The one about being a Brazen Careerist [Gen Y]

Months ago I found a great blog network for young professionals — Brazen Careerist.  I put off joining up until I sorted out my new blog here, but hurrah, I’ve finally signed up.

Brazen’s motto is “Define your career. Control your life” and it really epitomises a lot of the “Gen Y” trend about young people who use all the opportunities they’ve gotten to make their mark on the world .

My faves from the community are:

The “Gen Y” (or “iGen”, if you read The Worst West Australian and caught their stupid survey earlier this month) label is kinda controversial — discussions about stereotypes and West-centricity being key issues — and there might even be a suggestion that joining a blog network which will categorise you as being a “careerist” (and a “brazen” one at that) is a sure fire way to shoot yourself in the foot in front of employers and more-senior colleagues who’ll just look at you as another spoilt brat with a too-big a sense of entitlement and too-small a work ethic.

But let’s cut the stereotype stuff, ok?

As much as I hate to say this, I know stereotypes kinda come from somewhere.  And maybe little bits of the stereotypes are true of some people, and when they get bunched together, you get the general idea of a group.  But not everyone in the group is all of the stereotype. Ever. Unless they’re in a movie, or something.

I know a bunch of people who are intelligent, driven, energetic and want to be Prime Minister one day.  However, I also  know people who are incredibly happy to be stay at home mums or tradies. The fact I know more of the former rather than the latter sorts of people probably has a lot to do with where I grew up and what school I went to, not the year in which I was born.

This applies just as much to a group of people who are 20-25 as it does to people 40-45.  I think generational stereotyping is just silly.

But the label seems to have stuck, and if people are insisting on calling a trowel a spade, sometimes all you can do is be Roman.

So, let’s put on our togas and say that there are other traits of Gen Yers that are a lot more positive — like being passionate, socially & political engaged, educated and sensible, and having a strong desire to contribute back to society — and I think it’s really cool to be able to be part of a community that showcases these positive aspects and encourages others to take us seriously.

Brazen explains this philosophy really well:

The media often paints Generation Y in a negative light – citing high job turnover and impatience with paying dues as negative Gen Y traits. But we know better. We know that Generation Y does not want to job-hop every two years; we know that Generation Y will be the most productive generation in the history of the workforce, and we know that the single best way to connect with Generation Y is to meet them on their turf – online.

I reckon that by calling oneself a “brazen careerist” we’re actually taking the label into our own hands and moulding it into what we want it to be, rather than continuing to let others (particularly market researchers, who, honestly, have barely got a clue) control how everyone else sees us.

I’m really looking forward to contributing to the Brazen Careerist community and interacting with the great bunch of people who are part of it.

Another one about Sri Lanka: civil war, or genocide? [war]

So Sri Lanka’s been in this big civil war for longer than I’ve been alive.  It’s such a lovely place, but it’s been tormented for so long.

My mum’s gone to Sri Lanka for a my cousin’s wedding.  The last time she was there, there was an air raid on the air force base next to the airport.  My mother was actually on board a plane that was taxiing on the runway at the time.  The time before that, there was that tsunami thing.  Right now, the fighting between government forces and the Tamil Tiger rebels has escalated to some of the worst combat I can remember.

Wow, she gets all the fun stuff, huh?

I was surprised hear that SL was the top breaking news story on last night (although it was to do with a Australian UN worker who’s trapped in the war-zone, so I guess it’s not that surprising), because for so long the conflict there has been overshadowed by various other goings-on around the world.  There was an article about that trend on New Matilda late last year.

The UN and Red Cross have claimed that over 250,000 civilians are trapped in the conflict zone in the north and east of the island, but Defence Secretary Gotabhaya Rajapaksa has told the BBC that those international organisations have got that wrong:

“I’m not saying they are lying but they are exaggerating,” he said.

He also ruled out any ceasefire for humanitarian reasons, saying it would give the Tigers a chance to reorganise.

“The purpose of this offensive is to eradicate them,” he said.

Hrm.  That seems kind mean, doesn’t it?

