The growth industry of terror commentators has its fair share of cold warriors and Walter Mitty types.
Among the loudest are those who proclaimed the existence of WMDs in Iraq, like The Australian’s Greg Sheridan who also claimed recently that “the lack of an attack [on Australia] is a great operational success for the US-led war on terror”, even though bin Laden “is assisted by the Left in the West, whose exaggerated, excessive and paranoid critiques of their own governments, especially of George W Bush, reinforce Islamic paranoia, especially among Muslims living in the West.”
The evidence offered for such large claims? None.
An equal body of evidence has emerged in the sexier form of “superstitious” lingerie model Miranda Darling, who wrote B Model: an embellished memoir which begins: “Eight Japanese hands rummage around in my bra and panties as if I were a disorganised sock drawer.” Now Darling is a Research Fellow with the Centre for Independent Studies, which boasts three Darlings as staff or board members (the chairman is her father Michael).
Darling, from the establishment family headed by arts patron Gordon Darling, has no background in terrorism academia. But she’s clearly more than a pretty face, holding a Master of Strategic Affairs. Does this qualify her to write terror commentary and “specialise in new security threats”? In a letter to The Australian supporting history warrior Merv Bendle’s discredited claims that terror academics are concerned more with class and gender than dangers, Darling writes of:
[T]he danger posed by many of these academic theories. The postmodern theories are… imposed on the strategic thinking of those who would solve the Rubik’s cube of terror, they are downright dangerous.
The evidence doesn’t seem to bear out Darling’s (or Bendle’s) claims. “These theories… are certainly not the subject of extensive discussion within the important terrorism conferences that we have attended,” say terrorism academics Luke Howie and Stuart Koschade.
The proceedings of the annual National Security Summit held in Canberra two weeks ago contain 40 papers from terror academics Australia-wide. None focus on class, gender or post-modern theories.
Miranda Darling responds: It is all too often the case that when their ideas are lacking, critics go after the credibility of the person they disagree with. This is a lazy strategy. Unfortunately, once the attack has been made, it should be responded too. For the record, Katherine Wilson’s facts are inaccurate: there are only two Darlings on staff and the board; the third is an honorary fellow who was given the honorific, as have many others, for long term support of the CIS. He has had no other involvement. I remain unsure what my grandfather, who is involved in the arts, has to do with a debate on how terrorism is discussed in academic circles and the media — but I’ll let that through to the keeper. I am no less qualified to write on how the terrorism debate is played out than Ms Wilson is: “I’ve worked as… a barmaid, a cleaner, a camp cook and a waitress”, writes Ms Wilson. This does not disqualify her from journalism; it would not disqualify her from writing the “book-length piece of literary journalism” she aspires to one day completing. Neither should my brief career in fashion, nor the novel I wrote before I completed my undergraduate degree at Oxford, now disqualify me from doing my job. As she mentions, I have a Masters degree in Strategic Affairs, which covers topics such as terrorism, counterterrorism, weapons of mass destruction, religious violence, transnational security issues and other relevant material. My work on terrorism and related matters has appeared in The Australian, Sydney Morning Herald, Canberra Times, Quadrant magazine, the Jakarta Post, and other publications. I have also given various presentations on-theme in various forums throughout Australia. I list these merely to point out that it would be more helpful to the debate to attack the ideas rather than the person who comments on them. This course of action only discredits Ms Wilson and does not further the discussion. One useful thing may come from her displeasure however: sales of my novel may increase.