Stakeholder Refereeing for Controversial Ideas: Replies to Some Criticisms


I appreciate the responses, here and elsewhere, to my idea of using stakeholder refereeing as an alternative to the pseudonymous authorship policy planned by the Journal of Controversial Ideas.

Below are some criticisms of the idea and my responses to them.

Criticism 1. Justin’s idea is intentionally aimed at preventing the publication of controversial articles.

No it’s not. As I’ve said many times here on Daily Nous, I favor an intellectual community characterized by thoughtful disagreement.

Here are some positions I’ve taken, quite publicly, here on Daily Nous:

  • arguing in favor of demographic diversity in the profession in order to bring new perspectives and experiences into philosophy;
  • supporting an expansion of what counts as canonical philosophy, to learn about earlier differences and to see how disagreement may have been suppressed by cultural chauvinism;
  • fighting attempts at mob rule in academia, because the academic enterprise is about argument and evidence, not social media popularity;
  • skepticism about the “culture of fear” narrative in academia, in part because it inhibits minority voices;
  • opposing the “universities are overrun with political correctness” narrative in part because it encourages dismissive attitudes rather than thoughtful engagement;
  • criticizing obnoxiousness in the profession, in part because it discourages people from participating in public conversations.

All of these are about promoting more and better disagreement.

I’m not opposed to the publication of controversial scholarly articles. I’m just doubtful that creating an academic journal based around offering authors the cover of pseudonymity in order to publish such articles is a good idea.

Criticism 2. Stakeholders should not have a veto over whether an article that may offend them gets published.

My suggestion does not give stakeholder referees veto power over publication. Publication decisions would, as with other journals, rest with the editors. And as with the assessments made by ordinary referees, it is up to the editors to decide what weight to accord the reports of stakeholder referees.

If an editor judges that a stakeholder referee is using inappropriate criteria (such as agreement with the thesis) or is being purposefully obstructionist, and this cannot be resolved in a way that allows that particular stakeholder referee to continue to contribute to the process, the editor might reasonably weight that referee’s assessment less.

Some may feel that this gives the editor too much discretion, or too much responsibility. Perhaps there are better ways to strike a balance between stakeholder referee input and editorial power. Just keep in mind that any arrangement is going to have its flaws. The goal is not to find a problem-free solution, but to find a solution that has problems we can live with.

Criticism 3. Stakeholder referees would not favor the publication of high-quality controversial articles.

I envision a stakeholder referee as having several characteristics: (a) belonging to one of the stakeholder groups, (b) being an academic or an expert, (c) willing and able to approve for publication articles that defend or rely on theses they disagree with, provided the articles are of sufficient quality.

Most versions of Criticism 3 appear to operate as if (c) is not part of the understanding of who should be selected as a stakeholder referee. That may be owed to me not making that explicit enough in my original post. My apologies.

If we assume that Criticism 3 is made in light of (c), though, then it seems to be saying that despite (c), the stakeholder referees would be too restrictive. That may end up being the case. I don’t know. I suspect whether one thinks that’s so depends a lot on who one talks to, and how well one knows the types of people one’s talking about. I would guess that some commenters are inferring people’s refereeing tendencies from their comportment on social media, and that seems like a bad inference to me.

Criticism 4. There are no (or not enough) people who would be willing and able to serve as stakeholder referees.

The criticism here is that while there may be enough people who fit the criteria of (a) and (b), there aren’t enough people who fit those two criteria and (c).

I would bet that people who assert something like Criticism 4 believe that were they themselves asked to be stakeholder referees, they would be willing and able to approve the publication of articles that defend or rely on theses they disagree with, provided the articles are of sufficient quality. But if they can do it, why can’t others? If people who agree with them on certain matters can do it, why can’t people who disagree with them on those matters do it, too?

This will come as no surprise to regular readers of mine but I suspect that the availability heuristic is at work here. When thinking of controversial views and those who might be bothered by them, people are thinking about political opponents, and when we think of our political opponents, who comes to mind? Generally, the loudest, most vocal, most visible, most dogmatic of them. Such people might indeed make lousy stakeholder referees, and editors would probably be wise to avoid them. But such people are not properly representative of the stakeholder groups of which they are members. Are you a reasonable person? Do you know other reasonable people? Of course. Why believe there aren’t such people in various stakeholder groups?

Criticism 5. People who would be willing to serve as stakeholder referees are not the people authors are fearful of, and so getting them on board does nothing to solve the problem.

