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Nuclear Unicorn

(19,497 posts)
Wed Feb 25, 2015, 01:52 PM Feb 2015

Arming America

One of the reasons I enjoy this board so much is that so many of the discussions focus on substantive, evidence-based arguments.

Recently Michael Bellisiles became a topic of discussion and that prompted me to learn more about his "work."

The things one learns --

Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture is a discredited 2000 book by Michael A. Bellesiles on American gun culture. The book is an expansion of a 1996 Journal of American History article that uses falsified research to argue that guns were uncommon during peacetime in early United States and that a culture of gun ownership arose only much later.

It initially won the prestigious Bancroft Prize, but later became the first book in that prize's history to have its award rescinded. The revocation occurred after Columbia University's Board of Trustees decided that Bellesiles had "violated basic norms of scholarship and the high standards expected of Bancroft Prize winners."[1]

Thesis[edit]

The central theme of Arming America is that United States' gun culture arose after the Civil War and that contrary to myth, it did not have its roots in United States's colonial and frontier eras. The book holds that guns were uncommon during peacetime in the United States during the colonial, early national, and antebellum periods, when guns were little used and the average American's proficiency in use of firearms was poor. Bellesiles maintains that more widespread use and ownership of guns dates to the Civil War following advances in manufacturing and a consequent reduction in price and improvement in accuracy.


Scrutiny[edit]

The book garnered many enthusiastic professional reviews and won the prestigious Bancroft Prize in 2001. Because the book's thesis bore upon ongoing political controversies about gun control and the Second Amendment to the United States Constitution, gun rights advocates immediately attacked it. Actor Charlton Heston, then-president of the National Rifle Association, called the book's argument "ludicrous".[2] Conversely, a review by Roger Lane in the Journal of American History called the book's research “meticulous and thorough,” and wrote that Bellesiles had "attacked the central myth behind the National Rifle Association's interpretation of the Second Amendment". Lane declared Bellesiles’s evidence so formidable that "if the subject were open to rational argument", the debate would be over.[3]

Clayton Cramer, a historian, software engineer, gun enthusiast and early critic of Bellesiles, later argued that the reason "why historians swallowed Arming America's preposterous claims so readily is that it fit into their political worldview so well... Arming America said things, and created a system of thought so comfortable for the vast majority of historians, that they didn’t even pause to consider the possibility that something wasn’t right."[4] Historian Peter Charles Hoffer, himself an advocate of gun control, lent support to Cramer's charge when, in a 2004 examination of the Bellesiles case, he noted that influential members of the historical profession had indeed "taken strong public stands on violence in our society and its relation to gun control."[5] For instance, the academics solicited for blurbs by Bellesiles’s publisher Alfred A. Knopf "were ecstatic in part because the book knocked the gun lobby."[6]

Bellesiles energized this professional consensus by attempting to play "the professors against the NRA in a high-wire act of arrogant bravado."[7] For instance, he replied to Heston’s criticism by telling the actor to earn a Ph.D. before criticizing the work of scholars.[8] He pointed out that Cramer was "a long time advocate of unrestricted gun ownership" while he himself was a simple scholar who had "certain obligations of accuracy that transcend current political benefit."[9] After Bellesiles claimed he had been flooded by hate mail, both the American Historical Association and the Organization of American Historians endorsed a resolution condemning the alleged harassment.[10] As Hoffer later wrote, Bellesiles was convinced that whether the entire profession agreed with “his stance on gun ownership (and I suspect most did), surely academic historians would not let their expertise be impugned by a rank and partisan amateur like Cramer.” [11]

In the end, however, the politics of the issue mattered less to historians "than the possibility that Bellesiles might have engaged in faulty, fraudulent, and unethical research."[12] As critics subjected the historical claims of the book to close scrutiny, they demonstrated that much of Bellesiles' research, particularly his handling of probate records, was inaccurate and possibly fraudulent.[13] This criticism included noting several serious errors in the tables published in The Journal of American History article, namely, that they did not provide a total number of cases and gave percentages that "were clearly wrong."[14]

In two scholarly articles,[15][16] law professor James Lindgren of Northwestern University noted that in Arming America, Bellesiles had
##purported to count guns in about a hundred wills from 17th- and 18th-century Providence, Rhode Island, but these did not exist because the decedents had died intestate (i.e., without wills);
##purported to count nineteenth-century San Francisco County probate inventories, but these had been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire;
##reported a national mean for gun ownership in 18th-century probate inventories that was mathematically impossible;
##misreported the condition of guns described in probate records in a way that accommodated his thesis;
##miscited the counts of guns in nineteenth-century Massachusetts censuses and militia reports,
##had more than a 60% error rate in finding guns listed as part of estates in Vermont records; and
##had a 100% error rate in the cited gun-related homicide cases of seventeenth-century Plymouth, MA.

