The crazies reveal themselves

May 20, 2017 • 10:00 am

As Grania predicted, it was only a matter of time until Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay’s “hoax” article on the conceptual penis was construed as hate speech by Regressive Leftists—even though the reviewers and the journal saw the paper as pro-feminist and progressive.

And, ladies and gentlemen, brothers and sisters, comrades, we have our first Offended Person, flailing his horns around like a bull stuck by a picador:

The poor lad was SO infuriated he even thought that hoax paper was written by DAWKINS!

But wait–there’s more!

You will find other attacks on Boghossian and Lindsay on the thread of my original post. Bleeding Heart Libertarians published a critique of this hoax, calling it a “big cock up” because the journal was poor, but they missed the point, a point that one prescient commenter made:

I don’t know what all this proves, but it’s entertaining, like a soap opera unfolding.

Finally, for those misguided souls who argued that a publication in a substandard journal doesn’t prove anything, and that the standard of scholarship in other feminist or culture studies journals is high, see here, here, here, and here.

91 thoughts on “The crazies reveal themselves

    1. See my last sentence of the post above. Also, read Sokal and Bricmont’s book Intellectual Impostures, or Sokal’s new bool Beyond the Hoax. And look at the links in the last sentence.

      1. I am not in any way defending the link to the article that i posted i only put it out so people could see what kind of response Peter’s hoax got.
        And i know that all those ‘studies’ fields are mostly bogus, or at least confused. But it looks bad from our side to generalize from one incident like this.
        Sokal incident is a little different because it was reviewed by some so called ‘prominent’ people in the field and still got a pass.

        1. Sokal’s article was never formally reviewed. Here’s what Wikipedia says about it:

          Sokal submitted the article to Social Text, whose editors were collecting articles for the “Science Wars” issue. “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity” was the only article submitted by a natural scientist. Later, after Sokal’s self-exposure of his pseudoscientific hoax article in the journal Lingua Franca, the Social Text editors said in a published essay that they had requested editorial changes that Sokal refused to make,[5] and had had concerns about the quality of the writing, stating “We requested him (a) to excise a good deal of the philosophical speculation and (b) to excise most of his footnotes”.[10] Nonetheless, despite subsequently designating the physicist as having been a “difficult, uncooperative author”, and noting that such writers were “well known to journal editors”, Social Text published the article in acknowledgment of the author’s credentials in the May 1996 Spring/Summer “Science Wars” issue.[5] The editors did not seek peer review of the article by physicists or otherwise; they later defended this decision on the basis that Social Text was a journal for open intellectual inquiry and the article was not offered as a contribution to the physics discipline.[5]

          1. I’m sorry for misunderstanding and misrepresenting Sokal’s case. For me at least this hoaxes (sokal’s and peter’s) mostly show the disgraceful business of magazines and publishing groups and comps.

          2. So neither shows anything that doesn’t fit with your prior opinions in other words. Hoaxes being praised by academics and passing peer review says nothing about the academics or fields involved, but only about … publishers?

          3. Yes(publishes)or is it, yes/nah it’s biases running the show… but what it could mean or say, people (non academia types, like me)can get fucked over by rubbish and disturbingly, not know it.
            I can see how a penis could rule the world, lets ask Genghis Khan, Ismail Ibn Sharif damn! not possible, or what about Donald Khan eh Trumpet? then again, who would believe him anyway.. eh plenty!
            I give up.

          4. Sokal was sent to a relatively respected Journal, edited by a known representative of postmodernism. So that one indeed Made a valid point regarding the field (a recent one in France against ‘maffesolism’ is similar)

            The current one is different because the Journal (and the entire line is part of) publish anything -that is their entire business model.

          5. Apparently Social Text, the Sokal journal, will publish anything too, for his paper was just as looney as B&L’s paper. And the second one was reviewed, but Sokal’s was just looked over by the editors, who made a few suggestions. The point is the same: people in that area can’t tell garbage from real scholarship.

          6. i will publish anything due to business model is different to I will publish anything due to sloppy standards. So this and Sokal’s situation are not the sane. This hoax doesb’t show, as Sokal did, anything regarding the field.

