A dox on all their houses: How the British press — egged on by the grubby Mr Staines — made an innocent student into "a villain"
It's time we called the newspapers what they really are: Bullies.
Until yesterday, Matthew Katzman’s Google results were unremarkable. You would have seen the American graduate student at Oxford’s profile at Jesus College, listing details of some courses he taught, and his LinkedIn page with his academic and professional experience. You would also have noted that he was President of Magdalen College, Oxford’s Middle Common Room (MCR).
Now Matthew Katzman’s LinkedIn page has been deleted and his Google results are filled with articles about him from the British newspapers and SEO-chasing pieces with headlines like this one from Heavy.com:
There aren’t five facts you need to know about Matthew Katzman. He’s a student who has been thrown into the middle of the confected culture war row about the removal of a picture of the Queen from the MCR — the literal common room for graduate students at Magdalen.
The picture was put up in 2013 by the MCR and earlier this week the current membership voted to take it down. They were well within their rights to do so and it would have been the result of a minor debate at an Oxford MCR if the minutes of the meeting hadn’t been slipped to booze-loving bridge troll and drink driving connoisseur Paul Staines of Guido Fawkes.
As I detailed yesterday, the 349-word story from Staines sparked off a wave of follow-ups and further ‘reporting’ from British newspapers and publications from further afield. It was Staines’ site that first named Katzman as president of the MCR and ‘blamed’ him for the resolution about the Queen’s picture.
Staines, a grubby smear on the gusset of British public discourse, knew exactly what he was doing when he published the line…
The committee meeting minutes, passed to Guido, reveal the statements made by students were anonymized, although the motion was moved by Matthew Katzman.
… and sure enough, the second round of stories were attacks on Katzman from columnists and news reporters alike.
It doesn’t matter that MCR presidents at Oxford tend to table all the motions at their meetings. That bureaucratic detail is absent from the stories because it would undermine the characterisation of Katzman as the ‘villain’ of this piece. That he is American only increased the tabloids’ fervour since it allowed them to frame him as a privileged, ungrateful outsider.
For The Sun, Sarah Grealish — the reporter who wrote its initial article lifting from Guido Fawkes — published a 'story’ headlined UNMASKED Woke Oxford student who led move to cancel Queen by removing portrait is AMERICAN as if reading a name in a blog post then using Google then harvesting photos from someone’s Facebook profile is the height of investigative journalism. She writes:
A WOKE Oxford student who led a controversial move to remove a portrait of the Queen has been unmasked as an American post-grad…
…Matthew Katzman, 25, is a lecturer in computer science and the son of a top lawyer from Maryland.
The post-grad student, who also studied at Stamford University in the States, said the common room is "meant to be a space for all to feel welcome".
But as a reporter on shift who publishes as many as a dozen pieces a day, that’s the limit of the details dug up for Grealish’s report. Sometimes the ‘shovel the shit out’ school of reporting has accidentally positive side-effects — Grealish simply didn’t have the time to harass Katzman as thoroughly as other papers.
However, The Daily Mail has the time, resources, and vindictive nature to go the whole hog. The first of its multiple pieces on the student arrived has a screaming headline — So much for gratitude! Student who cancelled the Queen is a visiting AMERICAN: Post grad from Stanford tabled motion to take down royal portrait at Oxford's Magdalen College as MPs line up to condemn move — and just runs and runs with it.
The ‘story’ by Rory Tingle and Tom Pyman, the same reporters assigned to the Mail’s initial report on the ‘row’, is a quintessential hit job. It begins:
The Oxford student who tabled the motion to remove an 'unwelcoming' portrait of the Queen from Magdalen College's common room is a privately educated American post grad who went to school with Barack Obama's daughter, it can be revealed today.
Matthew Katzman is a lecturer in computer science and the son of a top lawyer at international firm Steptoe & Johnson. His family live in a £4million mansion in Washington DC, where he attended $48,000-a-year Sidwell Friends School, a historic Quaker private college.
It is likely he counted Malia Obama, 22, as a contemporary at the elite institution, whose other alumni include Nancy Reagan, President Bill Clinton's daughter, Chelsea, the grandchildren of Joe Biden during his vice-presidency, and the offspring of Presidents Theodore Roosevelt and Richard Nixon.