Well if it does, then this should make you worry:  Gotabhaya Rajapaksa (who is the brother of Mahinda, Sri Lanka’s president; assassinated newspaper editor Lasantha Wickrematunge claimed the president and the government are responsible for his death) is a US citizen who might be getting indicted for genocide and war crimes in the next couple of weeks.

Yeah. Now that’s Dodgy (with a capital D!).

In news via Twitter, constitutional lawyer Bruce Fein has been preparing a 1,000-page model indictment against G Rajapaksa and army commander Sarath Fonseka for allegedly violating Section 1091 of the United States Criminal Code:

The model indictment is scheduled for publication within two weeks and will be presented to the US Congress, the Department of Justice and the State Department.

The lawyer represents Tamils Against Genocide, a non-profit organization based in the United States, whose mission is to obtain US or international indictments against the two US citizens or green card holders currently serving in the government of Sri Lanka for alleged complicity in genocide, crimes against humanity, or war crimes, including torture and extrajudicial killings, against Sri Lanka’s civilian Tamil population.

Now, Fein is clearly not just some schmuck.  He graduated from Harvard Law School with honours, clerked for a federal judge,  had a bunch of high profile government-law positions and has written for Slate about impeaching Cheney.  I think I like this guy.

The allegations about extrajudicial killings are nothing out of the blue for me.  I’ve heard a bunch of stories about people getting taken away in “white vans” and never returning (and this has happened to both Singhalese and Tamil people) and then there’s the whole war-on-journalism thing.  And Booker Prize-winning author Michael Ondaatje’s 2001 book Anil’s Ghost is the story of an ex-pat Sri Lankan forensic anthropologist who had been sent by an international human rights group to discover the source of the organised campaigns of murder on the island.  Things over there are seriously messed up.

But what is out of the blue, at least for me, is this allegation from an article about Fein’s indictment (from a site called TamilSydney via TamilNet, so I know it needs to be taken with a grain of salt):

Mr. Fein said that Sri Lanka was a unique nation whose history reveals an ongoing cultural genocide, adding, “the myths of the Mahavamsa say that Sri Lanka belongs to no one but the Sinhalese, and the text celebrates kings for slaughtering Tamils. Secondly, the teachings of Dharmapala, celebrate the purity of the Aryan race and establish the idea of racial supremacy. Because Dharmapala is as sacred to the Sinhalese as Jesus to the Christians, the Sinhalese believe and act with the notion of racial supremacy. This legacy is being continued by Sinhalese Buddhist monks and this legacy is used by Buddhists in classrooms in the South, as an instruction in genocide.”

Um, is this true, you guys? Because if it is, I am jumping on a plane right now to go an smack some people in the head.  What atrocious horrendousness, people? Atrocious. Horrendousness.

I am a Singalese Buddhist but my brother’s BFF is Tamil (how Romeo & Juliet) and, dude, I am not racist or biased just because of the family I was born into.  I want all people to be happy and get along and stuff.  The whole thing has upset me for some time. because it never seems like ending and the people in charge (of both sides) have been arrogant douche-bags (or, if they’ve been alright, have been shot or blown up).

So here’s my stance on this thing: I hate the Tamil Tigers, right — they’re terrorists, they pioneered suicide bombers, they make women and children fight.  But gods-damn, I hate bigotry of any description and war and violence at that, so if those government bastards did get involved in war crimes, I want them to rot. Slowly and painfully.

I don’t know if there’s a solution that doesn’t involve getting all of those bastards in jail first, and then getting decent people to take over and settle this.  But something more has to be done… just don’t know if, during all these economic troubles and Middle East mess and  climate change crises etc etc, if the world has the capacity to deal with this, too.

By the way, a group of Tamil students have started a hunger strike in Sydney’s St Martins Place in an attempt to get the Australian government to take action and they’ve posted YouTube vids of civilian casualties on their blog: (warning: there’s heartwrenching music and horrific images).

Update: The ABC has a news story on the footage, and in good journalistic form, it’s pointed out that the videos haven’t been verified and no one is sure when and where this was taped.

