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Thursday, May 9, 2013

Irrelevance: Stephen Hawking boycott reminds us he is the Elvis Costello of science

The decision by famous author and celebrity physicist Stephen Hawking to join an academic boycott of Israel has given a brief psychological boost to opponents of the Jewish state.

Stephen Hawking at the height of his power
His decision was confused by conflicting messages made on behalf of the disabled scientist. But in the end, it highlights the irrelevance of Hawking and a pathetic trend by `yesterday`s stars` to stay relevant.

Virtually no one of contemporary significance in the serious academic world (of which vapid Grievance Studies subjects, like Gender Studies do not merit consideration) has participated in the anti-intellectual discrimination against Israel.

The same holds true even in the generally less sagacious environs of celebrity culture. The few recognizable names to have fallen victim to a propaganda campaign that preys principally upon the uninsightful and desperate are far past the days when they have produced anything of note.

The biggest name in music to have publicly joined the boycott against Israel is the British musician Elvis Costello, and he only did so more than two decades after he has written a song that more than a handful of people could name. Adding his name to the unimpressive list of anti-Israel poobahs was the most attention Costello was able to garner for himself since the early 1990`s.

Which raises the question of the timing of Hawking`s decision. The Cambridge professor had paid  visits to Israel in the past. most recently in 2006, when tensions between Israel and the Palestinians were even more exacerbated. So why now, in a time of relative calm, would Hawking`s position suddenly alter, particularly after he confirmed only a month ago that he would attend the conference he now has chosen to boycott?

As someone who evidently craves attention, Hawking, who has tried to argue that God is irrelevant,  has been struggling in the last decades to maintain his own relevance. Many of his theories have been discarded and ignored, and he is now best known not for his contributions to science, but his appearances as a cartoon character on shows like Futurama and The Simpsons.

Hawking had no qualms about attending conferences in China and Iran, where repression of free speech and all forms are dissent are the norm. But loathsome left-wing accolades don't go to people boycotting those totalitarian dictatorships.

If patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel, than what we are seeing from people like Elvis Costello and Stephen Hawking is that adopting trendy political postures is the last refuge for a has-been celebrity.

(Updated May 9/13)


Anonymous said...


"For years, prominent voices on the ostensibly pro-Israel far-right have been competing to see who can be the most outrageous in cruelty, the most childish in bullying, while pursuing a career in what they call Israel advocacy."

Reading what you've had to say here about Professor Hawking, I see you're doing nothing to disprove what Ha'aretz is saying. Grow up, Richard, you're coming across like a spoiled child throwing a temper tantrum and you're confirming the worst stereotypes about the Zionist right.

Richard K said...

Well, anonymous, aside from other than the fact that my career is not in Israel advocacy, you appear clueless to the central point of the piece. People like Hawking and Costello and Roger Waters decide to take an anti-Israel stance when they are well past their relevance.

The fact that Bradley Burston is published in an Israeli newspaper disproves many of the allegations made by anti-Israel ideologues.

Harry Abrams said...

Why would Hawking do this sad thing,I'm really not all that concerned. At this point it says more about him than us Jews or israel. It's known that he was "pressured." But he's also not a well man, suffering this ALS disease could have triggered something irrational. Whatever. Meanwhile Israel is going to continue as the one of the world's start up nations, and bravely defend itself and continue to build. At the end of the day these boycott troublemakers don't do a thing to help the Palestinian Arabs situation anyway. And that's the saddest part of all.

Anonymous said...

"aside from other than the fact that my career is not in Israel advocacy" - it's your hobby, which explains your lack of professionalism. You're adolescent nastiness and temper tantrums are an embarassment to Israeli advocacy Richard.

Richard K said...

A gutless, anonymous troll having a hissy fit and accusing someone of temper tantrums? More irony, courtesy of the Internet.

Anonymous said...

If you think insulting someone's physical disability is an intelligent refutation of their position then who am I to stand in your way?

Richard K said...

Insulting someone's physical disability? Where is that in this post? Projecting some of your own issues?

Anonymous said...

"Stephen Hawking's voice box is smarter than the mute physicist"? The picture of Davros? I guess when your stock and trade is petty insults and personal abuse rather than reasoned argument you stop noticing your own insults. Really Richard, you're just embarrassing yourself at this point.

Richard K said...

Oh, you're back again. Always good to hear from a fan, even a pathologically obsessed one.

There's a difference between insulting someone's decisions and choices and their "disability." Perhaps too subtle a distinction for someone with your obvious intellectual limitations.

Anonymous said...

I am a fan - it's always entertaining to watch someone with anger management issues explode at the slightest thing.