Pentagon-Funded Plymouth University Cancels Anti-War Academic: Reflections on How the US Empire Conquered Higher Education

The US Empire is in the final and most dangerous stages of its quest for what the Pentagon calls “full spectrum dominance.” Having invaded and fought proxy wars in the oil-rich Middle East, it is now trying to break nuclear-armed Russia in another proxy war before attempting “regime change” in nuclear-armed China. We need not tarry on the potential consequences. Professor Noam Chomsky called it 20 years ago: this is hegemony or survival. Which one do you choose?

As the Empire races towards its biggest bet, using humanity and all other species on the planet as gambling chips, anti-war comment is tolerated less and less. For those who want to know what happened to me, see the Annex of this article for the leaked emails and background. Meanwhile, consider what is taking shape.


Critics of Western imperialism are silenced by the Empire’s witting and unwitting minions in increasingly knee-jerk ways. Google, which was developed with CIA money, has de-ranked anti-war websites, driving traffic to state-corporate outlets that promote imperialism. After buying YouTube, it then went on a de-platforming spree, banning and de-monetizing “conspiracy theorists,” left and right, who dare deviate from the increasingly narrow orthodoxy of acceptable thought.

Under the new McCarthyism of RussiaGate, the US Federal Bureau of Investigation has used the pretext of countering foreign disinformation to suspend and terminate political accounts. In 2020, following an evidence-free CNN report alleging that it was a front for the sanctioned nation of Iran, the FBI and Department of Justice seized the US domain for the website of the American Herald Tribune, founded by Dr. Anthony James Hall, who retired from his Canadian university, Lethbridge, following pressure from the Zionist Lobby and from individuals who accused him of being a “conspiracy theorist”—a cheap smear tactic employed against me by a cabal of staff at Plymouth University.

Meanwhile, the Twitter Files have exploded the myth that “social media” are independent corporate actors. Likewise, journalist Dr. Alan Macleod has documented the dozens of former spies now employed to police content at Facebook.


The opinions of self-described fact-checkers—like the Poynter Institute—are amplified by state-corporate media which engage in public humiliation rituals in the hope that retailers will pull magazines, academic institutions will fire staff, digital providers will demonetize accounts, and web hosts will drop entire sites and/or content.

Doctors Piers Robinson and Tim Hayward, for instance, have scrutinized the Empire’s claims about chemical weapons in Syria. The Times splashed: “Apologists for Assad working in British universities.” Hayward was denigrated in the British Parliament as one of Russian President Vladimir Putin’s “useful idiots” by a Member who exerted pressure on the government to take action against Hayward.

As governments contract out censorship to “fact-checkers,” critics of Empire are demonetized. Consortium News and Mint Press have seen their PayPal accounts frozen. PayPal’s pro-Trump co-founder, Peter Thiel, has made many millions of dollars from Pentagon contracts. Between 2007 and ’19, US taxpayers gave his Palantir Technologies $1.5 billion via the Department of Defense, particularly to spy on Afghans and Iraqis.


The above examples show how the US military and intelligence continue to influence the infrastructure through which much of today’s information travels. Another target is academia. But how serious is the problem?

Richard Lance Keeble is a Professor of Journalism at the University of Lincoln (UK) and joint-editor of the academic journal, Ethical Space. The prolific author (who has peer-reviewed two of my books to date) expressed his “shock” over my treatment by Plymouth University. In an email to me, Professor Keeble also noted that what happened is “part of a dangerous trend in US/UK higher education of suppressing critical views.”

The National Association of Scholars (US) counts 267 academics in America and Canada alone who, in recent years, have been sacked, denied tenure, and/or forced into early retirement because staff, students, or outside forces didn’t like what they were saying. Anti-imperial academics denied tenure at Harvard include Professors García Peña, Ahmed Ragab, and Cornel West.

Cancel culture has become such an inhibitor to freedom of thought that in 2020, Harper’s published a letter on justice and open debate signed by the likes of Professor Chomsky. The signatories argued that reflexive censorship does more harm than good to social causes:

“This stifling atmosphere will ultimately harm the most vital causes of our time. The restriction of debate, whether by a repressive government or an intolerant society, invariably hurts those who lack power and makes everyone less capable of democratic participation. The way to defeat bad ideas is by exposure, argument, and persuasion, not by trying to silence or wish them away. We refuse any false choice between justice and freedom, which cannot exist without each other.”


