Academic jargon, propaganda and agitprop…






It is often the absence of critical thought in the academic world which continues to shock.

It is hard sometimes to avoid the conclusion of those like Roger Scruton that universities have been captured by political jargon and propaganda:

“Almost every belief system that in the past seemed objective and important is now dismissed as an ‘ism’ or a ‘phobia’ so that those who stand by it are made to look like ideological fanatics.”

The jargon and propaganda which claims that everything should be questioned of course ignores its own ideological fanaticism. We encounter that in Northern Ireland where one sort of ‘ism’ has been junked by the jargon and propaganda of Transitional Justice: ‘terrorism’ or at least one sort of terrorism.

Over the past quarter of a century this has been fortified by the push into ‘critical terrorism studies’ where ‘state crime’ is clearly the logical outcome and the underlying agenda is to denounce the state and all its evil doings: army, police, agents and so on (all, of course, with the prefix ‘British’).

Sometimes one has the impression that republican gangs were going about their lawful business of resistance only to have their legitimate rights taken away by murderous state thugs.

This tendentious agenda is advanced under the guise of a humanitarian concern, which extols histrionically notions like ‘justice’ and ‘emancipation’. Needless to say, this has nothing really to do with human rights. As always, it’s about power (and the exclusion of those who disagree). Power in its large sense of controlling the political agenda. And power in its local sense of controlling the academic agenda, thereby imposing – somewhat ironically – an entirely uncritical intellectual orthodoxy.

Therefore it is always a pleasure to encounter real critical thinking on this subject, to know ‘you are not alone’, that your concern about the agitprop of some academics is not a mere prejudice and that it has been challenged already by serious intellectuals, Jones and Smith.

In a couple of related articles they take on the cosy, echo chamber of the ‘critical’ (that is ‘uncritical’) study of terrorism – It is mind-closing, not mind-opening – and observe its colonisation of university departments:

“…its high priests seek to control hiring and firing on university appointment committees in departments of international relations, and dominate state agencies charged with allocating grants for research. In this way, they function as a classic Neo-Marxist cultural vanguard pursuing their Gramscian Long March through the institutions, closing the academic mind in the process.”

This is a real concern for those who do not share this view of academic agitprop.

“Universities are not now, it would seem, in business to pursue dispassionate analysis but instead are to serve as cheerleaders for this critically inspired vision.”

And they note too how this new establishment understand themselves to be ‘victims’ too:

“This social fact tends to invalidate their somewhat exaggerated assertions that critical theory represents the only means to open discourse to “dissident voices.” If you are the orthodoxy and sedulously enforce it, you cannot, except through a process of Orwellian doublethink, also be a dissident.”

But then Orwellian doublethink is part of the agenda. This type of academic work simply exploits:

“…the relativist turn in Western thought given to them by a Western tradition of self-questioning in order to equate liberal–democratic pluralism with the worst kinds of oppressive tyranny.”

Jones and Smith think that there is a curiously incoherent empathy with the motives of those engaged in terrorism, promoting moral confusion (though in Northern Ireland it is possibly not so curious). In short:

“In the looking glass world of critical terror studies reveals that we are all terrorists now and must empathize with those sub-state actors who have recourse to violence for whatever motive.”

Where we end up is here:

“…terrorists are really no different from us. In fact, there is terror as the weapon of the weak and the far worse and coercive terror of the liberal state.”

Indeed, if we have not already have ended up at this place in Northern Ireland it is a long time overdue to start to rid this jargon-ridden propaganda from academic discourse.


bellum Editor

Roger Scruton ‘Universities’ war against truth’ The Spectator
David Martin Jones and M L R Smith. (2009) ‘We’re All Terrorists Now: Critical—or Hypocritical—Studies “on” Terrorism?’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism,32:4, 292 — 302.
David Martin Jones and M L R Smith (2011) ‘Terrorology and Methodology: A Reply to Dixit and Stump’, Studies in Conflict & Terrorism, 34: 6, 512 — 522