Sunday, January 13, 2008

Spinning Iraq: George Soros and the subversion of academic reputation 

Three weeks before the decisive 2006 Congressional elections in the United States, the British medical journal Lancet published and -- here's the key part -- promoted via press release a study that purported to show massively more "excess deaths" in Iraq than had been reported by any other organization of any political persuasion. Now, not only has the study been repeatedly discredited, but it appears to have been a propaganda project from the get-go:

A study that claimed 650,000 people were killed as a result of the invasion of Iraq was partly funded by the antiwar billionaire George Soros.

Soros, 77, provided almost half the £50,000 cost of the research, which appeared in The Lancet, the medical journal. Its claim was 10 times higher than consensus estimates of the number of war dead.

The study, published in 2006, was hailed by antiwar campaigners as evidence of the scale of the disaster caused by the invasion, but Downing Street and President George Bush challenged its methodology.

New research published by The New England Journal of Medicine estimates that 151,000 people - less than a quarter of The Lancet estimate - have died since the invasion in 2003.

“The authors should have disclosed the [Soros] donation and for many people that would have been a disqualifying factor in terms of publishing the research,” said Michael Spagat, economics professor at Royal Holloway, University of London.

The Lancet study was commissioned by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) and led by Les Roberts, an associate professor and epidemiologist at Columbia University. He reportedly opposed the war from the outset.

There are a number of things that might be said about this.

First, it was a brilliant bit of propaganda on the part of Soros and his co-conspirators on the academic left. Think of it: He managed to get the brand names "Johns Hopkins," "MIT," "Columbia," and "Lancet" on a study that claimed that the Iraq war was vastly bloodier than anybody else, even Iraq Body Count, had estimated, and have it blasted on headlines across the United States just before critical U.S. Congressional elections.

Second, this is an academic scandal, insofar as these institutions have lent their brand equity to what is essentially a fraud on the public. Fortunately, they are all so well-established that they can afford for George Soros to dissipate a tiny bit of their reputation. But -- and this is important -- let us not hear complaints from any of these institutions about "anti-intellectualism in American life." Americans do not trust our pointy-headed institutions of higher learning in matters of public policy for very good reason. I know, I'm the son of the only Republican in the University of Iowa history department.

Third, extending the point above, it is now fairly clear that George W. Bush and Tony Blair (and a host of wingnut bloggers) were correct in their characterization of the study's methodology, and The Johns Hopkins School of Public Health and The Lancet were wrong. Hard as it may be for some of you to believe. Of course, Johns Hopkins and The Lancet were at a disadvantage, insofar as Soros subverted them and noted academics misled them by failing to disclose the source of the funding, but still.

Finally, it is a lead-pipe cinch that the destruction of this study will elicit no apologies or even quiet investigations from any of The Lancet, the professors involved, other professors at other universities who taught these numbers in their classrooms, the mainstream media organizations that promoted the study without giving it a moment's critical thought, the Democrats who cited it for political advantage, or the left-wing activists who used it (and its equally flawed predecessor published just before the 2004 election) to slander American soldiers while claiming to "support the troops." The silence will be deafening.

CWCID: Glenn Reynolds.


By Blogger Nomenklatura, at Sun Jan 13, 08:25:00 AM:

The culprits are, like newspaper editors and journalists, doing us all a big favor by relentlessly committing reputational hara-kiri.

I'm glad my kids won't (already don't) live their lives in thrall to leftist lies, like my dad did.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 13, 10:18:00 AM:

Why do you think that it is "fortunate" that these institutions will not be materially affected by acting as a megaphone for George Soros to subvert the public discourse in this fashion?

It seems to me that their reputation should be materially affected. The brand name "Columbia" has already lost its credibility with me. I'll add the other three to my private list unless I see them publicly recant.

But the "unfortunate" thing is that most people will continue to be unaware of what happened.  

By Blogger SMSgt Mac, at Sun Jan 13, 10:45:00 AM:

This comment has been removed by the author.  

By Blogger SMSgt Mac, at Sun Jan 13, 10:46:00 AM:

Good catch!

This is one more nail in the 'study' coffin. Unfortunately, I think Soros got his money's worth and the vampire that came out of it will still be stomping around for a while.

I had the core researcher's number as to his political bias back in October of '06 when the study came out. Today I revisited the link that I had used, only to find out the fly-by-night 'paper' I linked to had 'lost' the article. Fortunately, Wiki has Les Roberts' number (for now).  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 13, 10:51:00 AM:

This fits in exactly with today's article by Richard Fernadez of the Belmont Club:


I'd say, in the end, the market will correct for it, and information from the Lancet will be discounted due to this, same as investors demanding superior returns from stocks with lots of informed trading:



By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 13, 11:07:00 AM:

I find it astounding, simply astounding, that the moonbat left simply has no shame at all. None.

