PoPS Fiasco Orientation Page
What the Hell Happened?
The Short Version
Klaus Fiedler, former editor of Perspectives on Psychological Science (PoPS, a major and influential academic psychology journal) accepted papers (by Hommel, Stanovich, Stroebe and me) that were critical of a previously published paper (Roberts et al, 2020). Roberts is a biracial Stanford professor.1 The substantive controversy involved how diversity is and should be implemented throughout psychology. Roberts et al (2020) advocated for greater “representation” of Black and other “minoritized”2 groups “of color.” The critics made many arguments, including:
Diversity is not just race. Human diversity includes a vast … diversity of characteristics (e.g., personality, politics, social class, upbringing, skill sets, experiences, interests, age, religion and many more). Scientifically, for psychology to produce a representative science, it needs to capture all of this diversity, and not exclusively the types of diversity advocated by progressive activists.
Diversity is irrelevant to certain types and purposes of research.
Roberts et al (2020) was as much political activism and propaganda as it was science. This was detectable by identification of a slew of demonstrably false claims or distortions that always “just happened” to advance a far left progressive worldview and agenda. For example, Roberts et al (2020) repeatedly bemoaned a supposed lack of sufficient (whatever that means) racial diversity in psychology and called for strong steps by authorities (e.g., all sorts of DEI mandates) to ensure better racial diversity. Hommel and I showed, using data from the U.S. Census, European equivalents to the U.S. Census, and educational statistics, that Robert et al’s (2020) own data actually showed that “minoritized” groups were already represented at levels at or exceeding that of the underlying population.
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Serious discussion of these issues was quickly derailed by:
1. First, Roberts posting a paper denouncing all of us as racists.
2. Outrage spread on social media. Some can be found linked below.
3. An open letter denounced Fiedler and the critics as racists, and called for the Association for Psychological Science (APS, which oversees PoPS) to summarily execute an order to fire Fiedler and for the commentaries to be unaccepted for publication. It also called for PoPs to publish Roberts’ denunciation, and for APS to give Roberts pretty much anything else he wanted as reparations for the (according to the mob) terrible way he was treated. With respect to Fiedler, APS caved to the mob. They gave Fiedler an ultimatum to fire or be resigned, and he resigned.
Long Version: Links to Primary Sources, Commentaries, and Broader Perspectives
What follows next are links to articles providing more detail. It is worth noting, as evidence for the radicalization of academia, that the view from outside academia has consistently roundly condemned the open letter and associated mob justice. The view from inside academia is more mixed.
Short Written Overviews:
Prestigious Psych Journal Cans Editor for Soliciting Criticism of Black Psychologist (Washington Free Beacon)
‘I Am the Victim’: A Journal Editor Is Under Fire After a Diversity Debate Is Derailed (Chronicle of Higher Ed)
A Shameful, Useless, Counterproductive Dispute in Psychology (Chronicle of Higher Ed).
Racial Inequality in Psychological Science by Roberts et al (2020), the paper which Hommel criticized.
Dealing with Diversity in Science, Hommel’s criticism of Roberts et al (2020).
Commentary on Hommel and on Roberts et al (2020)
Diversity for Truth, Hommel’s reply to the commentaries.
The Open Letter signed by almost 1400 academics denouncing Fiedler and the four authors of the five papers as racist, calling for authorities to summarily execute an order to fire Fiedler, and calling for those five papers to be unaccepted.
The alternative open letter opposing that summary execution and calling for a more deliberative and due process.
APS demands that Fiedler either resign or be fired. He resigned. There is not exactly a public record of this, but, here, APS “explains” its actions.
German psychology society upbraids APS (the professional organization that oversees PoPS) for lack of procedural justice.`
Notes from a Witch Hunt (long overview by me as it was happening)
1200 Academics Denounced me as Racist for Using a Quote from Fiddler on the Roof (essay by me, on my experience of the outrage mob’s ire).
Joachim Krueger’s letters to APS and PoPS resigning as member of the organization and editorial board member in protest of their handling of the whole situation.
At least 6 of 7 PoPS associate editors have resigned. I have not found any statement by APS or PoPS about this. The first image is the current list of associate editors found here as of 12/31/22. The second image is the list from earlier in 2022, which can be found here.
Compare the above, showing a single associate editor, with below, from June, 2022, showing 7.
