In a prank that is alternately hilarious, appalling, and disturbing, three puckish academics managed to place no fewer than seven “shoddy, absurd, unethical” articles in “respectable” academic journals that trafficked in the growing field of grievance studies—a field that includes gender and queer studies, critical race theory and a variety of post-modern constructivist theories now fashionable in the humanities and social sciences. If nothing else, they demonstrated that academic leftism is a target ripe for ridicule as well as outrage.Harvard's Yascha Mounk reads the papers, so you and I don't have to.
Sokal Squared doesn’t just expose the low standards of the journals that publish this kind of dreck, though. It also demonstrates the extent to which many of them are willing to license discrimination if it serves ostensibly progressive goals. This tendency becomes most evident in an article that advocates extreme measures to redress the “privilege” of white students. Exhorting college professors to enact forms of “experiential reparations,” the paper suggests telling privileged students to stay silent, or even binding them to the floor in chains.He goes on to suggest that there are still disciplines that don't test pc-positive.
There are many fields of academia that have absolutely no patience for nonsense. While the hoaxers did manage to place articles in some of the most influential academic journals in the cluster of fields that focus on dealing with issues of race, gender, and identity, they have not penetrated the leading journals of more traditional disciplines. As a number of academics pointed out on Twitter, for example, all of the papers submitted to sociology journals were rejected. For now, it remains unlikely that the American Sociological Review or the American Political Science Review would have fallen for anything resembling “Our Struggle Is My Struggle,” a paper modeled on the infamous book with a similar title.That assertion is not totally true: I'm hoping to analyze how serious the hoax (it might be more accurate to say humor) articles in social science are in a subsequent post, and how flawed peer review in those disciplines might be.
But the fashionable nonsense is discrediting the academy.
If certain fields of study cannot reliably differentiate between real scholarship and noxious bloviating, they become deeply suspect. And if they are so invested in overcoming injustice that they are willing to embrace rank cruelty as long as it is presented in the right kind of progressive jargon, they are worsening the problems they purport to address.What has the no-platforming of speakers and the hassling of public figures at meals been, if not rank cruelty presented in the right kind of progressive jargon? Bad ideas have consequences, and it's probably foolish to pick fights with people who own weapons and know how to use them.
As Steven Hayward quips, "[W]hen even Mother Jones can see through the fraud." [Link added -- ed.]
What's that Insta Pundit line about how higher education will blame their reduced budgets on anti-intellectualism?