This article is in the paper and digital version of The Salisbury Review out today.
In one of the cafés nearby the conversation was familiar: weariness with Brexit, a lack of real information because ‘all news is fake’, all politicians are liars and most are involved in a huge conspiracy organised by international capital. The escape from all that duplicity was pinned to the notice board above us. Local ladies are invited to join a ‘Serene Woman Circle’ and, for a fee, find a ‘safe space’ to ‘meet your deepest selves.
Or they could look forward to the ‘Women’s Summer Solstice’ with its ‘Cacao ceremony’. Nothing to do with the Milk Tray our mothers once enjoyed. This was about a ‘Letting cacao awaken your full power, giving awareness of the abundant nature of the universe, moon times, womb wisdom and cycle awareness’.
Cycles here have nothing to do with bikes. The courses on offer were for local women in full retreat from modern technology and science. They are not alone. Even people prone to reading scholarly journals will easily find peer-reviewed – that is respected, work approved by high ranking academics – heartily endorsing this, shall we say, ‘mystical’ view of reality, even if it challenges the facts of human biology.
On May 19, 2017, the prestigious US journal Cogent Social Sciences published ‘The conceptual penis as a social construct.’ Terrifyingly, one assumes, for most men this argued that ‘penises are not male,’ but mere ‘social constructs’. The article also blamed ‘the conceptual penis,’ for climate change, and suggested silencing white males in college classrooms. It advised that they should be made to sit on the floor in chains to experience ‘reparations’ for the evil past.
That same month, Helen Wilson, with a PhD in feminist studies – a ‘lead researcher of the Ungendering Research Initiative’ – submitted her work, ‘Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon,’ to the respected Journal of Gender, Place & Culture. It was based on approximately 1,000 hours of observing the sexual habits of 10,000 dogs and their owners, in a Portland dog park.
Dog parks are microcosms where hegemonic masculinist norms governing queering behavior and compulsory heterosexuality can be observed in a cross-species environment…Oppressive spaces that lock both humans and animals into hegemonic patterns of gender conformity, adding, oppressive patriarchal norms reach zenith in dog parks.
The paper suggested training men like dogs as a way of ‘interrupting masculinist hegemonies.’ In perhaps too much information, Wilson claimed to witness ‘One dog rape incident every 60 minutes.’ The paper was praised by Gender, Place and Culture as ‘incredibly innovative, rich in analysis, and extremely well-written and organized’ by the first reviewer. Respectful feedback was given for other accepted papers. The paper was cited as one of the best works in the 25-year history of the academic journal.
Over ten months, ending in December 2018, Wilson and two colleagues wrote twenty papers. Seven were accepted, and praised. These included:Who Are They to Judge? Overcoming Anthropometry and a Framework for Fat Bodybuilding.
Published in Fat Studies, the first academic journal that ‘critically examines theory, research, practices, and programs related to body weight and appearance. Content includes original research and overviews exploring the intersection of gender, race/ethnicity, sexuality, age, ability, and socioeconomic status’.
Going in Through the Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria and Transphobia through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use, Sexuality & Culture. Academic reviewers praised this study as a ‘rich and exciting contribution to the study of the intersection between masculinity and anality’.
An Ethnography of Breastaurant Masculinity: Themes of Objectification, Sexual Conquest, Male Control, and Masculine Toughness in a Sexually Objectifying Restaurant.
Published in Sex Roles, a research journal publishing ‘Original research concerned with the underlying processes and consequences of gender role socialization perceptions and attitudes. The journal presents the most recent developments in emerging areas of study including: developmental cognitive and social-personality factors in childhood; acquisition maintenance and impact of stereotypes; social contexts; personal and interpersonal relationships; sexual preference’.
That paper was praised as ‘Excellent and very timely, an important dialogue for social workers and feminist scholars.’
In the UK, in December 2018, biology was being changed in the interest of progressive thought, not in theory but in practice, as children in Brighton began being taught that ‘all genders’ menstruate.Brighton & Hove City Council published a report saying: ‘Trans boys and men and non-binary people may have periods,’ adding that ‘menstruation must be inclusive of all genders.
‘Learning about periods is inclusive of all genders, cultures, faiths and sexual orientations. Girls and women and others who have periods. Our approach recognises the fact that some people who have periods are trans or non-binary’.
