Political Animal


April 28, 2012 10:02 AM Disgraced gun nut apologist John Lott: he’s baaaccccckkk

By Kathleen Geier

This story is from earlier in the week, but somehow I missed it. Noted fraudster and gun policy researcher John Lott has apparently been admitted back into polite society again. As Media Matters reports, on April 25, Lott published a garbage, error-riddled op ed in the New York Daily News about Florida’s infamous “Stand Your Ground” laws. Just a day earlier, he was cited respectfully in a vomitorious New York Times “trend piece on concealed carry clothing for the ‘fashion aware gun owner’.”

As we say in my ancestral homeland of New Jersey, I gottaproblemwiththat.

Lott is problematic on a number of levels. First of all, his famous research that purports to show that more guns lead to less crime is incredibly shoddy from the standpoint of social science methodology. So much so, in fact, that back in grad school an econometrics professor of mine taught a class based on Lott’s dataset, which basically amounted to an entire course in how not to do quantitative social science research.

Worse than the crap social science, though, are the persuasive allegations that Lott committed outright fraud, by basically making up survey data.

And as if that’s not enough, there’s the ludicrous Mary Rosh affair, in which Lott was caught red-handed writing pro-Lott comments and reviews in various internet forums, under the name “Mary Rosh.” It was, as I recall, one of the first well-known internet sock puppeting scandals.

And also … in addition to being a fraud and a hack, Lott has demonstrated himself to be, well, pretty much a jerk. For example, he unsuccessfully sued Freakonomics author Steven Levitt for defamation for Levitt’s criticism of Lott’s work — a dick move if ever there was one, and an act that seriously violates the norms governing scholarly debates.

In short, there is abundant evidence that Lott is in no way an honest scholarly broker. By all rights, his serious ethical lapses should have resulted in his permanent exile from the op-ed pages and other public opinion forums. As early as 2003, criminologist Mark Kleiman argued that it was “past time” for “for defenders of gun rights to stop citing Lott as an authority.” So far as I have been able to determine, Lott does not currently enjoy an academic affiliation; no university in its right mind would want to tarnish its reputation by associating itself with him. Lott once held a sinecure at the right-wing think tank The American Enterprise Institute, but even that organization has washed its hands of him.

Which brings us to a disturbing question: why in the world are the Daily News and New York Times giving this two-bit charlatan a public platform? Do they believe that playing their loyal readers for suckers is a clever business strategy? I could understand their respectful treatment of such a person if we were still back in the dark ages before the internet. But now it doesn’t take more than a few minutes to do a google search and get up to speed on someone whose work you are reviewing for publication, or whom you are considering as an interview subject. Just check out the dude’s Wikipedia entry, for heaven’s sake — it tells you everything you need to know, and more.

For the mainstream media, ignorance is no longer an excuse for foisting cheap con men like Lott upon an unsuspecting public. Seriously: with all the powerful information-gathering tools that are now available at their fingertips, this is the best they can do? I see things like this and I think that traditional media can’t die quickly enough.

Kathleen Geier is a writer and public policy researcher who lives in Chicago. She blogs at Inequality Matters. Find her on Twitter: @Kathy_Gee


  • trog69 on April 28, 2012 11:51 AM:

    Good morning, Ms. Geier. I'm a bit confused. The wikipedia link you provided doesn't really paint Mr. Lott as someone not worthy of an op-ed column. In fact, it seems to debunk many of the items you point to as controversial. Only the sock-puppetry looks like a slam-dunk mark against him.

    I don't know anything about John Lott, so please don't think I'm an apologist for him, but I'd need more proof than that Wiki article to pass judgment on him.

  • c u n d gulag on April 28, 2012 12:01 PM:

    I don't know why you disparage John Lott and his evidence so much.

    He supports his points by pulling statistics from the go-to source for all Conservatives - Otto Hizzass, from the famous Boollshitt-Hugh-Hall think tank.

  • Matthew B. on April 28, 2012 12:11 PM:

    trog69: Try looking here. Reams of detail about all Lott's shenanigans.

  • TCinLA on April 28, 2012 12:14 PM:

    There's all kinds of reasons why the Daily News and the New York Times would do that. The Daily News would do it because it's the Daily News - you know, good for wrapping the poop you scoop when out walking your dog? Their motto has long been: "Standards? Standards? We don't need no steenking standards!" (Blam!!)

