Back in February I decided to find out if I was eligible to submit articles for publication to The Conversation. Promoted as the contemporary, relevant voice of academia, The Conversation is not quite that. It is the mouthpiece for people employed at research institutions. There’s a difference between the two.
People who hold postgraduate research degrees, like myself, who do not work at an approved institution are not eligible to submit articles to The Conversation. Regardless of whether we have anything relevant to say as experienced researchers and analytical thinkers, we’re not wanted.
The Conversation implies that it represents the voice of the academic community, but this community is bigger than the number of university academic employees. The Conversation’s suggestion, in providing a voice for the academic community, that it represents it is implausible and needs to be questioned.
Below is a screenshot of a conversation I initiated with The Conversation on their Facebook page on 20 February 2013. I wanted an explanation for why suitably qualified intellectuals working in industry, or elsewhere outside academia, could not contribute to The Conversation. They had no answer to this and the issue had seemingly never occurred to them, which is strangely naive.
Yesterday The Conversation published the article ‘The Iceland model: banning pornography or banning freedom?‘ by Professor Margaret Alston. The article is clearly not academic in nature and if submitted as an undergraduate assignment would probably fail.
It is embarrassingly subjective and moralistic in tone and content. It makes claims to authority and authenticity that it cannot maintain, and gives a superficial veneer of academic credibility to a clearly anti-sex point of view. It endorses an anti-pornography point of view without questioning it while explicitly critiquing the pro-porn point of view.
It then engages in a ludicrous straw man argument, comparing porn advocates with fringe lunatics like anti-gun control advocates in the US and misogynistic online trolls. Now that’s academic rigour for you.
The article makes a farce of The Conversation’s claims to academic rigour by only allowing university employees to contribute. It is also an embarrassment to the standards of The Conversation’s editorial staff.
At the time of writing this article, my comment on Alston’s article was the most recommended. I’ve included an image of it below as it does not seem possible to link to individual comments in The Conversation.
I have no idea what Alston’s academic credentials in relation to porn are. I can’t find a single reference to ‘porn’ in her list of publications.
In contrast, I wrote my Honours dissertation 20 years ago on how the cultural response to AIDS changed representations of sex, I’ve worked as a sexuality educator and I’ve maintained a professional interest in the area of sexuality, such as by presenting at Pleasure Forum Australia (then known as Pleasure Salon) in 2010.
It’s plausible for me to consider, therefore, that I am suitably qualified to discuss the topic of porn. But The Conversation doesn’t want to add my voice to their collective. I’m evidently not morally conservative, prejudiced and subjective enough for their liking.
On Facebook The Conversation describes itself as ‘academic rigour, journalistic flair’. Alston’s article contains neither of these. It’s more like academic arrogance and gutter News Ltd journalistic prejudice.