Dr. Matthew Alford of the University of Bath (UK) specializes in cinema as propaganda and the influence of the US military-intelligence establishment over Hollywood. Dr. Alford organized and edited an article co-authored by several of his colleagues for The Conversation: a popular British academic-journalist publication. The article concerned the recent history of US-led imperialism and was approved for publication, until it wasn’t. The editors initially objected to the content and, despite redrafts, withdrew the article.

Dr. Alford—my friend and co-author of the book Union Jackboot (2018)—said of my situation in an email/statement: “Coles’ university status has been meddled with in an arbitrary manner, apparently on the grounds that he represents the Unacceptable Face of the Left – what used to be the standard Left.”

Dr. Alford goes on to note that since the regimes of Reagan and Thatcher, and especially in more recent times with the onset of the Trump administration:

“…our societies in the US, UK, and across the West have become highly polarised. By smashing society – unions, parties, protestors – the Right has scattered pieces across both sides of the board and rendered the resistance weak and divided. The centre ground, just like the middle classes, has shrivelled and shrunk since the promising decades of the mid-20th century.  As such, a reactionary impulse reigns across our institutions and debates, with significant risks.”

Highlighting the literal risks to humanity posed by current US proxy wars, Dr. Alford emphasizes the importance of free thought, free speech, and room for debate: “In the name both of survival and civilisation, we must allow space in our society for a diverse array of voices, where offering an unpopular or inaccurate opinion is vigorously protected, rather than being used as an opportunity for damage.”


Universities serve a variety of purposes, one of which is the development of new weapons for the US military. In the past, white voices critical of Empire would be tolerated as long as their non-university work did not grind the gears of Empire. That’s how Professor Chomsky, for instance, was able to get arrested protesting mass murder in Vietnam while receiving Pentagon money to undertake his linguistics research.

The technological origins of “full spectrum dominance” can perhaps be traced back to the outgoing Reagan and incoming George H.W. Bush administrations, under whom the Pentagon founded the Multidisciplinary University Research Initiative to further integrate with education and develop tools for things like the so-called Star Wars program (Strategic Defense Initiative). One consequence is that higher education became significantly influenced—maybe not full-spectrum dominated—by the eternal war machine.

By 2015, the Department of Defense (DoD), which in more honest times was called the Department of War, was investing $250 million of taxpayer money in universities. In that year, the DoD decided to look for international partners, of which the Britain was a natural first-choice.   The Pentagon’s Basic Research Office Director, Robin Staffin, said: “we decided it was time to formalize cooperation between the U.S. and the U.K.”

DARPA is the Pentagon’s taxpayer-funded innovation arm. It used to stand for the Advanced Projects Research Agency, but PR experts realized that they’d better prefix it with the word “Defense.” In 2016, venture capitalist-turned-DARPA Director, Arati Prabhakar, said: “DARPA is reliant on research universities as one part of this huge ecosystem  … [We] draw from the deep foundational research, almost always at places like great universities.”

For instance, the DoD recently said that the universities of Alabama-Huntsville, Florida International, Texas A&M Engineering Experiment Station, and others, have received funding to develop solutions for—are you ready?—“monitoring the health and status of hypersonic aeroshells” (heat shields for space systems, which are core elements of “full spectrum dominance.” The “health and status” of ordinary Americans, who still don’t have free coverage, is less important). Other projects include thermodynamic ducts for hypersonic vehicles sponsored by the usual suspects, like Boeing and Lockheed Martin.


For two decades, DARPA and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration have sought to develop a propellant-free thruster for spacecraft and rockets. The proposed EmDrive will, if realized, prove the theory of quantized inertia (QI) by Plymouth University’s Dr. Mike McCulloch.

DARPA’s Nascent Light-Matter Interactions program oversees the project. Program Manager, Mike Fiddy, says that the EmDrive will help ensure US dominance over the high frontier: “There is increasing global activity in space …  DARPA is seeking to deepen our understanding of how to move objects around in more energy efficient and versatile ways.”

DARPA awarded $1.3 million in grant money to Dr. McCulloch, a specialist in Geomatics at Plymouth University’s School of Biology and Marine Sciences in southwest England. The grant allows McCulloch to apply his QI theory to the EmDrive, building shielded laser loops and what not. In 2018, United Press International reported: “even if mainstream physicists are reluctant to engage with McCulloch’s ideas, DARPA was interested enough to open the coffers.”


In an email to me, Dr. McCulloch responded that he believed that his invention would be built for peaceful purposes. McCulloch did, however, acknowledge that technology can be used for both good and bad. Dr. McCulloch was very nice to me. He expressed shock at my treatment by the University and suggested strategies for regaining my position. While we agree on free speech, Dr. McCulloch’s views on other matters are, however, the polar opposite of mine. A sample of his tweets:

White men gave them [non-whites?] technology & modern civilisation & they’ll never forgive us”; “Our civilisation has turned on its founding ethnicity. It’s like an autoimmune disease – a bored immune system attacks the body itself”; “As an academic, after 15 yrs of being ordered to treat people equally, I now receive frequent emails offering funding & opportunities which exclude white males … White men should not have to pay as much tax because we get fewer benefits back”; and so on.

A couple of years ago, an individual remaining anonymous reported McCulloch’s non-University activity to an internal body, which traweled through his old posts. His fate was to be decided by an internal review, but then suddenly in 2020, The Critic reported: “The University of Plymouth have now dropped their investigation.” The University did not reply to the journal’s request for comment.


I abhor racism—and indeed all forms of discrimination—enough to have written a neuroscience book, entitled Where Does Prejudice Come From? (2022). I have spent much of my life supporting anti-war groups because, whatever ideologies one wishes to exploit in support of war, war is the ultimate crime against humanity because it kills women and children, imposes permanent physical and mental disability, creates an environment in which the worst human activities such as rape and torture are permitted, and fuels nationalism, racism, and classism.

As a student at Exeter University, I was deeply involved in Palestine solidarity, which has faced increasing pushback by the Zionist Lobby that has sought to literally criminalize supporting Palestinians under the notion that doing so is anti-Semitic. Academics including Norman Finkelstein (denied tenure by DePaul University), David Miller (fired from Bristol University UK), and Kenneth Roth (initially refused a Harvard fellowship) have endured the Lobby’s ire.

While a PhD student at Plymouth University, I co-founded the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research which acted as an amplifier for Voices for Creative Non-Violence (VCNV): a peace activist group run by Kathy Kelly and others, who unlike many of us, are actually brave enough to travel to war zones (notably Afghanistan) in solidarity with ordinary people. Protesting drone murder, they also purposefully get arrested by “trespassing” onto US military bases with messages of peace. In emails to me, Kathy Kelly and fellow VCNC activist Brian Terrell both expressed solidarity when learning about my treatment by Plymouth University.


As universities continue designing weapons of mass murder, thought criminals in Western countries continue to face deplatforming and public shaming. Are their personal fates as severe as those of dissident academics in US-UK-supported regimes, like Saudi Arabia? Of course not. But that is not the point. An obvious chilling effect is created in which scholars striving for social justice and indeed the survival of the planet are silenced. The witting an unwitting minions of Empire are too obtuse to realize that by issuing penalties for expressing opinions, those penalties may one day be imposed upon them.



I was awarded my PhD in 2017. My thesis concerned audio description of visual media for blind and visually-impaired audiences. I retained my University email account by asking my supervisor to sign off on the annual discretionary account. When he retired, I asked a political friend of mine, Dr. Martin Mowforth (a local peace activist), to take on the new role of discretionary email account sponsor.

I was later awarded a grant by a UK charity called the Thomas Pocklington Trust to study ways of refining audio description. The University acted as my host institution. Professor Judy Edworthy authorized the contract. My position as a postdoctoral researcher was facilitated through the School of Psychology’s Cognition Institute. My mistake was continuing the use of my student email account. I should have upgraded to a staff email account. It was this weakness on which my political enemies at the University seized because it’s harder to close staff accounts.

I presented my research on audio description to an industry gathering, Dublin 2022. In August of that year, unspent grant monies were returned to the Thomas Pocklington Trust. My discretionary email account was not due to expire until January or February this year and I had intended to renew it, with Dr. Mowforth’s authorization, as normal. I had planned to spend the next few years completing my Pocklington-funded work: publishing my research in peer-reviewed journals and designing a novel audio description system to improve user experiences, all the while with the University continuing to act as host.


One morning last October, I sat at my home desk to log into my University email account and found that it had been suspended. I assumed that the cause was a hack or technical issue. The usually-helpful IT support staff couldn’t or wouldn’t tell me what was going on. I contacted the sponsor of my account, Dr. Mowforth, who informed me that certain staff had objected to things I had written for the Australian magazine, Nexus.

Had the staff emails not been leaked to me, I would to this day remain in the dark as to what happened and why. It all started last September when an anonymous individual (just like in Dr. McCulloch’s case) reported my non-University work to my former PhD examiner, Assistant Professor Jane Grant of the Planetary Collegium. (How the individual knew to contact Dr. Grant in the first instance is also a mystery.)

To this day, the identity of the original complainant remains protected by the University. The staff passed around details about me between different departments, but I’m not allowed to know who wanted me canceled. One Dr. Cornel Sandvoss is copied into the emails for no apparent reason. I asked Dr. Sandvoss if he is the original complainant, to which I received no answer.


When University staff have a problem with colleagues, there is a procedure. Ordinarily, an investigation is launched. If the complaint is merited, the target of the complaint is notified and asked to explain themselves. That is not what happened in my case. On the basis of what the anonymous complainant said about me, Dr. Grant decided that my contract with the University—she did not know or find out what it was—should be “terminate[d].”

Dr. Grant attempted to use her executive power to get me canceled. On September 28th last year, Grant wrote to the University’s Doctoral College (notice the total of lack procedure or process).:

“I’ve had an email regarding one of our ex PhD students [sic] who, I’ve been informed is writing some pretty odd stuff for a journal called Nexus. He is saying that he is a post doctoral [sic] researcher here at Plymouth. I examined his PhD, maybe around 7nyears ago [sic]. It was on film [sic] and had no conspiracy theory references. Can you check if he is still registered with us please? If so, it may be time to terminate his contract.”

The response of the Doctoral College should have been that Dr. Grant was obliged to make a formal complaint against me, leading to an investigation. Instead, the Doctoral College exerted executive power, assisting in the anti-Coles conspiracy.


What exactly had I done? Nothing, according to Dr. Grant. On the same day, she wrote to the College and to Dr. Sandvoss:

“…the content of what he [Coles] is now writing is not good for the University to be associated with, just general but outlandish conspiracy theories etc. and him as a research fellow [sic]. Be good to have him not on our books so to speak.”

So, Dr. Grant initiated the termination of my position on the basis of no specific evidence or allegation. This kind of behavior obviously sets a dangerous precedent, when staff with higher positions of authority than others can obviate due process on the basis of non-specific claims and cancel their colleagues. Literally Kafkaesque.

The Doctoral College then wrote to an administrator, Sarah Kearns. Operating under the assumption that I was an ex-student, Ms. Kearns potentially breached UK data protection law by sharing my name and student number interdepartmentally and even “Googling” me to confirm that my author photos match my student picture. Cher Cressey of the Doctoral College wrote: “Sarah Carne [sic] has Googled ‘T J Cole’ [sic] and recognises his face to be Tim Coles.”

On 29th, Ms. Kearns wrote to Dr. Grant: “would you be happy to check with IT Support to see if that discretionary account was set up for him and whether it can be closed?”

Dr. Grant replied: “…I have never come across this kind of thing, so not sure of the process.” Notice that Dr. Grant did not take the trouble to find out the process before deciding that I should be removed from the University. Having instigated the whole thing, Dr. Grant then denied responsibility to her co-conspirators:

“I’ve copied in the Doctoral College …  As Time Coles [sic] is not in my School [i.e., Arts], I’ll leave this with you and them.”


I informed Dr. Grant that I had the emails and I gave her the opportunity to put things right. She did not respond. I wrote to numerous staff, including the facilitator of my post-doctoral grant Professor Edworthy (who did not reply), to ask for help unlocking my account. I then received this threatening email from Dr. Katie Angliss of the Business School (of which my original account sponsor, Dr. Mowforth, was an employee). Note her bold and underlined text:

“…I understand that you have been in contact with a number of people at the university, none of  which [sic] you are currently engaged in work/ research with – these staff will be unable to unlock your IT account, and I ask that you cease communication with them. As per my previous email to you (dated 05/10/2022), if you are able to identify a named member of university staff that you are currently working with, and that can confirm your research association, then it is them that will need to sign off your discretionary membership.”

Dr. Cristina Rivas of the Doctoral College was part of the mechanism that got me canceled. As instructed on the University website’s section on complaints, I wrote to the Doctoral College to complain about my treatment and request an investigation. They ignored me. After 10 days, I wrote again. Just as Dr. Grant played a major role in the events and then acted as if it was not her responsibility, the Doctoral College did the same. On October 17th, Dr. Rivas responded to me:

“We received your original e-mail (attached) and having read it, it appeared to be a matter outside any research degree status at the University and, instead, relate to an issue post-degree and in which the Doctoral College did not have any input.”

