In yet another example of the shrinking values of free speech in England, a University of East London professor of anthropology Chris Knight has been suspended for saying that bankers need to be aware of the fury in the country before they are found “hanging from lampposts.” Knight was helping organize a protest for next week G20 summit.
Knight said that demonstrators would be “hanging a lot of people” during the protests in London and was promptly suspended by the University of East London. His specific comment was that protesters would be “hanging a lot of people like Fred the Shred (disgraced former RBS chief Fred Goodwin) from lampposts on April Fool’s Day, and I can only say let’s hope they are just effigies. . . To be honest, if he (Goodwin) winds us up any more I’m afraid there will be real bankers hanging from lampposts and let’s hope that that doesn’t actually have to happen.”
We have seen a shocking rollback on free speech in the UK in the last few years. This suspension is even more worrisome because it also raises the free speech rights of academics vis-a-vis universities. Perhaps such a comment is viewed as incautious and worthy of criticism, but Professor Knight qualified the remarks and made clear that he was not advocating lynching. Moreover, he was expressing the views of many. The growing rage around the world is palpable.
The university simply got this one wrong and should stand for free speech and withdraw the suspension immediately.
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