‘Rape Culture’ at the Dog Park: How Our Colleges Lost Their Minds
Pointy-Head conservatives are having a great laugh this week. Some intellectual pranksters have punked academic journals with crackpot “research” papers. These academics cooked up outrageous claims. They supported them with obviously shoddy or crazy research methods. And nonsensical arguments cloaked in jargon. And they got most of them accepted for publication at “serious” journals. As National Review reports:
[T]he academics submitted a paper to the feminist geography journal Gender, Place & Culture detailing the“rape culture” supposedly prevalent within dark parks. …
The paper — which argues that dog parks are “petri dishes for canine ‘rape culture’” — issues “a call for awareness into the different ways dogs are treated on the basis of their gender and queering behaviors, and the chronic and perennial rape emergency dog parks pose to female dogs.”
Afilia, a peer-reviewed feminist journal, also accepted one of their papers, “Our Struggle Is My Struggle: Solidarity Feminism as an Intersectional Reply to Neoliberal and Choice Feminism,” which is a rewrite of one chapter of “Mein Kampf.”
Check out the hilarious video of these pranksters receiving their acceptance letters.
Their goal? To highlight how strident ideology has highjacked whole fields of academia.
The fun doesn’t end there. Read some real research papers, all of them equally silly, at New Real Peer Review.
— New Real Peer Review (@RealPeerReview) September 27, 2018
— New Real Peer Review (@RealPeerReview) September 17, 2018
We are glad that Brooklyn Law Review is bravely addressing the very important issue of milk-borne exploitation of “bodies” and milk-driven white supremacyhttps://t.co/QHhPwI53JE
Fulltext link https://t.co/sYZndeQAA9
— New Real Peer Review (@RealPeerReview) September 8, 2018
How to Win Tenure and Influence People
Papers like these win lifelong tenure for professors at universities nationwide. Their courses are the ones turning ordinary Americans into rage-stoked social justice warriors. The kind of people who sign up for Antifa. And hound Republican senators in restaurants.
For 100 years, departments in the social sciences and humanities have been desperate to establish their rigor as equal to those in the natural sciences.
Maybe you didn’t slog through and get a Ph.D. in a field like literature. I did. So let me explain why such papers matter. Academic journals pose as the “gold standard” of academia. They’re “peer-reviewed.” That means the editors don’t just read submissions and print what they like. Instead, they take the papers which interest them and circulate them — minus the authors’ names and schools — to tenured faculty in the relevant field. This guarantees their integrity and quality.
Get enough such articles published? You get tenure. That means you can’t be fired (unless you take conservative stances, of course). Publish more of them? You get promoted. That means you get to teach less. You’ll escape the drudgery of teaching (and grading!) intro courses to freshmen. (Let impoverished adjuncts take care of that.)
Instead you’ll offer three or four courses a year. Mostly to a few dozen seniors majoring in your subject and some graduate students. Usually on some specialized topic that fits your interests. That helps you research your next academic book. It will sell for $75 or $150, get bought only by libraries, and be read by 200 people at most. Publish a few such books? You get promoted even higher, get paid more, and teach even less.
Mark Bauerlain laid out the status quo in the house publication of academia, The Chronicle of Higher Education.
If a professor who makes $75,000 a year spends five years on a book on Charles Dickens (which sold 43 copies to individuals and 250 copies to libraries, the library copies averaging only two checkouts in the six years after its publication), the university paid $125,000 for its production. Certainly that money could have gone toward a more effective appreciation of that professor’s expertise and talent. We can no longer pretend, too, that studies of Emily Dickinson are as needed today, after three decades have produced 2,007 items on the poet, as they were in 1965, when the previous three decades had produced only 233.
Playing Dress Up in a Scientist’s White Lab Coat
Does this sound quasi-scientific to you? That’s because, for 100 years, departments in the social sciences and humanities have been desperate to establish their rigor as equal to those in the natural sciences. So if I wrote a paper on Faulkner’s novels, I’d present it as “research.” You know, like a study that tested the effects of Ricin poison on Texas senators. Likewise if some Women’s Studies professor used some opinion surveys given to freshman college students to test their “patriarchal attitudes.” It attains the patina of cold, objective science. That’s true even when it’s merely an exercise in promoting one’s own opinions. Or reaffirming the unquestioned premises of a certain ideology. (Say, pro-abortion feminism, or biology-denying transgender theory.)