Consider - during the senate hearings on the disaster at Ruby Ridge, and it's aftermath it was revealed that a very detailed, very elaborate study of the balistic evidence relating to the death of Sam Weaver, Vicki Weaver and the wouding of Randy Weaver and Kevin Harris had been funded by.....[insert gasp here] the National Rifle Association. Chuckie Schumer channeled the late newsman Herb Morrison and shrieked like a startled parrott "Oh the humanities! Oh my get out of the way please! The NRA! Oh! Oh! Oh!" and the report was never even delivered. Moonbat heaven.

Now this revelation comes along, and we learn that the evil George in our midst is not Bush, but rather Soros.

Where is Joe Welch when we need him? "Have you no sense of decency sir, at long last?" Some one should ask Sorros and his ilk that pointed question.

Support the troops, indeed.  

By Blogger tomcog, at Sun Jan 13, 12:05:00 PM:

Finally, it is a lead-pipe cinch that the destruction of this study will elicit no apologies or even quiet investigations from any of The Lancet, the professors involved, other professors at other universities who taught these numbers in their classrooms...

Yeah, but at least some of those professors (and editors) will die a slow death from reputation asphyxiation...like the IRS, it is slow but inevitable. What they did is the worst sort of academic sin, since it threatens the whole reputational structure upon which academic distinction is largely based. So, dont expect apologies, just wait. Tomcog  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 13, 12:05:00 PM:

Finally, it is a lead-pipe cinch that the destruction of this study will elicit no apologies or even quiet investigations...

Apologies? Investigations? It'll be just the opposite. Expect this "study" to continue to be cited, or at least its numbers to be credulously repeated, forever.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 13, 12:15:00 PM:

Soros an evil foreign influence. This isn't charity BTW. This bastard just wants to extend his influence and power.  

By Blogger Unknown, at Sun Jan 13, 01:24:00 PM:

I think this was discussed on NPR Thursday or Friday. They referred to a WHO study that contradicted an earlier study which I don't think they named. They did say the WHO study sampled 10,000 homes vs the earlier study which surveyed only 46(!?). They gave extensive air time to someone from the unnamed study who defended their numbers on the grounds that they had sampled the more dangerous neighborhoods where WHO researchers did not go. In any case it was interested that NPR covered this a simple disagreement on methodologies.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 13, 01:43:00 PM:

What they did is the worst sort of academic sin, since it threatens the whole reputational structure upon which academic distinction is largely based

I don't know. Bill Ayers is a "distinguished" professor ((his site)) and he and Bernadine Dorn are writing college textbooks, so this kind of guerilla theater b.s. seems like a plus on the academic c.v. these days.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Sun Jan 13, 03:37:00 PM:

Once upon a time stuff like this was called "fifth column" subversion of the war effort, and the perpetrators were called "foeign agents", or even traitors (or Congressmen from Ohio).  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 14, 12:39:00 AM:

GEORGE SOROS the wealthy liberal socialist eletists jerk its time he was deported to outer siberia for life  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 14, 02:47:00 PM:

I appreciate your efforts and this blog.

Interesting that academia has so many leftists and the military so many right. Why do you believe this is?

For that one poster who mentioned Columbia, ...after reading the Duke Lacross book by Dr Stuart Johnson, I wonder if we shouldnt just fire them all and start over. Sure, would lose a lot of talented professors, but net gain overall.

There is a well published expert in military history that teaches at the War College. After one of his seminars, he also served as my Master's thesis advisor. I mentioned that I thought he should apply to one of the Ivys or Harvard or something if he ever wanted a change of pace. he told me that since he had taught the military he would not be welcome in a civilian university regardless of internationally known publishing.

Academic fights are so viscious because so little is at stake.

Colonel M.  

By Anonymous Anonymous, at Mon Jan 14, 10:30:00 PM:

mullah cimoc say:

well smart blogman - how many iraki him be killed since amriki invasion?

Come on mr. smart blogman. where the answer?

what? you say control usa media keep ameriki so him stupid and ignorant him ameriki not having any idea how many human being him kill?

am this call the war news blockade?

who him saying fraud mr. smart blogman?  

By Blogger SMSgt Mac, at Mon Jan 14, 11:40:00 PM:

Oh stewardess! I can speak 'chump'. Perhaps I can be of assistance with the mulla?

Mulla cimoc (AKA Allam Comic):
Smart blogman tellum how many iraqi him be killed since ameriki liberation: just asm any asn eccessary. wouldum been eze er but bad iraqi and Al Queda dont fight fare an wont stand still. very bad for good iraqi till surge then good iraqi wize up plenty guud.

(apologies to "Airplane!")  

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