Academic hoaxes: is academia beyond redemption?

by Mike McDaniel at

The Claudine Gay/Harvard revelations lead the thoughtful person to wonder if much, if not all, of contemporary academia is a scam, a hoax without a knowing wink. Let’s take a trip back in time to 1996 and the Sokal Hoax: 

In 1996, Alan Sokal, a New York University physicist and self-described ‘academic leftist,” composed an essay that was a word salad of solemn academic jargon. He said he strove to be ‘especially egregious,’ by maundering on about “the dialectical emphases’ of ‘catastrophe theory’ becoming a ‘concrete tool of progressive political praxis.” His essay’s gaudy title was “Transgressing the Boundaries: Toward a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity.”

He sent it to the left-leaning ‘cultural studies’ journal Social Text, which swooned, perhaps in part because Sokal larded his nonsense with political tropes that are catnip to lettered leftists — ‘emancipatory mathematics,’ ‘demystify and democratize the production of scientific knowledge,’ ‘the crisis of late-capitalist production relations.’ Soon after Social Text published his faux scholarship, Sokal revealed in another journal, Lingua Franca, that it was a parody.

As one might imagine, the academic world, caught with its pants down, went berserk, but didn’t learn a thing. Fast forward to 2018:

Everyone is buzzing today about the revelation of the three academics—James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose, and Peter Boghossianwho placed over a dozen complete hoax articles with various premier ‘cultural studies’ or ‘identity studies’ academic journals. All three professors, it should be noted, consider themselves left of center, as does Alan Sokal, the New York University physicist who placed a hoax article about the supposed subjectivity of physics in the postmodernist journal Social Text 20 years ago. (Yet somehow Social Text stayed in business instead of closing down in embarrassment, as they should have.)