Seven academic journals were recently hoaxed into publishing ridiculous studies on topics like "rape culture and queer performativity" in dog parks.
The editor of only one of the journals, Roberto Refinetti of Sexuality and Culture, agreed to talk to me about the hoax and whether academics learned anything from being duped.
The hoaxers had said their experiment showed that "making absurd and horrible ideas sufficiently politically fashionable can get them validated at the highest levels of academic grievance studies."
Refinetti says the experiment proved nothing. "You're deceiving people without much of a reason."
I told him I thought the hoaxers had good reason. "Their hoax woke us up to the fact that some academic journals publish nonsense."
The paper Refinetti's journal accepted, called "Going in Through the Back Door," claimed to show you can reduce "straight male homo-hysteria and transphobia through receptive, penetrative sex toy use."
"It's not your everyday article," replied Refinetti in my new video about the hoax, but he says Sexuality and Culture "is a specialized journal that deals with sexuality and culture."
Why publish this particular paper, which claims penetration by sex toys "will decrease transphobia and increase feminist values"?
"What is the problem with that?" asked Refinetti. "It is a statement that could be correct. It's nothing really absurd or unusual."
But if it only "could" be correct and it's not unusual, why publish it?
"That's an issue in publication. That's the specialization. We've been doing that for maybe 100 years," responds Refinetti.
Seems silly, I suggest.
"What is silly? Is the respiration mechanism in an ant not silly?" countered Refinetti.
"But that's facts," I tell him. "It breathes this way or that way. This is speculation."
"Is it a speculation? If it were just a statement, a thesis not tested, we wouldn't do anything with it," replied Refinetti.
To help them decide what to publish, journals submit papers to "expert" reviewers.
In the case of the bogus sex toy study, Refinetti's reviewer wrote, "I'm just overwhelmed, which is a sign of a marvelous paper."
I suggested to Refinetti that his reviewer was an idiot.
"They made up data that he or she wished he had! So he says, wow, these people did a study that I wanted to do, and they got the results that I thought should be there!" answered Refinetti, seeing no problem.
It would be more obvious that claims in hoax papers like that were silly if the academics wrote in plain English instead of pretentious and politically loaded language. This is from the dog rape paper: "Inferring from the lessons relevant to human and dog interactions to suggest practical applications that disrupt hegemonic masculinities."
"That's one thing they like these days, disrupt masculinities. I don't like that concept," said Refinetti.
"Is there such a bias here that, instead of knowledge, we're just putting political correctness?" he asked, basically rephrasing my question. "In some areas, that is the case, but that's my feeling. I wouldn't do anything until I can document it."
Refinetti pointed out to me that many things society once considered ridiculous or unworthy of study are now accepted.
"Let's question our assumptions... When homosexuality was considered a mental illness, people pushed (back). Psychiatrists got together and said, it's a perfectly fine thing to choose, and not to call it mental illness. That's the type of thing that a journal in sexuality and culture does: discuss."
To discuss is good.
But today, journals of this sort seem to be mostly advocacy disguised with obscure academic jargon. They're filled with words such as bropropriating, otherization, performativity, androcentrism, matrix of domination, ableism, kyriarchy, intersectionality, etc.
The hoax article Refinetti accepted said, "Some feminists assert the dildo was an oppressive tool of the patriarchy."
"Ah, the jargon," he replied. "(But) it's just describing that some women think that using the dildo is a man's idea," said Refinetti. "That is a correct statement."
I assume it is.
But like so much of what today's academics write, and what journals treat as neutral science, it reinforces only one side of the political spectrum.
John Stossel is author of "No They Can't! Why Government Fails — But Individuals Succeed." For other Creators Syndicate writers and cartoonists, visit www.creators.com.