Critics also identified problems with Bellesiles's methods of citation. Cramer noted that Bellesiles had misrepresented a passage by George Washington about the quality of three poorly prepared militia units as if his criticism applied to the militia in general. (Washington had noted that the three units were exceptions to the rule.)[17] Cramer wrote, "It took me twelve hours of hunting before I found a citation that was completely correct. In the intervening two years, I have spent thousands of hours chasing down Bellesiles’s citations, and I have found many hundreds of shockingly gross falsifications."[4]

Emory investigation and resignation[edit]

As criticism grew and charges of scholarly misconduct were made, Emory University conducted an internal inquiry into Bellesiles's integrity, appointing an independent investigative committee composed of three leading academic historians from outside Emory.[18] Bellesiles failed to provide investigators with his research notes, claiming the notes were destroyed in a flood.[19]

The scholarly investigation confirmed that Bellesiles's work had serious flaws, calling into question both its quality and veracity. The external report on Bellesiles concluded that "every aspect of his work in the probate records is deeply flawed" and called his statements in self-defense "prolix, confusing, evasive, and occasionally contradictory." It concluded that "his scholarly integrity is seriously in question."[20]

Bellesiles disputed these findings, claiming to have followed all scholarly standards and to have corrected all errors of fact known to him. Nevertheless, with his "reputation in tatters," Bellesiles issued a statement on October 25, 2002, announcing the resignation of his professorship at Emory by year's end.[21]

Aftermath of the scandal[edit]

In 2002, the trustees of Columbia University rescinded Arming America's Bancroft Prize, the first such action in the history of the prize. Alfred A. Knopf, publisher of Arming America, did not renew Bellesiles's contract, and the National Endowment for the Humanities withdrew its name from a fellowship that the Newberry Library had granted Bellesiles.[22] In 2003, Arming America was republished in a revised and amended edition by Soft Skull Press. Bellesiles continued to defend the book's credibility and thesis, arguing that roughly three-quarters of the original book remained unchallenged.[23]

Historians who initially admired Arming America ceased to defend Bellesiles. The nationally prominent historian Garry Wills, who had enthusiastically reviewed Arming America for the New York Times,[24] later said, in a 2005 interview on C-SPAN, "I was took. The book is a fraud." Wills noted that Bellesiles "claimed to have consulted archives he didn't and he misrepresented those archives," although "he didn't have to do that," since "he had a lot of good, solid evidence." Wills added, "People get taken by very good con men."[25]

Historian Roger Lane, who had reviewed the book positively in the Journal of American History,[26] offered a similar opinion: "It is entirely clear to me that he's made up a lot of these records. He's betrayed us. He's betrayed the cause. It's 100 percent clear that the guy is a liar and a disgrace to my profession. He's breached that trust."[27] Historian Pauline Maier reflected that it seemed historians had "ceased to read carefully and critically, even in the awarding of book prizes."[28]

As Hoffer concluded, "Bellesiles's condemnation by Emory University, the trustees of the Bancroft Prizes, and Knopf provided the gun lobby with information to blast the entire history profession....Even though H-Law, the Omohundro Institute, the OAH, and the AHA rushed to his side and stated principled objections to the politicization of history, they hesitated to ask the equally important question of whether he had manipulated them and betrayed their trust."[29]

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arming_America

22 replies = new reply since forum marked as read
Highlight: NoneDon't highlight anything 5 newestHighlight 5 most recent replies
Arming America (Original Post) Nuclear Unicorn Feb 2015 OP
witch hunting continued jimmy the one Feb 2015 #1
If he published that he counted records that do not exist Mojorabbit Feb 2015 #2
There's lots more to it than that- jimmy elided the damning conclusion... friendly_iconoclast Feb 2015 #3
board bigot speaks jimmy the one Mar 2015 #8
That fact that outright fraud cannot be established does nothing to diminish the fact Nuclear Unicorn Feb 2015 #4
Thank you for admitting and providing PROOF of super crappy scholarshipon Bellesiles' part. NYC_SKP Feb 2015 #5
1877 jimmy the one Mar 2015 #6
Swiftboating by the NRA, huh? Nuclear Unicorn Mar 2015 #7
Yup, he was outed by fellow academics DonP Mar 2015 #9
for a better perspective jimmy the one Mar 2015 #10
The university did not bounce Bellesiles because of the NRA. They bounced him because REAL Nuclear Unicorn Mar 2015 #11
Wiener melm00se Mar 2015 #12
well, mel jimmy the one Mar 2015 #14
No, 'disassemble' is the right word, as in "took apart" friendly_iconoclast Mar 2015 #15
mea culpa jimmy the one Mar 2015 #17
I believe one Professor E. Clapton has best described what happened to Bellesisles... friendly_iconoclast Mar 2015 #18
response melm00se Mar 2015 #19
some valid criticism, no doubt jimmy the one Mar 2015 #20
respone melm00se Mar 2015 #21
More utter bullshit. GGJohn Mar 2015 #13
Don't you know that the NRA secretly controls both Columbia *and* Emory universities? friendly_iconoclast Mar 2015 #16
Bellisiles' book, IMO, crippled the academic status gun-controllers enjoyed... Eleanors38 Mar 2015 #22

jimmy the one

(2,712 posts)
1. witch hunting continued
Wed Feb 25, 2015, 02:14 PM
Feb 2015

You post a pro gun link from Wikipedia. There are several gun issues/concerns on wiki which reek of pro gun mentality, I hate to say as much as I do rely on & cite wiki - it is imperfect since it is a people's encyclopedia. Their report does negligible regarding support for bellesiles.

For instance, wiki link includes these allegations regarding Providence, Vermont, & San Fran, which were addressed by an investigating committee, with their findings following:

wiki progun attack on bellesiles: The book .. uses falsified research to argue that guns were uncommon during peacetime in early United States and that a culture of gun ownership arose only much later.
##purported to count guns in about a hundred wills from 17th- and 18th-century Providence, Rhode Island, these did not exist because the decedents had died (without wills);
##had more than a 60% error rate in finding guns listed as part of estates in Vermont records;
##purported to count nineteenth-century San Francisco County probate inventories, but these had been destroyed in the 1906 earthquake and fire


REPORTof the Investigative Committee in the matter of Professor Michael Bellesiles July 2002
Question 1. Did Professor Bellesiles engage in "intentional fabrication or falsification of research data" in connection with probate records from Rutland County, Vermont?
..... Our conclusion is that Bellesisles’ account of the Vermont probate records contain extensive errors in part because they were not in fact collected with the purpose of counting guns.... He appears carelessly to have assumed that his counts were complete, and moved forward... While this certainly constitutes sloppy scholarship, it does not prove a deliberate attempt to mislead, however misleading the result.

Question 2. Did Professor Bellesiles engage in "intentional fabrication or falsification of research data" in connection with probate records from Providence, Rhode Island?
.....Our conclusion is that Professor Bellesiles’ work on the Providence, Rhode Island records does not raise serious problems of fabrication or falsification of research data. The errors in the first edition of Arming America.. When these errors were identified, he immediately corrected them.

Question 3. Did Professor Bellesiles engage in "intentional fabrication or falsification of research data" in connection with probate records from the San Francisco Bay area?
....Our conclusion is that we cannot prove that Professor Bellesiles simply invented his California research, but neither do we have confidence that the Contra Costa inventories resolve the problem.....

Question 4. Did Professor Bellesiles engage in "intentional fabrication or falsification of research data" in connection with probate records supporting the figures in Table One to his book, "Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture"?
... dealing with the construction of the vital Table One, we find evidence of falsification

Question 5. Did professor Bellesiles engage in "other serious deviations 'from accepted practices in carrying out or reporting results from research'" with respect to probate records or militia census records by:
(a) Failing to carefully document his findings;
(b) Failing to make available to others his sources, evidence, and data; or
(c) Misrepresenting evidence or the sources of evidence."
.....Question 5, which raises the standard of professional historical scholarship, we find that Professor Bellesiles falls short on all three counts.
http://www.emory.edu/news/Releases/Final_Report.pdf ------ pg 17, pg 18


Mojorabbit

(16,020 posts)
2. If he published that he counted records that do not exist
Wed Feb 25, 2015, 02:53 PM
Feb 2015

I would have to doubt the veracity of his work.

