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Rogue sociologist can’t stop roguin’

Mark Palko points me to two posts by Paul Campos (here and here) on this fascinating train wreck of a story.

What happens next? It was ok that George Orwell and A. J. Liebling and David Sedaris made stuff up because they’re such good writers. And journalists make up quotes all the time. But who’s gonna want to read the next Alice Goffman book? I dunno. Weggy’s retired by now I guess, so he can just keep quiet and not bother anyone. But it’s not quite clear to me what Goffman is qualified to do, once she’s lost the trust of her audience. Work with public documents, perhaps? She could be the new I. F. Stone.

P.S. More from Campos in the comment thread. I hadn’t realized that Goffman may have done a Michael Lacour and fabricated survey data too.

P.P.S. There was lots of discussion in the comments, so let me clarify some things. I’ve never met Alice Goffman or Paul Campos or any of the other people involved in this story, and I have no idea if Goffman really had the conversations she wrote about in her book. To my reading, Campos makes a convincing case that it’s highly implausible that these things could’ve happened the way Goffman said, but I don’t really know.

Here’s the key point: Alice Goffman’s success comes from telling stories that are both surprising and plausible, at least on a casual reading (no, this is not a contradiction to my earlier statement, as Campos’s point is that yes these stories could be plausible in a general sense but not in their details), stories that are socially relevant and highly detailed, which are presented as (and may actually be) true, but which are not documented.

So Goffman’s success, and the reputation of her work, depend crucially on the trust of her audience. Once that trust is gone, I think it’s very hard to get it back. I think she’ll have to move into an arena in which she can document her work, or else move into some field such as advocacy in which documented truth is not required.

Did Goffman make things up, was she misled by her charming sources, did she perhaps make up some things but not others, did it all happen just exactly as she said despite the seeming implausibility of the details, is it all basically correct except for some relatively minor exaggerations which she is now to embarrassed to admit? All these are possible. But, whatever it is, the trust is gone. If you got no documentation, it’s not enough that your stories could be true.


  1. Morgan Price says:

    Some independent fact-checking of Ms. Goffman’s work:

    “Josh, meanwhile, said that he and his friends did fear getting arrested at hospitals, and remembered a couple of instances in which this had happened — they were scared to enter the hospital after Chuck’s death, for example, because of a law-enforcement presence there.”

    This quote does not directly address Campos’ criticisms, but on the other hand, it doesn’t look like Ms. Goffman made the whole thing up either. I’m puzzled.

    • lemmy caution says:

      That ny mag article convinced me that she wasn’t making stuff up. People should give her some slack

      • lemmy caution says:

        plus the “You committed a felony!” argument that Campos echoed. Complete bullshit. Such an asshole law professor move. “You committed a serious crime that nobody knows about.”

        • Paul Campos says:

          In OTR, Goffman claims that on several occasions she drove Mike around, searching for 4th Street gang members on whom to wreak revenge for the killing of Chuck.

          “We started out around 3: 00 a.m., with Mike in the passenger seat, his hand on his Glock as he directed me around the area. We peered into dark houses and looked at license plates and car models as Mike spoke on the phone with others who had information about the 4th Street Boys’ whereabouts. One night Mike thought he saw a 4th Street guy walk into a Chinese restaurant. He tucked his gun in his jeans, got out of the car, and hid in the adjacent alleyway. I waited in the car with the engine running, ready to speed off as soon as Mike ran back and got inside. But when the man came out with his food, Mike seemed to think this wasn’t the man he’d thought it was. He walked back to the car and we drove on.”

          It surprises you that this is actually a crime? It’s a textbook example of conspiracy to commit murder under Pennsylvania law, and indeed under the laws of pretty much every American jurisdiction. As to the policy question it raises, do you think it’s a bad thing to criminalize actively aiding an armed hunt that’s intended to result in a murder?

          Now personally I doubt Goffman is guilty of conspiracy to commit murder, because I think there’s a very good chance this story is either highly embellished, or made up altogether. But if the description in OTR is accurate, there’s no question Goffman committed a serious felony. That it took a year after the book’s publication for anyone to point this out in print is yet another example of the special rules that seem to apply in this case.

          • Rahul says:

            You could try contacting the prosecutor with jurisdiction & see if he will prosecute?

            • Paul Campos says:

              Ironically, one reason that prosecution would be impossible is that it would depend on a jury determining that the description of the incident in OTR is true beyond a reasonable doubt, and Goffman can make that conclusion impossible to reach simply by pointing out that parts of the book are made up.

              • lemmy caution says:

                Pretty unlikely that they would charge anybody for this. Certainly they could. And active conspiracies should be stopped. but nobody is going to charge anyone under the circumstances described in the book where they decided not to do the crime.

  2. Jacob says:

    I had a similar question regarding Michael LaCour. As a quick refresher, this was a he was a PhD student who was accused (and though he never admitted it the evidence is substantial) of fabricating data. It seems as though he started a business in data visualization. Which seems like a smart play to me, his colleagues all had glowing things to say about the graphs he made and as long as he’s not the one taking data I guess his integrity is immaterial.

    • Andrew says:


      If Michael LaCour can exercise his skills in a useful way, that’s great. There’s no reason why being caught should cause someone to suffer forever. He should be able to move on, live a happy life, and be a productive member of society.

      • Clyde Schechter says:

        While I agree in principle that he should be able to move on, have a happy life, and be a productive member of society, having him doing data visualization makes me a bit queasy. In medicine, doctors can have their licenses revoked for narcotic abuse. After a sufficient period of abstinence and good behavior, they will typically be allowed to practice medicine again. But they are almost always barred from practicing anesthesiology, because that specialty involves constant contact with narcotics and other controlled substances.

        My guess is that distorted graphical presentations as a way of misleading the public outnumber outright data fabrications by a large margin. This just strikes me as the wrong field to unleash someone who has already demonstrated lack of integrity.

  3. numeric says:

    This sort of stuff happens in the social sciences all the time, though when it is a statistical “error” that benefits the proponent that seems, for the most part seems to be ok. In sociology, Weitzman’s “work” (the Divorce Revolution) on the feminization of poverty after divorce was finally exposed as nearly completely erroneous, but it took 10 years to get her to release the data and only under extreme pressure (I will point out that relationship of females/children/poverty is all too true but that the /males part needs to be considered as part of declining economic opportunities for the submerged 9/10’s of the population–no one who reads this blog, to be sure, but they exist). My underlying point (there is one) is that if someone is talking to a “higher truth” then facts be damned and the social sciences, where people have beliefs, is breeding ground for this. This seemed at one point to be restricted to the left (the right was able to avoid having the questions asked–the big contribution of discourse theory in that they started to get asked) but the W post-modern campaign and the Trump non-reality campaign indicates that all sectors of the political spectrum are now using them with no discernible embarrassment (should that be wavelengths rather than sectors?).

    • Andrew says:


      That’s all irrelevant to the Goffman story, no?

      • AF says:

        I am not sure how irrelevant this would be. If the person who is posing serious allegations of fraud and misconduct has a reputation for craving media attention, I would be a bit more hesitant.

        • Andrew says:


          I don’t know that anyone in this discussion has a reputation for craving media discussion. Goffman wrote and publicized a book; Campos and Leiter and I all blog. Clearly none of us is averse to media attention. If we were, none of this would’ve come up in the first place. I don’t think the fact that Campos is a blogger or journalist should give you hesitation, any more than I think that Leiter’s blogging activities, or mine, should induce hesitation. I assume that all of us, Goffman included, think our work is important and thus we want to reach the widest possible audience. Nothing wrong with that.

          • AF says:

            There is nothing wrong with blogging and twittering to get media attention on one’s work. We are all trying to publicize our findings to broader audiences, and that is perfectly fine.

            I am a regular reader of this blog, and can’t appreciate your writing enough–but getting media attention for one’s work through blogging and twittering is one thing; getting media attention just for the sake of having the spotlights on by accusing others with fraud is another.

            My hesitation would be: is this person accusing a young and seemingly successful scholar, just to get some media attention? Of course, these allegations are serious and should be duly investigated. LaCour case was quite traumatizing for many researchers, and there, the investigation was more systematic and followed professional standards. Here we have a person who is not trained as an ethnographer, who claims he has spoken to several hospitals, police officers and others (none of them documented), only to accuse AG of conducting fraud. His accusations are alarming and if true, really, really disturbing. But I would not jump conclusions and accuse her of fabricating a survey on top of everything else.

            • Paul Campos says:

              Unlike (apparently) Alice Goffman’s writing, my work on this matter was actually fact-checked by my publisher, so you don’t just have to take my word for it.

              As I’ve said before — and as I told Goffman before the piece ran — I never would have published the CHE piece at all if Goffman herself had provided the minimal level of cooperation necessary to confirm that even a couple of the stories I was questioning happened to be true, or mostly true.

              Also, being accused by Brian Leiter of publicity whoring probably sets some sort of psychological world record for projection.

            • Rahul says:


              I think I agree somewhat with you. What makes these things iffy is the relative asymmetry of the media attention.

              An accusation these days gets a lot of limelight quickly. Much fewer articles will try to do an unbiased investigation to get to the bottom of the story.

              i.e. It has become quite easy to tar the reputation of someone by mere accusation. Whether in the longer term the accusation stands or not becomes irrelevant to the effects on the accused’s career.

              OTOH, because the cost of accusing is so low perhaps our success at catching fraud like LaCours has become better? It really is a trade-off of balancing the collateral damage against the intended mission.

              Maybe this is just the cost of doing business? I’m not sure what to think.

