WHERE ARE THEY NOW? Barry Spurr: Ex-Professor, Racist, Misogynist, Turned Literary Editor



Where Are They Now is an occasional column in New Matilda. You can read a past edition here (on party boy Corey Worthington). This edition brings you an update on Barry Spurr, the ‘Racist Professor of Poetry’.

Close followers of New Matilda will remember that a few years ago, we broke a rather explosive story about Barry Spurr, a Professor of Poetry based at the University of Sydney.

Several years of Barry’s email correspondence to and from a close friend (and a few colleagues) had been leaked to us, and so we published them… admittedly to mixed reviews from our supporters and critics alike. They revealed, among other things, that Barry had a pretty dim view of Aboriginal people, Muslims, and Asians.

Or in Barry’s words, ‘Abos, Muzzies and Chinky-Poos’.

Spurr claimed the emails were a long-running ‘whimsical linguistic game’ with a close friend, a kind of one-upmanship where he says something really racist or extreme, his friend says something even worse in reply… and on and on it goes.

A transcript of the emails suggests it was much more than just a game.

In any event, Spurr railed against everything from ‘Abo lover Tony Abbott’ and Adam Goodes, to Sri Lankans, and ‘fatties’. Oh and women. Barry really didn’t think very much of women.

After referring to them as “whores”, in one correspondence chain Spurr suggested a woman who had been raped should have had more than ‘penis’ put in her mouth, before it was “stitched shut” (it was in response to his friend, the woman’s lawyer, describing her as a “worthless slut”).

Spurr describes “Abos” as ‘human rubbish tips’, calls Nelson Mandela a “darkie” and Desmond Tutu a “witch doctor”, describes University of Sydney chancellor Belinda Hutchinson as “an appalling minx”, and likens Methodists to “serpents”.

In another thread, Spurr laments the ‘fact’ that only about five per cent of people currently enrolled in Australian universities actually deserve to be there, before writing, “One day the Western world will wake up, when the Mussies and the chinky-poos have taken over.”

He responds to a link to a Youtube video which looked back fondly on a much ‘whiter Perth’ in the first half of the last century, writing, “No Abos, Chinky-poos, Mussies, graffiti, piercings, jeans, tattoos. BCP in all Anglican churches (sic); Latin Mass in all Roman ones. Not a woman to be seen in a sanctuary anywhere. And no obese fatsoes. All the kiddies slim and bright eyed. Now utterly gone with the wind.”

You can read The Partial Works Of Professor Barry Spurr. Poet, Racist, Misogynist’ here. But long story short, within hours of publication, Barry attempted to sue New Matilda in the Federal Court, on the basis we had breached his privacy.

Three problems: Firstly, at the bottom of all Spurr’s correspondence was a disclaimer noting that the emails remained the property of USYD and could not be considered private. Problem two: Australia does not have a ‘tort of privacy’ in law, so it’s almost impossible to sue for breaching it.

And finally, Spurr had recently been chosen by the now retired Education Minister Christopher Pyne to review the English section of the entire national school curriculum, from Kindergarten through to Year 12. In other words, Spurr – a man who mocks rape victims – would now be in a position to heavily influence what a generation of children and young people learn in their English classes. Which obviously made his email correspondence rather big news, not to mention a matter of substantial public interest.

By way of brief epilogue, Spurr did complete the government review… and as you might expect, used it to argue against a focus on Aboriginal and Asian literature in the national school curriculum.

“The three points on which all curriculum subjects must be focused: Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islanders, the Asian region, and sustainability are potential influences for narrowing and inhibiting the study of literature in English; could be a disabling distraction from the core work of the curriculum and are driven by imposed socio-political concerns that bear little relation to the educational purposes that the curriculum for English, specifically, should be designed to facilitate and fulfil,” wrote Barry.

Our translation: There’s way too much stuff in the curriculum about ‘Abos and Chinky-Poos’.

In any event, after the story broke Spurr resigned from his post at Sydney Uni. But as it turns out, he’s re-entered the world of words… well sort of… he’s now working as the Literary Editor for Quadrant Magazine, Australia’s most conservative publication. And by conservative we mean… the third story on the website as we go to press is headlined, ‘Climate ‘science’: In vino veritas’… which literally translates as ‘Climate Science: In wine lies the truth’ (because, obviously, using Latin automatically gives otherwise tin-foil hat commentary much needed gravitas).

This is the intro to the story: “Sadly, like some pre-literate society mired in superstition and ignorance, we now appear to place more value on living memory, anecdote and the manufactured history of snake oil climate ‘scientists’ than the evidence of a previously warmed planet that is so readily available.” You can’t make this stuff up. The author, Alistair Crooks, is a retired climate scientist… no wait, sorry… he’s a retired geologist, rocks and climate obviously being almost exactly the same thing. Anyway, you get the picture.

Quadrant is edited by Keith Windschuttle, one of the chief Generals in John Howard’s infamous ‘Culture Wars’. So Spurr appears to have landed on his feet and found his spiritual home. He also appears to have lost none of his bite.

A New Matilda reader, Kim Chia, contacted us recently, after sending a very ‘leftist’ poem to Quadrant for consideration. It’s pretty amusing correspondence.

“First, a confession, I submitted this poem to Quadrant Magazine with zero research into their political leaning. When you read my poem, you will see that is kind of hilarious.

“A few days later I get an email directly from Barry Spurr saying my poem was more of a diatribe than a poem.”

And here’s that email, which as you might imagine, was not well received: “Thank you for sending this submission, Ms Chia. It is more a diatribe than a poem, so it is not suitable for publication in our poetry section. Yours sincerely, Barry Spurr”.

Back to Kim Chia: “I found it interesting that the head editor took the time to personally reject my poem, so obviously I googled him. Ummmm wow. This guy knows a lot about poetry, sure, but mainly he knows a lot about hate speech.”

New Matilda doesn’t pretend to have anything like the understanding of poetry that ex-Professor Spurr has, but Kim Chia’s work is actually pretty entertaining, and thoroughly suitable for publication in New Matilda. Over to Kim…. although before anyone asks… no, being ‘leaked’ Barry’s email from Quadrant is not a breach of his privacy.

The Zombie Apocalypse

Their prophet speaks through a Fox News reader,
They wear red hats and follow the leader.
They feed on hate, and speak in scripts.
They stab themselves with the words he spits.
The modern zombie infects through retweets,
Slack jaws talk civil wars, and chaos in the street.

Fear of the “bad guy”, greed and “fake news”
Rots off their skin and keeps them confused.
Planting weeds, and calling them flowers,
Their guru shouts out from ivory towers,
His words drop down to tell them they’re free.
They lose their food stamps while he eats K.F.C.
A reality star, spews propaganda,
Uses hate speech and calls it banter.

The zombie apocalypse! They’re after our brains!
They limp through the wasteland to sell their campaign.
“Great again!” They chant, like bleating sheep,
Tripping over their sense to fall at his feet.
Don’t try to save them, turn and run.
Board up your houses they love their guns!

Is there a cure, an inoculation?
A chance to recover a mutant nation?
Broken bodies carry poisoned minds,
Grabbed by the pussy and given a line.
God bless America! No really, it’s dire
Save the zombies, tell him “he’s fired!”
Kim Chia – 2019

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Launched in 2004, New Matilda is one of Australia's oldest online independent publications. It's focus is on investigative journalism and analysis, with occasional smart arsery thrown in for reasons of sanity. New Matilda is owned and edited by Walkley Award and Human Rights Award winning journalist Chris Graham.