Revenge and payback

There is an pattern emerging:

  1. Private information was leaked to the media alleging that prime minister Tony Abbott’s daughter had received special privilege in obtaining a scholarship to attend a private education institution.
  2. Personal emails from Sydney University academic  Barry Spurr have been leaked with allegation that his views make him an inappropriate choice for a curriculum review.

We can quibble in Spurr’s case as to whether the emails belonged to him or they belonged to his employer.* Unless either he or his employer gave permission to have those emails released to New Matilda, they have been stolen. So we’re not seeing public behaviour being criticised, but rather private behaviour being exposed. Now I’m happy to believe that some private behaviour should be exposed in public – for example, crimes, corruption, and the like, should not be protected by rights to privacy. It iss up to those making the “public interst” claim to demonstrate that public interest.

The important distinction between what is private and public is demonstrated by this piece in The Conversation relating to Revenge Porn:

“Revenge porn”. It’s when a partner or ex-partner posts nude or intimate pictures or videos online and without consent. And in the absence of better laws, perpetrators are largely getting away with it.

The media and public responses to the issue have been slowly shifting. Where once it was common to blame and shame victims for taking nude or sexy pictures in the first place, now there are calls to hold the perpetrators of these sexual violations responsible for their actions.

The harm to victims

Victims describe feeling sexually violated when they discover their images have been posted online. In fact, like other forms of sexual violence, emerging evidence suggests that it is most often women and girls who experience this kind of victimisation. And, like our attitudes to sexual violence generally, too often we have blamed and shamed the victim while ignoring or minimising the actions of the perpetrator.

In what way then does releasing private information about the PMs daughter or Barry Spurr not constitute political violence in the same way publishing intimate photos constitute sexual violence? Most people would be appalled if anyone were to judge victims of revenge porn by the content of their private moments, yet (almost) everyone has been only too happy to condemn Barry Spurr. Would the University of Sydney suspend a revenge porn victim? I suspect only if the incident pointed to some other activity that constituted misconduct.

* Warning to academics: You should assume that your email is being read by third parties. You should also assume that anything you post into the internal mail can and will be opened, and its contents examined, before leaving the university.

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54 Responses to Revenge and payback

  1. Steve

    If the UEA emails had not been leaked we wouldn’t have the insights we do on “hide the decline”.

  2. Bruce of Newcastle

    The ABC should be doing specials and live crosses every day and in-depth pieces and shock-horror exposés on both cases. They did so in the News of the World scandal over and over, why not these?

    That is the other pattern emerging: unethical behaviour is only unethical if it suits the Left’s ideological aims.

    I can also say that when email first arrived in my company I assumed from the start that anything I wrote would be read and there would be no privacy protections in reality, no matter what the statutes might promise. My hypothesis has stood me in good stead for over 20 years. What continues to amaze me is intelligent people commit stuff to the good graces of hordes of people who are in the loop when they must know that embarrassing stuff could easily come out.

  3. Steve

    Yep. Assume anything you do online is read by others, in particular if you are an academic, in the military, or working in any area that is politically sensitive.

  4. Spurr’s an old tutor of mine. He’s obviously said some very stupid and unwise things in those emails, and I’m sure wishes he hadn’t said them now.

    One of the things worth noting about the unfolding of this story/scandal is how, once New Matilda and Wendy Bacon got their scoop, they have chosen to present eminently sensible suggestions by Spurr in his work advising the National Curriculum in the same shock-horror tone as his more scurrilous emails. For instance – “Spurr wants more emphasis on the Bible as a text”. We’re supposed to be shocked! In fact, as a text it has underpinned the entirety of the literature in the English language, from Chaucer through to T S Eliot, at least. It certainly does warrant more emphasis. Or:

    He complains about too much emphasis on enjoyment, which he does not believe is necessarily part of learning literature. “The idea of pupils as ‘creators’ of literature in English needs to be kept firmly in check” he reports. Students’ own works should not be valued too highly.

