[Recap: On 9 June 2016 I was notified I am facing the sack from my university for a series of tweets that it alleges were offensive and/or insulting and/or threatening and/or a potential threat to the reputation of the university. This action was taken under the Code of Conduct and I have been charged with serious misconduct.]
My political ally and friend of 30 years @JohnPassant has written a great piece on bis blog En Passant dealing with my case.
In it he draws the necessary parallels between my case and that of my Socialist Alternative comrade Roz Ward the La robe University academic briefly suspended after she was viciously attacked for weeks-on-end in the Murdoch press over her involvement in the vital and important Safe Schools Coalition.
As happened with me in 2014 when I was trolled by Murdoch-dazed numpties and dribblejaws, instead of defending Roz, La Trobe chose to charge her with serious misconduct for “bringing the university into disrepute”.
John makes an excellent point about this:
It appears that the University has reacted, again, to not just publicity but a campaign from the most right wing mainstream media organisation in Australia, the Murdoch media. This has implications for all left wing academics. It means that if Murdoch hacks (what more appropriate word to describe the sort of institutional journalism that hacks the phone of a dead girl or lies about the Hillsborough tragedy?) trawl through the personal public accounts (or even blogs) of left wing academics and find some offensive comments those academics can be sacked under the McCarthyite moniker of offensive, or disrespectful, or threatening, or even the catch all of ‘having the potential to damage the reputation of the University’.
John is right the idea that the potential to cause damage to the reputation of an institution is hardly grounds for dismissal. In Roz’ case and in mine, we caused no damage with our comments which were not in any way connected with our employers.
Negative publicity brought upon themselves
It is not me, nor Roz, who is damaging the reputation of our institutions by being public Marxists and unapologetic in our statements.
The damage is caused in both cases by a zealous over-reaction by senior (and frankly out-of-touch) administrators who move with unseemly haste to punish any deviation from the rigid conservatism of their institutions.
So all of us need to be on our guard, particularly in institutions that bend and fold under the pressure exerted from conservative media outlets and their braying hordes of social media warriors.
In his post John asks the very pertinent question: Who’s next for the chop?
Like me John has no doubt that #NewsCorpse hacks are searching for material that they can use to attack other left-wing academics, or even those who merely challenge the Murdoch paradigm. Heaven forbid they find anyone like me who uses “fuck” liberally in their speech and social media posting.
Here’s John again:
One problem for Universities is that if Hirst’s comments are a sackable offence, what will they do to all the other academics who have posted angry responses in a private capacity and perhaps even a work capacity to right wing nut jobs and others attacking them? I suspect Hirst is not alone in making this type of comment. If so, how does Deakin University propose to enforce its interpretation of its standards and its expectations of appropriate behaviour?
Will some prominent right-wing figure at the University be investigated for his or her non-work comments? Will the University perhaps set up an in-house Un-University Activities Committee to investigate all words and actions that have the potential to damage the reputation of the University? Will it not only rely on Murdoch and other informants but actively investigate the personal lives and views, as captured on public outlets like Facebook and twitter, of its staff? After all if it good enough for Martin, why not apply the same standards to all staff? Having set that standard is it not beholden on Deakin to now begin policing it, with, one can imagine, Orwellian consequences that the University may itself have set in train through sacking Hirst?
I am not for a moment suggesting this happen, just pointing out the dangers that arise from sacking Martin for his comments
Well, I’m not suggesting that either, so I hope the following individuals forgive me for drawing attention to their social media presence, but this is a key issue.
I am not the only Deakin academic to be called a sad, ageing “social justice warrior” by Rita Panahi (SJW in their parlance). In recent weeks she has had more than one interesting exchange with my colleague @IRanalyst, who also goes by the name Dr Scott Burchill.
Dr Burchill has also tweeted about other News Corp calumnists, including Jennifer Oriel and Miranda Devine, who interestingly also deletes embarrassing tweets.
I have “liked” a lot more tweets like this from Scott and other Deakin tweeters which you can follow from my Twitter profile page. I am keeping track in order to build my case.
Lovely Rita, meet her mate
Take a stroll down the memory lane that is my Twitter “likes”, you will find some interesting and revealing conversations tucked away there, particularly involving Ms Panahi and Mr McDougall who have been talking together for some time.
Mr McDougall is @lrjsm and he is the Deakin student at the centre of the ridiculous allegation that I threatened his academic progress in a tweet.
Take this exchange with Rita for example:
Following the suggestion from @HugeAlf, Mr McDougall takes the challenge to troll Jane Caro to see if she will block him.
Is this the type of behaviour that Deakin expects from its students? In my view it potentially breaches the university’s code of conduct for students in particular clauses 4 (f, i, and j).
Did I threaten Mr McDougall
In my response to the university’s accusation that there is an implied threat in my tweet to Mr McDougall I explained my motivation and intent.
Here is what I wrote in an earlier draft when I was much more upset that I could be subject to such an allegation.
Everyone who knows me would attest to a belief that it would never even occur to me to threaten a student with anything, or that I would retaliate against a student (or anyone) who had a legitimate complaint about my behaviour.
Any way back to the night of 20 March 2016.
Read it for yourself.
An interesting train of events. [For this full timeline and much much more, look at my LIKES]
Suffice to say Mr McDougall appears to have recently deleted his Twitter account.
