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October 03, 2018

Three Academics Flood Gender, Queer, and Race Studies Journals With Absurd Anti-White, Anti-Male, and Anti-Straight "Scholarly Papers" -- One a Feminist Rant Which Is Just a Rewritten Chapter from Mein Kampf -- And Get Seven Papers Accepted

This short video explains what they did and why they did it. It also includes behind-the-scenes stuff as they laugh with joy upon learning that each of their nonsense hoax papers has been accepted for publication.

Here's an article in Aero Magazine presenting their findings.

This article is written like an academic paper -- which it is, as this was actually an academic investigation. But obviously no social justice journal is going to publish it, even if it's all true and academically sound!

One funny thing -- a while ago I wrote an article here on an academic paper pushing the idea of "Fat Bodybuilding" -- why should muscles be privileged above fat deposits in evaluating a bodybuilder's body?

It was deranged.

It was also one of these hoax papers.

Which, despite being laughable nonsense, was accepted for publication.

You should definitely read the paper, at least Parts II and III. Here, I'll quote them to make it slightly easier.


Our approach is best understood as a kind of reflexive ethnography--that is, we conducted a study of a peculiar academic culture by immersing ourselves within it, reflecting its output and modifying our understanding until we became "outsiders within" it.

"Reflexive ethnography" is one of the categories of fake scholarship I keep making fun of. It's basically taking your diary entries about how you feel about food or a tv show and turning it into a Ph.D. paper just by claiming it's "autoethnography."

Ethnography is the study of a culture; reflexive ethnography or autoethnography is the study of the "culture of yourself." There was literally a Ph.D. paper (which got a woman her doctorate!) of her videotaping herself and her friends watching The Bachelorette, then blogging about it, then talking about it together, and reflecting on what this teaches us about women bonding over the experience of watching The Bachelorette.

Important stuff.

Later in the paper these guys say that this form of "scholarship" is derided by the term "mesearch" rather than "research."

Our objective was to learn about this culture and establish that we had become fluent in its language and customs by publishing peer-reviewed papers in its top journals, which usually only experts in the field are capable of doing. Because we came to conceptualize this project as a kind of reflexive ethnographic study in which we sought to understand the field and how it works by participating in it, obtaining peer reviewers' comments about what we were doing right and what needed to change to make absurd theses acceptable was central to the project. Indeed, the reviewers' comments are in many ways more revealing about the state of these fields than the acceptances themselves.

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. Merely blending in couldn’t generate the depth necessary for our study, however. We also needed to write papers that took risks to test certain hypotheses such that the fact of their acceptance itself makes a statement about the problem we’re studying (see the Papers section, below). Consequently, although this study does not qualify as being particularly controlled, we did control one important variable: the big-picture methodology we used to write every paper.

Our paper-writing methodology always followed a specific pattern: it started with an idea that spoke to our epistemological or ethical concerns with the field and then sought to bend the existing scholarship to support it. The goal was always to use what the existing literature offered to get some little bit of lunacy or depravity to be acceptable at the highest levels of intellectual respectability within the field. Therefore, each paper began with something absurd or deeply unethical (or both) that we wanted to forward or conclude. We then made the existing peer-reviewed literature do our bidding in the attempt to get published in the academic canon.

This is the primary point of the project: 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.

Okay, let's talk about the kind of crap they made up. This is good stuff:

This process is the one, single thread that ties all twenty of our papers together, even though we used a variety of methods to come up with the various ideas fed into their system to see how the editors and peer reviewers would respond.

Sometimes we just thought a nutty or inhumane idea up and ran with it. 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.

At other times, we scoured the existing grievance studies literature to see where it was already going awry and then tried to magnify those problems. Feminist glaciology? Okay, we'll copy it and write a feminist astronomy paper that argues feminist and queer astrology should be considered part of the science of astronomy, which we'll brand as intrinsically sexist. Reviewers were very enthusiastic about that idea. Using a method like thematic analysis to spin favored interpretations of data? Fine, we wrote a paper about trans people in the workplace that does just that. Men use "male preserves" to enact dying "macho" masculinities discourses in a way society at large won’t accept? No problem. We published a paper best summarized as, A gender scholar goes to Hooters to try to figure out why it exists."

