Last year Helen Pluckrose, James A. Lindsay and Peter Boghossian pulled off one of the biggest academic hoaxes in history. The trio wrote a series of fake academic papers and submitted them to real journals in trendy fields like feminist studies. Several of the journals agreed to publish the ridiculous, but politically correct papers. Here’s their description of a few of the papers:
Sometimes we just thought a nutty or inhumane idea up and ran with it. What if we write a paper saying we should train men like we do dogs—to prevent rape culture? Hence came the “Dog Park” paper. What if we write a paper claiming that when a guy privately masturbates while thinking about a woman (without her consent—in fact, without her ever finding out about it) that he’s committing sexual violence against her? That gave us the “Masturbation” paper. What if we argue that the reason superintelligent AI is potentially dangerous is because it is being programmed to be masculinist and imperialist using Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Lacanian psychoanalysis? That’s our “Feminist AI” paper. What if we argued that “a fat body is a legitimately built body” as a foundation for introducing a category for fat bodybuilding into the sport of professional bodybuilding? You can read how that went in Fat Studies.
However, someone picked up on one of the silly papers and a reporter for the Wall Street Journal started digging into the people behind it. At that point, the academics knew they only had a few days before their hoax was exposed. So the three of them went to see their friends Bret Weinstein and Heather Heying, both of whom had left their jobs at Evergreen State College after Social Justice Warriors took over the campus. Their goal was to ask for advice about what to expect. Weinstein and Heying were not optimistic.
“If this does not cause something to come for you, it’s because you haven’t succeeded in doing what you were attempting to do,” Weinstein said. He added, “To succeed is to invite something dire coming back.”
Weinstein then said that it was inevitable because what the academics had done was undercut the work of a bunch of people who take themselves very seriously. “To the extent that you’re saying something forceful and hard to dismiss and important that’s going to rob people who don’t deserve power in the academy from power that they have managed to capture, there is an awful lot of pressure built up that is going to come back at you like a firehose.”
A bit earlier in the discussion, Weinstein predicted the kind of self-contradictory responses they were likely to hear. “Personally, I’ve gotten back ‘What you’ve said is completely obvious’ and ‘You’re dead wrong,'” he said. He continued, “What you are going to get back is something like, you have overstepped in some massive, egregious fashion that is morally intolerable. And you’re going to get back the argument that there’s nothing to be seen in what you’ve done…That’s the flak when you’re over the target.”
At one point, Heather Heying turned to Peter Boghossian and said, “So you’re the only one with a university position at the moment and there’s four others of us here who have been associated with universities and colleges in the past and are no longer.” She added, “I don’t think that’s an accident.”
Indeed, just as Weinstein and Heying predicted, a group of Boghossian’s fellow academics did come after him. A group of about a dozen professors published an anonymous hit piece in the student newspaper saying that Boghossian’s hoax had diminished the value of a Portland State University degree. You can watch the clip of him reacting to that piece here.
And here’s the video of Weinstein and Heying responding to the initial hoax and predicting the worst.