… what the Internet and its cult of anonymity do is to provide a blanket sort of immunity for anybody who wants to say anything about anybody else, and it would be difficult in this sense to think of a more morally deformed exploitation of the concept of free speech.
― Richard Bernstein, New York Times, 27 August 2008.
Why write about Wikipedia again? Because I had more feedback on my last post than on any ten others in the past year… and all of it anonymous. Only one of these already anonymous interlocutors wrote publicly. The rest contacted me ‘below the line’.
It was like being admonished by phantoms. Not really what I’d call stalking, but a backdrop of disembodied voices, with the more menacing ones almost drowning out some other, more nuanced tones.
Most of what the ‘ghosts’ had to say was just pure bile. No problem. I won’t repeat it here. But some of it seemed genuinely outraged. Shame these ghosts weren’t prepared to say what they had to say publicly.
Go looking for the reasons why users of an IP range can be banned from editing their own user pages on Wikipedia, and the waters become deep and murky really fast. In the end you have to conclude that it’s an American mind-set now so deeply ingrained in many of its citizens that the astonishing crypto-fascism of it is no longer apparent to its propagators.
The journey quickly changes from being a search for coherent explanations of Wikipedia policy to being a an exploration of a mass psychosis in Amerikaner society.
A post written specifically in response to disturbing intrusions into Google Plus by religious nutcases.
Religionist-baiting is a little bit like dog fighting. It is a cruel sport because the dogs are predictably narrow in their range of reactions to each other, and because once you set them on each other you stand back to watch rather than suffer the consequences of your actions, which are pain and death.
You could argue the toss whether the cold, wet winter’s evening in Brisbane on Monday, 22 July, could be legitimately counted as part of the ‘user experience’ for my first lecture in my MA programme – INN533: Information Organization – and if so, whether it improved matters or not. After all, a hot sticky night have had as many pros and cons as its opposite. What I can tell you is that, following in the footsteps of Max Weber, Herbert Marcuse, and Jürgen Habermas, I think there’s a whole range of salient factors in developing a critique, and that nevertheless doesn’t preclude the possibility that there are no right or wrong answers.
The late notification of the lecture’s nature, the ambiguity of the language used in the notification, the mention of a physical lecture hall, and the fact that I was not alone in misreading the instructions, made me realise quite sharply that things were not going to meet my expectations. The lecture was to be virtual, conducted across the ether, and via some dodgy Java application called Blackboard Collaborate.
There’s an organisation known as the Queensland Tertiary Admissions Centre (QTAC) whose job, it seems, is to verify the credentials of applicants for any tertiary course in Queensland. I say ‘it seems’ because the organisation is quite shadowy. It makes no information available on its processes, performance, or accountabilities. There are no methods for appealing its decisions, or even seeking an explanation of apparently quite arbitrary outcomes. But if you’re lucky, like me, gratuitous advice about your own shortcomings may be offered.
Look up this organisation online and you might find the PR blurb that some of Queensland’s universities joined forces to create this organisation as a standalone company at arm’s length, but there appear to be no board reports, or even published lists of board members. A very exclusive little club, that one.
In fact, the only interesting information you might find is mention that QTAC’s CEO between 2002 and 2010, an Elizabeth Louise Jones, was accused of being an unconscionable workplace bully by her staff, and tried, unsuccessfully, to avoid being investigated or censured by seeking an interlocutory injunction alleging that action against her had been motivated by her rôle in an enterprise bargaining process (see Jeffrey Phillips SC, Bully Behind You, and MinterEllison).
Trust an old Bolshie friend of mine to beat me about the head with a perfect example of the Stalinist political correctness that has so devastated the Western academy for the past 40 years: we must be tolerant of intolerance in order to be morally righteous people.
I am well aware of the embarrassing ideological-ethical cowardice within the academy, but something about Michael Brull’s sanctimonious defence of Islam in the University of NSW online Overland magazine wouldn’t quite let go of me.
It wasn’t the overbearingly self-righteous tone. That’s almost de rigeur from the university literary set. Dull and doctrinaire writers apparently obsessed with lost causes, and competing for some imaginary prize awarded to whoever can demonstrate the furthest remove from social or economic practicalities, let alone worthy ethical positions.
It wasn’t the credulous, politically correct, abhorrent defence of misogynistic mediaevalism either; it strikes me as an almost obligatory sideline for humanities academics to defend the indefensible ever since they made a kind of fetish cult of supporting Stalinism and all its brutal horrors just to give the finger to American imperialism. Talk about cutting off your nose to spite your face.