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Academics Face Sack for Objecting to Laughing at the Disabled!

category international | disability issues | news report author Monday May 28, 2007 14:00author by Ciaron O'Reillyauthor address Brisbane, Queensland, Australia Report this post to the editors

Today I attended a solidarity vigil for Gary MacLennan outside his QUT (Queensland University of Technology) disciplinary hearing. Gary and a fellow QUT academic John Hookam, are facing disciplinary hearings and possible dismissals, for objecting to a PhD project entitled "Laughing at the Disabled". Check the link below for background on the case.....
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEucGUEQFwA


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cEucGUEQFwA

I first met Gary in the 1970's in Brisbane, he had arrived in Brisbane at a time when "Laughing at the Irish" (Irish jokes were at their height in the '70's) and shooting them in the streets were dovetailing in his native north of Ireland. Gary was one of the courageous voices under the Bjelke Petersen state government that suppressed free speech (thousands of arrests from '77-'80) and systematic police corruption. Gary, myself and many of our friends were victims of political arrests, bashings, police raids and harrassment during this period. Gary has taught for over 32 years at QUT where he is celebrated as an inspirational teacher.

The "Laughing at the Disabled" PhD had been passed by the ethics committee and had exploited two adults with disabilities, setting them up to be humiliated in a country pub. Gary and John expressed opposition at the PhD presentation and later wrote an article for "The Australian" newspaper see http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,2153....html. These acts are the basis of the discplinary action. In a Kafkaesque twist they have been accused of "bullying" by those who bully the disabled for entertainment.

Today's hearing was held behind closed doors with no defense counsel. "Queenslander of the Year" aboriginal academic Chris Sarra http://www.abc.net.au/message/news/stories/s1126447.htm attended the hearing to advocate for Gary.

The actions raise questions about attitudes to people with disabilities, free expression and natural justice. These questions are not being explored in the disciplinary hearing but were explored in a forum outside the hearing today. These issues need to be explored inside QUT and outside. The sacking of these courageous academics will not advance this exploration.

author by Gimppublication date Mon May 28, 2007 16:36Report this post to the editors

.... is a popular pastime in certain Irish universities http://bb.ucc.ie/viewtopic.php?t=12279 and the students union actually encourages this type of humour http://www.indymedia.ie/article/81860#comment192638 as an expression of maturity.

author by Niallpublication date Mon May 28, 2007 16:50Report this post to the editors

Heh heh, don't you just know a TV show like that is going to be on MTV any month now?

There's one fatal flaw in McLennane and Hookham's argument. It's when they say this:

"Yet we and almost everyone outside of the cultural studies ghetto reject this moral and epistemological relativism."

If this were true, why did the people being set up all end up laughing at the disabled people? Why did the staff and students at the university launch all find it amusing?

I thought the student's project was interesting and thought-provoking. These old-school academics think anything borne out of poststructuralist thought is a new low but it's really just a more accurate reflection of the way the majority of people behave already.

author by Moral Cripple - Society for the Practical Investigation of Moral Relativismpublication date Mon May 28, 2007 17:22Report this post to the editors

Yeah right. Punch one of those thought-provoking "students" or "professors" in the mouth and you'll hear them (after they've cleared the snot and blood) declaiming all sorts of biblical morality about how they have a right not to be assaulted.

author by catface - bullied academicspublication date Mon May 28, 2007 22:09Report this post to the editors

During the Nazi regime, disabled persons were among the first to be rounded up and sent off to concentration/death camps. They were, in the eyes of the Nazis non-productive and defective beings to be done away with in order to yield a 'perfect' society, a 'master race.'

The first step in the direction of this slippery slope is to dehumanize our disabled citizens by laughing at them because of their disabilities. That causes both the disabled individual and those around him to view him as less than others, perhaps even not fully human.

Such a nihilistic stance has no place in academia.

These brave defenders of the rights of disabled persons should be rewarded, not punished for their efforts. Those who sacked them should themselves be sacked or at least held to full account for their inhumane actions.

author by Moral Cripple - Society for the Practical Investigation of Moral Relativismpublication date Tue May 29, 2007 02:26Report this post to the editors

title of previous comment should have read "Morality is Relative?"

author by Deirdre Clancypublication date Tue May 29, 2007 19:20Report this post to the editors

'Such a nihilistic stance has no place in academia.'

This is the dominant tone of proceedings in certain sections of academia; it was creeping in from around 1990. There'd be enough academics out there who'd try to justify that thesis and probably argue that it was actually liberating for the disabled people in some sort of alternative postmodernist universe. Sad but true. Take it from someone who once sat in a room and listened to a very articulate high-ranking academic wax lyrical about how we couldn't ever really be sure the holocaust happened; can't remember the argument but it was very impressive-sounding and something to do with 'representation'. Of a group of about 15 people, I was the only one who questioned this very impressive-sounding individual and was treated as the amusing but misguided class clown for questioning the Great Man.

Having said all that, this case is kind of shocking even to me, despite the fact that it takes certain trends to their logical conclusion.

author by Apublication date Wed May 30, 2007 07:50Report this post to the editors

A short article did appear in yesterday's Australian:

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,2180....html

By the way, my second clip - on censorship at the following:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=67MiKw0s3XY&mode=related...arch=

author by Niallpublication date Wed May 30, 2007 15:20Report this post to the editors

I think the work is valid for two reasons:

Firstly, it brings to public attention the fact that disabled people experience discrimination and shows how this happens. When else do you see disabled people on TV unless its a feelgood story or something about health resources?

Secondly, it asks us to question the reaction of the non-disabled people when presented with the disabled. It could be argued that those who laugh at the disabled in this experiment in turn become the victims, as the audience watching them in turn disapproves of their behaviour. This is similar to the way Jade Goody et al became victims of the press after their racist bullying of the Indian girl.

The academics shouldn't have been sacked, though.

author by Spinning Quicklypublication date Tue Jun 05, 2007 20:08Report this post to the editors

Niall, couldn't a similar justification be used for the racist bullying of Shilpa Shetty on Big Brother? After all, it did raise the issue, but I find it abhorrent that such behaviour is encouraged for whatever reason.

SQ

author by Stuartpublication date Tue Jun 05, 2007 22:32Report this post to the editors

Academic curiosity should not be bounded by political correctness, in so far as nobody is harmed. Holocaust deniers should be free to argue their case, in so far as they are not harming anyone. Studying the humour of disability is valid too, in so far as nobody is harmed.

But that, I think, is the problem. Craig and William were not merely placed in front of drinkers for amusement, they have specific impairments in their capacity to comprehend and react to social cues. Craig and William are unable to share in the humour.

Not being bound by the strictures of political correctness does not oblige academics to take up the cudgels of consumerist society, or to abandon social justice.

author by Miriampublication date Wed Jun 06, 2007 10:02Report this post to the editors

I can't get the video link to play so don't know what is at issue exactly, but to second what Stuart has said, if a person has an intellectual diffficulty or an actual intellectual disability then to what extent can they really understand what they are participating in? If either of these situations has been the case then we are not talking about 'freedom' of expression of any kind - rather a nastily expoloitative form of self-indulgence. No brave new frontier is being crossed - it's just the same ole same ole, when you get down to it: laughing at the loonies. Those who are close to intellectual disability will not be fooled.

However, I'd have to reserve judgment. Comdey has a lot of unexpoloited potential where disability is concerned.

Link to a thoughtful paper on traditional views of disability in comdey:

http://www.leeds.ac.uk/disability-studies/archiveuk/Cla...y.pdf

author by Danipublication date Fri Jun 08, 2007 10:18Report this post to the editors

Dear All,

More news about the verdict. The punishment passed for the guilty verdict is 6 months suspension without pay from QUT. They are not even allowed to to access QUT premises'.
I am Shocked and outraged at this decision, and believe this is just as severe as if they were fired.
They will both need to find alternate jobs during the suspension period, which will be made harder due to the sentence.

We are going to Rally on the 13th. Details to come.

Regards
Dani

author by Stuartpublication date Fri Jun 08, 2007 11:46Report this post to the editors

It is farcical that these two have been suspended for offending the dignity of their senior colleague and his research student. Did the two people involved in the research have a say in the disciplinary action? Not, of course, to evaluate the degree of the offensiveness, but to evaluate the legitimacy of their comments about the thesis.

Yes humour about disability is hilarious, and living with disability would be unbearable without being able to laugh at yourself and your circumstances - but that insight rarely comes from observers.

I see that the 41-year-old standup Sean Hughes (who hasn't had a live performance in 9 years) endured mostly silence for his jokes about Down's Syndrome and missing Madeleine McCann at the Hay Festival http://news.independent.co.uk/people/pandora/article261...8.ece - but then he is also still joking about entering a stable relationship.

author by Sal Fiore - www.salvatorefiore.compublication date Sat Jun 09, 2007 12:24Report this post to the editors

Hi there,

is it possible to view online the hearing papers?

Thanks
Sal.

Related Link: http://www.salvatorefiore.com
author by The Defendantpublication date Sat Jun 09, 2007 16:03Report this post to the editors

Dear Chair,

I would like to begin with a personal statement if I may. My name is Gary MacLennan. I began teaching in 1964 as a high school teacher at the age of 22. My tertiary career commenced in 1971, and I have been working at what has become QUT since January 1975. Thus my teaching career has spanned five decades. I have also taught on all five continents including for three years in Nigeria and a year in China.

Never in my teaching has there been a charge of misconduct or a charge of any kind laid against me until now. I tell you with all honesty that, that this should happen at the end of my teaching career, is a deep sorrow for me but in no way do I take it as a shame. I am before you today because on the 20th of March I saw something bad happen and I spoke out about it. I saw our university confirm as a PHD a project which centres around the disability vilification of two men of impaired capacity, and I took my stand because I could do no other.

That is the centre of this case. It is what this university refuses to acknowledge. An unethical project was given ethical clearance. A student was supervised and guided by our university into unethical research. This is the elephant in the living room, which everyone in authority at QUT chooses to ignore. No one in authority in this university will answer how was it possible that a project entitled “Laughing at the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains” received ethical approval. Moreover the tape shown at the confirmation is absolute proof that not just the title is at fault. The project as it is conceived is deeply flawed in ethical terms. Yet no one will answer how it got confirmed. No one will answer because they cannot.

Instead the university has developed a three prong strategy. First there was the official denial that there was anything wrong, the claim that the project was given proper approval and that Spectrum, a disability organization approved of it. This was the line taken by Prof Haseman in his letter to the Australian of the 18th May. Trust the experts there is nothing wrong, Dr Haseman assured us. Of course it has since emerged that Spectrum is not a disability organization. Moreover the CEO John Hart may have had a conflict of interest, in the granting of approval. Even more damaging is the fact that the Endeavour Foundation refused to participate in the project on ethical grounds.

The second prong of QUT’s defence has been to try and do a post hoc clean up of the project. Thus over the objections of the principal supervisor, Mr Portman, the name was changed to “Laughing with”. The film shown at the confirmation was hidden and all requests from outside ethicists to view it have been refused on aesthetic grounds. These were his rushes the candidate has said and he could not be expected to show them. When we requested a copy of the tape the candidate told us the material was too “delicate and challenging”. However it was not too delicate and challenging to show at his confirmation or to students in his classes as late as the 2nd May. And now we are told that an ethics group has just been appointed to advise and monitor the project.

Now we have just been informed by Prof Sharma that he has set up an audit of the process by which this project got ethical clearance. We welcome that but demand that any audit be genuinely independent of the university. Otherwise it can have no credibility.

What I wish to stress here though is that every single one of these steps is absolute proof that what Dr Hookham and I said about the project was correct. I repeat the post hoc clean up organised by Dr Haseman is proof positive that there was something deeply wrong with this project.

However this is the elephant that they all try to pretend is not there.

When an important disability advocacy group the QAI led by Kevin Cocks, a distinguished Australian approached the university with his concerns about the project the Vice Chancellor refused to meet them. Moreover when QAI mentioned the possibility of a disability campaign against the university, the Vice Chancellor’s response was seen by the disability community as a challenge to bring it on. Well it has been brought on and the university will be the loser. Because the University cannot win a war against the disability community, for it is a war where to win is to lose.

I would like now briefly to mention the third prong of the university’s response to the disaster of Laughing at the Disabled. That has been to attack the whistle blowers. I am up on charges before you today. John will be up tomorrow. Not because we have done anything wrong, but because we have spoken the truth. The attacks on us have become steadily more vicious. The dossier before you contains much material which should never have been included. It does not have any relevance to the charges we face. It is highly prejudicial to our defence. Much of it attempts to assassinate our characters and to destroy us. I have forwarded to you some emails from students to try and counter the slanders against me.

Similarly witnesses are to be brought against us who were not at the confirmation seminar, and who did not even take the trouble to watch the tape. You who sit in judgement on me today have likewise not bothered to watch the tape.

There have been attempts to break us psychologically. MOPP regulations were placed in our pigeon holes before charges were laid. Vile rumours have been circulated about us both. Some colleagues have sent us to Coventry. But that is the fate of every whistle blower.

I have mentioned my sorrow at having these charges brought against me in the twilight of a long teaching career. I would also point to the terrible strain it has been on my family and on me as well. But I take comfort from the fact that I have attempted to stand up for and to advocate for those who could not advocate for themselves. I spoke from within the disability community. And I spoke out against an outrage that QUT was and still is perpetrating against our community. Nothing that you can do to me today or in the future will stop me from continuing to speak out for the powerless. Nothing. Absolutely nothing. I cannot be silenced.

When the university chose to confirm and give ethical approval to a project which sought to exploit and offend, and to expose the disabled to mockery, it was the darkest hour of my career. Yet I take comfort in this dark hour in the writings of the great Catholic anarchist, Dorothy Day. In an article on the “insulted and the injured” she tells the story of Felicia a migrant worker living in grinding poverty in Brooklyn. Day contemplates the injustice of Felicia’s suffering and then says

Never mind Felicia, God is not mocked. He is our Father and all men are brothers, so lift up your heart. It will not always be this way.

Thank you.

Gary MacLennan
28th May 2007

author by Sal Fiore - www.salvatorefiore.compublication date Sun Jun 10, 2007 19:17Report this post to the editors

Hi Gary,

(if you can) ,

when you receive the paperworks, (hearing notes, statements, witness statements etc) could you scan them and post them or publish somewhere so that we can show our prime ministers the kind of people that govern the Universities.

We need to press in a way that prime ministers cannot ignore the issues anymore. We need also to show the world the kind of prime ministers that govern our nations. We : the abused, the persecuted and the ostracised.

Many thanks in antiicpation.

