October 3, 2018

FAKE NEWS COMES TO ACADEMIA: How three scholars gulled academic journals to publish hoax papers on ‘grievance studies.’

The three academics call themselves “left-leaning liberals.” Yet they’re dismayed by what they describe as a “grievance studies” takeover of academia, especially its encroachment into the sciences. “I think that certain aspects of knowledge production in the United States have been corrupted,” Mr. Boghossian says. Anyone who questions research on identity, privilege and oppression risks accusations of bigotry.

Beginning in August 2017, the trio wrote 20 hoax papers, submitting them to peer-reviewed journals under a variety of pseudonyms, as well as the name of their friend Richard Baldwin, a professor emeritus at Florida’s Gulf Coast State College. Mr. Baldwin confirms he gave them permission use his name. Journals accepted seven hoax papers. Four have been published.

This isn’t the first time scholars have used a hoax paper to make a point. In 1996 Duke University Press’s journal Social Text published a hoax submission by Alan Sokal, a mathematical physicist at New York University. Mr. Sokal, who faced no punishment for the hoax, told me he was “not oblivious to the ethical issues involved in my rather unorthodox experiment,” adding that “professional communities operate largely on trust; deception undercuts that trust.”

But he also said he was criticizing an academic subculture “that typically ignores (or disdains) reasoned criticism from the outside.” He concluded: “How can one show that the emperor has no clothes? Satire is by far the best weapon; and the blow that can’t be brushed off is the one that’s self-inflicted.” Messrs. Lindsay and Boghossian were already known for a hoax paper titled “The Conceptual Penis as a Social Construct,” which they published in the journal Cogent Social Sciences last year under the names Jamie Lindsay and Peter Boyle.

Such hoaxes are unethical, and The Wall Street Journal doesn’t condone them. The Journal expects op-ed contributors to be truthful about their identities and research, and academic journals also rely on the honesty of their authors.

But the trio defended their actions, saying they viewed the deception not as a prank but as a “hoax of exposure,” or a way to do immersive research that couldn’t be conducted any other way. “We understood ourselves to be going in to study it as it is, to try to participate in it,” Ms. Pluckrose says. “The name for this is ethnography. We’re looking at a particular culture.”

And a sad culture it is.

InstaPundit is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.