A multi-directional cacophony of gleeful back-patting

Ketan Joshi on that non-hoax “hoax”:

There’s a multi-directional cacophony of gleeful back-patting ringing out across my Twitter feed at the moment. The outpouring of joy stems from an article published in Skeptic Magazine. Peter Boghossian and James Lindsay managed to submit a hoax article to a gender studies journal, and are hailing this as a profound, thermonuclear indictment on the entirety of gender studies, social science and the “academic left”. They wrote that:

“We assumed that if we were merely clear in our moral implications that maleness is intrinsically bad and that the penis is somehow at the root of it, we could get the paper published in a respectable journal”

Their article was initially rejected by a journal, “NORMA: International Journal for Masculinity Studies”. But they were referred to a smaller outlet, ‘Cogent Social Sciences’, that offers publication where you ‘pay what you like’ (apparently, they didn’t pay anything).

On the face of it, this might seem like a clever take-down of predatory publishing practices. Sadly, that’s not the case. It’s presented by Boghossian and Lindsay, people sharing the article online, and by people responding, as a comprehensive demolition of gender studies, post-modernism, “social justice warriors” (SJWs, in alt-right parlance) and social science:

A string of smug tweets follows.

Ah that “gentlemen” – such a red flag for an asshole. They also like to call each other “sir” – “well played, sir.” Hot stuff.

The authors of the Skeptic Magazine article wrote:

“We suspected that gender studies is crippled academically by an overriding almost-religious belief that maleness is the root of all evil. On the evidence, our suspicion was justified” 

Most people, whether they’re part of the skeptic community or not, can recognise that a single instance isn’t sufficient evidence to conclude that an entire field of research is crippled by religious man-hating fervour, and that anyone pushing that line is probably weirdly compromised.

Years and years of steady Twitter will do that to a person.

He lists several science hoaxes, by way of making the point that it isn’t just gender studies that can be hoaxed.

The hypothesis presented by the authors – that gender studies is a sinister, anti-male left-wing fraud soaked in religious fervour – isn’t supported by a simple illustration of dodgy practices in academic publishing.

Which raises a very important question: why are the titans of the skeptic / rationalist community being pointedly irrational, when it comes to the reason this hoax was published?

Because they all despise feminism.

The article in Skeptic Magazine highlights how regularly people will vastly lower their standards of skepticism and rationality if a piece of information is seen as confirmation of a pre-existing belief – in this instance, the belief that gender studies is fatally compromised by seething man-hate. The standard machinery of rationality would have triggered a moment of doubt – ‘perhaps we’ve not put in enough work to separate the signal from the noise’, or ‘perhaps we need to tease apart the factors more carefully’.

That slow, deliberative mechanism of self-assessment is non-existent in the authorship and sharing of this piece. It seems quite likely that this is due largely to a pre-existing hostility towards gender studies, ‘identity politics’ and the general focus of contemporary progressive America.

Especially feminism. They hate feminism hard.

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