Sal

Related Link: http://www.salvatorefiore.com
author by Defendant Responsepublication date Mon Jun 11, 2007 20:22Report this post to the editors

Dear Vice Chancellor

First let me say that it is with considerable sadness that I acknowledge receipt of your letter of the 2nd May 2007. I will go through the charges in detail, but let me begin with a simple declaration that I plead not guilty to all of them. Moreover, I wish to state that I have acted throughout to defend the rights of those who could not defend themselves and in so doing I have also defended the honour of our university.

You cite clauses from 8.1.5, which require one to act in a respectful way towards others. You also cite the necessity not to engage in behaviour, which may be distressing, offensive or humiliating to others. You also cite the need for rational debate and the avoidance of vilification, bullying or any other form of intimidatory behaviour.

It is my contention that all of these clauses were violated by the project “Laughing at the Disabled: Creating comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains”. One surely has only to say the words aloud to understand that. I am aware that there is now a project called I believe “Laughing with the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains”. I do not know whether this is merely a change in title. In any case I will point out here that the fact that there has been a change would seem to indicate that there was something wrong in the first place. I have addressed this matter elsewhere in a communication with Prof Sharma, which has not yet received a full answer. So as I am being charged with matters relating to “Laughing at the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains”, I will continue to refer to that project which was confirmed by QUT on March 20 2007 (my emphasis).

It is also my contention that this project should never have received ethical clearance and should never have been confirmed with this title. But, Vice Chancellor, I am at a considerable disadvantage here in replying to your charges. I was at the confirmation and heard the candidate and saw what he had on his tape. I do not believe you have seen what was shown. I have been given to understand that Dr Brad Haseman, who was entrusted with investigating a complaint from me, did not take the trouble to watch the tape. I have also been given to understand that Dr Michael Keane, who was on the committee that gave this ethical clearance, has not watched the tape. Moreover the Dean of Creative Industries has also admitted to me personally that she has not seen the tape either. So I do not see how you can understand my reaction to the tape.

1

(i) at the confirmation hearing for Noonan’s PhD candidature held on 20 March 2007 during question time at the end of the presentation by Noonan, you directed personal abuse at Noonan by stating to him in a raised voice words to the following effect: I have a handicapped child and I pray to God that my child never comes into contact with someone like you.”

Now I will admit that I said to the candidate, “I have a son with a disability, and I pray to God that he never falls into the hands of people like you.” But, sir, I had just witnessed the candidate ask an intellectually impaired young man and an autistic young man what would they do if a girl fancied them both. The autistic young man’s face twitched uncontrollably. I believe this was because he could not understand the question. Around me academics and students of QUT laughed. Then the intellectually impaired man said, “We would share her”. Around me academics and students of QUT laughed.

I had just heard the candidate describe how he showed this same sequence to a first year class with the two young men hiding at the back of the lecture hall. I heard the candidate describe how the students had laughed at the tape, and then how he got the disabled young men to stand up and how he introduced them to the class and how the reaction of the students was very “interesting”.

I have since learned that despite my plea to the Acting Dean Prof Towers to intervene and to stop Michael Noonan from showing this material to first year students, that Michael Noonan continues to show the tape in class and it continues to provoke laughter at the disabled. Sir, on at least two occasions he has brought the disabled young men to class and the students have laughed at them. Vice Chancellor, I forward in evidence the following email from a student:

I was in this lecture. Inititally i was laughing with everyone else at the screening. Only afterwards when i sat and thought about it did i realise we were all definately laughing AT the disabled.

the first show about their journey to egypt seemed more like a doco, and any funny moments were light hearted. Overall these people with differences were portrayed positively.

the outback investigators was a different story though. this show seemed to take direct advantage of the fact that mentally 'disabled' people are funny to watch in everyday situations. i laughed many times during this show, but i regret i did. i had a speech impediment during high school, and i cringe whenever i see jokes in film/tv about people who stutter. people who stutter do look/sound funny (to most, in my experience), but they would never tell you how much it hurts to be humiliated when speaking. I never did.

Someone asked the two actors how they felt about the controversy at the end of the screening - but they did not understand the question, and we were told they had not been informed about it. Michael said he had talked to their parents about it. Doesn't this sum it up! these guys dont know we are laughing AT THEM. they just like the adventure of being on tv etc like anyone would. they are being exploited for cheap laughs. For example - why do they have a stupid oversize pen to write with? what a blatanty rude and suggestive metaphor. The biggest laughs came when one character spoke of his quest for a girlfriend - yeah very funny. Its hilarious that this young man can't find a girlfriend due to his condition, which affects his ability to interact socially. A total setup, and only possible to laugh at. He wasn't laughing.

Laughing AT disabled people does not in any way 'upgrade' their social status in life. I agree there should be a better balance of society represented in the media. Unfortunately the media always needs an angle - and i suppose that looking humourously at the disabled sounded like a good idea. I think the production needs a lot more class before it will work without being exploitative.

While i was initially unsure about this work, i think it should definitely be stopped. Laughing at disabled people is not going to enlighten the world. Its just cheap laughs at the expense of people who don't have the social skills to read between the lines of what makes people laugh. Money can be made elsewhere.

It is my opinion that we are all at QUT shamed by this. Sir, I implore you to intervene and stop Michael Noonan from continuing to show the tape to first year students and thus exposing the young men to mockery and ridicule.

Now, sir, I will try and explain to you what it is like to have a child with a disability and thus to be part of the disabled community. I love my son just as much as you love your children. I want always the best for him, just as you always want the best for yours. My heart almost burst with pride when he received from you his degree from QUT. It had taken him over ten years but the courage and yes the suffering were considerable.

I am also getting old and worry what life will be like for him after I have gone. That is a common concern for parents of children with a disability. We want only kindness and love for them. We fear their being mocked and ridiculed and exploited. What will happen to him when I am not there to defend him?

What if someone was to try and exploit him? What if someone would put him in situations where people would laugh at him? At the seminar, the candidate talked of the ancient practice of people going into asylums to laugh at the insane. That QUT would participate in anyway in such processes is unthinkable.

My son has schizophrenia, but what if my son were autistic? Would I be expected to sit quietly and watch an autistic young man being laughed at? If my son were intellectually impaired, would I be expected to laugh while another intellectually impaired young man was being ridiculed? My section of the disability community is the schizophrenia one. But I will not say that what happens to the autistic does not concern me. I will not say what happens to the intellectually impaired does not concern me. Would you expect me to join with the academics and students who laughed at Darren and James? Would you expect me to be ashamed because I was one of only two people who spoke up? How was I supposed to react to the talk of “exploitation” and “offensiveness”? Sir, it could have been my son on that tape.

Now I am accused of speaking with a “raised voice”. I was in a lecture theatre. I was seven rows back. I needed to be heard. I have been taught as a teacher to raise my voice in such circumstances. I did not shout. But I did speak with passion and from out of a deep sense of outrage. None of that has abated. Indeed as the intimidation, the rumours, and the rolling series of charges have proceeded against me, and my health has suffered, my sense of disbelief and outrage has grown.

(ii) that following the confirmation hearing Noonan contacted you by email seeking details of your concerns regarding his PhD project and that you responded by email as follows:

It’s quite simple Michael, I was brought up by my mother – one of the uneducated Irish peasantry. She was the best human being I have ever met. She taught me not to mock the afflicted. I had to go to a University to see the mocking of the afflicted being celebrated under the spurious rubric of ‘postructuralism’.

The candidate said to me at the seminar, “You are offended. I want to offend you.” This itself is inconsistent with the code of conduct. He succeeded. I was deeply offended and when I got an email from him I reacted accordingly. I do not back away from the content of that email. I do not believe we should be laughing at the disabled. I am proud that I was taught not to laugh at the disabled. I am certain you were taught likewise, sir. As a consequence I am not sorry that I cannot help anyone who wishes to offend the disability community.

The candidate has also written to us saying that “offensiveness and exploitation are major areas” in his research. How can I be expected to help anyone who wants to exploit the disabled? Yet I have since written and spoken to the Dean offering to help Michael find a way out of the trap that he has been led into. I do not know if she has passed those concerns on to him.

Both Dr Hookham and I helped Michael get a Masters degree. It was not we who taught him to get up and say, “I want to offend”. We did not set him on the path to “exploitation”. I repeat we are still more than willing to help him find an approach, which has not to do with offensiveness and exploitation.

(iii) that in an article appearing in the Higher Education supplement of ‘The Australian” newspaper on Wednesday 11 April 2007…which was co-authored by you, you attacked Noonan and his thesis, in a way that misrepresented Noonan’s work presented to the candidature confirmation hearing. Your article represented that Noonan’s work included a scene that would be used in a “six-part comedy series” and said of the scene

“The young men were also instructed to ask the locals about whether there were any girls in the town as they were looking for romance. This produced a scene wherein a drunk Aboriginal woman amorously mauled William.”

That reference is alleged to be misleading and an unfair treatment of Noonan’s work because it was made quite clear on a number of occasions by Noonan during his candidature presentation that the relevant scene would not be included in the final television production

Charge number (iii) refers to the shocking scene in the pub wherein a “drunk Aboriginal woman amorously mauled William”. The facts are in dispute here, Vice Chancellor. I will contend that the candidate did not make quite clear on a number of occasions that the relevant scene would not be included. I will also produce witnesses who will support me under oath. Moreover I will offer in evidence that on March 21st I had a conversation with his principal supervisor Assoc Prof Portmann at which he described this as one of the best scenes in the tape in that it showed the “humanity of the aboriginal woman”. I repeat it does not make sense to show at the confirmation hearing a clip, which one says one is definitely not going to use later. Nor does it make sense that the principal supervisor would praise that scene the following day if he had heard the candidate make quite clear that the relevant scene would not be included in the final television production. Please know that I can supply more written proof here if needed.

But what is not in dispute, Vice Chancellor, is that the scene was shown. Again I wonder why it was shown if it was not going to be part of the tv series? In any case I am sure you agree with me that the scene should not have been shown and that it was deeply offensive to the Aboriginal community, a community, which I know you support totally. But, sir, I beg you to try and understand that it was also offensive to the disability community and that community deserves no less support from you.

(iv) That in the article that appeared in ‘the Australian’ you attacked, by inference if not directly, Noonan’s work as “misanthropic and amoral trash produced under the rubric of post-structuralist thought”.

First let me make clear here, Vice Chancellor, that the candidate made absolutely clear that he was working within the poststructuralist paradigm. Though I must say he made no attempt to explore the full theoretical ramifications of that particular choice.

I am not alone here in regarding post-structuralism as misanthropic. It is premised on a deep anti-humanism, springing as it does from Nietzsche by way of Heidegger. In its latest manifestations it makes certain assumptions about people that can only be described as “misanthropic”. Thus the candidate stressed that his was a project that aimed for a mass audience. Implicit in this and the material he showed were assumptions about the ethical and aesthetic potential of Australian people, assumptions which frankly I find misanthropic.

I am reminded here of Dame Nellie Melba’s famous injunction to Clara Butt in 1907 when the latter was about to undertake a concert tour of Australia. Melba said, “Sing em muck Clara. It’s all they understand.” Melba as an elitist passed a judgement on the aesthetic potential of the Australian people. Elitists such as Harold Bloom would probably share Melba’s assessment. But is crucial to realise that the poststructuralist populists also believe that the working class are only capable of understanding “muck”. Both camps are dialectical counterparts in that while seemingly opposed they share a common misanthropic judgement of the aesthetic potential of the people. It is a stance that we as educators should reject.

Now as for the “amoral” part of the charge, this is of course a contentious matter, but I believe that it can be shown that poststructuralist thought springs as I said from Nietzsche. As such its ethical impulse is that of beyond good and evil. In terms of the attitude towards the disabled it is also worthwhile recalling Nietzsche’s own attitude towards the disabled. He wrote: “What is good? Whatever augments the feeling of power, the will to power, power itself in man? What is evil? What ever springs from weakness. What is happiness? The feeling that power increases – that resistance is overcome. Not contentment, but more power; not peace at any price, but war; not virtue, but efficiency (virtue in the Renaissance sense, virtu, virtue free of moral acid).

The weak and the botched shall perish; first principle of our charity. And one should help them to it. What is more harmful than any Vice? Practical sympathy with the botched and weak –Christianity.”

I know you find such views repulsive. Nor am I suggesting that the “Laughing at the Disabled” project is motivated by such concerns. But nowhere did the candidate distance himself from such attitudes towards the disabled. Nowhere did he explain how putting the young men in a pub out west to find girls could help people see their humanity. In fact as one of the panel, Dr Vivienne Muller, pointed out the candidate and the supervisors showed a complete ignorance of the disability literature.

Commentators like the Pope and Cardinal Pell have also commented on the amoral nature of postmodernist culture and I will not rehearse the arguments here. But I will state that I share their abhorrence of the moral relativism of poststructuralist thought. I will also now repeat that one can only understand how two supervisors, a university committee and a confirmation panel would give the seal of approval to “Laughing at the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains” if one grasps that the members of the panel were dominated by poststructuralist thought.

As for trash, Paul Kelly’s word is “sludge” while Harold Bloom talks of “wallowing in the dust heap of popular culture”. On balance I prefer trash. To me the word describes with great accuracy a project, which is built around scenes such as when the two young men discuss the meaning of “Down Under”. The intellectually impaired young man wonders aloud what Down Under means. The autistic young man says, “I have been to Sydney. Is that Down Under?” Around me academics and students of QUT laughed. I think that scene was trash. I also think that to film it and to show it was amoral.

2. That in relation to the persons directly involved in the supervision of Noonan’s PhD work (supervisors) you…

(i) stated or inferred that the Supervisors were responsible for producing “misanthropic and amoral trash”.

I would welcome the opportunity to debate publicly the supervisors of this project. I was alarmed to discover that they had not advised the candidate to access the disability literature. Nor was I impressed with their contributions to the thesis’ theoretical base.

In theoretical terms this project rests upon what are best described as two mantras. The first of these is that “All comedy has the potential to offend”. This is true but what needs to be asked is offensive to whom? And for what purpose? The supervisors and the candidate and the defenders of this project have not made clear who they thought they were offending. Nor have they justified such offence. The thought that the series might make money is of course tempting but it is not in itself a justification for offence. So I ask again, “Who did the “Laughing at the Disabled…” project seek to offend?” The silence from those supportive of the project is overwhelming. Nor is it any answer to say that there is no such project and that there is now a project called Laughing with the Disabled…” Please note, sir, that the new project still seeks to “confront and offend”. Who is being offended in either case?

Let me supply the answer, Vice Chancellor. They sought to offend the disability community, and those in sympathy with them. Why should they be targeted? Is it because they lack the political clout to make those who would mock and ridicule and exploit them back off?