    The NYT is more problematic. Staff reduced, the best and the brightest have moved on to greener pastures (or been fired for not being willing to get their "publishers' kneepads" out) as they have at most newspapers, leaving the otherwise-unemployables willing to do their corporate masters' bidding - it's the same anywhere (see: the neighborhood advertiser formerly known as The L.A. Times). Copy-editing and "fact" checking are non-existant and most of the idiots writing there wouldn't know John Lott from the homeless guy who panhandles them outside the front door of the paper. That's why it happens. "Never ascribe to evil what can be explained by stupidity."

  • Mark L. on April 28, 2012 12:18 PM:

    Media organizations rely on him as a source because they seek ideological balance, but are too lazy to do it properly. They rely on hacks like Lott because they can ask a question and get a reliably predictable answer. His responses fit nicely into their narratives of what conservatives think. His contributions just confirm the underlying conventional wisdom.

  • Ken D. on April 28, 2012 12:22 PM:

    John Lott is indeed tenacious, but that just means he has been deservedly beaten down more thoroughly and frequently than just about any other academic and/or internet fraudster of the last couple of decades. Any who was too young or otherwise not paying attention at the time, do some research.

  • Daddy Love on April 28, 2012 12:27 PM:


    "...it doesnít take more than a few minutes to do a google search and get up to speed on [someone's] work "

    Try it sometime. I've been following this hack (Lott, that is) for years, and I know that definitive debunkings of his work are plentiful and easily discovered. Sure, don't take this poster's word for it. Look it up.

    And while you're at it, realize that a Wikipedia article is not the SOURCE of information, it is the RESULT of information. So trace the references at the bottom of the Wikipedia article, fer Chrissake. This is how we learn.

  • Bluecrab on April 28, 2012 12:46 PM:

    "vVomitorious"? "dick move"?

    What a pathetic, childish post. Who is your target audience? Fifteen-year-olds?

    It's really sad how much the quality of the weekend content of this blog has deteriorated since Steve Benen left.

  • Hedda Peraz on April 28, 2012 1:00 PM:

    Stephen Glass and Judith Miller- both respected reporters for the New York Effin' Times!

    Inventing oneself is sooo easy in America. I, for example, graduated from Harvard, went to 'nam, won a Pulitzer for my reporting on My Lai, and am now a tenured professor of journalism at a major University. In spare moments I also contribute to several on-line blogs.

  • Robert on April 28, 2012 2:00 PM:

    "Seriously: with all the powerful information-gathering tools that are now available at their fingertips, this is the best they can do? I see things like this and I think that traditional media canít die quickly enough."


  • trog69 on April 28, 2012 2:03 PM:

    Dearest Daddy Love. Since you side-stepped the issue I commented on, and it's "hold a moron's hand" day, I'll refresh your memory. The link provided by the article writer was the Wikipedia one I read. That was what I commented on. It sure doesn't seem to say what the author here asserted that it did. What any other site does say, isn't relevant to what I commented on. Get it now?

    Probably not.

  • trog69 on April 28, 2012 2:08 PM:

    Matthew B., thanks for the link. I'll check it out. I'm sure that Mr. Lott is not a straight-dealer, and I don't think that our host is misleading me. I was just not convinced that the Wikipedia article was very compelling in that regard. I'm also well aware of just how little the Conservative side cares about coherent, honest, scholarship.

  • aimai on April 28, 2012 3:11 PM:

    Kathy G,
    I just wanted to write in and tell you that I pretty much only read this blog on the weekends, in hopes of reading your work. I wish they'd bump Kilgore and give you the daily slot. I don't comment much because the new captcha is hard on my eyes and I often can't log in but I love your work. I'm old enough to remember the details of the John Lott debacle and the Mary Rosh thing--I was at the American Bar Foundation when his work was first coming under sustained criticism. Citing his work, or letting him publish, is like using pictures of Piltdown Man to prove a point about Evolution. The guy is a noted fabulist and liar.


  • Texas Aggie on April 28, 2012 7:47 PM:

    Ms. Geier,

    You do excellent work. Keep it up and maybe suggest to Edward that you would be glad to write an article or two on a daily basis since it seems that he seems to be having lots of outside problems that distract him from his posting.

