Genocide hoax tests ethics of academic publishing

July 3, 2018 by Reuben Rose-Redwood, The Conversation
Debates over the history of colonialism have sparked controversies on university campuses in recent years, as illustrated by the removal of a statue honoring Cecil Rhodes at the University of Cape Town in 2015. Credit: Desmond Bowles, CC BY-NC-SA

Hate speech is on the rise. In Canada alone, it increased by a staggering 600 per cent between 2015 and 2016 as part of what some have called "the Trump effect."

Academia is not immune to this trend. According to a recent study, some scholars have sought to promote "colonial nostalgia and white supremacy" by using the "scholarly veneer" of academic journals to spread "what are otherwise hateful ideologies." What are the responsibilities of scholars in light of these developments? Are there any ethical limits to what is acceptable for debate in scholarly journals?

To take an extreme example, would an article advocating for genocide be fair game for publication, or is it beyond the ethical bounds of legitimate scholarly debate? That these sort of questions even need to be asked is a testament to the troubling times in which we live.

Recent academic controversies, such as the debate over the "Ethics and Empire" project at Oxford, which seeks to develop a "historically intelligent Christian ethic of empire" in order to justify neo-imperialist interventions in the present, have given a new sense of urgency to addressing the ethics of academic scholarship. Yet when leading historians and other scholars have challenged the legitimacy of such scholarship, the self-proclaimed champions of "free speech" have predictably claimed that academic freedom is under assault.

However, a scholar's right to free speech does not entitle them to be granted unlimited access to whatever scholarly platform they desire. Scholarly journals have a right to reject any article they decide is unfit for publication—whether due to lack of scholarly merit or on ethical grounds.

The scholarly community also has a right to question the judgement of academic if they believe that a published article does not meet the basic standards of academic conduct.

This was precisely the situation that arose last year when a prominent international studies journal published an article praising the virtues of colonialism while ignoring the atrocities of colonial rule.

The "case for colonialism" debacle

When the Third World Quarterly published Bruce Gilley's "The Case for Colonialism" last fall, it sparked outrage within the scholarly community. Not only did the article proclaim that colonialism was "beneficial" to the colonized, but it also advocated for the recolonization of former by the Western powers.

In response, two petitions garnered over 18,000 signatures calling for the article's retraction. The petitions argued that the article should never have been published since its account of the history of colonialism was deeply flawed and its recolonization proposal would violate the basic human rights of millions.

The publisher, Taylor & Francis, eventually withdrew the article. Yet they did so not for the reasons laid out in the petitions, but allegedly due to threats of violence against the journal's editor. To date, the publisher has not released any concrete evidence related to these threats, nor have they explained whether a criminal investigation was conducted into the matter.

Although the petitioners welcomed the news of the article's retraction, both critics and supporters of the Third World Quarterly viewed the publisher's rationale for withdrawing the article due to violent threats—rather than a lack of scholarly merit—as setting a dangerous precedent.

However, the article was recently republished by the National Association of Scholars, a conservative advocacy group, in the name of supporting "academic freedom."

Supporters of the Third World Quarterly had made much the same argument in a petition published in The Times last December, which stated that academic journal editors have a right "to publish any work—however controversial—that, in their view, merits exposure and debate."

Ethics and academic freedom

What exactly "merits exposure and debate" in scholarly journals? As the editor of a scholarly journal myself, I am a strong supporter of academic freedom. But journal also have a responsibility to uphold the highest standards of academic quality and the ethical integrity of scholarly publications.

When I looked into the pro-Third World Quarterly petition in more detail, I noticed that over a dozen signatories were themselves editors of scholarly journals. Did they truly believe that "any work—however controversial" should be published in their own journals in the name of academic freedom?

If they had no qualms with publishing a case for colonialism, would they likewise have no ethical concerns about publishing a work advocating a case for genocide?

The genocide hoax

In late October 2017, I sent a hoax proposal for a special issue on "The Costs and Benefits of Genocide: Towards a Balanced Debate" to 13 journal editors who had signed the petition supporting the publication of "The Case for Colonialism."

In it, I mimicked the colonialism article's argument by writing: "There is a longstanding orthodoxy that only emphasizes the negative dimensions of genocide and ethnic cleansing, ignoring the fact that there may also be benefits—however controversial—associated with these political practices, and that, in some cases, the benefits may even outweigh the costs."

As I awaited the journal editors' responses, I wondered whether such an outrageous proposal would garner any support from editors who claimed to support the publication of controversial works in .

Would they think that a case for genocide "merits exposure and debate," or would any of the editors raise ethical concerns about its content?

As it turns out, nine of the editors declined to move forward with my proposal and the remaining four never responded. This seemed to be a reassuring sign that there were still ethical standards at work in the editorial decision-making process. However, the reasons for their rejections differed markedly, and very little had anything to do with scholarly ethics.

The editors' responses

Two editors noted that their journals rarely if ever accept special issue proposals, while two others explained that the topic of genocide didn't align with the focus of their journal. Interestingly, several editors expressed skepticism about whether there was a need for "balanced" debate on the topic.

More concerning were those who declined the hoax proposal but praised it nonetheless. For instance, one editor noted that the proposal "sounds fascinating." Another offered encouraging advice and even stated that "I hope you do find an outlet."

Of all the responses to the hoax, only one editor raised any major about the nature of the proposal itself.

Referring to the submission as "morally repugnant" and "offensive," the editor said it was simply unthinkable to imagine that such a proposal could even have been submitted for consideration to a scholarly .

Here was a forceful defense of the ethical integrity of academic publishing if ever there was one. Yet why had this very same editor supported the publication of "The Case for Colonialism," especially given the historical linkages between colonialism and genocide?

The ethical limits of scholarly debate

When a journalist brought the comparison between colonialism and genocide to the attention of Bruce Gilley, author of "The Case for Colonialism," Gilley made a very revealing comment. He said that: "It's an absurd analogy. Genocide, I think everyone would agree, is a moral wrong. There's absolutely no plausible philosophical argument that one group of people establishing authority over another is an inherent moral wrong. Human history is all about alien rule."

This statement is remarkable in a number of ways. For starters, it ignores the fact that a basic principle of international law is that the "subjection of peoples to alien subjugation, domination and exploitation constitutes a denial of fundamental human rights."

It also obscures the undeniable historical connections between colonialism and genocide. And, lastly, it is a tacit acknowledgement that an academic work which promotes a "case for " is indeed beyond the bounds of legitimate scholarly debate on ethical grounds.

All the blustering rhetoric of academic freedom notwithstanding, it seems there is, in fact, general agreement that scholars must have at least some sort of ethical limits to academic debate. The key point of contention is where exactly those lines should be drawn. Gilley and his supporters would have us believe that making a case for colonial domination is well within those limits.

As for my part, I'll stand with the more than 18,000 scholars who have argued that if an academic work is calling for the violation of basic human rights and fundamental freedoms, that's a pretty good indication it doesn't deserve the time of day from reputable scholarly publishers.

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ET3D
4.5 / 5 (2) Jul 03, 2018
Personally, I view that kind of opinion article as political rather than scholarly. I'd rather that scholarly articles stick to research.

I think it's fine for researchers to try to prove an opinion (such as 'colonialisation was beneficial') if they provide detailed proof in way which hasn't been done before (can't tell if that's the case here). This advances our knowledge and understanding. Making claims about what we should do is something I feel is beyond the scope of an academic article.

If such research is published, other academics are free to try to poke holes in it. That's how I feel academic discourse should go.

I think that as long as a work provides sound research which highlights something not seen before, it has a place being published. The question of limits on what is publishable is important, but research is already highly affected by politics, and limiting it further is a slippery slope.
Puzzled
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 03, 2018
So, as a conclusion:
1. immigration from the developed countries to the developing countries is evil,
2. immigration from the developing countries to the developed countries is good.
Ojorf
3.4 / 5 (5) Jul 03, 2018
I am also puzzled.
How in the world do you conclude that?

Immigration ≠ Colonization
Puzzled
1 / 5 (4) Jul 03, 2018
I am also puzzled.
How in the world do you conclude that?

Immigration ≠ Colonization


What is the difference? The European colonists in America were just illegal immigrants by the rules of the native Americans.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) Jul 03, 2018
So... If I understand Bruce Gilley's stance? It was wrong of the United Kingdom to oppose conquest by Nazis Germany? And later, oppose being conquered by the Soviet Union?

And that today, the British nation should not oppose. But rather wholeheartedly permit the Saudi organized and financed Wahhabi-Taliban to expand as far as they desire? Resulting in a flood of refugees to the West.

Who he would round up and ship back to the slaughter as official policy.

No wait, that would conflate colonialism and genocide in Gilley's little brain.