The one about virtually stuyding MIT courses [geekism]

One of the many DVDs I have watched since starting leave was 21 — the film about Kevin Spacey’s team of card-counting brainiacs from MIT who bring down the houses of Vegas at the blackjack tables.  I was lucky enough to be taken to Vegas for my 21st and when I got carded (I always got carded) and they realised it was my actual birthday that very day, people gave me chips.  I promptly lost them to the dealer.

But I’m sure if I had the ability to count cards (or, like, anything numerically higher than 10 fingers), I’m sure I’d have won.  It’s such a shame that I suck at maths and can’t play blackjack and can’t study at MIT.

Or so I thought.  I got sent the awesomest link ever today, and discovered that the Massachusetts Institute of Technology publishes pretty much all of its undergraduate and graduate course materials online, for free, via their OpenCourseWare (OCW) program.

I cannot start to explain how geekishly cool this is.  There are like thousands (guesstimation; I didn’t count, because I’d run out of fingers) of courses available in fields such as architecture, chemistry, politics and nuclear engineering, and you can download readers and lectures that are available (and I repeat: for free) under a Creative Commons license.

Now, they make it very clear that this does not lead to graduation with an MIT degree, but, like, for mega-nerds like myself, the idea of just having this stuff available is tinglifying.

And I am rather tempted to set myself up to study 21W.730-1 Expository Writing: Exploring Social and Ethical Issues through Film and Print and 21W.747-3 Classical Rhetoric and Modern Politics.

I know I totally won’t. But it’s so cool to think I could if I could be bothered 😉

The one about Australia Day [oi! oi! oi!]

John Saffron made an interesting observation about the attire of the crown in front of him during the broadcast of Triple J’s Hottest 100 Countdown — something about the flag-capes being one thing, but the “love it or leave it” t-shirts being a little creepy.

Now, I love Australia. I am eternally grateful for the opportunities I’ve had since my family moved here when I was four.  So I have nothing to fear from the wearers of those t-shirts.  But the flags have been totally pissing me off.

And as a friend of mine pointed out this morning, all the Aussie flags on the cars about town are rather reminiscent of the old General Lee from the Dukes of Hazzard that was painted with the Confederate flag: “because we all know that celebrating American slavery’s courageous last stand is a grand idea. ”

Similarly, idolising the flag that symbolises nothing much other than colonisation in honour of the day a bunch of Europe’s least-wanted were planted here, seems kinda lame to me.

It was only tongue-in-cheek when I asked if The West was giving the little car-flags away, but, as it turned out, people actually had to make the effort to cut out the voucher from the paper and pay $2 each for the things.

Which were probably made in the same factory as the Toohey’s New bucket hats the boys picked up at the bottle-shop yesterday.

I really think it’s time for a new flag and, honestly, a new Australia Day. But meh, who listens to me?

Update — better posts on the subject with like, Actual Arguments(™) and stuff:

The one about newspaper editors [war on journalism]

To comment on news that I was pretty sure broke a month ago (because I totally thought I saw WAN celebrating it on the rooftop of my gym lifestyle club before Christmas… or was that just an [un]fortunately-timed End Of Year Party?): HURRAH!!!

The state of Western Australia is a better place now that Paul Armstrong is no longer at the helm of The West Australian “newspaper”.

But I guess the whole late-scoop thing is fitting to [dis]honour the journalistic “standards” of every sandgroper’s fave fish’n’chip wrapper.

Margaret Simons (have I mentioned my epic blogger-crush on her yet?) mentions the “lack of surprise” and “why-did-Stoksie-wait-a-month” elements of the story in the lead story of today’s Crikey email as well as discussing that old-school ideal of newspaper editors as “the sort of people who kindled fire in the bellies of their staff, and who helped set the agenda of a city or a nation”.

The late Lasantha Wickrematunge of Sri Lanka’s Sunday Leader was in that category.  Paul Armstrong was probably in the “arrogant, inept, biased, douche-bag” category.  But all that is over now.  Thank heavens.

The only disappointing thing about this whole chapter has been ABC News’ failure to properly quote Journalists Union President David Cohen on the only adequate description of the ex-ed: that he was a “F***ing Outrage”.

The one about my first job [life lessons]

Tomorrow is the last day of my first job out of university.

And boy, was it ever a case of “It was the best of times, it was the worst of times“!

