Friday, 7 October 2005

and the moral of this story?

I don't think anyone at my work reads the business sections of the newspaper, luckily; I believe I'm safe from the uglier of possible outcomes. That worry out of the way, mostly, I'm now wondering what the moral of the tale obliquely unfolded on this blog this week might be. I think it's what most of you have said: anyone who takes issue with something said on a blog ought in the first instance to raise it inside the blogosphere, NOT in a mass circulation newspaper, *particularly* when the blog in question isn't actually trying to imitate or appropriate the territory of traditional journalistic media.

I think this because had the Associate Professor identified me on a blog, she'd presumably have linked to mine, and her readers would have had a chance to make up their own minds, instead of depending only on her characterisation of me (as we know, the vast majority of people have no idea what a blog is or how to locate one) which I still think (now that I'm fairly calm about it) is a gross, almost malicious, misreading. I'd also have known about her piece through the trackback system, instead of being alerted by another blogger who chanced to read it, which would have give me the opportunity to reply in kind. I would have had a chance to defend myself through commenting on her post. I wonder, actually, why The Age did not link to the post in the online version of the article. Surely that wouldn't have been so difficult? To not do that seems to me the journalistic equivalent of sniping at pedestrians in the street from the rooftops.

I'm aware that the last sentence is possibly a bit hypocritical since the only thing I feel personal regret for having done in the first place is having made an offhand remark about how I've observed a well-known person to act in public places. There's been a fair bit of that on this blog, as it happens: see for example this post, or this throwaway one, or this one - which I don't feel at all embarrassed about. These kinds of situations are just a part of any normal, anonymous, observant person's life. Writing about how public figures come over in ambiguously public situations is hardly terrifically noble (human condition and all that), but, it's hardly a hanging offence either.

And that is all I have to say! except that I've worked out that comments boxes aren't cached or google-searchable, so in the comments to this post I'm putting a names-removed copy of the deleted post plus a link to the article in the newspaper. Let this be a lesson to you who blog! just how little control you have over how other people will behave when you repose your trust in them!


Lucy Tartan said...

Here's what I wrote - names removed but otherwise unchanged:


Yesterday afternoon I was walking to the other side of campus along a sort of cowpath through the spotted gums and wattle - the sun was shining, the air was warm and scented with eucalypt blossom, and I was feeling happy. Then, ---- ---- appeared at the other end of the path, walking towards me. As we got closer she bestowed a delighted smile upon me, and said 'hello', I reciprocated of course, and walked on.

So few people do this kind of thing, cheerfully greet strangers I mean, that I rather doubt it's possible to do it at all in a completely natural way. Must not there be always a tiny tiny pinch of feeling pleased with oneself for being a sociable, other-directed person? And if that's true, does it matter? I certainly felt almost euphorically happy as I continued on my way.

At the other end of the spectrum of celebrity-intellectual-walking-around type behaviour is ---- ----, who may frequently be observed having his hair cut in the university hairdressers, buying a sandwich, examining library books, and generally pacing the corridors and pathways. He always looks sad, he's always alone, and I've never observed him betray a glimmer of recognition towards another person, though it's impossible that he wouldn't know half the faces he'd see around the place.

Maybe it's just that academics tend to have not-good social skills, and the cleverer the individual academic gets the more obvious that becomes.


Here's the link to the article: requires registration I'm afraid

cileo said...

Utterly bizarre, now that I've read this all in context. Given the sheer amount of convoluted projection in the article - has CL misread your initial blog entry as pertaining to her?

R H said...

Horror! Outrage! Christ Re-crucified!- on Latrobe Campus!

Well golly me, a prof defending her own mob. How extraordinary. Better watch out, estate agents will be doing it next. Lawyers too. And all the other "professions".

Touchy? You bet. Hysterical.

And there's that word schizophrenia, mentioned yet again. Off-handedly, but with authority. A lofty diagnosis.

But get this "In a recent poll of Australia's Top Public Commentators R.M. came in first.


Who came in last? Humphrey Bear?

R H said...

