On Tuesday, three academics went public with a year-long hoax — they defended as an academic study — that exposed pervasive bias in various academic journals regarding “gender studies,” “sexuality studies,” “fat studies,” and other such disciplines they lumped together in the term “grievance studies.” Their entirely fabricated and scientifically “broken” papers were accepted and praised — because they presented conclusions that agreed with the identity politics ideology rapidly taking over academia.
“While our papers are all outlandish or intentionally broken in significant ways, it is important to recognize that they blend in almost perfectly with others in the disciplines under consideration,” Helen Pluckrose at the University of London, mathematics Ph.D. James A. Lindsay, and Portland State University philosophy professor Peter Boghossian, wrote in Areo Magazine.
The papers were indeed outlandish. One paper, published by the journal Sexuality & Culture, argued that men should “anally self-penetrate using sex toys” in order to combat homophobia and transphobia. Another, published by the journal Fat Studies, argued that becoming morbidly obese should be praised as “fat bodybuilding.” A third, seriously considered by the journal Hypatia, argued that professors should sort their students in terms of “privilege,” and make white students sit in the floor in chains.
The project fell apart when one paper — arguing that dog parks are rape-condoning spaces that perpetuate systemic oppression against “the oppressed dog” and that feminists should train men like humans domesticate dogs — was not only published by the journal Gender, Place, and Culture, but started receiving awards for excellence. This inspired journalistic investigations, which revealed that the purported author did not exist.
These hoax “academic” papers are indeed beyond the pale, but they are tragically similar to much of the drivel seriously published by such journals in “grievance studies.” PJ Media’s Toni Airaksinen has reported on many such studies, including some that brand men who oppose abortion as suffering from “hegemonic masculinity,” others condemning the “academic apartheid” of gifted math classes, and one attacking the “hegemonic masculinity” of homeless men.
Interestingly, Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian describe themselves as liberals, but they engaged in this study in order to illustrate a very important problem in academia — a problem that is making dangerous inroads into popular culture and even politics. Ironically, this problem will actually undermine efforts to further “social justice,” since the unscientific approach taken in “grievance studies” will make activism laughable.
“After having spent a year immersed and becoming recognized experts within these fields, in addition to witnessing the divisive and destructive effects when activists and social media mobs put it to use, we can now state with confidence that it is neither essentially good nor sound,” the academics wrote. “These fields of study do not continue the important and noble liberal work of the civil rights movements; they corrupt it while trading upon their good names to keep pushing a kind of social snake oil into a public that keeps getting sicker” (emphasis original).
Here’s the key bit: “For us to know anything about injustice in society and be able to show it to those who are unaware or in denial of it, scholarship must be rigorous,” Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian wrote. “Currently, it is not, and this enables it, and social justice issues with it, to be dismissed.”
While conservatives rightly mock the absurd studies, there may indeed be some injustices that true scientific research can bring to light. Importantly, there may indeed be some injustices against groups widely considered “privileged” which are entirely overlooked due to the bias of academic researchers.
The heart of the problem, as Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian diagnosed it, is “critical constructivism,” which is “most easily summarized as an overarching (almost or fully sacralized) belief that many common features of experience and society are socially constructed.”
Most aspects of society have been “constructed” based “upon power dynamics between groups of people, often dictated by sex, race, or sexual or gender identification. All kinds of things accepted as having a basis in reality due to evidence are instead believed to have been created by the intentional and unintentional machinations of powerful groups in order to maintain power over marginalized ones.”
In other words, everything you believe is the product of evil, straight, white, cisgender, homophobic, transphobic, racist men who created the concept of objective truth in order to oppress the “other.” As the academics noted, “This worldview produces a moral imperative to dismantle these constructions.”
Such “constructions” would include “the understanding that there are cognitive and psychological differences between men and women,” the idea that “so-called ‘Western medicine’ … is superior to traditional or spiritual healing practices,” that Western cultural norms giving women and LGBT people equal rights are ethically superior, and that “being obese is a life-limiting health condition rather than an unfairly stigmatized and equally healthy and beautiful body-choice.”
Science itself is one of these hated “constructions,” Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian noted. “This is the belief that in urgent need of ‘disrupting’ is the simple truth that science itself—along with our best methods of data-gathering, statistical analysis, hypothesis testing, falsifying, and replicating results—is generally a better way of determining information about the objective reality of any observable phenomenon than are non-scientific, traditional, cultural, religious, ideological, or magical approaches.”
As Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian explained, “for grievance studies scholars, science itself and the scientific method are deeply problematic, if not outright racist and sexist, and need to be remade to forward grievance-based identitarian politics over the impartial pursuit of truth.”
“As a result, radical constructivists tend to believe science and reason must be dismantled to let ‘other ways of knowing’ have equal validation as knowledge-producing enterprises. These, depending on the branch of ‘theory’ being invoked, are allegedly owned by women and racial, cultural, religious, and sexual minorities. Not only that, they are deemed inaccessible to more privileged castes of people, like white heterosexual men,” the academics warned.
“This results in an epistemological and moral relativism which, for political reasons, promotes ways of knowing that are antithetical to science and ethics which are antithetical to universal liberalism,” Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian explained.
Radical constructivism “forwards the idea that we must, on moral grounds, largely reject the belief that access to objective truth exists (scientific objectivity) and can be discovered, in principle, by any entity capable of doing the work, or more specifically by humans of any race, gender, or sexuality (scientific universality) via empirical testing (scientific empiricism).”
In contrast to this dangerous worldview, the academics insisted that the scientific method is the best method of obtaining truth. “Any scholarship that proceeds from radically skeptical assumptions about objective truth by definition does not and cannot find objective truth. Instead it promotes prejudices and opinions and calls them ‘truths,'” the liberal academics wrote.
This makes “grievance studies” academics “like snake-oil salespeople who diagnose our society as being riddled with a disease only they can cure.”
While the academics who perpetrated the hoax are liberal and support social justice, their interaction with “grievance studies” showed them “why this fatally flawed research is attractive, how it is factually wrong in its foundations, and how it is conducive to being used for ethically dubious overreach.”
“We’ve seen, studied, and participated in its culture through which it ‘proves’ certain problems exist and then advocates often divisive, demeaning, and hurtful treatments we’d all do better without,” they wrote.
Their study explained how “politically biased research that rests on highly questionable premises gets legitimized as though it is verifiable knowledge.”
Many might reject the idea that what happens in academia should concern them. Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian argued that this nonsense does not stay in academia, however. Instead, it “goes on to permeate our culture because professors, activists, and others cite and teach this ever-growing body of ideologically skewed and fallacious scholarship.”
They referenced the example of Robin DiAngelo’s concept of “white fragility.” DiAngelo published this idea in the International Journal of Critical Pedagogy in 2011, and this year she landed a major book deal on the subject, as activists pushed it on billboards around Portland, Oregon.
What happens in academia does not stay in academia, and this noxious rejection of truth, science, and the Western heritage in the name of identity politics has made key inroads in American culture and politics. It must be exposed and rejected at all costs.
Watch a video of Pluckrose, Lindsay, and Boghossian below.
Follow the author of this article on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.