The fact is that it was ideologically impeccable

Henry Farrell at Crooked Timber on the dud gender studies “hoax”:

[T]he research design, if you take it at face value is fundamentally inept. The authors of the spoof claim to be both illustrating the problems of review by gender studies academics, and the problems of predatory access journals. But you can’t really do two for the price of one – if you demonstrate that a bad piece got published, you have no way of distinguishing between the two causal hypotheses that you are proposing – that gender journals will publish more or less anything as long as it has the right politics, and that predatory journals will publish more or less anything as long as you come up with the money. Indeed, given that there is already compelling evidence that predatory journals in the sciences will publish all sorts of shite for cash, and that the authors report themselves that their article was rejected by the journal they first submitted it to, it’s hard to come up with a convincing rationale for how the ‘gender studies will publish anything’ rationale is doing any explanatory work at all.

Yeah. I think they started out just claiming to be illustrating the problems of review by gender studies academics, and then added the problems of predatory access journals after a lot of people pointed out that they’d simply published in a predatory access journal and that that demonstrated nothing except the obvious. (Pay to play journal will publish any old dreck. You don’t say!)

Second, my own pretend-social-science prediction (which may of course be disconfirmed) is that Steven Pinker and other prominent ‘skeptics’ are not going to rush to acknowledge that the hoax has gone horribly wrong, even though it obviously has. On the one hand, the skeptics’ own theory of themselves is that they are cool headed, rational assessors of evidence, who hew to scientific standards of proof in developing and testing their personal beliefs while their enemies are prepared to believe in all sorts of gobbledygook. If this theory were to hold true, then one would have expected either (a) that skeptics would have rejected the hoax immediately (perhaps treating it with particular suspicion given that it fit so closely with their political priors about postmodernism and academic feminism) or (b) that if they couldn’t quite get there on their own, they would acknowledge the flaws in the spoof and recalibrate their own beliefs and public arguments as soon as the problems had been pointed out to them.

And yet that isn’t what happened. In comments on the Bleeding Hearts Libertarians post we get this exchange:

“I don’t understand how rational/skeptical people think it’s reasonable to cast aspersions on a entire field based on a shoddy peer review process at a virtually unknown journal.”

Yeah well, no one’s doing that. 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 stunt was merely one attempt to demonstrate that. A poor one perhaps, but so what? Everyone who’s been paying attention knows that with a bit more patience, maybe a better known co-author, etc. this would have worked. At any number of journals.

How can we be sure? It’s pretty simple. You look at what gets published now. You look at that, and you ask honestly: “Have things gotten generally better or worse since the Sokal hoax?”

Things are clearly worse. Sokal exposed the fact that one could get meaningless word salad published as social commentary. Today one can meaningfully publish obvious falsehoods. Today one can build entire disciplines around the denial of knowledge which other, better disciplines have robustly established. That’s worse.

Now, if someone chooses to miss such an important point in order to quibble over the relative silliness of various publishing organs within the silliest part of academia, I would call that person anything but a lover of wisdom.

Because the whole point here is that however much distance separates Cogent Social Science from, say, Feminist Theory, it’s as nothing beside the distance separating both from reality.

Sean II’s comment is right on the mark. This hoax is just one more brick in the wall of vacuity that surrounds much of culture studies. It’s telling that people are ignoring the many critiques of those studies, including Sokal and Levitt and Gross.

But then why bother with a hoax at all? Or, if you do bother with a hoax, why not recognize that it was a dud hoax and doesn’t count? Why defend the hoax after its dudness has been pointed out? Why say yes but they could have done a good one if they’d tried harder and we know that because look at the non-hoax stuff?

Or, as Hannah Cairns put it:

So to me this sounds like “The majority of commenters here seem to be focused on the fact that this experiment perhaps ‘failed’ in mundane terms, no doubt because of their own personal baggage, but the fact is that it was ideologically impeccable, so it is appropriate to consider it as having succeeded and continue the discussion based on that.” How does this sort of thing not spectacularly trip your breakers?

Oh look, a squirrel.

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