          7. arcoreli: you may think the hoax doesn’t, but the field itself, its articles, its popular journals, its teachers, its jargon, its conclusions-before-data methodology, and on and on demonstrate very nicely that the entire field is ideological BS built to form an army of ideologically like-minded individuals. Unless what *any* academic field should be, it is not in the least data-driven.

        2. We’re not generalizing from this one incident, though; rather, we are noticing (and have been noticing for years) this same trend of non-hoaxes almost as bad as this paper being published in far more respectable journals.

    2. The amazing thing to me from comments that this journal is “not even in the top 115 of Gender Studies journals” is that it means there are well over a hundred Gender Studies journals! That is a lot of writing and effort going on!

      What does a field need 115 journals for? In my field there are fewer than a dozen that anyone would look at.

      [Though I have to admit that if this is a trash journal then it does reduce the significance of the hoax.]

      1. Does it? These crap journals are what the field lives on. Publish or perish, tenure, unwarranted claims to academic respectability all depend on these kinds of journals. Sure it might be splashier if it were a more well known journal, but it might not be more revealing.

      2. It demonstrates just how much taxpayer money is being spent on woo (gender studies).

        Of course the “crazies” have come out spitting with froth. They have a multi-billion dollar quack scheme to protect!

        1. The pity of it is that gender is a real thing distinct from biological sex (which is itself multifacited – DNA, hormones, gonads, genitals) which involves real people’s real lives, and people are being hurt. The death rate from transphobic violence is appalling considering the small number of transpeople there are. (There is a tree in Manchester carved as a memorial to all the transphobic deaths there alone, near to the memorial to Alan Turing) The bogey of cismen posing as transwomen in order to prey on ciswomen in bathrooms – and the further bogey that all transpeople are “really” their biological sex and a threat to the other biological sex – is a cynical ruse by the Right. Transpeople have of course been “passing” in bathrooms for years. Meanwhile we have intersexed people who have been surgically modified for several decades to match doctors’ guess at their “real” sex (with a bias towards female, because it’s easier) and shamed out of sight for centuries. All of this deserves study.

          So gender studies is a real thing, but the pompous PoMo bloviation that passes for academic study is not. It is a pity that people with a genuine concern for the rights and welfare of non-gender-conforming people are being misled by it all.


      3. What does a field need 115 journals for?

        Well, since about one-third of the content of these papers consists of passing citations of other papers*, a certain critical mass is required to keep the whole scam going. With one author tugging on or stroking, as it were, the other, round and round. Wish I could come up with a better way of phrasing that circular, tugging phenomenon.

        *(& surely selected just as Boghassian & Lindsay did — by simply searching for keywords)

  1. The reaction to this hoax from the social justice warriors and the “new atheist threat” loons, has been so beautiful!

    I’m waiting for PZ’s verdict. He he.

  2. The response Arel and others give show that they’re not reading the article, don’t know who wrote it, don’t know what it’s about (indeed, they assume it is actually about something rather than being intentional word salad), and that they feel free to make up what they imagine it’s probably about based on who they think is involved. So they assume the worst and assert it as fact.

    1. Lalo Dagach did an interview with Arel which was said to be very revealing but Id rather spend an hour looking at Omar’s sphincter than spend an hour listening to Arel.

      1. Seth Andrews had Arel on to explain his Nazi punching ways. Seth exposed the problems with Dan’s current ideological theme; and to top it he ended with a clip from Hitchens that slammed Dan’s point of view, which must have hurt because Dan has been a superfan of Hitch … and of Dawkins … and Harris … and Coyne … what is wrong with these New Atheists? Why are they all changing while Dan holds the moral high ground???

        I think Deluded Dan thought he came of well, because he put the podcast up on his Facebook page.

        1. Dan is suffering from major cognitive dissonance, and he currently fails to see what a laughing stick he has become. He name-checked CH W***e**n, insisting he was “right” about the “new atheists”. The deluded brain-diseased fool.

          It affects most regressives, communists, the far rights, etc. in fact, all people who are wrapped up id dogma too much.

        2. It’s been awhile since I’ve listened to Seth, but I’m pleasantly surprised by this especially given that he has pandered to the PC crowd more and more over the years. He’ll have someone like Arel or Steve Shives on but not Thunderf00t probably because it would offend a big chunk of his audience.

          1. Yes, I stopped listening to Seth a few years ago.

            He sits on the fence, at best.

    2. Frankly, people like Arel and his comrades usually rely on one person in their social media sphere who read one headline from a regressive outlet to tell them the “story” of “what happened.” Their mission isn’t to find or know the truth, but to signal their virtue to the world and be outraged, absolutely outraged I tell you!

    1. Considering the first post above is an article which cites this one this looks like a case of circling the wagons.

    1. The name rings a bell for me too, but I don’t think it’s worth the effort of finding out who it is.

    2. He once wrote a book that was apparently not terrible about raising children without god or something. I don’t really know. I never read it. But at one point, he was a B list “popular atheist.” He has apparent decided to follow PZ Myers into lunatic obscurity.

  3. Having read this hoax article my take is a bit different. Yes, the language is gobbledygook, but you don’t have to be an idiot or a male hater to interpret some of the content as ringing true.

    For example, it is fairly easy to infer that macho ‘dick wagging’ isn’t linked to anatomy and that dick wagging could have an impact on our climate policies.

    It depends on your mind set when you read something. Yes, there are some looking for validation of preconceived notions (Fox News anyone?) but others may be more generous and just looking for insights.

    Nevertheless, you would hope that editorial review processes would be a little less generous.

    1. “For example, it is fairly easy to infer that macho ‘dick wagging’ isn’t linked to anatomy and that dick wagging could have an impact on our climate policies.”

      You saying some people drive SUVs and monster trucks to compensate for something?

  4. so apparently mocking trans people is a “hoax” now.

    The paper did not mock trans people, it mocked certain types of academic endeavor. And the mocking wasn’t a hoax.

  5. Perhaps of interest, Sokal himself had to explain What the ‘Social Text’ Affair does and does not prove”. He carefully distinguishes “between what can be deduced from the fact of publication and what can be deduced from the content of the article” and wrote on the former, it “proves only that the editors of one rather marginal journal were derelict in their intellectual duty” (nitpick, it proves nothing, it “demonstrates sufficiently”).

    I also like, and quoted before, this part:

    The bottom line, it seems to me, is that there is no fundamental “metaphysical” difference between the epistemology of science and the epistemology of everyday life. Historians, detectives and plumbers — indeed, all human beings — use the same basic methods of induction, deduction, and assessment of evidence as do physicists or biochemists. Modern science tries to carry out these operations in a more careful and systematic way — using controls and statistical tests, insisting on replication, and so forth — but nothing more.[40] Any philosophy of science — or methodology for sociologists — that is so blatantly wrong when applied to the epistemology of everyday life must be severely flawed at its core.

    1. What does prove that the entire field and its more respectable journals are trash, though, is the countless “studies” that are being and have been published over the last few years as “legitimate.” All you have to do is click on Jerry’s link or visit the RealPeerReview Twitter account to see this.

      1. I have that impression, too, but you cannot show it even with copious examples that are selected for the purpose of making it look ridiculous.

        It would also be ironic if a corner is accused of relying on feelings and various biases, but then wanting to show this by relying on feelings and biases.

        The postmodernist corner is most certainly all rubbish, but to actually demonstrate this, it needs a rigorous method that exactly shows how it’s done properly.

        1. Fair enough. Although I think there’s already been plenty of rigorous debunking of the actual theories and materials they teach, so beyond exposing these studies, I’m not sure what the next step is, except to keep doing what we’re doing.

          Any suggestions? That wasn’t a sarcastic question, I’m genuinely curious.

          1. Perhaps by debunking one prominent key element, e.g. lived experience, anecdote, then making a large representative meta analysis how many papers rely on it. It could also be assessed how the field dealt with Sokal and Bricmont’s debunking of several key texts. Did anyone “learn” something, and if so, what was the effect?

            It should also be possible to take a look at the kinds of insights a field produces, and how far its findings travel outside, compared to other fields; whether they just circle-cite each other.