The second mantra is that “there is a fine line between laughing at and laughing with”. Deconstruction 101 would tell us that there is embedded within this mantra a metaphor where the difference between laughing at and laughing with is compared to a line and lines as we know are thin and can become blurred etc. It is important to note however that there is no theoretical justification for the mantra, simply a plausible metaphor. In other words this is a piece of rhetoric. Now let us substitute another metaphor- ‘there is a chasm between laughing at and laughing with’. This disrupts the original and is therefore quite useful. But we still need to engage theoretically with the difference, and not simply rhetorically. I tried to enter this territory at the seminar by pointing out that the candidate had othered the disabled and we needed to see what other he had represented them as and what were the political and ethical implications of that. My contribution was however shouted down.

Briefly I would argue in theoretical terms that the candidate had constructed the disabled as the comical other, with the proviso that the candidate viewed the disabled also as the Other as a resource – a source of potential revenue. That necessitated putting subjects in situations where they would be laughed at. Of course this was made much easier due to the specific disabilities on display. The autistic have difficulty in reading social situations and so are relatively easy to portray as comically inept. The intellectually impaired have also great difficulty in reading social situations. They are often very compliant however, a fact which accounts for their large over-representation in prisons. The unscrupulous take advantage of their willingness to please those they perceive as their friends.

All this of course means that there are serious ethical considerations, which must be taken into account with care and thoroughness. The question of informed consent is vital. It is simply not enough to say as Prof Haseman does that Spectrum approved the project, so it must be ok. Spectrum does not give ethical approval for QUT projects. QUT does. Moreover it is not a main stream disability organization, a fact which would have been known to anyone who has a strong relationship with the disability community and had taken the trouble to keep up with the disability literature. In my opinion it has been highly imprudent of QUT to substitute Spectrum for the entire disability community. Was an extremely large disability organization approached to support this project and did they decline to get involved?

Again there are serious ethical implications here of course and a rich educational literature critiquing the tendency to regard human beings as mere capital. The candidate and his supervising team showed no awareness of the existence of such a literature never mind the need to engage with it theoretically.

(ii) Personally attacked Alan McKee whom you describe as the “enfant terrible of the post-structuralist radical philistines within the creative industries faculty”.

Assoc Prof McKee uses the phrase ‘grumpy old men’ to describe his theoretical opponents such as Alan Bloom and Harold Bloom. Catherine Lumby, his co-researcher, uses the same phrase. I can supply detailed references here if you wish. I have chosen to counter their usage with “enfant terrible”. I would argue that it not only has the value of neutralising being called “grumpy” and “old”, it also draws attention to a vital component in Prof McKee’s makeup. It is my opinion that he is what is known as a “performative academic”- one of the new breed of poststructuralist intellectuals. It seems to me that his particular inclination is to outrage.

With poststructuralist intellectuals at times it appears to me as if one is being overwhelmed with schlock and awe. In my experience it is unusual to see an academic wearing a t-shirt around campus that has “shopping list on it and the number one item being “heroin”. It is equally unusual in my experience to have an academic sport a t-shirt which has a stick figure masturbating over a book. Yet Assoc Prof McKee has sported such t-shirts in front of students. To my mind the chapter by Mark McClelland in McKee’s latest book, (a chapter which advocates sex in toilets and calls for a minister for public sex), represents a striking departure from standard academic discourse. Moreover I think it is an unusual contribution for an academic to edit. Similarly in my experience McKee’s own pronouncement that to teach that Shakespeare is better than Big Brother is to be actively evil would appear to me to be a gesture designed to outrage.

I personally find the endorsement of heroin use offensive. I have seen too many of my sons’ child hood friends grow up to become addicts. But then that makes me a grumpy old man. My personal feeling though is that if you go around outraging people then one should not really resort to the MOPP as a defence. Perhaps one should wear alternative t-shirts. In any case “enfant terrible” is to my way of thinking both descriptively accurate and also explanatory and I defend my right to use it.

Now radical philistine: on his academic page McKee has the following to say to students: Associate Professor Alan McKee likes Big Brother, pornography, Kylie Minogue, and New Weekly magazine. This does not mean that he is any less intelligent than people who like the films of Jean-Luc Godard, novels by James Joyce or any kind of performance art (all of which he finds distasteful).

Admittedly there is some ambiguity here. Does the ‘all’ refer simply to performance art or also to Joyce and Godard? Whatever the case, I think the word philistine is fairly descriptive of these pronouncements. Shelley Gare employs the term “air-head”, but I feel that this term does not indicate the relationship to culture that McKee’s work evinces. Frank Furedi uses ‘philistine’ but in a slightly different context from mine. Beech & Roberts also use the term philistine, but interestingly in a non-pejorative sense, when they discuss the dialectic between philistine and connoisseur. Curiously McKee in his latest book, Beautiful Things in Popular Culture, seems to me to reveal a preference for being called a connoisseur (p9). Whatever the case, my point here is that the term philistine has intellectual currency and to my mind it is not simply a term of abuse.

I think that McKee is working within the High Culture Low culture distinction. His unique contribution, I feel, is to place the Low Culture on top. But this is not a simple inversion as he makes clear in his introduction to Beautiful Things in Popular Culture. There he assures us “there is much, much more to learn about popular culture than there is about high culture, simply because the area of popular culture is massively larger that high’ (p 3). Size it seems does matter. What also comes across in his book, in my opinion, is a hostility to High Culture and it is this hostility that the term “radical” is meant to convey. I feel that, although it sounds simply outrageous to say that Big Brother should be the centre of the school curriculum, one should take McKee seriously when he says this. I argue that what he is seeking is not the situation where the academic says “I like Joyce, and Big Brother, and Kylie and Jean Luc Godard”. Rather McKee is a proselytiser for the Low Culture. I believe he seeks the elimination of the High Culture. Now of course I am aware that there is an argument to be won here. But I should be free to pursue it. Moreover I fully intend to. I have a review of McKee’s latest book coming out soon. I hope that he will not resort once again to the MOPP to silence me but rather engage me in open public debate as intellectuals should.

I also reject that when I call McKee a radical philistine I am being personal. The term is descriptive and also explanatory. Let me be clear here I am not trying to censor poststructuralists. I would defend their right to advance their arguments, but I would also defend my right to refute them in robust debate.

(iii) Inferred that the Supervisors lacked moral judgement, appropriate ethical standards and sensitivity to the disabled community.

I actually thought I had made it quite clear that I felt moral judgement was lacking in the project Laughing at the Disabled. I think it is amoral to laugh at the disabled. Vice Chancellor I refuse to believe that you think it is moral to laugh at the disabled.

I have already touched upon the question of appropriate ethical standards. Let me enlarge here. The young men in this tape are not participating in research in which their anonymity is protected. The central thrust of this project is to let the world know about their disability and their inability to understand things like Down Under is not Sydney, that one does not go into a pub and ask for girl friends, that one doesn’t share girls etc. The joke in this series is the disability. I have no doubt that there is an audience for this kind of material. I wish there weren’t. But I did witness academics and students laugh at the disabled.

As mentioned earlier, I have reports from a number of Michael Noonan’s students describing a class last week where Noonan showed some of the material while the disabled young men remained at the back. Afterwards the young men were brought down the front and asked questions by the students. The students laughed at their attempts to answer. The autistic young man seemed confused and upset by what was going on. He seemingly could not understand why the students were laughing. I will point out though that Noonan’s continued showing of his material to first year students, is also accompanied by a refusal to show it to us or to a group of outside ethicists.

So at QUT there are students and academics who will laugh at the disabled. Outside QUT there may well be thousands more who will line up to do the same. However that does not make it right. Nor does it make it something the university should partake of.

Now the third part of this charge refers to sensitivity to the disabled community. Let me take the inference out of this once more. I say without fear that anyone who names a project “Laughing at the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts Offends and Entertains” is insensitive to the disabled community. I tender in evidence here Prof Haseman’s decision post hoc to change the title of the thesis. Why change the title if the original title was not offensive and insensitive to the disabled community? In any case you were contacted by a mainstream disability organization and unfortunately you refused to meet them.

Conclusion

Here you talk of misrepresentations. I repeat what I said at the beginning of my defence. How can I be accused of misrepresentation by people who have not seen the tape? Eventually this tape will see the light of day. Eventually someone will have the courage to ask, how this monstrous project was possible. When that happens, my reaction will be justified.

I will now talk about the knock-on effect. Of course what ever happens next will have a knock on effect. If I am sacked then the students who want to make material laughing at the disabled will be encouraged. There was a student at the seminar that got up and complained the material was not offensive enough. Sacking me will have a very pronounced knock-on effect with that student. He will be encouraged to become even more offensive. My sacking will also have a knock-on effect on the academic who came up to me and said he was shocked by the tape but that he would not say anything because he liked to keep a low profile. His profile will become even lower.

You also say that a large number of staff have raised concerns about the way in which I allegedly dealt with Michael. I am surprised at this because there were not a large number of academics at the seminar- at most twelve. I would be grateful if you could supply further details here, because quite clearly this has influenced your conclusions about the matter. In any case I am saddened by what you say, but I am not shamed by it.

It may well be that you are referring to a “large number of academics” who were not at the seminar and thus could not have seen the tape. I would like to suggest here that you permit me to arrange an occasion where the seminar tape is re-shown to all interested academics and I will explain fully to them why it is unethical. I am more than happy to debate anyone at such an occasion. The argument that the tape cannot be re-shown, because it is a work in progress is patently unreasonable. Michael Noonan was confirmed on the basis of what he showed publicly at his seminar. The tape is being shown to impressionable first year students. Why can’t it be shown to staff? Nor do I think the copyright law prevents QUT from showing the tape in public.

Allow me to stress that the victims in this affair are those people who were laughed at. Michael Noonan was not laughed at. Nor was Assoc Prof Portmann. Nor was Assoc Prof McKee. But the intellectually impaired Darren was laughed at and so was the autistic James. Let me emphasize for you, Vice Chancellor, that no one has come forward to deny that James and Darren were laughed at.

Yet I am being accused of being unfair to Michael Noonan.

Let me sum up for you, Vice Chancellor. Laughing at the disabled was an unethical project. It should never have been given ethical approval. When I complained to the Dean and she asked Prof Haseman to investigate, he should have looked at the tape and sought appropriate ethical guidance. I suggested that he approach an outside ethicist as there was and still is in my opinion a problem with the internal processes. I understand that he did not even look at the tape. He should not have accused me of misrepresentation without looking at the tape. It is my opinion that I have been treated in this instance with great disrespect. My views and concerns, when expressed through internal QUT channels, have been ignored.

I also feel I am being denied natural justice here. My health has suffered and my family has also been deeply disturbed. Nevertheless whatever I can do to stand up for the powerless, I will do, for that is the meaning I choose to give my life.

Sincerely

Gary MacLennan
9th May 2007

author by Stuartpublication date Tue Jun 12, 2007 11:30Report this post to the editors

But, Vice Chancellor .... I do not believe you have seen what was shown .... Dr Brad Haseman did not take the trouble to watch the tape .... Dr Michael Keane has not watched the tape .... the Dean of Creative Industries has not seen the tape either. So I do not see how you can understand my reaction to the tape.

It is amazing how these disciplinary Juggernauts can form, predetermined to crush certain individuals and points of view, no matter what the consequences or the collateral damage. Once set in motion the Juggernaut can not turn and can not stop without coming up against a greater force. The university here has exercised power without authority to crush apparent disloyalty and continues crushing no matter who or what (including the university's own reputation) is harmed. This Juggernaut is damaging the student, supervisor, whistleblower, university and community - and may result in the widespread screening of the original offensive material, and ultimately the withdrawal of the degree award.

It would seem logical and equitable to have concluded that the student performed to an adequate standard for the award, but within improper parameters for which the supervisor should be reprimanded, and that the university must commit to ethical standards from now on. It would also seem logical and equitable that the two whistleblowers be reprimanded for exercising their criticisms of the thesis outside the university's own procedures - assuming, of course, that procedures existed to adequately deal with gross offences of the nature created by the project and subsequent repeated screenings.

It is sad that upholding common decency can ever be seen as disloyal and treasonous, and sad that an institution of education should so utterly fail in its internal procedures that abuse spills into the international media rather than being resolved at its source.

Jagannath, people-crusher of Christian myth
Jagannath, people-crusher of Christian myth

Related Link: http://www.iol.ie/~stuartneilson/
author by Parentspublication date Tue Jun 12, 2007 13:54Report this post to the editors

QUT is an institution that has lost its mind.

As a parents of children with autism, we found Gary McLennan's description of the scenes on Noonan's tape gut-wrenchingly offensive. Having spent years trying to help them come to terms with the fact they are never going to have girlfriends, get married or have children, we have watched a deep sadness descend on them as the full significance of their limitations sinks in. It has been heartbreaking. The idea that somebody could exploit and abuse that difficulty - to set out to offend people in this situation is unbearable.

Why do people with disability deserve this treatment? We know there are plenty of people who are ready to snigger at the difficulties, but to find a university that is prepared to endorse and promote such behaviour as a form of academic enquiry beggars belief. Attempts are being made to claim that the interests of people with disability will be served by this in the long run - that we should regard this project as brilliant and original. Crap. This is self-indulgent nastiness of a very familiar sort, dressed up in pseudo-academic clothing. When the fuss has died down and this 'student' has garnered the notoriety and career opportunities that are probably his real objectives, it is people with disability and their families who will be left to pick up the pieces - in a world in which it may have been made acceptable for people to openly laugh at them. The disability community should fight back hard against this. It is directly comparable to the way in which Muslim bashing has become mainstream in the UK and elsewhere. 'Schlock and awe' describes it perfectly. The US is suffering from a nasty rash of 'shock jocks' who have set out to undo the equality and anti-prejudice gains of the human rights movement over the last 50 years, with their intolerant homophobia, sexism and racism. Now it's the turn of people with disability. This is all a part of the neo-con backdrop to rampant capitalism and wars of terror. To get away with all that you have to desensitise people to their better natures - make ignorance and prejudice fashionable - the better to recruit the various sorts of necessary human fodder to keep the project going. The Australia government has been strenuous in its efforts to support all of that, as have the Irish government. It looks as though their universities have equally been recruited to steering academic activity toward the same objective.

Noonan relies on his 'friendship' with the two young men - with disgusting disregard for the fact that they are not fully equal to understanding what friendship should be. To expand on how an autistic person might understand friendship, we discovered our youngest son being beaten up by three boys behind some playground equipment in the recent past. One was sitting on him, while the other two were taking turns to kick him and hit him. When he saw us coming he called out through his tears 'it's OK, they are being my friends.' He believes that any attention from other people is friendship. He spends much of his life wrestling with why it is that he can't fit in - that others don't want to play with him. The idea that a Noonan might come along one day and , under the pretence of being his friend, deliberately use and abuse his disability for his entertainment and personal advancement is sickening. Of course our son would, in the same way as the young men in the film, be so glad to have sustained attention from anyone, he would go along with it too. Noonan's claim to having a 'fantastic relationship' with them is the most offensive aspect of this saga.

