'Machine-gun students', says top publisher

Jonross Swaby - EXCLUSIVE

Controversial BIG Issue magazine founder John Bird launched an astonishing attack on students during a mock interview at London's prestigious City University.

During a talk for second-year journalism undergraduates, Mr Bird, 61, said:  "If I had a Kalashnikov whilst those students are out making noise and waking up my kids, I would fire bullets at them."

The maverick former independent candidate for Mayor of London, who lives near a university campus at Wandsworth in south London, accused students of being ungrateful for being given the privilege of studying  — paid for mostly by public funds. Bird claimed that even though students pay thousand of pounds in tuition fees, taxpayer footed 90 per cent of university costs.

A former Workers Revolutionary Party member turned owner of Britain's only weekly paper for the homeless, Bird railed against a variety of targets including charities and celebrities associated with them like Bob Geldoff, Richard Branson and Paul McCartney.

He also blasted university activists. He said:  "Students politics is s**t because all they do is complain about (the invasion of Iraq and never bring about a social change. Four million people went on a demonstration against the Iraq war, but if two thousand people joined the (ruling) Labour Party and went in to change it, you would have a bigger effect. But people did not want to go in and have to work at being in the Labour Party, they just wanted to go on a demonstration and then go off to Starbucks and have some s**t coffee."

Bird also compared students to homeless people  — the same people the former rough sleeper and ex-criminal claims to help with The Big Issue which is exclusively sold by them. He said:  "Students get all these loans and grants and then go and spend it all on alcohol; homeless people sometimes make money from selling The Big Issue and then use it to go and buy drugs".

Bird controversially also said that his magazine, which was founded in 1991 and now has an annual turnover of  £8m, helped to fund the drug addictions of some homeless people. He insisted:  "Do not set us up there as some wonderful, fantastic thing, because it does not help  — if you give people opportunity, sometimes they will abuse it."

Thomas Roederer, adds:

Bird denounced activists, politicians, journalists and modern democracy as a whole. What started as a run of the mill interview by students at Britain's premier journalism school developed into what seemed like a political candidate's manifesto. The self-made businessman outlined what he considers are the woes of society and gave his proposed revolutionary solutions.

After explaining how he wanted to make his magazine more radical and let it show Britain  "the fact that we have an alternative", Bird launched an hour long rant against society as a whole, covering everything from the war in Iraq to poverty in Britain.

The first thing society should change, according to Bird, is the fact that  "most of the world, from George W. Bush to every single charity is simply maintaining people in poverty; they don't aim to get them out of it".

He claimed that, while the government spends an average  £60,000 on every homeless person each year, it only helps 10 per cent of them to get off the streets. But The Big Issue, according to Bird,  "does a good job with some people, a less good one with other, and harm to some," the government only provides  "non-leadership and confusion". The answer to Britain's political problems, as he put it, is a 'cognitive democracy' where everybody participates all the time rather than every four years at a general election.

Bird described how he was born into a  "racist, violent and ( …) disgusting" Notting Hill (London) in 1946, homeless at 5 years old and imprisoned several times for a variety of crimes before his late twenties. He has made numerous appearances in politics, business and charity. Sixteen years ago, he co-founded the The Big Issue magazine, a worldwide initiative aimed at helping homeless people get back on their feet. Over the passed years he launched the increasingly popular  'Wedge Card' plastic giving its owners a discount in stores and elsewhere and embarked upon a campaign to be Mayor of London, which he later abandoned.

When asked why he quit his mayoral campaign, he said:  "I've been in politics all my life; I just don't want to get into the kind of politics where I'm a manager of decline; responsible for drains, planes and trains. What I want to do is start a movement which will dismantle politics."

On his plans for The Big Issue, Bird said he wanted to make the politics of his newly-former Bigger Movement more visible to readers, while keeping the overall look of the magazine the same. He criticised mainstream news media because  "they always tell you what's wrong with the world, not how to solve the problems".


1 Response to "'Machine-gun students', says top publisher"

chris's picture


Fri, 11/16/2007 - 12:53
<p><strong><u>Chris Gaynor</u></strong></p> The problem lies not with students but the government. Students naturally want to go to Uni - a) to have a good time b) learn about their chosen subject c) and try to find out 'who they are.' The problem comes when the government expect 50% of the population to be university educated. 50% of the population should not be going, not because they are not clever enough but because not everyone is suited to UNI. And it creates a wealth of debt. John Bird is lucky he has the wealth to pontificate about it. Why didn't he stand for Mayor? Probably because it is easier said than done to get up there - and really make change happen!