British Naval Sailing Ships from the 1800's


Some Background

Yesterday was remembrance Sunday in the UK, as always it falls nearest the the 11th of November. I am sure people know, but the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th Month was the time at which “the Great War” ended. For over 100 years in countries around the world the day has been marked, and a silence to remember the dead observed. In the UK in recent years when the 11th falls on a day other than Remembrance Sunday, there is still usually a smaller service of remembrance at 11am.

This year on the 11th day, a peace march, calling for a cease-fire in the war in Israel, was planned. People tried to ban the march. Please note that remembrance Sunday was on the 12th, not the 11th. The peace march was starting at midday, and its route avoided the areas associated with remembrance. 

The right wing UK Home Secretary sent out a dog whistle to her far right friends by publicly denouncing the police for not banning the march. Citing our veterans and service men and women deserve respect. 

In the end over 100 arrests were made on the day of the March, almost all of them were right wing “counter marchers” and most of the arrests were for violence related offences. 

So what did I do?

Last week, a few days before Remembrance events,  on the Scholar.Social Mastodon Instance I posted

I am a veteran.
I observe silence at the 11th hour, on the 11th day, of the 11th month.
I also support the peace march on 11th November; and I denounce violence from all sides.
But most of all I condemn govt ministers exploiting my service for political gain.

It got likes, it got boosts, it led to a long conversation with a Canadian Colleague, that led to some synergy around my work on AI and my work in Edtech. 

And then on Remembrance Sunday I received the following from the Instance Owner.

You can no longer use your account, and your profile and other data are no longer accessible. You can still login to request a backup of your data until the data is fully removed in about 30 days, but we will retain some basic data to prevent you from evading the suspension.

Military and law enforcement are not welcome on Scholar; you should have seen this when you signed up

 Not talking about military issues; but being of the military. In my case ex military. I served in the 80’s, over 30 years ago. This was why my account was suspended. 

Veterans, Higher Education and Scholarship. 

The GI Bill was known as the Servicemen’s Readjustment Act of 1944, it applies to US servicemen. Initially it was supposed to provide various benefits to World War II veterans but it has changed a lot over the years. From my perspective its most significant feature is the provision of funding for education and training, millions of veterans have been able to attend college, undergo vocational training, or receive education in other forms. It democratized higher education in the U.S for those who served. 

In the UK we do not have a GI bill. For many who served Higher Education is out of reach. Both financially, and culturally. When I first started in my role at Jisc I was visiting projects in universities all around the UK. I have rarely spoken of one incident; at a prestigious university I was visiting a research group about a huge multi-million pound project that I was overseeing. For lunch we visited the staff restaurant, and as we were entering the lead on the project turned and stopped us all and said “We need to go somewhere else, there is a lot of campus security in there and I don’t want to sit around in the company of ex military types.”

Culturally, that institution viewed us ex military in a very different way to themselves, and they did not view their security guards as being part of the institution. 

I suppose if I were to try and justify my presence in the world of higher education I could talk about the ethical and moral value I could contribute. Military experience often involves complex ethical dilemmas, and veterans can contribute significantly to discussions on ethics, morality, and the law, especially in contexts related to war, peacekeeping, and the use of force. Rather than dense theoretical discussions we can provide concrete examples for ethical debates, we add depth, and stark reality to academic discussions.

I could if I wanted point out that in some ways diversity and inclusivity are much greater, sure academics will point out ways in which the military are not, but most of us are from backgrounds who are working class, living in poverty, I served with Sikhs, Jews, Muslims, Hindus, I served with people of Caribbean and African descent, of Indian descent, people from around the world. 

And if I wanted to make a case I could say that I know what public service is, and what it costs. 

I could say these things to justify my presence.

(Not) Belonging

That’s the thing isn’t it. Belonging. Community. Family in some cases. My background, in their view, taints the community. Because no matter what, all military are the same. 

And I want to make it clear. 

I wasn’t banned because I was saying something, I wasn’t banned for trolling or doxing or bullying. 

The post that outed me was a call for peace, for tolerance. I denounced violence. 

But in doing so I gave away my identity. I had served. 

And the military is not welcome here. 

What now? 

Mastodon is federated, run by individuals for the purposes of their community. I joined Scholar.Social because there were many others of my community there. The fact that someone pointed out I was ex military and did not belong there, even though I am also a scholar, has tainted that community for me now. So even though I have appealed their decision to ban me, if I win the appeal I will be deleting my account. Why? Because I am not their fucking monkey, and I don’t dance to their petty-minded prejudiced tunes.


  1. I can’t believe this. With you 100% Lawrie …

    and B.T.W Im giving a Public lecture on my military backgound with another Professor Ruseel Garbutt ex type 21 Falklands on the 24th November .I have always found my military background of real value in academia (UoB) is quite supportive of the military.

  2. Mastodon is so sanctimonious. It’s so not Twitter it’s not worked out what it wants to be. I commented on someone in Ed tech being openly hateful of indigenous expression and swore in my toot. Someone told me off for swearing.

    Fuck that shit

  3. Mastodon loves it’s sanctimony too much

    I got told off for swearing because someone massive in Ed tech was belittling indigenous people. They didn’t want to address the belittling but telling me off for swearing.


    1. Thank you Maha, it is what is. I think when you have systems controlled by the few or the one, such as federated instances, then these issues will turn up. We move on, and into spaces that do welcome us. But I am sad I have lost contacts and conversations.

  4. First of all, a crappy and heavy handed thing to do. But I can’t blame this purely on Mastodon (Hi Pat) it’s more the strong arm tactics of this instance.

    I’m happy being on a tiny server where I know the people running it as friends, I don’t feel the need to buy into some community code of pseudo scholarly or other nature, as I’d rather choose my cried from across the fediverse.

    I so appreciate your candor here Lawrie. Don’t hold back!

    1. Thanks Alan, I agree it’s not Mastodon, but it the opportunity that federation affords for this type of tactic. It’s really made me think about those courses for students when social media is embedded as part of their process now. I have seen several that push Twitter, and I also see encouragement to join mastodon, but we also have a duty of care before we send them off – I mean we always have – but this incident made me think harder. Maybe Universities who want a social media component in their learning and teaching need to think about controlling an instance themselves.

      1. Hi Laurie,
        I owe you an apology for my terse comment above, written in haste upon seeing your LinkedIn post. On reflection, I do think the decision to kick you off the server was heavy handed. However, we should be considerate of users (inc students) whose parents, relatives, communities may have been maimed or murdered by members of the police or military, often acting outside the law, and very seldom if ever brought to justice or even identified. You can perhaps see how expressions of military pride (‘I am a veteran and I observe the silence’) might be, umm, problematic, for us in a space we have identified and chosen as supposedly safe.
        Thanks and best wishes,

        1. You don’t need to apologise Matthew. I would argue about the first comment, but that was because the ToS said the space was for scholars, and military and law enforcement were not welcome. I am the first, but not the latter, identities change, I find it sad that “scholars” exist that will only ever see me as “military”.

  5. Thanks for sharing, Laurie. I also joined, and then found it frustrating as other colleagues had selected, which is in the blacklist as it’s run by someone with a police background. It just got too complex. BlueSky works better for me. I could see dedicated Mastodon instances working for particular projects, though Discord also works for that.

    1. Thanks Emma, I like discord, especially for events. And BlueSky is getting much better. For me it highlights firstly, how identity is seen by some in education; secondly, the issues of federated instances run at the whim of individuals and their political (small p or large P) stances.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.