Lecturer DESTROYS University's Reputation (How Academia Got Pwned 5)

This is the fifth post in a series about the glorious completion of my academic career, the internet, and the future of intellectual life. At some point, I will very likely edit and compose this story into a nice little book. To hear about that, make sure you've subscribed.

If you recall from a previous post, when my Dean informed me of my suspension, she said she was being inundated with complaints.

I was curious how many complaints had really been lodged. Was she bluffing or was her bar for what counts as major outrage just really low? In the final investigation report, it was incumbent upon them to include the actual complaints. They attach as evidence a few emails and one face-to-face interview they conducted, but since the names are redacted it’s hard to know how many of these complaints are from unique individuals. Was the face-to-face interview with someone who submitted an email? The report was not clear about this. But even generously assuming every included complaint is from a unique person, I count only a grand total of 5 student complaints lodged against me over the several months of the investigation. Plus only 1 complaint from the public. Keep in mind that one of the student complaints, and the one public complaint, were both lodged after the Daily Mail articles, so they don’t reflect organic protest or discontent caused by, say, something I said or did in the classroom or online before this controversy. They partially reflect the university pwning itself by suspending me and drawing media attention. Some of the student complaints even say explicitly that they heard about me from friends posting screenshots on social media, which certainly doesn’t invalidate any objections they might have — but it does suggest we’re not talking about some popular groundswell of objections from several young minds independently traumatized by my speech history. We’re talking about a small campaign by probably one or two students, to get a few friends to submit complaints.

If two Daily Mail headlines can only get you a grand total of 6 complaints over the course of several months, you might want to shop around for something more problematic. Maybe go find a mural of white men getting diplomas! Oops, that’s a World War I memorial. That’s right folks, I’m not making this up: The same student who protested my occasional use of the word “retard” and triggered my suspension, would find herself the victim of a much larger outrage mob. She got suspended, too. Want to know what negative reputation effects really look like? Try here or here, for a few small samples. To be clear, I support her 100%. Students should certainly be free to say whatever they want, and I include in that talking smack at and about profs on the internet. I just wish she didn’t apologize. She could have turned her story into quite an internet product. She should have hired my consulting agency before deciding how to play it. We could be collaborating right now. With all this free time we both have, imagine what we could be doing together to overthrow our common enemies. I’m not even kidding. Unfortunately, it appears she has chosen the path of apologizing, but she could still change her strategy…

If you’re reading this Emily, have your people call my people. You are not my enemy. As I’ve always said, I support student radicalism. We could make a video together in Southampton. Do you realize how mega viral it would go? On its back you could launch a whole “lifestyle brand,” make yourself the face of British feminist youth culture, and (if successful) be much richer and happier than you otherwise would be after graduating and getting a statistically average job. Of course, my consulting agency would suggest you take an “anti political correctness” turn here, come out and say you’ve learned the problem with “social justice warriors,” and make yourself the heroine of free speech feminism. I kid you not, you could do this right now and it could work.

(Minor corrections 12/22/2019 at 19:36 GMT, I toned down my initially overzealous confidence in a radical counter-institutional gambit for Emily. I still absolutely think it could work, and I would still be eager to collaborate, but given that my operation has not yet concluded, it would be irresponsible of me to nudge her too strongly in this direction. Not everyone would be cut out for such a path, and it is risky, so I should not glibly encourage a young person to do it, especially if I don't know them.)

The Highest Ranking Non-Player Characters (How Academia Got Pwned 4)

This is the fourth post in a series about the glorious completion of my academic career, the internet, and the future of intellectual life. I'm curious: Would you like to read the whole story, edited, in a beautiful paperback? I may have an announcement soon, so be sure to subscribe. Custom meme by @w_guppy.

When two individuals represent radically different forms of life, a minor detail in one interaction can reveal the otherwise invisible, tectonic plates beneath the order of the world. In the meeting where my Dean handed me the suspension letter, there was a point in the conversation where she referred to me as a philosopher or something like that… She was trying to be nice and generous; she is a social scientist, and she was trying to say how she is not judging the content of my writing or speaking or ideas, as she understands what I’m doing is different… She contrasted me to herself, a social scientist. This was quite a slip, because I am a social scientist. Obviously she has tons of academics under her remit, and I would never expect her to know all of their scholarly identities. But if you’re suspending someone, I would imagine you might, I don’t know, do a quick review of their publication history? My most recent and prestigious publications are clearly empirical, quantitative, social science articles.