Do the suspended academics have a website or email address to which messages of support can be sent?

author by Don McLennan - National Union of Journalistspublication date Wed Jun 13, 2007 00:06author email donmclennan at ntlworld dot comauthor address 141 Good Shepherds Glen, Derry, N.Ireland. BT47 2GBauthor phone 028 71 291262Report this post to the editors

My name is Don MacLennan. Yes - I am Dr Gary MacLennan's brother - currently residing in Derry, N.Ireland.
Sirs. I am extremely angry at the treatment my brother and his colleague Dr John Hookham have received. However, my anger is tempered somewhat when I see the support Gary and John are receiving from students at QUT, the media, and the disabled community in Brisbane. Rest assured, as a member of the NUJ (National Union of Journalists) I, along with my colleagues will be doing everything in our power to highlight this injustice internationally. The treatment of these two academics - suspension without pay for six months is nothing short of 'over-kill', and serves only to demean the University (QUT); not to mention the stain which Queensland will only be able to remove when the powers that be (such as they be) put in place legislation that will protect the disabled, and those who speak in defence of their rights. As you can imagine I have followed this event with considered interest, and to everyone who may read this I wish to say how deeply proud I am of my Brother Dr Gary MacLennan. I know his course of action in this matter was not taken lightly, and I know also that the outcome has badly effected his health and that of his family, but knowing my brother as I do I would have expected nothing less from him.
Watch this space - We have only just begun to fight.
Don McLennan NUJ027517

author by Ciaron O'Reillypublication date Wed Jun 13, 2007 19:21author address Brisbane, AustraliaReport this post to the editors

This morning's major Queensland daily reported that fresh charges may be in the offing to permanently dismiss Gary and John....
http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,20797,218963...c_rss

Today, I attended a demonstration in support of Gary and John at the downtown QUT garden Point campus.Over 60 people gathered mostly students but also members of the disabilty community in Brisbane. Two disability activists addressed the gathering, Sam Watson respected aboriginal activist also spoke powerfully in support of John and Gary, as did a number of students and academics. Gary, banned from campus addressed us briefly and powerfully from the bordering Botanic Gardens (apparently there's a "James Larkin in a boat on the Liffey 1913" tactical precedent here!).

It's always a sacred moment being in the presence of good people taking serious risks to challenge the technocratic culture of death and discrimination. Today was one of those moments as Gary spoke passionately about the serious issues surrounding this case.

Those in power are ruthless and ambitious and seem commited to persecuting these two good teachers.

Related Link: http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,20797,218963...c_rss
author by Michael Keanepublication date Thu Jun 14, 2007 17:24Report this post to the editors

People tend to have uncritical or blind faith in charismatic leaders (e.g. Hitler, Mao), charismatic cult leaders (Pauline Hansen), political ideologies (Marxism, capitalism), points of view (ethnocentrism), and gut impulses or unanalysed experience (moral panics). ... It’s interesting that John Hookham and Gary McLennan are happy to be touted as charismatic lecturers. When people give over their intellectual autonomy, they become emotionally dependent and open to exploitation. ... These are people paid handsomely by the state. Years of working in the sheltered workshop of the university has dulled their intellects. ...

CONTINUED AT

http://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/philistin...-1252

RELATED LINK

Related Link: http://www.creativeindustries.qut.edu.au/about_us/staff...ofile
author by Parentpublication date Thu Jun 14, 2007 17:51Report this post to the editors

Michael Keane's post about Hookham and McLennan amounts almost exclusively to personal abuse and unsubstantiated allegations. In contrast, McLennan has set out a detailed explanation of what and why he found this thesis objectionable.

A critical aspect of my son's autism is that he has severe delay/disorder with receptive language skills while his expressive skills are quite good. This means that he does not understand a lot of what is said to him although he seems articulate and comprehending. Because of the discrepancy between these aspects of his speech ability, his intellectual ability is constantly over-estimated by other people. When you are caring for someone with this sort of subtle difficulty, it is a severe source of strain, offence and anxiety for him that very often other people refuse to accept the true extent of his disability. You have to advocate for him - he would be at tremenduous risk if you did not. That is the nature of intellectual difficulty. It has nothing whatever to do with taking away a right to autonomy - a bizarre and insensitive accusation to throw at McLennan and Hookham - one of whose children has autism and the other of which has a family member with schizophrenia. An autistic person has the right to be protected from exploitation - it is a serious intellectual difficulty to be afflicted with.

author by Suepublication date Thu Jun 14, 2007 18:18Report this post to the editors

Perhaps Dr Michael Keane, in his post, should have noted that he was one of the people who gave the dissertation ethical clearance in the first place. He has also refused to admit seeing the outcoming videotape and thereby refuses to acknowledge any ethical difficulties it raises. Dr Keane is ARC Centre Fellow at QUT, m.keane@qut.edu.au and one of the "philistines" at the heart of this obnoxious affair.

Related Link: http://www.creativeindustries.qut.com/about_us/staff-pr...01518
author by Carthagepublication date Fri Jun 15, 2007 05:58Report this post to the editors

Having attended the rally in support of Gary and John, at QUT, on Wednesday, I was touched by the speech given by Dr Gary McLennan. It was truly heartfelt and inspiring and it made me realise that only cowards would seek to make or defend a film which by its very title seeks to do little but mock those who cannot defend themselves, and to offend anyone with a conscience. When they attack the dignity of good people in this way, the only result can be a loss of their own dignity.

It is clear to me that Gary and John understand the role of a lecturer or an educator. It is not just to teach classes and grade exams. It is to shape the leaders of tomorrow, those who will carry our society forward. Do we really want to live in a world where the defenceless are mocked, manipulated and ridiculed so that we may get a cheap laugh. Or, do we want to live in a world where we are grateful for the lessons these people teach us, and the great gifts and joy they bring into our lives.

Gary and John, by speaking out you have not only defended those with disabilities, you have forced many of us to take a closer look at our conscience to ensure that we do not follow in the footsteps of the many cowards within QUT.

Thank you for the lesson and God bless you.

Carthage

author by Stephi Donald - Univ of Technology Sydneypublication date Fri Jun 15, 2007 13:26author address Institute for International Studies, University of Technology SydneyReport this post to the editors

Dear Michael,

I wish you and your project partners well in completing your project. Your previous work has been extremely well thought through and ethically sound, as is the work of your supervisor (Alan) and people like Michael Keane, with whom I have worked on many occasions. Michael’s comments on intellectual bullying by people who use charisma to cloud fact, is well taken and the stuff of a true intellect at work on eh side of justice,

Stephi

http://sitesearch.uts.edu.au/iis/research/person.lasso?...d=113

Related Link: http://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/philistin...unive
author by Rauri Mannixpublication date Fri Jun 15, 2007 16:49Report this post to the editors

I've been following the developments of this controversy -- albeit from afar, and via the internet. The latest article seems to be this one:

ONE man's exercise of his freedom of speech is another man's vicious, unwarranted and inaccurate personal attack.
That's the "two sides of the story" that has led to the suspension without pay for six months of two Queensland
University of Technology academics, Gary MacLennan and John Hookham. ... MacLennan and Hookham have suffered
a financial loss of about $40,000 each, and at the age of 64, it is questionable whether MacLennan has the stomach to
return to the university. As for Noonan, who has been portrayed nationally as an exploiter of the disabled, his reputation
has hardly been enhanced. Free speech, for all concerned, has come at a high cost. (http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,2191....html)

And there's an interview with the PhD student himself (Michael Noonan) that was shown on Australian TV yesterday, and is now up on YouTube (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oWAWRmWcwSs)

Now, it seems to me, as it does to others who've been following this case, that the supervisor of this project needs to brought into the mix more than he has so far. Gary MacLennan, in his letter to the VC of QUT, names this supervisor: Assoc Professor Alan McKee. And McKee seems to be a man who loves controversy -- both in his everyday working life at the university (as outlined by Gary MacLennan in his reponse to the VC's charge that MacLennan was disrespectful to McKee -- see above), and in his professional life as a writer and academic (http://www.butterfliesandwheels.com/notescomment1.php?i...ts=44 and scroll to the bottom of the page); as well as someone who has shaped the controversial, and ethically questionable, content of a pervious PhD student's work (http://homecookedtheory.com/archives/2007/04/11/its-the...52528).

Some questions come to mind:

-- Is Noonan, as a postgrad student, merely a convenient launching pad for personal attacks made by both sides against the other? And if so, where's the ethics in this?
-- Why is Noonan taking the flak for all of this, when it would be a reasonable assumption that he was acting on the advice of McKee to provide the theoretical justification for his work?
-- Is there a personal grudge betweem MacLennan and McKee that's being played out here? And, if so, how did this morph into a 'freedom of speech' and 'academic freedom' argument?
-- Why isn't McKee out there defending his student and the student's work?
-- To what extent has McKee's approach to his work, which seems to be deliberately controversial and confronting, influenced Noonan, and should Noonan be held accountable for listening to, and acting upon, the advice of his supervisor?

I could go on, but suffice to say, it does seem that the issues here are as much personal as they are anything else.

If this all goes to court, as the commentary on the YouTube link above mentions, we should all be watching the outcome as it might very well set a precedent for all of us interested in free speech within academic institutions; and to what extent the personalities of academics may both help and hinder the work and future careers of their students (esp postgrad students).

author by kirkpublication date Sat Jun 16, 2007 15:36Report this post to the editors

Not that anyone is really that interested, but ...

I knew i'd heard the name of Alan Mckee from QUT somewhere before.

I'm a wee bit of a fan of Dr Who, and came across an online article by this guy a while back (at least his talk about Dr Who is tamer than some of the other stuff from hims that's been linked too in the post by Rauri).

So, for not particular reason, here's a pic of the guy that's caused so many of the problems in Oz as a result of supervising a project that laughs at people with disablities.

IMAGE SOURCE:

http://dialogue.media-culture.org.au/node/2?page=0%2C6

Associate Professor Alan McKee runs the Television degree in Creative Industries Faculty at QUT. His hobbies include dancing, cooking and showing disrespect to traditional forms of authority (especially philosophers). His latest book is Beautiful Things i
Associate Professor Alan McKee runs the Television degree in Creative Industries Faculty at QUT. His hobbies include dancing, cooking and showing disrespect to traditional forms of authority (especially philosophers). His latest book is Beautiful Things i

author by Bernie Dowlingpublication date Mon Jun 18, 2007 08:17Report this post to the editors

I know the blog author Ciaron and Gary and the journo at the centre of the strife and I havwe a 10-year-old intellectually disabled son. But I think I take a contrary view See my blog at www.steelehill.blogspot.com

Related Link: http://www.steelehill.blogspot.com
author by Parentpublication date Mon Jun 18, 2007 10:37Report this post to the editors

"I believe it [the title 'Laughing at the disabled'] needs to be judged in the context of the film.

Well, evidently the author and QUT themselves realised that the title couldnt be justified in the context of the film because they have now changed it to imply something quite different: 'Laughing with the disabled'. This doesn't seem likely be an accurate title though, since Noonan sepcifically states that he is out to offend. That's not laughing with, that is laughing at.

"Champions of the rights of the disabled cannot have it both ways. You cannot say they are marginalised and made invisible and then condemn a film title which places them front and centre."

Bollox. Being front and centre in a context that demeans and strengthens predjudice does nothing but further marginalise people with disability. From the descriptions of those who have seen excerpts, this film is clearly a self-indulgent attempt to cultivate personal notoriety - and these young men and their families have allowed themselves to be used for the purpose. Tragic that noone involved gives a damn about the potential negative impacts on many lives that they will probably never even get to hear about. And spare us the pseudo academic bullshit about ironic humour and it all being very clever and helpful in some way that only the truly perceptive will understand. The clever dicks can enjoy their little joke - their 'right' to entertain themselves at other's expense. Their motives are clear from their failure to object to the suspension of their colleagues. At the very least, you'd think they'd be consistent if they meant even a word of what they say about free speech and defend other people's right to say why they object to the film.

author by Michael Noonan - Queensland University of Technologypublication date Mon Jun 18, 2007 14:23Report this post to the editors

Here are some facts to clear up a little confusion: I showed several clips at my confirmation seminar, some from "Unlikely Travellers" and some from "Darren and James: Downunder Mystery Tour". My thesis explores issues from both shows: understanding the new show requires the context of the first. My intent, integrity and character have been questioned from many quarters in this debate: viewing "Unlikely Travellers" -- a complete work which includes the same characters -- might allay some of the concerns people may have about the kind of work I am capable of.

MacLennan was quoted in The Australian on April 11 (page 3) as saying that "Unlikely Travellers" -- which he has seen -- was "warm and beautiful". He then went on to write (with Hookham), in their opinion piece in the same paper (pg 33):

"Capping off this reality show format, the candidate asked Craig and William on camera what they would do if a girl fancied both of them. When William, a sufferer of Asperger's syndrome, twitched and was unable to answer, the university audience broke into laughter. Then Craig replied: "We would share her." This, it seems, was also funny for the university audience. They had clearly "got it".

This clip is not only incorrectly described and misrepresented -- the quote is wrong, the speaker is wrong and there was no "twitching" or an "inability to answer" -- but it is from "Unlikely Travellers", NOT from the show they were attacking. I've spent two years on the project -- I know every scene and every line of dialogue.

To explain this extremely inaccurate representation of my work, I need only refer to my original letter to The Australian (May 9), in which I indicated that MacLennan and Hookham were clearly not listening at my confirmation. [Reposted here http://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/philistin...-1229]

I will clarify the facts AGAIN so that people refrain from misrepresenting my work in a public forum: The program I am making is called "Darren and James: Downunder Mystery Tour". It was never formally known as "Laughing at the disabled".

My thesis, the actual title of my research project, is called "Laughing with the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains. Yes, I changed it from AT to WITH because certain people did not appear to have the intellect to understand it in the context of what I am attempting to explore.

Humour is very subjective: I don't particularly care if you didn't find the D&J promotional trailer funny. Darren and James, and their parents and advocates, think it's hilarious. Other people at the lecture did also: in fact, the majority of students present. They laughed and engaged. If a small minority felt guilty or uncomfortable afterwards, that's their problem. If they felt guilty because Darren and James were there, that's something they need to deal with personally.

Please refrain from attacking or attempting to analyse my work if you do not know the facts, do not understand postgraduate procedures, have never visited Spectrum or talked to them, and have no understanding of the financial structure of the production.

Related Link: http://www.abc.net.au/news/opinion/items/200706/s195212...5.htm
author by Parentpublication date Mon Jun 18, 2007 22:21Report this post to the editors

Noonan:

"My thesis, the actual title of my research project, is called "Laughing with the Disabled: Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains. Yes, I changed it from AT to WITH because certain people did not appear to have the intellect to understand it in the context of what I am attempting to explore."

