"Malaysia Prime Minister Mahathir Mohamad and the Sultan of Johor are seen in a blue Proton Saga... "When asked whether there is any tension with the sultan, Dr Mahathir said: “No, I don’t see anything because I went to see him and he drove me to the airport. I don’t want to comment on the sultans because if I say anything that is not good then it’s not nice because he is the sultan”"

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Thursday, October 04, 2018

The Grievance Studies Scandal

Academic Grievance Studies and the Corruption of Scholarship

"Something has gone wrong in the university—especially in certain fields within the humanities. Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant, within these fields, and their scholars increasingly bully students, administrators, and other departments into adhering to their worldview. This worldview is not scientific, and it is not rigorous. For many, this problem has been growing increasingly obvious, but strong evidence has been lacking. For this reason, the three of us just spent a year working inside the scholarship we see as an intrinsic part of this problem.

We spent that time writing academic papers and publishing them in respected peer-reviewed journals associated with fields of scholarship loosely known as “cultural studies” or “identity studies” (for example, gender studies) or “critical theory” because it is rooted in that postmodern brand of “theory” which arose in the late sixties. As a result of this work, we have come to call these fields “grievance studies” in shorthand because of their common goal of problematizing aspects of culture in minute detail in order to attempt diagnoses of power imbalances and oppression rooted in identity.

We undertook this project to study, understand, and expose the reality of grievance studies, which is corrupting academic research. Because open, good-faith conversation around topics of identity such as gender, race, and sexuality (and the scholarship that works with them) is nearly impossible, our aim has been to reboot these conversations. We hope this will give people—especially those who believe in liberalism, progress, modernity, open inquiry, and social justice—a clear reason to look at the identitarian madness coming out of the academic and activist left and say, “No, I will not go along with that. You do not speak for me.”...

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 our consideration. To demonstrate this, we needed to get papers accepted, especially by significant and influential journals...

What we just described is not knowledge production; it’s sophistry. That is, it’s a forgery of knowledge that should not be mistaken for the real thing. The biggest difference between us and the scholarship we are studying by emulation is that we know we made things up...

What if we write a paper saying we should train men like we do dogs—to prevent rape culture? Hence came the “Dog Park” paper. What if we write a paper claiming that when a guy privately masturbates while thinking about a woman (without her consent—in fact, without her ever finding out about it) that he’s committing sexual violence against her? That gave us the “Masturbation” paper. What if we argue that the reason superintelligent AI is potentially dangerous is because it is being programmed to be masculinist and imperialist using Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Lacanian psychoanalysis? That’s our “Feminist AI” paper. What if we argued that “a fat body is a legitimately built body” as a foundation for introducing a category for fat bodybuilding into the sport of professional bodybuilding? You can read how that went in Fat Studies...

Just about anything can be made to work, so long as it falls within the moral orthodoxy and demonstrates understanding of the existing literature.

Put another way, we now have good reasons to believe that if we just appropriate the existing literature in the right ways—and there always seems to be a citation or vein of literature that makes it possible—we can say almost any politically fashionable thing we want...

1 paper (the one about rape culture in dog parks) gained special recognition for excellence from its journal, Gender, Place, and Culture, a highly ranked journal that leads the field of feminist geography. The journal honored it as one of twelve leading pieces in feminist geography as a part of the journal’s 25th anniversary celebration...

The papers themselves span at least fifteen subdomains of thought in grievance studies, including (feminist) gender studies, masculinities studies, queer studies, sexuality studies, psychoanalysis, critical race theory, critical whiteness theory, fat studies, sociology, and educational philosophy. They featured radically skeptical and standpoint epistemologies rooted in postmodernism, feminist and critical race epistemology rooted in critical social constructivism as well as psychoanalysis. They all also endeavored to be humorous in at least some small way (and often, big ones). The project so far has generated more than 40 substantive editorial and expert reader reports, constituting a further 30,000 or so words of data that provide a unique insider’s look into the field and its operation.