  6. for those misguided souls who argued that a publication in a substandard journal doesn’t prove anything, and that the standard of scholarship in other feminist or culture studies journals is high, see here, here, here, and here.

    Do those misguided “souls” realise that whenever they produce a list like that, they are providing the next hoaxer with a list of targets?

  7. “… Knecht begins to question his loyalty to the order; he gradually comes to doubt that the intellectually gifted have a right to withdraw from life’s big problems. Knecht, too, comes to see Castalia as a kind of ivory tower, an ethereal and protected community, devoted to pure intellectual pursuits but oblivious to the problems posed by life outside its borders.”

    – Wikipedia entry on Hesse’s “Magister Ludi: The Glass Bead Game”

    1. Exactly. The hoax might not prove the whole field and its “important” journals are worthless; the field and journals themselves has done a great job of that already.

    2. Intent isn’t magic. The death of the author. The death of the researcher’s intentions: it means whatever it means to someone. That’s so postmodernist. 😀

  8. There should be a ‘Turing-test’ for the identification of postmodernist papers:
    Have “experts” in the “field” read a number of not-yet published postmodernist papers (the like exposed every day by @RealPeerReview) of which one is a hoax. Will they be able to identify the hoax at a probability exceeding chance?

  9. If you cross the titles between this and the Sokal paper you get:

    “The Conceptual Penis Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Social Construct” a title unlikely to appeal to any feminist journal editor!

    Would you like ranch or honey dijon on that word salad??

  10. I think the difference between the two hoaxes is that Sokal’s was motivated by genuine frustration, and it demonstrated something that was a grubby little secret up until then. It also did so in one of the foremost po-mo journals of the time. His leftist ‘cred’ was impeccable too, which precluded the kind of predictable, ad hominem defences being used by the victims of the current hoax.

    Obviously I’m not going to make myself popular here, but to me this hoax has something of the point-scoring exercise about it. I don’t know why but I bridle a little at the fact that we are disproportionately going after these relatively inconsequential idiots(and they really are idiots, as the awful Dan Arel ably demonstrates), and having a good time doing so, when the political scenery has shifted so signally.
    I feel just as contemptuous of the crap that the academic left spouts out as I ever did, but really…is this the priority for us genuine liberals? To collect clippings from these goons and have a good time laughing at them, while the political world tilts ever rightwards?

    1. The problem is that these idiots are at least in part responsible for the rightward shift. They need to be marginalized so a genuine left can rise and unite to counter this trend.

    2. They aren’t so inconsequential. See Ulrich Fischer’s point. These people make up a large fraction of the professoriate in the humanities. They help decide hiring, curricula, campus policy. They spearhead the antispeech movement. Risible yes, inconsequential no.

      1. The literary PoMo crowd brushes shoulders, via cultural studies and social studies, with the cultural determinists in anthropology and other related fields. These have spent decades sidelining and ultimately slandering
        evolutionary studies and the scientific method by supporting the nonsensical notion that science is a “social construct”. In doing this they have denigrated the science upon which sound public policy on energy, biology, ecology and the environment depend. This has pleased the deniers and counterculturists no end because they now have “credible” academics on their side. The whole field of science is now tainted but less by the right wing deniers and more by the loony left. Napoleon Chagnon, whose career was nearly derailed by these morons, tells you all about it in his expose book “NOble Savages”. The PoMo crowd gets its rocks off by doing the equivalent with academic treatises in which they invent their own private language and idiom as a substitute for reason, logic and English, just as the PoMo social studies smarkies and the left get them off by denigrating legitimate science and inquiry. Both of these trends elevate anti intellectualism and personal opinion over evidence and reason. This is the sorry state of education in this country today…all because of the loony left and their new feminist Huns.

        1. So, they’re Lysenkoists, and will yield the exact same results as Lysenko did if allowed to run amok.

    3. Someone mentioned in the previous comment thread about the hoax that an increasing number of universities have a course in “women’s studies” among their graduation requirement. If true, this means that the “women’s studies” charlatans are not content with siphoning taxpayers’ money and students’ tuition fees but crave and usurp power and push their quackery down the throats of unwilling students.