It is true that the people likely to, say, attempt to instigate a social media pile-on against an author—call them “mobbers”—are unlikely to be well-suited to be stakeholder referees. I never took my proposal to depend on denying this. What the stakeholder refereeing process can do is: first, send a message about the paper that makes it less likely for mobbers to pick that paper’s author as a target, second, provide good examples of how people who are similar to the mobbers (and those who would follow them) in some relevant respects might take a non-mobbing approach to reacting to papers they do not like, and third, improve the quality of the paper in various ways, including helping it jettison unnecessary distractions and provocative missteps.

Criticism 6. For any given paper, how do we decide who counts as a stakeholder?

This is a good question to which there are probably several reasonable answers. It may be that none of these reasonable answers is completely unproblematic. But that’s okay. In policy matters, the absence of problems is an unreasonable standard.

Criticism 7. Stakeholder refereeing will bring papers to the attention of the very people authors are likely to be fearful of.

I think publishing the articles in something called The Journal of Controversial Ideas will probably do that, regardless of the refereeing process involved.

Criticism 8. If this process had long been in place at every journal, so few interesting ideas would have gotten published.

My proposal is not a proposal for all journals. It is an attempt to help provide a solution to a problem some people think is worth addressing: how can we ensure that defenses of worthwhile yet politically unpopular theses by authors fearful of the professional repercussions of being associated with such theses get published?

Jeff McMahan, Francesca Minerva, and Peter Singer offered one solution to this problem: create a Journal of Controversial Ideas and protect the authors by hiding their identities with pseudonyms. My proposal took the creation of that journal for granted, but offered an alternative mode of protection that I argued was better for a few reasons. Nothing about my proposal involves subjecting all articles to the process.

That said, the process formalizes something that is generally advisable for anyone wading into particularly controversial waters with their work: have others, especially those who disagree with you and those who are more expert than you on evidence or methods you rely on, give you their assessment of  your work prior to publishing it.

*  *  *  *  *

Further feedback is welcome.

Takehiro Kishimoto – carving of an apple

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KDM
KDM
2 years ago

Criticism 9: Your alternative does not have the same feedback mechanism (soft falsifiability) WRT the alleged suppression of certain controversial ideas, topics, positions, etc.

With the new journal, we will be able to see whether it produces (i) good, typical high-quality scholarship that (ii) addresses topics, issues and perspectives previously underexplored. If it might turns out to look very much like any ordinary journal, then we have an indicator as to whether the alleged issues of suppression are genuine issues. But with Your alternative, it’s much harder to assess whether their perceptions are accurate or not. If all your reforms are introduced, and nothing changes, then those that were previously concerned about alleged suppression will likely have reasonable grounds to remain skeptical. After all, the existing concern will be in part with the existing would-be stakeholders. The feedback mechanism will not be as strong as strong. When Jon Doe gets rejected, his prior concerns will warrant his continued skepticism about the process. Obviously, rigidity and individual biases are always a psychological factor, but here I’m just talking about how warranted that skepticism would be. And with Singer et al.’s new Journal, such skepticism would be less warranted.

Criticism 10: Your alternative does not conflict with the existing project. A group of academics have taken on a project. Your alternative project does conflict with it. Presenting it as though readers are faced with an exclusive EITHER/OR would be inaccurate. Whether your proposal gets carried out should be treated as independent of whether the New Journal gets carried out. Better yet, why not wait, following Criticism 9, and see how successful the project is or isn’t? If it is a huge success, and great novel scholarship is produced, other journals can then start to invest in ways that might share in that success.

Criticism 11: The alternative is more difficult to implement. As philosophers, we might not always find such practical concerns relevant, but it should be relevant here. A lot of folks are going to be investing a lot of time in either project, and we should respect their decision to favor plan A over plan B if plan B seems more difficult or onerous to implement for those involved. And again, since they don’t compete, other folks can place their bets on Plan B or maybe some Plan C, without being busybodies about those involved in Plan A.Report

DKM
DKM
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

>>”If he gets rejected, he might think, “even in a journal dedicated to controversial ideas the referees are too biased against ideas like mine,” no?”
I’m making a crude assessment that, in the case of the New Journal, that skeptical belief would be less warranted–however psychologically plausible it remains. In the New Journal, unlike the Reformed Model, we can be more confident (granted, still uncertain!) that those involved are taking the relevant measures to put their suspicions to the test. I would, on reflection, soften the language I used from “much harder to assess” to merely “harder..”Report

Dave Baker
Dave Baker
2 years ago

Hi Justin,

On your response to criticism #5:

In the science fiction and fantasy fan community, which I’m quite familiar with, there has been a problem for many years (at least since 2009) of authors being mobbed online by fans who believe they’ve published ethically problematic stories. It’s also common among authors–partly as a reaction to this problem, but also as something that’s seen as good practice anyway–to run stories past members of a given minority/underrepresented demographic if the story portrays members of that demographic. Then when authors are mobbed, they can point to their advance readers as endorsing the work.