There were definitely some exasperated Fb status updates for quite a solid period of time in the last year.  I was working long hours, holed up in a beige cubicle that had no sunlight, no air-con (seriously, we had to order pedestal fans. How retro) and no love. My boss, who’d been working on this bitch of a case for like, half a decade, was about a million times more frustrated than I was, and that rubbed off on me too.  The stress was chronic and contagious.  My co-worker and I were not getting along.  I’d been told I’d be there for 6 weeks, tops, and that I’d get to return to the fun stuff straight after.  Everyone else seemed to be having a GREAT time.  I was miserable.

But despite all that, I am still so grateful I had the chance to do what I did.

First of all, I did it. I survived. I learned a HECK OF A LOT, and not just in terms of the Work-work, either:

  • I learned about how I deal with stress (and, subsequently, how I can change things to make it better);
  • I learned patience;
  • I learned about the impact of hope (things got SO much better when we could see the light at the end of the tunnel; even though we were still miles and miles underground); and
  • I learned that even when things seem their worst, it’s probably not going to effing kill you, so [have a bit of a whinge if you must, then] get the eff over it.

I also learned a heap about grammar and proofreading (although you might not always see the impact of that on this blog…) — most of what I did involved proofreading the largest legal judgment so far handed down in this country (if you happen to find mistakes in it: STFU. You try doing it for 8 months and see if you don’t miss anything) — and met someone whom [shit: who?] I look up to in so many ways and who[m] I will forever idolise as a mentor in my career and life in general.

Oh, and, I also had the opportunity to work with one of the most brilliant minds in the history of the judiciary.  His Honour had the most amazing capacity for knowing the tiniest details about the most mammoth (and horrible) litigation imaginable (for example, facts that occurred over a span of some two decades, two decades ago) as well as the capacity to explain the most complex applications of legal principle in such a clear and effortless way.  Just being able to listen while he spoke and read what he wrote was my honour.

Then, once I emerged from that part of the year, things got exponentially better.  I can’t express how amazing the last three months have been, and what a joy it has been.  I’ve learned SO EFFING MUCH about law and writing and a bunch of other things.  Plus I have been able to work with the most wonderful colleagues who are each incredibly brilliant in their own way.  I am going to miss them incredibly but I also feel thrilled knowing we’ll always stay friends.

Gods. This is such a lame, soppy entry. I’m going to stop now.

The one about blogs and branding and bitching, oh my! [online shenanigans]

Yesterday, via Twitter, I found my new favourite blog: Penelope Trunk’s Brazen Careerist.  Now, I’m not sure how I hadn’t found this blog earlier, because it is written by a co-founder of my favourite blog-network, Brazen Careerist, but as the old saying goes: better late than never.

Penelope’s blog is on a bunch of topics relevant to a young, vivacious upstart such as myself (the tweeted post was entitled 5 Career tips women should run from; and my fave post is 5 Time management tricks I learned from years of hating Tim Ferriss — about hating that knob who wrote 4-Hour Work Week, which I stupidly bought and now refuse to finish) but this one particular post, called My name is not really Penelope, got me thinking about myself and my decision to start a new blog/website (I know, I know; it’s not a very hard task– what blogger who writes about their life online and has a vanity domain doesn’t think about themselves every 3 seconds? Also, I am a Leo).

The post is about how “Penelope” changed her name a few times to accommodate (among other things) her views about patriarchy, her boss and her editors, and also mentions the whole “personal brand” thing as well as how she got busted for mentioning stuff that was recognised by others and the shit hit the fan.

Returning to me (of course) let’s start with that last thing.  A bit over a week ago, I was (figuratively) hit over the head with the revelation that people had read some things I had Tweeted or blogged about and, as a result of what I had said out there in the public forum, became upset or decided that I was not a very nice person (or something like that).

I was quite surprised because I didn’t think anyone who wasn’t registered on Twitter would be stalking me (because I get notified every time someone properly “follows” me) and for about a nano-second it crossed my mind that I should protect my Twitter updates. But I realised that doing so would defeat The. Whole. Point of Twittering (I am looking straight at you, @mattkeogh) and I love Twittering so I would never actually to do that.

