The internet is full of self-promoters. Either they are trying to make money or trying to jockey for a lead position in some movement (or both). Some of the self-promoters try to make themselves look like more of an expert or scholar than they are. I’ll call this scholariness. This is because they know that if others view them as a scholar or expert, they will be perceived as an authority. And such perception enhances their efforts at self-promotion, and/or the promotion of their social and/or political agenda.
For example, imagine there is some guy named George Hershey who has become obsessed with changing the country’s tax policies. Let’s say that George has a B.S. in Economics, works as a realtor, and has set up a web page to promote his political views and ideas about taxation. Problem is that George Hershey is just another guy with a college degree and an opinion about taxes. He needs something more. So George promotes himself as “Professor of Public Policy, The Institute of Eco-Analysis.” Yet it turns out that George created The Institute of Eco-Analysis and runs it from his basement computer and he is a professor in the sense that he sells tapes of himself lecturing about taxes and other things. This is scholariness.
Keep in mind that George may actually be quite knowledgeable about taxes, as it is something he likes to read up on. Nevertheless, what makes it scholariness is that he tries to create the perception that he is more of a scholar/expert than he is. He knows that when the average person reads or hears he is Professor of Public Policy, The Institute of Eco-Analysis, they will assume he is a professor at some university or some government institution. They will thus see him as an authority. And if his readers happen to agree with his position and arguments, they will want to see him as an authority. They will become followers and defenders.
What’s more, the internet is a big place, and some of George’s readers may themselves be self-promoters who advocate for the same thing. Next thing you know, they all begin to network and some join The Institute of Eco-Analysis. They might even set up some type of publication, “The Journal of Analytical Taxation,” where internet postings can now look like scholarly publications. Scholariness is now enhanced, as the average reader will get the impression that with all the collaboration and shared technical talk among the “experts,” the Institute and its publication must be a serious academic entity. Yet all you really have are a bunch of misfits who have found a way to make themselves appear more authoritative than they really are.
Since none of us want to be hoodwinked by people who are not quite what they say they are, here are some tips for detecting scholariness. Do not get distracted by the “scholars” or “scholarly groups” ability to mimic scholarship with technical jargon or fancy pants arguments. Look for the following:
- Is the “scholar” a professor at a mainstream university or college and is he/she talking about an issue that would fall under his area of expertise?
- Is the “scholar” heavily promoting himself ?
- Does the “scholar” have a political and/or social agenda?
If the answers are No, Yes, and Yes, then I would say there is a very strong chance you are dealing with scholariness.