Our papers also present very shoddy methodologies including incredibly implausible statistics (“Dog Park”), making claims not warranted by the data (“CisNorm,” “Hooters,” “Dildos”), and ideologically-motivated qualitative analyses (“CisNorm,” “Porn”). (NB: See Papers section below.) Questionable qualitative methodologies such as poetic inquiry and autoethnography (sometimes rightly and pejoratively called “mesearch”) were incorporated (especially in “Moon Meetings”).

Many papers advocated highly dubious ethics including training men like dogs (“Dog Park”), punishing white male college students for historical slavery by asking them to sit in silence in the floor in chains during class and to be expected to learn from the discomfort (“Progressive Stack”), celebrating morbid obesity as a healthy life-choice (“Fat Bodybuilding”), treating privately conducted masturbation as a form of sexual violence against women (“Masturbation”), and programming superintelligent AI with irrational and ideological nonsense before letting it rule the world (“Feminist AI”). There was also considerable silliness including claiming to have tactfully inspected the genitals of slightly fewer than 10,000 dogs whilst interrogating owners as to their sexuality (“Dog Park”), becoming seemingly mystified about why heterosexual men are attracted to women (“Hooters”), insisting there is something to be learned about feminism by having four guys watch thousands of hours of hardcore pornography over the course of a year while repeatedly taking the Gender and Science Implicit Associations Test (“Porn”), expressing confusion over why people are more concerned about the genitalia others have when considering having sex with them (“CisNorm”), and recommending men anally self-penetrate in order to become less transphobic, more feminist, and more concerned about the horrors of rape culture (“Dildos”). None of this, except that Helen Wilson recorded one “dog rape per hour” at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon, raised so much as a single reviewer eyebrow, so far as their reports show...

Why Did We Do This?

Because we’re racist, sexist, bigoted, misogynistic, homophobic, transphobic, transhysterical, anthropocentric, problematic, privileged, bullying, far right-wing, cishetero straight white males (and one white female who was demonstrating her internalized misogyny and overwhelming need for male approval) who wanted to enable bigotry, preserve our privilege, and take the side of hate?...

We have stated firmly that there is a problem in our universities, and that it’s spreading rapidly into culture. It is aided in this by being tricky to understand and by intentionally using emotionally powerful words—like “racist” and “sexist”—in technical ways that mean something different than their common usages. This project identifies aspects of this problem, tests them, and then exposes them.

The problem is epistemological, political, ideological, and ethical and it is profoundly corrupting scholarship in the social sciences and humanities. The center of the problem is formally termed “critical constructivism,” and its most egregious scholars are sometimes referred to as “radical constructivists.”...

Peer review can only be as unbiased as the aggregate body of peers being called upon to participate. The skeptical checks and balances that should characterize the scholarly process have been replaced with a steady breeze of confirmation bias that blows grievance studies scholarship ever further off course. This isn’t how research is supposed to work...

Politically biased research that rests on highly questionable premises gets legitimized as though it is verifiable knowledge. It then goes on to permeate our culture because professors, activists, and others cite and teach this ever-growing body of ideologically skewed and fallacious scholarship...

Look at the hundreds of papers we cited to enable us to make these claims and to use these methods and interpretations and have reviewers consider them quite standard. Look at the reviewer comments and what they are steering academics who need to be published to succeed in their careers towards. See how frequently they required us not to be less politically biased and shoddy in our work but more so."

***

The Grievance Studies Scandal: Five Academics Respond

"For the past year scholars James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossian have sent fake papers to various academic journals which they describe as specialising in activism or “grievance studies.” Their stated mission has been to expose how easy it is to get “absurdities and morally fashionable political ideas published as legitimate academic research.”

To date, their project has been successful: seven papers have passed through peer review and have been published, including a 3000 word excerpt of Adolf Hitler’s Mein Kampf, rewritten in the language of Intersectionality theory and published in the Gender Studies journal Affilia...