You know it’s The Daily Mail when school fees and property prices are included in the first two paragraphs. Remember, The Mail judges the newsworthiness of murder victims’ lives by the value of their/their parents’ houses.
The article continues by listing his academic interests and dredging through online profiles — all deleted now for that reason — to find out his hobbies. It’s more a pair of creeps rifling through the bins than Woodward and Bernstein.
Katzman’s calm and sensible statement…
The Magdalen College MCR yesterday [Monday] voted to remove an inexpensive print of the queen that was hung in the common room a few years ago (a motion I brought forward in my role as MCR President as I do all motions raised in a sub-committee).
It is being stored securely and will remain in the MCR's art collection.
The action was taken after a discussion of the purpose of such a space, and it was decided that the room should be a welcoming, neutral place for all members regardless of background, demographic, or views.
The Royal Family is on display in many areas of the college, and it was ultimately agreed that it was an unnecessary addition to the common room.
The views of the MCR do not reflect the views of Magdalen College, and the aesthetic decisions made by the voting members of its committee do not equate to a statement on the Queen.
Indeed, no stance was taken on the Queen or the Royal Family – the conclusion was simply that there were better places for this print to be hung.
… appears after the reporters have dug through his online profiles, named his father, and discussed the cost of his schooling and his parents’ home. It’s followed by quotes from government ministers, random tweets — including the one from a Conservative MP’s intern who has written for The Daily Mail and Spectator among others, but which The Mail continues to present as the views of “one Twitter user”.
Having named, shamed, and borderline defamed Katzman, The Mail gets two more bites of the cherry with columnists offering their views on him.
The first attack comes from Dan Wootton, the most reprehensible man in British media, soon to be serving up horseshit in real-time on GB News, who howls beneath the headline, Over-privileged, over-woke and over here: Would the American student who cancelled the Queen have disrespected his own country like that?
I’ve written before about Wootton’s catalogue of contemptible reporting, but the aspect of his hypocritical cant — and there’s no bigger cant in British newspapers than Dan Wootton — that counts today is his record of pontificating about kindness and people being ‘hounded’.
He wept crocodile tears for Caroline Flack after her death, placing the blame on ITV with whom he had a long-standing feud after he was ditched by Lorraine, despite his own paper at the time, The Sun, being the hungriest hound in the pack that chased her. And, in February 2021, after press stories about Amanda Holden allegedly breaking lockdown, ‘lockdown sceptic’ Wootton, tweeted to decry the “curtain-twitching mob”.
I assume that were we to hop in a Flux Capacitor-enabled DeLorean and head back to the dim and distant days of… four months ago, the Dan Wootton of that oh so different time would be shocked and appalled that the curtain-twitching Dan Wootton of yesterday published a column hounding Katzman.
Unsurprisingly tying his attack on the student with his ongoing vendetta against the Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Wootton begins:
So it was an American who cancelled our Queen at Oxford University.
Should we be surprised? Hell no!
This was always the risk of the corrosive narrative spread by Harry and Meghan’s diehard Yank supporters like Oprah Winfrey and Gayle King, who seem cravenly obsessed with linking the modern-day Royal Family to racism without any evidence to back up such claims.
Computer science lecturer Matthew Katzman – who tabled the motion to remove the ‘unwelcoming’ portrait of the Queen from Magdalen's Middle Common Room (MCR) – is the epitome of US privilege.
The 25-year-old is the son of a lawyer who lives in a £4 million mansion in Washington DC.
This opening has all the hallmarks of a Wootton column — the Les Dawson over-the-garden-fence confessional tone, the sly xenophobia, the desire to drag Meghan into everything, and the selective quotation of someone’s words to make sure they fit into Dan’s “damning indictment”.
Wootton — the inside of his brain best visualised as a monkey throwing shit forever — takes the opportunity to sneer at Katzman’s academic interests…
The MailOnline today revealed he attended a £33,000 posh college attended by the Obama’s daughters and Chelsea Clinton, then went to the elite Stanford University, before arriving at Oxford to study for a PhD in 'complexity theory'.
… popping scare quotes around the phrase “complexity theory” to imply to Mail readers, a species notoriously spooked by complexity, that it’s not a silly subject. The fact that Katzman’s PhD is funded by DeepMind and that complexity theory is a fascinating and brain-meltingly… uh… complex area of computer science doesn’t make it into Wootton’s hit piece.
