"Reviewer #2" has become shorthand to signal a reviewer who was snarky, academically discriminatory, misunderstood our work, or more than one of these.
Let's back up for a moment. This is kind of what it feels like as an editor to ask a colleague to carry out a review:
That is, both reviewing and journal editing constitute free academic labor. And we are all pressed for time.
But reviewers can be clear and direct without being cranky, even when a manuscript is not suitable and/or has serious problems. This does not mean using kid gloves or avoiding harsh truths; it means that as evaluators, we give the benefit of the doubt that the authors have prepared a manuscript with sincerity. Imagine the kind of feedback you yourself would appreciate receiving:
If a piece is so under-baked that this kind of feedback wouldn’t help or would take excessive amounts of a reviewer’s time, then a desk rejection seems more appropriate.
Journal editors should NOT simply pass along a review that is academically discriminatory, snarky, that says "X is missing" without offering suggestions, that offers NOTHING positive, etc.
Finally, I have benefitted greatly from my friend and colleague Phillip Carter’s solid guidelines for reviewers: