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'It's 21st century bloodsport': Columnist tracks down Oxford student 'hounded out' of UK
13 May 2022, 15:15 | Updated: 13 May 2022, 15:53
Guardian columnist Aditya Chakrabortty tells James O'Brien of his catchup with the Oxford student who was "hounded out" of Britain following a motion to ban the Queen's picture from his common room that he didn't even support.
Matthew Katzman was president of the postgraduates’ middle common room (MCR) at Magdalen College Oxford where students overwhelmingly voted to remove a portrait of the Queen to make members "feel welcome" according to Political website Guido Fawkes, with one student said to have commented that "patriotism and colonialism are not really separable".
Mr Chakrabortty reported in The Guardian that before the common room's meeting, Matthew was "presented with a motion from an MCR subcommittee asking for the removal of the picture of the Queen. Katzman redrafted the motion, playing down its accusation of colonialism".
"Instead, he wrote that those associations made some students uncomfortable. His name was appended as a formality, yet at a sparsely attended meeting, he neither spoke for the motion nor supported it. Seventeen students voted, only two opposed," he writes.
Matthew left the UK following a backlash over the decision and is now doing his PhD in America as he "no longer feels able to come back to this country", according to Mr Chakrabortty.
Speaking to James O'Brien after he tracked down Matthew, Mr Chakrabortty said: "Basically, the story was 180 degrees opposite of what was presented.
"What happened as a result of the press, pretty directly, was he started within hours of the first blog post... getting hate mail.
"And hate mail curdled into antisemitic emails, about how he looks like he's Jewish, and he's got a Jewish name, and then it turned into outright death threats."
Mr Chakrabortty said the press were "aided" by Gavin Williamson, Jacob Rees-Mogg, and even the PM who decided to "weigh in", and Matthew was moved into a secure room in his college where he and his girlfriend were isolated for 5 days.
"If you can imagine, your only contact with the outside world at that point is your phone, and what's coming to your phone every few minutes, at one point he's saying every ten minutes he's getting at least an email saying how much this person hates him and wants him wiped off the face of the earth," he said.
"They accused him of cancelling the Queen, but they cancelled him.
"He said to me at one point 'You know, I really feel like the British system failed me, because it wasn't just the media it was also the politicians, and they were all trashing me for their own ends'."
James said: "The Irony in a way... is that Matthew got cancelled."
"Yeah. They hounded him, and they hounded him out of the country. And they accused him of cancelling the Queen, but they cancelled him so that he no longer feels able to come back to this country," Mr Chakrabortty replied.
"It's a kind of 21st century bloodsport James."