Even research publishing companies can’t recognize hoaxes

Research shouldn’t push any political or social agendas; research is unbiased — or at least it should be


Photo by Slate Magazine

The authors of the hoax articles from left to right: James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian. The three risked their careers and respectability to prove a political point


Beginning in June 2017, three academics, Helen Pluckrose, Dr. James Lindsay and Professor Peter Boghossian, submitted more than a dozen articles to several highly prestigious academic journals that covered topics of race, gender, queer theory and other forms of identity politics.

They call these areas of study “grievance studies,” which, according to the trio, have the “common goal of problematizing aspects of culture in minute detail in order to attempt diagnoses of power imbalances and oppression rooted in identity.”

The way publications push certain ideas creates bias in organizations that pride themselves on their pure scholarship when they really don’t value real research. This poses a problem for ignorant readers who blindly accept faulty information.  

The three had been honest from the get-go that if their research was ever questioned, they would come forward immediately with what they were doing. A reporter from the Wall Street Journal was among several investigative journalists to uncover the truth of the story: It was a hoax. And a really good one at that.

In the video that revealed their ploy, UW-Eau Claire’s campus makes a cameo in a brief clip, as the narrator highlighted that situations like this affect, and are permeated through, college campuses.

Some of the articles that the group wrote are actually ridiculous. In one article, they related dogs having sexual relations with one another to the perpetuated rape culture in the United States. Or another: how white students should be chained to the floor of a classroom to help them understand how it feels to not be privileged and the effects of slavery. The list only gets worse.

“We rewrote a section of Mein Kampf as intersectional feminism and this journal has accepted it,” Lindsay laughed.

But this is no laughing matter.

This elaborate joke illuminated a scary truth: scholarly publications will unquestioningly accept  ridiculous attempts at research and call it legitimate as long as it pushes the political or social narrative they want told. According to the authors, this narrative is, usually, that white people are “evil” and should be punished for their privilege.

This is just insane. I, a white woman, am born into who I am just as a black woman is born into who she is. I cannot help it any more than she can. She should not be punished for it any more than me, and focusing on punishing me for the privilege of my skin color, rather than addressing the systems of inequality that benefit my skin color, is just stupid.

Those behind this fake research originally submitted articles with unsubstantiated claims and no literary merit at all. These articles were not published. It was only after the team researched other legitimate published articles, and they masked their claims in ones very similar to those, that their ridiculous articles were published.

The masterminds of this stunt are academic professors and high-level scholars who even said that they identify as left-wing. They seek to benefit no one, but merely seek to reveal the poor scholarship and biased publications that are being blindly accepted.

After spending roughly a year immersed in “grievance studies” literature, James Lindsay, who has a doctorate degree in math said that these studies do not follow the paths paved by the Civil Rights Movement. In fact, he said, they hinder progress in addressing the problems and dangerous power structures associated with race, gender and sexuality.

“Progress is easier without grievance studies,” Lindsay argued.

“We suggest you spend some time critically engaging with the ideas coming out of these fields and decide for yourself whether they speak for you,” Lindsay added.

I can do nothing more than absolutely agree. There is more than just fake news to watch out for. Be skeptical of everything.

Mennecke can be contacted at [email protected]