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Journal editor duped into publishing fake study that exposed 'biased academic left' defends move — and blames authors

'I don't see a problem'

Image source: YouTube screenshot

You might recall the trio of writers who last year said they got academic journals to publish ridiculous "fake studies" in order to expose the "biased academic left."

James Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose revealed in a USA Today op-ed that seven of their papers — among them an adaptation of Adolf Hitler's "Mein Kampf," a look at "fat bodybuilding" for a discipline called "fat studies," as well as one that addressed "rape culture" by "monitoring dog-humping incidents at dog parks in Southeast Portland, Oregon" — were accepted by various journals.

James Lindsay and Helen PluckroseImage source: YouTube screenshot

Reason's John Stossel said he tried to talk to the journals' editors to find out how they got fooled, but none of them wanted to — except for Roberto Refinetti, editor in chief of Sexuality and Culture. His journal published the fake study titled, "Going in Through the Back Door: Challenging Straight Male Homohysteria, Transhysteria, and Transphobia Through Receptive Penetrative Sex Toy Use."

What did the editor have to say?

First off, props to Refinetti for stepping up and letting Stossel grill him on camera when the other six editors refused to endure the heat.

Refinetti told Stossel the trio of writers who pulled off the hoax are the ones at fault: "You're deceiving people without much of a reason." Stossel, however, disagreed and said they had quite a valid point: "Their hoax woke us up to the fact that some academic journals publish nonsense."

Underscoring Stossel's point was Refinetti himself, who noted that the premise of the trio's fake paper that made it into Sexuality and Culture is "nothing really absurd or unusual."

"What is the problem with [the subject of the paper]?" Refinetti asked Stossel. "I don't see a problem."

In other words, much of what passes for scholarship reads similarly to the fake study Refinetti was duped into accepting and publishing. Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose said "grievance studies" have been "corrupted by a form of political activism that puts political grievances ahead of finding truth."

Indeed, the trio's paper that Sexuality and Culture published championed the notion of "encouraging male anal eroticism with sex toys" in order to turn men more feminist, Reason noted. And Refinetti apparently couldn't tell it was made up.

And that goes for Sexuality and Culture's reviewers who gave the fake paper glowing endorsement — one of them called it "an incredibly rich and exciting contribution...timely, and worthy of publication," the outlet said.

'Which is what being a liberal is'

When Stossel pointed out to Refinetti that lack of diversity in academia — to wit a National Association of Scholars report said professors at top liberal arts colleges are 10 times more likely to be Democrats than Republicans, the outlet said — Refinetti didn't disagree.

"I think it's very reasonable — because what is the job of learning?" he told Stossel, adding that it's "being more open to new ideas, which is what being a liberal is."

But Stossel wasn't buying it: "This is your left-leaning definition; it's conservatives that proposed changes like school vouchers ... privatizing air traffic control."

Refinetti conceded it is an "interesting point. Then the hypothesis is shut down. See, that's how things work. You show the idea, you discuss the idea, and get it." He added that Sexuality and Culture doesn't publish studies only coming from the left.

Anything else?

Boghossian — a Portland State University philosophy of education professor and one of the authors who created the fake studies — said his employers launched a disciplinary review against him over the project.

Peter BoghossianImage source: YouTube screenshot

"PSU, like many college campuses, is becoming an ideological community, and I've demonstrated that I don't fit the mold," he told Willamette Week in a January statement. "I truly hope the administration puts its institutional weight behind the pursuit of truth, but I've been given no indication that's what they intend to do."

A public relations team working with Boghossian released statements of support from academic "free thinkers," including Richard Dawkins and Jordan Peterson, Willamette Week added.

"If the members of your committee of inquiry object to the very idea of satire as a form of creative expression they should come out honestly and say so," Dawkins wrote, the outlet said. "But to pretend that this is a matter of publishing false data is so obviously ridiculous that one cannot help suspecting an ulterior motive."

One last thing…
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