Elaborate hoaxes; respect in Rifle; lost lovers

Mishaps and mayhem from around the region.


NEW MEXICO: Because wherever you go, there you are.
Dallas Broad

Peter Boghossian, who teaches philosophy of education at Portland State University, is an outspoken critic of political correctness. He says it leads to “morally fashionable” and barely credible academic pursuits that inspire administrators to issue “trigger warnings, safe spaces and micro-aggression” callouts on college campuses. To demonstrate just how absurd a research paper on “gender studies” could be and still get published by an academic journal, Boghossian and two accomplices, Helen Pluckrose and James Lindsay, cooked up a satirical analysis of “dog-on-dog sexual assault” at dog parks. The purported author claimed to have documented more than a thousand instances of a dog mounting another dog. First, however, “the genitals of slightly fewer than 10,000 dogs had to be respectfully examined … being careful not to cause alarm and moving away if any dog appeared uncomfortable. …” And the study’s conclusion? “When a male dog was raping/humping another male dog, humans attempted to intervene 97 percent of the time. When a male dog was raping/humping a female dog, humans only attempted to intervene 32 percent of the time.” And when male owners used shock collars to deter their male dogs, the author speculated that they might be revealing “homophobic shame.” The study — credited to the fictitious Helen Wilson, who purportedly worked for the nonexistent Ungendering Research Institute — was ponderously titled “Human reactions to rape culture and queer performativity at urban dog parks in Portland, Oregon.” Published by the legitimate feminist geography journal Gender, Place and Culture, it was retracted Oct. 5, after The Wall Street Journal questioned its authenticity. The newspaper found that the dog park study was just one of 20 fake studies the group submitted to academic journals in the past year, with seven accepted for publication. As for Boghossian, who’s getting considerable heat for the hoax, he told Willamette Week that the university had “summoned” him to a meeting: “I think that everybody is walking on eggshells. I think these disciplines are so entrenched and these ideas are so entrenched that people are afraid.”

Elaborate hoaxes were the specialty of the late Alan Abel, who founded a national campaign in 1959 to put clothing — especially trousers — on cows and other animals. His bogus group, The Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, even ensnared journalist Walter Cronkite, who repeated its slogan — “A nude horse is a rude horse” — on the nightly news. The Week reported that Abel also ran the two presidential campaigns of a nonexistent Jewish homemaker from the Bronx in the 1960s. Her catchy slogan: “Vote for Yetta and things will get betta.” But Abel’s greatest triumph involved faking his own death in 1980 and scoring an obituary in The New York Times. He did so by creating a sham undertaker in Utah who confirmed the non-event. The real-news obit for Alan Abel ran in the Times
Sept. 17.

Close to 2 million Facebook users have seen a video of Kamira Trent standing up to an angry woman in the City Market in Rifle, Colorado. Linda Dwire, 64, began harassing two other shoppers because they spoke Spanish to each other. When Dwire ordered them loudly to “speak English and be American,” Trent spoke up, saying, “You don’t harass people. You leave these women alone. I have respect and you don’t harass people like this.” In a Facebook message, Trent said she intervened “because it was the right thing to do. I would do it again if I needed to.” 

Harassment, it turns out, is not confined to humans. In 2010, a tourist on a popular trail in Olympic National Park lost his life when a mountain goat harassed and wounded him and then wouldn’t let rescuers approach. It seems that mountain goats — which aren’t native to the area, having been introduced a century or so ago — have an insatiable yen for the salt and minerals found in human urine, sweat and clothing. So this September, 114 fluffy and blindfolded goats, looking like giant stuffed animals, were strapped into slings and hung from helicopters for a 100-mile trip to the North Cascades, where the animals are native, reports the Associated Press. More airlifts will follow, say park officials, but goats that can’t be captured will be shot and killed.

Determined to find an “isolated scenic location” to propose marriage, Joshua Mason, 27, of Denton, Texas, invited Katie Davis, 28, on a rugged backcountry hike near Boulder, Colorado. But on the way up the scenic 8.2-mile trail, which gains about 3,000 feet in altitude, the ill-prepared couple lost their way and ended up stranded on a cliff. They were lucky: Around midnight, a nearby camper heard their cries and led them to his friends. The couple were dehydrated and suffering from altitude sickness, but by dawn they were safely back at the trailhead — and apparently still engaged.

Tips and photos of Western oddities are appreciated and often shared in this column. Write [email protected] or tag photos #heardaroundthewest on Instagram.

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