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|Joe||Posted: Jun 24, 2012 - 20:07|
There is this Conspiracy Theorist by the name of Peter Dale Scott (not sure if you heard of him). He is really big in the 9/11 and JFK Conspiracy Theories (or as he calls the "deep politics") as well as the English Professor at the University of California. But what surprised me is that some of his books where published by the University of California press. But I thought that that University Press went by peer-review; so how the hell did he get his books published?
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|Muertos||Posted: Jun 25, 2012 - 01:04|
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University presses are not infallible gatekeepers of what's reliable information and what's bullshit. Unfortunately, university presses need to sell books too, and that sometimes leads them down some questionable paths.
Here is the way peer review works in academia. Let's say you (an academic) write a book. You pitch it to a scholarly press, usually a university press. The editor of that press will make a preliminary call on whether the book should be published or not. Then, they'll get one (or sometimes two) colleagues, chosen from the field, whose identities they keep secret from the author, to review the manuscript and come back with changes. It's then up to the author whether to make the changes, and up to the publisher to decide whether to continue the process of publication.
Although it's not common, some bullshit books do slip through. It's especially prone to happen when a book has unusual sales potential. I can tell you right now that any book about the JFK assassination or 9/11 is automatically positioned to be a "blockbuster" as far as academic presses are concerned, because academic presses generally sell very few copies and these books have the potential for crossover appeal (i.e., they can sell them to non-academic readers). My guess is that these books were reviewed poorly at the peer-review stage but the publisher decided to go through with them anyway because of the dollar signs attached.
Also note--Peter Dale Scott is an English professor, not a professor of history or political science. He's writing outside of his field.
I took the liberty of looking up reviews of the these books on JSTOR (an academic database that is generally not accessible by the public). Exactly as I expected, when the books were reviewed at all, they were absolutely savaged. (Publishers have no control over who reviews their books). Here's an excerpt from a review of "Deep Politics."
"Despite the seriousness of the subject and the earnestness with which Scott confronts it, the study is one that can be shot to ribbons by anyone with an open mind. Paradoxically, for something described as an analysis, it depends for its effect upon the reader's a priori acceptance of its pernicious effects. Connections are necessarily substantive contacts. Events always determine motives. Coincidences are never just coincidences. Meetings denote complicity...Scott raises some important questions, but in his haste to lay them on his 'negative template,' he not only overlooks the role of infighting and negligence in producing the rationally inexplicable, he also dismisses the possibility of intrigue and feuds generating subversive pressures upon conspiracy."
(Source: Review of Deep Politics and the Death of JFK, review by Michael Foley, International Affairs, Vol. 70, No. 3, July 1994) [this is a peer-reviewed journal]
Academics are not immune from conspiracy thinking, and university presses are not immune from the lure of big sales as a result of pushing conspiracy crap. After all, Steven Jones, the 9/11 Twoofer who came up with the "exploding paint" theory, was on staff at BYU for over 20 years and had already survived a flirtation with "cold fusion" and "free energy" nonsense back in the 80s years before 9/11 ever happened--they didn't drum him out until 2006. However, academics who do spout woo beliefs, or even publish woo books, are almost always marginalized within the profession because the vast majority of their peers realize they've gone off the deep end.
Peer review certainly is not perfect--but it's much better than the absence of peer review, which is the universe that conspiracy theorists prefer.
Thanks for your question and thanks for your incisive thought. It's a hard question and exactly the kind that you should be asking.
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