Attention all Australian academics, do you, or anyone you’ve ever shared a stage with, have any of these traits?

  • An interest in feminism or gender, or the teaching thereof.
  • Aboriginal heritage, an interest in Aboriginal history, or the teaching thereof.
  • A willingness to publicly stand up for your political beliefs.
  • Research topics that may not appeal to a broad audience of non-academics.
  • A publicly accessible profile on your institution’s web site.
  • Belief in the overwhelming scientific view that climate change is real and is being influenced by human activity.
  • Then congratulations, you’re probably in the queue to be Bolted.

    Back in January it was Andy Pitman who Bolt brought to the attention of his civil readers, previously Jason Wilson has had the pleasure of being deluged with semi-literate ranting emails from some of the readers who contribute to Andrew’s two million hits a month. And this week Associate Professor Barbara Baird from the Women’s Studies Department at Flinders University gets to feel the love from ‘the most-read political blog in Australia’.

    Bolt’s post, titled ‘Redefining gender’, is just a nasty sledge at someone based on little more than her appearance.

    Associate Professor Barbara Baird, head of Flinders University’s Women’s Studies Department, appears from her profile page to have taken her studies to heart:

    From 2005 – 2007 Barbara held an Australian Research Council Discovery grant titled ‘Reconfiguring intimate life: Gender and sexuality as sites of national redefinition in Australian since 1996’.

    I’ve read that a few times, and clicked on his link, and it makes no sense at all. How does someone’s personal appearance have anything to do with reconfiguring intimate life? Perhaps what Bolt meant was more along the lines of his title? Is Andrew Bolt arguing that a person’s appearance, particularly if it doesn’t conform to his norms, is a reasonable basis for discussing their work?

    But that’s just the beginning of the fun at the House of Bolt, because there’s plenty more to keep the readers entertained. In the first update Bolt highlights Baird’s acknowledgement of traditional owners of the area where she works and lives, as well as the fact that part of her research covers ‘whiteness studies’. It’s like wingnut bingo for the commenters.

    The next update was even more damning, in an email to fellow members of Cultural Studies Association of Australasia mailing list Baird declares that I’m happy to be confronted as part of some ‘left’ when discussing how the group should publicly respond to the Howard Government’s NT intervention in 2007. Can you believe that? She is happy to be painted as a lefty by other people if that’s what it takes to stand up for her beliefs. If it wasn’t for the fact that every one of Bolt’s commenters already knew that academics are all a bunch of know nothing lefties, this really would have got their blood boiling.

    The final update though is a corker. Apparently Barbara Baird once shared a stage with another academic who wrote a paper about chocolate and poo. Just in case you didn’t realise how funny that is Andrew posted an extract of the paper, although what that actually has to do with Barbara Baird I don’t know, because it was Alison Moore who wrote it, but look, academics and poo!

    Until the updates started flowing this post was nothing more than a link to Baird’s profile at work and a discussion of her appearance, the entire post is little more than an excuse for some personal attacks served with a healthy dose of anti-intellectualism. Any suggestion that Bolt couldn’t possibly foresee that is fairly well undermined by the fact that he felt the need to twice remind his very civil readers not to make personally abusive comments. Why a post like that has a place on the website of Australia’s biggest selling daily newspaper is beyond me, perhaps I should apply for a research grant to find out?