The Allure of Protective Stupidity

The most important aspect of the Grievance Studieshoax—in which three writers duped supposedly scholarly gender and race journals with absurd papers such as “Human Reactions to Rape Culture and Queer Performativity at the Dog Park”—may also be the most overlooked: the triumph of their term “Grievance Studies” as the collective noun for the various “disciplines” of woke academia.

James A. Lindsay, Peter Boghossian, and Helen Pluckrose managed to get seven bogus articles accepted by more or less real academic journals.

On the other hand, that seems like a huge amount of work to make fun of self-demeaning periodicals with names like Fat Studies and Journal of Poetry Therapy. After all, the Twitter account New Real Peer Review routinely links to actual published academic papers at least as derisible as the hoax efforts, such as this authentic bit of “autoethnographic” navel-gazing:

A FemmeNist ManiPedifesto

This is an autoethnography about the role of nail salons in relation to my own evolving feminist and femme consciousness. Gift Card i... Buy New $25.00 (as of 06:10 EST - Details) Does the Internal Revenue Service let you deduct getting your nails done if you are a published autoethnographer on the subject of getting your nails done? Perhaps autoethnography is in part an elaborate tax-evasion scheme to write off whatever the authors would spend money on anyway?

Nobody can deny Lindsay, Boghossian, and Pluckrose one historic accomplishment: They’ve permanently affixed the name Grievance Studies to their targets.

Before last fall, there were a variety of self-designations that only their smartest critics could keep track of. For example, Steven Pinker tweeted,

Is there any idea so outlandish that it won’t be published in a Critical/PoMo/Identity/‘Theory’ journal?

But if you aren’t quite up to Pinker’s level of brainpower, it’s hard to remember that “Critical/PoMo/Identity/‘Theory’” are all more or less the same moonshine.

But now we don’t need to. They are all just Grievance Studies.

Google searches show that the term “grievance studies” appeared only 85 times in the history of the internet before they announced their hoax last October, but 89,700 times since then.

Ironically, the various institutions out to punish the trio of hoaxers for their impudence are just making the term Grievance Studies even more memorable in the highbrow public’s mind. Gift Card i... Best Price: null Buy New $25.00 (as of 11:36 EST - Details) The importance of names is underrated. When something doesn’t have a name, humans have a hard time noticing a pattern. It’s hardly impossible—otherwise we’d never develop names in the first place—but names exist to make thinking easier.

For example, during last week’s frigid Chicago cold snap, a TV actor named Jussie Smollett announced that two homophobic Trump supporters had racistly tried to lynch him. Leading solons of the Democratic Party such as Joe Biden, Kamala Harris, Bernie Sanders, and Cory Booker rushed to tweet out their unconditional endorsement of Smollett’s story.

Now, it could be that all this happened just the way Smollett has asserted.

But, if you are familiar with the term “hate hoax” and the long history of heavily promoted fiascos stretching back to Tawana Brawley in 1987 in which the national media went nuts over stories of evil white maleness that turned out not to be wholly accurate, you might be a little more reluctant than these presidential candidates to commit yourself to the factual veracity of this latest allegation.

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