For the past three months, the Paris Institute for Critical Thinking (PICT) has confronted a legal process by Prof. Dr. Kader Konuk of the University Duisburg-Essen, aimed at “The Real Academy in Exile,” a case study of clique formation in contemporary academia co-authored by David Selim Sayers and Evrim Emir-Sayers and published in the PICT blog The Faculty Lounge under the former’s name.
Rather than offer a public response to the article, Konuk offered Sayers the prospect of up to €250,000 in fines and 6 months in prison. Furthermore, in the course of her legal action, Konuk accused Sayers of using “the language of the Nazis” and of “availing himself of populist and antisemitic conspiracy theories,” baseless and horrific claims that we reject in the sharpest terms possible.1
We refused to take down the article, traveling to Germany to uphold its integrity in court. The court ruled that “the content of the defendant’s text and the factual allegations made therein are based on a (sufficient) minimum amount of evidence,” meaning that “The Real Academy in Exile” will stay intact and publicly available as a historic example of academic whistleblowing.
While the factual content of the article remains virtually unchanged, the court ruled that certain specific phrases should be modified or censored. As a result, while preserving 17940 of the article’s 18226 words, we lost 286. These words are now blacked out in the text; we leave it to the critical thinking skills of our readers to supply their own interpretations of the concerned passages.2
By supporting our author, we support the stance that speaking truth to power is not just a right, but a necessity for the functioning of any healthy society. By championing our article, we champion a whole tradition of public expression and debate reaching back to milestones such as Émile Zola’s J’accuse…! Just like Zola, we regard it as our public duty to call power holders to account.
Your PICT Team
Anca yargılarlar, bizi anlamaz onlar
Çünkü hokkabazlar bizimle anlaşamazlar
– Heijan & Muti
1. We maintain that these accusations constitute a dangerous example of reductio ad Hitlerum, the tendency to trivialize the monstrosity of Nazi rule by connecting any position contrary to one’s own to a position held by the Nazis. For more on reductio ad Hitlerum, as defined by German philosopher Leo Strauss (1899-1973), see Carlo Salzani, “The Limits of a Paradigm: Agamben, the Yellow Star, and the Nazi Analogy,” The Faculty Lounge, 2 September 2021 [7 March 2022].↑
2. On 26 April 2022, Konuk initiated a second court case against Sayers, demanding a fine of 10,000 euros for certain social media posts in which PICT shared passages from, and links to, “The Real Academy in Exile.” On 13 May 2022, Konuk lost the case, being ordered by the District Court of Essen to carry the full costs of the procedure. Referring to its original ruling, the court declared there was “no ban on the expression or dissemination of passages beyond those mentioned in the ruling, notably the rest of the text,” further specifying that the sharing of such passages “via Facebook or Instagram cannot constitute a violation.”↑