Now, even hard science ain’t what it used to be. Critics have shown that there’s a crisis in scientific publishing. Lots of studies get past the peer review process and published, which later turn out to be non-reproducible. In other words, when someone else bothers to try the experiment again, they don’t get the same results. So its conclusions probably aren’t true. But few researchers feel motivated to re-test others’ research. They’re too busy doing their own, often shaky research. Meanwhile, much of the “science” that gets cited over at Yahoo News is based on such dubious studies. But it helps form public opinion. Often in favor of leftist or secularist causes.
Putting Jane Austen Through the Marxist Meat Grinder
Matters are even worse in the social sciences and humanities. There ideological criteria (and affirmative action quotas) prove crucial in hiring. Are you a Marxist, feminist, or some other kind of ideologue? Then it’s all too easy to bake your conclusions into your premises, and frame your “research” to prove it. For instance, if you want to claim that Jane Austen’s novels are “really” a critique of women’s powerlessness in 18th century England. You can do that. Just comb through the novels for every bad thing that happens to a female character. Point out that men had more social power than women then. And BAM — you proved your thesis. Disguise the fact that you’re just running great works of literature through a meat grinder by swathing your simplistic point in thick gobs of incomprehensible jargon.
Don’t Try it with the Bible
When I took grad school seminars, I used to mock readings like this. I’d jeer, “I could do the same thing with Christian sexual morality. Just go through a novel toting up every time the character sinned, and turn that in as a paper. Would you accept that?” My teachers’ verdict was invariable: “That’s not funny.”
To test out what was funny, I took the English department’s course list one semester and wrote up a vicious parody. I formatted it to look exactly like the real course list. And put it in every professor and graduate student’s box. Several of them stayed fooled well into the second page. Then they woke up and sputtered, “It isn’t real … it’s ZMIRAK!”
I realized that teaching at such a university wasn’t in my future.
Filling Your Brain’s Gas Tank with Sugar
But I did take one thing away from graduate school. Namely, an inside understanding of how these crackpot ideologies can warp a person’s thinking. Take one thinker who’s now a rock-star among social justice warriors. Slavoj Žižek isn’t just a Marxist philosopher. He’s a Marxist-Leninist, which means he approves all the slaughters actually committed by the Bolsheviks. He has even defended Stalin. So of course he’s a sought-after speaker at schools that charge $60,000 per year for students to live in gothic castles. Those really interested in how and why our schools went insane, should give my long piece a read.
Here’s a key passage on what it does to a student’s mind to wade through the work of thinkers like Žižek. (I know, because I was assigned many essays of his ilk back in graduate school.)
The danger of reading such writers is not what a Christian might feel at the prospect of reading Nietzsche: a fear that he might be convincing, and might by brilliant arguments undermine one’s faith and leave one rudderless. No, the problem with reading Lacan (or Žižek) is the same one presented by Derrida and Heidegger: their thought does not follow the rules of logic and argument one has internalized from reading any other philosopher. You do not scan their arguments to see if you can accept their premises, or follow their chain of syllogisms (there aren’t any, but rather a wild haze of bold associative leaps, bejeweled with invented words). Instead, you puzzle over the text in the attempt to make some kind of preliminary sense of it. You fail. …
If you are healthy and self-confident, you react to such a failure as evidence that the work is incoherent and you throw it across the room. But if the work is on a reading list of a course you’re required to take, or if you crave the cultural cachet of dropping these particular names, you do something else: you surrender the healthy habits of reasoning that you steadily developed throughout your years as a rational animal and agree to try to think in an entirely new way.
You let yourself become a passive spectator. You humbly submit to re-education by the text, not simply in different ideas — any persuasive book tries to do that, and fair enough — but in a new and idiosyncratic mode of connecting ideas. The book assures you, slyly between the lines, that this new mode of thinking is a rare and privileged method, known only to the gnostic few who have dared to follow the author down his radical, brave new path.
In the end you put so much effort into making heads or tails of what the text is actually saying, that you cannot bear to admit that it’s simply nonsense, or a pernicious waste of time that addled your faculties for thinking. By the “sunk cost” fallacy, you perversely attribute importance to the text, lest you admit how foolishly you have been wasting your time. Thus the hours you poured into slogging through Žižek become like soldiers who died in Vietnam — you cannot dishonor their sacrifice by admitting that they died in vain.
Go through this process often enough, and you brainwash yourself. Soon you’ve internalized absurdities, and trained your brain in sloppy, lazy thinking. And if you stick around the university long enough, you might well collect your reward. That’s what happened to an ever-growing majority of teachers at America’s universities.
And that’s why the young folks seem so crazy nowadays. They’ve been carefully trained that way.