    This strikes me as being quite wise – at the very least, it’s a useful corrective to the ‘everyone’s creative and should be free to express themselves’ approach some teachers might be tempted to take. To Bacon, however, it’s just a further opportunity to attack. Because she’s not, in the end, interested in sensible educational policies: Spurr is just collateral in an ongoing cultural war against the right wing.

  5. egg_

    The ABC should be doing specials and live crosses every day and in-depth pieces and shock-horror exposés on both cases. They did so in the News of the World scandal over and over, why not these?

    That is the other pattern emerging: unethical behaviour is only unethical if it suits the Left’s ideological aims.

    But, but… Barrie Cassidy outed Scott Morrison for (not) letting Tanya Plibersek get a word in.
    Need any further confirmation of ‘rolled gold’ bias at Aunty?

  6. ar

    If the UEA emails had not been leaked we wouldn’t have the insights we do on “hide the decline”.

    Those emails related to the work they were conducting. No comparison to Spurr’s “whimsy”.

    If Spurr had been writing “we need to change the curriculum to keep the darkies in their place”, that would equate to “hide the decline”…

  7. Leo G

    If the UEA emails had not been leaked we wouldn’t have the insights we do on “hide the decline”.

    Moral equivalence reprising?

  8. Steve

    I wouldn’t make an argument in this case that would be used as a gotcha, for the next time some group of lefty loons are exposed.
    Just accept the reality that around the world, many, many people are full time employed to dredge through your emails and look at your browsing history.

  9. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    * Warning to academics: You should assume that your email is being read by third parties. You should also assume that anything you post into the internal mail can and will be opened, and its contents examined, before leaving the university.

    Warning to employees everywhere. Work is for things to do with work, and within the constraints of policies concerning appropriate positional behaviour within that organization. Da Hairy Ape has strong views on this and cannot believe how lacking in circumspection some senior people can be in this regard.

    I watch him occasionally shaking his head at his computer and saying I wouldn’t put dat in an email, matey. His rule is to record all significant telephone conversations and never ever put sensitive stuff in an email or in a file that is not marked Confidential, and even that in a very carefully worded piece. One of his favourite sayings to me, regarding something I intend to do, is – can I have dat in writing, Lizzie?

    Also, anything you post under your own name on social media (including the Cat) may be used for the purposes of assessing your candidature for private employment and for public employment and Office.

    That is why blog anonymity is a useful safety valve for many people, who feel constrained only by the limits of law itself (your IP is always traceable). Legal changes to bring tighter legislative controls on blog comments is underway in Britain (anonymous or otherwise); a retrograde step in my view, because there are already legal remedies available to individuals who feel slandered or harmed. Real harm though would need to be shown with evidence; name-calling is an element of free speech, for instance, as is parody and wit.

    Surely legislation to restrict all email content can only follow if we go down the unwise path of increasing ‘protective’ legislation? Even ‘personal’ email, as in a click ‘personal’ emails can be in the public domain. Emails anywhere are never private in the same sense that telephone conversations and face-to-face conversations are private. Note that even phone conversations are subject to law regarding their content: it is a criminal offense to make threats to individuals via the telephone.

    Why can’t women seek redress from ‘revenge and payback’ postings on the net take action according to the laws of defamation and slander? I seem to recall a footballer got a whole whack of money for the public display of his private assets in a distributed photograph.

  10. Toiling Mass

    Where once it was common to blame and shame victims for taking nude or sexy pictures in the first place

    Seriously?

  11. Tom

    In what way then does releasing private information about the PMs daughter or Barry Spurr not constitute political violence in the same way publishing intimate photos constitute sexual violence?

    Answer the question, you Alinskyist scum!

    That it doesn’t apply to you because you didn’t think first and you have the emotional development of a five-year-old is not good enough.

    As usual, the left leaves a wreckage-strewn landscape of broken bodies and unintented consequences. In a week or a month or a year or two, they’ll be complaining when someone does it to them.

    It really is a mental illness.

  12. James

    On the one hand they criticize the government’s anti-terrorist measures in metadata collection, on the other hand, they are happy to steal emails and publish

  13. Yon Toad

    Spurr’s only mistake was to expose himself to the bottom feeders of the uni inter-web.

