You are familiar, I assume, with the Sokal hoax? If not, in 1996, Alan Sokal, a physics professor at New York University, submitted a paper full of postmodern mumbo-jumbo arguing that quantum gravity was a social construct. It was titled “Transgressing the Boundaries: Towards a Transformative Hermeneutics of Quantum Gravity,” and it was accepted for publication by Social Text, one of the premier journals of “theory” at the time. Now three scholars have written twenty fake papers and have submitted them to supposedly serious, peer-reviewed journals. Seven of them have been accepted so far. One argues that “western astronomy” is “sexist and imperialist” and that physics departments should “study feminist astrology—or practice interpretative dance—instead.” Another, which was accepted at Gender, Place and Culture, examines “canine rape culture in a Portland dog park. ‘Do dogs suffer oppression based upon (perceived) gender?’ the paper asks.” One of the reviewers for that piece was concerned only about whether the authors had respected the dogs’ “privacy.” What does all this mean? Yascha Mounk has a good take: “The lesson is neither that all fields of academia should be mistrusted nor that the study of race, gender, or sexuality is unimportant. As Lindsay, Pluckrose, and Boghossian point out, their experiment would be far less worrisome if these fields of study didn’t have such great relevance. But if we are to be serious about remedying discrimination, racism, and sexism, we can’t ignore the uncomfortable truth these hoaxers have revealed: Some academic emperors—the ones who supposedly have the most to say about these crucial topics—have no clothes.”
A Banksy painting self-destructs after selling for $1.3 million ($1.1 million not including fees) at Sotheby’s. Now it’s worth double. What an anti-capitalist! What a brazenly anti-establishment provocateur! The next time Banksy decides to auction one of his works (yes, he is the one who put it up for auction), he’ll probably make even more bank. Rich investors will wonder what entirely harmless “anti-capitalistic” prank he’ll play next.
Since we’re on the topic of destroyed art, Ernest Hilbert’s E-Verse Radio has put together a list of “The Top Five Works of Art Destroyed by Idiots.”
The Holocaust in Italy: “Twenty-two years ago, historian Daniel Jonah Goldhagen overturned the applecart in Holocaust studies, arguing provocatively in his book Hitler’s Willing Executioners that the German people participated avidly in the Nazis’ systematic slaughter of their Jewish countrymen. Goldhagen’s thesis, which fueled a fiery debate over the responsibility of everyday Germans for the Holocaust, now has an Italian analogue, as Simon Levis Sullam contends in a new book that thousands of members of the fascist regime—from ideologists to carabinieri to desk clerks—actively took part in the genocide of Italy’s Jewish population.”
What’s the most popular publisher on Facebook? A British website called LADbible. Why? Dog videos mostly.
Michael Brendan Dougherty on what Francis Fukuyama gets right and wrong in his new book on nationalism and identity politics.
Essay of the Day:
Instagram poetry, Clarie Fallon writes in The Huffington Post, is a “huckster’s paradise.” “When the most hated poet in Portland unmasked the most mysterious poetry star on Instagram, he revealed a lot more than a guy’s name”:
“Atticus is that rarest of things ― a celebrity poet. He’s also anonymous. He writes under a pen name and wears a mask in photos and for public appearances. To be clear, the mopped-top man from the November photo is not Atticus. Rather, he’s a coy decoy meant to titillate those giddy fans, clueless as they are to the poet’s true identity.
“Atticus’ rise in the poetry world has been meteoric, unhindered by the concealment of his real name. He first posted on Instagram in 2013 and now has nearly 900,000 followers, the number still steadily growing. In late 2015 or early 2016, he published his first chapbook. In 2017, Atria Books, an imprint of big five publisher Simon & Schuster, published his collection Love Her Wild. Karlie Kloss, Shay Mitchell and Kaitlyn Bristowe are all thanked in it, and with good reason. Atticus poems frequently pop up on the Instagram feeds of celebs like Kloss and her crew, not to mention those of Bachelor alums like Bristowe. In September, Atria published an essentially identical follow-up collection, The Dark Between Stars.
“Atticus’ work and persona ― like the work and personas of other popular Instagram poets ― are perfectly calibrated to attract fans: bland, generic, aesthetically pleasing, and therefore the perfect projection screen for readers’ desires. He specializes in the sort of broadly phrased epigrams about love and heartbreak that people eagerly like and share online, often printed over white backgrounds or saturated photos of long-maned, long-legged girls. One of his most beloved, oft-quoted poems romantically urges the reader to ‘Love her, but leave her wild’; women caption Instagram selfies with Atticus lines like ‘Just enough madness to make her interesting’ and ‘She wore a smile like a loaded gun.’ He’s prone to maudlin images that wouldn’t be out of place in a country song, like women with ‘whiskey-sipping / skinny-dipping’ smiles. The poetry might be bad, but it is too inoffensive and nonspecific to alienate. Anyone can see themselves in Atticus’ poetry, and what they’ll see is a slightly heightened version of themselves, enigmatic and alluring.”
“His identity had remained cloaked until last week, when a rival Instagram poet, Collin Yost, revealed the name of the author behind Atticus. He posted evidence on his Instagram account, as well as a story accusing Atticus of plagiarism, piling up examples of verses that appear at worst cribbed and at best vaguely similar to quotes from writers like T.E. Lawrence and Oscar Wilde, and to Pinterest slogans commonly attributed to Albert Einstein and F. Scott Fitzgerald.”
Photo: Blue Angels over San Francisco
Poem: Rachel Abramowitz, “The Beach”
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