Right now, someone has egg on his face, but it’s not clear who. Tim Lambert thinks he caught John Lott in a lie, and Michelle Malkin appears to agree. It all boils down to the identify of an anonymous Amazon reviewer who calls himself/herself/itself “Economist123” and, alternatively, “Washingtonian2.” Whoever that is wrote a glowing review of Lott’s book, More Guns, Less Crime, albeit a poorly researched and not particularly well written one. This would be very bad if Lambert’s theory proved correct that Economist123 was Lott himself. However, Lambert’s “proof” is so thin as to border on laughable. His smoking gun? Economist123 copied and pasted a review of another book that had previously been published by the real John Lott. Well, gee, that settles it. I mean, it stands to reason that anyone who can copy and paste a book review written by John R. Lott must be John R. Lott himself. Right?
The premise is so weak I’m tempted to stop right here. Just for kicks, let’s take a look at some of the reviews John Lott – a research scholar at the American Enterprise Institute and a former law professor at University of Chicago and Yale – supposedly wrote. The More Guns, Less Crime review says the following:
Important accurate info that Opponents [sic] constantly distort.
November 8, 2001
This is by far the most comprehensive study ever done on guns. It provides extensive evidence on waiting periods, the Brady Act, one-gun-a-month rules, [sic] concealed handgun laws. For some gun laws this is the only study available and it is important to note how many academics have tired [sic] to challenge his work on concealed handgun laws and failed and that no one has even bothered to try and challenge his work on one-gun-a-month laws and other gun control laws.
I am constantly amused the lengths to which reviewers here will go to distort Lott’s research. Take the one by the Australian who claims that Lott doesn’t explain why he uses the polling data that he does on gun ownership rates. If he was [sic] honest, he would note that Lott talks about these being the largest surveys on gun ownership rates available and that it is necessary to have such a large survey to get detailed information at the state level. A survey of 1,000 or even 1,500 people nationally is not enough to allow you to make comparisons across individual states.
These guys will do anything to keep people from reading Lott’s work.
As one who has met Lott in person, I can assure you that he has a much better command of the English language than Economist123 does. Then again, Economist123’s writing abilities do seem to be better than those of some of the other anonymous Amazon reviewers whom Lambert assumes to be Lott. One of these supposed alter egos derides another’s book as being filled with uncorroborated “ascertions” without attempting to “meassure” the associated costs and benefits. Another invents such non-words as “indepth” and “misimpression,” while yet another priases Lott’s work eagerly awaits a convincing “rebuttle.”
Aside from writing worse than the real John Lott, Economist123 betrays a shallow understanding of the substance of More Guns, Less Crime.
Economist123 says the book is about “waiting periods, the Brady Act, one-gun-a-month rules, concealed handgun laws,” presumably in that order. In fact, the book focuses almost entirely on concealed carry laws, as studied in depth (not “indepth”) in the 1996 Lott-Mustard study. The book contains relatively few references to waiting periods and the Brady Act, all in passing, primarily for purposes of pointing out their relative insignificance by comparison to concealed carry laws. One-gun-a-month laws are not a major focus of the book; in fact, to the best of my recollection Lott’s book doesn’t mention them at all. [UPDATE: I’ve been advised that the second edition of the book, which I have not read, does contain more information on other areas of gun laws, and that its focus is not limited to CCW, as was generally the case with the first edition.] And if Lott really had it in for “the Australian” who challenged his work, don’tcha think he might have gone the extra mile and mentioned the guy by name?
Perhaps Lambert’s right. Perhaps Lott’s strategy really is to pose as many different personalities, some with writing skills similar to his own, others with much worse skills, and some of whom are rah-rahing idiots who haven’t read his book at all. Hell, for all most of my readers know, maybe I’m John R. Lott myself. Lambert’s attacks on Lott don’t seem to have all that much traction outside the blogosphere, so for all I know, maybe Lambert is, too.
Or maybe not.
UPDATE: More sock-puppet silliness here. Meanwhile, I’m still waiting for Lambert to produce the allegedly incriminating IP address from yesterday’s exchange. It may be very incriminating indeed, or it may prove Lambert is full of crap, but unless and until he provides it there’s no way to tell.
UPDATE x2: Welcome, Instapundit readers! Yes, both of you. Netting about 100 in a day, this has got to be the lamest Instalanche ever.