Have you ever been accused of being a spy?

John KeaneJohn Keane

Have you ever been accused of being a spy working for MI6? I know someone who has. Even more disturbing, he has the same name as myself

I became aware of the story originally when I looked up my name on the web. My namesake is [or was at the time] a professor at The University of Westminster in London. He recently blogged about the disturbing news he received though a telephone call from a friend. He tells his story in his blog in a post entitled Laughter and Tears on being accused of spying for MI-6:

[Dateline London, Saturday 1st August, 2009]

One of those weird moments when glum silence is the most sensible reaction. A colleague telephoned to spill the bad news. ‘This morning, in a preliminary statement before the highest court of the Islamic Republic of Iran’, he began, ‘you were named by the Deputy State Prosecutor as a co-conspirator in an organised attempt to overturn the present regime by means of a velvet coup d’état.’ Surely a prank call, I thought. ‘ You’re accused [with the distinguished Western intellectuals Jürgen Habermas and Richard Rorty] of acting as CIA and MI6 agents. I’ll e-mail more details this afternoon.’

Professor Keane denies all allegations

In 2004, during one such visit to Tehran, I indeed taught an officially approved short course based on research for [my book] The Life and Death of Democracy (which has just been published).

It is not true that I participated in ‘operations geared to the collapse of the governments of Eastern Europe’. I did not spend ‘the years 1973 and 1975 in Czechoslovakia’ (I lived in Canada during this period) and at no time have I ‘often travelled to Poland’ or worked for the ‘Polandising of Iran’.

When my colleague hung up, animal laughter morphed into a cloud of pensiveness, riveted by the thought that words can ruin lives, or torture and kill. It is no laughing matter for scholars to be lumped in with plotters, mercenaries and secret agents of ‘Western’ and ‘Zionist’ reaction.

From a scholarly point of view, the most worrying development, recently confirmed by the Supreme Leader, is the link that has been drawn between the human sciences, the universities and the so-called ‘velvet counter-revolution’.

Detention without trial – which is prohibited by the constitution – and death in custody have nothing to do with reason or justice, or with the Prophet’s call for listening to people and treating them with kindness and respect. Friends: that is why you know that whatever you say or do in weakness will be used against you – and why you have resolved to be strong, cling to your integrity with all your might, and to find courage and consolation in the assurance that your loved ones, and millions of people around the world, will not forget you, or accept your ghastly predicament as fate.


I have found it strange reporting about someone with the same name as myself. An additional layer of ambiguity to a fascinating story which itself seems to challenge our sense of reality. Professor Keane captures what we can imagine to be the Kafkaesque sense of panic and disorientation through being falsely accused by a powerful court of Justice.


John Keane [Image above from the University of Sidney website] is Professor of Politics at the University of Sydney. His scholarly contributions include the concept of monetary democracy. He certainly exists, and his blog makes fascinating reading for students of politics and leadership.

The author of this post describes himself as ‘another John Keane’ interested in the processes of leadership in politics, public affairs and business organizations. He holds a position within a research institute in the United Kingdom, where he studies leadership from the perspective of social constructivism. He is also interested in how modes of learning are becoming mediated through social media.


Margaret Rope, a leading artist in stained glass, was arrested as a suspected spy in the 1930s, according to a BBC Radio documentary. She aroused suspicion by her passion for driving high power motor cycles, accompanied by her cousin who added to the confusion by also being named Margaret Rope. More information welcomed.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: