The lecture marks the launch of Professor West’s recently published book: Distress in the city: racism, fundamentalism and a democratic education, which provides insights and ideas to help build more nuanced and responsible approaches to radicalisation.