"Defamiliarizing," common experiences, pretending to be mystified by them and then looking for social constructions to explain them? Sure, our "Dildos" paper did that to answer the questions, "Why don't straight men tend to masturbate via anal penetration, and what might happen if they did?" Hint: according to our paper in Sexuality and Culture, a leading sexualities journal, they will be less transphobic and more feminist as a result.

We used other methods too, like, "I wonder if that 'progressive stack" in the news could be written into a paper that says white males in college shouldn’t be allowed to speak in class (or have their emails answered by the instructor), and, for good measure, be asked to sit in the floor in chains so they can 'experience reparations.'" That was our "Progressive Stack" paper. The answer seems to be yes, and feminist philosophy titan Hypatia has been surprisingly warm to it. Another tough one for us was, "I wonder if they'd publish a feminist rewrite of a chapter from Adolf Hitler's Mein Kampf." The answer to that question also turns out to be "yes," given that the feminist social work journal Affilia has just accepted it. As we progressed, we started to realize that 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. The underlying questions in every single case were the same: What do we need to write, and what do we need to cite (all of our citations are real, by the way) to get this academic madness published as high "scholarship"?

What Did We Do?

We wrote 20 papers and submitted them to the best journals in the relevant fields (more on this below) with considerable success, even though we had to take the project public prematurely, and thus stop the study, before it could be properly concluded. At the time of publishing this, we have:

7 papers accepted.

4 of these have been published online.

3 more have been accepted without having had time to see publication through. (This can take months).

7 papers still in play when we had to call a halt.

2 have been "revised and resubmitted," and are awaiting a decision. (A judgment of "Revise and Resubmit" usually results in publication following the satisfactory completion of requested revisions. A judgment of "Reject and Resubmit" can result in publication following more substantial ones. It is very rare for papers to be accepted outright.)

1 is still under first review at its current journal

4 are left hanging with no time to submit them to journals after rejection (2), revise and resubmit (1) or reject and resubmit (1).

6 retired as fatally flawed or beyond repair.

4 invitations to peer-review other papers as a result of our own exemplary scholarship. (For ethical reasons, we declined all such invitations. Had we wished to fully participate in their culture in this way, however, it would have been an unrivaled opportunity to tinker with how far we could take the hypothesis that the canon of literature within these fields gets skewed in part because the peer-review process encourages the existing political and ideological biases.)

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.

To summarize, we spent 10 months writing the papers, averaging one new paper roughly every thirteen days. (Seven papers published over seven years is frequently claimed to be the number sufficient to earn tenure at most major universities although, in reality, requirements vary by institution.) As for our performance, 80% of our papers overall went to full peer review, which keeps with the standard 10-20% of papers that are "desk rejected" without review at major journals across the field. We improved this ratio from 0% at first to 94.4% after a few months of experimenting with much more hoaxish papers.

Because we were forced to go public before we could complete our study, we cannot be sure how many papers would have been accepted if we had had time to see them through--papers typically take 3-6 months or more to complete the entire process and one of ours was under review from December 2017 to August 2018--but an estimate of at least 10, probably 12, eventual acceptances seems warranted at the time of having to call a halt.

The final submitted drafts totaled just shy of 180,000 words and the entire project totaled between 300,000 and 350,000 words, including all notes, drafts, summaries, and replies to journal reviewers. 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.

Alas, their Dog Park paper was too successful, and went viral, which brought on more scrutiny than they could bear. Major newspapers such as the WSJ began contacting them, and, suspecting a possible hoax, began asking them to prove their identities (they used a "Helen Wilson" pseudonym and claimed to be working for made-up outfit called the Portland Ungendering Research Institute (PURI), but they decided at some point that the amount of straight-up lying they'd have to do to continue the hoax would be unethical.

So they had to terminate the project, with a bunch of papers still far along in the publication process, but not yet published.

They almost certainly would have been published, but the academics here had to admit their project, so now those journals can pretend "We knew it all along, we were just hoaxing you."

But they were going to publish them. You don't go back-and-forth for weeks and months helping someone firm up a paper for publication if you don't intend to publish once your concerns are addressed.

At Quillette, other academics respond to this hoax.





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