 

friendly_iconoclast

(15,333 posts)
3. There's lots more to it than that- jimmy elided the damning conclusion...
Wed Feb 25, 2015, 03:20 PM
Feb 2015

... of the Emory report. From pages 18 and 19 at the link he provided-emphasis added:

We have reached the conclusion with reference to clauses “a” through “c,” that Professor Bellesiles contravened these professional norms, both as expressed in the
Committee charge and in the American Historical Association’s definition of scholarly
“integrity,” which includes “an awareness of one’s own bias and a readiness to follow sound method and analysis wherever they may lead,”
“disclosure of all significant qualifications of one’s arguments,” careful documentation of findings and the responsibility to “thereafter be prepared to make available to others their sources, evidence, and data,” and the
injunction that “historians must not misrepresent evidence or the sources of evidence.”



Huh. Looks like jimmy failed the same standards...

We have interviewed Professor Bellesiles and found him both cooperative and respectful
of this process. Yet the best that can be said of his work with the probate and militia
records is that he is guilty of unprofessional and misleading work.
Every aspect of his work in the probate records is deeply flawed.
Even allowing for the loss of some of his research materials,
he appears not to have been systematic in selecting repositories or collections of probate records for examination and his recording methods were at best
primitive and altogether unsystematic. Bellesiles seems to have been utterly unaware of
the importance of the possibility of the replication of his research. Subsequent to the
allegations of research misconduct, his responses have been prolix, confusing, evasive and occasionally contradictory.
We are surprised and troubled that Bellesiles
has not availed himself of the opportunities he has had since the notice of this investigation to
examine, identify and share his remaining research materials. Even at this point, it is not
clear that he fully understands the magnitude of his own probate research shortcomings.

The Committee's investigation has been seriously hampered by the absence or
unavailability of Professor Bellesiles' critical and apparently lost research records and by
the failures of memory and careful record keeping which Professor Bellesiles himself
describes. Given his conflicting statements and accounts, it has been difficult to establish where and how Professor Bellesiles conducted his research into the probate records he cites: for example,
what was read in microfilm and where and in what volume, what archives, in some cases, were actually visited and what they contained. In addition to this,
we note his subsequent failure to be fully forthcoming, and the implausibility of some of his defenses --
a prime example is that of the "hacking" of his website; another is his
disavowal of the e-mails of Aug. 30 and Sept. 19, 2000 to Professor Lindgren which
present a version of the location and reading of records substantially in conflict with
Professor Bellesiles’ current account. Taking all this into account, we are led
to conclude that, under Question 5, Professor Bellesiles did engage in “serious deviations from accepted practices in carrying out [and] reporting results from research.” As to these matters, comprehending points (a) – (c) under Question 5, his scholarly integrity is seriously in question

jimmy the one

(2,712 posts)
8. board bigot speaks
Mon Mar 2, 2015, 11:09 AM
Mar 2015

icon There's lots more to it than that- jimmy elided the damning conclusion...... of the Emory report. From pages 18 and 19 at the link he provided-emphasis added:
Huh. Looks like jimmy failed the same standards...


'Friendly Icon' again demonstrates his pro-gun bigotry, fabricating his own biased assessment of what I posted.
I will remind the board bigot that he is citing the very link which I provided, and that I was not posting an in depth criticism of the very author I am in support of - it's ludicrous to suggest that I should have when the link was provided for any further interest.
My post was not an essay on what bellesiles was & wasn't, just a brief synopsis of what the committee concluded, & it's intent. If 'friendly bigots' want to fabricate misleading ad hominem, they should join the nra & suck up to lapierre-head & nugent.

Nuclear Unicorn

(19,497 posts)
4. That fact that outright fraud cannot be established does nothing to diminish the fact
Wed Feb 25, 2015, 03:42 PM
Feb 2015

the reviewing committee stated they could find no evidence to support Bellesiles' research and could not replicate his results.

