Meet Mary Rosh


The latest chapter in the John Lott saga is almost too weird for words.

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  1. Jesse:
    Actuall I have corresponed with you a few times — sometimes under my real identity, sometimes under a fake.

    Why do I do this? Sometimes I use a fake identity to flame people, to ask stupid questions, to discuss topics that I wouldn’t want traced back to my name — in other words, to act out portions of my *real* personality that I am not confortable expressing under my real name.

    Sometimes I use a fake identity to pretend to be someone else or even invent a personality — I could parody a stereotype to prove a point (pretend to be a liberal Democrat, act like an idiot and then prove to you that all liberal Democrats are idiots) in a real debate. Or I might flame you just for the thrill of it — similar to a prank phone call (even though I may be neutral or even agnostic on your opinions). Many trolls do this I think.

    Yes this all very dishonest, stupid and immature, and clearly I have personal problems (which I am working on)… but to tie this back to the Lott situation: If you discovered that I or Mr. Lott was doing this, how much damage is done to our credibilty? Would you now take everything Mr. Lott says with a grain of salt?

  2. I’ve also had the occasional online “conversation with myself”, albeit generally only to keep (what seemed to me to be) an important discussion (in which real others were also involved) moving. Sometimes it’s helpful in clarifying your own position when a “third party” appears taking a more extreme or contradictory stance. That having been said, for a someone in Lott’s position to engage in these kind of shenanigans (particularly without taking elementary precautions against exposure) is just foolish, whatever you think of it in ethical terms.

  3. Actually, Fakename, I’m all for pranks, as long as they’re somewhat clever. I must admit that I have occasionally donned a pseudonym myself. When I worked for Liberty magazine, for example, I was sometimes allowed to insert absurd notes from imaginary people into our letters page. Good clean fun.

    Lott’s actions, I think, fall under a different category. If nothing else, they’re bad form.

  4. Ma Ry Ro Sh…I think that’s the same formula John Derbyshire uses for his email address. Some people….

  5. This is a guy whose credibility has been called into question, who apparently posted a giant number of messsages (and sent e-mails) under a phony name both attacking those people that questioned his results and defending and promoting himself.

    When we comment on message boards and blogs, of course there is no harm in using a fake name. But what we are talking about does not involve details of our own careers and lives, and affect our reputation as authorities.

    When a “scholar” who may have fabricated information in a book that he wrote uses fake names, it says much much more about him than a normal anonymous poster.

    I think it suggests pretty strongly that he has little or no credibility.

  6. I’m sure if this guy’s initials were M.B. then this attract the gaze of the All-Seeing Eye of Knoxville.

  7. “Not from Emory” has a great point. Glenn Reynolds was right to bashed the hell out of M.B. Where’s the 24/7 coverage of Lott? Reynolds has posted barely enough about it to look like he’s not ignoring the issue, but not enough to show he’s concerned generally about academic fraud.

  8. Lott has used his “Mary Rosh” pseudonym hundreds of times in the last two years.

    Under his real name, he says things like “Apparently you think that everyone who works in this area is an advocate for a particular position. We were not.”

    Under his fake name, he posts to and clandestinely hype his articles: “You can see the research that the Democrats are trying to hide…It is a great read and after looking at it you can see why the Democrats don’t want anyone else to see it.”

  9. On the topic of internet nom de plumes: I too have used them. There are different norms across the internet. On the Guardian’s talkboards (U.K.), and many music chatboards, anonymity is the norm. Not so in the U.S. blogsphere: why this discrepancy I don’t know. It may represent different cultural, or sub-cultural, privacy preferences.

    Re: Lott’s self-trumpeting. It is embarrassing for Lott. But I think its dangerous to extrapolate about his published scholarship from this. Which is not to say that Lott probably is guilty of academic sloppiness, to say the least: nonetheless it is a separate question.

  10. Actually, contrary to the remarks of your pseudonymous posters, I was not quick off the mark with Bellesiles. I believe my first post on him was on October 3, 2001, here:

    That was several weeks after investigative stories had run in the Boston Globe and National Review Online (both ran stories on September 11, which got little attention at the time, naturally enough), and several months after a story in the Wall St. Journal.

