The March issue of Quadrant is out with a response from editor Keith Windschuttle to the hoax affair that made his previous issue a best seller.
Meanwhile the hoaxer, Katherine Wilson, has released some sections of an as yet unpublished essay in which she responds to critics of the hoax.
In a half page editorial Windschuttle describes the article submitted by Wilson under the fake name Sharon Gould as “not a good hoax. It did not hit us anywhere we hurt.”
The hoax article, published in the January/February issue of Quadrant, argued for the insertion of human genes into food crops. The article used a mixture of false and genuine references, and included a claim that the CSIRO had abandoned experiments involving putting human genes into food crops for fear of adverse public reaction.
Windschuttle published the article having had only email correspondence with the fictitious “Gould”. The fact of the hoax was exposed in Crikey (link to article) and made front page news around the country.
Windschuttle writes that the hoax article contained “a small number of false statements”.
He claims that basic fact checking was done on the article, but that there is a point where publications have to take authors on trust.
The hoaxer, Katherine Wilson, said this morning that she had not yet seen the March issue of Quadrant, but that she doubted Windschuttle’s claim that he had done basic fact checking on the article. “The website I created for Sharon Gould hadn’t received a single hit by the time Quadrant went to print.”
Meanwhile, in her yet to be published essay, Wilson accuses “Camp Quadrant” of having “picked through the hoax article as if surveying a crime scene, ignoring crucial evidence and inconvenient truths — as if through footnotes and trickery alone I’ve sought some kind of contemptible Trojan-horse entrapment. They cannot see the picture for their reductionism.”
Quadrant also contains an essay on the affair by Edith Cowan University journalism academic Kayt Davies, in which she argues that the hoax article had “reasonable logical integrity” despite some of its assertions being false. She says that the hoax article made valid points about science journalism.
Davies sees the hoax as “more dodgy than witty”, a “cheap and sloppy shot”, and argues that the hoax is destructive and worrying at a time when newsrooms are short staffed.
Davies reprises the way the story about the hoax story was broken in Crikey, including entries on my blog and elsewhere.
“A discussion about how easily sloppy journalism can turn into published copy is probably not in the best interests of media owners intent on culling senior journalists and subeditors from their payrolls,” she says.
However, by publishing a byline with the piece, Windschuttle had “divorced the views of the writer from his own from those of the publication as a whole and gave the author…ownership of the good and bad elements of the piece, including the tricky fallacies and the few unsupported leaps of logic it contained.”
Windschuttle writes that Quadrant has increased in size by 33.3 per cent over the last year “to accommodate an increase in the number of good articles…we had in hand,” and to broaden the appeal of the magazine by including new writing.
One of those new contributors, Windschuttle says, turned out to be the hoaxer, Katherine Wilson, whom he describes as a “little known left-wing political activist”.
“When this misrepresentation was exposed, some of our political opponents in the press responded with more glee than was warranted.”
Windschuttle does not repeat earlier false allegations that I and/or a “team” associated with Crikey were behind the hoax, but says that Quadrant will continue to publish work from new authors and “will continue with our basic presumption that anyone who submits work to us for publication is trustworthy, unless there are grounds for thinking otherwise…Those who want to exploit our position in order to perpetrate cheap political stunts can only do so by betraying the trust required by a free culture and open discussion.”
Meanwhile in her unpublished essay, Wilson responds to criticisms of her hoax. She writes:
Criticisms of the Quadrant hoax, as I understand it, run something like this. The hoax article was badly argued (well, der! Then Quadrant shouldn’t have published). The article used some real facts and evidence (so do all hoaxes: so did the Sokal hoax once championed by Windschuttle, including its footnotes.). The article was mostly true (even if this were the case, so was the Sokal article, and so was the war Ern Malley poems described). Quadrant is not a science magazine (then why does it publish ‘science’ articles without checking?). Quadrant is not peer-reviewed, and small journals don’t have the resources to check facts (as Rundle has argued, the most elementary work of an editor would have spotted the glaring hoax; and small journals do outsource review for specialist articles). The hoax has rescued Quadrant from obscurity (how obscure is a journal whose campaigns are writ large in our only national broadsheet?) The hoax was irrelevant because Quadrant doesn’t publish stuff about GM (yes, it does). The hoaxer should have written the article about global warming (go do your own goddam hoax). If the hoaxer wanted to show up Windschuttle, she should have written an article arguing straight with him (yeah, right. That’ll show ’em. That’ll have an impact relative to Windschuttle’s media exposure).