This happened on the very day I registered my new domain name, but it was entirely coincidental as I did not know about the shit-on-fan issue until after I’d already signed up (and the decision to do was made well before that), so I hope nobody thinks I did the whole “it’s time to grow up” thing because I got told off (but boy, did I get Told Off).

Now, I don’t think I said anything defamatory, and I feel as if everything I said was justified in the circumstances (which weren’t very nice, for all involved) but I have promised not to be mean and stuff anymore.

Which sucks, because, as I have said, I am not one to hold back on an opinion and, as I tweeted the next day, self-censorship makes Baby Jesus get butt-raped my gay-pedophile Catholic priests (oh yes, I went there. Again).

But that little event was a good lesson about how “my brand” comes across to people who come across it.  And as I really have no control over who stumbles across my blog or my Twitter because it’s just Out There (you know, in the ether, floating around there with The Truth) it was a sombre reminder than I need to control what I can control.  That makes my stomach churn because it sounds like that lame Irish blessing/prayer thing, but meh, I don’t like paying taxes either, and sometimes we’ve just gotta do what we have to do. Sigh.

I know what happened shouldn’t surprise me too much since I had been (and, of course, continue to) blog and Twitter under my real name.  But it’s kinda funny that I (apparently) came across as mean when there’s that popular school of thought that suggests using fake names on the interwebs promotes more, unnecessary bitching.  The “Greater Internet Fuckwad [sic] Theory” is presented in this diagrammatic formula:

I know you’re more likely to bitch about someone when you know they can’t hear it, or it won’t get back to them. At least not with your name attached to it.  But saying stuff on the internet certainly isn’t the same as whispering behind someone’s back.

There’s that other old saying: if you don’t have something nice to say, don’t say anything at all.

I was asked whether I would have said what I said if I had known that it was known that I was saying what I was saying.  My answer was an unequivocal yes.

I don’t think what happened was purely about me bitching.  I felt attacked, and I attacked back.  Because I did not have the opportunity at the time to attack directly, I vented on the internet to keep myself from blowing up and, as I thought at the time, making things worse.

It turned out that I made things worse, only that happened a week later.  Frankly, I think I was being polite by not making an issue out of it when I could have.  If I was being purely selfish, I would have said what I wanted to say and let it all out, there and then; and I do think that would have been worse than what I did.  If I’d had the opportunity to say what I had to say before The Shite Hiteth The Faneth, this probably would not have blown up the way that it had.

(This is my blog and I can rationalise if I want to, thankyouverymuch.)

So it got me wondering: what’s going to happen to me by saying what I have to say (and saying it online)?

I have made assurances to people who have asked to be kept offline that I won’t say stuff about them.  That’s fine.  But what about everything else?  Because, essentially, everything else that I say online was also called nasty and horrible.

I don’t change anything on here. However I may appear is It.  That’s all, folks: nothing more, nothing less.  As my old tagline said: I tell it like I think it is.  And I don’t regret that and I don’t intend to change that.

But what happens when what I say gets me into touble? Will I lose friends?  Will I lose the respect of people who “know” me in real life?

I guess the outcome depends on whether I respect their reasons for disliking what I say.

Because if I don’t respect their reasons, I probably don’t respect them, and if one more cane toad under the tires is good for the country, one more schmoe who’s opinions don’t matter is good for me.

It also depends on whether I respect them for bringing their issues to me and explaining them to me and discussing them with me.

Because if I don’t even know they have an issue with me? Psh, bitsch pleez, how could I possibly lose sleep over it?

My conclusion is that if people are happy to let me keep saying what I say, or refuse to ask me why I say it, they can either stop reading what I have to say, or forever hold their peace.

The one about an assassinated editor from Sri Lanka [war on journalism]

Oh no. Oh no, on no, oh no.

There was an article on New Matilda a little while ago about the forgotten war in Sri Lanka that gets missed by the mainstream media.

And it took a story on for me to find out about the murder of a Sri Lankan journalist last week.

This makes me so sad.

Firstly, gah; I am so embarrassed that I had not subscribed to a Sri Lankan news service, after all my pontificating.  This has now been resolved.

