In Defense of Hoaxes

Justin E. H. Smith in his own blog:

A rather ambitious campaign of academic hoaxing has been in the news over the past week. The hoaxers claim to be “liberals.” The online nonacademic right is gleeful in its celebration of the hoaxers’ purported accomplishments, and in its denunciation of what they call “postmodernism” (I prefer the alternative term “grievance studies,” as I take it that this relatively new sort of agenda-driven “me-search” holds to a naive and basically premodern realism about its categories; the proliferation of new pseudospecies and the tracking of their “intersections” looks much more like the “analogism” that characterises Italian Renaissance cosmology than it looks like, say, Baudrillard’s theory of simulacra or Lyotard’s critique of metanarratives). The academic left has taken its familiar posture of preening defensiveness, denying that there’s any distinct problem at all in the scholarly standards governing the publication of articles in the various “theory” fields that do not also show up in, say, psychology or political science.

Whatever. Everyone’s playing their assigned roles. But what I wanted to speak to here is the question of hoaxes in general. Quite apart from whether I think “Sokal Squared” has accomplished what its authors claim, I confess I am astounded, though I really should not be by now, by the moralism and the piety about rules and procedures that so many academics are expressing, as if hoaxing were always unethical and lacking in any potential salutary effects. These academics seem entirely unaware of the distinguished history of hoaxing, and to assume that it dates back no earlier than Sokal.

More here.