Crack open a beer and start popping the corn. This is a saga.
In December 2019, I sent an email to a woman I shall call M who in the tedious and inexact language of modern bureaucracy (language from the factory floor inapplicable to education) is the line manager of my line managers. It contained four bullet points:
Following the lack of success in gaining an interview (for the position of Lecturer in […]) I’m concerned about the possibility of bias in HR recruitment for the following reasons:
- I fulfil all essential and desirable criteria and exceed some (e.g. a doctorate is not essential)
- I am disabled which, given the above, should grant me an interview
- Gender equity can be a factor as that would work in my favour not against me—as I am a man and about 70/115 of School of […] Research & Teaching staff are women
- On my Twitter account (personal but my posts are public and I use my full name) I am vocal about the legal rights of free association, freedom of expression and the need for EIAs. In universities across the UK those rights have been challenged and staff being sacked for proclaiming them
In this instance, I would be glad to know that there are simply a large number of highly qualified and experienced candidates and that I just didn’t make the shortlist. What concerns me is that HR staff may be filtering candidates in regard to an ideology (which we have discussed) which has not been officially adopted by the University executive or academic community.([…] ellipsis mine)
Of course I was reassured that it was nothing of the sort. Nothing else happened in connection with this, till the next year. But that year was 2020. When the world went mad. In September 2020, I had occasion to complain to 3 sectors of the University where I worked that their recently-published disabled access policy was incompatible with that in the HR modules which all staff had to do every year or so (based on the Equality Act 2010 and Data Protection Act 2018). Their policy was also incompatible with the Coronavirus Act 2020. I’ve explained why this is so in a previous post about shopping in Scotland but it’s applicable to disabled access across the whole of the UK.
I won’t quote all the email ping-pong but 2 of the 3 sectors accepted what I said, changed their policy, thanked me—and one apologised and reassured me explicitly that anyone who entered campus without a mask would be assumed to be exempt and would not be interrogated but allowed to access the goods and services of the University without let or hindrance. (I paraphrase.)
The exception was M. Her reaction contained none of the above and instead berated me for causing distress to colleagues and attempted to carpet me. I resisted and persisted. Thus began a campaign of victimisation that has lasted over two years. Note that by this protected disclosure (unrecognised as such by HR) I was not only acting in the public interest, which is the definition of whistleblowing, but I was also warning my colleagues of their possible liability for legal action should they do any of the things recommended by senior management which included emotional blackmail of unmasked students, including many young international students; coercion of students to do the job of cleaners, unpaid and uninsured; and reporting anyone who complained to an anti-terrorist organisation. (I’m not making this up, you know.)
But that’s not the story. That’s just 2020. You know. You remember.
In April of that year, I had emailed M again and my two doctoral supervisors, both professors of the University. At this point I still had confidence in M. I certainly had confidence in them and I still do, they were quite simply a delight to work with—a combination of erudition, charm and the very rare ability to ask the right questions. That email was simply giving them a friendly heads up because I had responded to a university consultation on the pandemic response. Unsurprisingly, my questions were never put to the panel. But I was contacting them in case they were, and someone contacted them, asking about me. I explained that I’d been writing about the incoherence of the pandemic narrative and give them the link to my blog.
That’s not the story either.
In August of 2021, a tedious correspondence started after I was invited to speak that June at the Holyrood Faith Debates as part of a panel of RE teachers discussing LGBT issues – during which I mentioned the Maya Forstater judgment. Apparently I wasn’t PC enough for one of the participants because they tried to doxx me. The colleague who emailed me about this, whom I’ve known for decades, was wise enough to desist when I pointed out that intrusive surveillance of my social media posts by my employer was not provided for in law.
There followed more tedious correspondence about the honorarium (which I still don’t know if they’ve paid me) which M inserted herself into, in order to accuse me of bullying the person holding the purse strings (PS?) because I’d advised her not to write emails as if from the DVLA (underlined and bold) and not to violate the provisions of GDPR by attempting to coerce staff into providing necessary personal information. She (PS) apologised and I thanked her and explained that I was under great stress. Admittedly I didn’t apologise to her for pointing out robustly that she (PS) was not doing her job and breaking the law – a fact that M gleefully seized on months afterwards. To establish ‘a pattern of hostile and aggressive communication’. Like ‘obey the law’ and ‘leave me alone!’
