A FEW weeks ago, Dr Mike McCulloch, a mathematician and physicist at Plymouth University, thought his academic career might be over when his employer chose to investigate some tweets that he had ‘liked’.
In an interview with TCW contributor Bruce Oliver Newsome, Ph.D. (link shown below), McCulloch reveals how the complainants and the complaints remain vague. McCulloch had been using Twitter since 2013 to communicate his research and a few political and social opinions.
In October 2019, his Head of School first warned him of a complaint about the content of his tweets. What the offending tweets were he was not told. Nor was he told who had complained. He was left with little doubt that his political views were the foci of the complaint.
He subsequently agreed to his employer’s request to add to his Twitter header a disclaimer, to the effect that his views did not represent those of his employer.
It was not to protect his free speech for long. A talk he was due to give at Leeds University was cancelled in January because the organiser deemed his tweets ‘rude’, without specifying which, or how they were rude.
McCulloch complained to the Vice-Chancellor and Head of Physics & Astronomy at Leeds about ‘intellectual bullying’. His talk was reinstated: he delivered it later, by Zoom, given the Covid emergency.
However, on June 6, 2020, McCulloch’s Head of School politely informed him that an anonymous person had forwarded some tweets to his university’s equalities team.
The three tweets at issue were ones that McCulloch had ‘liked’ within the same 24-hour period: one stated ‘All Lives Matter’, another that ‘Gender has a scientific basis’, and the third expressed opposition to mass immigration.
The complainant misrepresented these ‘likes’ as racist, sexist, and anti-immigrant. The complainant added the lie that McCulloch’s writings on physics had been blacklisted by journals.
Later in June he was told by his employer that he would be investigated, given a complaint that his Twitter behaviour had not changed. A senior colleague was scheduled to decide on July 1 whether to escalate to a disciplinary hearing, which could lead to termination of his employment.
Pessimistically, McCulloch posted the news of the investigation on Twitter. His audience ballooned. Some subscribers volunteered legal advice. The Free Speech Union (set up by Toby Young in February) and other groups offered to chip in. One day after McCulloch’s legal representative asked his university what rule he had broken, it dropped its investigation.
So McCulloch remains a lecturer, and though that’s a relatively happy ending, others have been less lucky – most notably the Nobel Prize-winning biochemist Sir Tim Hunt, who was sacked after a firestorm on Twitter when he started a conference with a nervous joke about women in labs.
This sort of witch-hunt, Newsome says, is normative, but few academics admit to being victims, for fear of further punishment. Newsome makes the point that the vagueness of the complaints against McCulloch suits the suggestiveness and authoritarianism with which academia trounces free speech and pushes other agendas.
Academia is participating in an anti-scientific and illiberal progressive-elitist consensus, in opposition to majoritarian views in society as a whole. Newsome calls this problem the ‘tyranny of the minority’.
In effect, academia is normatively filtering out academics with majoritarian views, such as support for Brexit and reduced immigration.
The tactics are almost impossible to counter: placed under investigation without being allowed to know the complaint; told the complaint, but not allowed to defend themselves; or fired at the same time as the complaint was revealed.
Even academics who commit no thought crimes now, but whose scientific scepticism might threaten the consensus later, are filtered out by being denied promotion or funding.
You can watch Newsome’s interview of McCulloch here: