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Hounding Hunt: UCL joins the mob.

I’M AWARDING MY latest Medal for Most Egregious Self-Righteous Bigotry collectively to University College London, the Royal Society, the European Research Council, City University London, Prof Connie St Louis of the latter institution, and the myriad Twitterbitches and bloggers who have contributed to the hounding of Sir Tim Hunt, Nobel Prize winner.

Hunt, having made some utterly innocuous comments at a conference in Seoul, stood accused and convicted of the crime of sexism (for such it now is in the minds of extreme feminists) with the result that he was pressured into resigning honorary positions at UCL, the RS and the ERC.

He had his supporters, though to no effect, in the shape of Professor Cox, Richard Dawkins and Boris Johnson, and a number of Nobel prize winners. Jonathan Dimbleby, the broadcaster, has resigned his honorary position at UCL in protest. UCL, to its lasting discredit, has refused to consider reinstating him.

C-St-LouisThe person who kicked off the Twitterstorm, Connie St Louis, is Professor of Science Journalism at the City University London. In her article in Scientific American she seems to think that in stirring up the mob against Hunt she was “holding powerful people accountable for their actions”. I’m sure Tim Hunt would be flattered to think that he’s regarded as powerful but he would certainly be smart enough to know that words and actions are not the same thing and to conflate the two deliberately is an act of mendacity.

Mrs St Louis’s various accounts of the affair are a model for any student wanting to know how to “storify” the non-existent into a media phenomenon in which you yourself get to play the part of a victim…

IT COULD ALSO be seen as an act of biased modern journalism, for Mrs St Louis’s various accounts of the affair are a model for any student wanting to know how to “storify” the non-existent into a media phenomenon in which you yourself get to play the part of a victim, having successfully assassinated a real innocent’s reputation and career. Tim Hunt’s words at this conference are not the same as actions, and in fact there are plenty of women to attest that he’s always been a keen supporter of women in science.

The narrative set up by St Louis and followed by the others is that “sexism” is preventing women from entering science and so something must be done. In this instance, the something that must be done is the hounding of a renowned 73-year-old Nobel prize winner out of a number of honorary positions. Yes, I can see that would get girls in their thousands lining up to do A-Level Biology.

Prof St Louis has come under the media spotlight herself for being, as the late Kenneth Clarke would say, “economical with the actualité” of her own career and qualifications. She describes herself as a “scientist”, though says nothing about any research in which she has been involved. I believe she has a 2:2 in Applied Biology (Applied Bigotry would have been more appropriate). At the time of writing her staff page at City is being updated.

So, after all the preening righteous bloviation of the Twitter hysterics, just what did this mad, bad, old, dinosaur, chauvinistic, sexist, out-of-date man actually say? I give you Wikipedia:

“Let me tell you about my trouble with girls … three things happen when they are in the lab … You fall in love with them, they fall in love with you and when you criticise them, they cry. Perhaps we should make separate labs for boys and girls? Now seriously, I’m impressed by the economic development of Korea. And women scientists played, without doubt an important role in it. Science needs women and you should do science despite all the obstacles, and despite monsters like me.”

IF YOU’RE SANE and have a common sense frame of mind, this will appear innocuous and hardly worthy of comment. If on the other hand you’re one of the bloviators then you should take a hard look at yourself — because that is all this furore is about. It’s about you, isn’t it? What a good, morally superior person you are because you belong to the right group of people who hold the correct views on everything and don’t need to think for yourself for a single moment.

It’s not about sexism, it’s not about improving the prospects for women in science, it’s not about oppression, it’s not even about the words that Tim Hunt uttered at the conference or the apology he gave (and shouldn’t have). It’s about you. And you don’t care one jot what happens to someone else in real life just as long as you get to be seen as belonging to the right crowd when they’re shouting for blood.

The people who should be most ashamed, however, are those in the institutions: UCL, the Royal Society and the European Research Council. You should have stuck by one of your own, resisted the social media storm and told the mob where they can stuff their bigotry. Instead you caved and offered Sir Tim Hunt as a sacrifice to them. I can only hope the shame of it haunts you the rest of your lives. Don’t expect any sympathy when the mob comes for you.

Michael Blackburn.



  1. wrote:

    Actually, of the few qualifications Connie St Louis isn’t claiming to hold is a professorship!