As I said earlier:

...spare us the pseudo academic bullshit about ironic humour and it all being very clever and helpful in some way that only the truly perceptive will understand. The clever dicks can enjoy their little joke - their 'right' to entertain themselves at other's expense. Their motives are clear from their failure to object to the suspension of their colleagues. At the very least, you'd think they'd be consistent if they meant even a word of what they say about free speech and defend other people's right to say why they object to the film.

As if Noonan's 'attempt to explore' is all the consideration or intellect that is needed.

Not a word from Noonan about any of that.

author by Stuartpublication date Mon Jun 18, 2007 23:22Report this post to the editors

Of course you don't particularly care if I didn't find your video funny, and it is something I need "to deal with personally", in addition to responding publicly to the public events you have created.

As for "refraining from attacking or attempting to analyse my work if I do not know the facts", all my comments relate to the blatant injustice of suspending two faculty members for (Karmic humour) offending YOU and YOUR supervisor.

Related Link: http://www.iol.ie/~stuartneilson/
author by Link Astorpublication date Mon Jul 02, 2007 17:27Report this post to the editors

It seems that the negative public reaction to Assoc Prof Alan McKee's initiating disciplinary action against two QUT academics who opposed a PhD thesis McKee was supervising (a thesis based on laugh at the disabled), and his has had some impact. His bio on his University's website has just changed from this:

Associate Professor Alan McKee likes Big Brother, pornography, Kylie
Minogue, and New Weekly magazine. This does not mean that he is
any less intelligent than people who like the films of Jean-Luc Goddard,
novels by James Joyce or any kind of performance art (all of which he
finds distasteful).

to this::

Associate Professor Alan McKee has spent his career involved in
research that fights for the rights of minority cultures and opposing
oppression and bullying in all its forms.

(see http://www.creativeindustries.qut.edu.au/about_us/staff...05037 )

Does this mean that McKee now regards himself as being the victim of bullying? Is this going to be his tactic to fight any legal action that MacLennan and Hookham might bring against QUT (and perhaps McKee himself)?

The problem here is that McKee cannot erase his past so easily. On many websites he's printed similar bios that expose him to be a seeker of controversy and fame (or should that be 'infamy').

Perhaps McKee is now appreciating that there are personal consequences when he denyied two of his colleagues the right to speak by initiating disciplinary action against them.

Of course, it could also be a cynical move to defend his own position regarding pornography: his defence of pornography is quite well documented in newspapers such as The Sydney Morning Herald. Unfortunately for McKee, Australian Prime Minister John Howard has just made the banning of porn in Aboriginal communities part of his campaign against Aborginal child abuse by Aborginal men. I'd go so far as to say that McKee is also establishing his right to study porn -- as part of his academic freedom. If so, how ironic would that be?

Sorry, Prof McKee. You cannot now claim to be the real victim of workplace bullying. You should have thought of the consequences to your own reputation before initiating a disciplinary process against your colleagues.

Image Sources (01-07-2007):
http://www.constellations.co.nz/?sec=1&ssec=22
http://theexpertguide.com/!AssociateProfessorAlanMcKee!_2435.aspx

Prof Alan McKee: Expert pornography, porn, gay representation, queer representation
Prof Alan McKee: Expert pornography, porn, gay representation, queer representation

McKee likes Big Brother, pornography, Kylie Minogue, and New Weekly magazine. This does not mean that he is any less intelligent than people who like the films of Jean-Luc Goddard, novels by James Joyce or any kind of performance art (all of which
McKee likes Big Brother, pornography, Kylie Minogue, and New Weekly magazine. This does not mean that he is any less intelligent than people who like the films of Jean-Luc Goddard, novels by James Joyce or any kind of performance art (all of which

Related Link: http://www.creativeindustries.qut.edu.au/about_us/staff...05037
author by Jim McIlroy - Brisbanepublication date Tue Jul 03, 2007 18:50Report this post to the editors

QUT, with its resources and expensive lawyers is fighting back. “It’s a major battle” [Gary] MacLennan [has] said, “but we will win if we get public support”.

For MacLennan, this campaign is about more than his right to teach and free speech. “It’s a battle for the worth of human beings. It’s not a coincidence that QUT has attacked me. They stand for one thing, and I stand for something quite different.”

Continued here http://www.greenleft.org.au/2007/716/37181

author by Georgepublication date Tue Jul 03, 2007 20:27Report this post to the editors

Early on in the post "Gary MacLennan's Reply to the Vice Chancellor Re: Charges of Misconduct" (Authored by Defendant Response, Publication Date Mon Jun 11, 2007 20:22) Gary says that "It is equally unusual in my experience to have an academic sport a t-shirt which has a stick figure masturbating over a book. Yet Assoc Prof McKee has sported such t-shirts in front of students."

I did think it was unusual, and unexpected because I didn't think lecturers were allowed to do wear this kind of thing around campus.

The t-shirt is quite easy to get. The thing that came to my mind when I saw Alan wearing it was that he's way too old to be wearing it. I mean, it's a t-shirt worn mainly by undergraduates, but no on campus (not that I've noticed anyway).

Is Gary saying he was offended by Alan's t-shirt? I'm not sure how Alan McKee's t-shirt connects to Gary's complaints about Alan McKee denying Gary academic freedom, and so on.

t-shirt worn by some undergraduates when not on campus
t-shirt worn by some undergraduates when not on campus

author by jimmy friendpublication date Tue Jul 03, 2007 20:47Report this post to the editors

Look let the 2 of them just retire there too long in that university.let young blood have their say..they will have big pensions anyway

author by Peter Thomaspublication date Tue Jul 10, 2007 19:44Report this post to the editors

if anyone's still watching, the Oz HES has just reported that the new charges against M&H have been laid, and M&H's day in court challenging their suspension is Thursday 12. Also, Michael Noonan will be showing his previous tv series 'Unlikely Travelers' at the Brisbane International Film Festival.

Related Link: http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,20867,2205....html
author by Solidaritypublication date Tue Jul 24, 2007 22:49Report this post to the editors

PRESS RELEASE

The following brochure will be distributed by staff, students, public intellectuals and members of the community at QUT’s open day on Sunday, July, 29th, 2007.

The distributors will be wearing T-Shirts encouraging potential students and parents to ask them to “tell them about the QUT”.

As well, we will be encouraging the Vice-Chancellor Peter Coaldrake to have the intellectual courage to debate staff and students on the steps outside his office on the issues raised in our leaflet.

We urge Professor John Hartley, Stuart Cunningham, Professor Brad Haseman, Assoc Professor Terry Flew, Assoc Professor Alan McKee, Geoff Portmann and Michael Noonan to explain their ardent support for Coaldrake’s position.

At a time in Australian history when what it means to be human is under attack by the cowardly politics of governments, both Liberal and Labor, we congratulate those members of the judiciary and the media who are strenously trying to defend free speech and civil liberties in all areas of our lives from insidious and creeping government control.

While we can’t say we didn’t expect such behaviour from academic attack-dogs for management, it’s always a shock to see so much cowardice emanating from people in such privileged institutions.

Come on, you frightened academics and citizens, Free Speech requires exercising it and always defending it - there are no exceptions to the rule at any time, at any place in the world. Or one morning you will wake up in a totalitarian world!!

Solidarity with Gary McLennan & John Hookham Committee
Contacts: Brian Laver and Bernie Neville
admin@ahimsahouse.com.au
Tel: 3846 5077
Fax: 3846 7238
LEAFLETTING: from 9am
FORUM: When: 10am-12noon – Sunday, 29th July, 2007.
Where: Outside U Block, Gardens Point Campus.
Speakers:

Chairperson: Sam Watson - Indigenous Rights Activist

Invited Speakers:
Brian Laver Free Speech and Civil Rights Activist during Bjelke-
Petersen’s Regime.
Bernie Neville ETU Worker/Rank & File Activist during SEQEB strike against
Petersen.
Open Forum to follow

All invited speakers have indicated their preparedness to be arrested. Given the Vice-Chancellor’s predeliction for strong arm tactics, as in the suspension without pay of MacLennan and Hookham; the arrest of students at Kelvin Grove Campus in early 2007 and the arrests last week at QUT’s Gardens Point Campus. All speakers should anticipate arrest.
QUT: THE UNIVERSITY FOR THE DUMBED-DOWN WORLD
DON’T GO THERE

QUT has attacked Free Speech. It is at war with the disability community. It has closed its humanities faculty at Carseldine

QUT has suspended two senior academics John Hookham and Gary MacLennan because they blew the whistle on a PHD project called LAUGHING AT THE DISABLED: CREATING COMDEDY THAT CONFRONTS, OFFENDS AND ENTERTAINS. The project involved putting two intellectually impaired men into situations where they appeared foolish. This was done so they could be laughed at and the film then sold to the ABC. That is QUT “research” for you. Hookham and MacLennan’s “crime” is that they went public about this scandal. So QUT attacks academics who publish articles in the mainstream press. It has also had students arrested for handing out leaflets.

QUT must be made to understand Free Speech is a right and not a privilege that the VC doles out like a charity. Do you want to go to a university where academics are punished for speaking out? Do you want to go to a university where the staff live in fear? Do you want to go to a university where student meetings are broken up by police?

QUT has refused to meet with mainstream disability groups to discuss Laughing at the Disabled. It has told the disability groups in effect to bugger off. It has refused to make its ethical procedures open to proper external supervision. Disabled men have been brought into lectures and students have laughed at them. Do you want to go to a university where students are encouraged to laugh at the disabled?

QUT has closed down its Humanities faculty at Carseldine. It has turned its back on those subjects that encourage students to think and to be critical. Instead the VC has said that Creative Industries is the future. What kind of future does Creative Industries offer you? Go there and you will find lecturers who say they prefer pornography to performance art. Go there and you will find lecturers who say that Big Brother is more important than Shakespeare. Go there and you will find lecturers who tell you to burn books. That is the future Creative Industries offers you. You will get an endless dose of Reality Television. Why choose a university that actually wants to dumb you down?

What they will not tell you on Open Day is that a recent review said that Creative Industries can only survive in its present state for two years. Creative Industries is in financial trouble. Last year QUT came a dismal 37th out of the 38 Australian universities in terms of satisfaction with its teaching. Go to and type in “Laughing at the Disabled QUT” and “QUT International Students Speak Out “ to learn the truth.

Do yourself a favour. Go To Griffith or UQ.

author by John Traceypublication date Thu Jul 26, 2007 03:53author email kurityityn at yahoo dot comiReport this post to the editors

Hello, I am from Brisbane, Australia and I am very concerned about how this campaign has developed.

Firstly I support the issues of free speech and support the reinstatement of the 2 academics.

However, the attitude towards disability described in the their article "Philistines no longer at the gate" is a conservative and oppressive one that portrays people with disabilities as powerless, vulnerable and in the words of MacLennan "less fortunate than ourselves".

The sad irony is that the Australian progressive movement is abuzz in their support for the persecuted academics and in so doing have regurgitated the same dehumanising perspective of people with disabilty and promoted it as the frontline of this campaign.

I beg to differ! This link is to my response to MacLennan and Hookham's article.
http://paradigmoz.wordpress.com/2007/07/23/laughing-at-...dice/

There has been much malicious disinformation distributed about Michael Noonan's work including the following story from times online,
http://www.timesonline.co.uk/tol/life_and_style/educati...7.ece
which says.................
“The film, called Laughing at the Disabled, featured two mentally handicapped men who were sent into a bar to ask if there were any women looking for romance. One of them was severely beaten by a drunken Aboriginal woman.”

The truth is this "drunken Aboriginal woman" kissed the man affectionately.

I was quite disturbed by Gary and John’s criticism of this Pub scene in Noonan’s rushes. It seems that the critique not only dehumanises men with disabilities as asexual children, it also dehumanises Aboriginal women with an apparent stereotype of a drunken slut. It seems to me that what may at worst be a sexual joke in a pub (how unusual) between two consenting adults, has been represented as a drunken slut molesting a child.

The speculative sensationalism that has characterised the campaign against Noonan’s work has been extended to the international reporting including inflaming ignorant criticism of Noonan’s work and international stereotypes of Aboriginal women and Aboriginal violence.

Here is a short clip from Noonan's work which indicates his attitude to humour.
http://paradigmoz.wordpress.com/2007/07/25/still-laughi...bled/

author by John Traceypublication date Thu Aug 30, 2007 17:17Report this post to the editors

All the footage criticised by MacLennan and Hookham has now been made publically available.

http://paradigmoz.wordpress.com/2007/08/31/laughing-at-...bits/

author by from Dr. John Hookam & Dr. Gary MacLennanpublication date Fri Aug 31, 2007 14:37author address Brisbane, AustraliaReport this post to the editors

OPINION PIECE

By Dr John Hookham and Dr Gary MacLennan

What’s Empowering About Laughing at the Disabled?

Preamble:

Dr John Hookham and Dr Gary MacLennan are senior lecturers in the Creative Industries Faculty of QUT. In June this year they were suspended without pay for 6 months after they were found guilty of showing disrespect to filmmaker Michael Noonan and bringing the University into disrepute.

We welcome Michael Noonan’s decision to finally publish the excerpts from Laughing At the Disabled. It has only taking five months, our suspension, student rallies, Federal Court proceedings for breach of contract, a complaint to the Human Rights and Equal Opportunity Commission, an application for Whistleblower protection, a battery of lawyers, Alan Jones our constant urgings and tens of thousands of dollars of taxpayer’s money for him to do what he could always have done rather than prosecuting us for misconduct.
It’s a great pity that it is not what we saw or heard on 20 March 2007 at his PhD presentation.

The presentation on the website has been reworked. There is a new spin in town. It is no longer about comedy which exploits and offends. Now it is about empowerment.

This sanitized version has led Tess Livingstone to wrongly conclude that the ensuing controversy is a storm in a teacup. By extension she is on the side of that group of people who oppose the New Mexico government’s intentions to prosecute the film producers who left 40 children in a desert town for 40 days to fend for themselves. Darren and Jones are now likened to Kath and Kim and Mother & Son.

But Kath does not exist in reality. She is a fictional character. In reality “Kath” is Jane Turner, professional actor, married to a lawyer, mother of 3 children and honorary United Nations Refugee Ambassador. Kim does not exist in reality either. She is fictional too In reality Kim is Gina Riley, professional actor, married to a TV producer and mother of a ten year old daughter.

Darren and James are …… well they are Darren and James. They are not married to lawyers or film producers or indeed to anyone. They are not United Nations’ Ambassadors. They are not fictional. They are not professional actors. They are human beings with intellectual disabilities. They do not work or run a business. They do not give interviews or issue press releases simply because they can’t. Michael Noonan speaks on their behalf and tells us what they think. James’ mother tells us what James feels. Tess Livingstone now tells us that they are not offended by the film because Michael Noonan told her they were not. She tells us that Michael’s intentions are ‘honorable’. They were also about making money. We have heard from everybody about Darren and James’ thoughts and feelings – except from the people that count: Darren & James.

