June 6, 2015

"This appears to me to be a case motivated by professional jealousy. You have a young hotshot..."

"... who does something really original, gains notoriety, then gets set upon by a bunch of nitpickers who focus on details to the exclusion of the big picture. There should of course be scrutiny, but sifting through every single detail as if she should have operated under the highest journalistic standards seems excessive. Sure, she may have made some mistakes and cut some corners, but they do not seem to discredit her essential achievement, for which she deserves praise and study. As the article says, let's move on and learn from it."

The top-rated comment at a NYT article titled "Alice Goffman’s Heralded Book on Crime Is Disputed."


Gahrie said...

Sure, she may have made some mistakes and cut some corners

Has this become the official motto of the academic Left yet?

Michael K said...

"discredit her essential achievement,"

It sounds like another fake story like the famous DC Janet Cooke story.

Michael K said...

On the other hand, it could be profitable regardless of truth.

In 1996, Cooke gave an interview about the "Jimmy's World" episode to GQ reporter Mike Sager, her former boyfriend and Washington Post colleague.[6] Cooke and Sager sold the film rights to the story to Tri-Star Pictures for $1.6 million, but the project never moved past the script stage.[7][8]

rhhardin said...

She's competing with her father, Erving Goffman, whose sociology work remains superb and was game-changing.

He worked by irony.

Nice excerpt, his classic merry-go-round description. merry.txt, copied out long ago.

rhhardin said...

The work she's probably trying to duplicate is Goffman's _Asylums_ about inmate adaptation to total institutions, in particular (as such an object for study) insane asylums.

It's worth reading even if you're not into sociology, for thousands of insights.

Excerpts here. Including

The simplest sociological view of the individual and
his self is that he is to himself what his place in an
organization defines him to be. When pressed, a sociologist
modifies this model by granting certain complications :
the self may be not yet formed or may exhibit
conflicting dedications. Perhaps we should further
complicate the construct by elevating these qualifications to
a central place, initially defining the individual, for sociological
purposes, as a stance-taking entity, a something that takes up
a position somewhere between identificaiton with an organization
and opposition to it, and is ready at the slightest pressure to
regain its balance by shifting its involvement to either
direction. It is thus _against something_ that the self can
emerge. This has been appreciated by students of totalitarianism ...

I have argued the same case in regard to total institutions. May
this not be the situation, however, in free society, too?

Without something to belong to, we have no stable self, and yet
total commitment and attachment to any social unit implies a kind
of selflessness. Our sense of being a person can come from being
drawn into a wider social unit ; our sense of selfhood can arise
through the little ways in which we resist the pull. Our status is
backed by the solid buildings of the world, while our sense of
personality identity often resides in the cracks.

Goffman _Asylums_ ``The Underlife of a Public Institution'' p.320

That would apply to his daughter's deal.

traditionalguy said...

Truman Capote redux. She was caught writing wonderful fiction and calling it non-fiction to increase the readership. After all who knows but her whether what she says she did and what she saw is fictional.

Sebastian said...

"sifting through every single detail as if she should have operated under the highest journalistic standards seems excessive"

Umm, this is supposed to be a scholarly book by a Princeton Ph.D. now hired by UW, so the standards should be higher than merely "journalistic." Haven't read the book, but reviews raise serious questions.

Erving questioned conventional wisdom; looks like Alice prefers to confirm it.

The Drill SGT said...

There should of course be scrutiny, but sifting through every single detail as if she should have operated under the highest journalistic standards seems excessive. Sure, she may have made some mistakes and cut some corners, but they do not seem to discredit her essential achievement, for which she deserves praise and study.

A Classic case of Leftist misdirection and straw men...

They have it completely backwards. The basis for the book is 6 years of reach and a PhD thesis. The standards for a PhD thesis far exceed those for a human interest book.

She fails on both standards.

The Drill SGT said...

Sebastian beat me by writing less :)

glenn said...

It's those silly old fashioned facts intruding on a good narrative again. Shame on you nitpickers.

Eric the Fruit Bat said...

(1) Regarding her felony, I think that's what the Brits called "going native."

(2) Regarding her sociology, I thought that sort of field work was the sort of thing done by anthropologists, not sociologists. Last sociologist I knew spent all his time in the computer lab crunching numbers. That was a long time ago, admittedly.

Maybe the problem is nobody wants to get too close to the term "indigenous people," which comes close to "natives," which comes close to "primitives," which comes awfully close to "savages."

Dog Whistles R Us.

(3) Regarding the "young hotshot" claim, it's not as if she got a Fields Medal or anything.

In any event, I'm hard-pressed to see how old age would make you a better driver of the getaway car.

Michael K said...

She sounds like one of the young women in "Days of Rage, " who got started trying to rehabilitate prisoners and wound up driving getaway cars.

virgil xenophon said...

@Eric the Fruit(y) Bat/

LOL! ALL so true!!

richard mcenroe said...

She should talk to Roger Bellisles or Michael Mann. It's okay to fake it if you're really, really sincere about it...

richard mcenroe said...

She "may have made some mistakes and cut some corners..." Isn't that what Paul Reiser says right before he gets his face eaten in Aliens?

Michael said...

Do we in fact have any evidence that she ever left her house and met anyone who lived in this neighborhood she wrote about? That would be my first question while evaluating how much she made up.

William said...

I wonder how many of her middle class values rubbed off on the lumpenproles she hung around with. It's a sure thing their values rubbed off on her. Who assimilates who. As Lenin would say, she was the whom and not the who in the grammar of her exchanges........I grew up in a housing project. I finished college and made ok money in the latter part of my life. I wasn't the only one. It's not impossible to figure out how. It's certainly easier to do than becoming a drug kingpin or a master criminal.. The kids she hung around with were jerks, hubristic assholes who wildly overestimated their ability to win by brute force or impulsive violence. There were better people in the neighborhood, but they were beneath her attention. ........Growing up, I knew some kids who were in constant trouble with the cops. The police may have mistreated them, but, if they did, it wasn't a patch on the way they mistreated those in their orbit. My guess is that that storekeeper wasn't the only person Michael Brown ever strong armed in his life. And don't expect the journalists or sociologists to seek such people out.

fivewheels said...

"who does something really original..."

The more original a finding is, the more likely it is to be bullshit, whether fabricated or unintentionally mistaken. No one has learned from Michael LaCour and his "revolutionary" and "groundbreaking" results in the gay marriage study, apparently.

Good science is all about replication, not originality. You leftist idiots.

PB said...

I think the author/PhD candidate wants to quickly move out of academia to profit ala Lena Dunham and Emma Sulkowicz. Academia is crashing and you don't want to be caught there.

Terry said...

The trick with white privilege is that it is really status privilege. Goffman has it. The punks she was studying didn't have it. I don't have it.

Fen said...

"Fake but accurate" is the Post-modern Science of the Left.

Ignorance is Bliss said...

Alice Goffman’s Heralded Book on Crime Is Disputed...

...by Alice Goffman.

n.n said...

The post-normal generation has adopted the mattress as their mascot and crutch.

David said...

Hey, it worked for Margaret Meade. Why not Goffman?

richard mcenroe said...

"The more original a finding is, the more likely it is to be bullshit, whether fabricated or unintentionally mistaken."

This wasn't original. Harlan Ellison did it in the '50's. Hunter Thompson did it with the Hell's Angels in the 60's.

Big Mike said...

Am I given to understand that a 21st century doctorate in the social sciences is to be meant to be subjected to less scrutiny than an article written by a journalist? That it's more okay to make mistakes and cut corners than when writing for a newspaper?

ken in tx said...

'Mack the Knife' is a catchy tune, but have you ever really listened to the words? Leftists have been romanticizing criminal behaviour since forever.

Anonymous said...

Focusing on the details is the point of science. The big picture is the realm of the philosophers, or maybe of journalists, since they seem to be a bit cavalier toward details these days too.

All we've learned from this and other recent examples of scientific fraud are that most of the public and most of the journalists are far too credulous when it comes to science. It might as well be the fifteenth century, except instead of ignorant people believing whatever the cleric says, it's ignorant people believing whatever the scientist says.

Science is supposed to be scrutinized, questioned, account for its findings, and above all change its theories to fit the data it comes up with. It seems that all too often nowadays the data takes a back seat to a narrative. This will not end well for science.

John Lynch said...

Seems like a completely normal qualitative study. Nothing new about it, other than the fact that it caught on.

Laslo Spatula said...

I have left the apartment of my Neo-Nazi Girlfriend who Is Not My Girlfriend and have had a beer with F-Ready when he approaches the car, taps on the passenger window.

"Bro, my crew's coming over in an hour: can you ride me to Seven-Eleven so I can get some Twizzlers and Steel Reserves?"

"Sure," I say, wishing I didn't.

"Nice car," he nods as he climbs inside. "For a Jap car."

"Actually, I think Hyundai is Korean," I say, starting the engine.

"Japs is Japs," F-Ready says, lighting a cigarette.