    During that time I *was* discussing the matter with other people on various law professors’ email lists devoted to relevant topics, as people tried to get to the bottom of things. That’s what happened with Lott, too. I was one of the ones who pressed Lott to release his survey data and to cooperate with Jim Lindgren. The difference is that Lott appears to have satisfied his critics that he wasn’t lying (about a matter that was, even if true, less significant — though still serious — than Bellesiles’ fraud).

    I was slow off the mark on my site because accusing an academic of fraud is a very serious matter. It is also something that — if false or ill-founded — places one at substantial risk of libel suits, something that some of Lott’s more vociferous critics seem to have forgotten.

    The Lott affair got more attention faster than the Bellesiles affair. In part that’s because the Bellesiles affair had already sensitized people to these issues. But it’s also because a lot of people want paybacks for the Bellesiles affair and aren’t dreadfully concerned about the truth. That’s hardly to their credit, however, regardless of whether they have a connection with Emory University today.

    Rest assured that if there’s actual news, I’ll mention it on my site.

  11. Is posting under a fake name really so bad? I think that people using multiple indenties in cyberspace is pretty common. He should have been a little smarter and hid his true IP address though! (NOTE: This was posted under a fake name and a false IP address but I am not Lott).

  12. I don’t really think it’s all that weird. What about the Federalist papers? They were all written under pseudonyms.

  13. It wasn’t the use of the fake name that I thought notable, so much as the deceits involved in creating a persona who (for example) claimed to have had Lott as a professor.

  14. Yeah I guess it seems weird and dishonest, but if you think about it I bet this happens all the time on Internet. I wonder how many really clever discussions on the net are just people literally talking to themselves? How many cheerleaders are really dopplegangers?

    It is pretty easy to do and proves there is a moral hazard with an anomyous medium such as this. I have done it myself and have also gotten caught, and I feel for the guy because it is embarrassing and shameful.

    I ask myself if I was really being dishonest, or did I just get a kick of playing someone else in a prankish kind of way?

    Probably better to just post/discuss/email under one’s true name at all times (which I am obviously not doing).

  15. Glenn, I’m sure you can identify the critics of Lott who “aren’t dreadfully concerned about the truth.”

    I’m also sure that you are concerned about the truth.

    So I’m sure that you will begin giving the numerous flaws in John Lott’s research the same amount of attention at your site that you gave to the problems with Bellesiles’ probate data–especially since Lott’s flawed regression analysis is far more central to his thesis than the probate data were to Bellesiles’.

  16. Mark, I guess you missed it but “The Lott (John Lott) Controversy Has Been Resolved”(Clayton Cramer). Thus while Glenn’s statement “if there’s actual news, I’ll mention it on my site” is true, there obviously cannot be any actual news.

  17. But it’s also because a lot of people want paybacks for the Bellesiles affair and aren’t dreadfully concerned about the truth.

    Sure, that’s it.

    Who are these “people”?

  18. Well, if he’d just used a pseudonym, it wouldn’t bother me, but he’s gone a lot farther, doing things like posting glowing reviews of his own books over at, under the “Mary Rosh” name, or using the the “Mary Rosh” persona to talk about what a good teacher Lott was when she took classes from him at Wharton back in the early 90’s. There’s a fine line between using a pseudonym and lying–Lott is WAY over the line.

  19. It is weird how there’s this cabal of Bellesiles worshipping gun control fetishists out there who are obsessed with finding revenge. I mean, I haven’t met one. I haven’t read one. I was never invited to the meeting.

    I’m not saying they don’t exist, but I would like them to be, well named.

    My own objections of Lott have not much to do with caring about the gun issue, and nothing to do with Bellesiles. It’s all about exposing a Huckster who has leveraged his supposed credibility into other areas.