Evaluating Table One is an exercise in frustration because it is almost impossible to tell
where Bellesiles got his information. His source note lists the names of forty counties, but
supplies no indication of the exact records used or their distribution over time. After
reviewing his skimpy documentation, we had the same question as Gloria Main: "Did no
editors or referees ever ask that he supply this basic information?"


Professor Bellesiles’ critics have charged him with claiming to work with records that do
not exist. The San Francisco issue has been widely discussed. His critics have charged
that he has fraudulently claimed to have read records that do not exist because the San
Francisco records he claims to have used were destroyed in 1906. He has responded by
saying that he at least thought he was using San Francisco records and has provided
examples of several files from Contra Costa County that contain references to San
Francisco.

If Professor Bellesiles did indeed read Contra Costa records believing they were from
San Francisco, then the issue could again be one of extremely sloppy documentation
rather than fraud. There are three aspects of this story, however, that raise doubts about
his veracity.

a. He didn’t accept the opportunity to go find the San Francisco records until a friend
suggested he may have found them in Contra Costa. So the idea that he had confused
the origins of the records seems to have come from outside. In addition, there is some
question as to whether the records he now cites could indeed be ones that he had read
in 1993.

...

b. The records he selected and photocopied from that Contra Costa archive were hardly
random, but explicitly chosen because they had the words “San Francisco” in them,
even though the records themselves clearly identify them as deriving from the Contra
Costa court.

c. The records he selected do not seem to provide the sort of information his project
requires. They may be California records. They may bear the name “San Francisco”
somewhere in the files, but they do not appear to be detailed inventories of personal
property. The Welsh inventory includes only livestock and wheat, and the Crippen
only livestock and a wagon. These do not seem to be appropriate sources for
determining either the presence or absence of guns.


The issue with Table 3 seems to be less the existence of these annual militia censuses,,
however, than with Professor Bellesiles’ claim that they represent an accounting of
"Private Gun Ownership in Massachusetts." As a number of scholars have pointed out,
such censuses were actually counts of guns brought to the annual muster
. [Robert
Churchill review, AA 00382-AA 00390, James Lindgren review, AA 00339]


The criticism aimed at Professor Bellesiles’ handling of militia data is in some respects
different from those we encountered with probate records. The issue is not whether the
records exist. In most cases, Professor Bellesiles’ footnotes are both extensive and
accurate. The problems have to do with his reading and interpretations of these records.
Robert Churchill and others have noted both his failure to provide appropriate context
and his often misleading use of statistics. Still, there are similarities to the problems we
found with probate records. His lumping together of guns and ammunition in his
discussion of Benedict Arnold’s march on the powderhouse in 1776 is reminiscent of his
conflating of wills and inventories. His attempts to estimate ratios of guns to militia sizes
show the same lack of skill with quantification as his probate computations
.


While this certainly constitutes
sloppy scholarship, it does not prove a deliberate attempt to mislead, however misleading
the result.


But in one respect, the failure to clearly identify his sources, does move into the realm of
“falsification,” which would constitute a violation of the Emory “Policies.” The
construction of this Table implies a consistent, comprehensive, and intelligible method of
gathering data. The reality seems quite the opposite.


The most egregious misrepresentation has to do with his handling of the more than 900
cases reported by Alice Hanson Jones. When critics pointed out that Jones’ data
disagreed with his, Bellesiles responded by explaining that he did NOT include Jones’s
data in his computations because her inventories, taken during the build-up to the
American revolution, showed a disproportionately high number of guns! Here is a clear
admission of misrepresentation, since the label on column one in Table One clearly says
"1765-1790." If Professor Bellesiles silently excluded data from the years 1774-1776, as
he asserts, precisely because they failed to show low numbers of guns, he has willingly
misrepresented the evidence. This, compounded with all the other inconsistencies in his
description of his method and sources and the fact that neither he nor anyone else has
been able to replicate any part of his data, suggest that there is a real discrepancy
between the research Professor Bellesiles did and his presentation of that research in
Table One.


Question 5. Did professor Bellesiles engage in "other serious deviations 'from accepted
practices in carrying out or reporting results from research'" with respect to probate
records or militia census records by:

(a) Failing to carefully document his findings;
(b) Failing to make available to others his sources, evidence, and data; or
(c) Misrepresenting evidence or the sources of evidence."

