In William Blake’s hymn Jerusalem, the phrase ‘those dark Satanic mills’ was assumed to be referring to the cotton and woollen mills of his time and the mills’ terrible working conditions.

Based on the date of the hymn and Blake’s religious background, however, many question whether he was referring to the Dickensian factories and cotton mills at all, but rather to the universities of Oxford and Cambridge.

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Blake was scathing of universities. He loathed them. He saw them churning out, factory-like, a new godless world.

“I will not cease from mental fight”, he writes in a subsequent verse.

He considered these elite establishments incapable of mental fight.

Fast forward to December 2023 and United States Congresswoman Elise Stefanik asking a number of University Presidents at a Congressional hearing whether “calling for the genocide of Jews breached their university’s codes of conduct on harassment and bullying?”

Staggeringly, each of the University Presidents – including Harvard University President Claudine Gay – refused to answer in the affirmative, saying only, “When speech crosses into conduct, we take action.”

“It would depend on the context,” she added.

In other words, only when Jews are actually murdered would the university step in!

Similar responses were given by the other University Presidents, which would no doubt be mirrored by responses from some of Australia’s elite universities were they to be asked the same question.

‘Satanic’. ‘Incapable of mental fight’. Exactly what Blake was referring to.

The above exchange is what one might call a ‘shibboleth’.

In his excellent book Blink!, Malcolm Gladwell describes how it is possible to weigh up situations in the ‘blink’ of an eye.

In other words, how to make good decisions in an instant by doing what he calls ‘thin slicing’.

Thin slicing is a concept similar to taking a big salami, and no matter how thinly you slice it, everything you want to know about the whole salami is in that one slice.

Often you don’t have time to study or research an organisation or a person; you have to analyse what is going on by finding that ‘thin slice’. That shibboleth.


The Unlucky Country - Zimmermann & Moens

Shibboleth is a Hebrew word meaning ‘stream.’ It is referred to in the Old Testament book of Judges, where Jephthah and the men of Gilead fought the Ephraimites and captured the Jordan River crossing. As people crossed the river, to distinguish who was friend from foe, they had everyone say the word ‘shibboleth’. If they couldn’t pronounce it properly, they knew they were the enemy. From this, the word shibboleth was absorbed into the English language to describe a key identifier or a dead give-away.

What we saw in the University Presidents’ exchange was that dead give-away.

Jewish Liberal MP Julian Leeser has said: “I go back to the universities because this is the cauldron where it all starts.”

The reluctance of universities to confront what is happening to Jewish students is not surprising.

A recent scorecard on incidents of anti-Semitism in Australian universities found that in the last year at the University of Sydney there had been 56 incidents of anti-Semitism, the University of NSW 49, University of Technology Sydney 17, Macquarie University 9, University of Melbourne 7, and Monash University 6. A total of 72 per cent of those surveyed said experiences of anti-Semitism had worsened since the Hamas attack of October 7.

Part of the explanation for this lies with Gramsci’s long march through the institutions to impose Marxist thinking – beginning with the universities. It is where formative minds are indoctrinated.

Once out of university, these graduates disperse into other key institutions – the law, politics, media, business – and Marxist ideology soon takes hold.

Now, it was once the case that occupations such as nursing, teaching and journalism were learned ‘on the job’ – on the hospital ward, in the classroom, doing the rounds of the courts – supplemented by part-time study. Journalism, in particular, was considered more of a trade than a profession.

Not anymore.

Adapting to the rigours of the hospital ward or classroom or police beat as a nurse, teacher or reporter was much easier for a young person post-high school than post-university.

Sometimes, when a regime has been in place for a very long time, it is not possible to ‘break through’ that system. You have to break with it.

Over time, institutions – such as the public service or the industrial relations system or higher education – become adept at building up defences and seeing off zealous reformers.

The only option is to break with.

Employers should be encouraged to hire students with the appropriate aptitude straight from high school and facilitate their higher education in the form of part-time study at industry-specific places of higher learning.

I know this works as I myself was recruited straight from high school into a materials testing and research laboratory.

Similarly sponsored employment traineeships and cadetships could be rolled out across all sectors, the aim being to by-pass the toxic environment that our universities have become.

Let me finish with a story.

A group of hikers were out walking when they chance upon a river. Their attention is suddenly drawn to a number of young people in difficulties being carried downstream by the river’s strong current.

The hikers immediately jump into the river and start rescuing the youngsters.

As they pull them out, they notice that more and more young people are being swept towards them.

As more youngsters appear, one of the hikers climbs out of the river.

“Where are you going?”, asks one of the other hikers.

“I’m going upstream to find out who is throwing all these kids in the river!”, he replied.

The universities are the river. We have to stop our young ones from being thrown in.

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Bob Day AO is federal director of the Australian Family Party. His former roles include federal Senator for South Australia, national president of the Housing Industry Association, director of the Centre for Independent Studies and chairman of North East Vocational College. Bob was appointed an Officer of the Order of Australia (AO) in 2003 for service to the housing industry, the community and social welfare – particularly housing the homeless. [more]

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