Alan Sokal on Steroids

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Red Winnipeg
Alan Sokal on Steroids

If you haven't yet read the news about it, over the last 18 months three academics submitted hoax papers to several leading peer-reviewed journals in the humanities and social sciences (contrast with the Sokal Affair hoax, which involved an academic journal that was not then peer reviewed) to see if the journals would publish the papers. Seven papers were accepted and four of them had already been published when the hoax was revealed today by the three academics.

The papers were absurd on their face (one entitled, "Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon," while another was entitled, "Going in Through the Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria and Transphobia through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use"). One of the papers was a re-write of a chapter from Adolf Hilter's "Mein Kampf." The intent was to submit facially absurd papers (jibberish) to see if leading journals in, what the three academics called, "grievance studies" fields would accept them as bona fide.

Does this tell us anything about the state of the scholarship in these areas of study when leading journals publish jibberish like this?

voice of the damned

I can't imagine that a "peer-reviewed journal" would publish a paper without at least researching a bit about the writer, finding out if he is really studying/teaching at the university he says he is etc. When Sokal published his science hoax, he presented himself as what he was, ie. a physics prof at a named university.

What were the names of these journals that got taken in by these hoaxers?

Red Winnipeg

voice of the damned wrote:

What were the names of these journals that got taken in by these hoaxers?

They are listed in the link.

Michael Moriarity Michael Moriarity's picture

P. Z. Myers has posted what I consider a reasonable take on this story. Of course, I've never been an academic, but it sounds pretty real to me. His lede:

P. Z. Myers wrote:

You’d think they’d learn. When Boghossian and Lindsay published their phony “conceptual penis” paper, they were roundly mocked and ridiculed for concluding that academia was corrupt because they got a badly written paper published in an obscure journal, proving nothing. It’s the skeptical equivalent of p-hacking — yes, if you carry out a badly designed experiment, you will sometimes get a positive hit, but you can’t conclude anything from it. No one is surprised that, in the volume of papers submitted to the peer-reviewed literature, clunkers get through. We know the system is not perfect.

But now we learn that, after their initial ‘success’ with the “conceptual penis” article, they sat down and repeated the same thing, over and over again. They intentionally flooded journals with “fake news”, and when some of it leaked through, cried triumph.

voice of the damned

Another difference between Sokal and this current round of hoaxers, as far as I can see, is that Sokal was deliberately using words he himself did not understand, thus making his articles meaningless, but they were taken as coherent by the editors of Social Text. Whereas the people now under discussion seem to know what their terms mean, they're just drawing really goofy conclusions.

voice of the damned

^ I guess another way of stating that would be to say that Sokal was purportedly exposing the sloppiness of concepts and terms used by certain academics, whereas Boghossian etc. are purportedly exposing the craziness of the ideas in question.

 

Red Winnipeg

Michael Moriarity wrote:

They intentionally flooded journals with “fake news”, and when some of it leaked through, cried triumph.

I’m not sure they “flooded” journals with papers. I think the submitted 12 papers for publication and 7 of the papers were accepted. That’s a high success rate.

Red Winnipeg

voice of the damned wrote:

^ I guess another way of stating that would be to say that Sokal was purportedly exposing the sloppiness of concepts and terms used by certain academics, whereas Boghossian etc. are purportedly exposing the craziness of the ideas in question.

 

I think that may be right.