Wootton, who wrote long homilies to kindness and compassion in the aftermath of Caroline Flack’s death, continues his attack:
[Katzman’s] interests include CrossFit, poker, board games, playing the trumpet and Spartan races.
Certainly not history, based on his totally warped view of the Queen.
What this woketopian prat has failed to realise is that our monarch has proven in actions throughout her life to be the ultimate anti-racist.
Matthew Katzman is 25-years-old. Dan Wootton knows nothing about him other than the details dug up by other tabloid hacks.
There is no public interest defence for digging into the private life of a student purely because he’s the president of a group that voted to take down a picture the same group put up 8 years ago. The Sun, The Daily Mail and, as we’ll come onto, The Times and Daily Telegraph alike are harassers and the entire British establishment enables and excuses them.
Wootton throws an entire kitchen sink of culture war assumptions and claims at Katzman. He brands the student “a rabble-rouser”, “a student show off”, and “the American ringleader”. This is bullying beneath a byline; a baseless attack on an innocent student for taking part in the cultural life of his college. And The Daily Mail pays Wootton handsomely to use its megaphone to make attacks like this.
At the conclusion of his column, Wootton raises a historical example he believes bolsters his bile-flecked statements. He writes:
We should remember too that Oxford students have a long history of backing the wrong side of the argument.
In 1933, the Oxford Union debating society passed a controversial motion declaring: ‘This House will under no circumstances fight for its King and country.’
If the rest of the country had followed Oxford’s lead, Elizabeth II may never have become Queen and we might still be giving Nazi salutes today.
The same point was pushed by Jewish Chronicle editor Stephen Pollard who attempted to argue that the Magdalen MCR’s decision to take down a picture that it bought from a room that only it uses “symbolises a moment”:
Kenelm Hubert Digby, the student who was the proposer of the “King and Country” motion and later went on to become Attorney General of Sarawak in Malaysia and a respected judge, and was awarded an MBE, said soon after the debate that:
I believe that the motion was representative neither of the majority of undergraduates of Oxford nor of the youth of this country. I am certain if war broke out tomorrow the students of the university would flock to the recruiting office as their fathers and uncles did.
And he was right. When World War II broke out, the War Office’s recruiting board at Oxford invited undergraduates and resident postgraduates under 25 to enlist — 2,632 out of a potential total of 3,000 volunteered. 96 members of Magdalen College alone lost their lives during the Second World War.
The second Mail columnist taking a kick at Katzman is Jenni Murray, who finds space in her column amongst the usual tabloid anti-trans discourse for a section headlined How dare a yank ditch her maj! What’s more quintessentially British than xenophobia? Murray writes:
So much for the special relationship! It was a privileged American student who brought the proposal to remove the portrait of the Queen from the Middle Common Room (MCR) of Oxford’s Magdalen College. How dare Matthew Katzman come over here, benefit from an education at one of the finest universities in the world and incite others to vote to cancel our Queen?
His aim was to create a ‘neutral place... regardless of background.’ The students who passed the measure wittered on about the print being ‘unwelcoming’ because the Queen represents ‘recent colonial history’. These kids are supposed to be the brightest and the best.
Do they know the Queen represents the Commonwealth of Nations? She hasn’t a racist bone in her body. It’s time these irritating, full-of-themselves youngsters learnt respect and grew up.
Isn’t it interesting that Daily Mail columnists suddenly love the concept of “privilege” when it supports their arguments but ignore or disdain it when it gets a bit inconvenient for them?
Over at The Times — where columnist James Marriott suggests the culture war is “running out of steam” in the comment section today — the culture war is still going strong in the news pages.
Under the inaccurate headline Magdalen College Oxford to remove Queen’s portrait over colonial links — it’s the MCR rather than the college as a whole, which has plenty of pictures of the Queen elsewhere on its walls — three reporters (David Brown, Ali Mitib and the paper’s Education Editor Nicola Woolcock) write:
An elite American graduate is behind the removal of the Queen’s portrait from an Oxford college common room over the royal family’s historic links to colonial rule.
Matthew Katzman, president of Magdalen College’s 200-strong “middle common room” (MCR) of graduate students, is studying for a doctorate in computer science while also lecturing at Jesus College.
He is from Bethesda, Maryland, and attended the exclusive Sidwell Friends School, whose alumni include the children of several presidents. His father, Scott, is a prominent Washington lawyer.
