Friday, July 04, 2008

Andrex Academics

Some years ago a column I wrote in The Independent inspired a letter from an academic in some super-soft discipline, probably media studies. He enclosed a questionnaire. He wanted to know how I had come to write the column. The questionnaire was laughable, designed solely to produce one outcome - my exposure as the hired lackey of some mighty corporation. I replied, telling him his methods were a disgrace to the academic community, insisting, nevertheless, that I be sent a copy of his research as I would, of course, sue if it contained any suggestion that I had been corrupted and pointing out that I quite fancied the idea of a quick twenty grand. This memory came back to me while driving up the M11 on Wednesday half-listening to The Moral Maze, an amiably earnest R4 show which doubtless will be dumped or tweaked by the marketing whizz now in charge of BBC radio. I began fully-listening when Ellis Cashmore appeared as a 'witness'. Cashmore is 'professor' of Culture, Media and Sport, surely the Andrex of academic disciplines. You can listen to him on the website - it's the programme about celebrity - he appears at about twenty minutes. You may need a new laptop as these machines don't take kindly to being flung across the room. The gist of what Cashmore said was contained in his line 'Cultures are no better or worse than each other'. Right then, Prof, here's my time machine and, woosh, here we are in Tiananmen Square during Mao's Cultural - geddit? - Revolution. You, being an intellectual, are about to be stamped to death for the entertainment of the peasants. Luckily, I am on hand to, first, console you with the thought that all cultures are equal and, secondly, to operate the time machine and whisk you off to Germany in the thirties. I, having a Jewish mother, am being dragged off by Brown Shirts, but, luckily, you are on hand to console me with the thought that all cultures are equal. Sadly, you cannot operate the time machine.... Who are these people? What are they for?


  1. Luckily, i have the answer to all of these questions.

    A long time ago, the Good Lord created Mankind. He created Warriors, Priests, and Peasants. All society could be broken down into these 3 classes.

    He then made a subdivision: among the priests there would be a sect known as the Ridiculous White People. These are white people who are ashamed of being white and would love to be, for example, half-Indian like Elberry. The RWPs are the ruling priesthood in the West at the moment (to quote Longsword of the Dark Age blog: "atheists are the new priests; priests are the new atheists").

    'Elberry,' you may say, 'this explains nothing. Why would God make these awful people?'

    Aha. He made them for kicking practice. Their entire raison d'etre is to be kicked by decent violence-loving citizens. That is all. Everything about them moves the rest of the human race to say, "I really feel like kicking that guy."

    They need a good beating.

  2. Moral relativism. You've got to love it.... equally as much as any other philosophy or religion.

  3. Bryan,

    We all know you're in the pocket of the Iranian peach cartel.

  4. Ellis Cashmore is a good name, though, for a professor who appears on the BBC. I guess we should just be thankful these folks are engaged in fairly harmless activities.

    And why Sport? Why not Culture, Media and Sweet Potatoes? From an egalitarian perspective, there would seem a totally unacceptable cultural bias situation at work here on many different levels.

  5. If the Prof believes that 'all cultures are equal' then he's relatively moderate.

    The usual line is: "all cultures are equal, except Western Anglo-American culture, which is worse".

  6. It is difficult to compare cultures in their entirety and make general value judgements on that basis. Certain aspects of a culture may be abhorrent to western tastes, such a polygamy (are they mad?!), while other aspects may be preferable, such as music or art. But that is not to condemn, it is merely to compare and find one more practical or more beautiful than the other, as the case may be. On the other hand, - and this is where I think it is necessary to make a distinction between cultural relativism per se and moral relativism - I would subscribe to the notion that all cultures, whatever their preferences, politically, artistically or whatever, should uphold some basic moral principles and rights, such as those enshrined in the Universal Declaration on Human Rights. I can't really defend this belief philosophically and I'm aware that my holding it is most certainly an expression of my own cultural background. Nevertheless, I believe it is correct. I feel it in my bones.

  7. Not sure about the distinction between cultural and moral relativism expressed in the comment above; if you're going to grant yourself the right to make one set of value judgements you can surely make the other set also. And to take an extreme and obvious instance- the Taliban in Afhanistan do not just strike us as barbaric morally for the cruelty and savagery of their punishments and oppression; but culturally they were ignorant, vandals, morons etc- blowing up the Buddhas due to an appallingly stupid and reactionary ideology. They produced nothing of any beauty, and it is highly unlikely they ever will/would have. It's not just a question of 'difference'. Likewise- Stalin wasn't just a bad dude for killing milions in the Gulag; Socialist Realist art really was mind-numbing shit. Meanwhile what are characters such as Mr Cashmore for? They have no real utility but are mere parasitic creatures designed 1) to annoy intelligent people and 2) to drain the public purse (though I would like to think that Elberry is right that God created them for kicking practice).

  8. No mention here of the victims of the "give em' all a university education" policy leading to worthless degrees, the tens, if not hundreds of thousands, of young people given a degree and promptly dumped on the scrapheap with fifteen thousand pounds worth of student loan debt around their necks. The teaching staff of course trouser the money and sleep soundly at night. Many of These young people who twenty five years ago would have left school at fifteen and, for example, taken up a skilled apprenticeship leading to a well paid job and well balanced life are now what ? Try debating with them the finer points of what is it you good folks say "relativism"
    Relativism my arse.

  9. Just read Cashmores CV, all is revealed, Newcastle poly, the only decent department it ever had was fashion design, punched well above its weight. To gauge the calibre of the admin...when they were given university status they obviously wanted a new name and chose one, the stuff was at the printers when someone pointed out that the City University of Newcastle on Tyne was, well, maybe not such a clever move, its true I tell you, it was rapidly changed to the Northumbria University.