Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Don't Retract the Crappy Pro-Colonialism Article (Updated)

Inside Higher Ed talks about the call for retraction of Third World Quarterly's pro-colonialism article. This is not a good idea. Just ignore the damned thing. Or if you feel the need to engage with it, just call it a piece of crap and move on.

There are a lot of crappy academic articles, some of them to the point of being laughable. They are generally laughed at and ignored. With some like this, you stop laughing and get annoyed or even angry. But that doesn't merit censorship.

Now the petition itself does have an interesting charge:

The peer review process exists to ensure rigor in published research. We understand that this piece was rejected after review, and that decision should have been respected and this sub-par scholarship should never have been published. Editor or editors at Third World Quarterly allowing this piece utterly lacking in academic merit to be published should be replaced from the Editorial Board.

Hmm. This is hearsay so I would like to know more--the editor says differently, or at least suggests that peer-review led to its acceptance rather than the opposite.

Shahid Qadir, editor of Third World Quarterly and an honorary research associate at the University of London, said in statement Monday that Gilley’s piece had been published as a Viewpoint essay after “rigorous double-blind peer review.” 

I really wish I could see the reviews. If anything, I'd say release the reviews and leave them anonymous.

But it's a moot point. It's a "viewpoint" article, which is like an op-ed. I imagine you do not agree with all op-eds but that does not mean we censor them. This is an egregiously poorly written and argued op-ed that indirectly says genocide is A-OK, but it shouldn't be censored. Retraction would likely give it a lasting impact as a martyr.

Update: even Noam Chomsky agrees with me.

Update (9/29/17). The publisher released a statement. There was indeed a peer review, where one review said minor revisions and the other said reject. The minor revisions one was returned in just four days--I would love to see it. The editor decided to split the difference and do a major R&R, which was clearly a bad choice given the low quality of the article.

Also, the publisher specifically denies this was click bait. I am not sure I believe it.

Updated (10/10/17) The article has been withdrawn because of violent threats against the editor. This disgusts me. The threats themselves are intended to stifle opposition, which is ironic given the topic at hand. And I hate the idea of caving into that.

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