An opinion piece by Bahram Norouzi

When Maayan emailed me a week ago and asked me to write an opposing perspective on “power-mongering in the AMS assisted by AMS funds” by the “Knolligarchy” I knew that I was up for some crap, what I didn’t know was its magnitude. Having read the opinion piece by Jesse Ferreras, I now have a good estimate of the magnitude as well: a lot! If you are interested, Nate and Steve have addressed a good portion of this “objective journalism” in their response comments.

First, let us evaluate Jesse’s piece at his own level, at the level of the much-adorned ‘facts.’ Are the Knoll’s article published anonymously? Not the Knoll Weekly that I know. Please read all of our previous issues: besides the editorials, credit is given to the author of all pieces. The only issue with many anonymous pieces was the “People’s Guide,” but it is not particularly uncommon to publish guides with anonymous writers. Second, matter of fact, now on the subject of electoral fraud: does article 8.1 of the Electoral Code exclude submission of grievances and complaints after 72 hours from the announcement of the result? No. If Jesse had taken time to read the Electoral Code closely enough, he could see that paragraphs 8.21.c and 8.21.d of the code actually give the power to the court to, considering circumstances, hear cases even if the appellant did not meet the deadlines. Indeed, the fact that the court is hearing the case is a sign that the complaint is still valid. Other interested groups have tried to question the Court’s jurisdiction to hear the case, but the court has already decided that the circumstances justify the hearing of the case. So, what does Tristan’s “defacing” of “I Support Alex” poster have to do with Crompton’s appeal to the court? It is up to the Student Court and the AMS Council, and no one else, to decide whether there should be a by-election or not. Why is it so “scary” that a by-election mandated by a judicial and democratic process might result form this episode? (Jesse refers to the possibility of the by-election as the “scariest thing” in his article)

And since we are talking about facts, where has the idea of “power-mongering in the AMS, assisted by the AMS funds” come from? Neither this year nor last year did The Knoll receive any money from the Resource Groups to publish its elections issues, (I presume that by “power mongering” the “Knolligarchy” rhetoricians are referring to everyone’s democratic right to run in elections for positions of power?). Both years, The Knoll registered for the Voter Funded Media contest, won handsomely, and the Knoll covered the costs through our VFM prizes. We do receive funding for other issues from the Resource Groups, but first, when it comes to UBC, the Knoll is almost always, except for in its Elections Issues, directing its criticism towards the administration and not the AMS; secondly, the Knoll is not the only publication that has received funding from the Resource Groups; third, considering the mandate of the Resource Groups, which as their constitutions declares, include fighting imperialism, war, sexism, heteronormativity, and “oppressive structures like capitalism,” funding a publication like the Knoll is a fairly natural thing for the Resource Groups to do. Among many things, one purpose of the Resource Groups is to make critique and debate a part of the UBC experience; this is on the understanding that criticism of the status quo is a healthy part of any democratic community. Furthermore, the Resource Groups are more than a space for activist politics. There are six Resource Groups: Pride, Colour Connected Against Racism, Feminist Collecive, Social Justice Center, Allies (men against violence against women). Some of them are more focused on political activism, while some also provide a safe space for minority communities who feel unwelcome or unsafe at UBC. We also house a wonderful library of alternative literature.

Above I showed that Jesse too has made multiple unfounded or crassly false claims in a rather short article, some of which I have not noted. Surely the fallacy of the claims point to the poor quality of his article, but it also shows that it is fairly easy to pin point factual mistakes in almost anyone’s writings or spoken words. So, the question arises that even if we agree – just for the sake of the argument – with Jesse that The Knoll and the “Knolligarchs” have made some factually false claims, what does this have anything to do with the “Knolligarchy,” abuse of power, misuse of AMS funds or, indeed, what does this have to do with anything at all?

So much for discussion of facts, and let us go a bit deeper than the surface of facts. Jesse Ferreras has arrived at the great revelation that there is a logical link between the title of a facebook group called “Freeman Poritz Watch” and an anti-Semitic website called “Jew Watch”; the only link being that the two titles share the word “Watch”. What kind of mind can be reassured by this damning link? I, personally, learnt about the existence of the “Jew Watch” website after reading Jesse’s article. But if there is an organization that comes to my mind when I hear the word ‘watch,’ it definitely is the Human Rights Watch (HRW). I googled ‘watch.’ HRW is the fifth entry, and many “_____ watch” websites make the first ten pages, but Jew Watch doesn’t. So I am probably not the only person who had never heard of Jew Watch before reading Jesse’s piece, nor am I the only person who connects “watch” to HRW. Talking of Human Rights Watch (by far the most reputable human rights watchdog in the world) I would want to remind those who think of the membership of the IDF as a mere matter of personal choice, of the multiple reports issued by the HRW about continual crass violations of human rights by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). To take a strong stance against any proud member of the IDF (e.g. Freeman Poritz), for me, is a matter of ethics and respect for human dignity; in the same way that it is a matter of ethics for me to oppose the violations of human rights by those on the Palestinian and Lebanese side of the battle in question. There simply is nothing anti-Semitic here. To call Jasmine Ramzee Rezae anti-Semitic on account of a wishy-washy link between “Freeman Poritz Watch” and “Jew Watch” tells us a lot about Jesse’s degree of professionalism and his concern for biased journalism and defacement of people.

