Academic prostitution in the field of terrorism studies
by Elias Davidsson
29 October 2011
The expression “academic prostitution” appears abusive. It either conveys an apparently arbitrary disrespect to certain academics by comparing them to prostitutes, or conversely appears to equate sexual prostitution, – an honorable, if hazardous, occupation – with intellectual prostitution, a definitely dishonorable one.
There is no dispute that even those who honestly earn their academic titles can produce shoddy scholarship, rely on dubious sources or draw spurious conclusions. And even the best scholarship can be used or abused by the powerful for improper purposes. Deficient scholarship or the abuse of good scholarship by third parties do not automatically transform the author into an academic prostitute.
What distinguishes the academic prostitute from the bad scholar are two main characteristics: He/she must be somehow aware and reckless about the deficient quality of his/her products; and his/her motivation for producing the so-called expertise must be other than the quest for truth. The usual motivation for academic prostitutes is either the quest for fame or for financial gain, or both. It is not always easy to distinguish the academic prostitute from one who genuinely believes in what he/she writes and unwittingly provides ammunition to powerful interests. Academic prostitutes are often skillful in hiding their motives or garbing them in commendable clothes. Yet, clues do exist.
While academic prostitutes are found in all fields of sciences, we submit that some fields virtually teem with such species, particularly those fields that directly serve the interests of powerful social agents: Political science, law, economics and communications. Since the decision was made by the governments of the most powerful states to elevate the myth of Islamic terrorism to the level of a serious threat to international peace and security, producing spin about terrorism has become a flourishing and rewarding industry. As “Islamic terrorism” is essentially a racist myth, the maintenance of that myth in the minds of populations requires the constant production and dissemination of ideological junk. That’s where the terrorism experts come into the picture. Their precise role is to produce this junk.
Among the primary clues that give away a terror expert as an academic prostitute are the following:
(a) Did the expert acknowledge or remain oblivious to state terrorism, as the most devastating form of terrorism, including that pursued under the by now innocuous name of war?
(b) Did the expert acknowledge or remain oblivious to the evidence that the attacks of September 11, 2001 were most probably planned and executed under the authority of the U.S. Government?
While ordinary citizens, who do not claim expertise in the field of terrorism, may be genuinely oblivious to the nature of state terrorism and to clues about probable U.S. Government responsibility for 9/11, such presumption of ignorance does not extend to terror “experts”. It requires a fair amount of cynicism for a person even modestly acquainted with the field of terrorism, to ignore the devastating nature of state terrorism and disregard the mountain of evidence pointing to U.S. Government responsibility for 9/11.
Further clues that reveal “terror experts” as academic prostitutes can be found in their credentials. Those whose works are regularly published in mainstream newspapers or have been acting as consultants to the most powerful governments, may be presumed academic prostitutes, an admittedly rebuttable presumption.
Classifying a person as an academic prostitute is not an exercise in futility or a method to avoid dealing with an opponent’s arguments. It serves a specific public utility: It constitutes a warning to the consumer to remain particularly vigilant in respect to the alleged expert’s product. More generally, such classification seeks to provide a public warning to those tempted to cut corners in academic research in order to please the powerful.