I am sure he will find some sort of mendacious hypocrisy that permits him to double-think his alleged humanity against his obvious fascism.
Doug_Nightmare
not rated yet Jul 03, 2018
Da Convo is impeached for base opinion.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 03, 2018
I am sure he will find some sort of mendacious hypocrisy that permits him to double-think his alleged humanity against his obvious fascism
--Another steamy word turd from the magnificent dumper. Dont forget to wash your hands willis. We are nose blind to our own poop did you know it?

Re re the article; colonization of south Africa by boers = bad... invasion of southern Africa and extermination of khoisan by zulus = black manifest destiny.

I get it.
TheGhostofOtto1923
3.7 / 5 (3) Jul 03, 2018
Immigration ≠ Colonization
Amerinds slaughtered early colonists in north America. The only way it succeeded was by sheer force of numbers.

And today we have the Reconquista.

"For Chicanos in the 1960s, the term, although not invoked, was understood as taking back "Aztlán", the mythical Aztec homeland located in the U.S. Southwest where they believe the ancient indigenous ancestors of the Chicanos, emerged."

"the claim of the Reconquista ("Reconquest") movement is that the United States stole large sections of the southwestern United States from Mexico in the 1800s. Mexicans and other Hispanics making these claims seek to reconquer this territory by taking the land away from the United States and returning it to Mexico. The goal of the Reconquista is to "reconquer" these "lost" or "stolen" territories for "La Raza"—the race indigenous to Mexico."
TheGhostofOtto1923
3 / 5 (2) Jul 03, 2018
"Today, millions of Mexican illegal immigrants are pouring into the United States. None of these illegal aliens are checked in any way. They live in the United States while swearing their allegiance to Mexico. By their sheer presence and numbers, those in the Reconquista movement believe that a time will come when they can take political control of local communities where Hispanics are the majority... Reconquista activists plan that the states controlled by Mexican immigrants would secede from the United States and join Mexico, much as the southern states seceded during the American Civil War and formed the Confederacy."

"Aztlán is the name for the mythical place of origin of the Aztec people. In the politics of illegal immigration, Aztlán has come to represent that part of the U.S. that the Reconquista movement intends to reclaim for an expanded Mexico."

-Heck it worked for the euros, why not latinos?
TrollBane
5 / 5 (1) Jul 03, 2018
"What is the difference? The European colonists in America were just illegal immigrants by the rules of the native Americans." You know that how? How is your assumption not an imposition of a simplistic, politically-driven narrative? The native populations -- to which I am connected -- reacted to the various transoceanic arrivals in different ways, some hostile, some opportunistic, some curious and others a blend of all three. I doubt any of them had a concept of 'illegal immigrant' or nation state as meant today.
Puzzled
2.3 / 5 (3) Jul 03, 2018
"What is the difference? The European colonists in America were just illegal immigrants by the rules of the native Americans." You know that how? How is your assumption not an imposition of a simplistic, politically-driven narrative? The native populations -- to which I am connected -- reacted to the various transoceanic arrivals in different ways, some hostile, some opportunistic, some curious and others a blend of all three. I doubt any of them had a concept of 'illegal immigrant' or nation state as meant today.


You could say that some of us, that are open borders, do not have a concept of 'illegal immigrant' or nation state as most of us mean them today.
I do not think that anybody can deny that the arrival of the colonists was bad on short term for the natives.
I was only pointing out that it is hypocritical criticizing colonialism while approving illegal immigration.
barakn
2.6 / 5 (5) Jul 03, 2018
I was only pointing out that it is hypocritical criticizing colonialism while approving illegal immigration. -Puzzled

No, it isn't. There's something very broken in your moral compass.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2018
"Hate speech is on the rise. In Canada alone, it increased by a staggering 600 per cent between 2015 and 2016 as part of what some have called "the Trump effect."

President Trump did not take the Oath of office until February 20, 2017. Barack Hussein Obama was still the president in 2015 and 2016 until Feb. 19, 2017. There was no "Trump effect" and it is obvious that this article is at least partly an anti-Trump propaganda hit piece.
WRT 'hate speech', it was obvious from the time that Trump announced his candidacy that the Leftist hate-speech mongers in Academia, Hollywood entertainment, the media and Leftist politicians were all poised to take him down to prevent him from telling the truth and making America great again. Obama's agenda was to "fundamentally transform America". Under Obama's leadership, hate speech flourished and was protected as "freedom of speech". Most of the hate speech was directed toward Trump and family, Christians and their traditions, and patriotism.