    4. In addition to the other replies you got for reasons these things aren’t inconsequential, I’d like to say that college is not for ideological indoctrination, and it’s supposed to be for the opposite.

      Moreover, the bigger this stuff grows, the more the Democratic party (and other left parties in Western democracies) think that ID politics is how to court their base, thus continuing to alienate everyone else and continuing to divide our countries along ethnic, gender, and sexuality lines. These are horribly destructive forces.

      1. Again BJ, I agree with all that. There’s no doubt that identity politics played a part in the rise of Trump, Brexit, Le Pen…it is incredibly pernicious. But the rise of nationalism, the recrudescence of populist right-wing politics, is a pretty big deal too, in my opinion more important by a distance than campus authoritarians. It is also more than just a “symptom” of the illiberal left’s politics, as people like Douglas Murray repeatedly claim when dismissing the importance of dealing with the far-right and anti-immigrant nationalist movements like Pegida. From that particular standpoint, eliminating the idiocy of student politics and left-wing identitarianism will eradicate the far-right and their appeal, so any focus on the latter is ‘ignoring the real problem’. I didn’t wholly agree when this point was made a couple of years ago, and I certainly don’t agree now.

        Treating the rise of the far-right/the alt-right/whatever as little more than a symptom of ‘globalism’ and the left’s idiocies is a surefire way of allowing the virus to spread. It needs to be fought now, not in five years when it’s grown into the dominant political ideology, and it needs to be recognised as more than just a by-product of left-wing ‘mission creep’. It has a life of its own, ideologues of its own, many of whom are vastly more dangerous than these intellectual charlatans on student campuses. They are blood and soil types, and they are growing and putting down roots in the ‘establishment’.

        Finally, and once again, I didn’t call them “inconsequential”, I called them “relatively inconsequential”. I merely argued that they are less important, comparatively speaking, than the worldwide reawakening of right-wing nationalism, and I’d certainly stand by that.

        1. “But the rise of nationalism, the recrudescence of populist right-wing politics, is a pretty big deal too, in my opinion more important by a distance than campus authoritarians.”

          And we have far, far, far more websites reporting on that.

    5. Personally I find these things amusing, making your enemies look bad is good politics.

      However I don’t think people on both sides learn anything from this, but it might persuade some people who are in doubt to choose a side.

      The “political scenery shift to the right” is not the fault of the few militant communists/socialists. Dissatisfaction with the globalization-agenda seems to me the root cause.

      1. “Relatively” inconsequential.

        I hedged my post quite a bit, mainly because I find these groups just as infuriating and damaging to the left and liberalism as everyone else. I’ve also spent a lot of time writing about them and being amused by their latest idiocies.
        But priorities change, and so they should in light of large-scale political shifts. At the moment, when liberals, the kind of genuine liberals I identify with most, spend more time on this than any other political issue it feels like we’re scratching an itch – kind of enjoyable, and satisfying. But everything has changed in the last year, and at the exact point when there should be more balance – between criticising right-wing nationalism and criticising the illiberal left – there seems to be less.

      2. Sorry peepuk, I think my reply was meant for Craw. The internet make my brain do bad.

        Agree with your post BTW. Nicely put.

    6. “which precluded the kind of predictable, ad hominem defences being used by the victims of the current hoax.”

      Except it didn’t, unfortunately – Sokal was slammed as a reactionary, as a Republican, etc. in spite of everything.

      And the reason I go after academic crap (although not as much as I would if I still were an academic) is partially because (a) genuine scholarship *does* help avoid the shift to the right and (b) beancounters can destroy genuine fields which are infected partially by BS (this was my primary original motivation to paying attention to the “science wars”). Philosophy of science was never seriously at risk, but there was some at the fringes. This is especially because a lot of even worse stuff grew out of these fringes. For example: Kuhn’s famous book is not nearly as bad as some of the loonier stuff that it inspired in (for example) pomo sociology of science, but it is worth analyzing where Kuhn goes wrong to sort of “inoculate” against the worse stuff. In the case of Kuhn: the idea that paradigms could be strongly incommeasurable is semantico-logically false (*), so it is worth investigating what exactly the more charitable version of his claims are.