  20. – For my undergraduate thesis, we interviewed less than 50 participants and produced no less than two boxes of paper. We had to have our methodology reviewed, because we were working with human participants. We had to keep the survey questions handy, so that critics could examine them later. I can tell you that a number of the people who worked on the study stayed in touch with my thesis advisor, out of academic ambition, personal friendship, or both.

    The idea that a large-scale survey of 2,424 participants could be conducted and leave no trace seems frankly unbelievable to me. John Lott has proven that he’s willing to lie in his own defense. You may think it’s trivial; it’s certainly not against the law. I personally think that Lott needs more evidence than one pro-gun activist stepping forward to save his bacon.

    – If John Lott is right, it makes personal defense much, much easier. 98% of the time, merely brandishing a gun will break off an attack. You don’t need to learn to shoot. You don’t need to load the gun. You don’t even need to use a real gun. All you need is a realistic prop.

    If John Lott is wrong, he’s repeated extremely dangerous advice in over 50 different venues. This should be of some concern to activists of any stripe who share a genuine concern for making law-abiding citizens safer from criminals.

    What he said.

  21. For an interesting and more academic version of the Ms. Doubtfirearm affair, see:

    Do Boys (and Girls) Just Wanna Have Fun?
    Gender-Switching in Cyberspace

  22. The survey in question was only a tiny portion of what Lott’s work is all about. Was it faked? I doubt it. I’ve personally had to draw deadly force against crooks in two different incidents about 8 years apart, and in both cases had the pleasure of watching ’em run like bunnies. Fine by me – saves legal bills and all sorts of hassles. (Worked twice more on dogs, come to think, but that’s outside the scope of what we’re up to. No, I don’t think the dogs knew I was armed, as much as “confident and determined”.)

    Most police departments track how often cops draw weapons and how often they fire. From that we get a “surrender/retreat rate” consistently around 90% compared to shootings across all departments, varying a bit based on both the local crook climate and department use-of-force policies.

    Are civilian “no need to actually fire” rates even higher? Don’t know, BUT it’s quite possible, because crooks know that cops are tasked with chasing ’em down if they run and non-cops aren’t. The odds of successful flight from an armed citizen lacking a radio and backup are therefore far higher than the odds of successfully outrunning the cops.

    Lott’s survey numbers are therefore at least ballpark reasonable.

    A much better independent proof of his core thesis about CCW happens every time a state converts from a discriminatory system (or zero permits) to a widespread fairly-handled system. The local newspapers inevitably write articles about a year later with a general theme of “hey, wheretheheck’s all the dead bodies and wild west shootouts the grabbers promised?!?”. Michigan’s conversion in 2000 provided the latest example; I archived some of the best examples of that sort of reporting here:

    What Lott hasn’t gotten into yet is the “downsides” to maintaining discriminatory systems: rampant racism and corrtuption within law enforcement. See my site below under the “Expose Project” for a series of carefully documented examples, the finest such collection anywhere.

    What else…OH ya, Lott’s use of an “alter ego”. Sigh. Dumb, but…my theory is that he was sick’n’tired of answering questions about his eyebrows every time he popped up in public.


    Jim March (yup, the real one !)
    Equal Rights for CCW Home Page

  23. so what exactly *is* the deal with john lott’s eyebrows? saw him on tv tonight. very very strange. i can’t figure out what exactly the deal is. they do not move. at all. it almost looks like a scar evenly going around them. but that doesn’t make sense.

  24. Ask him, PLEASE!!! I really want to know, but am embarassed to ask:

    Contact Information
    John R. Lott
    American Enterprise Institute
    1150 Seventeenth Street, N.W.
    Washington, DC 20036
    Phone: 202-862-4884
    Assistant: 202-862-5832
    Fax: 202-862-7177

    Please post your findings.

  25. I am totally unconcerned about the Politics of Mr. Lott (he’s not really a professor?) but his eyebrows, all four of them, got the better of my curiosity. I think he went to a permanent make-up lady and had a second pair put on. Can someone call his publicist and get the answer(s)? I am a nobody who pretends that one’s appearance is insignificant.

  26. EMAIL:
    DATE: 01/19/2004 08:19:00
    I have become Death, the destroyer of worlds.

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