And now months after we asked for the video to be shown at our disciplinary hearings, we learn while eating our cornflakes this morning that Michael Noonan has uploaded a version of the tape on to the Courier Mail website together with a trailer explaining his motivations. We uploaded a trailer on to You Tube and now face further misconduct charges for defending ourselves in exactly the way that Michael Noonan now seeks to defend himself. There will be no charges against Michael Noonan just as there will be no retaliation against Tess Livingstone by the Press Council. There are no disciplinary proceedings in place against our colleagues who defamed and scandalized us in secret reports they made to our Dean. All are free to express their dissent with our opinion their disgust with us personally without reprisal. We alone are suspended, robbed of our career, reviled on the campus and prosecuted to the full extent of the Vice Chancellor’s powers.

But is our society so brutalized by years of reality TV that we can no longer see mockery and ridicule for what it is? Why would we laugh at a young man whose face twitches not because he is acting but because his genuine and severe limited speech abilities fail him when he is asked about a girlfriend? Why would we hoot at him holding a pencil with a horse’s head struggling to write down answers that he cannot comprehend? Why would we smile as James struggles to put an ironing board in the boot because he does know how to fold it? Why are we amused when Darren and James cannot erect a tent with a hammer which we able bodied and minded people know is a toy and is too small to knock the pegs into the ground? Haven’t we laughed enough at staggering aboriginal people draped over a drink?

It’s funny when you’re doing the laughing.

It’s a hoot when you’re filming these antics.

It’s funny when it’s other people.

But we did not think it was funny. Ironically we were prosecuted for misconduct for doing no more than telling Michael Noonan and his collaborators that they had achieved their ambition. He told us that he wanted to ‘confront and offend’. We told him we were confronted and offended. He told us that he had made a film which laughed at the disabled. We saw what he had done and told him it was reprehensible to laugh at the disabled. He had us charged with misconduct and Peter Coaldrake and the entire institutional power of QUT stood toe to toe with him. Those that laughed are free to go on laughing. Those that didn’t ….. . Well that’s us and we have been punished, suspended, exiled and reviled.

Tess Livingstone and Peter Coaldrake have both quoted Henry Kissinger’s remark that academic politics is so vicious because there is so little at stake. We grant the viciousness. Tell us about it! However we would point out that for the disabled and their families who love and support them laughing at the disabled is not a trivial matter. What Michael Noonan has done is to legitimize the ridicule and mockery of those with a disabled. Thanks to QUT sniggering at the intellectually impaired it is again ‘cool’ to laugh at the disabled.

author by John Traceypublication date Wed Sep 05, 2007 13:10Report this post to the editors

Michael Noonan has released the controversial film footage shown at his confirmation hearing to the public.

You can see it on this link

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,223349....html

I urge you to look at the footage and make up your own mind whether the things that MacLennan and Hookham have said of it is true.

author by Peterpublication date Fri Sep 28, 2007 01:10Report this post to the editors

May, the indigenous lady featured in Noonan's doco, takes issue with the suggestion that she gave a release for the footage, knew she was being filmed at the time, and is at all pleased with the experience.

The u-toob flik is here

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PM0HYYBKblg&eurl=http%3A...Ehtml

the first post about it here

http://ethicalmartini.blogspot.com/2007/09/i-have-just-....html

and a second here

http://ethicalmartini.blogspot.com/2007/09/nmhrc-to-inv....html

author by Marcuspublication date Mon Oct 29, 2007 10:41Report this post to the editors

The (Brisbane) Courier-Mail, October 27-28, 2007 (p.24)

RUCKUS ON CAMPUS A CINEMATIC EVENT

Ugly scenes broke out at QUT's Kelvin Grove [Brisbane] campus yesterday [Friday Oct 26 2007] as two senior [lecturers/]academics at the centre of a long-running row attempted to re-enter their workplace. Campus security was called when two academics, Gary MacLennan and John Hookham, attempted to access the staff area in a Creative Industries Building.

Dr Hookham said he and Dr MacLennan had every right to enter the workplace because they had been reinstated in an out-of-court settlement with QUT [Queensland University of Technology] on October 16. He said the settlement also included $100,000 in damages for each.

The academics were taking the University to the Federal Court to have a disciplinary decision against them from earlier this year declared null and void. In June they were suspended without pay for six months for their public criticisms of a PhD project then entitled 'Laughing at the Disabled.'

Dr Hookham said he found yesterday's incident "deeply upsetting" and wanted to speak to his psychiatrist before he returned to full-time work.

QUT sources who phoned The Courier-Mail said the two lecturers arrived on campus being filmed by Adrian Strong, a filmmaker and creative industries teacher. Mr Strong said that during the incident Michael Noonan, the PhD student at the centre of the original row, appeared filming film filming the academics.

QUT vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake was not available for comment.

Hookham and MacLennan denied access to QUT
Hookham and MacLennan denied access to QUT

author by Felixpublication date Fri Nov 02, 2007 12:26author address BrisbaneReport this post to the editors

[Apologies for reproducing the complete article, but I thought it should be archived on this site before it was removed from the original source; and it shows that, in the end, Gary MacLennan's stand against QUT and its Creative Industries Faculty -- for denying him his freedom-of-speech in such draconian way -- was vindicated.]

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,2269....html

THE AUSTRALIAN
Higher Education
November 02, 2007

Suspended academic quits

A QUEENSLAND academic in a dispute that erupted after he and a colleague publicly berated a student's film has reached a settlement and resigned.

Garry MacLennan and John Hookham criticised the student's work in a piece published in The Australian newspaper.

Queensland University of Technology then imposed a penalty of six months' suspension without pay in what became a much-publicised academic dispute around Australia and, due to its internet exposure, internationally.

Dr MacLennan has now told colleagues that the pair have reached a confidential settlement with QUT and that he has resigned.

An email from Dr MacLennan [see the MacLennan email below] to associates dated November 1 said details of the settlement were confidential.

"This is to notify you that John Hookham and I have reached a settlement with the university," the email says.

"The details of the settlement are confidential but the upshot is that I have resigned from QUT."

Dr MacLennan said an earlier proposed settlement had awarded him $100,000.

"I had intended to accept the university's first offer which we had reached as a settlement of the Federal Court proceedings.

"That settlement awarded me $100,000 dollars in damages plus costs. The findings of the misconduct tribunal conducted by Barry Nutter were also set aside and my suspension was lifted."

"I wished in those circumstances to fulfill my promise to my students to return to work.

"However on Friday afternoon when John Hookham and I went back to Kelvin Grove Campus to get some personal belongings, we were refused entry. In what was the ugliest scene of my professional career a young postgraduate student slammed the door against me.

"Fortunately I was not injured. I am 65 years old. I have a bad back and am being treated for a serious heart condition. The young man who endeavored to ram the door against me was not alive when I began to teach at Kelvin Grove Campus.

"I wish to say that my career at QUT spans four decades. I have worked for principals and directors who never agreed with my politics and who no doubt regarded me as a nuisance. But to be fair to them they respected my right to dissent. Moreover they would never have tolerated the kind of vigilantism that I was subjected to on Friday.

"I hold no enmity against the postgraduate student who attacked me, but his actions brought home very forcibly to me that I was not safe at QUT and accordingly I yielded to the urgings of my doctors and my lawyers and I resigned."

Dr MacLennan listed people he wished to thank for their support: they included his lawyers, fellow academics and [the Sydney radio station] 2GB's Alan Jones.

"I cannot name all those current staff and students at QUT who have given me support for obvious reasons. But I can and will express my deepest thanks to Alan Jones from 2GB.

"He and I are from different ends of the political spectrum, yet when I sought his help he did not hesitate to put my case to his audience. For that decency I can never thank him enough. He will always have my prayers.

"I must make mention too of the fearless historian Ross Fitzgerald who spoke out for me and John, though I have been critical to the point of cruelty of him in the past.

"To my family in Ireland, America and here in Australia, I return fully the love you have given me in such abundance."

author by Felixpublication date Fri Nov 02, 2007 12:29author address BrisbaneReport this post to the editors

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,2269....html

THE AUSTRALIAN
Higher Education
November 02, 2007

Gary MacLennan's email

This is to notify you that John Hookham and I have reached a settlement with the university. The details of the settlement are confidential but the upshot is that I have resigned from QUT. I had intended to accept the university's first offer which we had reached as a settlement of the Federal Court proceedings. That settlement awarded me $100,000 in damages plus costs. The findings of the misconduct tribunal conducted by Barry Nutter were also set aside and my suspension was lifted.

I wished in those circumstances to fulfill my promise to my students to return to work. However on Friday afternoon when John Hookham and I went back to Kelvin Grove Campus to get some personal belongings, we were refused entry. In what was the ugliest scene of my professional career a young post graduate student slammed the door against me. Fortunately I was not injured. I am 65 years old. I have a bad back and am being treated for a serious heart condition. The young man who endeavored to ram the door against me was not alive when I began to teach at Kelvin Grove Campus. I wish to say that my career at QUT spans four decades. I have worked for principals and directors who never agreed with my politics and who no doubt regarded me as a nuisance. But to be fair to them they respected my right to dissent. Moreover they would never have tolerated the kind of vigilantism that I was subjected to on Friday.

I hold no enmity against the post graduate student who attacked me, but his actions brought home very forcibly to me that I was not safe at QUT and accordingly I yielded to the urgings of my doctors and my lawyers and I resigned.

I wish now to thank you for your support. I and my family have endured dark hours in this struggle. At times it looked like John and I would be crushed and driven into penury. But thanks to your help and the courage and tenacity of my wonderful and brilliant lawyers Stephen Kerin and Susan Moriarty, I and John have survived. I thank you all again from my heart.

It is a terrible thing to pick out a few from the many people who have walked with me through these dark hours. I wish first to name those former colleagues Hugh Childers, Noel Preston, John Bisset, Merv Welch, Graham Bruce and Nea Stewart-Dore. The warmth of their support was a bitter sweet reminder to me of what teaching at QUT used to be like. In this context I wish to mention my personal and professional debt to the late Basil Shaw, Ken Leask and Clem Young. They were great educators, whose example and spirit were always with me in the decades that I have worked at QUT. From them I learned that any leadership in education which is not based on ethics and morality will be as nothing.

I cannot name all those current staff and students at QUT who have given me support for obvious reasons. But I can and will express my deepest thanks to Alan Jones from 2GB. He and I are from different ends of the political spectrum, yet when I sought his help he did not hesitate to put my case to his audience. For that decency I can never thank him enough. He will always have my prayers. I also wish to mention my old and honoured friend Mildred Grant whom fate and the powers have given to me as a gift and an inspiration. For over 12 years we have met every Sunday to read our Shakespeare and, when I can prevail upon her, my beloved Dickens. She is now in her tenth decade and is very frail but she has been with me always in the worst times. I wish also to speak of the brave Adrian Strong whose videos on youtube.com/globaldawning have documented our struggles and agonies.

I must say a special thanks to those members of the disability community who expressed to me and John their support and thanks. I offer as well a special thanks to my good comrades - Lou Proyect whose Marxism list is a bright light in a dark world; Sam Watson - Indigenous Activist extraordinaire; Ciaron O'Reilly of the Catholic Workers, and Jim McIlroy of the Socialist Alliance.

In addition I give thanks to Brian Laver who has endeavored over the years to explain to me the necessity of speaking truth to power as well as to domination and who did not betray those ideals as he stood by my side in person, with spirit and at court against the might of QUT. I must make mention too of the fearless historian Ross Fitzgerald who spoke out for me and John, though I have been critical to the point of cruelty of him in the past. But he is a good man whose commitment to free speech is non-negotiable and he has acted accordingly, although he appears to have paid a great price for speaking out in support of John and me. To my family in Ireland, America and here in Australia I return fully the love you have given me in such
abundance.

I ask you all now to know that I have survived and am well.

Gary MacLennan

Brisbane
1st November 2007

author by Meaghanpublication date Sun Nov 04, 2007 15:25author address South Brisbane, QueenslandReport this post to the editors

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,2269....html
URL Link for article above has been changed by The Australian newspaper on their website.

THE AUSTRALIAN
Higher Education
November 02, 2007

Additional Coverage
Guy Healy | November 02, 2007

TWO Queensland academics who fought QUT over their objections to a PhD film project they claimed mocked the disabled have resigned, suffering health problems.

Gary MacLennan and John Hookham have both been diagnosed with severe depression. Dr MacLennan has an 80 per cent risk of a heart attack, his legal spokeswoman said yesterday.

Dr MacLennan thanked his many supporters in a heartfelt email seen by The Weekend Australian yesterday: “I ask you all now to know that I have survived and am well.”

Under a confidential deed, the pair – who spoke out publicly against fellow sessional lecturer and PhD candidate Michael Noonan’s contentious film - have voluntarily resigned from QUT after winning reported $200,000 payouts each and being cleared of misconduct charges.

After a long and acrimonious battle, QUT has now reached an out-of-court settlement with Dr MacLennan and Dr Hookham over the pair’s objections to the PhD film project which was originally entitled, “Laughing at the Disabled.”

At an estimated $1 million cost to QUT, it has been described as “the most expensive PhD in Australian history,” and “a tragedy,” by fellow QUT communications academic, Phil Castle.

Mr Castle said the pair’s “real crime was to go public about their concerns,” and he was very concerned that principles of free speech had suffered under the row.

At a research conference at QUT earlier this year – and after an ethics committee approval for the project – Mr Noonan showed rushes from his film which featured two disabled men, one aged 21, with Asperger's syndrome, and the other aged 40, with a learning disability.

The Weekend Australian has previously reported that the project had been developed in conjunction with the disability group Spectrum and the two men depicted in it, as well as their parents, were comfortable with the idea, having had experience with Mr Noonan in the making of a another film, “Unlikely Travellers.”

While Mr Noonan has defended the film as one in the vein where comedy writers draw on strategies which confront and shock an audience, Dr MacLennan said the afflicted were being “mocked” under the spurious rubric of "post-structuralism".

Lawyers for Dr MacLennan and QUT contacted by the Weekend Australian yesterday refused to confirm or deny the figures for university costs or the payouts.

QUT registrar Carol Dickenson said in a statement that “QUT and Dr John Hookham and Dr Gary MacLennan are pleased to announce that they have reached an out-of-court settlement in relation to court proceedings.”

Susan Moriarty, the lawyer for Dr MacLennan, said she was shocked to find figures regarding the payouts to the pair in a newspaper on Thursday.

