Forget the Footnotes

My 15 minutes

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I started this blog in January 2006. For the first couple of weeks of its existence it had about 10 visitors per day. Then I began blogging about my employer, the London School of Economics, and about what it’s like to work and study at an elite university. Suddenly interest in the blog erupted. One day, May 4, the blog had over 5000 visitors.

My great fortune was that the blog was banned — first by the convenor of my department and then by the director of the LSE itself. As they both made clear, I was not allowed to speak about the School in an unauthorised manner or ’serious consequences’ would ensue. After some reflection I decided to keep the blog up. It was an easy choice in the end since the statues of the LSE guarantee the right to the freedom of expression. The controversy eventually hit the papers — first the LSE student newspaper, then the Guardian and the Times Higher Education Supplement. Hence all the visitors to the page. See the sidebar for more information.

With some very few exceptions none of my colleagues was ready to publicly support my right to free speech. Instead the LSE students rallied to my support, signing petitions and writing encouraging emails. Ironically these divergent reactions only proved what I had been saying all along — that its students are LSE’s greatest asset.

This story is now over. The LSE authorities decided not to pursue the issue in the end. Very wise on their part. Yet the conclusion is less than satisfactory: the initial reprimand I was given has not been retracted and I can’t help thinking I’m owed an apology. Still it is of course a victory. The powers-that-be have backed off, I’m still blogging and I intend to go on doing so. Hopefully everyone — including the LSE director — has now understood the importance of some set of rules which governs internet use by students and staff.

The number of visitors to the blog has gone back down — not to 10 a day but to about 100. It’s calmer that way. Much as I like being read, I hate the controversy. In the next couple of months I plan to write a book about blogging and freedom of speech in democratic societies. That’ll be my revenge — a nice academic kind of revenge, with footnotes and all!

But I’m moving on. We’re pulling up our stakes and leaving for Taiwan in a couple of weeks. I’ll come back to London for sure but not to the LSE. Enough is enough. The world is a large place and there is much to see and do.


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