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Ghost of Andrew Breitbart Finds Negative Review Of 1989 Elizabeth Warren Book, Declares National Emergency

As if! It's nowhere near this titillatingHow frightening is Elizabeth Warren to wingnuts? Scary enough that Breitbart remnant Big Government is running a Very Important four-part series by Micheal Patrick Leahy about Warren’s scholarship. Four parts! Wow! That must really be some dynamite expos√© they have, huh? Absolutely, if you consider repeating the same charges from a negative book review over four articles “dynamite.”

Unlike many Breitbart stories that are made up out of pure delusional fantasy, this one actually does at least start with a basis in observable fact: there actually was a minor academic squabble involving the research methodology in a 1989 book about personal bankruptcy co-authored by Warren (along with Teresa A. Sullivan and Jay Westbrook), As We Forgive Our Debtors: Bankruptcy and Consumer Credit in America. Essentially, it boils down to this: in a 1990 review of Warren’s book, Rutgers Law Professor Philip Shuchman took issue with the book’s methodology, and accused the authors of “repeated instances of scientific misconduct” in their survey of individual and family bankruptcies. There’s more, but that’s pretty much the core of the accusation. Shuchman’s review is available on the web, for those hardy enough to plow through it; like many academic book reviews, it argues with both the research design and conclusions of the Warren book, questioning whether the study uses data from a sufficiently representative sample to justify its conclusions, and taking issue with how the authors define their terms. Like many a writer of a negative review, Schuchman really did not like this book.

Ah, but what about that damning phrase, “repeated instances of scientific misconduct”? Is there anything to it? Maybe, if you agree with Schuchman’s critique of the book. Schuchman himself died in 2004, and Leahy quotes extensively from obituaries praising him as a scholar. Surely Schuchman knew what he was talking about, since people said he was a great guy after he died! But the phrase itself is magical, especially if you divorce it, as Leahy gleefully has, from the context of Schuchman’s review article. In the article, it’s perfectly clear that the phrase refers to the methodology and conclusions of a single book. But hey, what happens if we move that phrase into a headline?

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Good heavens! She must have been some kind of hideous monster who misconducted science again and again, heedless of the consequences! “Repeated instances” here implies that her whole academic career had to be full of charges of misconduct — and if you glance only at the headline, you might even assume that the problem wasn’t just one bad book review, but a whole charge sheet of academic crimes, made by multiple accusers.

In the best tradition of “Glenn Beck has never denied murdering a girl in the 1990s” logic, Leahy deftly pivots from the fact that Schuchman accused Warren of misconduct to the assumption that any positive mention of her scholarship simply flies in the face of that damning accusation. Thus, each time he mentions a Harvard official extolling Warren’s “excellent scholarship,” Leahy can sneer, Oh yeah? How could she be “excellent” with all those repeated instances of misconduct? At one point, Leahy even takes issue with the opinion of one scholar that Warren’s work was “thoroughly respectable.” Since Harvard was looking for “excellent,” why did they settle for merely “thoroughly respectable,” huh, huh? “Clearly,” he intones, “factors beyond teaching and quality of academic research played a role in her hiring.” Probably something really bad, we bet.

In any case, the specific accusations against Warren’s 1989 book almost don’t matter, except to fans of academic arcana. It’s pretty clear that, despite Leahy’s best efforts to spin it into a massive scandal spanning several institutions, there really isn’t much here beyond what appears to be a long-ago settled scholarly dustup about methodology and conclusions. And in fact, there doesn’t have to be any substance, as long as there’s a long, four-part series that says there’s a scandal — the rightwing blogosphere is already trying to build this into a Thing, and the details are almost immaterial. Several pages just spitting out the phrase “repeated instances of scientific misconduct” is what they’re after, and really, it’s about all they’ve got. And who knows, it worked for “Climategate!”

We do at least appreciate the irony of Breitbart.com trying to damage a political opponent with a story about whether her work demonstrates the highest standards of academic rigor. That takes some Chootzpah.

[Big Government]

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About the author

Doktor Zoom lives in Boise, Idaho. He acquired his pseudonym after being differently punctual to too many meetings. He is not a medical doctor, although he has a real PhD (in Rhetoric and Composition).

