John Lott Strikes Again

by Kieran Healy on May 10, 2005

Tim Lambert catches John Lott with his hand up a sock-puppet’s backside yet again. Under the reviewer name Economist123, Lott puts up a signed review of Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s Freakonomics—a book that criticizes Lott’s work in passing. Lott says:

Not surprisingly, Steven Levitt and Stephen Dubner’s new book “Freakonomics” ignores their academic critics. … If Messrs. Levitt and Dubner were correct, crime rates should have first started falling among younger people who were first born after legalization. … But in fact the precise opposite is true. …

John R. Lott Jr.
Resident Scholar
American Enterprise Institute
Washington

Now, if you scroll down through Economist123’s other Amazon reviews, you get to a review of John R. Lott’s More Guns, Less Crime. There, Economist123 doesn’t sign his review, but neither does he mince his words:

This is by far the most comprehensive study ever done on guns. … it is important to note how many academics have tired to challenge his work on concealed handgun laws and failed and that no one has even bothered to try and challenge his work on one-gun-a-month laws and other gun control laws.

I am constantly amused the lengths to which reviewers here will go to distort Lott’s research. … These guys will do anything to keep people from reading Lott’s work.

Given the way he’s misrepresented by his critics, it’s a good job Lott has defenders like Economist123 (amongst others) to back him up.

{ 50 comments }

1

almostinfamous 05.10.05 at 5:58 pm

that is as pathetic as it is hilarious

2

Carlos 05.10.05 at 7:07 pm

Wow. It’s really a pathology with him, isn’t it? Only other guy I ever encountered who used that many sockpuppets was an alcoholic Holocaust denier.

3

urizon 05.10.05 at 7:47 pm

I can’t believe Lott keeps doing this, and leaving such an obvious trail.

Perhaps he subconsciously wants to be caught?

Krauthammer’s never around when you really need him.

4

jet 05.10.05 at 9:40 pm

He makes a good point at least. If Lott is correct on the age disprecencies, then Levitt and Dubner deserve a hell of a lot more than what Lott is getting.

5

jet 05.10.05 at 9:49 pm

TallDave on Lambert’s site reminded me that judging from the behavior of historians on the left concerning the gun debate, Lott’s behavior seems extremely reasonable. I mean, at least Lott didn’t lie about his work (Bellesiles anyone) and then have people use his work as citations in court cases and in legislation.

6

lee scoresby 05.10.05 at 11:14 pm

Bellesiles resigned. What about Lott? Anyway, Lambert has addressed this issue as well, and quite effectively.

7

Thomas 05.10.05 at 11:26 pm

There’s really no reason to think that this is John Lott at all. Presumably John doesn’t need to cut and paste from the WSJ to write a review on Amazon. (The “review” is in fact a published letter to the editor.) Whatever one thinks of John, I think it should actually take some evidence–which is entirely lacking in this case–before throwing around silly accusations.

8

snuh 05.10.05 at 11:40 pm

Whatever one thinks of John, I think it should actually take some evidence—which is entirely lacking in this case—before throwing around silly accusations.

is tendency evidence admissible in your jurisdiction?

9

rilkefan 05.11.05 at 1:44 am

Lambert notes that “Economist123″‘s Amazon wishlist (until Lambert pointed it out) showed his initials to be “JL”…

10

John R. Lott Jr. 05.11.05 at 2:36 am

I agree with Thomas, these allegations are entirely preposterous!

11

nick 05.11.05 at 2:36 am

I think it should actually take some evidence—which is entirely lacking in this case—before throwing around silly accusations.

What a curious idea. I suggest you forward it to John Lott.

12

John Quiggin 05.11.05 at 3:25 am

An interesting point about all this is the demonstration that the AEI appears to have no minimum standard for ethics or intellectual honesty. The same is true of Cato – Stephen Milloy being the worst example.

There are still some honest and competent people at both places, but it’s hard to see how they manage to square their personal ethics with the institutional dishonesty implied by the continuing employment of Lott and Milloy.

13

Doug M. 05.11.05 at 3:45 am

Economist123′s wishlist did indeed show that his initials were “JL”.

It got mysteriously scrubbed a few hours ago, shortly after Lambert pointed this out.

Doug M.

14

bi 05.11.05 at 3:47 am

I don’t believe it! jet is defending the use of sock puppets!

15

abb1 05.11.05 at 4:57 am

I can’t believe John Lott has the audacity to comment here hiding under aliases of ‘Thomas’ and ‘Jet’. Please, John, stop it.

16

Barry 05.11.05 at 5:55 am

“An interesting point about all this is the demonstration that the AEI appears to have no minimum standard for ethics or intellectual honesty. The same is true of Cato – Stephen Milloy being the worst example.
There are still some honest and competent people at both places, but it’s hard to see how they manage to square their personal ethics with the institutional dishonesty implied by the continuing employment of Lott and Milloy.”

Posted by John Quiggin

Ideology would be my guess. Which suggests that most of the allegedly honest people are more comfortable with working in a propaganda mill than truly honest people should be.

17

jet 05.11.05 at 8:15 am

Lee,
Bellisiles resigned after his peer reviewed book was defended for over a year (by media and acadamia) before the accusatinos were taken seriously. During that year, the book was cited in a 9th circuit court case and used to argue legislation. Then only after a year of defending Bellisiles did acadamia start to admit their peer review was shit. Then it took another year to get Bellisiles forcefully removed (he only resigned if you think given the option of being fired or resigning, is actually resigning).

So we have lieing bastard, who makes shit up and has it make the front pages and effect government’s stance on the 2nd amendment; or guy who doesn’t make shit up, but spices up his amazon review. And you call the right political in who they judge. Hypocracy at its finest.

18

lee scoresby 05.11.05 at 8:34 am

Lott does make shit up. Substantive shit. Plus he does mediocre statistical work. The guy’s a dishonest hack.

I hardly think some amorphous “academia” is responsible if someone chooses to cite a book in a court brief. And the fact that it took time for people within the academy to come to a careful position on Bellisiles does not change the net result: Emory 1, AEI 0.

19

jet 05.11.05 at 8:55 am

Lee,
When Arming America was cited in the 9th circuit on a gun case, you don’t think acadamia should be responsible for lending their reputation, via peer review, to the books credibility? And here I was thinking that having something peer reviewed meant that it had been reviewed and approved by a scholar’s academic peers and that actually counted for something important.

The survey accusations are unproven and likely to remain so. And making up a survey, not crucial to your thesis, is entirely different than multiple fabrications that your entire thesis is based upon. The survey only lent weight to Lott’s arguement. The fabricated records WERE Bellisiles argument. And yet, even after the charges were against Bellisiles were irrefutable, Emory took amoast a year to invesitage, giving every appearance they were hoping it would just go away and they wouldn’t have to fire Bellisiles. Emory is still zero.

20

jet 05.11.05 at 8:59 am

Oh and those of you hoping for Lott’s firing, I’m sure you held the same hope for Joseph Ellis, right?

21

Robert 05.11.05 at 9:06 am

The problem with Lambert is that he selectively edited the posting on Levitt’s book. Lambert plays it as some one posting a comment and then signing it, but when you actually read the post, it is clear that the person was just reposting a letter in the Wall Street J.

http://xrlq.com/ has this:

“However, Lambert’s “proof” is so thin as to border on laughable. His smoking gun? Economist123 copied and pasted a review of another book that had previously been published by the real John Lott. Well, gee, that settles it. I mean, it stands to reason that anyone who can copy and paste a book review written by John R. Lott must be John R. Lott himself. Right?”

What makes it worse for me is Lambert’s selective editing. Without it there is no claim.

22

Robert 05.11.05 at 9:11 am

from http://xrlq.com/:

“Lambert’s “proof” is so thin as to border on laughable. His smoking gun? Economist123 copied and pasted a review of another book that had previously been published by the real John Lott. Well, gee, that settles it. I mean, it stands to reason that anyone who can copy and paste a book review written by John R. Lott must be John R. Lott himself. Right?”

What is worse is Lambert’s selective editing of the quotes that he uses. He claims (and this discussion does also) that it is a signed review when it is really just someone copying a letter with a name at the end. Shouldn’t there be a problem with such selective editing?

23

pedro 05.11.05 at 9:36 am

all this talk of acadamia is aking me hungry.

24

Kristjan Wager 05.11.05 at 10:40 am

I might be weird, but when one has a pattern of a certain kind of behaviour, I am easily convinced that they are behaving in the same way again.

And Lambert has pointed out the many flaws and outright lies in Lott’s works, so saying that Lott hasn’t lied doesn’t hold up to the facts.

25

lee scoresby 05.11.05 at 10:46 am

“When Arming America was cited in the 9th circuit on a gun case, you don’t think acadamia should be responsible for lending their reputation, via peer review, to the books credibility?”

I’ve tried to think of a witty retort to this, but your statement is so bizarre that I simply can’t think of one. By what possible standard is the credibility of “academia” on the line because Knopf, a trade press, published a book that turned out to be a fraud?* Let alone because some lawyer cited the book in a brief? If Emory had retained him, I can see how their credibility would be on the line, just as Harvard Law School’s continued employment of plagiarists destroys, in my view, their credibility… or AEI’s continued employment of Lott belies their line that they represent some sort of right-wing version of Brookings.

*Does Knopf even do peer review? If they do, is it perfunctory peer review (e.g., Palgrave or Routledge) or real peer review (e.g., Cambridge University Press)? I have no bloody clue.

26

mary rosh 05.11.05 at 10:51 am

Economist123 is NOT John Lott, so quit saying that!
I am.
So there you meanieheads!
If more of you had guns you wouldn’t need poor John Lott to bash around.

27

lee scoresby 05.11.05 at 10:52 am

“And making up a survey, not crucial to your thesis, is entirely different than multiple fabrications that your entire thesis is based upon. The survey only lent weight to Lott’s arguement.”

You sound like a parody of some of the students who come up before disciplinary committees: “okay, so I fabricated one data set, but some of the other ones were real.” Uh-huh. Don’t let the door hit you on the way to suspension.

At a more metalevel, I always love this argument.

“A: Lott did something disreputable again.
B: Look, over there, Bellisiles!”

28

bi's sock puppet 05.11.05 at 11:19 am

bi and lee scoresby are absolutely right. Why should anyone defend the use of sock puppets for any reason at all?

29

bi's sock puppet #2 05.11.05 at 11:20 am

Yes, I second that! We need more people like bi!

30

bi's sock puppet #3 05.11.05 at 11:24 am

And I third that! The Evil Elitist Establishment is always trying to bully right-minded people into agreeing with their junk! It’s time that someone like bi finally stand up against all the ills in the world!

31

Sebastian holsclaw 05.11.05 at 12:03 pm

The odd thing is that the Lott reference in Freakonomics is maybe one paragraph (I don’t have it in front of me, but it certainly was not a central part of the argument about violence). And however the Lott data actually plays out when analyzed properly, the claim of the book (that gun availability does not seem to have a big correlation to crime rate) is true. The correlation if it exists is at largest, very small.

32

Tim Lambert 05.11.05 at 12:39 pm

Sebastian believes that the claim of the book “More Guns, Less Crime” is “gun availability does not seem to have a big correlation to crime rate”.

33

jet 05.11.05 at 12:49 pm

I think Lambert’s and the following Kieran posts are just sour grapes over Lott’s comment (as econ123) being spot on. Looks like Levitt had his work mortally wounded long before he went on to make cash off it.
http://slate.msn.com/id/33569/entry/33575/

34

jet 05.11.05 at 12:50 pm

Woah, what if it was Sailer pretending to be Lott in order to bash his nemisis Levitt. I can’t wait for the miniseries.

35

nick 05.11.05 at 3:06 pm

jet is John Lott, and I claim my ten shillings.

The odd thing is that the Lott reference in Freakonomics is maybe one paragraph

Not odd at all, since it’s consistent with past behaviour. Lott has an ego the size of a small planet: that’s perhaps why he has to offload it into so many sockpuppets.

36

Brian 05.11.05 at 6:08 pm

If by “mortally wounded” Jet means that someone else put forward a competing explanation of the data that Levitt immediately showed wasn’t empirically adequate, then yeah I’d say his theories were mortally wounded. This is a sense of being mortally wounded that I wish applied to more of my theories.

37

BruceR 05.11.05 at 7:08 pm

Tim Lambert’s next post, where he identifies by IP the new Lott-sock, “Tom H” that showed up in his comments to argue over today’s earlier sock puppet story, is a classic. It really is pathological: http://cgi.cse.unsw.edu.au/~lambert/cgi-bin/blog/2005/05#lottcomments

38

derrida derider 05.11.05 at 10:40 pm

dsquared once bemoaned (apropos Iraq and WMD, actually) that there was no short name for the common error of “giving known liars the benefit of the doubt”. It is interesting to see some commenters persisting in that error here.

For all I know, Lott’s substantive argument about crime rates and concealed guns could be true – but I’d never take *his* word for it. The only thing honest people should do is completely disregard him.

39

Barry Freed 05.11.05 at 11:31 pm

Hey guys! Sock-puppet rumble on CT again! *gets popcorn*

40

Tim Lambert 05.12.05 at 12:37 am

Nick, jet is not John Lott. Try again.

41

Sebastian Holsclaw 05.12.05 at 1:35 am

“Sebastian believes that the claim of the book “More Guns, Less Crime” is “gun availability does not seem to have a big correlation to crime rate”.”

Huh? I was talking about the claim of Freakonomics. Which is pretty obvious even if you had to rely on contextual clues since I mention Freakonomics by name and “More Guns, Less Crime” contains its thesis is the title. So if you can’t tell which book I’m talking about when I talk about ‘its’ thesis (which by the way we have noted Lott disagrees with) perhaps you should question your own reading comprehension rather than shooting yourself in the foot while suggesting that mine is lacking.

42

bi 05.12.05 at 2:59 am

derrida derider: the term is “open-mindedness”. :-)

43

derrida derider 05.12.05 at 7:04 am

bi, you shouldn’t be so open-minded your brains fall out. Lott and his nom-de-plumes have consistently misrepresented themselves. If someone behaves like that, why should I give credence to any of their work? It doesn’t mean I won’t listen to some other researcher claiming that concealed guns reduce crime; it just means I’l ignore assertions made by Rosh as I cannot trust their good faith.

I save my credulousness for those who do not have a track record of abusing it.

44

bi 05.12.05 at 7:12 am

derrida derider: Exactly. And that’s why I hate the terms “open-minded” and “closed-minded”… they say nothing about the intelligence of the people who hold these traits.

45

Tim Lambert 05.12.05 at 9:02 am

Sorry sebastian, my bad.

Now, who can spot the Lott sock puppet?

46

bi 05.12.05 at 11:19 am

Lambert, that’s a no-brainer.

47

Kristjan Wager 05.12.05 at 11:45 am

Doesn’t annonymizers still exist? I am baffled why someone can’t hide it better than that.

48

bi 05.12.05 at 12:54 pm

I think even the best anonymizers are useless when they’re used by fools… :|

49

junius ponds 05.12.05 at 2:29 pm

This would make a good horror movie plot. “John Lott could be any of us!”

50

Quiddity 05.14.05 at 12:10 pm

The follow-on review (immediately after Lott’s) reads:

*****

I’ve not read the book yet, but given that Mr. Lott and the AEI find fault with the author’s methodology and conclusions, I know that Mr. Levitt and Mr. Dubner are on the right track. Folks should know that the American Enterprise Institute is a neoconservative think tank. Unbiased they are not.

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