Be careful what you wish for: Ben Eltham
Then there’s this interesting series of tweets from @beneltham who happens to be a journalist with Crikey and also employed at Deakin teaching in the same school as me. He bought into the Twitter discussion about my sacking following publication of the Guardian piece and he tweeted out this link.
So they sacked a journalism professor in my very own department. For tweeting. Isn’t academic freedom great! https://t.co/kaTiMb0dzu
— Ben Eltham (@beneltham) June 9, 2016
He then added the following for good measure
There were other tweets from Ben in this sequence. In one of them he directly referenced his supervisor at Deakin, Professor Matthew Allen in a very mocking tone. Prof Allen is the same person who signed off on the allegations against me, including that my “fuck it” hat tweet was insulting to him.
Ben’s tweet mocking Allen has since been deleted, the only trace of it is my response.
You can see that Ben’s tweet about Matthew “does not exist” on Twitter any more. But the piece about Professor Allen quitting social media is still available here.
And who can blame Ben for deleting his mocking tweet about Professor Allen before anyone at Deakin could see it. In the current climate deleting that tweet (and possibly others in the June 9 sequence) was an act of self-preservation.
I wonder if he’s had a quiet phone call? I wonder if Rita or someone has already screenshotted that damning tweet and sent it to Deakin?
It is sad indictment of Deakin that one of its most important recruits and associates who teaches and researches in communication feels compelled to self-censor his social media presence in order to hang on to his job.
As you can tell, I don’t self-censor and I don’t choose to do the pre-emptive buckle and give in to my accusers in the hope that they will be lenient on me.
Famous author who says “fuck”, and more
A few weeks ago I was in the Readings bookshop in Acland st, St Kilda where I stumbled across a sci-fi book that I thought looked interesting. It’s called The Booger Peril: A history of things to come by an author I’d never heard of called Ben Debney.
I opened the book and read the Publisher’s note, which is actually part of the book. It was tantalising and described the book as a lost manuscript which Ben had claimed to have written, a claim disputed by the purported author’s estranged wife.
The Publisher’s note contains the following passages:
Neither Mr. Debney nor his disaffected spouse have the slightest idea how [the manuscript] got there, though the latter relates that she has since filed for divorce, stating that she is ‘sick to the gills of his bullshit’. In particular, she cites ‘claiming authorship of things he didn’t write, like the lazy prick is capable of putting a sustained effort into anything, literary or otherwise.’
This was, according to her account, ‘the last fucking straw.’
I was delighted, the book sounds like something I will enjoy (I’ll review it here when I’m done) but the thought occurred to me, given Deakin’s apparent sensitivity to sweary language (bullshit, lazy prick, last fucking straw) if Ben were ever to come to Deakin the existence of his sweary and seemingly offensive language would make him persona non grata.
This was not a random thought. Ever since the events of 2014 I have been collecting sweary tweets by the great and good — the sort of people that Deakin might like to invite onto campus to give a talk, for example — in order to demonstrate my thesis that “fuck” is just a word now and we should get over our mock horror at its common everyday use.
I’ll have more to say about sweary visitors to Deakin in a moment, but for now back to Ben D.
I googled Ben because I thought he would be a good example to use in that context, well, fuck me, wasn’t I surprised!
It turns out Ben Debney is a PhD student in the School of Communication and Creative Arts at Deakin.
He’s already inside the tent and swearing out, and he swears loudly.
Here’s a recent tweet from Ben that will surely get him into trouble at Deakin. I never use the C-word, but Ben is willing to have a crack.
This one is well inside the timeline during which Deakin was actively trawling my account to find tweets to persecute me with, this one must have slipped their eagle eyes.
How will Deakin deal with @anarchistgeog
In my search for interesting and high-profile tweeters who drop the “F-bomb” without compunction I came across and interesting academic from Vancouver in Canada. His name is Simon Springer and this is his story.
Simon came to my attention when he posted an academic article to academia.com. The title of the paper is very simple and only two words: “Fuck Neoliberalism”.
You can watch Simon deliver this paper, presumably at a university somewhere and presumably in front of colleagues and students.
Well, again imagine my surprise when I found out that Simon is coming to Australia next month to give a lecture, it may well be this one, I don’t know.
One of the venues at which he is scheduled to speak is my university.
That’s right Simon “fuck neoliberalism” Springer is going to speak at Deakin on 29 July.
But you know what, maybe Dr Springer should reconsider.
After all, the invitation and his acceptance make him an “associate” of Deakin and therefore subject to the staff Code of Conduct.
Yep, that’s right.
If you come on to Deakin campuses, even for a brief visit, or to change a washer in the toilet, you are captured by the Code of Conduct.
It’s not just Deakin academics and PhD students who should look out either. NewsCorpse has been at war with journalism educators for several years, which is one of the reasons I’m a target. As a self-identified Marxist I am doubly in their sights. But my colleagues at other institutions also need to be careful.
Jenna Price from UTS should be one of them.
He recently got very sweary on Twitter, so I guess he’s not welcome at Deakin either.
Jarvis was upset the someone using a Twitter parody account based on him had written a piece for Esquire magazine and people began confusing the real Jeff Jarvis with his parody doppleganger.
You’d be upset too if someone is parodying your account and lands you in it. “It’s not fucking me” is a mild response, but I love this one: “Godfuckingdamnit”.
Any journalist reading this, feel free to seek a comment from Deakin, I’d love to know what they intend to do about Simon.