Friday, April 04, 2008

Right-Wing Conspiracy Theories about Academia and 9-11

Who really is to blame for 9-11? According to right-wing nut Walid Phares, it’s American academics who take money from jihadi terrorists and are conspiring to weaken us from within by ignoring the terrorist threat.

This kind of brazen stupidity might be dismissed as the right-wing version of nutty conspiracy theories about 9-11, except that Phares is a senior fellow and a director of the Future Terrorism Department at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, teaches at the National Defense University, and promoted his idea at the Heritage Foundation.

Here’s Phares’ thesis: "Jihadis have inserted into the Western education system tens of millions of dollars in campuses, think tanks, and beyond. That has created a systemic change that created one or two generations of analysts and experts who impact decision-makers who did not see the threat coming because they were under the influence of the money."

There’s not the slightest evidence of these donors demanding control over who gets appointed to faculty positions, or what research they do. A few million dollars spent over many years is a drop in the bucket of academia. To be sure, Saudi money has an influence, albeit very small. It aims to improve PR for Saudi Arabia and the Middle East, and convince colleges to open affiliate campuses there. But no one imagines that Saudi money has any impact on Middle East scholars.

Phares’ thesis about academics causing lack of attention to terrorist threats is absurd on its face. Let’s see. Was the Bush Administration too busy reading reports from Saudi-funded academics to prepare for a terrorist attack it knew was coming from al-Qaeda? Was Dick Cheney too busy getting daily briefings from left-wing professors to hold any meetings of the anti-terrorism task force he led in 2001? Or was it because he was too busy meeting secretly (and still refuses to reveal these meetings) with energy lobbyists to write an energy bill designed to aid wealthy corporations?

Sadly, this kind of loony conspiracy theory has some influence on the far right. Candace de Russy, until recently a trustee of the State University of New York system, embraces Phares’ theory on the National Review’s blog, claiming that it shows how “extremist Muslims have infiltrated higher ed to great advantage.” Let’s hope that this kind of bigoted goal to purge academia of Muslims won’t succeed.


Anonymous said...

Who knows. The conspiracy theory might be true. You should always look at all your information/facts before making a decision.

Anonymous said...

It happens that Walid Phares thesis is correct and your evaluation is light and unfounded. Indeed, tens of millions of Petro dollars have been sent by the Saudis and other Petro-regimes, includign the Qatari Oil industry as well as Iranian Petro interests. And before that Lybian and Iraqi (under Saddam) dollars have penetrated our campuses. This is not even a conspiracy theory. It is open information available online and in any of the hundred libraries. The sadest part is that Middle East Studies in the US do not hide it and were boasting aboutit in the 1990s. Wilson sounds very light with his criticism. By the way, Phares isn't even a "right wing," but a social democrat. Not all progressive are supportive of Jihadism, as most of US academia. Phares is right, others have to prove him wrong and delete the public records from universities listing of donations from the Islamist regimes.