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The hoax paper scandal reveals academia’s hollow banality

Stupid, incoherent ideas find lots of purchase there

There is something so deeply, richly funny about the academic paper hoax, in which a few scholars pulled off an industrial-scale prank on the academic journal community, successfully getting papers published that argued, for example, that “straight men [should] stick things in their rectum to reduce their transphobia” and that examined “human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon.” These arguments are so close to the real thing that they almost transcend the genre of satire; indeed, The Fix reported on the queer performative dog park paper before learning it was a terrific scam. Hats off to everyone involved in this.

On a deeper level, of course, this hoax reveals something very telling about academia: Namely, that it is shot through with incoherent, silly, bizarre and useless ideas, and that the gatekeepers of academia are themselves totally in thrall to this culture. This has been understood for some time, of course, but it is rare to see it laid out in so bright and clear a fashion, which was the point of the hoax to begin with. Avant-garde ideas have always been part of the academic mission, of course. But “rape culture and queering” at your local dog park is something else entirely. “Challenging straight male homohysteria, transhysteria, and transphobia through receptive penetrative sex toy use” is another level still.

The big question remains: What drives people to take seriously such obviously fraudulent and pointless scholarship? Where’s the payoff in it? Even assuming that a dog-park-queering-rape-culture academic paper were not a total fake—i.e. that it were researched and written with all sincerity—does anyone believe it would really add anything positive to the world, or even to academia? Doubtful. Some ideas—curing polio, going to the moon, the microchip—are fantastic. Others—anything that involves the terms “heteroperformative” or “feminist glaciality,” say—are less useful. Academics should be able to distinguish between the two.

Sadly, the state of the industry is such that you can successfully get a paper published arguing that straight men should penetrate themselves with sex toys in order to alleviate their “transhysteria.” That does not really bode well for the future of the academic world—for the people in it, or for the effect its ideas will have on the outside world.

MORE: The story behind the hoax against academic journals

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