There followed a pile-on from HR and senior staff. I have RSI in my hands and wrists. It’s a condition I manage and every University email has that information as part of my signature. So it was literally torture for me to have to answer this relentless flood of emails, especially as I no-longer had access to the voice recognition software I’d used for over a decade so all that human-machine mutual learning had gone and I was trying (and failing) to use a crappy Microsoft version that was clearly not designed for anyone with a manual disability—and shoved in punctuation and all caps according to the stress patterns in my voice.
Here’s the story:
On Saturday 26th March 2022, [let’s call her PG] (a middle-aged lecturer from Crewe and former BBC journo) was quoted in The Times newspaper. That article is behind a paywall but The Scottish Sun (26th March 2022, updated 28th March 2022) reported her libellous words as follows:
Dr McManus, an associate tutor in the School of […], is reportedly under investigation by the uni for spreading conspiracy theories about coronavirus and Ukraine, according to The Times.
[PG], a political communication lecturer, has called for McManus to be sacked.
She told The Times she believes the university should “no longer employ” him.
[PG, spelled wrongly] told the paper she would “would personally be quite concerned about someone who expresses those kind of views, conspiracy theories, and apparent indifference to the suffering of Ukrainians, holding a teaching role”.
The lecturer went on to say she feels McManus’ views do not reflect the values of [the University].
Please note “apparent indifference”. Mind-reading. Note also that there is no mention that the source of this misreading is from an article published on 14th March 2022 in The Ferret (an online Scottish magazine) by one Jasmine Andersson, a young woman from Hull, based in London, who usually writes for Vice, described on trendhunter.com in these terms:
VICE Magazine has developed an impressive penchant for its following of censored subject matter. Transsexual lifestyle, drug-abusing models, and just about anything sexually suggestive has been favored by the VICE team. What’s more is that the media conglomerate does not attempt to sugar coat their controversial slant. The images selected for the spreads are straight forward (sic.), and are often the only references needed to comprehend the message of the editorials.
My point is that a middle-aged native speaker of English and former BBC journalist now a lecturer in Political Communication should know better. If she wanted to know my thoughts on the suffering of Ukrainians (or of the forgotten Yemeni or the kids mining for mobile phone conflict minerals in the DRC) she doesn’t have to presume, she could be polite and professional enough to ask me. She knows my name, she can easily find my email address and the articles she is quoted in (with her permission) give my social media handle.
In all there were 8 smear articles, the source of each is in brackets: Ferret (Vice), Ferret (Vice), Times (Ferret), Times (Times), National (Ferret), National (National), Scottish Sun (whatever x2). The one I quoted goes on:
A University of […] spokesperson said: “The matter is now under investigation by the University. We can’t comment further at this time.”
The source of that last quote is from an unknown member of staff tweeting as @Uof[…]. I have several times asked the identity of that person and I have been stonewalled. The tweet, which breaks GDPR and is libellous (therefore not only against University policy but actionable) has since been deleted, as has a tweet from @[P_G] where she states that, as I am an Associate Tutor, I will have a rolling contract so that should simply not be renewed (I paraphrase from memory).
At the time that [PG] directed hate towards me, I was a standing candidate in a Scottish election. The period known as Purdah starts from the date of publication of notice of the election (14th March 2022) and runs till the day of election (5th May 2022). Harassing candidates at this time is a police matter. This is because the murder of Jo Cox (RIP) highlighted how few women were standing, out of fear. It does not matter that I am male. All candidates should be safe, by law. This applies especially to anyone from a Public Body. All these articles quoting her referenced her academic position and institution, as did her twitter account at that time (my social media accounts do not, as I write as a private citizen). The University of […] is considered a Public Body as it is “a formally established organisation that is, at least in part, publicly funded to deliver a public or government service, though not as a ministerial department.” (https://www.gov.uk/guidance/public-bodies-reform, accessed 15/09/22)
Therefore [PG] violated Purdah, endangered my reputation, my employment, my person and also the mental and physical health of my elderly mother—as I am her chief carer after her cancer operation and I was forced to publish my address as I acted as my own agent. This reckless endangerment, which could have easily resulted in some flag-wearing crazy throwing a brick through my window and causing my mother to have heart failure, based on the spicy speculation of gutter-press journalism, has led to almost 6 months of inquisitorial investigation by senior staff of the University of […]. I cannot believe that a person of her experience would not have foreseen this and I find this public abuse of a colleague (apparently for self-promotion aided by her media savvy) not only distasteful but contrary to the core values of the University and of the kind of democracy for which we pride ourselves in Scotland. It is also contrary to my inalienable rights, recognised in the ECHR and by both the UK and the Scottish Parliament: Freedom of Expression and Freedom of Religion and Belief.