I have never seen this defense succeed. The mobbing fans will simply respond (correctly!) that no person, or handful of people, from a given group can speak for the whole group in any morally important sense.

I suspect the same thing would happen in philosophy if your suggestion were adopted. It might also have the undesirable effect of driving a big wedge between stakeholders who satisfy your condition (c) and stakeholders who do not. I’ve also seen that happen to minority science fiction and fantasy fans who meet the literary equivalent of condition (c).

I don’t question your good faith on this, but I think you may need to go back to the drawing board.Report

MB
MB
Reply to  Dave Baker
2 years ago

Maybe there should be a one-stop-shop philosophy PR crisis management clearinghouse that is endorsed by leading minority/underrepresented philosophers (it’ll be a good thing for junior scholars too, perhaps).Report

SweetSpokenNestor
SweetSpokenNestor
Reply to  Dave Baker
2 years ago

Surely there is an issue of diminishing credibility as well? A stakeholder of suitable stature/reputation vouching for the merits of AN article might work in a “Nixon goes to China” kind of way. A stakeholder who regularly vouches for articles people in the stakeholders group/sub-field find offensive risks having their credibility bleed away and being seen as a rubber stamp/token opposition/traitor. (Examples from politics of this dynamic abound)Report

Dave Baker
Dave Baker
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

It’s possible that the two communities are different enough, and in the right ways, that this sort of defense strategy would work better in philosophy. I have a much higher regard for the critical thinking skills of philosophers, and the SFF community seems more polarized as well. (It includes quite a number of alt-righters and even a noticeable number of literal white nationalists, who are treated with a surprising amount of tolerance by the ordinary conservatives. On the left side things are not quite as radical, but still, there are noticeably fewer progressives in SFF who are strongly committed to liberal principles than there are in philosophy.)Report

Mark Alfano
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

It seems to me that, even if stakeholder involvement doesn’t always prevent mobbing, it may help *a bit*, and that’s already something. In addition, one might reasonably argue that it’s simply a matter of respect and earnest to consult with stakeholders before trying to publish something that could have a significant effect on them. This is similar to medical ethics review boards that have significant lay membership (up to 50%). (https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5432947/)Report

Dave Baker
Dave Baker
Reply to  Mark Alfano
2 years ago

I probably should have said in my initial post: I definitely agree that running one’s work past stakeholders is a good practice. I would probably leave that to individual authors rather than make it a built-in component of refereeing, though.Report

Avalonian
2 years ago

Thanks for continuing the conversation, Justin. So far as I can tell, my criticism has been re-cast as: “For any given paper, how do we decide who counts as a stakeholder?”. But I’d like to know what you think of the slightly deeper problem that I tried (and clearly failed) to describe: when it comes to many controversial articles, it isn’t possible to decide who counts as a stakeholder without taking a substantive position or angle on the article’s thesis itself. Someone who argues that group X unjustly benefits from the oppression of group Y is someone who thinks that persons in group X are the real stakeholders, the persons whose well-being is on the line. But if we prioritize, as you suggested, the potentially “outraged”, then we will select referees from group Y, since apparently no-one likes the suggestion that they or their friends are privileged.

So perhaps the solution here is for people to stop getting outraged by the suggestion that they are privileged in some manner. Indeed, that imperative is something that many of us are very used to hearing, and some of us have been trying to get used to it for a long time, lest we be labeled “fragile”. Perhaps it’s time for all of us to strive for that kind of emotional maturity.Report

Alex
Alex
Reply to  Avalonian
2 years ago

I’d be interested in a direct reply to this worry as well.Report

SweetSpokenNestor
SweetSpokenNestor
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

“I don’t quite see the problem. From what I can tell, in cases such as the one you describe, it would make sense for there to be stakeholder referees from X and Y, no? ”

And what happens when those stakeholders disagree?Report

Ariel
Ariel
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

“From what I can tell, in cases such as the one you describe, it would make sense for there to be stakeholder referees from X and Y, no?”

