academic freedom, Alan Sokal, grievance culture, Helen Pluckrose, James Lindsey, penises cause global warming, Peter Boghossian, rape in dog parks, so-called higher education
As regular readers know, I’ve been covering the successful hoax perpetrated on the academic grievance studies industry for some time. First in Grieving Grievance Studies—The Continuing Scam, in October of 2018, second in Grieving Grievance Studies—The Continuing Scam Revisited in January of 2019, and then in Leftists—Bayonetted On The Battlefield in March of 2019. I summarized the story in that last article:
They are the story of James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian, academics all, who, inspired by the famous Sokal Hoax (background in the first link above), wrote 20 academic papers, which they submitted to prestigious academic journals.
What’s remarkable about this is they set out to prove the editors and peer reviewers–professors with doctorates in their respective fields–could not tell the difference between actual scholarship and absolute nonsense couched in contemporary social justicey eduspeak. One of the papers was a rewrite of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf. The paper was titled: Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism. They made up the names and affiliations of the ‘authors.’ Another was The Conceptual Penis: A Social Construct, which blamed climate change on penises (That one’s probably true; there’s nothing they can’t do). My favorite, however, was Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity in Urban Dog Parks in Portland, Oregon.
Thesis: That dog parks are rape-condoning spaces and a place of rampant canine rape culture and systemic oppression against “the oppressed dog” through which human attitudes to both problems can be measured. This provides insight into training men out of the sexual violence and bigotry to which they are prone.
These, and more, were accepted and published, or were in the process of acceptance and publication, when The Wall Street Journal exposed the hoax a bit earlier than Lindsay, Pluckrose and Boghossian intended. The three are card-carrying academic Leftists, though Lindsay is not currently employed in a college teaching position.
In Boghossian/Pluckrose/Lindsay Hoax: How Corrupt Is Higher Education?, in June of 2019, I wrote:
Christina Hoff Sommers, an American Enterprise Institute scholar and outspoken critic of feminism, also wrote to PSU in January, detailing her opinion on the matter and calling the hoax project an ‘eye-opening experiment.’
‘These [hoax] results raise serious questions about the methods of several seemingly legitimate academic journals,’ she wrote.
Addressing the accusation of improperly studying human subjects, Sommers had this to say: ‘This charge is hard to take seriously. By its very nature, the parody rules out the possibility of consent: It is the view of the IRB that academic journals should be shielded from critical or irreverent scrutiny?’
‘By punishing Dr. Boghossian, Portland State University would be exposing itself to ridicule,’ she continued. ‘It would also be adding to the silliness Boghossian and his colleagues so successfully exposed.’
The hoaxers indeed made up data. How else could they have come to their lunatic conclusions? They intended to write parodies; that was their point! But unlike so many academics, they had no intent to profit by that fabrication. Their only goal was, through exposure of incompetence and bias that could happen in no other way, restore academia to its rightful role in our society. To in any way punish Dr. Boghossian would do nothing but diminish Portland State University and further convince Americans “higher education,” is a laughable misnomer.
Of course, the leftist academy must not be mocked! These are serious scholars, people on the cutting edge of scholarly research. They are the inheritors and guardians of the Enlightenment, men and women selflessly laboring to protect and further the highest traditions of knowledge and human progress. That’s why they bought, hook line a sinker, a paper about people examining the genitals of hundreds of dogs in a dog park, and a paper about penises causing global warming. They’ve taken their pound of flesh from Prof. Boghossian, as The Federalist reports:
Portland State University is punishing Peter Boghossian for demonstrating that grievance studies are nonsense. Dr. Boghossian, an assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State, joined two other academics to hoax the purveyors of gender studies and kindred fields committed to turning personal gripes into taxpayer-funded ‘studies.’ [skip]
Almost instantly Boghossian’s university brought him up on charges of ‘research misconduct.’ The theory was that he should have told the editors of the journals that he was hoaxing them. Allegations of this sort multiplied. He was cleared of most of them, but Portland State stuck with the idea that he had carried out ‘improper research on human subjects.’
The theory was that the editors he hoaxed were the lab rats in an experiment. The university authorities were not completely clueless. They did drop the charge that the imaginary dogs in the paper about ‘canine rape culture’ had been subjected to improper research techniques.
Actually, that’s about as close to “completely clueless” as one might imagine. Apparently they were just smart enough to understand pushing that theory would have made them look as insane and stupidly vindictive as they actually are.
His opponents wished to expel him from academia—and, at the very least, to make him endure an abrasive investigation. Persecuting Boghossian was also intended to intimidate into silence anyone else at Portland State University (and potentially anywhere else) who might consider criticizing the ‘grievance studies’ complex.
On July 17, Mark R. McLellan, Portland State’s vice president for research and graduate studies, wrote to Boghossian that he had been found guilty of ‘violations of human subjects’ rights and protection.’ Boghossian is now ‘forbidden to engage in any human subjects related research’ and ‘forbidden to engage in any sponsored research,’ until he completes ‘protection of human subjects training.’ McLellan added, ‘[Y]our research behavior raises concerns regarding a lack of academic integrity, questionable ethical behavior and employee breach of rules.’
Translation: don’t you dare embarrass us and expose our scams again! Boghossian and his colleagues conducted no “research.” They made it all up. Actually, that’s not quite sccurate. They did research the kinds of papers they parodied to ensure they used the right jargon and took the right political stances with the right self-important tone. The “human subjects” of their “research” demonstrated their lack of intelligence and scholarly integrity by praising and publishing what amounted to their own demented blatherings. I’ll let Peter Wood and David Randall of the National Association of Scholars finish:
The National Association of Scholars wrote in January to Portland State President Rahmat Shoureshi, urging him to intervene against the ongoing persecution of Boghossian. We repeat our advice to Shoureshi. Portland State University has now made itself an official party to the harassment of Boghossian. The university, not just the grievance studies ideologues, is attempting to vitiate Boghossian’s academic freedom.
Boghossian’s next steps are unclear. Should he submit himself to being ‘trained’ by his adversaries? Does he have legal recourse? If the latter, we will stand by him.
In the meantime, we affirm that Boghossian acted as an exemplary scholar by using a hoax to expose the intellectual hollowness of grievance-studies. Sometimes satire is the best tool. We decry Portland State’s abuse of its misconduct regulations. And we call on all defenders of academic freedom to keep state legislators in Salem in mind of how Portland State is using public funds.