It has come to my attention that Language is considering making an "event" of Vyvyan Evan's junk book The Language Myth. What do I mean by an "event"? Well, and here I quote: "because of the potentially controversial nature of the book, Language is planning a new type of review, in which we target the book for commentary papers by 4-5 individuals who have different academic perspectives." These reviews are to be about 1500 words. So, Language is going to make a BIG DEAL (6-7500 words of criticism plus a reaction by Evans, I would assume) out of this book pretending that there is something there, pretending that it is "controversial" in the sense that that the book raises many interesting issues that people of good faith can understand in different ways and that debating would enlightening. This is false. There are not and that's because the book is junk. The suggestion that Language (and, by extension, the LSA) believes otherwise is a terrible message to send.
Let me be clear: the book is not controversial. It is junk. Pure, unadulterated, complete junk. Reading it will make you dumber. The fact that Language is doing a "new type of review" will only suggest that this is not so. It will suggest that there really are various reasonable sides to the issue Evans book discusses and that the views in the book are worth taking seriously. After all, Language, the journal of the LSA, the main professional organization of linguistics, thinks that the book is is "controversial," (which in common parlance suggests well argued if still a bit out there). It does not suggest that the book is junk. Moreover, getting a wide range of reviews virtually guarantees that at least one of them will suggest that the views are not junk. After all, I bet Language wants to be "fair." What piece of junk could ask for a better endorsement than this?
Generativists have always considered Language the place you publish when you can't get your stuff into LI or NLLT, or Lingua or… It is far down the list of desirable publishing venues. If it ever was the journal that published the stuff at the cutting edge, it is no longer is that journal. Nonetheless, it is the official journal of the LSA and as such it should care about whether the works it highlights meet even minimal professional standards (one would hope for more than that, of course). The Evans book does not. To repeat, it's junk. So why exactly does Language want to showcase it? Do the editors hate Generative Grammar that much? Do they really think that generative linguistics has been an intellectual disaster? It would be nice to know if this is what the editors think, for if it is, maybe it's time for Generativists to either leave the LSA or the LSA should consider replacing the editors.
So, either Language hates 2/3 of the field (always a possibility) or the editors are filled with self-loathing. I find it hard to believe that any other professional journal would showcase work that is shoddy, unprofessional, uninformed and logically lacking. Can you see Physical Review doing a special review on the latest approaches to perpetual motion? Or the American Anthropological Review doing a special issue on creation science? I can't. They have more self respect than that. They know that these topics are junk. But apparently Language is different. It's "open-minded" and willing to consider even junk as worthy of showcasing because of its "controversial" nature. This is not the first time Language has done this (see here). Someone like me might get the impression that Language in no way respects what it is that Generative Grammar has done over the last 65 years. The idea that Evans' book is "controversial" suggests that the editors have lost all critical sense and are willing to admit the most egregious junk into its journals. This is not to say that Evans' book does not deserve special treatment in the pages of Language. It does. Language should be highlighting the fact that work like this is not worth the paper that it is written on. A decent hatchet job, now that I understand. But a "new type of review"? It sends entirely the wrong message.