We approach the turn for the Seven-Eleven when F-Ready asks me to make a Left instead of the necessary Right. A few more directions from him and we pull in front of a small duplex, weedy growth around cinderblock.

"I'll be just a moment," he says, and then he goes across the street, heads upstairs, knocks on a door and then bum-rushes in: I hear things fall and break, and toy with the idea of just leaving, then realize: it probably is not best to strand F-Ready.

F-Ready returns after a few minutes and explains:

"Dude bad-mouthed Lawn-chair's sister. Can't do that."

""Lawn-chair?" I ask.

"Lawn-chair. He wants everyone to call him Sunny-D but in his crib there is only a mattress and a bunch of lawn-chairs, so Lawn-chair it is."

As we drive to Seven-Eleven I wonder what it would be like to be part of F-Ready's crew: to have people cross the street to avoid you, to have people avert their eyes, to just ROLL.

"They better not be short on Twizzlers," F-Ready says as we pull into the Seven-Eleven parking lot: "Red Vines are for pussies."

I am Laslo.

The Godfather said...

There are two questions:

How do I retain my credibility?

How do I regain my credibility?

The answer to the second questions is: YOU DON'T.

Focus on the first question.

dpdon said...

First thing I thought of - Belushi in Blues Brothers:

It Wasn't my FAULT!!!

Joe said...

Start the clock. It's only a matter of time until we learn that the whole thing's a fraud.

Moneyrunner said...

She's perfect for UW

Gabriel said...

I'd be very surprised if Goffman had actually made things up. I think it is much more likely that she too-uncritically accepted the self-serving statements of the people she was studying.

Anyway she's destroyed all her notes and records; you could never prove it was fraud. At most you could prove her book contains statements that were not true.

"Fraud" would of course involve statements known to her be false, intended to be accepted as true, made with the intention of deceiving and profiting thereby.

Zach said...

Move on and learn from it?

First, the incident as described is a murder plot. She's driving a man around looking for a rival gang. The passenger is openly displaying a Glock, unholstered. She waits in the car with the engine running while he gets out to investigate a possible target. She says she did this because she wanted her friend's killer to die.

Second, her defense that she knew all along that this was just bluster and nothing would happen is 1) dubious -- did the gun-toting passenger know this?, and 2) a significant alteration to the facts as she described them in the book.

Having two completely different characterizations of the same event by the same person is... well, it's not a good thing.

Zach said...

One thing I wonder about -- did she actually drive anyone around?

I know she says she did, but consider: sexing up research by writing yourself into a story you heard from someone else is (very) bad, but you can see why someone would do it. Volunteering to drive the getaway car is very bad, but it's bad in a way that would be much worse in person than in your imagination -- driving a car around the city with a gun openly displayed is crossing a big, bright line.

On the other hand, if you're writing yourself into a gangland story, the driver would be a natural place to put yourself. You're not carrying a gun yourself, you're in an ideal position to overhear other people's conversations... In your imagination, the driver is less morally culpable than the people she's driving.

Jeff Teal said...

Young hotshots come along and try "new" shit.Just to find out that older and wiser heads tried it before and were told to knock it off because a) it didn't work. b) it was illegal and c)it cost too much.The wheel is not reinvented every twenty years.This is what collective memory is for.

Joe said...

Anyway she's destroyed all her notes and records; you could never prove it was fraud.

Which is the strongest evidence that it is fraud. A scientist of any type doesn't destroy their records--at most they may redact names (easy to do in the digital world.) The absence of raw data invalidates everything she claims.

This would not be the first time, someone decided to live an alternate life only to discover days in that it sucked, so they went and did something else while making up details.

(In this case, I wouldn't be surprised if she went 'undercover' and soon found that she had nothing and so started making stuff up.)

BTW, anybody remember Janet Cooke? Margaret Seltzer?

Gabriel said...

@Joe:Which is the strongest evidence that it is fraud.

Yes. the lack of evidence for fraud is the strongest possible evidence for fraud. You can't see me rolling my eyes.

A scientist of any type doesn't destroy their records--at most they may redact names (easy to do in the digital world.)

Lots of opining by non-scientists here about what "real science" is or isn't. A ethnologist doesn't usually have "data", they frequently at most have notes. She says she destroyed the notes so that they could not be subpoenaed. That may or may not be legal, and she may or may not have actually done it, or done it for a different reason, and every word in the book may be true or not. But none of those things are evidence of fraud which has a very specific meaning.

Peter said...

The book makes me think of Patty Hurst and the SLA, except that Goffman did not have to be captured to become a convert.