We have reached the conclusion with reference to clauses “a” through “c,” that Professor
Bellesiles contravened these professional norms, both as expressed in the Committee
charge and in the American Historical Association’s definition of scholarly “integrity,”
which includes “an awareness of one’s own bias and a readiness to follow sound method
and analysis wherever they may lead,” “disclosure of all significant qualifications of
one’s arguments,” careful documentation of findings and the responsibility to “thereafter
be prepared to make available to others their sources, evidence, and data,” and the
injunction that “historians must not misrepresent evidence or the sources of evidence.”


In summary, we find on Questions 1 and 2, that despite serious failures of and
carelessness in the gathering and presentation of archival records and the use of
quantitative analysis, we cannot speak of intentional fabrication or falsification. On
Question 3, we find that the strained character of Professor Bellesiles’ explanation raises
questions about his veracity with respect to his account of having consulted probate
records in San Francisco County. On Question 4, dealing with the construction of the
vital Table One, we find evidence of falsification. And on Question 5, which raises the
standard of professional historical scholarship, we find that Professor Bellesiles falls
short on all three counts.


Anyone who continues to believe Bellesiles does so as an article of faith. They WANT to believe him but they have no basis in fact for doing so.
 

NYC_SKP

(68,644 posts)
5. Thank you for admitting and providing PROOF of super crappy scholarshipon Bellesiles' part.
Thu Feb 26, 2015, 01:12 PM
Feb 2015

Was it "falsified"?
Well, that's a conclusion, not a fact.
So I'll give you that much.
Really shitty and stupid research and reportage isn't quite the same as falsifying information, which is more a deliberate act with intent to mislead.

Bellesiles might just be a moron.

Lord knows there are plenty of them out there, especially among the more zealous gun control types.

jimmy the one

(2,712 posts)
6. 1877
Mon Mar 2, 2015, 10:49 AM
Mar 2015

The Wikipedia article on Arming America could fit in nicely in the nra monthly magazine, or guns & ammo, or guncite, it's that biased against bellesiles, one of the most progun biased articles I've seen on wiki. It might've been written by lapierre-head. It bashes bellesiles from beginning to end, with merely brief weak sentences proffered as support - 98% is anti bellesiles.
The wiki article provides next to nothing in support of bellesiles, just gives it's one sided pro-gun description of events which transpired, & when it does quote bellesiles, portrays him as a bitter man defending his book using dishonorable accusations, as if hypocritical. Wiki does not provide much of any counterpoint, such as:

“A major new work of popular history, 1877 is also notable as the comeback book for a celebrated U.S. historian..... Michael Bellesiles is perhaps most famous as the target of an infamous ‘swiftboating’ campaign by the National Rifle Association, following the publication of his Bancroft Prize-winning book Arming America (Knopf, 2000) -- ‘the best kind of non-fiction,’ according to the Chicago Tribune -- which made daring claims about gun ownership in early America. In what became the history profession’s most talked-about and notorious case of the past generation, Arming America was eventually discredited after an unprecedented and controversial review called into question its sources, charges which Bellesiles and his many prominent supporters have always rejected.”
http://www.amazon.com/1877-Americas-Year-Living-Violently/dp/159558708X

8/2010 Mr. Bellesiles and his supporters have maintained that the uproar was politically motivated and his mistakes minor. In promotional material for “1877,” Mr. Bellesiles’s current publisher, the nonprofit New Press, described him as returning to writing after becoming “the target of an infamous ‘swiftboating’ campaign by the National Rifle Association.”
http://www.nytimes.com/2010/08/04/books/04bellisles.html?_r=5&ref=arts&

Nuclear Unicorn

(19,497 posts)
7. Swiftboating by the NRA, huh?
Mon Mar 2, 2015, 10:53 AM
Mar 2015

Except it wasn't the NRA, it was the university at which he taught.

You know how I know?

YOU provided the link to the findings of their investigation on how shoddy his work was.

Lies to cover lies.

 

DonP

(6,185 posts)
9. Yup, he was outed by fellow academics
Mon Mar 2, 2015, 11:18 AM
Mar 2015

It was his own University and others that started to question his research, then the wheels fell off and he got increasingly desperate. Then the "Flood destroyed all my notes and records" response didn't go over too well either. Sounded too much like "my dog ate my homework".

The only role gun owners had, if any at all, was to make sure the library moved it from the history section to the fiction shelves.

