fw from a prof of applied math
You are correct. It seems to me that those people like Frey who believe
in a conspiracy to maintain the scientific status quo do not appreciate
how the refereeing system works.
I have published over 100 papers in refereed journals. Very few of those
papers received a unanimous initial approval. In most cases there was a
dissenting referee whose comments I had to rebut. I regard this as
process of educating a referee who is not as knowledgeable in my
specialist field as I am. This is especially true when I do something
innovative. Most of my papers are considered by three referees, and a
2-1 initial decision for publication usually ends in ultimate
acceptance, and a 1-2 initial decision is not always fatal. In a few
cases, of course, a single referee detects a fatal mistake on my part
and then the paper is withdrawn. Sometimes the matter of debate is not
whether the paper is correct or not, but whether it is of sufficient
interest/importance/novelty. Then it is just a judgement call. A 0-2
initial decision probably indicates submission to a different journal
-- and one hopes for better informed referees.
I referee something like 30 papers a year. Some revised papers I am happy
to approve in the revised form. Some revised papers I still recommend
for rejection. A subset of these are still published despite my
disapproval. This does not bother me -- there will always be noise in
the filter in various places, including fallibility in my judgements.
In my experience journal editors are generally fair. Of course there
will always be exceptions. I have come across two examples of
unprofessional behaviour by individual editors (one Indian, one German)
who have been unduly influenced by politics in their local communities.