Surveillance_Egg_Unit
5 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2018
"Referring to the submission as "morally repugnant" and "offensive," the editor said it was simply unthinkable to imagine that such a proposal could even have been submitted for consideration to a scholarly journal.
Here was a forceful defense of the ethical integrity of academic publishing if ever there was one. Yet why had this very same editor supported the publication of "The Case for Colonialism," especially given the historical linkages between colonialism and genocide?"

Colonialism is no longer a viable or successful system of domination, manipulation and wealth propagation of any nation/state/region on Earth and it hasn't been since the late 20th century. The editor was apparently aware of it and thought that a piece on Colonialism would only be of a past example of human nature that would not be taken seriously. It was only a 'filler'.

But genocide is a whole different matter that is still taking place in many parts of the world. It is too serious to be made light of.
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2018
Illegal immigration removes valuable resources from the coffers of legal American citizens...and that includes the Amerindian nations, and transfers that wealth to those who slipped into the US uninvited and defiant of our nation's Laws and borders.

Those unpatriotic Americans who squeal like stuck-pigs over the "plight" of those illegal aliens who were able to walk all the way from their Central American countries with children in tow, while expecting to be served by the "crazy Americans" and given free food, free housing, free education and all the freebies paid for by American taxpayers.

It has to be on the minds of patriotic Americans as to the real reasons why the governments of Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras and Mexico could not (or would not) improve the lives and safety of their own people, but instead encouraged them to leave their own country and head to an uncertain future in the US.
Ojorf
3 / 5 (4) Jul 04, 2018
What is the difference? The European colonists in America were just illegal immigrants by the rules of the native Americans.


I see why you are confused.
This concerns colonization in the sense of "colonialism", not just in the sense of "establishing itself in an area", like immigration.
Read here:
https://en.wikipe...onialism
Surveillance_Egg_Unit
3 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2018
Interesting photo of U of Capetown...in 2015 South Africa. Very few Blacks in that photo while Cecil Rhodes' inanimate object is being removed to the accompanying cheers of the White college crowd.
And this year, the radical Communist leaders of the ANC, Ramaphosa and Mabuza were threatening the killings of the Whites and to offer no compensation for taking of White land.

@ Reuben Rose-Redwood
There's your possible and probable future genocide of White Afrikaans.
Litsci
5 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2018
If an argument is supported logically and empirically, then there is reason to think it may help us come closer to understanding the truth (however we may "feel" about it). If an argument is illogical and/or unsupported empirically, then it may well be wrong (however we may "feel" about it). Maybe editors should examine the logic and evidence more and assume they are authorities on morality less.
Puzzled
1 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2018
The European colonists in America were just illegal immigrants by the rules of the native Americans.


I see why you are confused.
This concerns colonization in the sense of "colonialism", not just in the sense of "establishing itself in an area", like immigration.
Read here:
https://en.wikipe...onialism


Oh, I see.
"Colonialism is the policy of a polity seeking to extend or retain its authority over other people or territories, generally with the aim of developing or exploiting them to the benefit of the colonizing country and of helping the colonies modernize in terms defined by the colonizers, especially in economics, religion, and health."

The part that makes colonialism different from just sending illegal immigrants is this one: "helping the colonies modernize in terms defined by the colonizers, especially in economics, religion, and health".
Well, the former colonies can go back to the stone age if it was that good.
rrwillsj
1 / 5 (2) Jul 04, 2018
I'm seeing a whole lot of bigotry by the altright fairytails looking for someone they can safely beat on. Fear and hate, hate and fear. That discordant loop is all they have to offer humanity.

As fascists your ideological cant preaches the 'goodness' of ethnic cleansing, theft of other peoples property, mass rapes as a weapon of war against your neighbors.

When these copperhead quislings accuse any one else of a crime? It invariably reveals that they themselves have committed the foul deeds. This is the stench of fascism throughout history.

Right fascist or Left fascist doesn't matter to the victims. Though the altright fairytails enviously whine that they have been too incompetent to match the efficiency of fakeleft regimes at mass murder.
TheGhostofOtto1923
5 / 5 (1) Jul 04, 2018
And this year, the radical Communist leaders of the ANC, Ramaphosa and Mabuza were threatening the killings of the Whites and to offer no compensation for taking of White land
This woman offers some interesting insight into conditions in south Africa
https://youtu.be/KpaWtrEqga0

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