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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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