Klaus Fiedler defends himself. Setting the Record Straight, posted here on 1/20/23.
It is worth pointing out that there is an apparent conflict between Fiedler’s 1/20/23 statement and APS’s 1/26 statement. Fiedler wrote:
“The second, equally important reason was that APS, the organization who holds the PPS journal, never asked me for my version, and never engaged on what seems to be a self-evident rule of procedural justice, namely, to give the target of accusation a chance to reply and provide a counter statement – to be circulated in the same widespread channel as the accusations. Up to now, nobody asked for my version.”
APS on 1/26 wrote:
“Before any action was taken, the EIC was contacted regarding the complaints and provided with a list of questions regarding his editorial actions. His response did not dispute the factual basis of any of the details included in the complaints.”
As of this writing (1/26), I have no information that might resolve this contradiction. The apparent contradiction is that whereas Fiedler says he was not asked for his version of events, APS says they did contact him. However, this contradiction is more apparent than real:
On 1/28, I received this email from Klaus Fiedler. It resolves the apparent contradiction as follows: Whereas it is literally true that “the EIC [Fiedler] was contacted,” as stated by APS, it is also literally true that he was given only the opportunity to respond to a series of narrowly-tailored interrogation-type questions, and was not asked either for, or to explain, his actions, procedures, and policies.
A letter protesting APS’s treatment of Fiedler open to academics (including graduate students) and scientists (whether or not academics, including those who are retired, can be found here. This was a joint effort and not “my” letter — many of the signatories were approached via email (some by me, many by others).
Eventually, I tracked down the one source that Roberts relied on when denouncing me for using a racist trope. I discovered an academic deepfake:
Academics Weigh In
The entries mostly cheerleading or justifying the witch hunt are flagged with **.
In Defense of Scientific Integrity and Due Process, Quillette, by Joe Forgas. “Reviewers should always be chosen based on their expertise and merit, and not their racial or identity status.”
Woke Witch Hunt in Psychology? Spectator, by Joe Forgas. “The far more troubling issue is how leading professional associations in a scientific field have now been corrupted by Woke ideology to a degree where unsupportable and unexamined accusations of racism can result in the immediate dismissal of an outstanding editor, and the gratuitous slandering of the good name of a serious and decent scientist.”
Diversity is a Trojan Horse, Minding the Campus, by John Staddon. “It is this Trojan-horse dilemma—passing off ideological claims as scientific—which entangled an editor of APS journal Perspectives on Psychological Science, Klaus Fiedler…”
The Campus Battle Between Critical Theory and Liberal Enlightenment Hits Home. Nate Bork, Substack. “Agree with us or we will accuse you of racism, sexism, homophobia, transphobia, Islamophobia, bigotry, xenophobia, patriarchy, etc. and ruin your career and your entire life. We will also ruin the lives of anyone who doesn’t join us in our attacks, or who remain silent, or who voice support for any position which disagrees with us.”
What Happened at Perspectives on Psychological Science? Two Psychologists/Four Beers Podcast. Yoel Inbar & Rachel Hartman. From the show notes: “They try to untangle a complicated story of peer review gone awry, explain the dueling open letters condemning and supporting Fiedler, and critically evaluate the allegations against him as well as the process that led to his dismissal as EIC [Editor in Chief].”
Racist Debacle at Perspectives on Psychological Science.** Google doc. Flavio Azevedo. “A personal collection of links and resources towards awareness of the existing and pervasive systemic racism in academia.”
You Also have an Ideology.** Moin Syed, Substack. “What we are witnessing in psychology, and indeed in many other disciplines, is a disruption in the normative ideology. Many more folks have shifted their thinking from the interpersonal model to the systemic model, from colorblindness to anti-racism, and are subsequently trying to put this ideology into practice.”
How Woke Critical Theory is Destroying Science. Real Clear Education. Robert Maranto & me. “This activist minority is loud, aggressive, and skilled at ginning up the type of online outrage that got Fiedler fired…How can we save academia from itself?… a first step might involve extensive congressional hearings establishing the depth of academia’s free inquiry problems and ideological capture. Such hearings could prove less partisan, more popular, and more important than most of what Congress does.”
Klaus Fiedler is a victim — of his own arrogance.** Uli Schimmack, on his blog site. “Yet, nobody else has supported Fiedler’s claim that it is entirely fair and acceptable to invite three White-ish reviewers to submit their reviews as commentaries and to accept these commentaries without peer-review.” (I can’t resist commenting — why Schimmack claims that no one else supported Fiedler in this is puzzlingly false, as can be seen throughout the links posted here, LJ).