View all articles by Doktor Zoom

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149 comments

  1. hagajim

    start with a basis in observable fact…and rapidly moves into the fantasy land of the rest of the wingnut universe.

    1. Generation[redacted]

      What's more, Breitbart was accused of repeated instances of misconduct, with a walrus.

  2. actor212

    Leahy merely operates on the assumption that if you can't fool all of the people all of the time, you only need to fool fools most of the time, because they're too stoopit to remember that you fooled them once.

  3. actor212

    I'd like to hear Andrew Breitbart deny that his fatal heart attack was caused by deep penetration into the anus of a now-dead male hooker.

    If he can't, it must be true.

    1. Generation[redacted]

      The lasting lesson of his life and death will be this: Don't fuck a walrus if you have a heart condition.

    2. zippy_w_pinhead

      Hooker libel!
      the fact is, that male hooker was already dead when Andy penetrated him

  4. MumbletyPesto

    academic squabble involving the research methodology in a 1989 book

    So I'm *not* still dreaming. We have time-traveled back to 1989. Ryan White has missed us — and I apparently missed where Warren was even relevant twenty-odd years ago.

  5. EatsBabyDingos

    If Breitbart were alive today, he'd be clawing like hell at his casket. And I'd be laughing like hell, and probably going to hell, but what the hell.

    Hello, Nurse!

    1. Willardbot9000_V2.5

      hahaha…yeah, he'd be making muffled whiney sounds and you could then say (or I could, with a big ear-ear smile) "I'd offer to help but this is 'Merika, you claw your way out by your bootstraps!" and maybe add, "if we helped him we'd just encourage his culture of dependency on hands out…which would destroy his freedom to suffocate" then hum "America the Beautiful" until the sounds fade…but I'm not bitter and I don't hate wingnuts…I just want them to live consistently, after all…the sociopathic motherfuckers…

  6. Goonemeritus

    “Repeated instances of scientific misconduct”?

    A phrase that means you have depicted a dinosaur without Jesus riding it to most Republicans.

  7. BaldarTFlagass

    “repeated instances of scientific misconduct”

    And what about repeated instances of journalistic misconduct, hmmm?

    1. Willardbot9000_V2.5

      I was checking reviews on Rotten Tomatoes of the new Batman movie and stumbled onto one of the reviews being from Big Hollywood…fucking hilarious. I watched the film with two of my nephews last week and thought how overtly political the film was in favor of Occupy, the 99%, etc. This review was SO FAR afield from the film I saw it was fucking ridiculous. I mean there was this movie I saw, every one in the theater saw and then this movie this asshole saw. I was going to comment by asking this guy what the color the sky is in his world but it reminded me too much of the dumbshits who claimed the Dark Knight was a paen to Bush when it raked the US over the coals…either way Breitfarters are just stupid and demented…

  8. LastGasp

    … if you consider repeating the same charges from a negative book review over four articles…

    Hmm, didn't Joseph Goebbels say something like this? “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

      1. rickmaci

        No, I think it was Lee Atwater (as long as we are running with a blog string about dead crypto Nazi propagandists.)

    1. James Michael Curley

      “Falsehood flies, and the truth comes limping after it.”
      — Johnathan Swift, early 18th Cent.

    2. tessiee

      Reagan used to do that, too, except that he was too dumb to remember what he'd lied about the first time, so his lies got progressively worse as they repeated them. The first time around, he'd say a four-month fetus was viable, the second time around, it would be a three-month fetus, the third time, it would be a three-week fetus. He smiled a lot, so nobody ever questioned it.

    3. sewollef

      Hmm, didn't Joseph Goebbels say something like this? “If you tell a lie big enough and keep repeating it, people will eventually come to believe it."

      That maybe true, but it doesn't mean Leahy's going to invade Poland, surely.

      Or does it?

    1. edgydrifter

      Sticking an ashtray in your lady's armpit and grinding your elbow into her pelvis never struck me as effective foreplay, but maybe that was the style in the early '60s.

