Facts Don’t Matter: Academic Research Undergoes The Ultimate Integrity Meltdown

Heather MacDonald, whose Congressional testimony Ethics Alarms noted here, writes in the Wall Street Journal,

The Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences is a peer-reviewed journal that claims to publish “only the highest quality scientific research.” Now, the authors of a 2019 PNAS article are disowning their research simply because I cited it.

Psychologists Joseph Cesario of Michigan State and David Johnson of the University of Maryland analyzed 917 fatal police shootings of civilians from 2015 to test whether the race of the officer or the civilian predicted fatal police shootings. Neither did. Once “race specific rates of violent crime” are taken into account, the authors found, there are no disparities among those fatally shot by the police. These findings accord with decades of research showing that civilian behavior is the greatest influence on police behavior.

In September 2019, I cited the article’s finding in congressional testimony. I also referred to it in a City Journal article, in which I noted that two Princeton political scientists, Dean Knox and Jonathan Mummolo, had challenged the study design. Messrs. Cesario and Johnson stood by their findings. Even under the study design proposed by Messrs. Knox and Mummolo, they wrote, there is again “no significant evidence of anti-black disparity in the likelihood of being fatally shot by the police.”

My June 3 Journal op-ed quoted the PNAS article’s conclusion verbatim. It set off a firestorm at Michigan State. The university’s Graduate Employees Union pressured the MSU press office to apologize for the “harm it caused” by mentioning my article in a newsletter. The union targeted physicist Steve Hsu, who had approved funding for Mr. Cesario’s research. MSU sacked Mr. Hsu from his administrative position. PNAS editorialized that Messrs. Cesario and Johnson had “poorly framed” their article—the one that got through the journal’s three levels of editorial and peer review.

Mr. Cesario told this page that Mr. Hsu’s dismissal could narrow the “kinds of topics people can talk about, or what kinds of conclusions people can come to.” Now he and Mr. Johnson have themselves jeopardized the possibility of politically neutral scholarship. On Monday they retracted their paper. They say they stand behind its conclusion and statistical approach but complain about its “misuse,” specifically mentioning my op-eds.

The authors don’t say how I misused their work.

In a move redolent of Soviet-style retroactive censorship, Michigan State University deleted its press release promoting the study, which had said in part,

Reports of racially motivated, fatal shootings by police officers have garnered extensive public attention and sparked activism across the nation. New research from Michigan State University and University of Maryland reveals findings that flip many of these reports on their heads – white police officers are not more likely to have shot minority citizens than non-white officers.

“Until now, there’s never been a systematic, nationwide study to determine the characteristics of police involved in fatal officer-involved shootings,” said Joseph Cesario, co-author and professor of psychology at MSU. “There are so many examples of people saying that when black citizens are shot by police, it’s white officers shooting them. In fact, our findings show no support that black citizens are more likely to be shot by white officers.”

This is a truly disheartening development in so many ways. Ethics Alarms has documented to the extent such a forum can  the corruption of virtually all the professions as they became intimidated and politicized by “resistance” colleagues and peers, as well as their workplace bubbles, following the 2016 election. Politicians, high elected officials, academics and educators, political scientists, historians, psychiatrists, diplomats, medical doctors (like those who pronounced the George Floyd protests as in the interest of public health),  writers, lawyers, judges,  journalists of course, even comedians, and, tragically ethicists have abandoned the principles of their field’s ethics that justify public trust.

This latest, however, is devastating. Researchers, it seems clear,  have experienced such hostility from peers, and have been placed in such fear of professional reprisals (or worse), that they are withdrawing their study rather than defending it. In doing so they are demonstrating the revolting void of courage and principle that now appears to be the norm in academia. Moreover, the assertionthat knowledge must be rejected on the basis of the manner in which that knowledge is used and who uses it is too repugnant to endure.

Cesario and Johnson should know that they have put the final nails into the credibility of any research supporting progressive goals, in particular that involving climate change, but also gun policy research, immigration studies and more. Now that we know the research establishment’s dedication to enlightenment will be controlled according to what findings will support “acceptable” positions, we can comfortably pronounce any and all research with policy implications too untrustworthy to be useful.