I could forgive such behaviour from an inexperienced young student, but this mature professional woman obviously knows full well what that libel would do. Indeed not only did these articles lose my campaign support (former supporters told me this) but her actual words regarding my precarious employment have been repeated by a senior member of staff in an ongoing abusive HR process started by further malicious accusations—which (at one point) also included those of this self-promoting lecturer.
Democracy must be protected and Purdah is in place to do just that and it is a legal wrongdoing to break it. The University of […] should not be sheltering someone guilty of such an affront to Scottish democracy. This libellous lecturer is not fit for post.
- The University has refused to reveal the identity of the staff member who tweeted about me as @Uof[…], revealing personal information and bringing the University into disrepute.
- Neither the University nor [PG] have publicly, or even privately, apologised to me using the same media by which I was slandered by the University—which is vicariously liable.
- I have demanded that [PG] (who is teaching Political Communication to students) be sacked. Given the effect on my campaign, my mental health, and the potential life-threatening risk to my extremely vulnerable mother, I think it fitting that both I and my party receive a public apology from both members of staff and the University and that we are recompensed for their complicity (and vicariously that of the University of […]) with slander and reckless endangerment.
PG, ‘an old Antonian’, who was in her youth quite pretty, has odd gaps in her online CV and ever since she graduated with a First in Modern Languages has been the recipient of various grants and fellowships. I’m sure there’s a perfectly reasonable explanation of the location of her first job—2004 to 2011 on the CV—(Senior Monitoring Journalist, BBC) as: “Moscow (Russia) / Caversham (UK)”. Let’s not jump to conclusions. It’s true that Caversham, near Reading, is the location of BBC Monitoring:
For nearly 75 years BBC staff at a sprawling stately home on the outskirts of Reading have been listening in to some of the world’s most seismic events, from Nazi Germany’s occupation of Europe to the death of Stalin and the Cuban Missile Crisis.
Since 1943 Caversham Park has been the home of BBC Monitoring, whose offices still summarise news from 150 countries in 100 different languages for the BBC.Caversham Park: End of an era for BBC listening station
Published 7th July 2016
I myself was not a spy, even though the place I was doing my Soviet history doctorate, St Antony’s in Oxford, was notorious in both the British and Soviet press as a “spy college”, having been founded after the war by ex-intelligence people.
It’s also true that PG, from criticising Ukrainian state crackdowns on journalism (by beating up journalists) in 2014 changed her tune when the 8-year conflict started to be reported by the BBC, claiming that most people there understood why the media and the opposition parties has been repressed.
Caversham also has a rather nice golf club. And there were plenty of other Oxford language and politics graduates involved in espionage who attended other colleges. Finally, the person posting as Zanon, in the 22nd comment on the Moon of Alabama 2018 article “British Government Runs Secret Anti-Russian Smear Campaigns” who lists her name next to that of Ian Bond, is probably just making it up.
So, a middle-aged Englishwoman, lecturing in Political Communication at one of Scotland’s Russell Group universities—who moved from Crewe to Caversham and Moscow, with a Modern Language degree then a Master’s in Russian & East European Studies at a notorious Oxford college—despite her doctorate in Politics and a respectable body of academic work (such as the Bad News series from the Glasgow University Media Group) on critical engagement with propaganda, disrespected democracy by using her public platform to uncritically push UK Government policy and to take great virtue-signalling umbrage at my suggestion that the current stage-managed theatre of war in the media is a pantomime of politics.
As “monitoring” seems to signify espionage, my question is: what critical distance from her assigned teaching subject of the political communication in general and in particular of various governments, including that of the UK, Russia and the Ukraine, can PG claim to employ as a lecturer…if she is, or was, a spy?
Thanks to Hal Harrison for releasing his image Film Noir into the public domain.