    Personally, I don’t believe for one moment that she actually holds a degree in anything. I’d say the only letters she should have after her name are L.I.A.R.

    Thursday, 2 July 2015 at 09:04 | Permalink
  2. wrote:

    The most concise and lucid summary of this sordid affair so far. I would only add City University to the list of institutions that should be ashamed.

    Friday, 3 July 2015 at 03:47 | Permalink
  3. wrote:

    Neither feminists nor minorities are served by persecution of honest people who make one ill-advised remark – particularly by people with suspect credentials.

    Sunday, 5 July 2015 at 20:44 | Permalink
  4. wrote:

    Should a university resemble a 100% politically correct Hollywood show with the producers regarding scientists as their actors, adjusting the numbers of sexes and minorities and dictating when they should cry and laugh and what they should say?

    The removal of Sir Tim Hunt is the second case of political persecution of a Nobel laureate, the first was that of James Watson. In both cases, their alleged “crime” was purely political, and it was framed in political slogans, “racism” and “sexism”.

    The public debate around the decision of UCL to remove Tim Hunt is missing the point. (Were his words a joke or not? Was there enough “sexism” in his words? Did twitter remove Tim Hunt?) Let’s now get serious and ask: Was the removal of Tim Hunt legal? I believe it was completely illegal. And the law does exist here, it is first – the law against discrimination and second – the law protecting freedom of speech.

    Discrimination is an act of using irrelevant considerations (such as sex, colour of skin, etc.) in a decision/judgement made by an official against an individual. Discrimination is taken as an act denying an individual his or her human right(s). Such act is illegal, and the discrimination must be proved. There is no claim and no evidence that Sir Tim Hunt has committed such act. His speech did not represent any decision, and, being a joke or not being a joke, did not, and was not even capable of damaging/changing the standing of any women before the law or denying their human rights.

    Then, what is the accusation against him? The official explanation is the letter of Professor Michael Arthur, UCL President & Provost, “Provost’s View: Women in Science”, see

    This is a remarkable document. In it, Michael Arthur 1) did not refer to any law whatsoever, 2) refused, in his own words, to “…repeat or re-analyse who said what…”, i. e. refused to present the evidence, 3) justified the removal of Sir Tim Hunt solely on his (determined by the administration) “sexism”. The text seems to be written by a political agitator in the smashing style of Leon Trotsky, totally disrespectful of the law and civilized academic tradition. He calls the removal of Tim Hunt an “episode”.

    In sharp contrast with discrimination which, in a particular decision, is depriving individuals of their human rights, “sexism” in a speech is incapable of doing this. The accusation of “sexism” here is no more than a political opinion, a label which cannot be used to punish anyone. Therefore, the removal of Tim Hunt was an illegal act, patently – a political persecution. Moreover, it was an act of discrimination and a denial of the basic human right – freedom of speech.

    Looking closer at this “episode”, I believe it was designed not even so much against Tim Hunt, but with the purpose of establishing a precedent for persecution of any political dissent. Tim Hunt was chosen as one who loved his university and would not start a legal fight. He was chosen as a top scientist to show that no one is immune to political persecution, and that interests of science are the last item on the administration agenda.

    As a Provost, Michael Arthur failed to uphold the law and academic freedom. As a President, he failed to act impartially and, actually, fuelled the “gender war”. In his letter, he claims to have acted on behalf of women, but the women appeared on the side of their former teacher, actually proving that Michael Arthur’s claim of acting on their behalf is a false claim. UCL urgently needs the new Provost and the new President.

    An additional point is that Tim Hunt resignation was obtained by fraud, a humiliating fraud and psychological calculated pressure. He fraudulently was led to believe that he had no choice. If you look at the “process” by which it was obtained, the ambush on a plane, the message that was sent to his wife, etc., it is quite clear. Add to this later “justifications” by M. Arthur, his “apologies”.

    Finally, it is important to understand that an employee does not sell his whole self to his employer. A woman cannot be obliged to sleep with her boss. Why, may I ask, a university includes political and social agenda in its rules for the employees? The scope of this agenda must be severely restricted to respect basic human rights of all its employees. A public university cannot be run as a political party or a Hollywood show.

    I had posted a few comments on the matter at
    My web page:
    My email is probably hacked.

    Monday, 6 July 2015 at 19:19 | Permalink

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