Academia fancies itself as a more humane alternative to the corporate machine, but when the surface cracks ever so slightly, and you catch a glimpse behind the curtain, you realize the humanistic gloss is actually a higher level of brutality. It’s not more human than the business world, it’s the business world plus an extra layer of deception, an extra layer of exploitation where the performance of friendly disinterested intellectualism is only the most effective way to use other humans as objects. Successful academic administrators know how to extract desired behavior from others with far more ruthless efficiency than any CEO, or even the algorithms of Facebook. She was being so nice, how could I possibly speak poorly of her, let alone to the public? I struggle with pangs of guilt as I write this, but that’s how they get you. That’s how an oppressive social order — always an order of lies — reproduces itself, despite everyone knowing and loathing the lies. Institutions are just dead inhuman matter, people will gladly disobey and overthrow institutions. But institutions pay some humans really well to cue the biases and heuristics of other humans, to induce desired behaviors through emotional blackmail.

An administrator is a human who rents out their body to an algorithm (the institution, essentially Capital) because only human bodies can trigger evolved social cues. An administrator rents out their eyeballs, for instance, because eye contact generates oxytocin in the target — sorry, I mean “colleague” — and such biochemicals make it really hard for that employee to do things like tell simple truths on their blog. Thus, a careful but unwavering analytical coldness is an absolute requirement for anyone interested in understanding how social institutions function; how dominant lies and brutalities are so resilient to critique and protest; and ultimately, to generate real dynamics of collective liberation. High-level functionaries of mainstream institutions are evil robots evolved precisely to exploit our emotions for the survival of their host. Any real intellectual must treat them as such, openly and publicly.

This is why any serious protest against unjust institutions, weirdly enough, requires one to embody a certain dose of — or really just the appearance of what they will call — evil. If these blog posts seem somewhat cruel or petty or unhinged, that’s because the highly evolved existence of evil institutions is such that any concretely effective act of simply describing the problem appears as deranged aggression. Not because I’m deranged or aggressive, but because evil is refinement.

This is also why, now, reality is forking. To many people, my missives simply could not read as anything other than the lashing out of a lunatic, and perhaps they are not wrong. To me, however, and many of the people actually reading these missives — we cannot see mainstream institutions as anything other than a conspiracy of liars and bores. For most of history, our viewpoint was never able to constitute itself as a social reality, because the liars and bores always had disproportionate access to broadcast media. It is only right now that we are crossing the historical threshold where the declining effectiveness of broadcast media is intersecting with sufficiently widespread communities of peer-to-peer social reality production, that now the mainstream worldview of institutional functionaries is the crackpot conspiracy theory unable to constitute itself. In reading these missives, in hearing these words as someone just telling their truths, you branch with me into a hard fork of reality itself. If you write or make something with similar assumptions, and I read or watch it, we rush even further ahead of those still operating on the deprecated codebase. This is already happening in a million different directions across the internet, of course, I am only trying to theorize how this production of social reality works, demonstrate empirically that it does indeed work, and stimulate more and more people to do it however they might please.

Though my observations occasionally zoom in on particular individuals, I should clarify that this is not a personal attack on anyone. The administrators of large bureaucratic institutions are not evil, they’re merely possessed by evil. They typically have no agency whatsoever, having sold it off so long ago. They are only the highest ranking non-player characters. People reach high administrative positions because they — more fully than any of their peers — are the most perfectly empty, passive vessels for whatever the institution needs at any moment. In the academic context, most high-level administrators did, at some point, knowingly make a Faustian bargain, where they traded the truth-seeking vocation of the true intellectual for a bigger paycheck (the terms are nearly explicit in academia). That is a true sin, for which there will be a reckoning, but that is none of my business. Don’t judge these poor souls, pray for them.

Paid Vacation Begins (How Academia Got Pwned 3)

This is the third post in a series about the glorious completion of my academic career, the internet, and the future of intellectual life. Tell me: Would you like to read the whole story, edited, in a beautiful paperback? I may have an announcement soon, so be sure to subscribe.

My first day of teaching in Fall 2018 would have been October 3rd, so of course — normally — I would have spent the day and night of October 2nd preparing.