Twenty years ago, Alan Sokal called postmodernism “fashionable nonsense.” Today, postmodernism isn’t a fashion—it’s our culture. A large proportion of the students at elite universities are now inducted into this cult of hate, ignorance, and pseudo-philosophy. Postmodernism is the unquestioned dogma of the literary intellectual class and the art establishment. It has taken over most of the humanities and some of the social sciences, and is even making inroads in STEM fields. It threatens to melt all of our intellectual traditions into the same oozing mush of political slogans and empty verbiage.

Postmodernists pretend to be experts in what they call “theory.” They claim that, although their scholarship may seem incomprehensible, this is because they are like mathematicians or physicists: they express profound truths in a way that cannot be understood without training. Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose expose this for the lie that it is. “Theory” is not real. Postmodernists have no expertise and no profound understanding.

Critics of Sokal point out that his paper was never subjected to peer review, and they say it was unfair to expect the editors of Social Text to spot errors concerning math and science. This time there are no excuses. LBP’s papers were fully peer reviewed by leading journals. The postmodernist experts showed that they had no ability to distinguish scholarship grounded in “theory” from deliberate nonsense and faulty reasoning mixed in with hate directed at the disfavored race (white) and sex (“cis” male).

King Solomon said of the fool: “His talk begins as foolishness and ends as evil madness” (Ecclesiastes 10:13). Can a disregard for evidence, logic, and open inquiry combined with a burning hatred for large classes of people perceived as political opponents (“racists,” “sexists,” “homophobes,” “transphobes,” etc.) possibly lead to a good result? The editors and peer reviewers who handled LBP’s papers have revealed their true, vicious attitudes.

The flagship feminist philosophy journal, Hypatia, accepted a paper (not yet published online) arguing that social justice advocates should be allowed to make fun of others, but no one should be permitted to make fun of them. The same journal invited resubmission of a paper arguing that “privileged students shouldn’t be allowed to speak in class at all and should just listen and learn in silence,” and that they would benefit from “experiential reparations” that include “sitting on the floor, wearing chains, or intentionally being spoken over.” The reviewers complained that this hoax paper took an overly compassionate stance toward the “privileged” students who would be subjected to this humiliation, and recommended that they be subjected to harsher treatment. Is asking people of a certain race to sit on the floor in chains better than asking them to wear a yellow star? What exactly is this leading to?...

The battle was lost around 1991. Around that time the great historian of the Tudor period, G.R. Elton, had been fighting rear-guard action for the discipline he loved. He saw history in the tradition of Leopold von Ranke: a meticulous examination of the primary evidence and a refusal to allow present-day concerns or attitudes to colour the subject matter. But traditional history, like all other disciplines, came under attack. Elton fumed that the younger generation was on “the intellectual equivalent of crack”, addicted to the “cancerous radiation that comes from the foreheads of Derrida and Foucault”. But Elton lost the day to Hayden White who “deconstructed” history...

Where some of us might see Niccolò Machiavelli, Francis Bacon, John Locke, Thomas Hobbes, Rene Descartes, or David Hume palpably struggling with the deepest questions of political philosophy or epistemology, Cixious or Greene see only dead white men. What they say matters less to them than who was saying it. Thus, the competing systems of knowledge that came out of the Enlightenment – rationalism and empiricism – are both always-already tainted as “products of the patriarchy.” It has been the explicit goal of post-modernity to reject reason and evidence: they want a “new paradigm” of knowledge...

Sokal’s spoof took aim at obscure language and epistemic relativism. But his quarry escaped...

One published paper proposed that dog parks are “rape-condoning spaces.” Another, entitled “Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism” reworked, and substantially altered, part of Mein Kampf. The most shocking, (not published, its status is “revise and resubmit”) is a “Feminist Approach to Pedagogy.” It proposes “experiential reparations” as a corrective for privileged students. These include sitting on the floor, wearing chains, or being purposely spoken over. Reviewers have commented that the authors risk exploiting underprivileged students by burdening them with an expectation to teach about privilege.

