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PostWatch: An irregular correction to the Washington Post

Brought to you by Christopher Rake


Wednesday, February 12, 2003
5:26 PM

The Post and are hyping up parallels between John Lott's embarrassing disclosure about posting under a pseudonym to defend his research and losing data on the effects of concealed-carry. I don't have time to do all the links at the moment, but this comparison, in the Post referncing Slate's Timothy Noah, is ridiculous:
Lott vehemently denies faking the study but does acknowledge that he created Mary -- an admission that has his critics suspecting the worst. "We know Lott invented an online persona. Did he invent the 98 percent figure? Did he invent the survey it purportedly came from? We don't know," Noah wrote last week.

Does all this sound familiar? Last year, Emory University historian Michael Bellesiles was unable to produce the data on which his prizewinning book "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture" were based. The study suggested that few people in frontier America had guns, a finding that displeased gun lovers. Bellesiles said his records were lost in a flood. A university investigation raised doubts, and he resigned. No comment, say AEI administrators.

Lott is embarking upon new research to bolster his earlier claim that brandishing a gun deterred a crime 98% of the time. This is something Michael Bellesiles could not do, since his research (claiming low early American gun-ownership rates) was based either on error or deliberate falsification. And this account in the Post masks the magnitude of L'affaire Bellesiles, whose findings did not merely "displease gun lovers" or "raise doubts" in a university investigation. It did rather more than that. It led to an almost universal debunking of his book's thesis, a forced resignation from Emory after a damning university investigation, the withdrawal of an NEH grant, the termination of his publishing contract, and revocation of the immensely prestigious Bancroft award.

Other than that, the two cases are exactly the same.

UPDATE: Here is an exhaustive blogging of L'Affaire Lott. My quick reading of it is that it's anti-Lott, but it includes some pro-Lott links as well as responses from...Mrs. Lott!

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