Ms Moriarty said the pair were “relieved that their nightmare was over and were both looking forward to getting well. Two David’s have defeated a Goliath. Neither have spoken to the media about these figures.”

She challenged QUT to revamp its future misconduct procedures given that the misconduct tribunal that heard the charges against the academics refused to see the filmed material that was the basis of the pairs’ objections.

author by meaghanpublication date Mon Nov 05, 2007 13:04author address Sth BrisbaneReport this post to the editors

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,226875....html

QUT academic brawl ended by settlement

The Brisbane Courier-Mail
November 01, 2007 11:00pm
Tess Livingstone

A BITTER battle between Queensland University of Technology and two senior academics is believed to have cost QUT almost $1 million.

The university has now reached an out-of-court settlement with controversial QUT Creative Industries academics Gary MacLennan and John Hookham.

In a memo to staff on Monday, Creative Industries faculty Executive Dean Professor Susan Street said QUT had reached a settlement with the senior lecturers, who were suspended without pay for six months in June for their outspoken criticisms of a PhD film project formerly entitled Laughing at the Disabled. Their pay was later reinstated.

University sources suggested yesterday the fiasco had cost QUT close to $1 million, with legal fees, legal costs for the academics and payouts to the two believed to be close to $200,000 each. In addition, QUT has been paying the pair full salaries since June.

Dr Hookham and Dr MacLennan would not be returning to the faculty, Professor Street's memo said.

Details of the settlement are confidential.

Dr Hookham and Dr MacLennan were unavailable for comment yesterday.

Creative Industries journalism lecturer Phil Castle said the matter had been divisive in the faculty.

He said people had been on one side or the other, there had been no middle ground.

"It's tragic to see two long academic careers end this way, and it's sad for Michael Noonan (the PhD student) to be starting out with this kind of controversy," Mr Castle said.

A heated row blew up last Friday when Dr Hookham and Dr MacLennan returned to the Kelvin Grove campus to access their rooms.

Mr Noonan's video, which has since been renamed Laughing with the Disabled, features a series of sketches based around two disabled men, one with Asperger's syndrome and the other with a learning disability.

author by meaghanpublication date Mon Nov 05, 2007 13:07author address Sth BrisbaneReport this post to the editors

http://www.acbc.catholic.org.au/councils/acdc/200710025...8.htm
Australian Catholic Disability Council > 2007 > Article

Australian Catholic Disability Council speaks out against degrading research project
2 Oct 2007

A research project involving the production of a reality TV-style program entitled ‘Laughing with the Disabled; Creating Comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains’, is unethical and degrading, according to the Australian Catholic Disability Council.

The project, which has been given ethics approval by the Queensland University of Technology, is the work of PhD candidate Michael Noonan and features two men with intellectual disabilities.

Critics of the project, including two QUT academics who were stood down from their positions after speaking out against it, have argued that the sole aim of the film was to set up people with an intellectual disability in a situation in which they would be mocked and ridiculed.

Noonan has been quoted in news reports as saying that the film is a study in the sometimes uncomfortable art of negotiating the line between laughing with people with a disability and laughing at them.

But, in a letter to the QUT Vice-Chancellor, Australian Catholic Disability Council Chair, Ms Michele Castagna called for the University to re-think its approval of the project.

“The title of the research project, which one would assume accurately, describes its content, demeans and devalues the individual with disability and families living with disability,” she wrote.

“The title is degrading in terms of respect for human dignity and can, by its very nature, exclude participation and inclusion of people with disability within community life.”

Ms Castagna said that considerations of the inherent human dignity of each person must be paramount in approaching the ethical dimensions of the project.

“We believe that a just resolution will be best achieved through dialogue with the broader disability community, and rigorous and ongoing attention to developing ethical research practices that protect and uphold the dignity of people with disability,” she said.

Carol Dickenson, University Registrar, replied to the letter, defending QUT’s ethical approval of the project and saying that following complaints, an Audit panel had been established to review the ethics approval process.

The panel found that the decision to grant approval was appropriate.

Ms Castagna said the response from QUT was disappointing and the ACDC would continue to monitor the project and to promote the need to treat all people with respect and dignity.

author by meaghanpublication date Mon Nov 05, 2007 13:14author address Sth BrisbaneReport this post to the editors

http://www.news.com.au/couriermail/story/0,23739,226875....html
The Brisbane Courier-Mail
November 01, 2007 11:00pm

Image source:
http://www.news.com.au/common/imagedata/0,,5730698,00.jpg

THE end . . . Dr Gary MacLennan and Dr John Hookham.

MacLennan and Hookham ...  The End
MacLennan and Hookham ... The End

author by Righteouspublication date Thu Nov 08, 2007 16:17author address where-do-you-thinkReport this post to the editors

http://www.theaustralian.news.com.au/story/0,25197,2271....html

The Australian, Higher Education

November 07, 2007

JUST as the unhappy saga of Michael Noonan's PhD project on the disabled at the Queensland University of Technology seemed close to playing itself out with the resignation of John Hookham and Gary MacLennan, the PHD candidate could not resist penning a "good riddance" note.

"The end of Hookham and MacLennan's careers at QUT is a wonderful day for freedom of speech and for my freedom as a student to pursue important and challenging research," Noonan said in an email.

"I am proud that I stood up to them, I am proud of QUT and my supervisors and I am grateful for the unwavering support of the QUT community."

Noonan said QUT management and vice-chancellor Peter Coaldrake had "acted to protect me as a student at all times".

But he was saddened the university's and taxpayers' money had to be spent on the two men, who were paid a reported $200,000 each in an out-of-court settlement.

author by John Traceypublication date Fri Nov 16, 2007 14:05Report this post to the editors

Michael Noonan's film "Unlikely Travellers" at the centre of this controversy has just won the Inside Film "IF" award for best documentary. The IF awards are the biggest film awards in Australia.

The film is being broadcast on the ABC (national public station) over the next 3 weeks. http://www.abc.net.au/tv/guide/abc2/200711/programs/ZY8...0.htm

author by OZpublication date Fri Nov 16, 2007 15:05Report this post to the editors

The film at the centre of this controversy is "Laughing at The Disabled". John your role in this dispute has been one of provacateur for the state. You seem to have a habit of attacking and baiting leftists while they face the courts, in the hope they will lose the head and give the prosecution a google to work on. Nice try bait boy. You lost go on to haslsing someone else.

author by John Traceypublication date Sat Nov 17, 2007 02:41Report this post to the editors

Thank you Ciaron, a.k.a. "OZ" for another fine example of the intellectual depth that has informed the criticism of Noonan's films - nothing more than personal abuse.

There is no such film called "Laughing at/with the disabled" . This is the title of Noonan's PhD thesis based around Unlikely Travellers and the unfinished "Darren and James Down Under Mystery tour"- which grew out of the Unlikely Travellers project. Darren and James have full editorial control and are co-writers of this work in progress. Darren and James, the two men that you and your comrades have decided are too stupid to make decisions for themselves are in both movies. Scenes from Unlikely Travellers were criticised in the original Philistines article by MacLennan and Hookham, particularly about the appearence of James.

I challenge you or anyone else to rub two ideas together and try and explain how Michael Noonan's movie exploits disabled people?

As for my role in this - I have been intimately involved in disability issues since 1988 and I am a full time carer at present. Noonan's movie is a brilliant challenge to mainstream repressive stereotypes of disability and is deserving of support from progressive people in the community, yet in Brisbane the catholic and repressed ex-catholic moralism has been adopted by left activists to attack this liberating movie and enlightened movie maker.

Just because I will not sheepishly follow this gang bully mentality does not make me a provocateur of the state. That is either another dishonest personal attack or an example of unhealthy paranoia.

And finally, you say for some reason I have lost. Noonan has been vindicated by the Best Documentary Award, International praise from disability organisations who have actually seen his movie, support from Disability Queensland and Unlikely Travellers screens on the ABC next week. Noonan's movie has put disability issues firmly on the mainstream agenda.

I am very happy about Noonan's success, what have I lost?

JT

author by OZpublication date Sat Nov 17, 2007 08:12Report this post to the editors

The loss is for students that two fine teachers are now expelled from QUT. The loss is for taxpayers like myself who had to foot the bill not primarily Noonan or Coaldrake or you John. You and your elitest mates lost the moral argument, no matter what gymnastic apologetics moving of the goalposts you now try to undertake.

I look forward to Noonan's film "Laughing at the Bikies", but I guess we would have to foot the hospital bills there.

author by Parentpublication date Sat Nov 17, 2007 09:27Report this post to the editors

'Noonan's movie has put disability issues firmly on the mainstream agenda'

Noonan's movie has put Noonan himself firmly on the mainstream agenda. There are no 'awards' for anyone else in this matter, are there? Show us one single measurable improvement in the lives of peoploe with disability resulting from this odious self-promotion. Show us the ammended policies, the increased funding or the legislation that is needed to secure meaningful improvements for those who live with disability on a daily basis. Noonans sordid little triumph won't accomplish any of those things. They are not even being talked about because of this film. It is all about himself. Noonan can be guaranteed one thing for sure: if he ever seriously takes up the issue of disability and starts asking people - politicians for instance - to put their money where the mouths are, he will instantaneously be discovered to be a pain in the ass. Government friendly papers who once found him 'interesting' or 'amusing' will turn savage on him and will discover principled objection to his work. It will be comprehensively thrashed. The right result for the wrong reason. Let's see him really champion the cause of disability and watch all this unfold.

author by John Traceypublication date Sat Nov 17, 2007 13:44Report this post to the editors

Parent,

The only people who have focused on Noonan are those who criticise the movie, making personal attacks on his morality and integrity. It recieved the Best Doco award because it is a good movie, not because of some corrupt conspiracy of the state and film industry to oppress people with disability or to prop up Noonan.

I dont think the movie is designed to lobby for legislative change. It is designed to confront the general population's attitude to disability.

The movie itself documents improvements in the lives of six individuals. Their self perception, their independence and their relationships with their families are all transformed because of their trip to Egypt and the physical and emotional challenges along the way, the overriding message being that they can do anything they want even if they have disabilities.

If you are in Australia I urge you to watch the series on ABC - and then eat your words! If not, here is my review of the movie which gives an indication of its content. http://paradigmoz.wordpress.com/2007/08/12/unlikely-tra...view/

You will notice on the comments section of that link a message from a disability proffessional in the U.S. who says.... "The many disabled citizens which I have shown a copy of the film to here in the US, they both applauded and wept with joy following during and after watching it. One young women with an undiagnosed intellectual disability screamed at the top of her lungs ” we are finally somebody !!”.

Above and beyond this movie's message to the mainstream about attitudes to disability, this is an inspiration and a catalyst to people with disability themselves, to believe in themselves and their own capacities even when things get tough.

The movies exploration of the relationship between adults with disability and their families is profound and will be of great assistance/inspiration/challenge to any parents caring for their adult children.

This movie will have a positive impact way beyond the scope of legislative change.

author by Parentpublication date Sat Nov 17, 2007 16:09Report this post to the editors

The work your article refers to is not what Hookham and McLennan were objecting to - a point buried deep within the article - the effect is, frankly, dishonest and very misleading.

The title of that particular piece was changed and the film has subsequently undergone edits since it was shown as part of an academic approvals process. In the context in which the two academics were asked to consider it, their objections were legitimately made for legitimate reasons. It has since been toned down and it is very likely that noone will see what the 'small group of academics' present saw on that day. These facts need to be borne firmly in mind when discussing the issue. Far from Noonan's work being taken out of context, it is Hookham and McLennan's objections which are.

As for Noonan making an impact on attitudes to disability - I can promise you, it will be as candy floss in the rain once the media interest dies away. And then we will be left with having to get back to the things that are vital - and which you dismiss as being of less significance. I can tell you from bitter experience that the single most effective resource that people with disability and their carers can rely on, under our system of government, are enforceable rights enshrined in law - legislation in other words. It is self-serving crap for media pundits and the likes of Noonan to suggest that they are somehow more important than that. I dont accept for one second the claims you make for the improvements in the lives of those people because of this film-makers activities. It may have been pleasant for a while and the attention may feel nice. When that all dies down, and Noonan is no doubt launched on a lucrative career, other people will still be left lying around in their own shit in residential centres. Young men like Darren and James will still disporportionately populate prisons and commit suicide. Unless Noonan is very careful with these two young men, I'd speculate that they could be candidates for the latter. The therapies, social, financial and educational supports which people so badly need - and which are the things which really make a difference - will still be being denied them by their governments (Australia has a particularly nasty one at the moment, by all accounts) .

There is a necessity for challenging debate about any subject, including disability - a well developed sense of humour goes a long way as does an ability to laugh at oneself. That was not what Noonan and McLennan were objecting to and you do them a disservice by repeatedly misstating the thing which they were really objecting to. If other aspects of Noonan's work were more considered and constructive, well and good. But that work doesn't justify anything other than itself. As said before, if Noonan was remotely concerned with free speech he would have been first in line to say, whatever their disagreements, Hookham and McLennan were being outrageously victimised for having spoken out. But he didn't do that and in fact has been glad they were sacked. Everyone knows, too, that the out of court settlment means QUT were on a complete loser, legally speaking, over what they had done to the two men.

author by John Traceypublication date Sat Nov 17, 2007 17:35Report this post to the editors

I find personal criticism by anonymous posters to be a bit creepy.

I find the suggestion that disabled people should not engage in the media industry because they will be prone to suicide a bit creepier.

Disabled people fight hard, and often unsuccessfully to get their foot in the door of the media industry yet "parent" wants to use the force of law to prevent it happening?

At the launch of "Unlikely Travellers" Darren and James both said they are interested in pursuing a career in the media. They are getting great experience as co-writers and co-editors of the second film. Because of the IF award and the televising of Unlikely Travellers next week they will get the sort of exposure established artists pray for. Yet "parent" can only see gaol and suicide coming from all this?

"Parent", like Hookham and MacLennan feel their analysis of the situation is superior to Darren and James, their families and their support networks. MacLennan and Hookham even made complaints to authorities about abuse despite family support and of course the two mens informed consent.

This sort of authoritarian notion that disabled peoples lives should be controlled by the state because they are vulnerable has been purged from Australian disability law - in principle but often not in practice. The notion of self determination with support from family and support workers is the essence of Australian disability law. It is designed to protect the rights of disabled people to control their own lives, not to protect them from the consequences of their own decisions.

However I would strongly dispute "Parents" assertion that " the single most effective resource that people with disability and their carers can rely on, under our system of government, are enforceable rights enshrined in law - legislation in other words."

It is my experience as a previous worker in the disability industry and as a carer at present, that legislation is meaningless when a bureacrat or support worker with an ignorant attitude to disability is involved in the life of a disabled person and their family. The attitude of staff and the general community who disabled people come into contact with is a much more significant repression or liberation of disabled people that any piece of paper.

