Here is a tweet from a prominent IDW figure who was formerly a member of academia who believes the following thoughts about the academy are significant enough that he pinned this:

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That’s some delicious outrage, but why don’t we take a moment to examine what is wrong with this. To start, this man has elected to conflate “the academy” and “scientific responsibility.” These are not the same, and there is a lot more to the academy than science. I realize natural scientists have a tendency to view their work as the most rigorous and most significant work being done by the academy, but that’s merely a bias and does not guarantee that scientists are worthwhile contributors to discussions about the academy. But this is just a nitpick.

The main problem with this statement is the virtue signaling he has elected to engage in by choosing the term “oppression-studies.” Oppression studies is not an actual thing in the academy, but is a term used by reactionary media outlets to describe fields of academic studies they do not understand or do not like for political reasons. It usually occurs in the context of complaining about SJWs or postmodernism. To my knowledge, there are not academic departments in oppression studies, nor can you get a degree in oppression studies. Using the blanket term “oppression studies” to refer to the work being done by academics in critical theory, Black studies, gender studies and other fields who are engaged in deconstructing systems of oppression, with deconstruction being a process associated with postmodernism, is generally meant as a pejorative.

In the case of the above tweet, it is clear the tweeter means it as a pejorative, though he is careful to not name any actual academic departments or fields of study, and instead points to a straw man fantasy based on notions of these fields. This is the same approach used by reactionaries complaining in libertarian or conservative media outlets about “oppression studies” or crying about how they’re being oppressed by intersectionality. He means it as a pejorative, because he implies that these fields are unscientific by positioning them as ideology that stands in opposition to inquiry. That’s his opinion, but it’s not a fact.

The entire impetus of postmodernist thought is inquiry. It is an inquiry into the assumption of Enlightenment values, which a great many classical liberal and modernist scholars put on a pedestal as though they are the peak of human thought and we do not need to move beyond them. But are they? That is the question postmodernism asks, and to suggest the outcome of that inquiry is a monolithic ideology that stands in opposition to inquiry is dubious, at best. In fact it has produced a robust and varied body of work with insights into human civilization that, as we see in any worthwhile realm of inquiry, produces more questions than answers and can be difficult to navigate, to the point that there is a great deal of disagreement within these fields. I say that insultingly referring to entire fields of academic inquiry as “oppression studies” in order to dismiss their value without making any specific arguments addressing any specific areas of inquiry and without naming legitimate academic fields by the names they use and degrees their scholars hold is the real problem here. That is being anti-inquiry, and it is representative of standard IDW sophistry. The IDW has a habit of arguing against straw men, and this tweet is no different. Maybe they really believe these straw men, or maybe they understand their arguments will crumble when they dare to stop generalizing.

To the IDW fanboys I say pick up a book. Read some scholarship instead of letting former academics judge the value of sectors of the academy in which they have zero expertise for you. Engage in some inquiry. It will not be as easy to read and understand scholarship about oppression as it is to engage with up to 280 characters that some dude who left the academy offers up on the subject, but it will be a better way to learn. Don’t just believe someone’s unscientific conclusion about what leads to science skepticism, either (I say it’s corruption — both in politics and in the scientific community — that leads to science skepticism in the public), and don’t assume that all science skepticism is the same or that it’s inherently bad. Climate deniers, for instance, are often conspiracy theorists, but academics deconstructing Enlightenment values, which includes the scientific method, are trying to assess the merits of those values. There’s a difference, and it’s either disingenuous or an intellectual oversight to conflate the two in a tweet you make championing inquiry but ending with an indictment of skepticism toward a specific field. Isn’t skepticism the root of inquiry?

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