Iain Dooley shows us how to deal with the paranoid delusional ravings of pseudo academics, like the Alt-Right in America and Australia's serial pest, Malcolm Roberts.
THE PHENOMENON has made its mark across a huge range of topics, aiming to convince us that climate change is fake, Muslims are amassing at our borders crying out for blood, and that Hillary Clinton and George Soros are funding teams of left wing protesters in the U.S. who just want to rip babies out of their mothers’ wombs at nine months and murder them.
The hallmark of all pseudo academics is that they have “done their own research”.
This covers everything from sharing specious publications or theories that stem from a false premise about climate change or economics, to swallowing whole paranoid delusional ravings about the Rothschilds owning all of our central banks.
I would also include Pauline Hanson’s recent trip to the Barrier Reef to “see for herself” what the damage was and really get to the bottom of this whole climate change thing.
It's the assumption that someone who is either on the fringe of academia, or not an academic at all, can contribute meaningfully to a body of academic work or, in the worst cases, thinking that they can refute a body of academic work entirely, that unites all pseudo academics.
Of course, this requires a propensity to believe in some pretty wide ranging conspiracy theories (as opposed to theorised conspiracy).
People like Malcolm Roberts are too far gone to be saved from their own paranoid delusions. What we need to do is have a consistent means of mitigating their impact on society.
Now let me be clear: I am not saying people should not be pursuing independent research rather than believing everything they read from their favourite news outlet or Facebook memes.
In fact, as an advocate for Modern Monetary Theory, I am very familiar with what it is like to go against a mainstream academic opinion.
But if people are going to be encouraged to undertake their own verification of academic opinion because their extreme disaffection and distrust of “the establishment” has lead them into a state of near permanent paranoia, we need to be thinking pretty seriously about how we can prevent that collective paranoia from descending into fascism.
We need public debate. We need people engaged in democracy. What we don't need are people being broadly manipulated into voting against their interests because they are afraid of foreigners.
So, in the interests of trying to improve the quality of political debate, I wanted to share with everyone the first resource that genuinely gave me an insight into the patterns of paranoia and pseudo academia: The Nizkor Project.
This is an educational resource aimed at combating holocaust denial with rigorous historical work. It is a fantastic and accessible example of what genuine scholarship looks like.
It shows the stark contrast between measured scholarly debate and pseudo academic, fear mongering conspiracy theory.
If you have a browse through the Nizkor Project, you'll hone your bullshit detector.
When some fact-cherry-picking One Nation supporter tells you on Twitter that you need to read the Quran in order to understand the attitudes of Australian Muslims (rather than, say, reading an academic study on the attitudes of Australian Muslims), it will be clear that they don't have an opinion worth listening to.
Why is this so important?
Because there are genuine conspiracies. There is genuine oppression. There is genuine structural inequality and disadvantage. There are genuinely people who are part of an elite financial group who are influencing public policy in their favour.
In a recent interview with the BBC, Breitbart News technology editor Milo Yiannopoulos describes the Alt-Right (a nebulously defined political movement in the U.S. with its roots in neo-nazism and fascism) as caring about immigration, political correctness and globalisation.
Alt-Right Conference goes neo-Nazi. “Hail Trump, hail our people, hail victory!” Published 22 November, 2016.
What a distraction from the real causes of our economic problems!
What a distraction from environmental challenges!
What a distraction from social issues, like rampant domestic violence and racial inequality!
Addressing the issues driving the “alt right” don't actually threaten the economic framework of neoliberalism, nor do they do anything to reduce inequality or decrease financialisation in our economy, privatisation of public services and sky-rocketing private debt.
As a result, “traditional” conservatives have not wholly disavowed themselves of these fringe movements and in many cases have actively capitalised on them (as we've seen with the increased influence of the likes of Peter Dutton and Cory Bernadi, and others on the far right spectrum of the LNP in Australia).
Let's fight fear and loathing with information and logic. Let's promote debate on sound terms and remind people that the entire academic world is not out to trick them into succumbing to Chinese rule.
Let's not end identity politics, but instead let's strengthen our identity as reasonable actors in an increasingly unreasonable political landscape.
A must see! Check out the lies and backflips over Iraq's "weapons of mass destruction".
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Australia License
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