Fraud Balloon Pops

by Kieran Healy on October 18, 2006

“Following up on yesterday’s post”:, David Kane’s unfounded accusations have been removed from the front page of the “Social Science Statistics”: blog. SSS blogger Amy Perfors “apologises for the error of judgment”: and says they removed the post because the “tone is unacceptable, the facts are shoddy, and the ideas are not endorsed by myself, the other authors on the sidebar, or the Harvard IQSS.” Good for them. IQSS Director “Gary King”: also “comments briefly”: on the matter.



hziffer 10.19.06 at 12:10 am

But isn’t always a bit awkward when a public statement includes, as Amy Perfors did, the phrase “I hate censorship, but…”

I hate censorship but what? She actually read and approved the blog entry before deleting it. It would be meritorious if someone at Crooked Timber were to actually repost the deleted blog here and include the comments that explained what was wrong with it.

Preserving a public statement and then pointing out its faults seems more in line with an open society than simply disappearing statements we dislike — especially when the public statement is supposedly so well disproved, as is claimed. (We thoroughly refuted his points, and then we removed all evidence that he ever made them?)

This is not meant as a criticism of Amy Perfors, however. In academia, only alcohol and tenure can give you courage. The rest of the time, we are obliged to simply say, I love free speech, but, etc…


engels 10.19.06 at 1:07 am

Let me come down on the side of Perfors. She did the decent thing, and the sensible thing, removing a post which was embarrassing, unethical and possibly libellous. For those reasons it wouldn’t be possible to leave it up. What’s a little bit odd is Gary King’s comment:

Despite many good points all parties had in this discussion, it was distracting some folks here from our mission to make the world safe for quantitative methodology.

I had thought that the post in question was rather bereft of “good points”. I’d thought that was why they removed it. And if you are going to remove posts (rightly, I think) in this way, this is precisely the kind of thing you don’t want to say afterwards, as it allows people who are inclined to such theories to believe that a reasonable criticism of the study has been suppressed.


harry b 10.19.06 at 5:32 am

I think engels is just right; the Perfors comment and apology has the right tone, and libel should be removed. She explains why she approved it despite reservations, and describes her role as moderator, and seems very reasonable about it. King’s statement is much less straightforward, and leaves open the possibility that it was the fault of the readers as much as of the poster that it was distracting.


Ragout 10.19.06 at 7:58 am

I don’t see Perfors post on the SSS blog anymore. It looks like they’ve retracted the retraction!


John Emerson 10.19.06 at 10:00 am

It wasn’t censorship, though. It was retroactive editing. Editors’ whole job is gatekeeping. The feeling I have is that they realized that they had trusted and respected Kane more than they should have, and didn’t want to have to spend the next few months cleaning up his messes.


Backword Dave 10.19.06 at 11:25 am

Ragout, it’s there if you follow the link. It’s not linked from the front page; its place has been taken by the Gary King post (both have the ‘Meta-analysis’ post as the immediately preceding entry).

FWIW, I think SSS’s best course when David Kane approached them would have to tell him that Blogger is free. I noticed that even when his posts were up his own credentials and contact information were not available. So if anything hit the fan, SSS and its editors would get it and not David Kane or his academic reputation. I suppose we have to concede that he was smart there.


derrida derider 10.21.06 at 8:11 am

I think it was a mistake to remove it – it should have been left up so Kane could be pilloried by all and sundry. Just possibly he may then have learned something.

Instead he’s no doubt muttering now about “political correctness”, “censorship” and “groupthink”. By attributing prejudice to others he’s been relieved of the burden of examining his own prejudices.


John Emerson 10.21.06 at 8:40 am

What d.d. said.

However, considering the purpose of that blog (to be a public voice for social science statistics), they had to do it.

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