Entering Lovecraft Country

Some research program and news updates for August 2020

Research Agenda

I’ve updated my research agenda statement on my professional academic website. In particular, I’ve made the links between my PhD research on terrorist strategic subcultures and my post PhD research on the political economy of economic and social stratification clearer. I’ll continue to hone this. I’ve conceptualised my research agenda in terms of two projects - one that publishes from my PhD and that builds a new empirical data set, and one that identifies the stratification barriers and how to overcome them to ensure greater social mobility. For the second project, I’ve been familiarising myself in recent months with the relevant literature. I’ll have more to say on this in the near future.

Academia.edu Profile

I’ve decided to port my articles and Masters essays from my personal website to my Academia.edu profile. This frees up storage space on my personal website to host iPhone recordings of talks that I give. It also means I get to use Academia.edu’s analytics capability to track who reads my papers and why. I appreciate that there is some controversy over Academia.edu’s platform and its annoying spam email messages. However, I am an Academia.edu subscriber, and it’s a useful service. I find that research now is in part about forming meaningful strategic alliances with platforms like Academia.edu or Amazon’s Kindle Direct Publishing services. Access to these services transforms the idea creation aspect of the research process into one that is driven by analytics: using Pareto’s 80/20 rule you can see where the demand or public uptake of your published research is - and make resource allocation decisions accordingly.

Entering Lovecraft Country

Critical race theory reframing of the eldritch horror and supernatural writer H.P. Lovecraft are very popular at the moment. HBO’s Lovecraft Country television series is reaching a broader audience and is receiving critical praise. I became familiar with Lovecraft’s horror fiction as a teen through Iron Maiden’s Live After Death album in the mid-late 1980s and then later in my 1990s exploration of countercultures and new religious movements. More recently, I’ve looked at a more contemporary example of Lovecraft’s racialist worldview: the race-IQ gap debates that emerged from Richard Lynn’s controversial work on national IQ scores and his citation in Richard Herrnstein and Charles Murray’s influential book The Bell Curve: Intelligence and Class Structure in American Life (New York: The Free Press, 1994). I delved into the University of Melbourne’s Baileau library to read more on the so-called ‘Bell Curve wars’ about the hereditarian versus environmentalist schools of intelligence. I’ve since discovered that Lynn, Herrnstein and Murray’s work lives on in racialist websites like American Renaissance, VDare.com, and Counter-Currents. There’s at least a paper and a possible book here waiting to be written on how Herrnstein and Murray’s Bell Curve work has influenced the Alt-Right’s ‘race realism’, and how Silicon Valley’s technological juggernauts have banned the likes of AmRen’s founder Jared Taylor. Lovecraft’s racialism continues to persist today and has moved from small circulation pulp magazines to a thriving online extremist subculture.

J.M. Berger’s Optimal

If there was someone I’d pick to look into the Alt-Right’s contemporary ‘race realism’ then J.M. Berger would be who. He’s an expert on the terrorist organisation Islamic State and has written important and influential work on political and religious extremism. I discussed Berger’s definitional contribution with Associate Professor Pete Lentini of Monash University during the final write-up and editing stages of my PhD in late 2019. Now, Berger has written Optimal - a novel about a near-future world where algorithms and platforms optimise our world to such an extent that our lives become curated and controlled. Check Optimal out!

Buy, Don’t Build

I know from my aughties work with Disinformation and with the Smart Internet Technology CRC that Silicon Valley’s technology firms and Wall Street’s fintech innovators are going to change the economy. I don’t have the full weekend to go through Palantir’s S1 IPO prospectus. But understanding the efficient technology frontier is critical to my research program and to how I use business process reengineering to restructure my research work. I’ve started to follow Byrne Hobart’s The Diff’s free postings - such as on business model meta-models and Palantir as a business cult - to expand my knowledge base of contemporary business practices. That leaves me more time to focus on creating original research.

Foreign Interference Inquiry?

Australian coalition backbenchers are calling for a foreign interference inquiry into Australian universities. Just under a year ago when I wrote an unsuccessful grant for the Australian Department of Defence’s Strategic Policy Grants scheme I figured that China and Russian doctrines on information, irregular, and special warfare would become important, as well as the need to understand economic statecraft. I wrote the unsuccessful grant as a pitch to Andrew Hastie MP’s constituents. The inquiry follows frontpage headline stories in The Australian newspaper this week about China’s Thousand Talents research development program and a continued war-of-words over universities that have affiliated Confucius Institutes. As a research administrator I can say that universities already have training, processes, and procedures in place to deal with foreign interference and with protecting both confidential data and intellectual property portfolios. I’ll be watching developments closely for the possible foreign interference inquiry.