"What is the Matrix? Control."
This essay was originally written by Daniel A. Nagy and published on his Facebook page on April 2nd, 2017. It is the third part in a series. The first two parts are available here: Part 1, Part 2. All three parts were originally published on facebook: Part 1, Part 2, Part 3.
In the first part, I have discussed the so-called Independent Media™, the seeming conspiracy of mass-media workers, especially, but not exclusively journalists, in creating and perpetuating a virtual reality by biased reporting and analysis, serving the interests of the International Community™. In the second part, I have discussed the role of Student Activists™ in doing the footwork and providing a recruitment pool for the rest of the International Community™. I have argued, that there is no need for these people to actually conspire or to be in the service or the pay of some shadowy background power; they are merely following their own perceived interests and their own thirst for power and status.
In this third part, I will look at the other side of the same academic coin:
Their faculty and administration are not only tolerating political activism on campus, but actively encouraging and supporting it, as long as it serves the interests of the International Community™. On one hand, there is nothing new or surprising about the best scientists being in the pay of the most powerful rulers. Similarly, it is quite common for them to provide legitimacy and support for their paymasters. What is new, however, that there seem to be no rulers around. On paper, the best Liberal Universities™ are independent and private, yet, they act as if there was some shadowy background power pulling the strings and showering them with money and prestige, as powerful rulers of the past have done. Well, if you state that much in public, you are only going to make a fool of yourself.
Just like in the case of Independent Media™, academics are actually in the driver’s seat of the International Community™. They do not serve anyone in particular, but exercising and protecting their own power. As it always happens at the nexus of power and science, science suffers. Entire bogus fields of study emerge that have nothing to do with uncovering the secrets of the world using the scientific method and even legitimate scientific pursuits get corrupted by biased funding and publishing. I believe that the root cause for this to go largely unopposed is that division of labor and specialization have deepened so much during the past century that non-specialists came to rely too heavily on academic credentials and KPI’s such as publications in Prestigeous Journals™, which, in turn, are measured by another KPI, the so-called impact factor. This provides cliques of mutual support that cite each others’ papers and also sit on editorial boards of journals with an opportunity to completely capture entire disciplines and even to create new ones, irrespective of actual scientific merit.
When enemies of the International Community™ attempt to mimic its behavior by operating universities of their own or attempting to endow their cronies with academic titles, they invariably fail, often quite comically. Just like in the case with journalists, no matter how much the king pays to the professor, no matter how much money he plows into shiny campuses, it will never be as prestigeous and attractive as a true, independent Liberal University™. The best possible outcome for such attempts is complete capture of the institution by the International Community™ in which case the ruler might have bought himself a temporary, highly conditional (upon unwavering loyalty) peace.
In this light, it is not at all surprising that one of the core tenets of the International Community™, in fact, one of the core Democratic Values™ is that public policy needs to be based on scientific evidence. This is a huge departure from the practice of past rulers who might have paid keen attention to scientist advisors, but would have never given up agency or responsibility by delegating policymaking to scientists. This practice of requiring scientific evidence (in practice: academic approval) for policy decisions utterly corrupts science, for it implies that the only way to influence policy is to influence science. Thus, power is spoken to truth, honest pursuit of science in politically charged fields such as economics or climate becomes impossible.
As any person in the position of power, these academics are, of course, corrupt. Since they have near-absolute power, they are very corrupt, in fact, but also very expensive. This might seem like a weakness, and indeed it is sometimes possible to destroy individual academics by unmasking their corruption, but that may prove very difficult, expensive and dangerous. Going after entire Liberal Universities™ or fields of study, however corrupted, is a surefire way to draw the ire of the entire International Community™.
The true and ultimate weakness of academia is that it is entirely unnecessary and useless in the age of the internet. They hardly do anything useful anymore for anyone but themselves and their powerful friends. If you want to actually learn something, there is no reason anymore to enroll in an accredited degree-earning program, because you can listen to lectures and read papers by the best in any field online, often for free. There is also no reason to pay any attention, as employers, to academic credentials. If you need to hire scientifically trained talent, you can look at results of online competitions, open-source work, etc. If really needed, you should test the applicant in-house on the subject. Remember: the proof of Poincaré Conjecture was not published in a peer-reviewed journal and the Fields medal awarded for it was turned down. The best strategy for freeing yourself and the world from power-thirsty academics with top-notch credentials is to ignore them out of power.
Those who are doing real science no longer need to rely on academic credentials, even if they happen to have them.