It’s a Publish or Perish World


I’m not invested in securing tenure at a university, yet I do feel that my time working on my Master’s in Rhetoric was worthwhile. While my job as a mid-level manager at a community college doesn’t require that level of education, expending the effort to work full time and study was a way to stay engaged and keep my brain active.


I developed a sort of discipline that sitting in front of a computer most days rewards. I read a lot; I watch documentary films and various YouTube clips a lot. And as I sort of meandered my way through understanding the larger world as presented to me via the web, I, as predicted or delivered by the algorithm on YouTube, became exposed to a broader variety of opinions (Jordan Peterson, Sam Harris, The Ruben Report, Bret Weinstein) than my online circle of poet and progressive friends held or posted about on other social media platforms. It lead me to the NYTimes piece on the Intellectual Dark Web.

Information Overload:

I can’t help but wonder that if I, a diligent reader schooled in the language of Rhetoric, was having difficulty sorting through it all, how much harder must it be for others who, frankly, don’t have my kind of time? And, as the lack of discussion that seems to have followed in the wake of Trump’s election suggests, people can find other people who support their viewpoint with the click of the mouse so there’s not much incentive to talk to people you disagree with. Why bother and take on the stress? I even went so far and tried to engage a friend from high school on what troubled me about Trump’s most recent tweets, which I wrote about on my account at Medium. Despite not receiving widespread traction, my conclusion that we need to find a way to talk to each other because the other options for resolving our differences lead to places I don’t really want to go. So I’m still looking for ways to talk to people who disagree with me.

The Perils of Publish or Perish:

And it was with a curious eye that I started watching videos and reading articles regarding what is being dubbed, “The Grievance Studies Scandal.” In it, Peter Boghossian, James Lindsay, and Helen Pluckrose embarked on a crash course in various disciplines that have “infiltrated” Academia since the ’90s. Under the pejorative banner of “Grievance Studies” they are: LGTBQ Studies, Race Studies, Women’s Studies, Fat Studies, etc. Boghossian et al set out to see if they could hoax “grievance studies” journals into publishing fake articles. Over a period of a couple of years they managed to get seven papers through peer review including a 3,000 word excerpt from Mein Kampf rewritten using language from Intersectionality theory. While a lot of the articles I was reading recognize that this is not a new undertaking referencing Alan Sokal’s similar tactic in 1996, he was arguing against the spread of post-modernist language and some staggering claims obscured by that language. While his project wasn’t overtly political, Boghossian’s et al project decidedly was. As James Lindsay argues, “Grievance Studies does not continue the work of the civil rights movements it corrupts it.” So while Sokal was making fun of the language and the obfuscation it created, Boghossian et al had staked a political position and went out to prove that it was true.

Publish or Perish:

In my spare time, I’m also a poet. And as a poet, I’ve published, organized, and performed around the Albuquerque for years. With my name out there, I was asked to serve on the board of West End Press (WEP). WEP is a press that specializes in publishing women, minorities, and other under-published populations. Despite my own desires to get my work published by an established press, being a board member eliminated WEP as a publishing home let alone the fact that I wasn’t the demographic that they are interested in. While on the board, one of the poets on the press suggested that WEP run a “First Book Contest.” As argument for it, she said something to the effect of, “Many of these newly minted MFA’s have to publish a book for the job market. It doesn’t matter where they publish as long as they can put on their Curriculum Vitae that they won such-and-such a contest and got a book published as a result. Many of them have a budget just to enter contests. So we’d be doing them a favor by running a contest and the other entrants would fund the publication of the book.” It’s publish or perish, and as long as no one looks too deeply into the details it’ll be a line on the CV and help them worm their way into tenured positions at Universities. I was a bit flabbergasted, doubly so when the contest winner was not someone who matched the demographic that WEP served, but held my nose and argued that we shouldn’t do it again.

Poet, writer, producer, monologist, rhetor, Dudeist Priest.

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