However, Jesse is indeed concerned about defacement and defamation, although apparently he has a special concern for the defacement of…a poster. On February 27th , Tristan Markle, an alleged member of the “Knolligarchy,” was caught on camera while writing “Right to Cheat” on a handmade poster reading, “I support Alex Lougheed!” This story, which has previously also captured the imagination of Mayaan Kreitzman and the editorial board of the Ubyssey, requires a bit of analysis. Nathan Crompton has made a complaint against the Election’s Administrator (EA) because the EA failed to consider the act of multiple voting by Alex Lougheed as a serious electoral irregularity. The forthcoming decision of the court has clear implications for Alex as the court might nullify the results of the VP-Academic election race. But let us consider what the posters were meant to support. If it turns out that Alex has not voted multiple times, then there is nothing to support him for. And if it turns out that he indeed has voted multiple times, then the producers of the posters are not supporting anything other than Alex’s “right” to vote multiple times. It might soothe Maayan, Jesse and the editors of the Ubyssey that the multiple ballots did not change the final result of the elections, but what is at stake here is not only the outcome of the elections, but the integrity of a democratic process. Multiple voting, independent of how it might influences the outcome of
the elections, is a prosecutable crime in democratic states, including Canada. Whether or not it is also a serious electoral irregularity in the AMS is to be determined by the Student Court in a few days. But to interpret an act of multiple voting simply as “a joke gone awry” and to issue support posters for someone who is alleged to have voted multiple times, is to assume especial rights for especial people in a supposedly democratic process. What surprises me is not that Tristan corrected the posters – after all that is precisely what is expected from someone with true commitment to a democratic process. The surprising matter is that Ubyssey, UBC Insiders and other active participants or commentators of student politics in UBC did not help Tristan to correct the posters.

This brings me to my final point. Ubyssey, UBC Insiders and many of the AMS politicians have greatly succeeded in recent years to make student politics in UBC look like a joke game with relevance only to the insiders who are on their path to become the great politicians of the future. No wonder then that Jesse Ferreras takes great pleasure of downplaying student protests, seeing nothing other than a trash heap in the late Trek Park 1.0, for example. It is fairly difficult to build a park; it is more difficult to keep it clean while the park is vandalized on a daily basis, literally. I wish the AMS journalists and politicians who pay some lip service to the park, and yet bring nothing better than their sharp critical eyes to it, could spend some time helping us clean the park, or at least could write reports about the constant vandalism of the park. Jesse almost makes my case himself: on the one hand, he argues that “the Knolligarchy’s strength resides in caring about the things that most students don’t” and on the other hand he says the Knolligarchs “have managed to inject just a little bit of excitement into campus life with events such as Trek Park and Trek Park 2.0, as well as the recent conference.” At the factual level he is right: the “Knolligarchs” care about things that most students don’t care about simply because most student don’t care about student politics and campus activism of any brand, not least because there aren’t the proper democratic channels through which to learn and participate in campus politics. But of those who care about student politics, it seems to me, a good number of them care about what the “Knolligarchy” is caring about; at least, that’s how I explain the election of Tristan Markle and Stef Ratjen in the AMS elections, and the fact that Nathan Crompton lost by a very small margin in a race with a validity yet to be determined. The popularity of Trek Park among students is another testimony to the fact that the Knolligarchy and many students care about similar things – now, twice, The Ubyssey has run video specials about the park, asking students to comment on the park. Each time, The Ubyssey videos demonstrate a simple fact: people like the park!

For me and many of my friends, who the UBC Insiders might brand as “the Knolligarchy,” UBC Insiders and the various AMS insiders have long been irrelevant to student activism. Our activism perhaps is making the cohort of AMS elites obsolete as well. This fear of obsolescence, I would suggest, is the motivation for the magnificent piece of investigative journalism by Jesse Ferreras that has prompted this long response.


45 Comments so far

  1. Jesse Ferreras on March 12, 2008 1:12 am

    Thanks for the counterpoint, Bahram. Totally free of insults, I’m very impressed – unlike some “proudly anonymous” commentators who didn’t like my original post.

    I’d just like to make a few comments so that we’re all being fair to everyone:

    – the complaint about anonymous articles in my post was actually added by Maayan, and since I had heard similar complaints from others, I didn’t see a problem with leaving it in

    – the Ubyssey editors have nothing to do with this or any other post I have made on this blog

    – “objectivity” in journalism is a subjective standard to hold up to any reporter, and accusations of bias are just an easy way to criticize someone’s reporting – read Stephen Ward’s “The Invention of Journalism Ethics: the Path to Objectivity and Beyond” for more information on how weak the criticism of a “lack of objectivity” is

    – this was not an investigative piece – it was, in fact, opinion, and was stated as such – and not every piece of journalism is investigative – I based my claims on credible information and didn’t simply slap this together in a haphazard fashion

    – seeking election is seeking power – and members associated with the Knolligarchy have been doing it through campaigns of deliberate misinformation, the central point of my original post

    – I went to a great level of effort to find out how the Knoll gets its funding, and messages from both a member of the AMS executive and myself were not returned, so I went with what I had after clarifying what I wrote further with another member of the AMS executive – in any case I went to a great deal of effort to get things right based on the information I received from sources, which is normally the prattice in journalism – it would have been hard for me to trust anything coming from the mouths of the people I was criticizing

    – Freeman Poritz, a Jew, was the first to recognize a similarity with Jew Watch; Maayan Kreitzman, also Jewish, did not dispute that similarity when posting my piece; whether you see a similarity with Jew Watch or Human Rights Watch, the posting of that Facebook group and its malicious content caused personal harm to its subject, particularly in its accusation of xenophobia – don’t come down on me for “defacement of people” if Jasmine Ramze Rezaee is the one being careless enough to publish something like this on the web

    – I’m blown away that you support Tristan Markle’s actions – what he did was deleterious to any working relationship he may have with Alex Lougheed if he keeps his job – I agree that “executive cohesion” isn’t a requirement of an executive, but surely Tristan could have kept from defacing the posters – I stand firm in my earlier remark that he should apologize publicly or resign

    Finally, Bahram, thank you again for making this a tactful post. Not everyone feels the same compulsion.

  2. Geoff Costeloe on March 12, 2008 2:54 am

    I would like to thank all parties (UBC Insiders and the authors) for writing these pieces. I’ve learned a lot about both sides. I have a couple complaints in regards to both of them.

    I was actually offended when I learned that my AMS money could be going to support articles like the Knoll. I think that any money spent by students (especially when they don’t know about it) shouldn’t go towards partisan news. Bahram doesn’t flat out deny this but goes on to say that most of the money they get comes out of the VFM. More on this later. He also says that there are many other publications that are funded by AMS and resource groups and I’m sure he is right. I doubt however that there is a single one that is as partisan as the Knoll. I don’t consider fighting for gender equality, gay rights and whatnot partisan. I do consider slamming anyone who doesn’t think your way or my ‘petty bourgeoisie tendencies’ pertisan.