I was scrambling to get everything done mid-day on October 2nd, when I received an email from my Dean. She called me into her office for an urgent meeting. A few hours later, I entered her office, where she was accompanied by a high-ranking person from HR (I don’t know exactly what an “HR Business Partner” is, but if you’re looking at one across a table, you know you’re in deep shit). After some niceties, my Dean proceeded to explain the purpose of the meeting. With a most kind and gentle tone — and the HR Tsarina nodding along — she told me she was being inundated with complaints, and that I was to be suspended forthwith, in order that my ongoing investigation could be extended. I think I said, “Hmm,” and looked at the wall for a moment. My initial feeling was just relief, that I would not have to stay up all night finalizing my syllabus and lecture notes for my class the next day. Now smirking slightly, my second thought was, “this is kind of exciting.” My third thought was, “this is going to make great content.”

After some back and forth clarifying the situation, my Dean asked me not to discuss the matter publicly, and I told her that I was genuinely happy to respect the protocols of the investigation, but I would have to warn her. I write and speak about how social institutions function, I told her, and this will surely be one of the most surprising and fascinating encounters I’ll ever have had with a social institution. Not talking about it whatsoever would be out of the question, therefore. Violation of the confidentiality was itself grounds for disciplinary action, she reminded me. Yes, I said, but I will have to weigh the risk of punishment, up to and including dismissal, with the benefits of maintaining my vocation as an independent thinker and writer and speaker. I promised her earnestly that I would not wantonly bring scandalous attention to the university, but I would also need to follow my conscience — and my own strategic interests — to say what I think is true and in need of saying. I told her plainly that I already have a paying audience and community around my independent intellectual work, and a suspension would only grow my audience. I even gave them an out. I said, frankly, “Are you sure you want to do this? This is going to be good for me, and bad for the university…” They were just confused.

I could tell the conversation was not proceeding as they presumed it would. When she began the meeting, she spoke as if she expected me to burst into tears any moment, stressing the plethora of mental health services available to me. By now, they were kindly giving me vaguely raised eyebrows and typical British euphemisms, “So what you’re saying is…?” No, that’s not what I’m saying. What I’m saying is what I’m actually saying. You should try it.

As I write this now more than three months later, I can already say my prediction has been vindicated, even while I’ve respectfully declined to provoke any significant media attention (which I could have easily spent the past few months doing). People hear through the grapevine, I pick up a few new patrons each month, my paid monthly seminar experiment went from 4 participants to 9, my free private discussion forum has grown to be every bit as intelligent and stimulating as any scholarly community I’ve known, and I get DMs and emails from new people asking to join every day. But more valuable than anything is that, because of this absurd drama, people now know for sure that I can be counted on to say whatever I really think at all times, even when something is threatening my livelihood and status. All I’ve ever aspired to as an intellectual is to have the time and space to work on figuring out some things that are really true, and to earn just enough of an audience to give whatever I find a chance of being preserved and passed on. From the outside, it might look like I’m pissing away my career. But as far as I can tell, I’m just kicking away a ladder, and by doing so I am securing beyond question something much more precious, which is proof I can’t be bought.

Only now am I writing everything out. These posts are drawing a lot of readers (thank you by the way, for reading and for sharing, apparently). I kept my promise that I would not say or do anything that might bring attention to the matter while the investigation was ongoing. I gave the university months to save itself from the self-harm they were threatening, but it was no use. The investigation ended right before Christmas and, it turns out, they’re choosing war — but now I’m jumping ahead…

Mushrooms, Modafinil, and Mass Shooters (How Academia Got Pwned 2)

This is the second post in a series about the glorious completion of my academic career, the internet, and the future of intellectual life. Tell me: Would you like to read the whole story, edited, in a beautiful paperback? I may have an announcement soon, so be sure to subscribe.

After two wildly incorrect Daily Mail features, it’s high time I set the story straight. This will take a while, but I can start with a basic clarification of some common questions I’ve received. What did I actually get in trouble for, exactly? The abortion comments, tripping on Instagram, using the word “retard,” shoplifting from self-checkout kiosks, or what?

My disciplinary troubles first started back in May of 2018, when a public complaint was lodged about one of my personal blog posts. I was asked whether I had ethics approval for my blog post, which is strange because there has never been even an implicit expectation that personal blog posts exploring public data need ethics approval. When you consider the post that attracted the complaint, it’s no longer very puzzling. In The Alt Right is not All Right, I sought to estimate the ideological distribution of an internet subculture associated with the so-called Alt Right. This matter was placed under investigation for several months. They asked me to take the post down in the meantime, I said no, and I was waiting on a verdict for several months.

