Tales of irony

by Ted on October 10, 2003

Via Randy Barnett, I see that John Lott isn’t the only disgraced gun researcher who likes playing dress-up on the internet. It looks like Michael Bellesiles has a sock puppet too. “Benny Smith” knows a lot of things that only Bellesiles would know. Bellesiles hasn’t admitted it, but having read the story, I can’t think of another explanation.

That’s really embarassing for Bellesiles. What’s more embarassing, though, is the way that Lott’s fiercest critics have continued to stick up for Bellesiles. Even after his work was debunked, Bellesiles is being promoted on a speaking tour by People for the American Way. Just this week, the editors of the American Prospect published a piece by him as if he was a trustworthy source. And of course, any respectable think tank would have fired him a long time ago, but he keeps hanging on at Brookings.

Sad, really.

UPDATE: (Irony hat off) Now that I think of it, what in the world is Bellesiles doing nowadays? I just realized that I have no idea, and googling didn’t help.

(Also, now that my hat is off, I should reiterate without irony that the story about Bellesiles does seem true, and it really is embarassing for him. Don’t want to be misinterpreted.)



JohnC 10.10.03 at 11:16 pm

That’s pretty rich.


TM 10.11.03 at 12:24 am

I think you mean American Enterprise Institute, no. I’m sure Lott fits in well with other heavyweights there like Kevin “36,000 Dow” Hassett.


Rob 10.11.03 at 1:26 am

Saw somewhere that Beseilles was trying to “re-collect” his data and has a gonzo publisher lined up.


Ralph E. Luker 10.11.03 at 8:27 am

Sorry, but the whole of Barlow’s second paragraph reads like a parody of sock-puppetry. It is Bellesiles’s fiercest critics who have continued to stick up for Lott. It is Lott who is sponsored on a speaking tour, not by People for the American Way, but by the Federalist Society. It is Lott who is recently published by National Review Online, not The American Prospect. It is Lott who continues to hang out at a think tank, at the American Enterprise Institute, not at Brookings.


erik 10.11.03 at 10:22 am

Ralph: why, exactly, are you sorry? Might it be because you failed to click on the links and in so doing get the rhetorical device that is being deployed?

Not casting stones, or anything, of course. I happened to initially read it without clicking on the links and got rather pissed at the People For The American Way et al. until I did so. All in all, a great paragraph.


Patrick Nielsen Hayden 10.11.03 at 2:57 pm

Ted, I trust you’ll be monitoring the weblog world for the first blogger to breathlessly pass on the word that Bellesiles is being published in The American Prospect and toured by People for the American Way.


Ralph E. Luker 10.11.03 at 4:04 pm

Eric, Cast all the stones you want and write it off to my being slow-witted. It _is_ a great paragraph.


Brett Bellmore 10.11.03 at 5:24 pm

It’s amusing, I must admit, but the analogy ultimately fails. Lott’s wrongs, as real as they may be, are a molehill compared to Bellesiles’ mountain of fabrications. Aside from that Mary Rosh idiocy, Lott’s differences with his detractors’ conclusions are down in the noise. Literally, they’re comparable to the error band.

Bellesiles, on the other hand, was guilty of systematic fraud. Fabrication of sources, misrepresentation of them. His whole thesis was built on a foundation of lies, as was exposed long before he won his prizes and plaudits. Issued by people who didn’t much CARE, in as much as his work was useful. Emory barely touched on Bellesiles’ offenses, when they held their investigation.

So it’s entirely fair that Lott is diminished, but not gone from the scene, while Bellesiles is a disgraced non-entity. That’s the status both deserve.

Your glee over Lott’s problems is understandable, then, but it’s still the glee of creationists obsessing over Piltdown man. A trifle devoid of proportion…


Rob 10.11.03 at 5:50 pm

Well except for Lott making his stuff up and changing his model and data mining, Brett is absolutely right it is only about Mary Rosh.


Jimbo Jones 10.11.03 at 6:16 pm

brett, I think the Dead Parrots blog detailed what lot did pretty well a while back. IIRC, he made claims about his data that were false, due to what initially seemed to be a data error. But then he quickly rejiggered, and for a while removed some of the data when this was pointed out. This is the statistical equivalent of historical fabrication. I don’t want to get into an argument about which is worse, but they seem pretty similar to me.


roger 10.11.03 at 6:23 pm

It never ceases to amaze me how cruel the virtuous can be. Lott’s crimes, and Bellesisles, apparently mean that they are forever banned from the discourse, and should be set out as beggars somewhere, eh? Because Bellesisles book failed and was finagled by the man in several respects, it makes sense that Emory fired him — but it would make no sense for American Prospect, if it took it into its editorial head to do so, shouldn’t hire him to write an article. The same is true with Lott, who, while certainly engaging in shenanigans with his data, has also presented a pretty powerful case for considering such factors in the gun debate as how to factor in the protective aspect of owning guns — which is surely not irrelevant to judging how guns are used in this country.

The quality of mercy, man. There is nothing more dystopian than a meritocratic utopia, where the scarlet “A”s are earned by the Great Headmaster, and “F”s get you sent off to the farm.


Rob 10.11.03 at 7:05 pm


These aren’t mistakes but deliberate falsehoods. Since even referee’s usually don’t sit down and go through everything line by line (not that most of the work is refereed here) scholarship assumes that those doing the work while self interested are also honest. If they are proven to have comitted deliberate falsehoods, no one has the time to go through some very technical pieces to distiniguish if this time they are being honest and so in the interest of time and forward movement it behooves strong punishment for dishonesty.


Patrick Nielsen Hayden 10.12.03 at 5:29 am

Bloody hell, I didn’t expect it to happen in this very comment thread.

Hello! All-seeing omnipotent aliens! Take me now!


wc 10.13.03 at 6:57 pm


“disgraced researcher”

John lott is not quite disgraced. Check this:


Comments on this entry are closed.