…ushiness of this term. People talk about “good” and “bad” writing as if it’s obvious what they are. Like you said, in a journalistic context, extremely formal and exhaustive academic writing can come across as so pretentious and ridiculous when, in fact, there’s a lovely humbleness to it. The academic is saying, “Look! I’ve acknowledged all these people that have thought really hard about this” — they’re actually trying to give them their due, whilst differentiating their own view.
Non-academic readers encounter that prose and think that it is self-aggrandizing in its complexity, when it’s actually aiming for ultimate disambiguation of terms: “I’m not saying this, I’m saying that.” You have to deploy technical language to do that. Something else — something psychological — is going on when technical writing gets interpreted as torturous and annoying and undemocratic.