These psychoactive hoax papers, some penned in just a few hours, are taken seriously because they fit with social science sub fields in which reason has been exchanged for ideology. How did we get here? Did it begin with scholars wanting to right social wrongs?...

Readers are ill-served by opaque writing. Text can be hard-going because of its specialised content (such as string theory), or hard to decode because it has been written to sexily seduce the reader into slowly undressing the meaning (such as poetry, take, for example, the metaphysicals). But the shamed hoaxed journals too often host unintelligible waffle. Clear writing is not a matter of style; it’s a matter of clear thinking...

For academia to be worth anything, it is crucial that reviewers and editors understand what any particular experimental design can deliver. This holds for quantitative, qualitative, and post-qualitative (whatever that is) research. Reviewers and editors must object when results or interpretation over-reach the methods. If a hypothesis is unfalsifiable, it doesn’t hurt to say so. The function of empirical work is to steer us closer to the truth about the world. It is therefore crucial to distinguish between what can constitute evidence and what cannot...

When I grew up something like the following order of badness prevailed: murder (the worst), followed by serious physical violence, cheating and lying, nasty shouting, nasty speaking and at the milder end, nasty thinking. This has changed. There is evidence that many scholars favour punitive thought-reform. Orwell had a word for this.

It is emblematic of that huge change that I feel queasy here, at risk of being misquoted, when I say that a sexist, racist, or foolish thought or comment is likely to be punished with what was formerly reserved for someone who throws a punch at the Dean’s snout. This, while actual scientific waffle—and worse—is published without criticism...

It is a carefully guarded secret in philosophy that feminist philosophy is often not characterized by intellectual rigor and high academic standards...

A good example is an article from the Australasian Journal of Philosophy in which a feminist describes a “phallic drama” involving two statements, p and ~p (the negation of p):

There is really only one actor, p, and ~p is merely its receptacle. In the representation of the Venn diagram, p penetrates a passive, undifferentiated universal other which is specified as a lack, which offers no resistance, and whose behavior it controls completely.

Note that this is no longer a Sokal-type hoax but an instance of authentic feminist philosophy. Sometimes it is impossible to tell the difference...

The authors have pulled off a modern Sokal hoax. The sequel is rarely as good as the original, but in this case it was more comprehensive and more fun than Sokal’s mockery of postmodernist scholarship (a computer-generated version of which can be found here). The project exposes some of the cultish ideas shared by faculty who have created fake subjects and staffed their departments with political activists. Many faculty in these departments seem alarmingly eager to hijack for their own ends the emotional circuitry of teenagers who arrive on campus in search of a tribe to join and a dragon to slay...

The main problem is not the rise of trendy disciplines with names that end with the word “studies,” or the opportunity cost of spending taxpayer money on bogus scholarship and bad education rather than medical research and space exploration. The problem is that many students are required to take these classes as part of a “diversity” requirement at universities, and that when students graduate, these ideas influence leaders of corporations like Google, which can manipulate its search engine to alter elections and change our epistemic environment in subtle ways.

To take an example, many students in universities and employees at Google take bias training courses that tell them “white privilege” and “systemic racism” explain disparities in outcomes between groups, despite the fact that—to take one example—Asian Americans from China and India (‘people of color’) make more money and are incarcerated at lower rates than whites. According to the conspiratorial worldview of many faculty in grievance studies departments, citing statistics and making arguments that go against the privilege narrative proves that you have an unconscious bias against minorities, and that you’re probably a white supremacist...

Their articles did pass peer review in journals from fields whose basic assumptions are shared by mainstream subjects like literature, sociology, and (increasingly) philosophy...

It is worth reminding those who subsidize this circus that we’re not in Las Vegas."

What happens on campus doesn’t stay on campus.


This suggests that feminism really is about hating men, anti-racism really is about hating white people etc

Technically, anti-Semitism is "punching up", so resembling Mein Kampf is not a bad thing (within the anti-racist paradigm)
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