Is a hoax ever more than a hoax?

I missed this August post by Stanley Fish where he takes Alan Sokal to task. It's in the context of a recent hoax of Wine Spectator's restaurant awards. The bottom line, per Fish, is that for a hoax to be successful it has to be so elaborate that it demonstrates the hoaxer's bona-fides rather than anything intrinsic about the hoaxee. Many moons ago I wrote a critique of the entire issue of Social Text where Sokal's hoax was published and found that not all, but a few other entries in that journal could have easily been a hoax as well. I think Fish brushes aside the argument about standards a little too easily. Both hoaxes were conceived because the authors perceived an incredible lack of standards in the respective arenas: one, postmodern thought, the other foodie awards. The oracle of wiki asserts that Social Text was not a peer-reviewed journal at the time of the hoax, implying it now is. The editors at Social Text correctly note that peer-reviewed journals have also been the victims of outright fraud, and the hoax authors could have simply padded their CVs with their submissions and awards (just think of the amazing publicity for a newly opened Osteria L’Intrepido), but one hopes that these hoaxes have led to stricter standards, at least in the short term.

1 comment:

Germanicu$ said...

"The oracle of wiki asserts that Social Text was not a peer-reviewed journal at the time of the hoax..."

If that isn't the pot calling the kettle inadequately peer-reviewed, I don't know what is.

As Fish points out, the Social Text hoax basically IS Sokal's career. I think this supports Fish's argument that the whole imbroglio was more about the hoax than what it purported to unveil.

Not regularly reading his blog makes Stanley Fish sad, you monster.