The minutes of Monday’s meeting of the MCR committee, obtained by the Guido Fawkes website, show Katzman put forward the motion to remove a colourised print of a 1952 portrait of the Queen.
Katzman’s motion said: “The Queen represents an institution responsible for much of colonialism throughout history and the modern era, and these depictions cause some students discomfort.”
He said the equalities sub-committee, of which he is a member, proposed that the portrait be auctioned to raise funds “for a charity working to improve the lives of those suffering the consequences of colonialism” and that no new depiction of the Queen should replace it.
At the same meeting he also proposed allowing students to book alcohol-free meals (saving about £10 a head) and to fly the progress flag, which represents lesbian, gay, bisexual, queer, transexual and intersex people, during February and June.
It’s only after those paragraphs full of twisted facts and partial context that the Times piece finally notes that “Katzman, who graduated from Stanford University before moving to Oxford, said in a statement that the common room president brings forward all motions raised by sub-committees.”
The journalists know full well that many readers won’t get that far down the story. They also know that their description of Katzman (“an elite American graduate”) is a hard blast on the dog whistle to send readers crazy at the notion that a bloody yank has disparaged our beloved Queen.
The Times may not be as blatant as its tabloid stablemate The Sun nor as direct as The Daily Mail but it’s just as insidious. It’s the snide kid at the back of the crowd directing the other bullies on where best to punch their victim. It knows what it’s doing and pretends that it’s just offering up the facts while twisting them to fit an overall obsession with ‘waging war on the woke’.
The Daily Telegraph deploys Anna Pasternak to raise the 1933 Oxford Union debate again and write about her own more recent experience taking part in an event there with the motion “This House would abolish the monarchy”. Under the not-even-remotely hyperbolic headline, I spoke up for the Queen at Oxford's debate... and was jeered, she writes:
When I proposed that the Queen was an inspiring feminist, I was booed, and later jeered for suggesting that instead of watering down the trappings of the monarchy, we should consider that nowhere in the world can replicate our crowd-swelling pomp and pageantry.
I can’t remember any roar of applause when I said that the Queen represents continuity and stability, brilliantly binding our nation. And that while Prince Philip was her strength and stay, to abolish the monarchy would be to rid the country of its own strength and stay. I did get some laughs when I explained that the Queen was Britain’s best trade ambassador given the advantages of a Royal warrant to business.
I’d write some more jokes here but I think the previous two paragraphs are laughable enough.
British newspapers who endlessly talk about free speech and ‘cancel culture’ are engaged in a coordinated effort to attack, silence, and hurt a single student over a democratic decision to take down a picture. That’s all we’re talking about here. The picture was not destroyed or desecrated. It’s been put in storage.
Matthew Katzman, for all the screaming rhetoric, has done nothing wrong. His pictures have been splashed across the newspapers and his private life has been picked over merely because he chose to take part in college culture. He didn’t disparage Britain, he took part in the very debate and democracy that the same papers who are attacking him claim this country is all about.
The hacks who’ve come for Katzman knew exactly what would happen to him when they published these stories, just as the odious Mr Staines knew those hacks would hound the student when he dropped his name. This is a student debate turned into a row by a malevolent media.
The bile flowed from Guido Fawkes into broadsheets and tabloids alike before spewing out into comment sections and social media. After Katzman seemingly deleted his Twitter account, someone picked up the vacant handle and is using it to attack him and write vile things about his family1…
… and in the comments under the hit jobs, thousands of people have picked up their pitchforks to bay for the blood of a student they only know through a broad and bile-stained tabloid caricature. The British newspapers have directly contributed to Katzman receiving violent and antisemitic threats.
Like a foreman in the gaslight factory, Mail on Sunday columnist Dan Hodges tweeted disingenuously last night…
… and unintentionally summed up the British press as he did. The newspapers are bullies, a protection racket that demands you get in line and shut your mouth or face the consequences. The press’ chin-stroking about the right to free speech is usually about freedom for right-wing speech.
The monstering of Matthew Katzman is far from the first and will not be the last time that the British newspapers appoint themselves as judge and jury. They are school bullies who have never got over their own student political fights.
Solidarity with Matthew Katzman and a curse on all the houses of the hacks who have hounded him. The picture this affair has painted of the British media makes the one in Dorian Gray’s attic look appealing.
I’ve reported it and you should too.