Wilbur Cussler: A memoir

I used to have a wonderful life. Then Scott Yorke ruined it.

Sitting alone in a small room in an undisclosed location, constantly guarded by two armed plain-clothes police officers, former marginal blogger and professional opinionator Andrew Geddis cuts a folorn figure.

Up until last week, he appeared to have it all. A well paid position at New Zealand's top law school (yeah, it is, Victoria ... just accept it). Media attention for whatever dribbling incoherencies happened to escape from his caffeine-addled mind. And while he may not have been a well loved, or even particularly liked, personality on campus, he enjoyed something far better - widely-felt fear, based on occasionally calling on individual students to answer a question in class.

But in a single shocking moment, this way of life came to an end. Speaking publicly for the first time, Geddis tells his story.

"I was in my office, skipping around on the internet to see what is more interesting than researching issues of constitutional law. I'd checked all the usual sites, up to and including this one, when I thought I'd have a look at poor old Scott Yorke's "Imperator Fish". I mean, normally you'll only find turgid pastiches of old Seinfeld episodes on it, but he tries so very hard and it's nice to throw a struggling IP lawyer and wannabe funny man the odd hit."

Here Geddis pauses and takes a long, shuddering breath. He obviously still is struggling to put into words what has happened to him.

"Yorke had put up a new post, "Blogger issues "fatwa" against law professor". In it, he lays out some insane conspiracy theory about me "stealing ideas from his head" and plotting with John Key to discredit and silence him.

I mean, that's just crazy! It's clear from his previous work that there's nothing in his head to be stolen, and why would John Key's National Government want to silence him when Yorke spends most of his time either attacking David Shearer, or defending David Shearer, or telling other people to stop attacking or defending David Shearer, or telling other people to stop telling other people not to attack or defend David Shearer?

But it seems that Yorke is serious in his delusions, and there's nothing more dangerous than a zealot convinced of his own righteousness and determined to gain retribution."

Geddis stops and shakingly raises a cup of coffee to his lips. His face has gone ashen white, and sweat stands out on his brow.

"Yorke has called on all his readers to "make life difficult for [me] in 'numerous but little ways.'” Now, normally I wouldn't worry what - at most - 20 people might be going to do. But the only people who go to that site are stone-cold sociopathic evildoers. And I'm not talking about your marginal, Kiwiblog-commentator levels of sociopathic evil ... it's the full-on Mengele-meets-Calvin Candie version.  

Specifically, Yorke wants his slavish acolytes to "attack [me] with custard pies, call [me] rude names, and if you see [me] in [my] car make sure you cut [me] off. Or if [I'm] a pedestrian refuse to stop for [me] at a zebra crossing." The pies and names I'm not that afraid of - it's nothing worse than we see at a standard faculty morning tea. And, if anything, Yorke only is encouraging Dunedin drivers to show more courtesy and attention to the road code than they do at present.

But what really sent a shiver of cold dread through my very core was his next command:

If you’re walking behind him just start giggling. If enough people keep giggling behind his back he’ll develop a complex, and maybe his head will explode, and I’m pretty sure a law professor with an exploded head would be an unemployed one, and wouldn’t that be sweet revenge for his idea-thieving?

Does Yorke really not appreciate the horrific consequences of people following his call? All that stands between me and a crushing recognition that I have wasted my life on a hollow existence in a narrow provincial backwater is my inflated ego and overdeveloped sense of smug self-satisfaction. If people start laughing at me, then all that falls away. I will be left psychically naked, shivering in the cold wind of scorn directed at me from people who I refuse to even hold the door open for in the lifts. It would mean the end of ... everything."

It is fear of this consequence and a recognition that Yorke's followers will go to any lengths to bring it about that has driven Geddis into his current life on the run - a life that eerily mirrors that of another famous victim of fatwa, Salman Rushdie. Geddis has had to give up his position at the University, each night is spent in a different place, while he has even been forced to adopt a new identity to hide behind.

"I have followed Rushdie's example and constructed a psudenom from the names of my two favourite authors. So when I do have to provide a name, I am "Wilbur Cussler". But don't print that would you? Otherwise it kind of ruins the point of having it. You won't print it, will you? Thanks."

Geddis sits for a while in silence, as he contemplates all he has lost and a future that looks very bleak. Then he straightens his shoulders, gives a deep sigh, and raises his eyes.

"Oh well. I guess I can always go sell real estate."