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Professor who wrote pro-colonialism article asks for its withdrawal, facing blacklists


The digital mob has won this round.

Bruce Gilley, the Portland State University professor whose peer-reviewed article “The Case for Colonialism” created an international furor and demands for his firing and blacklisting, has asked Third World Quarterly to withdraw his article.

“I regret the pain and anger that it has caused for many people. I hope that this action will allow a more civil and caring discussion on this important issue to take place,” Gilley wrote on his sparse website.

Several academics are trying to blacklist Gilley from publishing further articles and threatening to destroy academic journals that consider his submissions, even as the prominent anti-war activist and MIT linguist Noam Chomsky warns that retracting the article would “open dangerous doors.”

The academic journal has yet to publicly to respond to Gilley’s request, which he apparently announced Thursday. There appears to be little response on social media as of Thursday afternoon.

Much of Third World Quarterly‘s editorial board resigned in response to its publication of the article, which argues colonialism created some net positives, particularly in countries that adopted their colonial legacy. Chomsky, however, remains on the journal’s board.

Gilley’s colleague Peter Boghossian, who successfully published a hoax paper on the “Conceptual Penis” in a peer-reviewed journal earlier this year, echoed Chomsky in warning this successful pressure campaign would open the floodgates against scholars who study “morally complicated issues.”

Boghossian told The College Fix in an email Thursday that Gilley’s notice does not say anything about his article being “false”:

If outrage is a criterion for retraction then it would be virtually impossible to publish in the field of moral philosophy.

Scholars are now held hostage to mob mentality. And the mob has sent a clear message: publish something we don’t like and we’ll come for you. Your article. Your tenure. Your job.

One consequence of this is that scholars will stop publishing in controversial areas. If difficult issues are discussed at all, it will be from a point of view that’s morally fashionable.

Entire disciplines will be pushed into saccharine mediocrity.

Not only will individual scholars be less likely to work on complicated moral issues, peer-reviewed journals are now less likely to accept pieces that have the potential of offending someone and will view difficult moral questions through a singular lens.

Andy Ngo contributed to this report.

UPDATE: An interview with Professor Boghossian has been added to the post.

IMAGE: Anton Brand/Shutterstock

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About the Author
Associate Editor
Greg Piper served as associate editor of The College Fix from 2014 to 2021.