People Hate this Shit: The View from Outside Academia
As far as I can tell, no one outside of academia has expressed endorsement of the mob witch-hunting behavior here. In a popular rebellion against the deplatforming of Dorian Abbot, thousands attended his talk when it was moved to Princeton’s Madison Program. Similarly, free and paid subscriptions to Unsafe Science skyrocketed immediately following this event, suggest something similar.
How Biden’s Rogue Deputy Fooled Us, And Why 1,400 Psychologists Hunt Dark Pirate Jussim. Blocked and Reported podcast, Jesse Singal & Katie Herzog. 2nd half is on this, about 25 min in. From the show notes: “Then, less-important co-captain Jesse Singal investigates what happened when German psychologist Klaus Fiedler took the helm at the journal Perspectives on Psychological Science — and how his quartermaster’s criticism of its race obsession led its American crew to mutiny. Doing so, he crosses paths with the notorious Dark Pirate Jussim and his evil steed, a racist mule whose mere mention is said to bring a ship a thousand years of bad luck.”
Raising the Roof (video, my appearance on Andrew Doyle’s UK TV show). When Andrew asked a question suggesting this event was mostly a cynical power grab, my reply was, paraphrasing: “That’s in the mix, but, mostly, I think people believe their own propaganda.”
A Rush to Judgment in Psychological Science. Quillette. “Yet nowhere does Roberts demonstrate that any of these men exhibited racial animus. And some of Roberts’s efforts to make this case are flat-out absurd.”
The Sign in Lee Jussim’s Window, Minding the Campus. “The psychologists are burning another witch.”
Psychology journal editor’s ouster over racism allegations continues bad precedent, The College Fix. “Scientific organizations “have got to stop responding to Twitter mobs.”s
Spike in paid subscriptions to Unsafe Science post witch hunt:
A Selection of Excellent Essays that Help Understand What the Hell Happened through Broader Sociocultural Trends
From Russia with Love: Science and Ideology Then and Now. Anna Krylov. “My everyday experiences as a chemistry professor at an American university in 2021 bring back memories from my school and university time in the USSR. Not good memories—more like Orwellian nightmares.”
America’s cultural revolution is just like Mao’s. Xiao Li. “…no historical analogy is ever perfect, and to seek exactitude over verisimilitude is to miss the point. There are differences, yes, but when it comes to fundamentals, the two moments have much in common.”
The American Soviet Mentality. Izabella Tabarovsky. “Collective demonizations of prominent cultural figures were an integral part of the Soviet culture of denunciation that pervaded every workplace and apartment building.”
No Enemies to the Left. Paul Robinson. “Before 1917, Russian liberals believed that they were not free, and that they lived in an oppressive state which needed sweeping away. To this end, they adopted the slogan ‘No enemies to the left!’ While not engaging in political violence themselves, they refused ever to condemn it, except when carried out by the state or the political right.”
Suicide of the Liberals. Gary Saul Morson. “Vorotyntsev gives ground and holds his peace, “not because he felt he was wrong, but out of fear of saying something reactionary,” a word Solzhenitsyn italicizes to suggest that, in other cultures and periods, a different term of opprobrium will play the same role.”
Social justice as social leverage. Helen Dale & Lorenzo Warby. “Again and again, we observe that once something is declared to be a matter of social justice, opposition to such a claim becomes illegitimate. This is not a bargaining-to-make-things-better strategy. This is a social dominance strategy.”
Is Everything “Problematic”? By me. In which I show how the narrative techniques that have rapidly ascended the academic ladder of presumed credibility can make anything seem racist or bigoted, including dog-walking, commenting on a beautiful day, and Mahatma Gandhi.
The Implementation of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion in Academia. Report by Nathan Honeycutt and me, based on his dissertation. Nate is now at FIRE.ORG. From the Executive Summary of the report: “DEI attempts to mobilize individual forms of affirmative action and selective preferences for those groups progressives consider protected. Most Americans oppose selective preferences based on race and gender.”
Ideological Intensification. Mason Goad and Bruce R. Chartwell. A data packed report on DEI in the academy. For example: “The number of DEI-related projects receiving NIH funding grew significantly between 2010 and the present, increasing roughly 5 to 1,000 times depending on the DEI term.”