  14. Elizabeth (Lizzie) B.

    oops … women who seek redress.

  15. Woolfe

    But the UEA emails were not published at all in the MSM. You would only e aware of them if you followed “Denier” sites. They were strictly censored.

  16. Major Elvis Newton

    I hope New Matilda, its editors and Wendy Bacon are pursued by the Australian Federal Police for theft and unlawful possession and distribution of stolen property.

    There have also been numerous violations of the Privacy Act in relation to this matter that are also meritorious of vigorous prosecution by the relevant authorities.

    What Professor Spurr may have said in mockery or otherwise and in what he believed were private and personal communiques does not excuse the flagrant and willing commission of a crime by New Matilda, Bacon, et al.

  17. Toiling Mass

    I must admit, I have always been suspicious of calculus because Newton was a religoius nut who looked for syncretic arcana in the Bible.

    And don’t get me started on so-called ‘gravity’. Suffice to say it is only velcro shoes on on carpet for me everyday.

  18. stackja

    Then why is the Lionel Murphy file still secret? Oh, of course he is Left and is protected.
    While other non-Left are not.

  19. Senile Old Guy

    What Professor Spurr may have said in mockery or otherwise and in what he believed were private and personal communiques

    If he read his institution’s ICT policy, he would know that his messages were not “private” and that he was violating institutional ICT policy.

    I agree that anyone who has acted illegally, should be charged.

  20. candy

    I agree with Major Elvis Newton above there totally.

    Also it is my opinion that Wendy Bacon/New Matilda has manipulated that young woman who is facing a 2 year jail term now for hacking the school computer for Frances Abbott’s information. Really malevolent stuff going on there.

    Let’s hope the AFP are on top of it before someone else gets damaged in the course of Wendy Bacon/New Matilda revenge/criminality.

  21. nilk, iron bogan

    Spurr was held up as an example of bigotry and the point made about his attitudes while being across changes to the curriculum at yesterday’s feralfest by Jeff Sparrow.

    And yes, I did get that on video. Crap vid, to be sure, but the audio works.

    The left have their new victim and they’re going to flog him until he drops.

    He is so toast. I’m not sure whether to pity him or not.

  22. James In Footscray

    ‘In what way then does releasing private information about the PMs daughter or Barry Spurr not constitute political violence in the same way publishing intimate photos constitute sexual violence?’

    Because, according to modern progressivism, laws are mutable. The more important principle is that there are oppressors and oppressed, and the situation must be rectified. Spurr has worked on an Abbott government review and has reactionary views and so is an oppressor. All women (even wealthy influential Hollywood stars) are oppressed.

  23. Toiling Mass

    Because, according to modern progressivism, laws are mutable

    Hey, that is like in the USA wherethe Demoncrats insist that The Constitution is a ‘living’ document, allowing you to read in any new interpretation that they have decided are (or should be) widespread.

  24. C.L.

    This is truly sickening. The same people who went on and on AND ON AND ON about Murdoch’s phone hacking are – of course – totally cool with hacking when it targets the people they hate. The people responsible for these hacks and the news organs that publish them ought to be jailed.

  25. C.L.

    I hope New Matilda, its editors and Wendy Bacon are pursued by the Australian Federal Police for theft and unlawful possession and distribution of stolen property.

    Ahahahaha.

    The AFP is a left-wing police outfit – one that just couldn’t discover who stole a video from PM&C when the beneficiary of that theft was Julia Gillard.

  26. cuckoo

    At least in the case of the theft of information about Abbott’s daughter, someone is facing court and will be coming up for sentencing shortly. I predict a wholly suspended sentence, and maybe 30 minutes’ community service as a lollipop lady. Followed by an honorary doctorate from UTS, a Sydney Peace Prize and a guest-spot on Q&A.

    And those same people who were apopleptic about the Murdoch hacking were also absolutely cool when shortly thereafter a confidential meeting between Rupert and his staff was secretly taped, and that tape given to the meeja.

  27. Chris

    This is truly sickening. The same people who went on and on AND ON AND ON about Murdoch’s phone hacking are – of course – totally cool with hacking when it targets the people they hate. The people responsible for these hacks and the news organs that publish them ought to be jailed.