FWIW, our local library chose to take several copies they had off the shelves and return them to the publisher for a credit. I guess somebody must have brought the scandal about the book to their attention with copies of the academic critiques, revocation of the Bancroft prize and his loss of tenure and firing.

I'm pretty sure they replaced it on the shelves with autographed copies of the "Big Blue Book of Gun Values", with Wayne LaPierre's picture on the cover.

But you know all those academics and librarians are all just NRA shills anyway.

jimmy the one

(2,712 posts)
10. for a better perspective
Mon Mar 2, 2015, 11:40 AM
Mar 2015

nuc uni: Swiftboating by the NRA, huh? Except it wasn't the NRA, it was the university at which he taught.

Uh, that came after the swiftboating & witch hunting, & they found relatively little at fault, overall, as jon weiner points out. The table 1 which was faulty, was basically the probate records which concluded about a 14.7% firearm ownership rate in America circa rev-war, which is probably close to the truth, despite the problems bellesiles has had, when you consider the firearms available.

Here is jon weiner's support, it's pdf & I can't figure out how to copy, perhaps disabled, pg 77-79, tho read the entire thing, for a better perspective than what the gun lobby feeds you:

https://books.google.com/books?id=rYY7AAAAQBAJ&pg=PA77&lpg=PA77&dq=jon+weiner+nra+targeted+bellesiles+and+his+book+initially+the+campaign+was+restricted&source=bl&ots=hZ8vfFWvAD&sig=ohRv0M6dEaIj8D-kjoGsfXglHfE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=-oH0VMfCHsulgwThp4PoDw&ved=0CB4Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=jon%20weiner%20nra%20targeted%20bellesiles%20and%20his%20book%20initially%20the%20campaign%20was%20restricted&f=false

Nuclear Unicorn

(19,497 posts)
11. The university did not bounce Bellesiles because of the NRA. They bounced him because REAL
Mon Mar 2, 2015, 02:16 PM
Mar 2015

academics found his work to shoddy and u professional to such a degree it can only be defended by control zealots without facts.

melm00se

(5,019 posts)
12. Wiener
Mon Mar 2, 2015, 03:48 PM
Mar 2015

is a decent historian but, in my opinion, does not write in an unbiased manner. I should note that selecting a topic can be biased as hell, there is nothing wrong with that (we only research and write abiut what we find interesting) but some of his books and articles, from an historian's POV, are a little skewed. It should be noted that he is not immune to the "I didn't cite everything" disease that can make academic books a dreadful bore. Wiener states that there was a concerted attack on Belleisle's book that started on the internet and chat rooms but, at least in the part that I read, did not immediately support that with examples and citations.

Wiener also discusses that Bellesilse's under went scrutiny above and beyond that of many historical analyses but the vast majority of historical works/analyses were not awarded Bancroft Prize. Many works that are awarded prizes like this are put under a microscope as they become important works in their fields and quickly become highly cited works. If a book is destined to become that important, it is critical that they be examined from all directions to ensure that it is accurate and worthy of becoming an important work.

Please keep in mind that not only did Emory University disassemble Bellesilse's work, so did Columbia University. After they did, they rescinded their Bancroft Prize (something, it should be noted, that they had not done in the 50+ years the prize had been in existence). Keep in mind also that the field of history, in the decades before, underwent a lot of scrutiny because of people likes of David Irving (and no, I am not comparing Bellesilse to Irving) who had voluminously cited works that no one bothered to review his source documents. When people did, there was a significant "oh shit" moment when they realized that he was a complete and total crackpot.

jimmy the one

(2,712 posts)
14. well, mel
Wed Mar 4, 2015, 12:28 PM
Mar 2015

mel moose: Wiener is a decent historian but, in my opinion, does not write in an unbiased manner.

Neither did bellesiles critics, mel.

mel: Wiener states that there was a concerted attack on Belleisle's book that started on the internet and chat rooms but, at least in the part that I read, did not immediately support that with examples and citations.

Well, mel....

mel: Wiener also discusses that Bellesilse's under went scrutiny above and beyond that of many historical analyses but the vast majority of historical works/analyses were not awarded Bancroft Prize. Many works that are awarded prizes like this are put under a microscope as they become important works in their fields and quickly become highly cited works.