    Second, lets play a game: one of these things is not like the other.

    c)stereotypes of all sorts
    d)capitalism (which, I’m sure there is no debate is an oppresive structure…)

    I happen to like capitalism. I am therefore part of the problem and the Resource Center is not a place I should go to for support.

    What the hell is something like that or “fighting imperialism” doing in any groups constitution asides from the Knoll’s? AMS groups should be supporting students not directing their thoughts. War, maybe I can understand but even that at times can be justified. To deny this, or simply say that making a phonecall overseas is aiding the imperialists is simply putting the blinders on and going back to work in the gulags.

    Lastly, I think that all of the rhetoric that spews from the mouths of the writers of the Knoll and many people involved in the Resisting the University movement hurts them more than helps. I was actually excited to go and support this cause because there is no doubt that more student input needs to be used in development of our campus. As I approached however I hear someone with a loudspeaker saying something like “We are going to march to war against the fascist UBC government who are fucking us in the ass.” I quickly about-faced and ran the other way.

    You see, most students do care about issues relating to their school, but almost nobody wants to stand beside someone saying such absurd things. You alienate so many people with your propaganda machine, then turn around and blame them for not caring.

    Now onto the good. The Knoll seems to be one of the best run papers on campus. I read every issue simply because the distribution is good, it has relevant issues in it and I learn a little each time. Good on the publishers and team who put it together, they deserve to win the VFM, or at least get a large chunk of it, because I do believe their paper brings a lot of awareness to issues that students need to see. I disagree with most of what they say but I’ll read it and hear what they have to say (unlike those doing the writing is seems).

    So I say to the Knoll, reevaluate your effectiveness on campus. If you want to lead the next revolution on campus and end capitalism, your doing great. If you want to make positive changes to our campus or increase student awareness and involvement, then stop aiming at the radical fringe groups and try to appeal to the average student. This sometimes means compromising, but such, as they say, is the way the wafer crumbles.

    Onto Jesse (this is way longer than I intended thanks for sticking with me). I think that you really failed to put some perspective onto the Lougheed situation. Yes defacing (not “defacing”) a poster is against the rules, but voting numerous times is a much more serious offense, morally if not in actuality. I think this does justify what Bahram was saying in that it is serious enough to go to the Student Court. It is not a good reason to want someone to go to court if it is a means of replacing them with someone else (Nate). Even without his votes he did win, and such is the way of the people.

    I have to run but hopefully I’ll get back to write some more later.

  3. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 3:03 am

    Random comment: Tristan is wasting paper with his posters.

  4. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 3:47 am

    I am still in disbelief that my AMS money is going towards those anti-Semitic losers at the Knoll.

  5. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 4:15 am

    hello Geoff,
    ‘petty bourgeoisie’? you said it, not us. i don’t think we’ve ever used that phrase. lighten up, have a sense of humour, and join the knoll. you actually seem to have a lot of good ideas. the way they’ll get implemented is if you implement them yourself. write something. the knoll content comes down to the people who submit.

  6. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 4:54 am

    Anon 8:47,
    Shame on you for calling the knoll anti-semitic. You are not being perceptive, if I can make an understatement about your massive inability to understand the knoll. If you want to challenge the people who work on the knoll, you should first try to understand them. They are people who see themselves as resisting against existing conditions of poverty, inequality, war and discrimination. It might be impossible for you to imagine this. They are people who, maybe in vain, work out of love for all of humanity. We object against the degrading conditions of capitalism because we cannot stand idly by a system that is downright dehumanizing. You, and Jesse, and Maayan, should really try to understand this. It will help with your own analysis, which you so value.

  7. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 4:58 am


    what i learned from the different panelists at the Resisting the University conference was not how to resist in one particular way… instead a plurality of different forms of resistance were made available

    i’m with you, i wont march into anyones office and fight the captial fascists that are running our university
    However, i will be commited to other forms of resistance. For me, reforming university governance is the most appealing and i dont think i;ll be doing that with face paint and a megaphone.

    I do have to give respect to the knoll for developing a sustained critique of the intricacies of university goverance (from the inner workings of the BoG to the lolely AMS) It’s obvious that the ubyssey is not doing the job it should be, and other publications (or blogs) should pick up the slack where the ubyssey is severely lacking …

    thanks to ubc insiders as well as the knoll!

    obviously both are doing a good job: everyone is upset

  8. Jesse Ferreras on March 12, 2008 5:12 am

    I’ve already considered a system that works against capitalism. It was in Russia, from 1917 to 1991. Didn’t work.

  9. Mike Thicke on March 12, 2008 5:39 am

    Jesse and anyone else that cares to comment – when you say “partisan”, what do you mean? One interpretation of the word is narrowly political: you are partisan if you support a particular figure or party in an election. One is much more broad: you are partisan anytime you take a strong stance on any issue.

    I’m working on a potential article and I’d like to know what people are arguing about before making my case.

    Geoff – The Social Justice Centre is the only group (as far as I know) that specifically mentions capitalism. When I was a member of the SJC I argued pretty strongly for removing the reference, and stating instead that we oppose any systems that perpetuates injustice and oppression (or something to that effect). This was a change that the members of the SJC ultimately voted to approve, and I believe the official constitution should no longer mention capitalism at all. Most members of the SJC and The Knoll believe that capitalism is a major problem, but it isn’t a fundamental value. It is a problem only if it causes violations of other more fundamental values.

    Bahram – I love it. Great job!

  10. Jesse Ferreras on March 12, 2008 5:56 am

    The Social Justice Centre’s statement of principles says, “We oppose capitalism and other oppressive systems.” It’s displayed pretty prominently on its main page.

    When I say partisan, I’m suggesting actions that support a particular political figure, cause or ideology. Basically, when I accuse someone of doing something for partisan reasons, it means I think they’re doing it with political interests in mind and for reasons that could advance a political agenda. For example, “Stephen Harper appointed Marshall Rothstein to the federal judiciary for partisan reasons.”

    I might be off a little on the dictionary definition of partisan, but it’s just how I’ve thought about it. I never felt it meant just taking a strong stand on an issue. I call that rigidity.

