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    There's Climate of Intimidation in Some Western Institutions - Professor

    CC BY 2.0 / Jason Tong
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    In an interview with Sputnik, Professor Tim Anderson, currently suspended from the University of Sydney, has spoken out on dissenting voices in universities and the climate of intimidation that prevails in some Western institutions.

    Sputnik: Why do you think you have been suspended from the University of Sydney where you taught for 20 years?

    Tim Anderson: Well it's under appeal so I'm still not completely out but the reason they moved against me is because pressure on the university from some of the media with whom I've engaged…basically I've been criticizing the war propaganda in the media — the lies that they've told at different times — some of the corporate media and then there's also some Zionist lobbyists who've chimed in too.

    Really in recent years Hands Off Syria has not just been talking about the Syrian conflict but also about Palestine and Iraq and the regional war which has effectively involved quite a number of countries. So the lobbyists in favor of Israel have jumped in and put pressure on the university and the context I think is, and I have an academic article coming out on this, is that the corporate university which relies increasingly on private funds is under a lot of pressure from its private foundations — so most people have strong links to Israel and to media companies here too.

    So university managers get quite scared by this sort of pressure and I refuse to be censored by the managers at my university which is why we've come to this stand-off.

    Sputnik: How difficult is it to be a dissenting voice at some western institutions now?

    Tim Anderson: It's an interesting question; I'm in my mid-sixties; I don't have any mortgages; I'm reasonably well off financially; I'm in a relatively luxurious position to be able to speak my mind and not worry about what people have to say. But a lot of people, even if they're relatively well-off middle-class academics, there are always little carrots or little threats that are being held out in front of them so I've been quite shocked really in recent years to see how intimidated and what a climate of fear there is, particularly in a war-time situation amongst academics.

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    In the past for example if something had blown up — the media have attacked me many times in the last five year for example for what I'm doing —people will say things in private ‘Oh, we really appreciate what you're doing' but they won't say it in public; they're worried there will be some kind of kick-back on to their job.

    So there's really quite a climate of intimidation and it doesn't really come out into the open so much and that's why it's interesting that the sort of accusations they've made against me now which they've demanded be kept private for the last eighteen months; now that they've definitively moved against me to get rid of me I'm going to start releasing them as to my mind a lot of them are incredibly petty and just obvious things of political bias which they've tried to turn into something else.

    Sputnik: What is the danger of restricting freedom of speech in universities?

    Tim Anderson: It's a very obvious danger — you're not going to have dissenting voices, you're not going to have people criticizing things, you're not going to have people stand up and say ‘The Emperor wears no clothes'. These eight different wars that have been initiated in the Middle East are not really about human rights and democracy, they're about something else.

    Who's going to say this kind of things? We have institutions now set up, there's one in my university called the US Study Centre, which was created specifically to turn around the bad reputation that the US government acquired in Australia after the invasion of Iraq, to try to correct that. Now there's a new, extremely wealthy foundation with billions of dollars that my university is trying to get its hands on, and they want to set up a center for the study of western civilization. And they've made it clear that it's not the study of western civilization, it's to promote western civilization, and of course, embedded in that is what in this country is what is called the ‘culture wars' — how people interpret colonial and imperial history and so on.

    And so those sorts of things are getting a grip on the curriculum and institutionally the way things are discussed in universities and I suppose it is making people feel more isolated; they want to speak out against imperial wars and dirty wars and the ethnic cleansing of Palestine and some of the big issues of our day.

    The views and opinions expressed by the speaker do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.

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