It must also be said that some laws, such as Queensland's Adult Guardianship regime, who MacLennan and Hookham took their complaints of abuse to, is based on the most totalitarian and unaccountable pieces of legislation in Australia.
This has been my personal experience http://paradigmoz.wordpress.com/2007/08/15/picket-to-de...bane/

author by Parentpublication date Sat Nov 17, 2007 23:03Report this post to the editors

The naivety of your post is startling.

To take your points in turn:

I find personal criticism by anonymous posters to be a bit creepy.

What personal criticism? The fact I've disagreed with you and challenged you? I'm the parent of three children with autistic spectrum disorders - just like James and Darren have. Ive seen the devastating impact that it has had on their lives and know that it is not an issue to be fooled around with for the sake of mainstream media approval and adulation - sick, fickle and twisted phenomenon that it is.

I find the suggestion that disabled people should not engage in the media industry because they will be prone to suicide a bit creepier.

A gross distortion of what I said. It is a FACT that autistic spectrum young men commit suicide in greater numbers than is normal. My concern for the two young men in question is that having being catapulted into the cold-hearted and profit driven media world - if the level of interest and excitement is not maintained - there is a serious risk of dangerously dispiriting disappointment if things don't work out. Rember it is not them who made themselves famous - it is Noonan. It is HIM and HIS work above all that are being praised.
Should we laugh 'with' or 'at' all those who have ended their lives for reasons like those that were used to make James and Darren's plight seem funny in Noonan's film? Noonan has not represented reality. The context he created for all the media orientated mirth is utterly contrived - dangerously so.

Nothing in any of the above implies or intends that constructive and rewarding work within the media is not possible for those with disability. That said, what exactly does mainstream media have anything of any worth of offer anyone with a disability?

Disabled people fight hard, and often unsuccessfully to get their foot in the door of the media industry yet "parent" wants to use the force of law to prevent it happening?

That last point is baffling - nothing I have said could be interpreted to mean that.

Here, though, you really betray your ignorance. The media is dead, stone cold about disability. You can, as I and thousands - millions - of others have, waste your life trying to interest the corporate driven mainstream media in this issue. The ONLY thing they care about are so-called 'human interest' (gory detail) and 'novel' stories such as this one. It's not disability the media are interested in, in this case, it's the fight at QUT - it's the notoriety and excitement associated with senior players at a major government/establishment institution. The disability itself is secondary - tertiary - to all of that.

Other people derive a warm glow, temporarily, from what they do not realise is an unrepresentative and distorting impression of what it is to live with these disabilities in reality - they are offered an an amusing perspective and an easy means of feeling they have contributed something meaningful - merely becauase they have consented to be entertained by laughing at something they never would do ordinarily. And that's the only sort of context in which disability can be useful to media sales and the bottom line. Ask the mainstream media to do some in-depth analysis or make a fierce challenge to the real problems - to look at the systemic mismanagement that is the cause of outrageous and inexcusable grief and oppression of disabled people - and they do not want to know. Governments fundamentally hate disability and the disabled because they see pwd as nothing more than an economic drain, except in so far as they are employable. Noonan's dabbling in this issue has done nothing to alter any of that. Sure, let him muse and use ineffectually to his own advantage, and to the general entertainment of those who should know better, but in the end he has only caused damage. So long as he is not a threat to the status quo, he will be feted as an amusing young chap with an 'original' take on the subject. Yawn. Jesus, when will we be rid of noisome people promoting themselves on contrived notoriety! The moment he becomes really serious about disability, will be the moment he falls from grace. He's made 'everybody' laugh - it hasn't cost them a penny - media sales have been massively increased by it all - and that's the bottom line. Let all those people who find Noonan so amusing answer this question: will they pay more taxes to improve the lot of people with disability? Is Noonan asking that question? Can he make that amusing and popular? He's in this for himself, above all. But hey, what a talent! What wit!'

At the launch of "Unlikely Travellers" Darren and James both said they are interested in pursuing a career in the media. They are getting great experience as co-writers and co-editors of the second film. Because of the IF award and the televising of Unlikely Travellers next week they will get the sort of exposure established artists pray for. Yet "parent" can only see gaol and suicide coming from all this?

Again, a serious distortion of what I said. It is a FACT that prisons are disproprotionately populated with young men on the autistic spectrum. It is a fact that more of them commit suicide than is normal. Get your head around it. But it was wrong of me to speculate about Darren and James in this way and I apologise for that. With sons of similar ages I know what the disappointment of hugely raised expectations can do and the difficulty it causes for those left to pick up the pieces. The media is hostile and competitive world for two vulnerable people to be exposed to in this way.

"Parent", like Hookham and MacLennan feel their analysis of the situation is superior to Darren and James, their families and their support networks. MacLennan and Hookham even made complaints to authorities about abuse despite family support and of course the two mens informed consent.

Do you know what the meaning of intellectual disability is? Do you mean that a person so affected should be left to cope entirely without help or guidance when they do not realise how their condition can put them at risk - i.e how they can be a risk to themsleves or others? I don't mean to imply that asd people are automatically dangerous. But physical danger is not the only risk to be considered. All sorts of lesser but serious life issues arise. Those outside this situation almost always oversimplify matters in this regard. I've seen my sons broken hearted and massively depressed by things which, with hindsight, we should have protected them from. Ordinary, everyday things - stuff other children embrace, enjoy and take in their stride.

The analysis Hookham and McLennan offer does not question the right of those who care for James and Darren to make a differing assessment of what they can cope with. But they are enitled to ask whether the decision was wise. Not everybody with children who have disability is always wise and it's not 'superior' to express the opinion that these carers, almost certainly from the best of motives, have nevertheless been influenced by the seductive interest and persuasion of media people - very possibly to the children's ultimate deteriment.

This sort of authoritarian notion that disabled peoples lives should be controlled by the state because they are vulnerable has been purged from Australian disability law - in principle but often not in practice. The notion of self determination with support from family and support workers is the essence of Australian disability law. It is designed to protect the rights of disabled people to control their own lives, not to protect them from the consequences of their own decisions.

And if that is the case then what an amazing society Australia must have where disability is concerned. Fantastic.

However I would strongly dispute "Parents" assertion that " the single most effective resource that people with disability and their carers can rely on, under our system of government, are enforceable rights enshrined in law - legislation in other words."

It is my experience as a previous worker in the disability industry and as a carer at present, that legislation is meaningless when a bureacrat or support worker with an ignorant attitude to disability is involved in the life of a disabled person and their family. The attitude of staff and the general community who disabled people come into contact with is a much more significant repression or liberation of disabled people that any piece of paper.

Firstly, disability is not an 'industry'. An ignorant bureacrat or support worker will be forced to raise their game when they know the people they are paid to serve can sue them if they break the law if they do not meet legally specified standards of duty and care. It's very simple. A million Noonans will never achieve what a legally enforceable right will achieve - not under our present system of government.

It must also be said that some laws, such as Queensland's Adult Guardianship regime, who MacLennan and Hookham took their complaints of abuse to, is based on the most totalitarian and unaccountable pieces of legislation in Australia.
This has been my personal experience http://paradigmoz.wordpress.com/2007/08/15/picket-to-de...bane/

You may be right about the thrust of that law, but you are certainly not right about McLennan and Hookham's motives for their actions. In any case the point you make only reinforces mine: the absence of appropriate rights- based legislation for people with disability - and their carers - is the single most urgent issue for pwd at this point in time. Darren and James family went along with Noonan. Let's see how it all ends up.

author by John Traceypublication date Sun Nov 18, 2007 04:29Report this post to the editors

"Parent"

Have you seen the movie? Perhaps if you weren't talking in ignorance we might be able to have a conversation about this.

If you read the adult guardian link you will realise I am all too aware of the problem of incarceration of disabled people. The update since that link is that my nephew is presently in gaol. Do not patronise me along with Darren and James with your fearful and authoritarian attempts to discredit Noonan's movie.

author by OZpublication date Sun Nov 18, 2007 08:49Report this post to the editors

Vice Chancellor Coaldrake career ambitions of taking over as VC at U of Q have been nixed by his poor handling of this academic debate. Coaldrake is an old headkicker mate of the soon to be new Australia Prime Minister Rudd from the old Goss days, so he won't starve.

Noonan's name will always be associated as the school bully who had the backing of the headmaster as he trawled the playground for soft targets. Noonan himself is soft, he couldn't handle rigourous academic debate without running off to the headmaster. He set to "laugh at the disabled, to shock and exploit". He just didn't count on running into academics who syill had a morality and a backbone.

Travey remains a resentful joke totally isolated by most who have had past dealings with him. That is the beauty of the internet for him it permits him to unleash his vitrol, past resentments and screw with former comarade's lives while they confront the powerful and he dovetails to serve the state. His excessive trolling on this case is typical.

author by John Traceypublication date Sun Nov 18, 2007 09:06Report this post to the editors

Ciaron a.k.a. "Oz"

While your petty nastiness is by now familiar to me, you have been able to mix an inteligent analysis with it on other issues, why is it you are incapable of answering a most basic question here - what is wrong with Noonan's movie?

Have you seen the movie? Or is petty nastiness the only basis for your opposition to it?

author by John Traceypublication date Tue Nov 20, 2007 06:15Report this post to the editors

I hope the Australian readers of this forum saw the first episode of Unlikely Travellers on T.V. last night.

For those outside of Australia, you can find out more from the films website http://www.unlikelytravellers.com/index.html

In last nights episode we are introduced to Darren and James as well as the other 4 travellers. You can now make up your own mind if they are competent enough to be involved in such a project.

Although Noonan, as film maker, is invisible we can now see how he represents people with disability.

The much demonised John Hart is the main charachter in this first episode and we can see his attitudes to disability also.

It must now be obvious that Noonan's film work is not what it has been represented as by the critics.

On this forum, and on the Australian site "Bush Telegraph" http://bushtelegraph.wordpress.com/2007/05/08/philistin...logy/ I have consistently called for MacLennan and Hookham to be reinstated. I have criticised QUT for not managing a debate about disability instead of repressing the outspoken wowsers. MacLennan and Hookham were very wrong in what they said but they do have a right to say it. Their conservative and repressive attitudes should have been exposed in a public debate.

However those of us who have said Noonan's work is progressive have been accused of being lackies of QUT, and Ciaron has even gone as far as calling me a provocateur of the state.

Issues such as Darren and James informed consent and their families support have been ignored by the self appointed champions of the disabled. The critics have compared the movie to Big Brother or Borat and fobbed off any suggestion that it was nothing like that.

Now the 1st episode, primarlily interviews with the travellers and their parents about the issues in their lives has been seen by the public it totally dismisses the dishonest bile that the critics have produced.

Noonan's film work is an international high point for discussion of disability, the campaign against him has been a low point in left wing activism where intelligent analysis and movement solidarity have been reduced to gossip and peer group conformity and its concomitent demonisation of anyone outside the clique.

In Brisbane, since the movie was released the critics have said "we dont mean this film, its the other one" The othe film, "Darren and James down under" is produced by Noonan and Hart, stars Darren and James who are also co- writers and editors. If Noonan and Hart are Morally corrupt and Darren and James are incompetent or vulnerable you would think there would be some hint of this in Unlikely Travellers but there is nothing of the sort.

author by OZpublication date Tue Nov 20, 2007 06:39Report this post to the editors

Sorry mate, but you seem to be at the wrong meeting. From the outset of this posting, we've been discussing the Noonan titled film "Laughing at the Disabled - a film to shock and exploit". You keep trying to change the subject, move the goalposts, conjure the smokescreen etc. It's a film that was never made because Noonan found he couldn't cope with the blowback of objection to his objectives to exploit the disabled.

Congrats Noonan you achieved your objectives you exploited and you shocked. Your ballsy, cutting edge film maker image then abandons you when you can't take the response of shocking and exploiting people. If you can't cope with academic debate, maybe you should consider leaving the academy rather than relying on taxpayers to fund the expulsion of your critics.

I think we'll let this "debate" rest here. A documentary is soon to be released about the entire debacle. Maybe that would be an appropriate time to revive the debate, rather than going around in circles here.

author by John Traceypublication date Tue Nov 20, 2007 07:53Report this post to the editors

Ciaron aka "Oz"

As mentioned previously, and ignored by you , there is no such movie called "Laughing at/with the disabled". This is Noonan's PhD thesis which has continued unhindered by all this. "Darren and James Down Under" is still in production and will apparently be screened on the ABC in 2008.

Your ignorance (or dismissal) of fact is silly.

author by John Traceypublication date Tue Nov 20, 2007 09:11Report this post to the editors

p.s.

Noonan's PhD thesis is titled " Laughing at (later with) the Disabled: Creating comedy that Confronts, Offends and Entertains."

Ciaron's claim that it is called "Laughing at the Disabled - a film to shock and exploit". is just a blatant lie - not the first of this campaign.

Amongst the confronting issues Noonan deals with is the sexuality of people with intelectual disabilities, portraying their marriages, children and relationship issues.

Noonan has portayed people as fully human rather than helpless objects of society's pity, that is what is confronting and appears to be the very issue that the critics have found offensive.

author by John Traceypublication date Wed Dec 12, 2007 05:10Report this post to the editors

The Oz Catholics have admitted they got it wrong. Can the Oz socialists and Ciaron do the same?

The following letter to Ian White is a response to him contacting the Brisbane Archbishop about the Australian Catholic Disability Council's public condemnation of Noonan’s project.

JT

AUSTRALIAN CATHOLIC BISHOPS CONFERENCE
Australian Catholic Disability Council
AN ADVISORY BODY OF THE BISHOPS COMMISSION FOR PASTORAL LIFE
Secretariat for Pastoral Life
T: (02) 6201 9868
disability@catholic.org.au
12 November 2007

Dear Mr White,

Your e-mail message dated the 31 October 2007 was tabled at a meeting of the Australian Catholic Disability Council held on 10 December 2007.

The Australian Catholic Disability Council was concerned at the process of the granting of approval and supervision of the project. Certainly the material that was viewed ‘Darren and James: Down Under Mystery Tour’ (freely available over the electronic media) contained visual material which gave offence to many people living with disability. The sensitivity to the project as described and expanded by those film clips is understandable.

Five members of the Australian Catholic Disability Council are living with disability in their families. All agree that the project has great potential to advance greater understanding and increase inclusivity of people living with disability in the community.

It was the Council’s concern to advocate a positive direction for the project and to encourage wider consideration of issues relevant to research with people with disability. It is fair to say that Council’s concerns to Queensland University of Technology were not satisfactorily addressed in their response.

I also wish to advise you that, following a review by the Bishops Commission for Pastoral Life, the Australian Catholic Disability Council has agreed to remove the media release from its web site.
Yours sincerely,

Michele Castagna Chair Australian Catholic Disability Council

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