Years ago I was travelling on a train in Germany. I was alone in the carriage. But then another bloke got on; a German, business-looking type. He sat opposite me, and we travelled like that for about forty minutes; not a word spoken. But as he rose to get off he said; "Guten Morgan."
I got a shock.
Well maybe I should have told him off for it? After all, he didn't know me.

Kent said...

And she calls YOUR post trivial and ad hominem? If it wasn't so personal, I'd be laughing.

Phantom Scribbler said...

I still think that what you wrote was a lovely piece. And quite clear. I can only assume that she was totally without ideas and rapidly approaching the deadline for her column when she stumbled upon your blog and used it as grist for her mill without bothering to read your post carefully.

I'm assuming that, because I'd like to believe that a well-respected academic is not capable of such an off-the-mark misreading except through carelessness. Presumably she has some skill in textual analysis, though it's certainly not apparent from that column. She ought to be the one ashamed, not you.

Lucy said...

I've been wondering what you could possibly have written that would be so controversial and feeling vaguely disappointed at missing all the fuss. But I did read that post; I just wasn't expecting something so inoffensive to have been so misunderstood.
I wonder what came first, her "flaming" at webdiary or the idea for the article. It almost sounds like she went looking for examples of blogs attacking academics, but didn't try very hard to find one that actually fit her argument.

Lucy Tartan said...

The webdiary thing I went looking for and found - I think it was around the middle of September. And I noticed (throught that "list referrers" thing in the sidebar) that somebody had been here on a Technorati search for R--- M--- . When I did the same search myself I was most struck by how reasoned and serious most of the postings which mentioned him were. (There were one or two abusive posts of the right wing death beast variety as well.) So not only did she not find something which actually proved the point she wanted to assert, but she misrepresented the general tenor of blog commentary in general, & must have done so knowingly.


Lucy Tartan said...

Which reminds me, I also found two new (to me) and very palatable blogs via Technorati, so yeah! that's good.

genevieve said...

I beg to differ. I think if you make comments about public figures on your blog and you work with them, you have to take the chance that a media commentator like the prof in question will take up what you've done and try to examine where it fits in with the current state of new media. You can read a lot about this kind of thing at Jay Rosen's blog, PressThink, and other places.
There's a big difference between what she has published about you and what has been written, for example, by Tina Brown about blogging - she called bloggers the new Stasi. Although it was a bit harsh of her to provide clues to your identity I suppose.
However, LT, Australia is a small pond and always has been. We all have to live with that unfortunately. If you want to say whatever you like about people you work with, I think you have to be careful where you say it or be prepared to stand up for it. By removing the post you have shown you're afraid to do that, which is a shame.
Have you read Margo Kingston's ethics, BTW? Might be interesting to discuss those sometime.

Lucy Tartan said...

I agree that I made a mistake deleting the post. But I've re-posted it here. My first thought was to delete my entire blog, that would have been a trifle melodramatic certainly.

I'm not sure I agree that I "work with" the people I wrote about. I study and work on the same campus, but I've never spoken with either, or even heard either give a lecture. Would it have been different if I'd seen them off- campus?

Yes, I read Margo Kingston's ethics statement when I looked at her blog (webdiary). The thing said there about 'correcting' mistakes in post once alerted to them I was thinking about yesterday in connection with this issue of standing by / up for the validity of what one "publishes".

The professor said that Margo Kingston is one of the few bloggers who's given serious thought to ethical considerations arising in their blogging. That's not so. She may however be in a minority because she prominently displays those 'rules' on her blog's front page. If other people don't choose to do that, doesn't mean they aren't blogging with clear principles in mind.

dogpossum said...

