Mary Beard stirring up trouble again--and loving it

tags: mary beard



JANUARY was a busy month for Mary Beard, a Cambridge academic who is the closest thing, if it exists, to a celebrity classics professor.
 
In just a few weeks, Ms. Beard, who has helped popularize the study of antiquity through television and a lively blog, A Don’s Life, turned 58; finished a draft of her book on Roman laughter; became an officer of the Order of the British Empire; and attended the funeral of a lifelong friend and editor, Peter Carson.
 
But little could have prepared her for the furor she faced after she appeared on a weekly BBC debate show last month and, while discussing immigration, expressed the unpopular view that Britain’s social services would not be overburdened when restrictions on Bulgarian and Romanian movement around Europe are lifted next year.
 
Her remarks, made on Jan. 17, unleashed a torrent of vicious, crude and personal online attacks, many targeting her unadorned style and her long, unkempt gray hair. Anonymous attackers also superimposed a picture of her face on a pornographic image. But rather than retire to her fainting couch (it is in her Newnham office, should she need it), or accept what happened as the cost of being a public figure in the Internet age, Ms. Beard decided to fight back....


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