Does a paper about the resurgence of race motivated violence need to ask for a white supremacist as a referee? They are certainly stakeholders in the argument of the article, in some sense just as much as people of color are. Does an article about climate science need to consult members of the oil industry? And surely articles about the behaviour of the US government don’t need a referee to be a government representative!

I think there is an important point being made by Avalonian, which is that there is a non-trivial decision to be made about who counts as a stakeholder on any particular issue. Adjudicating whose voices need to be included is not so simple, and I think does pose an important challenge to your model.Report

Avalonian
Reply to  Justin Weinberg
2 years ago

The problem arose because your initial proposal claimed that we identify “stakeholders” as, quote, “the types of people who [the editors] believe are likely to be outraged by the publication of the article.” Obviously if this is no longer the suggestion then this criticism isn’t as pressing, but of course, we now need to know what the new suggestion is.Report

Pat
Pat
2 years ago

My question is a bit related to Dave Baker’s: have you heard from any potential stakeholder-reviewers about how they would perceive the opportunity to engage in this enterprise? I could imagine it appearing as respectful (as I’m sure you mean it) and as a professional opportunity, or I could imagine it appearing as one more thing that people are asked to do on the basis of their identities or, even worse, as an invitation to take the potentially large risk of offending members of one’s primary community in order to provide potentially insignificant support to an author/journal who doesn’t have nearly as much at risk.

It might be that these reviewers would find supporting the free discussion of controversial topics important enough that they would gladly accept any risks involved. But it seems that they would be being asked to make a decision with more import and weight than either the initial author, or the journal involved in this, want to make for themselves.

This is just my speculation, though. It would be nice to hear from some potential stakeholder reviewers.Report

Paul
Paul
2 years ago

As Justin’s proposal “took the creation of that journal [‘Journal of Controversial Ideas’] for granted” it is worth adding another consideration: marketing.

“That journal” already has a Wikipedia page and has generated considerable interest, as citations attest: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Journal_of_Controversial_Ideas

Clearly, the race is on: a viable alternative needs a name to attract wannabe tenured contributors.

May I suggest: “Safe For Work Philosophy Review” – a title pre-approved by the APA’s Policing and Philosophy special interest member group.Report

YAAGS
YAAGS
2 years ago

I’ve never seen any evidence that academic philosophy articles causally influence how society at large treats disadvantaged groups. Without such evidence the proposal is unmotivated, and there is little prima face reason to think that there is such influence. Perhaps the idea is that such articles might cause mental distress to other academic philosophers who read them. This seems like a poor motivation. People with peanut allergies shouldn’t work at a peanut butter factory. If anyone is a stakeholder in a paper it is those people who have named their careers defending claims that the paper challenges. Maybe it is a good idea to have those people as non-veto-having referees generally speaking, just because they are probably going to have the best comments. In fact, it seems like the proposal will put a lot of additional refereeing burdens on people of disadvantaged groups. Idk if you’ve talked to POC philosophers, but several have told me that they generally don’t like being railroaded into spending their entire career discussing POC issues. Why would a trans person who doesn’t work on trans-related issues be at all helpful? It seems like it’s expertise that matters, not identity, in which case the proposal reduces to the claim that we should seek out extra referees for papers on controversial issues who specialize in the controversial issues.Report

Steve
Steve
2 years ago

This is a small point, but the proposal seems to require editors to take a critical stance towards referees’ reports – for example, in judging whether the criticisms of a member of stakeholder group A outweigh the endorsement of a member of B, or, indeed, whether the animus of an A reflects a sincere disagreement with the argument, rather than a knee jerk response to the conclusion. I can’t be alone in thinking, on the basis of personal experience, that many editors are, in fact, very hands-off, preferring, for example, to forward two reports with contradictory concerns – cut section 4! Expand section 4 – with a verdict of R-and-R. This isn’t an attack on editors! Given that editing is a time-consuming job, and editors must often make decisions outside their area of expertise, this kind of approach seems defensible (maybe justifiable). But it seems a problem for the proposed journal – someone will have to make fine-grained decisions that many editors would (understandably) prefer not to make.Report

KL
KL
2 years ago

Some good points here, especially the response to criticism 4. But, I’m unconvinced by this:

“What the stakeholder refereeing process can do is: first, send a message about the paper that makes it less likely for mobbers to pick that paper’s author as a target, second, provide good examples of how people who are similar to the mobbers (and those who would follow them) in some relevant respects might take a non-mobbing approach to reacting to papers they do not like, and third, improve the quality of the paper in various ways, including helping it jettison unnecessary distractions and provocative missteps.”

