April 30, 2002

BELLESILES UPDATE: A letter in the Emory Wheel from Emory psychology professor Patricia Brennan suggests that Michael Bellesiles is the victim of a political witchhunt (she actually compares Bellesiles to an anti-lynching campaigner in the Old South), and says that Emory should be supporting him. Brennan asks some questions: “Exactly how many errors were found in Bellesiles’ work? Is this a large number of errors in light of the number of data points that he has provided? How many other books and research projects would fare better than Bellesiles’ when met with the same level of scrutiny? Where, and from whom, did this campaign against Bellesiles originate? Could this attack have been politically motivated?”

A response from Clayton Cramer (scroll down and click on the link) answers these questions: (1) Hundreds and hundreds; (2) Yes; (3) Nearly all of them; (4) from Clayton Cramer. The best part of Cramer’s response is this:

If this isn’t fraud, then it is presents an interesting opportunity for the psychology department to examine Professor Bellesiles, and explain about how someone with such a severe reading disability managed to earn a Ph.D. in History from University of California, Irvine, then become a full professor at Emory, without this serious reading disability being noticed.

Another reader, Don Williams, writes:

If Brennan is looking for a covert agent of the NRA, she might look at Bellesiles –he has made fools of our country’s gun control intelligentsia. The NRA could never have accomplished so much.

And he’s got a point. Note that Cramer and Williams both provide numerous links to support their positions — Cramer even links to a page showing actual copies of the original documents that Bellesiles misrepresents. Bellesiles’ defender Brennan does not provide any similar support, but merely spins conspiracy theories. Typical, I’m afraid.

UPDATE: Judging by this webpage, Prof. Brennan appears to be affiliated with the Violence Studies program that Bellesiles founded with the help of anti-gun scholar Arthur Kellerman. Her call for support is thus not exactly selfless.

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