A three-day counter-terrorism course taught at King’s College London (KCL) has come under fire from right-wing commentators for being “woke”, despite there being little evidence for the claim.
On Wednesday evening, Nigel Farage, the former United Kingdom Independence Party (UKIP) leader, invited ex-civil servant Anna Stanley onto his show on GB News. Stanley criticised the alleged teaching of “moral relativism” on the KCL course as “dangerous” and constituting a “national security risk”. In the news ticker below the interview, GB News labelled the course a “‘Woke’ Civil Service Course”.
Stanley’s complaints first surfaced on Tuesday in an article she wrote for Fathom Journal, claiming that the course amounted to “scandalous indoctrination” and “anti-government training” in its approach to counter-terrorism. Fathom is a journal run by the Britain Israel Communications and Research Centre (BICOM), a privately funded lobbying organisation based in the UK which seeks to promote a narrative favourable to Israel through its briefings and publications.
Despite conceding that one lecturer of whom she complained “did not explicitly present the slides as reflecting his own beliefs”, Stanley opines that she has “no doubt” that the course would have justified the October 7 massacre in southern Israel if she had taken the class after that date. KCL have publicly condemned Hamas’ actions as “armed assaults” and “appalling attacks”. King’s academics from the Department of War Studies and Department of Defence Studies have also independently labelled the event “terrifying”, “murder” and “the essence of terrorism”.
KCL’s educational programme, delivered by the Department of Defence Studies, is designed to provide professionals and civil servants with a better understanding of the issues and complexities behind counter-terrorism policy, as well as to encourage participants to think critically about the topic. Roar can find no other cases of attendees complaining about the quality or content of the course.
A similar “anti-woke” opinion programme on TalkTV dedicated airtime to the complaints made against KCL. The TalkTV headline states “King’s College London Under Fire For Terming Hamas ‘Freedom Fighters’”. At no point has this been the position of King’s College London. In a statement released on 18 October 2023, Vice Chancellor Shitij Kapur explicitly stated that “Hamas is categorised in UK law as a proscribed terrorist organisation, meaning it is illegal to express support, including moral support, for Hamas”.
Other TalkTV guests did affirm that King’s is particularly reputable in the field of war studies and defence, as well as highlighting that there was little evidence of some of the allegations made by the show anchors. When responding to TalkTV hosts during a live segment, Stanley also cautioned that “maybe it was slightly more nuanced than was shown there”.
TalkTV also broadcast an interview with journalist Douglas Murray, who claims that he is considering legal action against KCL. Quoting the article written by Stanley, Murray complained that he had allegedly been referred to as a member of the “far right”. Murray has publicly confronted KCL’s professor Peter Neumann, who he accuses of making this comment, for also allegedly also saying that Murray and Joe Rogan should be “suppressed”. Murray has since called for Neumann’s suspension and an inquiry into the course. The only evidence that this was said is Stanley’s account in Fathom, which does not name Neumann.
A KCL spokesperson said: “This private, invite-only course for civil servants was delivered on behalf of the Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office and as with all our courses, attendees were taught by eminent experts using impartial and evidence-based resources in an environment where different theories, concepts and questions are shared to prompt discussion.”
Stanley mentioned in her article that she found attending the programme “a deeply, existentially depressing experience”. However, at the time of writing, she still displays the class on her LinkedIn profile.