Secondly. Oh my gods.

The murder is the worst of what I wrote about in my banned Quasi editorial about the importance of freedom of the press.

Creepily (sadly, really), Lasantha Wickrematunge (who was a lawyer before he became a journalist and editor at the Sunday Leader) wrote an editorial entitled ‘They Came for Me’, which was published on Sunday after his death.  It seems that he knew he would be killed and I assume he’d written it long before it happened.

In the editorial, he outlines the problems facing journalists and media services in Sri Lanka, emphasises the importance of a free media, and presents warnings about the dangers of staying silent:

No other profession calls on its practitioners to lay down their lives for their art save the armed forces and, in Sri Lanka, journalism. In the course of the past few years, the independent media have increasingly come under attack. Electronic and print-media institutions have been burnt, bombed, sealed and coerced. Countless journalists have been harassed, threatened and killed. It has been my honour to belong to all those categories and now especially the last. …

The free media serve as a mirror in which the public can see itself sans mascara and styling gel. From us you learn the state of your nation, and especially its management by the people you elected to give your children a better future. Sometimes the image you see in that mirror is not a pleasant one. But while you may grumble in the privacy of your armchair, the journalists who hold the mirror up to you do so publicly and at great risk to themselves. That is our calling, and we do not shirk it. …

People often ask me why I take such risks and tell me it is a matter of time before I am bumped off. Of course I know that: it is inevitable. But if we do not speak out now, there will be no one left to speak for those who cannot, whether they be ethnic minorities, the disadvantaged or the persecuted. An example that has inspired me throughout my career in journalism has been that of the German theologian, Martin Niem”ller. In his youth he was an anti-Semite and an admirer of Hitler. As Nazism took hold in Germany, however, he saw Nazism for what it was: it was not just the Jews Hitler sought to extirpate, it was just about anyone with an alternate point of view. Niem”ller spoke out, and for his trouble was incarcerated in the Sachsenhausen and Dachau concentration camps from 1937 to 1945, and very nearly executed. While incarcerated, Niem”ller wrote a poem that, from the first time I read it in my teenage years, stuck hauntingly in my mind:

First they came for the Jews

and I did not speak out because I was not a Jew.

Then they came for the Communists

and I did not speak out because I was not a Communist.

Then they came for the trade unionists

and I did not speak out because I was not a trade unionist.

Then they came for me

and there was no one left to speak out for me.

If people want to know why it’s hard for me to keep my mouth shut some times; why I have issues with accepting authority that shows no good cause for being obeyed; why I question everything and don’t stop hounding until I get a decent answer; and why I don’t care if that gets me in to a bit of trouble — then I would really encourage them to read Wickrematunge’s final editorial.

Update: New Matilda has published another great story on the background to the whole mess.

The one about kids bypassing censorship [kudos!]

Again from Crikey‘s Margaret Simons, but this time from her awesome blog, The Content Makers:

An amusing and inspirational story, about how a High School student newspaper in Minnesota avoided censorship by the educational bureaucracy by going online. The local superintendent had refused to allow the paper to be printed after students refused to show him an article about an investigation into a middle-school teacher.

Huh. I wish I’d thought of (or had the time/energy for) putting our little old Quasimodo online back in the day.

But we were too proud to do that — mainly because I’d spent hours and hours slaving in InDesign putting the thing together, even though all the budget threats where mean and horrible, but, also, no one would have read it online back then.  The wi-fi on campus at the time was so shit that a paper magazine was the only useful form of in-lecture procrastination material.

Crikey! [required reading]

No, this post has nothing to do with Steve Irwin (RIP).

Since I am on my grown-up-responsibilities kick, I decided that I should subscribe to Crikey, the über-awesome online media service that exists to keep the bastards honest.  Look at me go with all these premium services!

Choosing to sign up for Crikey was a pretty easy decision–its raison d’être is incredibly in sync with my own:

Crikey irritates the powerful by revealing how they operate behind the scenes, and it tackles the stories insiders are talking about but other media can’t or won’t cover.