  11. Bahram Norouzi on March 12, 2008 6:20 am


    While I understand that, for good reasons, people equate Trek Park, SDS, the Resource Groups and the Knoll, I believe it is fair to make a distinction between them. The producers of the Knoll are not all active with the resource groups. In the SDS and Trek Park some people might not care at all about a student publication. Trek Park is an issue-specific protest, while SDS is home to all kinds of radicals with extremely different analyses. Part of the problem with the concept of “Knolligarchy” is that it makes a coherent whole of them, and it seems to me that you are also taking that coherence for granted.
    The concrete relation of the Knoll to the resource groups is that the Knoll receives most of its funding from the resource groups. It appears to me that for you of all the trends of thought that the Knoll endorses, a radical critique of capitalism seems to be the most unjustified as a trend to be endorsed by a student funded magazine. This, however, might become less problematic if you consider the mission statement of the Social Justice Center, one of the six resource groups: “We recognize that there are immense socio-economic inequalities both globally and in our own communities. These inequalities are inherently unjust. At the Social Justice Centre we aim to take action to abolish these inequalities. As such, we oppose capitalism and other authoritarian systems.” So as you can see fighting capitalism and global socio-economic inequalities and authoritarian systems (aka imperialism) are not very far from the spirit of the Resource Groups. Having said that, our anti-capitalist stance in at the Knoll has never been about dismissal of people for their “petty bourgeoisie tendencies” nor are we in the business of forgetting or justifying the gulags and other atrocities committed by socialist or communist states. When, however, we come to the question of privatization of the university, the relation of university research to the war industry, the particular mode of administration of the university, university investments and land-use and the problematic nature of the development of an education institute over unceded land, we do reach to anti-capitalist, anti-colonialist and anti-imperialist analyses. And in so far as all the topics that I mentioned in the previous sentence are related to the education experience of the students, I do not think that a radical critique of capitalism is irrelevant to students.
    And regarding the slogans in the protest: the protest that you mentioned was not organized by the Knoll; it was an SDS protest. I never heard anything as awful as what you said coming out of the megaphone, but I agree with you that sometimes our slogans and actions go out of hand. That’s partly in nature of a loosely organized protest. But I will definitely relay your comment to those who were in charge of the megaphone. I don’t see why we should alienate other students with unnecessarily offensive rhetoric.
    And finally, regarding partisanship: first, it is fairly difficult to take a stance in a controversial matter without being partisan. Take, for example, the case of the underground bus loop in the university square. We have a firm and thoroughly researched stance on this issue, namely that the development as it stands now does not serve the students and is a poor investment for the university. I have little doubt that the Campus and Community Planning office considers our coverage of the story as partisan, and they are right. But so what? Taking a firm stance on the issue demands that we take sides. Ubyssey is for me a typical magazine that strives too hard not be partisan; that not only usually fails, but turns the publication into a blunt and forceless reporter of non-controversial “facts”. Second, and finally, I would agree with you that it simply is unethical to use AMS funds to promote partisanship within the AMS. And this is why we use our VFM money towards the election issues.

  12. Geoff on March 12, 2008 6:36 am

    Thanks for the reading my lengthy article.

    I just wanted to say that the information that I’m commenting on is purely from reading various blogs and my own experiences, so it is not the most accurate commentary I’ve ever written. What can I say, I like to live dangerously.

    In terms of Knoll’s comments. I actually am doing something about it. I’m running for Science Senator and AMS Rep in the upcoming SUS elections. It obviously wasn’t as important as AUS elections in your eyes (understandable though because there are much fewer people running).

    I actually did contact you last year as well inquiring if you needed any writers. I presented myself as someone who could provide an alternative opinion to many of the views expressed in your paper. I think you politely told me to fuck off. Thats all good though, no hard feelings. I understand that isn’t the paper you want to present and I’m cool with that, but don’t say that I haven’t tried. Maybe my e-mail is still in the back room being scientifically scrutinized as you say it will on page 2 every issue.

    Petty bourgeoisie is something I have been called when talking to members of the SDS. Sorry for throwing you in with them.

    I would be interested in writing for anyone if they are willing to print what I say. Writers should be judged on content and quality, not their political leanings.

    I’ve only just started reading the new Knoll but so far you’ve gotten an A+ on adjective use, as always!

  13. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 6:38 am

    Here are some words of wisdom:

    I wonder why Bahran, Jasmine, and their cronies at the Knoll don’t take a stronger stand against the stoning of women in Saudi Arabia, the execution of homosexuals in the Palestinian Territories, and the repression of Democracy in Iran. But when it comes to Israel -the only JEWISH state in the world – their code of ‘ethics’ kicks in. I am still waiting to see the first poster from the social justice center condemming terrorism.

    According to this post, my guess is Bahran was a proud member of the anti-semitic ‘Freeman Poritz Watch’ facebook group. Perhaps he should put his money where his mouth is and join Hamas.

    I propose that the Knoll rename itself either ‘The Pan-Terrorism Times’ or ‘Pravdahad – Communism with a touch of Jihad.’

  14. Steven on March 12, 2008 6:57 am

    That last comment made me laugh at its absurdity. I suppose I should let Jasmine and Bahram (both Iranian) response for themselves, but I can assure you I’ve never met two people with harsher words (as well as real personal experiences) with Iranian tyranny. In fact, the SDS recently endorsed a protest against the imprisonment of student activists in Iran and tried to send a speaker (no one was able too, however). However, our primary responsibility as Canadian citizens is to confront the policies of the Canadian government, and the difference between their treatment of Iran and of Israel is clear.

    Geoff, thank you for your comments As an organizer with the SDS I really do appreciate them. I think if you came to our panels during the week you would have found a much more nuanced and satisfactory analysis. I also cringe at the use of in my mind stupid language at protests (fuck the fascists etc.). However, I also have to respect to an extent other people who feel that best expresses their full outrage. Out of curiosity, were you the fellow who came up to the guy with the megaphone at that time and told him his approach was alienating? Whoever that was, I think it was well received within the group (at the very least by myself) and I do generally prefer a more positive and energizing rhetoric at protests like that. As well, I realize protests aren’t everyone’s cup of tea, but I don’t think that should hold anyone back from working alongside the SDS by helping circulate petitions, raise awareness, etc.

