The two main political stories of the last forty-eight hours have been (1) Todd Akin making up biomedical findings and (2) Niall Ferguson making up CBO conclusions. Both seem surprised to be under seige, and I can sympathize: ever since the reign of the Great Communicator (read: Pathological Liar) Ronald Reagan, the right has simply been able to assume that it can get away with whatever b.s. it wants to put out there. The fact that both Akin and Ferguson catching flak is a triumph for the broader reality-based community.
The main difference is that the professional politician is apologizing for his b.s., while the professional academic is just piling his b.s. deeper.
Of course, Ferguson couldn’t get away with deceptively truncating quotations in his scholarly publications. Apparently he thinks that he can get away with it in his pseudo-journalistic “public intellectual” hat. I think he’s mostly right. But he shouldn’t be.
Of course we don’t want professors losing tenure for making political statements unpopular with their peers, or with academic administrators or funders. But equally of course, people who trade on their university titles as pseudo-journalists or consultants or expert witnesses ought to be held to the same standards – not of rigor, but of honesty – in their parallel work as they are in the stuff that gets them tenure.
“Veritas” isn’t a bad slogan for a university. I wonder if the Harvard History Department thinks it means anything.
Niall Ferguson Does Not Understand That the Federal Government Hires a Huge Number of Temporary Workers to Conduct the Decennial Census