Ok, sure, I’ve never done it to the extent of Crikey, but, in my own small way, I’ve irritated a couple of small-time power-players by refusing to keep my mouth shut on the basis that talking about <issue> is  in the interest of my teeny-tiny sphere of influence.

It’s just what I do.

Over the years I’ve really enjoyed reading bits of it here and there when various scandals asploded in the blogosphere/Op-Ed community (see, for example: Pandagate) and now that I quit (which went out even before Facebook) I needed some fun stuff to read at lunch time anyway.

But wow, what I great time to join up and get all the action!

For those who probably had no idea that this occurred, let me put together a teeny summary…

On Tuesday, Margaret Simons (a journo I’ve been following on Twitter for a little while) revealed quite the fun story.

Keith Windshuttle, the editor of the right-wing journal Quadrant who believes that indigenous Australians have forever-and-always been loved and never-ever hurt in any way by Europeans (I paraphrase), let a hoax article about climate change, get published in the most recent issue:

Keith Windschuttle, the editor of the conservative magazine Quadrant, has been taken in by a hoax intended to show that he will print outrageous propositions.

This month’s edition of Quadrant contains a hoax article purporting to be by “Sharon Gould”, a Brisbane based New York biotechnologist.

But in the tradition of Ern Malley – the famous literary hoax perpetrated by Quadrant’s first editor, James McAuley – the Sharon Gould persona is entirely fictitious and the article is studded with false science, logical leaps, outrageous claims and a mixture of genuine and bogus footnotes. [link]

The hoaxer (who’s since been identified as a lefty-freelancer who goes by the name Katherine Wilson) put together a quite the elaborate ruse in order to expose Windshuttle as, essentially, a pompous hypocrite who’s happy to push any line of argument as long as it fits in with their particular paradigm or ideology.  Simons puts it like this:

The sting of this hoax as I understand it is to establish that despite its attacks on post-modern slackness, and despite Windschuttle’s nitpicking of other people’s research, despite the fulminating against academic slackness from the right, it is possible for Quadrant and Windschuttle to publish pseudo-scientific nonsense, so long as it appears to fit in with their ideological view. In other words, that zealotry of all kinds has the potential to make people blind to evidence that doesn’t fit in with their preconceptions, and more liable to accept and privilege evidence that pleases them.

As Rob points out:

The man who built a huge media profile by scouring the footnotes of his political opponents and accusing them of academic dishonesty and fraud has decided that when it comes to his own magazine, there’s no need to bother.

My favourite bit is the first paragraph of the bogus article, as it appears on news stands around the country this week, which reads:

Quadrant readers will remember America’s “science wars”, spearheaded by the masterful Sokal hoax, a “hodgepodge of unsupported arguments, outright mistakes, and impenetrable jargon” designed to challenge standards of logic, truth and intellectual enquiry in scientific debate. [link]

Crikey’s put up the blog called “Diary of a hoax” where Sharon/Katherine outlines her little plot as it was happening and it’s hilarious:

Dear Quadrant,

I think I’ll attempt a pseudoscience article: kind of the Sokal hoax in reverse. Don’t get me wrong: I liked the Sokal prank as much as Windschuttle did. Showing up hogwash from any ideological stand is a valuable exercise. But I think Australia needs the opposite experiment.

I don’t think I can be arsed being as masterful as Professor Sokal, but still, I’ll devise an experiment to see if you will publish (to quote Sokal himself)

“an article liberally salted with nonsense if (a) it sounded good and (b) it flattered the editors’ ideological preconceptions.”

Just to be a bit pomo about it, I think I’ll put the word ‘hoax’ in the opening sentence: one of many clues, including bogus references. I think I’ll employ some of Quadrant’s sleight-of-hand reasoning devices to argue something ludicrous — something like the importance of putting human genes into food crops to save civilisation from its own ills, and how this sort of science shouldn’t be scrutinised by the media, because, you know, it’s empirical.

The trick would be to argue something both ludicrous and perfectly plausible (at least to the uninquiring mind); using dodgy logic, unsupported arguments and untruthful assertions.

And it worked! It worked like an awesome, sweet row of dominoes falling down. Katherine Wilson, you are a bloody legend and I salute you!