Ep. 102 Deeper Analysis of the Grievance Studies Hoax
In the fall of 2018 three people went public with a long-running hoax in which they’d published fake papers to various feminist, critical studies, etc. journals. Perhaps the most memorable example was an article purporting to catalogue the number of “rapes” that occurred at a dog park. Bob explores the precise reasons for why (or why not) this hoax reflects poorly on the targeted fields.
Mentioned in the Episode and Other Links of Interest:
- A Vox article giving a (critical) summary of the episode.
- The long explanation of the hoax project, from its three creators.
- The journal retraction of the “dog park” hoax article, and the abstracts of the (genuine) articles from the same journal on researcher anxiety and “feminist killjoys.”
- Portland State University’s disciplinary action against Peter Boghossian.
- A Reason article noting big-gun support for Boghossian against PSU.
- Help support the Bob Murphy Show.
The audio production for this episode was provided by Podsworth Media.
This was a great episode, even though I don’t like leaving the possibility open that critical studies is a valid discipline. No matter how charitably I tried to read it (its been a long time) it always comes across to me as little more than published excuses for boorish behavior.
I found it odd that you didn’t place greater emphasis on the articles (or sections of them) that were essentially computer generated word salad. That part of the story is what I remembered more than the subjects the articles claimed to cover as (and I think you alluded to this) that was really what was devastating to critical studies as a field. Its one thing to imagine Stephen Kinsella calling his work a prank. Its another to imagine him writing a program that stuck some libertarian buzzwords in every so many words among pages of gibberish, submitting that output for publication and that not getting culled at some point in the publishing process. Arguments can stand on their own regardless of authorial intent, but can a discipline be worthy of the name if you can get away with that in front of its experts?
I thought this whole affair was a bit overblown. It maybe showed that the reviewers at some journals weren’t doing their due diligence, but if you wanted to debunk the entire field, showing actual articles is the way to do it. However, if asked whether “researcher went to a dog park and watched dogs” or “researcher decides that the act of researching itself is problematic and writes about their anxiety upon the realization” was a parody of so called grievance studies, I would definitely pick the latter.
IMHO this article applies to about every field of study, which is susceptible to PC; so also climate. That particular field has also been discredited by the hockey stick graph (which at most could be used to show the effect of CO2 on tree rings, not on temperature. That no scientist, whether at the IPCC or not, picked up on that, not even as much as ahem’ed at Mann, pro8ves that none of them can ever be trusted again.
On the one hand I admire your fairness. It would have been easy to turn the schadenfreude to 11.
On the other hand, the point was to show that the targeted fields are fundamentally unscientific and their output pure opinion. That goal was achieved imo.
I question the implied equivalence of mathematics and physics to journals of “Feminist Geography”. Is the latter truly pursuing science? Or is it the domain of postmodern weaponized rhetoric, propagated to sow confusion and madness?
Bob meanders within the vicinity of this point when he asks whether there is really a difference between people who claim they have wilfully sown nonsense as a hoax, and the ‘legitimate’ authors and editors of such journals. I submit perhaps both groups know they are spouting nonsense, and that the only difference lies in the honest declaration of their intent.
This is not to advocate the imputing of ill will too easily or carelessly, but when a long train of abuses and ursupations… Is it really Christian to hold fast to the conviction that no-one could have such ill will, only because you do not find it in yourself?
I think Bob stretches his critique of the hoax project too far when he poses that watching dogs hump each other for a year could bring any insight regarding humans raping one another. The guy could have done this for a decade, in dog parks spread all over the world, the nature of the data is useless, whether it is real or fake. The very fact that the reviewers thought otherwise reflects very poorly on that publication. The hypothetical veterans survey is not a great ‘shoe on the other foot’ scenario because if true, it would actually help understanding how the State fails at conducting wars. One could argue it is anecdotal, but this would still be better than nothing.
After listening to this episode, this is also my opinion of the hoax project: they could have done better, by directly engaging with grievances study proponents, for example, but their hoax papers are still better than nothing. I think their main contribution is to expose grievances study for what they are to a much larger audience than otherwise. These critical study ‘experts’ use jargon that could intimidate many people into thinking they’re some sort of scientists. The hoax papers break that barrier by bringing goofy scenarios that everyone understands.
What would the hoax have to look like to show that these disciplines aren’t scholarly?
Why did your episodes stop appearing on Spotify starting with this one!!! I’m and didn’t realize!
Sorry for the trouble, I’ll see if I can do anything about it.