  15. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 7:14 am

    the knoll is an embarrassment to both the UBC community and reporting in general, cronyism at its finest.

  16. Bahram Norouzi on March 12, 2008 7:27 am

    Anon 11:38

    I usually don’t bother responding to comments like yours, but let me inform you that you are highly uninformed.

    I am myself Iranian, and became radicalized first through struggle against the Iranian state, that I won’t hesitate to call fascist. I have also been quite active in raising awareness about the oppression of women and sexual minorities as well as cruel and humilating punishments not only in Saudi and Iran, but also in many other Muslim countries.
    Also, as far as I know the SDS, for example, has not yet endorsed or issued any petition or statement against the state of Israel (something that I think we should do very soon regarding the atrocities committed by the IDF lately in Gaza), but we have already endoresed a CFS letter condemning the Iranian state for the oppression of students, women and minorities, and wrote our own condemnation letter to the Iranian state. We have also been outspoken against organizations like Hamas.

    Many of my friends and I do not tolerate the presence of IDF generals or Israeli politicians on the campus (some of whom are under arrest warrents by European Courts for violations of human rights). But nor will we tolerate the presence of Saudi or Iranian officials on the campus. Next time you hear about one of them comming to campus, let me know; I’ll be there to make some noise.

    Having said that, I believe that there is no better way of supporting anti-semitism than emptying the concept out of meaning. Yes, I am a proud member of “Freeman Poritz Watch”. Not because I have any false sentiments towards Jews, but because I consider proud membership of the IDF as disgusting as proud membership of Hamas, and both for me represent violence and disrespect for human dignity. If you want to call me or any one anti-Semitic, that’s fine, but you should at least try to keep the concept meaningful. To link “Jew Watch” to “Freeman Poritz Watch” on the basis that they share the word “watch” is as silly as relating football to goofball or butterball on the basis that they all share “ball”.

  17. Bahram Norouzi on March 12, 2008 7:29 am

    – Steve I actually wrote a letter for the Iranian embassy

  18. Jesse Ferreras on March 12, 2008 7:38 am


    Do you also stand behind unfounded charges that Freeman is xenophobic? Do you stand behind unethical campaign tactics that don’t attack people politically, but personally?

    Do you also stand behind the following response that the group’s administrator sent to someone who disagreed with the group?

    “Sandra Davidson (aka Jasmine Ramze Rezaee)
    Today at 11:54am
    Report Message
    Shut up please. I’m not going to read your verbal diarrhea. Tell someone who gives a shit.”

    Not exactly encouraging dialogue, is it?

  19. Bruce on March 12, 2008 7:57 am

    I think there should be a place in for AMS funds to support partisan efforts directed at all levels of politics, however at the AMS level this should be awarded through a fair an open process like VFM, for instance.
    If the money is intended to influence politics at other levels (something ‘unions’ are for), then I think it’s important that there be pretty wide support among the student body for this effort. I.e. a large super-majority should support it.
    For instance, I suspect a majority of students do not want to get rid of capitalism, but most of them would probably like to ameliorate the environment and the plight of the poorest/homeless people.

  20. Geoff on March 12, 2008 8:13 am

    OK last one then I have to go to sleep.

    Steve, I was actually the guy that came up and said that. Blue sweater and all. I’m glad it was well received. I’d love to come by one of your panels sometime. I tend to find these situations quite hostile, but I’m no virgin so I’ll survive and it might be different in any case.

    A good example of an action that saw wide support was that of the Knoll petition. This was well organized and effectively done. It raised awareness and allowed the ‘Save the Knoll’ movement to gain some significant credibility. People (the average person who wouldn’t read this or the Knoll or be incredibly political or informed) could have their voice heard on the issue.

    The big plus here for most of these people is that they could protest the destruction of the Knoll without tying themselves into groups like the SDS or similar groups (that appear almost as one in people’s minds). You bring such relevant arguments to the table but get labeled as radicals or hippies or whatever. True or not, these labels hurt your cause.

    You wrote a lot and I’m tired so sorry if I’m missing anything.
    I understand a lot better now your use of the VFM funds and I think thats really good thinking and responsible on your part. Thanks for the clarification.

    It doesn’t however, stop every other issue from being partisan. Your focus in many issues is the AMS and other UBC bodies, often your talk in these issues doesn’t sound any different than your election article. I don’t see how Issue 2:V2 was not relevant to elections issues. Front page titles: Lougheed Found Cheating and Markle to the Rescue.

    Sorry I gotta hit the sack. Good chit-chat though. I’m totally game for sitting down with whoever and talking face to face, just shoot me an e-mail. I don’t want to put it up here but look me up on Facebook.

    And just as a side note, capitalism is not an authoritative system, nor is it the reason for military investment in the university, nor is it the guy who took your lunch money or slept with your girlfriend ;)

    I kinda like it.

  21. Bahram Norouzi on March 12, 2008 8:45 am


    I find previous comments made by Freeman simply xenophobic and misogynic. I am surprised that you are willing to make the amazing link between “Jew Watch” and “Freeman Poritz Watch,” and label the creator of the facebook group as anti-Semitic, and yet have a hard time to make any comparable judgment on sentences that are clearly offensive to foreign students and women as xenophobic and misogynic.
    Do I agree with the comment made by the administrator of the group? No. But what does that comment have to do with me? It is as if I make a list of all the insulting anon comments on this page and ask you if you agree with them.

    And I am not really sure if it is possible to make a distinction between attacking someone personally as opposed to politically. Were you attacking Jasmine politically or personally when you called her anti-Semitic following the great logic of the “watch” word? Were you attacking Tristan politically or personally when you accused him of conspiring to get three members of the “Knolligarchy” on the AMS exec list on the basis that he was defacing/correcting a silly poster?

  22. J. Visser on March 12, 2008 8:59 am

    I have to agree with Geoff on Capitalism. It may not be perfect,but by far it is the best system that has ever existed. What I dont understand is the critique that capitalism is “authoritative.” Authoritarianism involves the state using power to coerce individuals to behave a certain way. Good Examples: USSR,CHINA,CUBA, or any other Marxist state, and yes also a bunch of capitalist states too, but this was just to define what an authoritarian state is. Here is another fun exercise, name one communist state that wasn’t authoritarian in nature? …..that might be a bit difficult, as there never has been one.