Then on September 6, 2018, I received a letter from my Dean inviting me to an investigation meeting. The letter was at such pains to stress that the investigation was not disciplinary that it was clear we were now embarking on a major disciplinary imbroglio. Academia is filled with this kind of USSR-level doublespeak. Due to some new information that was brought to her attention, the investigation would now include several new issues:

You have published your use of the drugs LSD (Class A), Adderall, MDMA (Class A), psilocybin (Class A), Modafinil and Cannabis for academic purposes, on Twitter

You posted a video to Instagram on 10 February 2017, whilst on sabbatical, “tripping on psilocybin” (“magic” mushroom)

You have stated that your chatrooms are a safe place for, amongst others, “pedophiles and mass shooters”

That last one you haven’t heard until now. But let’s go in order…

The first matter was referring to an answer I gave on the public Q&A site Curiouscat.me. I was asked by an anonymous person what drugs I’ve used for intellectual productivity purposes (not “academic purposes,” as the investigation stated, which makes it sound like I was doing drugs in my office hours). I told them the truth. As I told my investigator more than once over the next few investigation meetings: if someone asks me a question, I am duty-bound to tell the truth, as an academic and a public intellectual. Would they have me lie? They did not answer that. I don’t see what’s wrong with telling someone all the drugs I’ve done, and my judgment on their advantages and disadvantages. Academics do their students and the public much greater harm by pretending they’ve never done drugs, and withholding their valuable judgments on the matter. In the investigation, I affirmed that I was indeed the author of this post and that I did not regret it.

The second matter is pretty self-explanatory. When I was on sabbatical, I tripped on psilocybin with my wife and I posted a few videos to Instagram (1, 2). They are sweet, funny videos. Like all good memories, they feel more beautiful to me every time I revisit them. We had a wonderful, wholesome time, and I do not in the least regret sharing these videos. What kind of unthinking, unfeeling loser could have any problem with these videos? I know that sounds like I’m being cruel toward people who are just doing their jobs, except that their job description also says they’re independent thinkers (and they’d gladly make me homeless if they needed to, so let’s not kid ourselves). This is the turning point we’re at right now: They can continue to play these idiotic institutional games for paychecks if they please, but I can play the game of simply and honestly revealing them to be the pathetic, cowardly mercenaries they are, and more people will read this and believe it than will hear or care about any edict they could possibly produce (because nobody listens to institutional edicts anymore, for exactly this reason). Sure, they can “unperson” me across one whole economic sector, but they suffer more from this than I do, because I can account for myself plainly and honestly to anyone anywhere while they can only do so by hiding in a thick morass of institutional excuses.

I don’t want to rub it in, but perhaps it’s only possible for people to give their lives to enforcing senseless rules because they aren’t mocked enough. I’m sorry but only a zombie on a mighty fine salary could possibly object to a good man producing lovely, wholesome videos with his partner in holy matrimony! Slowly drink yourself to death, have affairs, abandon your kids, kick dogs — academics are allowed to do all of these things. But explore mildly different states of mind and share it with the public? Not so fast! I haven’t even mentioned the tiny detail that we were in Amsterdam, where psilocybin is effectively decriminalized. Psychedelics are an excellent tool for making the most of an academic sabbatical, and there’s simply nothing harmful or irresponsible about making or sharing these videos.

The third matter is also self-explanatory, except that “chatroom” is apparently the word that Boomer bureaucrats use to describe Youtube livestreams. My Youtube livestream is much, much more than a chatroom, thank you very much — it’s a form of life, a hard fork of reality, a new Heaven and a new Earth, the portal to an entirely new model of the vita contemplativa, but I can’t expect these people to understand any of this. It’s not the fault of these eminent social scientists that they don’t know the difference between Youtube and AOL. You must be kind to them, you see, social science is very time consuming; how can these esteemed social scientists be expected to have even passing familiarity with the basic interfaces of social life today? Who can blame them? They are far too busy enforcing Ordinance 3.5 on me. It’s a thankless task, defending this profession of brave intellectual exploration…