CL has something of a reputation in certain acka circles as a bit of a glory hound/sensationalist (i'm not sure if sensationalist is the word, though...). i've had issues with her work in the past, mostly for the reasons tossed about on your blog/comments lately, mz tartan.
i wonder if she'll be at the cultural studies conf in sydney in december? i wonder if anyone will ask her about this? or has it sunk without a trace? or not?

i need to read that margo kingston webdiary (i think of her as a journalist rather than academic)...

this issue makes me think, as i've been on the job-application round lately. i've taken references to my blog off my application packages because i'm not sure it's something i want prospective employers reading first - they can stop off at my 'official' sites like or before they read me on dogpossum...
that response was prompted by an article i read about academic employers and their attitudes to blogs.

basically, i guess this means that we (as younger/newer academics) are more vulnerable than people like CL (though i bet her behaviour in the past has barred her from a few jobs and lef her without many dinner invites), so we need to get tactical in our 'public' talk.
CL, however, is writing from a position of power, which makes me think of this as bullying.
and this - of course - leads back to your original point, mz tartan - the relationship between established academics and the rest of the world...

R H said...

I agree that it's bullying; bringing out the lash. You've dared to wobble the pedestal.

I used to regret never having gone to university. But nowadays I'm rather glad to have missed it: the whole Procrustean experience; the rivalries, jealousies, mice that roar.

And yet a part of me admires professors. I respect their scholarship, their hard work.

You are owed an apology but probably won't get it; fair comment cops another whipping. These people are decent types, I'm sure. But in academic mode they're all hubris, no humility. All head, no heart.

genevieve said...

You know she's been talking to Trevor Cook about this? Some interesting comments from Catharine Lumby here. He seems to have deleted something too! She is employing some interesting tactics I guess. But one must expect this kind of analysis and reaction, I'm afraid. Please have a look through the PressThink archives, I'm sure you will find plenty of media commentators who have been rubbed up the wrong way by bloggers to compare this instance with. She is an academic, she's media savvy, she wants to get into this debate some way or another. You gave her an opportunity, is all.

Lucy Tartan said...

Cheers, Genevieve. I'll definitely check out PressThink.

Dogpossum, I think you were smart to take your blog off job apps, especially as you've got your other sites to show exactly how expert you are in online work. Was it the infamous dreaded Ivan Tribble essay? yup. That kind of thing really divides me. On one hand I sort of think that if there really are bastions of academia that narrowminded about online stuff, then I sort of have a responsibility to at least try to educate them about the wonderful internet. On the other hand, job hunting is too important to go crusading with.

Thanks for what you said on your blog today, too. (the redesign is very nice also! Comments weren't working when you first did it.)

Susoz said...

Fascinating. My impression is that CL had her ego burnt on the Webdiary and has gone looking for a way of taking revenge - projecting the narcissistic damage onto someone else - who unfortunately happened to be you. Just throw that psyhic ball back at her! You said nothing untoward at all. Funnily enough, I have contemplated writing a blog post on some very minor celebs I encounter in everyday life and their funny ways - but this sort of thing turns me off the idea. Oz is full of big fish.

Susoz said...

That was meant to be 'psychic ball' - it's a bad day for typos.

Anonymous said...

You weren't the only person burned by this article. The person whose comments on WD, in the last para of the CL piece, were quoted, and dismissed by CL in a lame fashion, was quite deliberately singled-out, as they had written a negative (unpublished) article about CL, which WD did not print - Margo Kingston is pals with CL, and seems to have passed the unpublished piece onto CL - hence the reason for her entirely non-business related article. The entire piece was a deliberate personal attack on certain people, you obviously being the other person!

If you visit Tim Blair's site, two threads there will fill you in on the whole ugly and unethical story.

Lucy Tartan said...

uh-huh. I already had a look round Tim Blair's. I would rather just leave well enough alone in regards to Blair's site.

Kate said...

Goodness. I read the original post as being an interesting commentary on the way that academics are often absent-minded and kind of distant, even the famous ones! Hardly a personal attack, esp. when you consider the kinds of commentary people make on blogs.

I blog as anonymously as I do (semi-anonymous, I'd say) so it won't interfere with my future job prospects. I'm mainly concerned that if anyone googles my surname they won't find their way back to my blog.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Lucy Tartan said...

Look, I'm a bit sick of this whole thing, I've no doubt everyone else is as well. so I'm closing comments on this and related posts. Cheers, everyone.