Is “Woke Science” The Only Science Allowed in Academia? Lawrence Krauss. Talk slides such as these:
The Radicalization of the American Academy. By me. Unsafe Science data packed essay. Section heading: “You Can Make Many Bizarre Claims in Academia IF You Frame Them as Advancing Social Justice.”
The Radicalization of the American Academy. Full length academic chapter, packed with far more data than the essay above. Authors: Jussim, Honeycutt, Paresky, Careem, Finkelstein & Finkelstein. Posted at Unsafe Science as a report for paying subscribers.
Appendix: Voices of People of Color Widely Ignored in Psychology
What follows here is the finale of my widely denounced paper.
The best of Roberts et al’s (2020) arguments constitute a call for including the excluded, at least if they are committed to the norms of science and to making coherent, evidence-based, logical arguments. I endorse these best arguments. In this spirit, I end this piece with quotes from scholars of color whose ideas and views relevant to issues in psychology closely related to those raised by Roberts et al (2020) and Hommel, and which I almost never see referenced or discussed in academic psychology literatures (especially ironic, since at least one, McWhorter, is a linguist and is highly influential on psychology-related topics [such as racism and intolerance] outside of academic psychology). None are psychologists, and I list their fields in a spirit of diversifying the field of ideas from which academic psychology draws. I note that this is not a sample of quotes representative of anything at all; it is a convenience sample of voices of people of color that have been largely excluded from scientific psychology.
Wilfred Reilly (2021, political science): “…people of color are successful in modern America to an almost surprising degree, which is rarely discussed—for different reasons—by either the “social-justice” left or the contemporary hard right. As of 2019, seven of the top 10 American ethnic groups in income terms—Indian, Taiwanese, Filipino, Indonesian, Persian, and Arab Lebanese Americans—were “people of color” as this term is generally conceptualized…”
Hrishikesh Joshi (philosophy, 2022): “…social pressure to avoid sharing evidence against a particular claim undermines the confidence we can place in that claim, because it makes more likely the possibility that the (first-order) evidence that does make its way to us is a lopsided subset of the total. This has the perhaps tragic implication that we can typically be less confident of morally and politically laden issues than we can about ‘dry’ subjects like chemistry or cell biology.’”
George Yancey (sociology, quoted in Kristof, 2016): ““Outside of academia I faced more problems as a black,” he told me [Kristof]. “But inside academia I face more problems as a Christian, and it is not even close.”
Luana Maroja (2022, biology): “Extreme emphasis on sexual harassment stifles productive scientific discourse between men and women.”
Musa al-Gharbi (2020, sociology): “Diversity is important. Diversity-related training is terrible.”
Marisol Quintanilla (2022, entomology): “It is very strange that the surveys assume that race is fixed when it is really a spectrum (for example I have Spanish, Chinese, North African, and Native American ancestries) and the same forms pretend that gender is on a spectrum (11 options in most Michigan State surveys) when it is clearly binary (mammals are sexually dimorphic).”
John McWhorter (2021, linguistics): “Woke racism: How a new religion betrayed Black America” (book title).
Roland Fryar (2022, economics): “More corporate leaders should be trying to solve diversity challenges in the same way they solve problems in every other aspect of their business: through intelligent use of data, rigorous hypothesis testing, and honest inference about what is working.”
Amna Khalid (2022, history): “Having grown up under a military dictatorship in Pakistan, I know well what happens when freedom of expression is threatened and people are bullied into silence. It pains me deeply to see this happening in my adopted country.”
Sarah Haider (2022, Founder, ex-Muslims of North America): “The activist game, to sum in one sentence, is about results… The thinker game is about truth… Years ago I was asked on a podcast whether it was possible to be effective and intellectually honest in the activist space. I said no.”
As psychology and academia embrace activism in the name of social justice, calls to include the previously excluded will likely accelerate. In that spirit, I look forward to responses by academics calling for DEI that celebrate the inclusion in this article, and therefore, in the psychology peer reviewed literature, of the heretofore excluded voices of people of color quoted above, and, more important, their substantive views. Doing so might help psychology to deliver that horse it sold.
This would not be worth mentioning except for Roberts’ own accusations that the entire experience was drenched in racism directed towards him.
“Minoritized.” This is the term Roberts et al (2020) used.