  9. edgydrifter

    Elizabeth Warren's entire life is a fraud because she once made an economic argument based on a sample size and methodology that some other professor didn't think was sufficiently representative, but Rick Santorum, Hank Williams Jr., Rush Limbaugh and about eleventy-million Republican agitators calling Obama "HITLER!" passes muster because, duh, that's self-evident.

    1. One_who_wanders

      As a former academic social scientist I heartily approve of this comment. To say they love to split hairs on methodology is dramatically understate the case.

      1. Chet Kincaid_

        Harvey Weinstein nearly has the deal put together with Tolkien's estate: "RRvRR: Middle Earth vs. Westeroth." The War Of The Geeks begins with conceptual sketches and test animations at ComiCon 2013!!

    1. Texan_Bulldog

      I can't help thinking the Breitbart readership is more suited to 'four very short paragraphs' than four parts.

      1. sullivanst

        Well, if they're four very small parts, it probably has a comfortable familiarity to regular visitors.

        1. Typodong3

          Thats funny cause the other day I was thinking that the equivalent of a Hobbit trilogy would be a 9-part LOTR epic. Plus extras.

  10. poorgradstudent

    Now, now, which is more likely: that this entire website is run by ideologically fanatical morons, or that people form different opinions about academic things?

  11. BaldarTFlagass

    I hear she cheated on a spelling test in the second grade, too, by writing the words on her hand before the test.

  12. SayItWithWookies

    So a Breitbart site is now saying there's something wrong with scientific misconduct? And how would they even know? That would be like me criticizing Breitbart's conduct at the bus station gloryhole.

  13. Ducksworthy

    Conservatives are always appalled at the free flow of ideas that academics take for granted: vis the "global warming gate" emails where scientists were actually critical of their critics.

  14. BlueStateLibel

    Wait, I thought the wingnuts didn't believe in science? So who cares if it's misconducted? I'm confused.

    1. ChuckieJesus

      "You Librulz and all yer High Order Thinkin' Skills! No wonder yer so easily confused by the facts!"

  15. MissTaken

    I heard if you compare Elizabeth Warren's supposed writings to those of Bill Ayers and Saul Alinsky there is a disproportionate use of the words 'the' and 'and' proving that Warren did not write them.

  16. Typodong3

    I hear Obama is "a monster, and the worst dad ever, who never lets me do anything fun."

    - Malia Ann, 2003 (Age 5)

  17. Callyson

    Meanwhile, the ads in the link above for the Shuchman review:

    $3000 – 125,000 debt aid?

    Affordable bankruptcy!

    Wipe out credit card debt!

  18. Chet Kincaid_

    Elizabeth Warren's third grade report card indicates "numerous occurrences of mischief during recess." How is it possible that an institution like Harvard would offer an academic position to a woman who has demonstrated "numerous occurrences of mischief"? Sadly, her third grade teacher, Mrs. Hortense Mayweather, suffers from advanced Alzheimer's, and cannot comment. So we may never know the exact nature of these "numerous" acts of "mischief," nor what favors, bribery or misconduct influenced her hiring by the liberal institution despite her dark past.

    1. HistoriCat

      I understand that some of her teachers died under unknown circumstances – what terrible secrets is she willing to kill for?

      1. Chet Kincaid_

        Following the trail through an authoritative thesaurus reveals these disturbing associations with "mischief": "devilry", "unscrupulousness", "delinquency", "lawlessness" and "anarchy". When will Ms. Warren explain her dealings with such synonyms?!

    2. tessiee

      "Elizabeth Warren's third grade report card indicates "numerous occurrences of mischief during recess."

      There was also that…
      UNFORTUNATE INCIDENT…
      during musical chairs.
      It's since been hushed up.

  19. Callyson

    Page two of the review clearly states that the writer wrote in favor of giving a National Science Foundation grant to Warren and her co – authors. Whatever he thought of the result of her research, clearly the guy did not think she was a charlatan.

    I'd say I hope Shuchman is kicking Breitbart's ass as I write this, but I suspect the two are in different locations for the afterlife…

    1. actor212

      I believe the dudes with wings can get a day pass to visit friends and acquaintances in the hot place, so long as they promise to Lord it over them

  20. MacRaith

    So one of the worst practitioners of journalistic misconduct is accusing Warren of scientific misconduct?