You make a fair appraisal at times, mel, & I thank you for being somewhat open minded.
Had Encyclopedia Brittanica been scrutinized by the gun lobby for being 'anti gun', Brittanica would be labeled biased, inaccurate, & guilty of falsifying information.

If a book is destined to become that important, it is critical that they be examined from all directions to ensure that it is accurate and worthy of becoming an important work.

In an ideal world it works that way, but in the political world, witch hunts thrive.

Please keep in mind that not only did Emory University disassemble Bellesilse's work, so did Columbia University.

Didn't GWBush say something like that? I think you meant 'dissemble'.

jimmy the one

(2,712 posts)
17. mea culpa
Wed Mar 4, 2015, 03:37 PM
Mar 2015

mel: No, 'disassemble' is the right word, as in "took apart"

You got me, you're right. I apologize for the misinterpretation.

melm00se

(5,019 posts)
19. response
Wed Mar 4, 2015, 04:51 PM
Mar 2015

Last edited Thu Mar 5, 2015, 09:19 AM - Edit history (1)

Neither did bellesiles critics, mel.

an historian strives to be be as unbiased as possible in not only his/her analysis but also in data collection. Belleisle failed in both regards. Pointing that out is not evidence of bias but of good scholarship.

In an ideal world it works that way, but in the political world, witch hunts thrive.

Books and articles in the academic world are subject to critical scrutiny. Some of it harsh but it is important that those works are closely examined otherwise anyone can publish any amount of bullshit. To the uninitiated, they can seem like witch hunts but they are careful and thoughtful examination of the sources, the work and the conclusions. If you write an academic work, you must be prepared for this level of scrutiny. If you write 100 articles and only 1 gets put under the microscope, you can't bitch and whine that is unfair because, as I said earlier, you must be prepared for this. For someone who has gotten as far as their doctorate, this should have come as no surprise as their doctoral dissertation was (or should have been) examined that closely.



jimmy the one

(2,712 posts)
20. some valid criticism, no doubt
Fri Mar 6, 2015, 01:07 PM
Mar 2015

mel: To the uninitiated, they can seem like witch hunts but they are careful and thoughtful examination of the sources, the work and the conclusions.

Some can be truthful, true; there was indeed valid criticism of bellesiles, but there was also a bit of biased twisting & dismissal of much truth in what he wrote.
My opinion is that much criticism of bellesiles focused on the relatively few errors which he undoubtedly made whether intentionally or unintentionally, transmogrified them and painted the entire book as worthless, & that about anything MB wrote in 'Arming America' was suspect. There was much of value in Arming America, and of course always will be.

mel : If you write an academic work, you must be prepared for this level of scrutiny.

This pertains across the board, & thus perhaps you can tell me how you feel about gun guru john lott & his pro-gun books?

PS: I inadvertently misread icon for you in earlier reply, but I actually agree with him for a change, my application of dissemble would not fit well. The apology is to mel moose, not to icon.

melm00se

(5,019 posts)
21. respone
Fri Mar 6, 2015, 07:48 PM
Mar 2015
This pertains across the board, & thus perhaps you can tell me how you feel about gun guru john lott & his pro-gun books?


don't know. haven't read any of his works

GGJohn

(9,951 posts)
13. More utter bullshit.
Mon Mar 2, 2015, 04:49 PM
Mar 2015

Mr. Bellesiles wasn't "swiftboated" by the NRA, it was his own colleagues that debunked his fabrications.
And his mistakes were most certainly not minor, just about every thing in his "work" was incorrect and factually dishonest.

 

friendly_iconoclast

(15,333 posts)
16. Don't you know that the NRA secretly controls both Columbia *and* Emory universities?
Wed Mar 4, 2015, 03:05 PM
Mar 2015

It's true, I swear! I got the d/l from a friend whose cousin's neighbors realtor heard it directly
from Shannon Watts...

 

Eleanors38

(18,318 posts)
22. Bellisiles' book, IMO, crippled the academic status gun-controllers enjoyed...
Sun Mar 8, 2015, 02:14 PM
Mar 2015

for many years. That status was something of a contrivance in any case, but Armed America gave academia a full measured breech burst. I rather suspect few notable scholars would sign off on any testimonials to a fun controller's screed, now, if for no other reason that they are generally ignorant in the subject of guns in American history.

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