    If Murdoch lackeys had only targeted politicians and people in positions of power or celebrities then the public would have continued to be fairly ambivalent about it. Especially when it exposed corruption or conflicts of interest – eg whistleblower situations where its in the public interest. Its only when it came out that they were targeting victims of crime and even (accidentally) disrupting police investigations that there was public outrage.

    If he read his institution’s ICT policy, he would know that his messages were not “private” and that he was violating institutional ICT policy.

    I wouldn’t be surprised if what he did – and it wasn’t just a case of one or two emails – was a sackable offence. It would be in many organisations these days. When using his official work email address what he writes reflects not just on him, but the organisation as well. Even if they are intended to be private there is always the risk that they go public – eg they get hacked, the recipient forwards it on or his email gets subpeaoned for a legal case (that’s happened to me). It’s at the very least a sign of poor judgement.

  28. Major Elvis Newton

    So if during lunch I use the company wifi with my own personal portable device to say on a blog – say the Cat – that we should ban the burqa, Adam Goodes is a shouse AOTY and that AGW is crock I should expect a call from the Chief Head Tilter in the Human Wreckage department?

    And if I say those things verbally to a mate on my phone – that the company the bill for – I should expect another visit?

    Is lawyer-client the only conversation protected from prosecution/persecution?

  29. DaveA

    Don’t forget, even if the emails are relevant, this particular style of policing is at best arbitrary, though more likely subject to the biases of lefty Poindexters with access to the server, or who would have lefty mates pulling their strings.

    If the Prof’s emails aren’t ignored we must insist all staff members have their emails checked for appropriateness.

  30. JC

    @Wendy_Bacon hey Wendy, do u teach students to wear gloves when skulking around garbage tins?

  31. Senile Old Guy

    I’m not sure whether to pity him or not.

    I don’t. He is a complete dill.

  32. Also, anything you post under your own name on social media (including the Cat) may be used for the purposes of assessing your candidature for private employment and for public employment and Office.

    Hooray!

  33. Tom

    If Murdoch lackeys had only targeted politicians and people in positions of power or celebrities then the public would have continued to be fairly ambivalent about it.

    Absolute bullshit.

    Mudrock666 is a hate figure for damaged children like you and nothing will change that — even after his death.

    News Of The World was dedicated to using phone taps to provide publishable content to increase circulation. It targeted politicians, cricketers, celebrities — whoever was hiding something that people would like to know about. They were cowboys, but they were ultimately acting in the public interest.

    It had nothing to do with politics. Or your infantile fantasy that Mudrock is an evil tyrant.

  34. Chris

    If the Prof’s emails aren’t ignored we must insist all staff members have their emails checked for appropriateness.

    I bet there’s a lot of deleting of emails going on at the moment! Though if they have decent backups it’ll just make it harder rather than impossible.

  35. rebel with cause

    I doubt Sydney University would have anyone left to take classes if they upheld ‘university policy’ and sacked everyone who used staff email to say mean things about Mr Abbott.

  36. DaveA

    I bet there’s a lot of deleting of emails going on at the moment!

    Only makes it worse: knowledge of offence, attempting to conceal. If they know they have wronged they must volunteer for re-education, or face double re-education!

  37. Chris

    News Of The World was dedicated to using phone taps to provide publishable content to increase circulation. It targeted politicians, cricketers, celebrities — whoever was hiding something that people would like to know about. They were cowboys, but they were ultimately acting in the public interest.

    You forget they also targeted victims of crime such as missing children, giving false hope to parents because they thought their child was checking their voicemail when in reality it was Murdoch reporters. Very few people care about the privacy of politicians, sportspeople or celebrities – people lap up coverage of that kind of thing. Victims of crime, especially children – that’s a totally different thing – but yes they were simply doing it to increase paper circulation.

    If they were only caught doing it to expose corruption or criminal acts very few people would have cared.

  38. C.L.

    Yeah, fair point.

    I don’t defend what the red tops were doing in the UK.

    The behaved like drunken adolescents. They deserve no sympathy.