    Obviously there are alot of authoritarian capitalist states as well, but you can name quite a few which are not authoritarian.

    The question I have, which I usually ask to people who say that hat capitalism is this?

    What alternative would you propose?

    they will then go on describing their socialist utopian society, until I ask them what to do about the majority of people who like capitalism, and who really don’t like the idea of surrendering their assets to the state. It is this problem right here that has been the problem for most communist states, and is why they quickly turn despotic.

    Ill admit the fact that I work in investment banking maybe makes me a bit biased, but i still think these are valid points.

    Also for all the talk of trying to help oppressed people, what do you say to the fact that because of liberalised global trade, in the last 10 years more people have been lifted out of extreme poverty that at any other time during human history. for all the rhetoric that gets thrown around about trade i would suggest reading the following article, as it is really very well written and articulated

    unfortunatly since it was written by the economist i guess most members of the knoll will dismiss it as fascist capitalist propaganda…sigh

  23. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 9:32 am

    I suggest you go back to work in Japan, and let the real people take care of business here where we care. You already said in a previous post you don’t care, so why the heck would we ever care to hear you? If at least you made any valid points, you wouldn’t sound so shallow. Yeah right, ‘capitalism’ is lifting people out of poverty. From what I can tell, in these later threads, people have used the term ‘capitalism’ in different ways. It refers to the mode of production and ideology of accumulation and profit. It is inhumane in principle, because it focuses on maximization of profit, and not of distributed well being. The solution to it should have a different name, and some people do counterbalance it by acting against it, resisting it, and promoting positive changes.

  24. J. Visser on March 12, 2008 10:15 am

    no basically the reason i dont really care so much is because its impossible to debate with any of you. Your definition of any word “justice,free,democratic,opressive,authoritative,ect. will invariably be completly different than mine. and im not just talking nuance different, the very nature of the “knolligarchy” is people that classifly themselves mostly as radicals, or at least radically opposed to the status quo. If you cant even agree on a things like definitions of basic terms, or on a standard for evaluating sucess, then how can you list empiracle examples or other things which somebody normally uses to justify their opinion.

    for example, i vote conservative. however I can debate a federal liberal, because ultimatly at the end of the day, we would agree on about 90% of stuff, and debate fiercly about the other 10%. (tax cuts for business vs. increased taxes…stuff like that, they dont want to overturn the whole system)

    the thing that pisses me off about the radical left is that while they critise things, they do not propose any viable solutions in their place. they talk basically only about how things shouldnt be, and then they talk about their view of how things should be, but leave out the part about getting from A – B. generally in the real world, if we are going to replace a major fundamental system, such as the liberal free market economic system, you would have to have a viable alternative. I have yet to have seen one. Can anybody on here name me ONE, just ONE example of a capitalist state which peacefully overturned this, and implemented a SUCCESSFUL (measured in freedom,prosperity,security) communist state in its place.
    I really doubt you could.

    how does asking somebody to propose viable solutions make me shallow. i believe by definition that would make me informed. (but as i stated earlier we seem to disagree quite fundamentally on definitions)

  25. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 2:21 pm

    Jasmine and Bahram and their cohorts aren’t anti-Semitic.

    They don’t hate the Jewish people, just the Jewish nation.

    Come on guys. Just because they support the “resistance” against the evil Zionists doesn’t mean they hate Jews.

  26. mark lee on March 12, 2008 2:40 pm

    I say we create a “Knoll Watch” Facebook group or blog.

    We can list every single member of the Knoll and Social Justice Centre and keep tabs on all the anti-Semitic, pro-terrorist and communist comments they make.

    Good idea?

  27. Steven on March 12, 2008 3:41 pm

    The fact that people get so put off and freaked out by the idea of someone opposing capitalism as a totality is a depressing indication of how narrow the terms of political debate have become. I’ve never fully committed to an anti-capitalist stance because I think that the Left needs to be open to experimentation in building a society rid of oppression, exclusion, and basic need. However, I feel more comfortable working with someone who embraces an anti-capitalist position and fully confronts the degradation and pain our society inflicts on its most vulnerable members than with someone who gets freaked out by the very idea of an anti-capitalist stance. The idea that capitalist is inherently an authoritarian system also makes sense when you consider that it is essentially about steering economic decisions by large, undemocratic firms who develop an undue (some would say total) influence on government decisions. Furthermore, as capitalism explodes traditional national boundaries, the sort of freedom and prosperity it creates in limited geographic areas can only come on the backs of enormous poverty and exploitation in most of the world. Finally, even the most trenchant anti-capitalist, if they are working within something like a Marxist framework, can acknowledge that capitalistm grows and develops. However, the increases in absolute terms are almost always accompanied with huge polarizations of wealth and an accompanying intensification of state and paramilitary forms of oppression.

    All that said, the SDS is not officially an anti-capitalist group and the SJC has voted to remove that from their statement of purpose (don’t get me into why that isn’t reflected on our website etc.). I suspect, though, that that specific phrase is a red herring for a much wider resistance to the depth of the SDS’s critique of present social conditions. By refusing to think that humans could create viable alternatives to the present capitalist world economy, or that this system is basically the best we are going to get given realistic human capabilities (which, I would add, has hugely expanded from absolutist days), they unduly narrow the range of political debate so that people can only talk to other people with whom they already agree about 90% of things.

    Much more insidious, though, are the completely unfounded accusations of anti-semitism. I can already see people trying to foreclose the idea of a focused, unforgiving critique of Israel’s actions in Palestine and (on no!) the idea of a Jewish state. Let’s be clear: an omission at a specific point of time of an attack on other state’s policies when critiquing one state does not make you prejudiced against the state’s dominant ethnicity! When I attack Russia’s brutal occupation of Chechnya without mentioning Indonesia in Aceh, it does not make me anti-Slavic. When I attack Columbia’s ruthlessness in dealing with FARC without mentioning China in Tibet, it does not make me anti-latino. These scare tactics are intended to ward off any serious debate about what exactly it means for neo-colonial powers to create a Jewish state that required the massive displacement of Palestinian Arabs and Christians. As a Jew, I find the easy accusations of anti-semitism completely unacceptable. It makes it impossible to confront the real and virulent forms of anti-semitism that we still have to confront.