      (*) = This was shown at the latest by 1974 by my teacher Mario Bunge – two years before I was born!

  11. Dan Arel is sounding more like PZ Myers with his over the top demonization of those who supposedly have the same regard for issues which actually relate to social justice. This is IDE (Ideology before evidence) at its worst. The hoax article, like Sokal’s before it, reveals the vacuousness of pseudo-intellectual identity studies programs at today’s universities. Those programs deserve all the mocking that can be mustered against them.

    1. “Dan Arel is sounding more like PZ Myers”

      Ouch! That is a huge insult.

      True, tho.

  12. A glorious and long overdue step, bringing to light of the nonsense that passes for research in the soft sciences.

  13. “The aspersions are being cast because vast regions of academia are already known to produce crap. Some, like gender studies, have quite possibly never produced anything but crap.”

    This nails it!

    Maybe normal Americans should use their skills and experience acquired in shaming fat fox squirrels to start relentless shaming of the folks in “women’s studies” and other parasite quack academic departments. E.g. some otherwise nice lady introduces herself to you as a women’s studies professor, you look at her with pity and say, “Oh I sympathize with you. I have a cousin who also never managed to get in any real study field.”

    These people should be laughed out of existence.

  14. Dan Arel should be embarrassed to have done business with AlterNet, which regularly defends Islam and blames everything bad on the West.

    1. Well, Dan is now a big fan of George Ciccariello-Maher, the Marxist-Communist prof who defends Venezuela, genocide, and hates American soldiers getting on planes, etc.

      It fits a pattern. Those who lose their credibility with the liberal, progressive, centre, lash out in anger and veer to the far left and far right.

      As we know from the horseshoe theory, these opposites act very similar to one another, and converge on a lot of viewpoints. Naturally, I once noticed Dan Arel claim the HT is bull, but those on the far left and far right would say that…wouldn’t they!

  15. While the cascade of issues will surely fall out of any buzz clause tree, the issue is exactly that we have no good way to filter out ’empty sets’ of discourse: Everyone is so poised to act and be offeneded.

  16. … acedamia is so saturated with analtix speculation critical theory is like a woulded animal: Anyone can take a shot provides they form clausal structures in line with syntacitocl order. Right? I mean. It is still totally ridiculous that we haven’t come to terms with the postmodern generator. And I could be incorrect but I’m pretty sure it’s because everyone is so caught up in making a living and establishing identity that we have no way to tell whether a paper is true or false except that the person who wrote it tells us it’s false. That right there is the issue; all these social justice issues that pop out of this fact is just more fodder for everyone to make a point about their identity and manner of making a living. But don’t give me wrong it’s not that being an academic is wrong or that making a living is wrong somehow but the manner that we have to go about establishing ourselves in the academic community, well frankly, sad.

  17. I’m flattered that one of the SJW loons thinks I could write anything so clever as this spoof.

    It’s a good point somebody made that, if the victim journal is ranked 115th in the field, that means there are at least 115 journals in the “field”. This means there really is a target worth satirising, which might otherwise have been in doubt.

    Even if it hadn’t been a hoax published in a real journal, it’s very funny simply as satire. It would have been funny if published in a journal devoted to satire such as The Onion or Private Eye.

    Pretentious bullshit needs to be ridiculed whenever possible, especially when it is influential and holds sway over academic departments, sometimes even making it difficult for honest scholars to get a job. Congratulations to Boghossian and Lindsay. Bullseye!

    1. I just want to comment on a comment left by the great Richard Dawkins!

      Thank you for all that you have done and continue to do. May you stick around on this earth for decades to come, savaging this crap and all other crap wherever you see or hear it, and educating people on science.

      From the bottom of my heart, I say, thank you.

    2. Sokal (as you may remember) said that he had trouble writing in pomo-ese. I suspect that your training in biology and his in physics is the reason – but would love for a sane rhetorician of science to study this.

  18. The hoax is a great example of Poe’s law. Without any obvious tell, parody is indistinguishable from an extremist position. The disturbing part about it is that Poe’s law applies to a “serious academic field”, in that it’s officially recognized by otherwise legitimate institutions.

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