The Academy of Ideas, a vigorous generator of debate, conferences and discussions, originated in a group of revolutionary communists. Some years ago, they turned on a dime and became libertarians fiercely critical of the left (don’t ask).
The Academy is one of the most refreshingly open-minded forums for discussing contemporary trends that at present exists. Last Sunday, I took part in a panel discussion on antisemitism at its annual Battle of Ideas talk-fest in London.
The audience was largely sympathetic to concerns about the resurgence of antisemitism in Britain and Europe. There was, nevertheless, some resistance to identifying this problem with the Labour party and the left.
In the discussion about the anti-Israel and anti-Jewish bigotry erupting in Labour’s ranks, there were demands for statistical evidence to prove this was more significant on the left than anywhere else. Examples of some of the appalling things that people on the left had been saying about Israel and the Jews were dismissed as merely “anecdotal” and “emotional”.
This was as offensive as it was revealing. It brushed aside reality as of no consequence; it disdained lived experience as of less consequence than “research” whose methodology is often questionable but which flatters the vanity of academics.