  28. Jesse Ferreras on March 12, 2008 4:09 pm

    I never accused the creator of “Freeman Poritz Watch” of being anti-Semitic. I said that Freeman Poritz Watch, the group, had a curious similarity with Jew Watch that Freeman, himself, noted. I also never stood up for the misogynistic comment he made about five years before the AMS elections. In fact, I slammed him hard for it on my blog.

    What I said was that the group itself bore a similarity with an anti-Semitic website – both Maayan and Freeman noted this themselves. Calling him xenophobic was completely off side and unsubstantiated, and he didn’t deserve it.

    So don’t begin to twist my words or slam me for not doing enough reading if you’re going to do that very thing.

  29. Steven on March 12, 2008 4:45 pm


    I wasn’t specifically referring to you when discussing anti-semitism. The accusation has come up several times in the discussion here. Out of curiosity, though, what are the “curious similarities” other than the name?


    Stop being a coward and grow up.

  30. Jesse Ferreras on March 12, 2008 5:04 pm


    I was actually addressing Bahram’s comment. It’d be going pretty far to out and out accuse the Knoll or anyone associated with the Resource Groups, SDS or otherwise of anti-Semitism. Creating a Facebook group, however, that has an unfortunate parallel with an anti-Semitic website, is a fair criticism in my opinion.

    In terms of the group’s similiarities to Jew Watch, I would say its overall tone definitely draws some parallels. It’s suspicious of Freeman, much like Jew Watch is of people of the Jewish faith, and makes some extraordinary accusations about him designed to smear him and impart that same suspicion upon others.

    So yes, it goes beyond the name. I should note that, aside from the name, it has NO similarity with Human Rights Watch whatsoever.

  31. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 5:08 pm

    responding to a series of aforementioned jabs regarding the IDF and freeman poritz. I am also a critic of Israels policies in the occupied territories. However I am embarrassed to say that your discrimination against Freeman Poritz is unethical and hypocritical, and that it disgusts me that you cite human-rights watch as you participate in this blatant prejudice.

    On the Human rights watch website, the number of pages of articles about Israel total to 15(of which many are not against Israel) , while the number of pages of articles against the U.S totals to 78.

    Would you discriminate against a member of the US army as you do against one of the IDF? I think you wouldn’t. You’re brainwashed into believing that one’s membership in the IDF categorizes them as an evil person who takes pride in killing innocent civilians. The IDF does not condone the killing of innocent civilians, it constitutionally prohibits doing so. The IDF is ideologically just and ethical, only systematically does it fail to achieve its ethical standards, due to flaws in its system, not flaws in its intention. Due to that it places the security of its own citizens above that of its enemies.

    Hence the discrimination against Freeman Poritz is unethical and hypocritical.

  32. Anonymous on March 12, 2008 5:17 pm

    holy crap do you guys actually think anyone is going to read any of this?

  33. Tim Louman-Gardiner on March 12, 2008 6:41 pm

    “University politics are vicious precisely because the stakes are so small.”
    – Henry Kissinger

    The more personal, petty, and insignificant the problem, the more vicious the debate; the debate can afford to be vicious because the stakes are so small.

    This is the most vicious debate I’ve seen in a long while.

  34. Mark Latham on March 12, 2008 9:06 pm

    Here’s some middle ground in the debate on capitalism, starting with this coincidence: Like J. Visser, I’m a UBC grad who worked in investment banking in Tokyo. My earnings from those days are now paying for voter-funded media, including The Knoll and UBC Insiders.

    I originally invented VFM to improve capitalism. Corporate shareowners voting to pay media with corporate funds would be better informed about what their CEOs and boards are doing. Shareowners could then vote smarter (e.g. in board elections), and thus benefit from improved financial and social performance of corporations. This is explained in “Proxy Voting Brand Competition” at

    I spent years fighting corporate lawyers and lobbying institutional investors, trying to get VFM tested in corporations. Against the unremitting opposition of boards, the highest support I got was 20% of shareowner votes. So I shifted priorities to reforming democracy, which has similar problems of voter ignorance and apathy, leaving elected leaders with opportunities for benefiting themselves at voters’ expense. If we can demonstrate the benefits of VFM for student unions, then we can spread it to larger democracies and to corporations.

    Elected leaders (directors and politicians) often fool their voters into believing that the harm their powerful organization (corporation, country) does to others is for the voters’ benefit, when actually the voters’ own long-term interests are being harmed too. That is a pattern VFM aims to break. I think capitalism can be very beneficial, but there is a lot of corruption in it now, especially in its interaction with governments. My strategy is to reduce that corruption. Even those who don’t agree that VFM would be sufficient to cure the ills of capitalism, may still agree that it would at least be an improvement, and thus join forces in supporting it.

  35. bruce on March 12, 2008 10:12 pm

    Another Comment on Capitalism:

    Is there any point to this debate when no viable alternative has been demonstrated?

    Alternative systems need to be experimented with on a SMALL scale (to avoid another Russia-like fiasco), and then taken to scale once their viability has been demonstrated. Until then, I’m going to work to improve the world within the framework of capitalism, thank-you very much.

  36. J. Visser on March 13, 2008 1:34 am


    you sound like somebody i could actually have a discussion with, even though we would probably disagree on quite alot. Still you strike me as somebody how puts achieving results over Rhetoric, which I think is lacking in most of the UBC activist community. Honestly I would think that if people were really serious about drafting a cohesive critique of capitalism, that members of the knoll SDS, resource groups would maybe think about registering for econ and finance courses so that they could at least hold a conversation with business leaders ,and finance types, and actually know what they are talking about.

    Generally speaking, the minute we start hearing marxist class warfare ranting is the minute we stop listening to you. While this may not matter much to you, it does stop you from actually getting anything done.