I’m not sure how the stakeholder refereeing process improve on the status quo with regard to these points?
On the first point, it’s not as if “mobbers” from group A are not aware that at least some people from their groups agree (“distractors”) with the controversial thesis? What happens seems to be that mobbers simply dismiss distractors and hold that a) distractors are *outrageously” wrong (perhaps they have been brained washed, have internalised oppression, or what have you); b) distractors don’t really count as a member of group A after all (e.g., because agreeing with the controversial thesis disqualifies one from being a member, or because distractors just *pretend* to be from group A to make the point, etc.) On the second point- it seems incredibly unlikely that people who will be mobs on Twitter will think, “uh! yes! someone from our group is tolerant and open!” If mobbers are that reasonable, they won’t be mobbers in the first place. On the last, it seems reasonable that people who are write about things that they suspect to be controversial might already consult with “stakeholders”. The difference is that they might reach out to their friends who belong to the stakeholder group- and it seems plausible that the discussion is much more productive when you are discussing with your friends then someone being called in to *vet* whether your ideas are acceptable. Even if people are not doing that (consult with “stakeholders” when writing the article), that’s just reason to encourage them to do so, and not reason to impose stakeholder refereeing (not to mention all the problems like this makes people even less likely to write about controversial things)

Also, “As I’ve said many times here on Daily Nous, I favor an intellectual community characterized by thoughtful disagreement. Here are some positions I’ve taken, quite publicly, here on Daily Nous…” These positions seem to be pro certain historically oppressed minority groups- which is fantastic. But I don’t think this is what the target group of the Journal of Controversial Ideas. It’s noteworthy that one can be in the minority and actually find it easier to speak (not saying this is necessarily the case for any particular group, but it’s certainly plausible to think this is so for some groups- think, a small number of wealthy individuals)Report

James Hanley
James Hanley
2 years ago

I believe you have more confidence in stakeholders who may feel challenged by an article than I have.

I think your proposal should be put to a thought experiment with real world cases. How would the Hypatia transracialism article and author have fared in a stakeholder review? How would critics of Nancy McLean’s work on James Buchanan fare before those who have a stake in her work? How would E. O. Wilson and his work have fared had Gould and Lewontin been selected as stakeholder reviewers.Report

Caligula's Goat
Caligula's Goat
Reply to  James Hanley
2 years ago

Hi James,

My guess with your thought experiments:

The article may or may not have been published at Hypatia but it will almost certainly have been published at some peer-reviewed journal in good standing with the philosophical community.

The point here being, at least my experience of having things rejected at journal A (and sometimes journal B and C and D) is that eventually, if the article has any merit whatsoever, you’ll hit upon the lucky combination of the right editor and the right reviewers to get the article published.

It’s not clear to me that the problem is going to be that Stakeholders will somehow be automatically against controversial views (unless – of course – you yourself are already convinced that your peers are unreasonable uncharitable people). The problem will be as it currently is: overworked and (usually but not always) underpaid philosophy reviewers are squeezing reviews (even as stakeholders) in between much more important things and often not giving their reviews the care and attention they would in even a good non-ideal world. Peer-review sucks (for the reviewee and reviewer) so it’s good to explore other ways of going about publishing.Report

Matt
2 years ago

I’ll start by saying that I don’t think this is a very good proposal. I both don’t think it would work well, and don’t think it would improve the quality of published work or improve the culture of philosophy (or other academic) publishing. But, I also think that a lot of people seem to be misunderstanding the idea. (Either they are, or I am, I guess.) If we’re going to evaluate it, it’s probably good to get clearer on what the idea is.

A lot of people, in this thread or the one before, have offered something similar to the remark by James, above: “How would E. O. Wilson and his work have fared had Gould and Lewontin been selected as stakeholder reviewers.” But, if I am understanding Justin, I think this is just getting his idea wrong. Stakeholders are not (necessarily or in the first instance, critics of an idea, but rather people who are likely (it’s claimed) to be impacted in some way by the idea, and impacted in some way beyond the way we all are when people disagree with us. Gould and Lewontin were/are critics of Wilson’s views, not stakeholder in the relevant sense, I think. This seems to me to be missed in lots of the comments. If that’s right, for most philosophical ideas, there will be no stakeholders. So, if you publish on 4-dimensionalism in the philosophy of time, or panpsychism in the philosophy of mind, or inclusive legal positivism in the philosophy of law, or a huge number of other topics, it’s unlikely that this would apply to you, if I understand it right. Rather, my understanding is that the idea applies when there are groups who might be hurt in some (somewhat unclear to me) way by the paper, beyond just having an opposing view criticized. So, a paper arguing for realism about racial categories might be submitted to minority group members, or one arguing that lesbianism is primarily a political stance might be submitted to the relevant stakeholders, and so on. Note that stakeholders need not be critics of the ideas here, if this interpretation is right. In any case, I’d be glad to see Justin clarify the view a bit, if for no other reason then that I can tell if it’s me, or a bunch of other people in this thread and the other, who have the idea wrong in an important way.