5 thoughts on “Facts Don’t Matter: Academic Research Undergoes The Ultimate Integrity Meltdown

  1. So college classrooms have been turned into re-education camps. And now even when they’re not in the classroom, faculty are just making shit up. Whew.

    I’m thinking of home schooling my grandkids for their college.

    • I’m thinking that maybe you don’t give them a choice, Other Bill. Not if they want any sort of passthrough when you shuffle off this mortal coil, as will we all.

      This is thoroughly depressing. There ARE places on the web that archive stuff that’s been deleted. Even so… I increasingly believe we’re fucked. At age 66, I’ve become more reconciled to the concept of my own death, even though the 14-year-old within me still assumes immortality.

      I’m starting to warn that punk kid to be careful what he wishes for.

  2. Facts do not matter . . . when the real object is more important than allegiance to a specific truth. And a lie, militarized to serve a particular function, becomes a tool to enact a defined will and objective. If tyhe lie or the mistruth works, then the lie is understood to be valuable. It won’t be put down or abandoned as long as shows itself working.

    The present *movement* is a movement directed by internal forces, factions within America itself who understand their mission as carrying forward and continuing a mission set in motion long ago. The transformation of America into a multi-cultural pan-ethnic semi-socialized and ‘equalized’ propositional nation.

    But I suggest that the thing you will need to face is that you do not really have an alternative *vision* that can successfully contradict this movement’s momentum. To all appearances it is directed against *you*. A *them* is being empowered to unseat *you*. How can you battle this? How will you contradict it? You cannot do it on an idea-level, so how will you do it on a political level?

    What a position you find your self in. You have to hold to the Olde Idealism, which you support unconditionally, yet which brought all of this into being. What is that idealism? It began in the 20s and 30s as an opposition ideology to nativism and nationalism. It flowered in the Sixties. It then gather unholy steam in the Eighties and Nineties. Now it rises with weapons in hand to slice your neck.

    Welcome to the Brave New World of your own creation. You are ideologically linked to it — this has to be said, and then repeated 1,000 times if necessary. Your only opposition is *complaint*. (Oh and posting a link to The Wave from time to time!)

    What I make noble efforts to point out is that to see how this all happened, one has to back-track through the history and, basically, see where one (that is the culture) made the wrong choice. What is now needed — what is required — is a turn back to real conservatism which certainly has a militant aspect. It is capable of recognizing its interests and defending them.

    It’s the end of the dream. It is the end of the hallucination. Time to wake up. How this will happen, and what painful processes you will go through, and what all that will be like: that is yet to be discovered. Now though, the walls of a false Operating System (a set of determining ideas, a sort of programming) begins to crumble.

    One thing I want to point out is that you will need to pay careful attention to what The System (the government-corporate-plutocratic-media-academic collusion) will perceive it necessary to do in order to control events. America in that sense is their *investment portfolio*. Just right now they are making concerted efforts to control what people can think and what they can say by removing them from the various *platforms*. What people think, what ideas they have, where and how they express them: all this is necessary and vital to control.

  3. What this means to me is that we can no longer trust science, as it has been co-opted by the Marxist Left. What started out as the weaponization of science in the name of “climate change,” “global warming,” or whatever it morphs into as it gets continuously exposed for the fraud it is has metastasized to infect all social research as well. As soon as a nexus between “Woke” is found, it will surely invade physics, mathematics, and the pure sciences as well.

    Things we can no longer trust:

    1. The press, broadcast and written (no need for exposition);
    2. Climate science;
    3. Social science;
    4. Federal law enforcement;
    5. The intelligence community;
    6. Either house of the national legislature;
    7. The entertainment industry;
    8. Historians;
    9. Corporate leadership;
    10. Education at every level;
    11. Social media;
    12. Museums and monument administration;

    I’m sure I’ve left out dozens of other institutions and things that have fallen to the “Woke” mob and now serve their needs. It’s not just a tragedy, it is likely to be fatal to the Republic as we know it.

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