This is a weird one because it’s a statement of fact. My livestream is a safe space for pedophiles and mass shooters, if only because I have no way of knowing who on Youtube is a pedophile or a mass shooter. They’re safe from me knowing anything about them, and therefore safe from me doing anything about them. This was strange to find in my dossier, though, especially because this was just one jokey line deep into one random livestream. Anyway, the university always encourages us to create learning environments that are safe for every kind of person, including people from marginalized groups. Also, the university always encourages us to seek public impact. They run huge, multi-million-pound programs dedicated to producing public “impact.” Pedophiles and mass shooters are widely despised, and targets of extreme social prejudice. If my Youtube channel became a place for pedophiles and mass shooters to learn and rehabilitate, that’d be a major public impact in the name of social progress. I see nothing at all wrong with allowing — even welcoming — such people into open internet spaces, especially if they cannot be excluded anyway. I believe that what I think and what I say is good, therefore I believe pedophiles and mass shooters will benefit from exposure to me. Perhaps I can decrease the probability they will continue their evil misdeeds. I should note that pedophiles are not necessarily pederasts, so — now that I think about it — if the university censures me for welcoming pedophiles into my public livestream then they are implicitly asking me to engage in discrimination by sexual orientation. Remind me to email my lawyer about this one!

“But wait,” you’re wondering, “didn’t the Daily Mail say you got in trouble for that abortion/necrophilia tweet? Or was it calling someone a retard?” In due time, dear reader.

How Academia Got Pwned (1)

This is the first post in a series about the glorious completion of my academic career, the internet, and the future of intellectual life. Tell me: Would you like to read the whole story, edited, in a beautiful paperback? I may have an announcement soon, so be sure to subscribe.

This blog will now commence a strange and winding tale. If it requires many installments, and many detours, it is because I am still living this tale, and its telling is likely to affect its plot in unforeseen ways. There is a time for peace, when all the little lies must be respected so that things may carry on, and there is a time for war, when all of the little lies must be disrespected so that true life may carry on. Now is a time for war.

The completion of my academic career is now irrevocably underway, and it is time to bear witness. Whether my final day in academia comes in the form of expulsion or resignation remains to be determined, but that hardly matters. In the story of a life, bearing witness is the portal to an other life. This has always been the case, it has always been known, and it has always been denied by most people. Fortunately, this has never stopped a determined minority in every generation from acting on this insight, as true knowledge remains true, and actionable, whether anyone is convinced or not. Though I long ago ceased trying to convince anyone of anything, I remain obsessed with understanding these miraculous empirical mechanisms that somehow ensure liars always lose and truth-tellers always win. At least in the long-run, anyway.

Before the digital epoch, the long-run would sometimes take longer than a lifetime, which is why many true thinkers of the past would not be vindicated until after their death. But due to the compression of time that has come with the information revolution, the long-run of a life is no longer very long. The idea that one bad move on the internet can ruin someone's life — this is one of the dumbest and most reactionary bits of conventional wisdom out there today, promulgated by fearful people who mistake their anxiety for a law of society. The time it takes for an event to run its course rather seems to be shrinking, while the mechanics of reality modification are increasingly visible and tractable. Thus, today, while telling the truth continues to bring certain and near universal ostracism from mainstream institutions, this short-run punishment has also never been easier to ignore, escape, and overwrite — before the truth-telling wins.

Telling the truth always wins because it wins immanently, the telling is itself the motion of entry into an other life, and joy is at once its marker, motor, and reward. Telling the truth cannot not win, because it asks for nothing, expects nothing, and delivers to itself the only reward it wants or needs. Thus, although my tale will not convince a single dying liar to choose life, and such dying liars will certainly mock me for what looks like a colossal failure of ethics or strategy or both, I will nonetheless commence my tale in the most absolute and reckless honesty I can muster. Anything I might lose from doing so cannot be worth very much, and I simply cannot fail to win the only thing I have ever been seeking. If I can impart some passing insights or lessons to others on their own search for true life, then it will have been doubly worthwhile, though this brings some danger. The true life is always an other life, but the other life is always immediately available. There is no learning or permission required for the conduct of true life, despite what many people think. On the contrary, it is when one stops asking permission to live that an other life begins.

[These posts will constitute a first rough draft — or really just an initial brain dump — for a book I will publish soon enough. I am seriously toying with a Kickstarter campaign, but it depends on how much interest there is... I currently have an agent selling a different book, so for good reason he is not crazy about the idea of me writing and publishing a totally different book right now. But if there's enough interest in these posts, I could find a way. As always (as you'll find out in these posts), my solution is to just produce what I want to produce, share, and sort out the strategic details later. I originally thought I might call this book How Academia Got Pwned: The University, the Internet, and the Future of Intellectual Life but my patrons prefer Jumping Ship: Why the Politically Correct University Can't Survive the Internet. Naming things is the worst, I'll figure this out later. If you have any input on this or anything else, including questions about my narrative and/or ideas, I'll be reading all replies carefully. Thanks.]

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