Disclaimer: All names have been hidden to protect the guilty
Scene: Kenney-Herter Auditorium in the later afternoon hours
Guest lecturer (wrapping up an informative 30-minute presentation): …and with that final point about the consequence for our conception of [country name redacted] by the presence of this infinitesimally tiny subculture I’ve just written a book about, I will happily take your questions.
(Break for applause, whereupon several hands are raised)
Guest lecturer: Yes, you there. The one with the government ID badge hanging visibly from around your neck and which you seem to be subtly tapping for emphasis?
Strategic Studies student #1: Hello, I was wondering if I could make a point which echoes the status quo understanding of aforementioned region among “Washington Post” readers? I would like to add that I am presenting this idea as nuanced and bold, when, in reality, it is hackneyed.
Guest lecturer: That’s certainly a valid observation, as I’ve assured all previous questioners who have expressed that same opinion at each institution I’ve been to in the last two days. It is extremely hackneyed, but, as I am a decent individual, I will not go out of my way to make it obvious in what contempt I hold you and your ideas. Subtle clues, such as a slightly perceptible eye twitch, are the only honest response I can offer. Next question?
Strategic Studies student #2: Hi. My name is [redacted] and I’m [nationality redacted]…
Guest lecturer (smiling): It’s not relevant and I never asked you, but okay.
Strategic Studies student #2: …and I would like to make an extremely specific, but definitely underthought, analogy from something from my personal experience. Its bearing on what you’ve talked about is dubious at best, but do you think I’m smart and pretty for having a slightly different perspective?
Guest lecturer: I’m not familiar with the case, but it certainly sounds like a profitable road for further study, if that will make you feel vindicated enough to desist.
IDev student: Foucault?
Guest lecturer (nodding): Foucault. Next question?
Strategic Studies student #3: Do you think future American policymakers (as we will all surely be) will have to weigh the costs of what you’ve talked about when choosing to bomb your subject country?
Guest lecturer (drinking the branded SAIS water and wishing it was vodka): Without a doubt, if it will get your school to buy three more copies of my book. Frankly, my research grant only allowed me to do a quarter of the requisite sampling to determine statistically significant results, but I’ve been sure to include a lot of anecdotes that you will pilfer for the “country background” section of your next memo before you outline, in detail, how many Marine battalions you think will be necessary to invade it.
IDev student (reemerging): Colonialism?
Guest lecturer (giving a thumbs up): Colonialism. Alright, you in the back there?
Strategic Studies student #4: I’m going to start off by invoking devil’s advocacy as a prelude to a question that reveals my far-right political leanings…
Guest lecturer: Ah yes, what a frightful displeasure this is for me.
Strategic Studies student #4: …and by the end I’m going to suggest that yours is just a “s***hole” country that east coast elitist globalists are sending my hard-earned tax dollars to?
Guest lecturer: I’ve managed to make it this far without evoking Trump directly, so I’ll just make a discursive remark about “recent changes in the political climate.” Are you satisfied?
Strategic Studies student #4: Climate change is a myth.
Guest lecturer: Right, next question?
IDev student (noticeably perturbed by the last exchange): Marxism?
Guest Lecturer (obviously relieved): Marxism.
Strategic Studies student #4 (enraged): MARXISM!
Moderator: And let’s end it there. I want to thank our guest lecturer for their time today. They will be waiting here on stage afterwards for your overeager/pointless/vindictive follow-up remarks, like a lamb led to the slaughter.
Guest lecturer (sighing resignedly within, but making a show of blithe extroversion): If you buy a book, I couldn’t care less!
(Polite laughter and mass adjournment to the buffet)