February 25, 2003
Is a Male Pro-Gun Researcher a Woman?
Put on the High Heels and Pass the Ammunition, John Lott.
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
Since it began of May of 2002, one of BuzzFlash's ongoing areas of coverage has been how the right wing and the Republicans employ lying and dissembling as standard propaganda tools to achieve their ends. Members of the National Rifle Association have replaced the Christian Coalition as the main shock troops for the Republicans and the Bush Cartel. So we thought we might take a close-up look at the lead "house academic" for the gun lobby (now at the American Enterprise Institute), John Lott. In many ways, he represents the modus operandi of the effort by the right wing to make extremism appear credible and credentialed.
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Just when you thought you'd heard them all -- man bites dog, dog bites man -- along comes John Lott and we have "attack dog bites self, repeatedly."
Lott -- a pro-gun advocate and self-styled "researcher" currently ensconced at Washington, DC's conservative American Enterprise Institute -- is accused of being at worst, a liar, and at best, just creepy.
Lott, whose pro-gun views are pithily summed up in the title of his 1998 book "More Guns, Less Crime" -- a favorite unread, but oft-cited, doorstop of gun nuts everywhere -- quickly became the gun lobby's Indiana Jones. With a worn camel's hair jacket instead of a felt fedora, Lott traveled the county in search of strong gun laws to attack and lax concealed carry legislation to promote.
self-inflicted travails -- which started on Internet blogs (See:
Or as Mary gushed in a November 2001 posting, "[H]e was the best professor that I ever had....Lott taught me more about analysis than any other professor that I had and I was not alone. There were a group of us students who would try to take any class that he taught. Lott finally had to tell us that it was best for us to try and take classes from other professors more to be exposed to other ways of teaching graduate material."
Did Lott lie specifically about the 1997 survey? Hmmm -- let's be charitable. So far, he's managed to turn up one person who claims to have been interviewed for it. In an astonishing convergence of interests, that person turns out to be a former National Rifle Association board member named David Gross. Holy 50 caliber magnum revolver! In addition to being a founder of a pro-gun group that shares Lott's goal of letting citizens carry concealed handguns ("Concealed Carry Reform, NOW!"), Gross last year tried to steal the name of Minnesota's leading gun control organization, Citizens for a Safer Minnesota. Talk about your concealed carry kismet! But even if one gives Lott the benefit of the doubt on that one, his public mutterings have raised more than a few eyebrows.
For example, the "professor" issue. According to his American Enterprise Institute bio, Lott has never been a full professor at any of the many schools where he has alighted, despite the high esteem in which his imaginary students have held him. Yet Lott, writing as Miss Mary Rosh, has apparently manufactured academic credentials for himself: "I had him for a class at the Wharton Business School where he was a chaired professor, a position he held before he went to Chicago." Oops, not true according to his AEI bio, which lists him as an assistant professor. And since Rosh is Lott, both of them should probably know this. Does it really matter whether Lott was a chaired professor? It may seem like nitpicking -- no one demanded proof on Gilligan's Island -- until you recognize that he's using his inflated title to give credibility to his counterintuitive claims.
For a brief snapshot of how quickly and easily Lott is willing to bend, fold, and mutilate the truth, let's take a look at just one gun control organization's dealings with him: the Violence Policy Center (VPC). (For anyone else who wishes to send in their best Lott lie encounter, Buzzflash is now officially open for business).
The VPC was the first organization to reveal the gun industry financial link between the John M. Olin Foundation, the funder of Lott's chair at the University of Chicago when he released his first iteration of "More Guns, Less Crime," and the Olin Corporation, manufacturer of Winchester ammo (including the infamous Black Talon round), and, at one time, Winchester Firearms.
In response to a posting citing the VPC's fact sheet, titled "Who is John Lott and Why is He Claiming That More Guns Mean Less Crime?" Miss Mary Rosh reacts like a bear protecting her cubs. The fact sheet details Lott's "extreme points of view on the issues of crime, health and safety, and the environment" and cites a book review in which he promises "the worst thing people can expect from dioxin is a bad rash." An aroused Miss Mary Rosh warns the poster: "You should be very careful relying on the Violence Policy Center, the source of this claim, for any information. This statement is from a book review that Lott did of two books, where one of the books that he was reviewing made this claim." Whether or not one of the books may have also made this claim is not the issue. It is the fact that Lott presents it as his own judgment. In the paragraph preceding this statement in the book review ("Regulatory Common Sense vs. Environmental Nonsense," Regulation, Vol. 16, Number 4) Lott derides Superfund spending, quoting Ralph Nader, with actual quotation marks, as claiming that "three ounces of dioxin can kill more than three million people." In the next paragraph, which is not quoting any outside material, and has no quotation marks, Lott states:
the end of the article Lott adds, "Americans should read
these books and stop
If consistency is a virtue, this exercise -- lying about his own writings when they reveal his inner wackiness -- is one of Lott's more reliable traits. In a discussion on the February 24, 1999 edition of the NPR radio show "Public Interest" with host Kojo Nnamdi, Lott denied charges by Tom Diaz, senior policy analyst at the Violence Policy Center and author of "Making a Killing: The Business of Guns in America," that Lott believed "that increases in the percent of minority police officers increase crime rates. The racial and gender changes in the composition of police forces resulted in at least 2,000 more murders in those cities." Diaz cited a 1997 abstract under Lott's name that appeared in the Social Science Research Network Electronic Library. When Diaz handed Nnamdi a printout from the web site with the abstract, Lott accused Diaz of forgery, stating, "He can type up whatever he wants to," adding "I didn't post that." Diaz urged Lott to have the abstract taken down if it wasn't his. It remains on the SSRN web site, except now with Lott's current affiliation with the American Enterprise Institute.
Lott's affinity for making things up isn't limited to Miss Mary Rosh. When it suits his purpose he'll make up whole conversations and interactions -- and then publish them.
June 2002, Lott published an op-ed in the "Philadelphia Daily
News" in which he
At the end of the op-ed, Lott offers this wistful commentary, "Rendell obviously feels passionately about guns, but he doesn't have the courage of his convictions. Instead, to cover his goals, he lied." John Lott clearly has the courage of his convictions, the only problem is that to promote his goals he has lied, and, lied, and lied (as we have documented above).
What have you to say about that, Miss Mary Rosh?
A BUZZFLASH NEWS ANALYSIS
otherwise noted, all original