(I might add, finally, that while, if my interpretation is right, it makes the view much more narrow in scope, I don’t necessarily think it makes it all that much easier to apply, because there will be doubt about when it applies, who the stakeholders are, and so on. But then, I’m disinclined to think the idea was a good one or necessary in the first place, so maybe I’m over-estimating the difficulty.)Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
2 years ago

The proposal seems to create a rather serious form of moral hazard.

Ex hypothesi, articles going through second-round stakeholder review have passed peer review and would be deemed publishable we’re they not “controversial”. And the operational definition of “controversial” is “plausibly will lead some groups of academics to react not by academic engagement but by trying to bring about professional harm”.

So I worry that the proposal effectively comes down to, “if some group is going to react to an article by trying to cause professional harm to its author, then members of that group get to insist on substantial revisions to the article before it’s published”. That seems manifestly inappropriate, at least if you also think causing professional harm to an article author as a response to their article being published is totally unacceptable (which I do, and I’m pretty sure Justin does too).

That’s compatible with thinking that if an article draws on academic material from another discipline, responsible peer review means having to find a referee expert in the relevant part of that discipline, and so often requires a referee from outside philosophy. (This happens often in philosophy of physics.) But this is, or should be, part of the ordinary review process, and doesn’t have anything to do with whether the article is “controversial”.Report

Led
Led
Reply to  David Wallace
2 years ago

‘But this is, or should be, part of the ordinary review process, and doesn’t have anything to do with whether the article is “controversial”.’

Yes, and this gets at what is importantly wrong-headed about the proposal: it conflates other academic disciplines that are actually or potentially relevant to the research, on the one hand, with potentially aggrieved demographic groups (or better yet, their self-appointed spokespersons), on the other hand.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
2 years ago

This refers to a thread that appears to have been removed or hidden.Report

David Wallace
David Wallace
Reply to  David Wallace
2 years ago

“This” was a comment of mine that’s itself now disappeared- possibly software glitch?Report

Nicole K. Braden-Johnson
Nicole K. Braden-Johnson
2 years ago

I still think that you’re failing to address my main concerns with the whole “stakeholder” concept.

Why do you think that being a member of the group discussed in a paper makes a person somehow uniquely qualified to find the offensive/problematic spots in an academic paper?
How can one member of a group speak for the whole?
What if the stakeholders are simply wrong about what can reasonably count as offensive or problematic and their continued insistence that x, y, or z is offensive merely serves to silence questions, criticisms, and analyses alike?Report

Erik H
Erik H
2 years ago

Criticism 1. Justin’s idea is intentionally aimed at preventing the publication of controversial articles.
No it’s not.

I certainly concede that your approach is less limiting than many folks. But you are mostly arguing for replacement of the existing social-criteria gatekeepers with other gatekeepers of your preference. That is very different from “no social gatekeepers at all.” You still want things to be what you consider to be “thoughtful” and “non-obnoxious” for example, which generally track well to preferences.

Obviously the putative hosts of the new journal are imperfect as well–as are we all. But at least they apparently intend to disregard the common social criteria which apply in the background. As would-be gatekeepers go, they show promise: Yes of course they may still censor thing, but I’ll take my chances with the folks who at least claim not to give a shit whether I am obnoxious or not.

I’m not opposed to the publication of controversial scholarly articles. I’m just doubtful that creating an academic journal based around offering authors the cover of pseudonymity in order to publish such articles is a good idea.

Althouse would give this her “civility bullshit” tag. I am continually amazed that people are not more blatant about this. Justin, you are writing multiple articles which practically make it harder to accomplish something, at the same time you’re claiming to “not oppose” it. You’re not quite at concern-troll level, but this claim is getting there.

If you “don’t oppose” the publication of controversial ideas, the way to demonstrate is to stop opposing it. Start a competing journal, if you think you have a better idea. Volunteer to referee, if you’d like. Ignore it entirely. Better, yet, try supporting it. But please stop claiming you’re on the side of publication here.Report