‘Reformers’ Hails Punk Academics Who Exposed Social Justice Rot

Sly, five-part docuseries builds on 'Grievance Studies' prank papers

Pranksters have a funny way of revealing larger truths.

Consider James O’Keefe, the muckraking journalist whose undercover shtick reveals corruption better than most news outlets. Comedian Sacha Baron Cohen’s “Borat” (2006) undressed our courteous culture along with a few bigoted souls.

A trio of rebellious thinkers did something similar in 2018, taunting the “grievance studies” movement by using their own words against them.

The Reformers,” a five-part docuseries streaming on Substack, recalls how James Lindsay, Helen Pluckrose and Peter Boghossian fooled academia with papers so steeped in woke nonsense they fit right in with major institutions.

The Reformers (2023) - Trailer

Part one introduces us to the “team” of skeptics sick of what’s happening across academia.

Lindsay, a mathematician by trade, teams with Portland State University assistant professor Peter Boghossian to brainstorm absurd topics. Fellow liberal Pluckrose, editor of Areo, rounds out the team.

It’s an awkward introduction, complete with a stretch of video where Boghossian gives us a tour of his home. It’s the only moment of padding to be found across “The Reformers” docuseries.

The second installment isn’t for the faint of heart.

We revisit the Evergreen College scandal where liberal professor Bret Weinstein was physically chased off campus for not embracing what he deemed a racist protest. The woke mob demanded white professors stay off campus for a day.

The episode got a galling close-up in “No Safe Spaces” and elsewhere, but “The Reformers” offers new, shocking context along with harrowing footage from within the college

Weinstein recalls feeling like a “hunted civilian” during the melee and with good cause. It’s like a found-footage horror movie set on a college campus, but it’s true. All of it. The “struggle sessions” forcing white academics to plead for acceptance are particularly hard to watch.

“To ask for evidence of racism is racism with a capital ‘R,'” Weinstein is told at one point during the dystopian cycle of events.

Imagine taking out a second mortgage to send your child to a school like this.


Part 3 delves into the personalities behind the epic prank. We also see some of the hilarious details of the scheme, including this fake quote from a pretend expert in one of their faux papers.

“I have no free time because silence is complicity,” Lindsay reads aloud, trying to hold down his laughter.

“The Reformers” reminds us why late-night comedy is pure propaganda today. Stinging satire leaves a mark, and Colbert and co. know that all too well.

So do “The Reformers.”

Director Michael Nayna takes some intriguing risks, creatively speaking. Some close-ups aren’t flattering but shake up the series’ visual aesthetic. He sometimes shows himself shooting the story, a meta move that feels more transparent than tricky.

And he admits to briefly working alongside the trio to ensure they get a fair trial once their prank is exposed. Documentarians can read into that approach as they wish.


Some sequences reveal the personalities behind the tricksters. We watch Lindsay go through a practice  long sword workout, while Boghossian blows off steam on a wrestling mat.

Pluckrose emerges as the Mother Hen of the group, someone with the guts and brainpower to address a larger truth head on.

Academia has gone mad.

The docuseries makes it easier to digest “The Reformers,” but it might have made a stronger impact if it had been edited into a feature-length movie.

Either way, “The Reformers” is the kind of product we need in the 21st century, yet another topic traditional filmmakers wouldn’t touch. Part horror story, part cultural reckoning, the docuseries is a fascinating snapshot of Western culture on the precipice.

HiT or Miss: “The Reformers” multi-episode approach may have its flaws, but its fly-on-the-wall storytelling and devastating results make it a cultural must-see.

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