  21. Blueb4sinrise

    I think this is the same Philip Shuchman who wrote:

    While serving on the Bankruptcy Commission staff I suggested such barbarisms
    as a bankruptcy law that would expire in ten or twenty years. Also it
    seemed evident that a substantial number of personal bankruptcies could be
    prevented by comprehensive medical insurance.

    http://scholarship.law.duke.edu/cgi/viewcontent.c

      1. Blueb4sinrise

        Yeah, just trying to play the game. First couple pages of teh Googlez were references from winger blogs on his review of Warren et al. Finally got to something else and it wasn't hard to find a quote that would damage his cred. amongst the wingeratti. Plus, dude was a Law Prof. fer chrissakes.

    1. tessiee

      Wait, this guy Schuchman was at Rutgers AND Duke?
      This conclusively proves that everyone at Duke is from New Jersey.

  22. MissTaken

    In Junior High I completely botched the dissections of both a frog and a cow's eyeball. Because of my “repeated instances of scientific misconduct” I never became a US Senator.

  23. Tundra Grifter

    My favorite soft-core college book is the classic "Campus Tramp." It was set in my hometown of Yellow Springs, Ohio. Those are the Antioch College towers on the cover. And it may have been written by a famous author.

    The story in town (spread by those who couldn't get their hands on a copy, as it is rather rare) was the characters were named for dorms but that really isn't true.

    Still my fav. For old times' sake.

      1. James Michael Curley

        Cosmo must have toned down their covers now that Helen is out as editor. I always got a kick out of NYC corner newsstands where Playboy had ‘logo boards’ in front of the mag but Cosmos was right out front on the clips often with more skin showing than Playboy.

  24. el_donaldo

    I'm surprised that Leahy was able to find enough sources written in crayon by third-graders for him to complete a four-part series on Warren's scholarship.

    Probably a cottage industry of Breitbart Industries: Academic Scholarship for Dummies, As Told to and Transcribed by Small Children.

  25. fartknocker

    Brietfart: The Nancy Grace of the Tea Party. I'm sure he was buried wearing a woman's pant suit. Prove me wrong bitches.

  26. SorosBot

    Wait, why would a site that denies the very existence of science when it comes to climate change have a problem with scientific misconduct?

  27. An_Outhouse

    Repeated instances of misconduct is how I ended up with three children. Are they accusing Elizabeth Warren of being a whore?

  28. Chow Yun Flat

    The real problem Zombie Brietbart has with Warren and her book is that she wrote a book that someone would take seriously enough to attempt to refute.

    They like books with short sentences and pictures.

  29. DahBoner

    Breitard's brain is crawling with maggots right now.

    Not to mention what's going on in his casket!

    //rimshot

  30. tessiee

    "Thus, each time he mentions a Harvard official extolling Warren’s “excellent scholarship,” Leahy can sneer, Oh yeah? How could she be “excellent” with all those repeated instances of misconduct?"

    Yeah, because who's gonna believe Harvard over [snortle!] Rutgers and Duke?

  31. emmelemm

    So, Dok Zoom, I'm assuming that the cover art up there came from your extensive personal collection (amongst the Jello cookbooks and the Bloom County cartoons)…

  32. tessiee

    "repeating the same charges from a negative book review over four articles"

    If only they'd ended all four articles with "PS: Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt, Matt!"

  33. larrykat

    The silver lining to this is that very few (if any) of the right-wing morons who might buy into this kind of masturbation will not have the reading comprehension skills to understand very much of it.

  34. ttommyunger

    One of my Facebook "Friends" here in Rightard Country posted a hit piece on Warren and I replied asking him what he did not like about her policies. After some back and forth he promised to point her faulty policy positions after doing some checking. A satisfying silence has ensued for some months now. I often post that chain emails are fine, so long as the reader understands they are intended to inflame, not inform.

  35. lulzmonger

    Quelle surprise!

    Surely it is a profound mystery why anyone *COUGHbankofamericaCOUGHgoldmansachsCOUGHjpmorganchaseCOUGH* would ever dig up ancient history on Ms. Warren, let alone misrepresent it.

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