Reactions to the Grievance Studies Affair

The project drew both praise and criticism, with author and Harvard lecturer Yascha Mounk dubbing it 'Sokal squared' in reference to the famous Sokal Affair hoax perpetrated by Alan Sokal and said "The result is hilarious and delightful. It also showcases a serious problem with big parts of academia." Harvard psychologist Steven Pinker said the project posed the question "is there any idea so outlandish that it won't be published in a Critical/PoMo/Identity/'Theory' journal?" In contrast, Joel P. Christensen and Matthew A. Sears, both associate professors, referred to it as "the academic equivalent of the fraudulent hit pieces on Planned Parenthood" produced in 2015, more interested in publicity than valid argumentation.

Responses by the editors of the publishing journals
Ann Garry, a co-editor of Hypatia, which had accepted one of the hoax papers ("When the Joke's on You", purporting to be a feminist critique of hoaxes) but had not published it yet, said she was "deeply disappointed" by the hoax. Garry told the New York Times that "Referees put in a great deal of time and effort to write meaningful reviews, and the idea that individuals would submit fraudulent academic material violates many ethical and academic norms". Nicholas Mazza, the editor of the Journal of Poetry Therapy, said, "Although a valuable point was learned regarding the authenticity of articles/authors, it should be noted that the authors of the 'study' clearly engaged in flawed and unethical research".

Yascha Mounk of Harvard, said that while the authors received no favors for preparing the hoax, they demonstrated mastery in postmodern jargon and not only ridiculed the journals in question, but more importantly outed double standards of the gender studies which happily welcome hoaxes against "morally suspect" fields like economics, but are unable to accept a criticism of their own methods. He also noted "sheer amount of tribal solidarity it has elicited among leftists and academics" and the fact that many of the reactions were purely ad hominem, while few have actually noted that there's an actual problem highlighted by the hoax: "some of the leading journals in areas like gender studies have failed to distinguish between real scholarship and intellectually vacuous as well as morally troubling bullshit". Mounk also countered criticism the trio received about the lack of controls as a "confused attempt to import statistics into a question where it doesn't apply."

Justin E. H. Smith defended the provocation and gave examples from the past where hoaxes were used to disclose poor scientific practices in respected fields. In The Chronicle of Higher Education, Heather E. Heying pointed out that the hoax helped to expose many pathologies of the modern social sciences, such as "repudiation of science and logic" and "extolling activism over inquiry".

Upon Portland State University initiating a research misconduct inquiry, on the grounds of conducting human subjects research without approval, and further considering a charge of fabricating data, a number of prominent academics submitted letters of support to Boghossian, and defended the motive of the hoax including Steven Pinker, as well as students of the university. Richard Dawkins, referencing George Orwell's Animal Farm, wrote:

Do your humourless colleagues who brought this action want Portland State to become the laughing stock of the academic world? Or at least the world of serious scientific scholarship uncontaminated by pretentious charlatans of exactly the kind Dr Boghossian and his colleagues were satirising? ... How would you react if you saw the following letter: "Dear Mr Orwell, It has come to our notice that your novel, Animal Farm, attributes to pigs the ability to talk, and to walk on their hind legs, chanting 'Four legs good, two legs better'. This is directly counter to known zoological facts about the Family Suidae, and you are therefore arraigned on a charge of falsifying data…"

Jonathan Haidt defended the hoax by saying:
The project was undertaken because there is a long running and colossal violation of academic integrity in a few departments in the academy. There is a disciplinary norm in some fields and journals of publishing papers that take a particular moral/political position, whether or not they have scholarly merit. That was Alan Sokal's point in his hoax paper: as long as he seemed to be taking a social constructionist point of view, it didn't matter that the editors could not understand what he had written. The grievance studies hoax shows that this problem persists, across multiple journals in several fields. Boghassian and his colleagues undertook a long, time consuming, and career-risking project to stand up for academic integrity by exposing what is, arguably, an academic subculture that tolerates intellectual fraud.

Writing for Slate, Daniel Engber criticized the project, saying "one could have run this sting on almost any empirical discipline and returned the same result." Similarly, Harvard University professor of Women's Studies, Sarah Richardson, criticized the hoaxers for not including a control group in their experiment, telling BuzzFeed News, "By their own standards, we can't scientifically conclude anything from it." n+1 magazine published a critical article which cited a survey by science writer Jim Schnabel of similar hoax attempts summarizing Schnabel's conclusion as "the educated public makes a decision based not on the scientific merits of the hoax but on the relative orthodoxy of the hoaxer and hoaxee. In effect, the result of the trick is decided in advance by the power relations of the field." The article goes on to explain that the relative orthodoxy in this case was "not an orthodoxy of scientific legitimacy but rather the emerging consensus of tech bros, Davos billionaires, and alt-right misogynists."

Carl T. Bergstrom, writing in The Chronicle of Higher Education, says "the hoaxers appear woefully naïve about how the system actually works." Peer review is not designed to remove fraud or even absurd ideas, he claimed, and replication will lead to self-correction. In the same article, David Schieber claimed to be one of the reviewers for "Rubbing One Out," and that the hoaxers selectively quoted from his review. "They were turning my attempt to help the authors of a rejected paper into an indictment of my field and the journal I reviewed for, even though we rejected the paper."

A number of professors at Portland State University signed an open letter which accused the trio of exploiting "credulous journalists interested mainly in spectacle " to conduct academic fraud and dishonesty. "Basic spite and a perverse interest in public humiliation seem to have overridden any actual scholarly goals." The authors asked to remain anonymous, alleging Boghossian had targeted academics at other institutions and that they would likely receive "threats of death and assault from online trolls."