This went unquestioned by teachers or parents. Meanwhile, in America, progressive thought went on challenging what reactionary people call facts. Wilson and her colleagues planned to publish their papers until the end of January, 2019, but in June the Twitter account for New Real Peer Review became suspicious. The Journal of Feminist Geography – yes, it is real could also not confirm that she had a PhD. A reporter at the Wall Street Journal demanded proof of identity and an extraordinary hoax was exposed.
The hoaxers were Peter Boghossian, assistant professor of philosophy at Portland State University, who writes on atheism, critical thinking and scientific scepticism; James A Lindsay, a doctor of maths, author of ‘A Manifesto Against the Enemies of Modernity’. Also, Helen Pluckrose, from the University of London, editor of Areo, a magazine on Enlightenment liberalism, secularism and freedom of expression, her genuine essays include: ‘How French Intellectuals Ruined the West: Postmodernism and its Impact,’ and, ‘Why I No Longer Identify as a Feminist’.
Using what Dr Lindsay calls, ‘Batshit, insane papers,’ they hoodwinked the academic world, and it wasn’t hard to do. All too easily they demonstrated that literally anything can earn the imprimatur of ‘research’ no matter how unscientific or anti-rational, as long it adheres to the ‘progressive narrative’.
Among their seven accepted papers, which they called, ‘Grievance Studies,’ was the spectacularly daft, ‘Our Struggle is My Struggle: Solidarity feminism as an intersectional reply to neoliberal and choice feminism’.
Published in the influential Affilia: Journal of Women & Social Work, it was a rewrite of chapter 12 of Mein Kampf, with feminist buzzwords added in. Authors partially reproduced Hitler’s description of why the Nazi party is needed and what it requires of its members. They replaced his references to national-socialism with feminism, and Jews with ‘privilege,’ the new buzzword for white power.
Lindsay also wrote, in six hours, an eleven-page document on poetry, with ‘self-indulgent autoethnographical reflections on female sexuality and spirituality,’ to ‘see if journals will accept rambling nonsense if it is sufficiently pro-woman, implicitly anti-male, and thoroughly anti-reason for the purpose of foregrounding alternative, female ways of knowing’.
It went through peer review and was accepted by the Journal of Poetry Therapy, under the title ‘Moon Meetings and the Meaning of Sisterhood: A Poetic Portrayal of Lived Feminist Spirituality’.
As the educated middle classes, particularly women, retreat from science, it was all too easy to get this spectacular nonsense accepted. Punishment followed. They were attacked by fellow academics in The Chronicle of Higher Education. Professors at Portland State University signed an open letter, which accused the trio of ‘Academic fraud and dishonesty, spite and a perverse interest in public humiliation’ overriding ‘scholarly goals’.
Other academics alleged that Boghossian had left them liable to ‘death threats and assault from online trolls’. Boghossian was threatened with dismissal. Portland State barred him from leading further research for violating research rules by not gaining prior consent from his institutional review board. According to the university, the academics who reviewed the papers should have been told they were being studied. Boghossian was told to cease all research until he had undergone ‘human subjects research training’.
‘I didn’t want to make this a right-left issue,’ Boghossian said. ‘To me, this is not a political issue, it’s an issue of scholarship and scholarly rigor.’
The Grievance Hoax researchers are still awaiting resolution of charges that they fabricated research. In fact, they exposed the fraud and corruption within the publishing arm of academia, which Boghossian accuses of ‘pushing a kind of social snake oil onto a public that keeps getting sicker’. He says that what the university does with him will tell you what kind of university they want to be. ‘Do they want to be a social justice university, or do they want to be a truths eeking university?’ He can’t be too optimistic about his future in Portland as we are not living in a truth-loving age. The report on menstruation from Brighton & Hove Council was no hoax. It was and is real for them that transgendered men and boys menstruate – that is taken as fact. Academics and teachers, who mostly hold academic degrees in the UK, have swallowed at least as much snake oil as their American colleagues. The only thing to do is form a fairy ring, howl at the moon, focus on your cycle – or perhaps more sensibly, pedal off. Facts are still out there somewhere looking for rescue.
Jane Kelly was a celebrity interviewer for the Daily Mail.