  37. Bruce on March 13, 2008 5:05 am

    Yup, I like the majority of people, don’t enjoy being politically engaged (except in policy wonking). Thus the ONLY reason for me to be involved is to try to make a real difference.
    And I think achieving certain democratic reforms will give the greatest bang for one’s effort.

  38. Rodrigo Ferrari Nunes on March 13, 2008 9:07 am

    Many thanks to Steven and Bahram for raising the level of discourse in this insular arena/field of power, and for addressing some of the problematic assumptions that have generated this unnecessarily vicious debate and discontent. Sadly, other issues that deserve more coverage and information are brushed aside (e.g., childcare, referenda, ongoing elections, etc)

    It is time to be promoting the Referenda that are coming up so that we can get things done. This exec is quite keen on making sure consultation on the new SUB is something dynamic, responsible, and that it conforms with the lighter footprint strategy that was unanimously passed last night by the AMS council; and which was, for a great part, due to the hard work and dedication of previous VP Academic.

    There are other events, and parties going on as well that can get more people engaged… they are opportunities to ask other students how they feel about campus issues (and if they have their own issues) and to prep them to vote in the referenda and in the elections.

    The new executive team is just warming up, and I can sense that this year a lot will be done. The executives this year signal a lot of energy, involvement, and preparation. Next thing in the agenda should be to streamline the agenda setting process by creating a blog that the exec, council members, and AVPs have the power to post proposed agenda items into.

    At least this is the skeleton of the model we are about to implement in the GSS.

    Last meeting, although long, saw a lot get done, and ideas have been flowing in the right direction to instill the new GSS/AMS communication strategy with the right kind of momentum.

    For an anecdote (can’t resist), the trivial highlight of the night (framed by AJ’s warning that it should be something that could be changed later on by other means) was the long debate over whether “council requests that” or “council request that” was grammatically correct. Guess the option council picked…

    If the agenda had its own blog with access given to execs and individual councilors, everyone could just log into that during council meetings, and we could even take attendance through the blog.

    Another positive point is that, through this ‘agenda’ or ‘council’ blog, we could post comments during meetings that would have otherwise been lost, as there are protocols to silence people during council meetings. Sometimes people who had something to say are forced to keep quiet. With the implementation of this blog, council protocol can still be followed (they can still be told to keep quiet), but they have an avenue to post immediately a comment that would be viewable by those logged on.
    Anyhow, just another idea…


  39. Anonymous on March 13, 2008 7:33 pm

    It baffles me how in the investigative reporting of the “freeman poritz watch” the investigation stopped at googling merely the word ‘watch.’ All one needs to do is google the word ‘Jew’ to find the disgusting amount of similarities between the two.
    When ‘Jew’ is searched via google, JEWWATCH comes up as the fifth entry, clearly visible on one’s browser screen.
    To throw in the HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH is just a red herring to divert the founded accusations against that unfortunate facebook group.
    Jew Watch also links to a host of YouTube clips recorded by Weltner (the white nationalist owner), in which he claims, among others, that Zionists planned and carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks, were responsible for the Armenian Genocide, are forcing the United States into a war with Iran, are responsible for stock market fluctuations, and so forth. Weltner also links to another website of his where he posted his “Relevations”,[18] among which God told him that “Hitler was a Saint,” that the Jews were responsible for the Waco Siege, and that black Africans are “the abomination of Noah”.
    That is what JEWWATCH stands for, and its both disgusting and shameful that something with a vague resemblance of it would come up in a UBC electoral campaign.
    Please do ALL the research when looking for why there is so much disgust in response to this group.

  40. Jesse Ferreras on March 13, 2008 8:46 pm

    I really only have one more thing to say about all this.

    As a student, I don’t being lied to, and I doubt very much that others do. That’s exactly what I felt was happening in the Knoll, and what was being done by its writers and others involved with it or with Students for a Democratic Society and other groups I’ve amalgamated into the overarching moniker “The Knolligarchy.”

    I have no problem with activism. None. In fact, as I’ve said already, I think it’s a very good thing. All I ask is that research be done and the truth be told so that it’s easier for students to swallow your contributions to the debate.

    Who knows, maybe if you started a protest based on actual facts and spouted truth out of a megaphone and in the pages of the Knoll, more people might actually pay attention.

  41. Anonymous on March 14, 2008 5:26 am

    Let’s just clear this up, for once and all, there is no such “militarization” of the campus, specifically the International Relations and Political Science programs. Neither programs, or the student association (IRSA) gets money from SDF. Whew.

    Teachers and professors are all human beings, subjected to their own biases and opinions. Whether or not they want to receive funding for research from the Dept. of National Defense is their prerogative. There’s a distinct difference between their research projects and what they teachin class. The department maintains a high quality of teaching and I really don’t want to see accusations about professors receiving research funds that will potentially impact their classes.

    If there’s a problem with the classroom content, I suggest that it be raised in a respective manner in consultation with the professors themselves instead of writing these allegations and accusations in newspapers. I’m sure they’re more than welcome to take on your thoughts and challenges. In fact, jeez, if so much is in dispute, take it up with the department! They have nothing to hide. Engage with the actual core of the problem instead of shouting slogans. Real research needs to be done before articles like the one Jasmine Ramze Rezaee wrote in the Knoll Weekly gets published. There are a lot of blatantly incorrect facts, even though minor, they may have big consequences for small programs like IR.

  42. Anonymous on March 14, 2008 10:14 pm

    I am 9-% sure I JUST saw Jasmine Ramzee Rezae rip down a DND poster i the sub. I didn’t realize she hated free speech..

  43. Anonymous on March 15, 2008 10:32 am

    Well I hear Freeman Poritz just won election as ARTS Rep – with quite an overwhelming mandate at that. I guess the alpha alpha male man won out. Looks like there is now someone to hold the cronies to account. Best of luck to the Knoll! I hear they are going to need it.

  44. Anonymous on March 15, 2008 8:12 pm

    Congrats to Freeman Portiz for winning.

    He deserves it after the anti-Semitic onslaught he got from the Knolligarchy.

  45. Anonymous on March 15, 2008 10:43 pm

    congrats to Mr Poritz, it looks like the smear campaign didnt work out in the end.

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