If they did not have “any input,” how could they and Kearns and Grant (who by her own admission was in a different School) have been able to terminate my account?

With help from Britain’s former Home Office Minister, Norman Baker, I then wrote to Plymouth University’s Vice-Chancellor Judith Petts requesting an investigation into the threats I received from Dr. Angliss, the immediate re-opening of my email account, and that the staff receive caution over their conduct.

A “neutral” investigator, Professor David Parkinson, was assigned. Finally, in mid-December, I received an outcome from Professor Parkinson: the above staff had acted inappropriately by terminating my account without warning and…that was it. No disciplinary action was taken and Dr. Parkinson ignored all my complaints about threats, bullying, character assassination, and data violations.

I am currently taking the matter to higher authorities.


The inverse of the old saying “extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” applies here. I was smeared and libelled behind my back as a “conspiracy theorist” over the numerous articles I have written for Nexus. No specifics or evidence were ever presented, so normally no rebuttal is required.

However, as I have lost my University position as a result of my political views, it is worth considering exactly what I write for Nexus (article by article) and that my articles give a left-wing voice to the so-called conspiracy research community, which is often dominated by right-wingers and apolitical people.

As one can see below, the bulk of my work for Nexus consists of critiques and exposés of US military and intelligence agencies. The individual who complained about me could not say “Coles is an anti-imperialist” because there is no overt penalty for such a position. But “conspiracy theorist” is a loaded term of abuse, so that is the smear with which I was attacked.

It is a mystery as to how and why the anonymous complainant was reading Nexus if they hate “conspiracy” literature. Are they one of these state-corporate-funded “fact-checkers” who happened to work at the University and were embarrassed to find that I, too, was at the institution?

I start with the most unusual or contentious articles. See if you can spot any “outlandish conspiracy theories etc.” (Grant) in the following:

Article 1: Stealing votes with machines. Significant elements on the political right claim that the 2020 US Presidential election was stolen because of machine voting. In the article, I talk about how the Democratic Presidential candidate, Al Gore, was robbed by similar processes in the year 2000 and how we ended up with George W. Bush and his extreme “neocon” agenda. Taking an anti-imperialist approach, I also examine how voting machines are being imposed by Western powers on third world, “emerging” democracies and I explore the dubious electoral results that seem to arise in certain cases.

Article 2: Hi-tech alchemy (not “actual” alchemy! Alchemy as a metaphor for the current drive in some elite circles toward so-called trans- or post-humanism (e.g., brain chips and the like)).

Article 3: False flags (extract from my book Manufacturing Terrorism, which was read and endorsed by former CIA officer, John Kiriakou. Proven cases include NATO’s secret armies operating in democratic Western states, known as Operation Gladio).

Article 4: Personalized warfare (how the weapons are turning inward and how military doctrine increasingly focuses on domestic populations).

Article 5: Doomsday bunkers (how the wealthy are building hardened structures to survive the apocalypse they are helping to bring).

Article 6: Infiltration of “satanic” cults by intelligence agencies (example of evidence: Tempel ov Blood leader was FBI informant).

Article 7: Normalizing pedophilia (exposing as predators, not progressives, groups like North American Man-Boy Love Association and exploitative child material on giants like Netflix).

Article 8: Documenting elite child-trafficking facilitated by intelligence agencies (Epstein, Kincora, etc.).

Article 9: The robotization of warfare and social control (e.g., US police’s new robo-dogs).

Article 10: Electromagnetic pulse weapons (citing, as usual, primary and “mainstream” sources).

Article 11: The looming nanotech disaster (citing science journals to compare nanotoxicity to asbestos).

Article 12: Sonic weapons (voice-to-skull technology and the like).

Article 13: New Ministries of Truth (bots etc. controlling internet content).

So, to Drs. Grant et al., who have ignored repeated emails: to which “outlandish conspiracy theories etc.” are you referring and, if there are any, how do they justify destroying my reputation in secret, among colleagues, and robbing blind/visually impaired people of potentially enjoying new assistive technologies by terminating my University position?

T. J. Coles is director of the Plymouth Institute for Peace Research and the author of several books, including Voices for Peace (with Noam Chomsky and others) and  Fire and Fury: How the US Isolates North Korea, Encircles China and Risks Nuclear War in Asia (both Clairview Books).