News & Events

25 June 2019

Conversations with John Anderson: Featuring Helen Pluckrose, editor-in-chief and academic researcher

Former deputy Prime Minister John Anderson sat down with Grievance Studies affair hoaxer and academic researcher Helen Pluckrose in Sydney recently as part of his ‘Conversations’ podcast series.

Helen was in Sydney to deliver the fourth Ramsay lecture for 2019 on ‘The Rise and Whys of Grievance Studies’. She is a self-described ‘exile from the humanities’ and currently editor-in-chief of Areo, a non-partisan digital magazine focused on Englightenment liberalism, humanism, secularism and freedom of expression.

Helen came to prominence when she and two colleagues sought to expose problems in academic ‘grievance studies’ by submitting bogus papers to academic journals, some of which were published. She is currently writing a book about the impact of postmodern thought on academia, social justice movements and wider culture.

The podcast is available here.

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21 June 2019

‘Highly paranoid world view corrupting our kids’ thinking’ – by Bernard Lane

Corrupt activist scholarship in gender, queer and other identity fields is training the teachers who shape children and executives who run business, warns visiting culture critic Helen Pluckrose.

“This is not a problem confined to esoteric arguments between intellectuals – liberal academia has great cultural power,” Ms Pluckrose, a Britainbased medievalist, said last night in a Sydney lecture at the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation.

“A generation of students were exposed to these ideas and went on to become leaders of various industries.

“(Activist academics) turn out the teachers of our children and the heads of our industries.” Together with US scholars James Lindsay and Peter Boghossian, Ms Pluckrose ran a 2017-18 sting on academic journals which published “grievance studies” such as critical race studies and queer studies.

Editors enthusiastically accepted seven papers for publication: one touted insights into male rape culture based on the inspection of 10,000 dog genitals, another recycled material from Hitler’s Mein Kampf with feminist rebadging, and a third declared bodybuilding “fat exclusionary”.

One of the trio employed by a university – Professor Boghossian at Portland State University – faces disciplinary charges and may lose his job.

At one point it was suggested he could be punished for data fabrication because he had not in truth inspected 10,000 dog genitals, not even one.

In her lecture The Rise and Whys of Grievance Studies, Ms Pluckrose traced the rot to postmodernism in the 1980s-90s, its rejection of objective truth, and a French-inspired variation which portrays society as a power struggle between the victim and the oppressor groups using language and knowledge as tools of control.

“Because of this, language is analysed in a highly paranoid and offence-seeking way,” she said.

“Micro-aggressions are detected, racism and sexism identified. Heteronormativity, acting as though heterosexuality is the default sexuality, is called out. Cisnormativity, acting as though people usually identify with the sex their reproductive systems indicate, is condemned.”

Her comments go to controversies such as the Safe Schools gender fluidity campaign in Victoria and the clash between Christian footballer Israel Folau and corporate sponsors sensitised to identity politics.

Ms Pluckrose said individual human rights had been overthrown in favour of collective guilt (as in structural white racism), and biology had been banished so scholar-activists could pretend gender identities and any male-female differences were “socially constructed” and therefore amenable to “social justice”.

“Freedom of speech and viewpoint diversity are not valued within this system,” she said.

The Ramsay Centre has struggled to find an elite university willing to accept funding in exchange for running undergraduate programs in Western civilisation. Sydney University linguistics expert Nick Reimer claimed the Ramsay Centre “validates the worldview” behind the March 15 massacre of Muslims in Christchurch. Other academics say the degree proposal is “racist”.

Ms Pluckrose defended the Enlightenment, Scientific Revolution and other achievements of the modern period: “We know the modern period saw slavery, colonialism, tyranny of monarchs and the church, war, genocide, famine, racism, sexism and homophobia.

“So did every other period. Modernity was the one in which we gained the capacity to realise they were wrong.

“So uncommon to human societies was this that the societies that have benefited from it are referred to as WEIRD societies – Western, Educated, Industrialised, Rich, Democratic.

“They are the reason I, an atheist woman, am able to read and develop my own ideas and speak and write them. They are also how I travelled across the world in a day to speak to you, having not died in childbirth.

“Progress is no myth. It is measurable in ways including poverty, education, fatal diseases, as well as human rights. (Yet postmodernists) see modernity as a time of empire, exploitation, patriarchy and white supremacy.” 

Credit: The Australian Newspaper – click here to read the full article.

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18 June 2019

Helen Pluckrose – Distinguished Speaker

On Tuesday 18 June Helen Pluckrose, Editor in Chief for Areo Magazine  delivered the fourth Ramsay Lecture for 2019 at the Sydney Harbour Marriott Hotel. The title of her lecture was “The Rise and Whys of Grievance Studies”.

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18 June 2019

The Rise and Whys of Grievance Studies

‘Grievance Studies affair’ hoaxer Helen Pluckrose to deliver the fourth Ramsay Lecture for 2019

Sydney, Tuesday 18 June: To test their theory that some fields in the humanities have become over-run by a ‘victim mentality’ that overrides genuine scholarship, a UK-based magazine editor and two US academics submitted 20 deliberately absurd, unevidenced papers for publication in peer-reviewed journals.

Seven papers were accepted and seven more were “actively considered” for publication before their ruse ended late last year, following suspicion from the Wall Street Journal. The trio gained international notoriety. Their hoax became known as the ‘Grievance Studies affair.’

Tonight, one of the ‘hoaxers’ and editor of Areo magazine Helen Pluckrose will deliver the fourth Ramsay Lecture for 2019, outlining the threat she believes ‘grievance studies’ pose to real academic progress in fields that should continue the work of the US civil rights movement.

“Studying social justice issues around race, gender and sexuality is important but this cannot be achieved by shoddy scholarship and inconsistent ethics and that is what we are seeing in these fields right now,” Ms. Pluckrose says.

“Scholarship based less upon finding truth and more upon attending to social grievances has become firmly established, if not fully dominant. Increasingly we are shifting away from a society where everyone is free to argue anything, so long as they use evidence and reason, to one where identity and experience determines who speaks. This has major ramifications for scholarship and activism which will help inform the next generation.”

The most famous of the Grievance Studies affair hoax papers was the fake ‘dog park study’ which suggested that dog parks are petri dishes for canine rape culture after examining ‘dog humping’ in hundreds of dog parks. The study was titled “Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon,” and received praise as having the potential to make “…an important contribution to feminist animal geography”.

Another hoax paper suggested white and male university students should sit on the floor in chains, as a form of “experiential reparation”, and listen and learn in silence. The paper was rejected but the author was encouraged to resubmit and received applause for identifying ‘specific approaches’ to redress epistemic injustice in the classroom.

Helen Pluckrose is the editor-in-chief of Areo, a digital magazine focusing on humanism, reason, science, culture and art. She has research interests in late medieval and early modern women’s religious writing, receiving her bachelor’s degree in English literature from the University of East London and her Master’s in Early Modern Studies 1300-1700 from Queen Mary University London. Last month she was announced as a finalist for the UK Contrarian Prize, along with UK Prime Minister Theresa May, to be presented by broadcaster Jeremy Paxman on June 25.

The Ramsay Lecture series hosts speakers from all walks of life who have important and interesting perspectives relating to the world and our western heritage. Printed versions of the lectures and video recordings are available on our website: www.ramsaycentre.org

Media contact: Sarah Switzer 0407 816 098

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31 May 2019

Rod Dreher – Distinguished Speaker

On Tuesday 21 May Rod Dreher, Senior Editor for The American Conservative, delivered a Ramsay Lecture at the State Library of NSW.  The title of his lecture was “Recovering and Sustaining Cultural Memory”.

 

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10 May 2019

Les Murray’s ‘second funeral’ and his everlasting poetry

Les Murray will be farewelled today at St Bernadette’s Catholic Church, Krambach, just out of Bunyah. It will be his second funeral.

More than 20 years ago, Murray suffered an abscess on the liver and was in a coma for three weeks. Coming to, he discovered well-wishers had sent “a Spring-in-Winter love-barque of cards, / of flowers and phone calls and letters”. Waking to the nation’s love, which he’d “never dreamed was there”, meant everything to him. He called it his “State Funeral”. Now that he really has gone, the accolades have been even more numerous and good willed.

To be sure, some commentators have felt the need, in praising Murray, to indicate they were on the “other side” to him politically. What side would that be? Were they on the other side of Murray when it came to the working poor and marginalised? Were they on the other side to his advocacy, long before it was fashionable, of Indigenous Australians? Were they on the other side when he called out – long before anyone else – the problem of schoolyard bullying and its reverberations through the culture?

“Nothing a mob does is clean,” Murray believed. That was the main thrust of his politics. Like the eponymous hero of his remarkable 1998 verse novel, Fredy Neptune, Murray would often step in to protect individuals from a mob, even if he disagreed with them. In an era of “Safe Schools” programs, this is a lesson that should be part of the curriculum, and there is no better way to teach it than through the work of our greatest poet. But there are, of course, many good reasons to encourage the young to read Murray. Indeed, there is an obligation on our schools and universities to do just that.

When I was 16, my father handed me a copy of the 1983 collection The People’s Otherworld. I was confronted by the brazen dedication to the Glory of God, but I was even more challenged by the language itself: “Flashy wrists out of buttoned grass cuffs, feral whisky burning gravels, jazzy knuckles ajitter on soakages… migrating mouse-quivering water.”

A year later, my interest was fostered by John Watkins, later deputy premier of NSW, who introduced his Year 11 English class to the early poetry, including Driving through Sawmill Towns, Spring Hail and An Absolutely Ordinary Rainbow. The difference between these poems and the more mature ones was stark, and intriguing. How to account for it?

Honestly, I was a slow learner. When I first encountered them I could make little literal sense of the more mature poems, but I felt their electric charge and kept returning to them, year after year, delighting when something suddenly became clear. The last line of the poem, Shower, for example: “Only in Europe is it enjoyed by telephone.” What on earth was he talking about, I wondered for years, until I took a shower in Italy in 1997 and lifted the shower-head with its trailing cord from its fitting: a telephone!

I taught this poem to undergraduates over 10 years in an Australian literature course. Their reaction to the closing line was more often than not the same as mine had been, but I couldn’t bear to make them wait as long as I had to to discover its meaning. I can still see their smiles of recognition when they “saw” for the first time what Murray was describing.

And when I see them in my memory, it is another poem of Murray’s that captures their reaction: “Streaming, a hippo surfaces / like the head of someone / lifting, with still-entranced eyes, / from a lake of stanzas.”

We owe it to every student in Australia’s schools and university English departments to give them this experience.

Stephen McInerney is executive officer (academic) at the Ramsay Centre for Western Civilisation and author of The Enclosure of an Open Mystery: Sacrament and Incarnation in the Writings of Gerard Manley Hopkins, David Jones and Les Murray.

Article published in The Sydney Morning Herald 10 May 2019

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We are too weak to discover the truth by reason alone"
- Augustine