What Might Have Been

Rape Culture

Fake News Comes to Academia

How three scholars gulled academic journals to publish hoax papers on ‘grievance studies.’

My brother, Ray, is an attorney, well thought of in his field. However, he will never withstand the scrutiny to become an Associate Justice of the United States Supreme Court. I’m not sure he could make it as the night magistrate at the local drunk tank. It is not that he has done anything especially egregious. It is the company he keeps. He has four huskies and that will be his downfall.

A report is making the rounds of the blogosphere on a series of hoaxes perpetrated on various academic journals. Three academics admitted to writing twenty articles and presenting them for publication to a variety of peer reviewed academic journals. 

An explanation is in order for those of you unfamiliar with the term “peer reviewed.” This is a forum where researchers can publish the results of their studies. The article is submitted to subject matter experts who check the work for scientific method, quality of research and the results. The reader can be assured that the paper represents valid methodology and conclusions. 

Here are some of the topics that found acceptance:

One such article, and the downfall of my brother’s hopes for a Supreme Court appointment was published on line in “Gender, Place & Culture.” What might have been. Juno, his male husky, has been known to mount anything that stands still long enough. Ray is an enabler, he persists in taking Juno to the dog park. That makes him an accomplice in the continuing subjugation of bitches at the park.

A monthly journal focused on “feminist geography” is a sign of something gone awry in academia. The journal in question—Gender, Place & Culture—published a paper online in May whose author claimed to have spent a year observing canine sexual misconduct in Portland, Ore., parks.

The author admits that “my own anthropocentric frame” makes it difficult to judge animal consent. Still, the paper claims dog parks are “petri dishes for canine ‘rape culture’ ” and issues “a call for awareness into the different ways dogs are treated on the basis of their gender and queering behaviors, and the chronic and perennial rape emergency dog parks pose to female dogs.”

I have never read “Mein Kampf,” Hitler’s coming of age book. I’ve been told that on top of the deluded ideas, the prose will never qualify it for light reading. Never-the-less, a little tweaking here, updating there and one chapter of Mein Kampf was accepted in “Affilia”, a peer-reviewed journal of women and social work.  “Our Struggle Is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism.” The second portion of the paper is a rewrite of a chapter from “Mein Kampf.” Affilia’s editors declined to comment.

Somehow, it doesn’t surprise me that liberals would be comfortable with a restating of Hitler’s Philosophy. Birds of a feather …

Another example of a hoax submitted for publication is a proposed teaching methodology. This method involves “experiential reparations.” It was returned with a request for revisions. Another report on the hoax says that the reviewers were disappointed that it didn’t go far enough. Here is how the WSJ described the hoax.

 It suggested that professors rate students’ levels of oppression based on race, gender, class and other identity categories. Students deemed “privileged” would be kept from commenting in class, interrupted when they did speak, and “invited” to “sit on the floor” or “to wear (light) chains around their shoulders, wrists or ankles for the duration of the course.” Students who complained would be told that this “educational tool” helps them confront “privileged fragility.”

Hypatia’s two unnamed peer reviewers did not object that the proposed teaching method was abusive. “I like this project very much,” one commented. One wondered how to make privileged students “feel genuinely uncomfortable in ways that are humbling and productive,” but not “so uncomfortable (shame) that they resist with renewed vigor.” Hypatia didn’t accept the paper but said it would consider a revised version.

During my thirty years as a cop, I wrote thousands of reports. Each one of them had the potential to be tested in an adversarial proceeding called a trial. In a juried publication, despite the name, fact finding is not in the job description. Here is what the dupes that edit these publications had to say:

Said she was “deeply disappointed” to learn that the papers, which went through double anonymous peer review, may be hoaxes. “Referees put in a great deal of time and effort to write meaningful reviews, and the idea that individuals would submit fraudulent academic material violates many ethical and academic norms,” she said. “It is equally upsetting that the anonymous reviewer comments from that effort were shared with third parties, violating the confidentiality of the peer-review process.” 

Ann Garry, Interim Editor Hypathia

The attitude expressed by Ms. Garry does a lot to explain the sorry state of journalism. The public watches the MSM in the belief that the stories have been properly researched, and the resultant story is true and accurate. The MSM may get somewhat of a bye on fast breaking stories, but the onus is still on the reporter and editor to get it right. 

In this instance, the subject matter experts have the luxury of time. That equates to time to investigate. Who is the author? If the paper relies on statistics, does the math hold up? Are the conclusions supported by the research? Are there other papers that serve to confirm or deny the work being reviewed? It appears the only question that occurred to the reviewers is: “Is the check in the mail?”