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sic semper pecuniae

One of the sideshows that has accompanied the continuing collapse of Muammar Gaddafi’s regime in Libya has been the parade of Western intellectuals and chattering-class heroes who, it turns out, were happy to take a nicely-reimbursed trip to Tripoli over the past few years, meet the Great Man, and then, in almost all cases, write a fawning article about the experience afterwards. Often these pieces appeared in quite high-profile locations such as The Guardian, The New Republic, The Washington Post, and so on. Thus, Anthony Giddens embarrassed himself pitching the notion that under the tender guidance of Gaddafi Libya might one day become the “Norway of North Africa”. (Sir Howard Davies has just resigned as Director of the LSE as a result of the the school’s connections to the Gaddafi regime, mostly through the family foundation and Gaddafi’s eldest son.) Benjamin Barber, Joseph Nye, and several others did much the same. Robert Putnam took the bait but spat out the hook just in time, writing of his meeting with Gaddafi:

Was this a serious conversation or an elaborate farce? Naturally, I came away thinking—hoping—that I had managed to sway Col. Gadhafi in some small way, but my wife was skeptical. Two months later I was invited back to a public roundtable in Libya, but by then I had concluded that the whole exercise was a public-relations stunt, and I declined.

Putnam clearly married well. He was also one of the few who publicly acknowledged that his participation was brokered by the Monitor Group, a consulting firm with a large consulting contract with Libya, and that he was paid his “standard consulting fee”. (Nye also mentioned the connection to Monitor in his TNR piece, but didn’t say he was also being paid as a consultant.) In a report, David Corn and Siddhartha Mahanta follow the money, showing how Monitor recruited and paid a wide range of “thought leaders” to visit Libya and (in most cases) meet with Gaddafi. They link to an internal report, helpfully titled “Project to Enhance the Profile of Libya and Muammar Qadhafi” detailing the recruitment program and the supportive articles that subsequently emerged from it.

Update: Edited for clarity about who disclosed what.

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Written by Kieran

March 3, 2011 at 8:53 pm

10 Responses

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  1. From the Joseph Nye piece:

    I was in Libya at the invitation of the Monitor Group, a consulting company that is helping Libya open itself to the global economy.

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    no

    March 3, 2011 at 8:59 pm

  2. From the recently-added footnote to the piece: “While the article discloses that Nye traveled to Libya at the invitation of the Monitor Group, it should have also noted that he was acting as a paid consultant for the company.” I’ll reword my post to make this clearer.

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    Kieran

    March 3, 2011 at 9:01 pm

  3. Interesting – who is really exercising “soft power” here? The concept relies on ideas and intellectuals are easily seduced by thinking their ideas are making a difference. Soft power has an Achilles heel – vanity.

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    orgtheory reader

    March 3, 2011 at 10:39 pm

  4. [...] who accepted a junket to meet the Libyan leader–and then may (or may not) have written favorably about him.  The [...]

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  5. people have known that joseph nye is quite pro-establishment, as he often serves as a fawning apologist for imperialistic policies. anthony giddens has been thoroughly embarassed previously as well for his association for the Blairite “third way” approach.

    it’s surprising that robert putnam turned out to be so forthcoming – he has been much-criticized by sociologists (especially Alejandro Portes) for his usage of “social capital” in his work, especially in “Bowling Alone.”

    bravo, putnam!

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    Andrew

    March 4, 2011 at 9:43 am

  6. Update: interview with Howard Davies on his resignation from LSE:

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/today/hi/today/newsid_9413000/9413950.stm

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    Adam Hedgecoe

    March 4, 2011 at 10:34 am

  7. On the lighter side, see Laurie Taylor in this week’s THES: first line:
    “In a surprise move, our university has decided that it will no longer accept research funding from Attila the Hun.”:

    http://www.timeshighereducation.co.uk/story.asp?sectioncode=26&storycode=415390&c=3

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    Adam Hedgecoe

    March 4, 2011 at 12:16 pm

  8. That’s what happens when the cultural bourgeoisie attempts to balance out their economic capital deficit.

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    Omar

    March 4, 2011 at 1:23 pm

  9. How rude of Gaddafi. At least Pinochet had the manners to listen to Friedman.

    QOTD comes from a colleague: “I can’t get past the part that people would pay the author of Bowling Alone a consulting fee!”

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    joshmccabe

    March 4, 2011 at 6:12 pm

  10. From The Guardian’s piece on this (http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2011/mar/04/monitor-group-us-libya-gaddafi):
    “[The Monitor Group] also regretted having helped Gaddafi’s son prepare an ill-fated dissertation at the London School of Economics.”
    I *knew* that “five forces” model he proposed looked familiar…

    Like

    Jerry Davis

    March 7, 2011 at 12:07 pm


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