  39. rebel with cause

    Of course the main crime Spurt is guilty of is being a conservative academic. It’s shocking that he has got away with it for so long.

  40. Of course the main crime Spurt is guilty of is being a conservative academic. It’s shocking that he has got away with it for so long.

    Wow. Lumby offers judgement on Spurr before even reading more than the sneer quote version that New Matilda released on Friday (the full text of the emails only came out today). And they really do conflate conservatism with ‘racism’, ‘sexism’, etc. Extraordinary.

  41. Rohan

    cuckoo
    #1483419, posted on October 20, 2014 at 12:06 pm

    I predict a wholly suspended sentence, and maybe 30 minutes’ community service as a lollipop lady.

    Don’t you need to pass a police “working with children” check to do that. I think a criminal history of any description would exclude you automatically.

  42. Steve

    Nor Rohan, it would depend on the nature and severity of the offending.

  43. .

    Don’t you need to pass a police “working with children” check to do that. I think a criminal history of any description would exclude you automatically.

    What is disturbing is that you probably need a half arsed Cert II or Cert III in “Traffic Management Operations” to do that job.

  44. Incidentally, the transcripts of the emails (released yesterday, not today – I was mistaken about that) up on NM’s website don’t really add anything to the story at all, or strengthen NM’s case. In some cases they detract from it, because you can see the point he’s making. But in most cases NM have already snipped out the juicy bits for their headlines already.

  45. None

    Most employers allow reasonable lmited use of phones, email, computers for personal use (eg paying bills over the internet at lunch time, ringing your wife to ask what’s for dinner, well maybe not that). So let’s get a bit of perspective here. The emails stolen from Spurr span two years. And they only published a few lines from a handful. If his email looks like mine he’d have clocked up thousands of emails in two years.
    Perspective.
    This guy is being shafted. Graham said as much in his piece on the weekend (why aren’t the other alleged racist recipients exposed?) They picked Spurr because of his ‘national importance’. He has been singled out to be destroyed purely because he’s not left. To me, that is contemptible and unforgivable. And Sydney Uni are a pile of fascists to suspend him BEFORE HE WAS EVEN ALLOWED TO STATE HIS CASE OR HAVE HIS CASE TESTED.

  46. New Matilda are getting their facts wrong too. In the headline, no less. They say Spurr is a ‘Poet’. He’s not. He teaches poetry. Difference.

  47. DaveA

    ^ He’s not a poet, and thet don’t know it.

  48. old bloke

    They say Spurr is a ‘Poet’. He’s not. He teaches poetry. Difference.

    Well, there’s his defence, he can claim poetic licence.

  49. James Hargrave

    ‘Also, anything you post under your own name on social media (including the Cat) may be used for the purposes of assessing your candidature for private employment and for public employment and Office.’

    I have never sought to hide.

    As to ‘Human Resources’ types – most seem to be semiliterate sociopaths trained by disciples of the late Fritz Sauckel. But most Australian academics seem to be prepared to do their bidding without question – I was only obeying orders – being, themselves, built in the same authoritarian-coward mould.

  50. None

    As to ‘Human Resources’ types – most seem to be semiliterate sociopaths trained by disciples of the late Fritz Sauckel.

    We seem to have worked at the same places.

  51. And Another Thing

    I think most employers warn staff that emails may be read. Academics sometimes can be naive about the real world, but it surprises me still that Spurr could have fed this stuff into a computer system, even though it was private and a joke. If people of more mainstream political beliefs than Bacon and her ilk were to hack emails written by most of the academics of the left goodness knows what would be revealed. Besides, Bacon is incredibly ancient to be involved in juvenile behavior such as this.

  52. evcricket

    As others have said it’s hard to argue there is something wrong with this and accept the ‘hide the decline’ emails.

    In both cases it looks a bit like journalism.

  53. Marion of the Glades

    Abbott is PM and his daughter received a large freebie that was not disclosed in his statement of interests. Our academic poet is not solely a private person. He is active in making public policy on education at the highest levels.
    Like it or not, these are not huge stretches when it comes to scrutiny of public officials and their advisers.

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