A Note on Twitter and the Academic Job Market

Sometimes, when skirting the edges of hellthreads on Twitter, I wonder about the hyperactivity and extreme online-ness of some of our better known para-academics and marginal online activists.

You know the type — the sort best known for having a commie (read: edgelord) podcast and a twitter account littered with aggressively bad takes that take no prisoners.

I feel like the irony that no one ever mentions is that all these overly aggressive young Marxists aren’t that way because they really care about the class struggle — despite what they might say, over and over and over again. Instead, it seems to me that they’ve been made that way by spending too long under the Damoclean sword of the US academia job market.

One of my guiltiest pleasures as a postgraduate student in London was witnessing many an evil-eyed (not-so-)young American go through something of a culture shock upon landing in the more relaxed environs of a UK university.

With course fees so much cheaper here than there — which is really saying something… WTF, America? — many initially arrive with a few years of college under their belt and immediately go hard in class trying to carve out a space for themselves; making themselves known and seen.

Every year, without fail, someone would cause a scene by doing this and there would always be a moment where everyone else in the room, from all over the rest of world, would look over at them with a face that said: “Jeez… Chill out, dude. Let’s get to know each other before we start measuring dicks. Who you trying to impress?”

Loitering around the halls of Goldsmiths long past my own graduation — gotta keep feeding the @_geopoetics bot somehow… — I’ve seen a few years worth of students go through this, with there always being one or two students who end up dropping or changing modules after having had a silent sand thrown on their aggressive approach to studenteering, disappearing as soon as they realise that they’ve come on too strong too soon.

And they are almost always North Americans…

For the first year or two of seeing this sort of thing happen repeatedly, I always wondered what was so specific about Americans that made the transition from US to UK academia so jarring for them.

I eventually asked someone about it — a lecturer originally from the US themselves — what is it was about this brand of American student that makes them so counterproductively intense during the first week of term?

Without a second’s thought, they replied: “It’s the academic job market.”

In the US, the job market for academics is so cut throat, they said, that being an asshole becomes an essential aspect of any (even half-hearted) careerism.

Adding insult to injury, this careerism is intensified by a person’s lack of awareness regarding the way it undermines the collective pedagogic practices they otherwise pay lip service to. Thankfully, it’s the sort of attitude that suffocates when no one is willing to give oxygen to it.

I wish I could say the same about its prevalence on Twitter…

Just say no to the Camile Paglia brand of self-undermining capitalistic radicalism.


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