Orwell Would Weep at the Demonisation of Professor Barry Spurr
The Sunday Telegraph
November 16, 2014
I MUST assume Eden Caceda is an inspired satirical creation by Sydney University students outraged at the brutalisation of poetry professor Barry Spurr.
After all, the anagram of the name is “A Decadence”. That’s one way of looking at the descent into Orwellian thought-control at the nation’s finest university, which has suspended Spurr indefinitely and banned him from campus for using “offensive” language in private emails, which he said had been hacked and sent to a left-wing website.
“Eden Caceda”, an office-bearer with the university’s “Autonomous Collective Against Racism”, ho, ho, led the campaign last week against Vice-Chancellor Michael Spence’s “racist” Mexican-themed staff Christmas party. The dress code was “Mexican Fiesta — bring your own sombreros and ponchos”. But “Caceda” was deeply offended by the “culturally insensitive” invitation. “My family has a poncho and it is really important to us, and these people are treating it like a costume,” he said.
Spence, who made the decision to render Professor Spurr a non-person, now finds himself hoist with his own petard. He has been forced to send an email to staff, cancelling the Mexican dress code: “I have today asked the event organisers to amend our plans so the party has no particular theme.”
Cowardly capitulation to political correctness only ends when the barbarians are pouring molten silver down your throat. But Spence deserves everything to come, because his treatment of Spurr is a shameful disgrace. It dishonours everything that a great university is supposed to be. Rather than exalting reason and truth, it is prosecuting Crimethink — banishing people for having private thoughts.
Spurr wrote some of his private thoughts in jocular emails to a friend in which he refers to “Mussies”, “chinky-poos” and “whores” and describes the university’s chancellor, Belinda Hutchinson, as an “appalling minx”. New Matilda has published some of the stolen emails, while the university conducts a top-secret and extremely slow “investigation” into whether they constitute evidence of closet racism, sexism, misogyny, Islamophobia etc.
Spurr said the comments were not serious, but part of a “whimsical linguistic game” in which he and a friend tried to outdo each other with extreme language. Any literate person would understand this boundary transgression. Yet one of the few people to speak up for Spurr lives in London. “How could anyone take such deliberate touretting seriously?” wrote comedian Barry Humphries, asking if Australia has “gone slightly mad”.
You might have thought that students would rise up in fury and condemn the disgusting treatment of a good man.
But, alas, the only student protests have been by the campus Trotskyists, Socialist Alternative, who shrieked through megaphones outside Fisher Library that Spurr was “racist filth” and a “vile bigot” and gathered signatures to have him sacked.
In the days after Spurr was driven out, his fellow professors read aloud the administration’s ritual denunciation of him before every class, urging students who may have experienced discrimination to come forward.
Spurr is Australia’s only poetry professor. He is the world’s pre-eminent T.S. Eliot scholar. His CV, which has not yet been erased from the university’s website, shows a man of extraordinary literary and academic accomplishment. Students come from across the world just to be in his classes. Most are dismayed by his banishment, but are so oppressed by the McCarthyist atmosphere on campus that they daren’t speak out.
Michael Davis is one brave exception. In a brilliant article in next month’s Quadrant, the 20-year-old blasts the university for “caving to the efforts of 100 caustic teenagers who insult and abuse a 60-something year-old who’s given the better part of his life to that same institution. There would be no University of Sydney without men like Barry Spurr, and there would be no Australia without the Western Civilization he defends.”
Of course, the reason Spurr was marked for destruction was because he helped in the Abbott government’s review of the national curriculum, recommending greater emphasis on the Western literary canon. Along with review co-author Kevin Donnelly and four other subject experts deemed “conservative”, he has been monstered by the authoritarian Left who control education.
He agreed to help fix the curriculum because he believes English studies are in crisis. He believes democracy is under threat when its people are “inarticulate in their use of language and sub-literate in their linguistic discernment”.
Spurr has devoted his life to eradicating the sort of slovenly, deceitful, politically correct language that “makes it easier for us to have foolish thoughts”, as Orwell put it.
Now he is its victim.
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