Friday, 10 June 2011

Not So Easy-PZ

Well, that was an interesting experience...

I went into London last night because one of my blog heroes, PZ Myers, who writes Pharyngula, was over from the USA and appearing in conversation with Richard Dawkins. I lurv PZM - his blog is fiery, smart, funny and courageous, though in person he is mild-mannered and softly spoken.

So, who will be crowned Emperor of the Atheists?

But before the guys came on stage, we were invaded by a small but noisy student protest. They were protesting, at rock bottom, against government cuts to education and student support, but had decided to target Dawkins because he's involved with a proposed new independent high-flying (and high fee-charging) university. This apparently made him the "cause" of the cuts, in their eyes.

Now, I've been on a few political protests myself. I'd call myself a liberal, on most issues. And I'm willing to bet there was not one person in that audience, all eager to hear about evolutionary biology and rationalism, who was in favour of cuts to education.

But boy did we not like being told who we could or could not listen to. There was a collective shift to the Right in that room that was palpable.

At first the audience was bemused and curious. Then we sighed ("Oh, students"). Then, as the three police officers who turned up did nothing, and it began to dawn that our event might be cancelled not just delayed, they got irritated. There was jeering. Someone did a Monty Python recitation to applause ("We are all individuals!" "I'm not!"). Then the whole audience stood up and turned its backs on the protesters in rejection. One Romanian student came up on stage and bitterly complained that he'd paid to see this lecture, enough to eat for a couple of days back home (£6), and that he was going to start ejecting protesters himself - he got quietly warned that he was commiting an offence by threatening violence and sent back to his seat. Finally the police turned up in force and took the students away. Then they staged themselves round the lecture hall on watch.

There was one more outburst by a single protester mole in the audience as Dawkins started to speak. The police came down, grabbed him and hustled him off, not terribly gently this time - to extremely enthusiastic applause from the audience.

Freaky. I would call that an own-goal by the Left, though they'll never see it that way. All they did was raise antagonism and make enemies. They're probably still congratulating themselves, though.

And it's the first time I've attended a talk under police guard.

Update: there's a consideration of the protest, by another attendee, here.

On a lighter note ...


Fulani said...

Yes, the Dawkins thing has certainly created some controversy and it's not surprising there'd be a demonstration, though it's probably somewhat misdirected. I could say a great deal more on this but there's probably no point, the government's not going to take my advice...

As to the pic - does this prove Emma Watson is in fact Dawkins in his alter ego, in drag and with a wig??

Janine Ashbless said...

As to the pic
I find it hilarious! You know, they took questions at the end of the talk, Fulani. I do wish someone had stood up and said, "So, Professer Dawkins: you and Hermione Granger - what's the story?"

But then consider that Hogwarts is an elitist private school where the secret rulers of the world are trained...