Recently, there has been an alarming number of professors who have been driven out of the academic community for expressing views that from a rational perspective, are moderate at worst and beneficial at best. At Evergreen University, Brett Weinstein was effectively forced to resign by a militant minority for refusing to take part in their demands that whites do not show up to the university for a “day of absence” on the pretence that it established an authoritarian, dangerous precedent. At PSU, Peter Boghossian faced a similar circumstance when he demonstrated through the publishing of numerous hoax papers that a number of research journals within the grievance studies community lacked proper peer-review processes measuring up to academic standards.
While the fact that these exiled professors are respectable members of the academic community who simply seek unbiased, objective truth (It should also be noted that despite accusations of being “alt-right”, the majority of them are liberals) is concerning in itself; a term coined by Brett Weinstein as “idea laundering” may provide even more far-reaching implications the United States on an international level.
Idea laundering is the process of legitimizing an idea by creating academic ecosystems with faulty checks and balances through poorly established peer review systems. What Boghossian demonstrated through his hoax papers, and Weinstein proceeded to point out; was that through the process of establishing prejudiced academic journals, publishing flawed papers, then citing those publications as evidence, a deductively unsound idea could be sold to the academic community and general public as a credible one. Additionally, idea laundering has a snowball effect: where it begins as a publication, and with every subsequent citation within alternative publications it is given more and more credibility. Over time, it effectively becomes a widely accepted idea. While this method has so far only been demonstrably limited to the Grievance Studies community, there is no reason to believe that it could not be executable in other areas of academia. It is at this point that a new and potentially widely disruptive threat to national security may begin to arise.
Since it is a hot button issue, let us use China as an example in this thought experiment. It has already been demonstrated by writers at NEWSREP that China has effectively established a robust network of think tanks and academic institutions such as the Berggruen Institute and Confucius Institute as a means of influence peddling. In fact, other independent investigators have even revealed that Chinese government websites have publicly stated that this is their specific intent.
The next logical step would be to establish credible research to support policy manipulation. In influence operations, utilizing research garnered from think tanks to add credibility, or even discredit US policy is not without historical precedent. During the Reagan administration’s push for the Strategic Defense Initiative, for example (also known as the “Star Wars” program), the “FBI found that part of the Soviet effort to discredit the Reagan administration’s… (SDI) included obtaining SDI studies conducted by well-known foundations and think tanks.” Now imagine the world of clandestine opportunities that would open up to a foreign power if evidence could be manufactured at will.
In the game of power, the best metaphors for kinetic, conventional military strength are pieces on a chessboard. They move from place to place, but they can be clearly identified and can therefore be countered. The true danger lies is in the things we can’t see, the minds behind them, and every link within an infinite chain of actions and reactions that may subsequently occur. This is one of those links.
* Author John R. is currently finishing up his bachelor’s degree in Political Science and seeks to pursue a PhD in fields related to National Security.