    I remember this Lott person, but at the time I wasn't too clued into what he was trying to do. I just knew that he wasn't the most reliable person in the world.

  • Richard 1976 on April 28, 2012 9:34 PM:

    Ms. Geier:

    You are clearly wrong on the point regarding Steven Levitt. Levitt lost half the case having to issue an apology letter (http://chronicle.com/article/Unusual-Agreement-Means/39297). The Chronicle piece says that Levitt was forced to offer "offers a doozy of a concession."

    You are also on very shaky grounds for your source regarding the "persuasive allegations that Lott committed outright fraud." Your source apparently has made up documents and engaged in other dishonest efforts (http://doubletap.cs.umd.edu/WikipediaStudy/).

  • Mary Rosh on April 28, 2012 10:41 PM:

    Personally, I like everything he's written. A genius.

  • smartalek on April 29, 2012 12:52 AM:

    Unless my memory's failing by even more than usual, Stephen Glass never wrote for the NYT -- that was Jason Blair.
    Stephen Glass was House Fabulist at The New Republic.
    A completely understandable confusion; all those Serious Centrist Village rags look alike from more than about 2 yards.

  • dilbert dogbert on April 29, 2012 5:53 PM:

    John Lott? Just where did I see that name? Oh, in the booklet from the University of Chicago Press advertising books I might want to read. There on page 37 is "More Guns Less Crime". Has the U of Chicago have no shame?

  • Tim Lambert on April 29, 2012 6:39 PM:

    Richard 1976 would appear to be a John Lott sock puppet.

  • Area Man on April 30, 2012 1:00 PM:

    I don't recall Lott ever having gone anywhere. There is no penalty for fraud or intellectual dishonesty in right-wing hack land. He's been churning out op-eds and other crap all this time, and the wingnut welfare he was getting from AEI only recently ended.

    I do wonder however how one manages to get an article in something like the Times. Did they approach him asking him to write one? Or does he have pre-written missives that he shops around? Either way, their bad judgement is astonishing.

  • Richard 1976 on April 30, 2012 3:15 PM:

    Lambert's comments here are extremely funny. If people are interested, please see this link here for the long list of people that Lambert has falsely accused of being Lott (http://doubletap.cs.umd.edu/WikipediaStudy/namecalling.htm and see also this http://doubletap.cs.umd.edu/WikipediaStudy/). Here is a list of people that Lambert has false accused of being Lott:

    Purtilo While Purtilo has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott over 20 times in different places, Jim Purtilo is actually a computer science professor at the University of Maryland.
    Stotts While Stotts has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott several times, he is a Professor at University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill
    HenryBowman While HenryBowman has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott several times, he is a professor at a small midwestern university. He was accused of being a sockpuppet for just pointing out that this page was contentious.
    Cbaus While CBaus has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott at least four times in different places, Chad Baus lives in Ohio.
    Gordinier While Gordinier has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott four times, Michael Gordinier teaches at the Washington University Business School in St. Louis, Missouri .
    Henry1776 While Henry1776 has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott, he is Henry Schaffer, at NC State.
    Sniper1 While Sniper1has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott four times, he is Mike Fleisher, a resident of suburban MD.
    Serinity Serinity was accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott four times before people stopped claiming that he was a sockpuppet in November, 2005. (Washington, DC,, Speakeasy, Inc.) While has been accused of being a sockpuppet for Lott several times, Jeff Koch lives in the same city as Lott, but he is not John Lott.

  • Carl N. Brown on November 25, 2012 10:34 AM:

    Sorry to be late, but Lambert also accused Al Lowe of the "Pink Pistols" (a GLBT self defense advocacy group) of being John Lott and Lambert repeatedly vandalized Wikipedia User pages of people like Al Lowe and Jim Purtilo posting and reposting his belief they were John Lott in place of their own user profile. Kinda obsessive there Tim.

    How is John Lott regarded in his own field, economics?
    "John Lott documents how far 'politically correct' vested interests are willing to go to denigrate anyone who dares disagree with them. Lott has done us all a service by his thorough, thoughtful, scholarly approach to a highly controversial issue."--Milton Friedman, 1976 Nobel Prize Winner in Economics