    • Jake says:

      Brian Leiter’s certainly no stranger to going off the deep end.

  4. Paul Campos says:

    Andrew asked me if I wanted to reply here and I’ll do so very briefly. I became interested in the Goffman case last summer. I read the book, and while I found it to be an interesting and even compelling narrative, I was also struck by the large number of highly improbable events, and even a couple of flat-out impossibilities. I then spent about a month researching the matter. I identified several of the main characters in the book (this was quite easy to do, as AG’s anonymization techniques were rather cursory), interviewed numerous people in the Philadelphia criminal justice system on both the prosecution and defense side, and spoke at length to people in academia who were connected in various ways to the genesis of On the Run, and AG’s ASR article.

    I also tried to interview Goffman and got nowhere, despite giving her numerous assurances, directly and through intermediaries, that I wouldn’t publish the long article I had in draft if she would co-operate in a way that would allow me to confirm the veracity of even just a couple of the dubious incidents the article was calling into question (Although she didn’t see the text of the article prior to publication, she was made quite precisely aware of its substantive content).

    She could have easily provided such information, if it existed, without violating the terms of her IRB agreement, but for whatever reason she chose not to do so.

    My article in the Chronicle of Higher Education appeared in August. It catalogs seven incidents in the book that, in my opinion, didn’t happen. (This is far from an exhaustive list of questionable things in the book, but considerations of space and time limited me to discussing these seven). One such incident is the several hundred household survey that forms the quantitative basis of her ASR article. Another is the maternity ward incident that is referenced in the first comment in this thread.

    Let me recap the latter briefly. AG claims that her friend and informant Alex was staying with his girlfriend Donna in the maternity ward of a Philadelphia hospital when police arrived and arrested him, despite his girlfriend’s desperate pleas to allow him to at least spend the night with her and their newborn child. She also claims that she witnessed this arrest herself, and that she interviewed the arresting officers: “The officers told me they had come to the hospital with a shooting victim who was in custody and, as was their custom, ran the names of the men on the visitors list. Alex came up as having a warrant out for a parole violation, so they arrested him along with two other men on the delivery room floor.” (This quote is from the ASR article. The relevant passage in OTR is almost identical).

    I spoke to Philadelphia, police, public defenders, and criminal defense attorneys. None of these people had ever heard of anything like the “custom” the arresting officers AG supposedly interviewed purportedly engaged in. I also spoke to personnel at all six hospitals in the Philadelphia with maternity wards. All denied that they would allow police access to visitor lists in this way. I was unable to find anyone at these hospitals who recalled an incident resembling the one Goffman describes.

    In his NYMag article, Jesse Singal interviews “Josh,” someone who is associated with the Sixth Street group but who is also quite apart from them (he lives elsewhere and doesn’t engage in criminal activity for example), who says this:

    “Josh, meanwhile, said that he and his friends did fear getting arrested at hospitals, and remembered a couple of instances in which this had happened — they were scared to enter the hospital after Chuck’s death, for example, because of a law-enforcement presence there. But Josh also said that the police were, at the time, very interested in the boys of 6th Street; of a friend who, according to him, got arrested visiting his girlfriend in a maternity ward, he said, ‘Now, mind you, his arrest was for some crimes that were very serious, so take that into consideration.’”

    This is, as far as I know, the only evidence that somebody associated with Goffman’s research may at some time have actually been arrested in a maternity ward, leaving aside all the other details of Goffman’s story (that the person arrested was “Alex,” that she was there to witness it, that the police told her the arrest took place because of a random check of a visitor list for outstanding warrants, etc.).

    Even in this minimalist form, the story Josh relates to Singal doesn’t match up with AG’s narrative. According to AG, Alex was arrested because he had an outstanding warrant for a minor parole violation (drinking alcohol), not for “some crimes that were very serious.” Furthermore, Josh doesn’t appear to have provided Singal with any details that could be checked out (what hospital, approximately when, and perhaps even the identity of the person arrested). Again, if “Alex” was actually arrested at a maternity ward, in a sweep that picked up two other new fathers, this should be very easy to confirm. Singal’s narrative suggests that Singal pressed Josh on the maternity ward story after getting some vague answers about men being arrested in hospitals. The response he got doesn’t actually match up with Goffman’s story, so why didn’t Singal make further inquiries, as for example I did? My speculation is that he didn’t for the same reason Gideon Lewis-Kraus cited three maternity room arrests in other cities — arrests that contrary to his representation in his NYT story had nothing to do with police running visitor list IDs — as evidence for AG’s veracity on this point.

    A lot of people want to believe that Alice Goffman didn’t make up a lot of stuff in On the Run, but in my view the evidence is overwhelming that she did.

    • Andrew says:


      Thanks for the response. Just one thing, not about Goffman about about some of the journalists writing about her. You suggest that Singal and others “want to believe” that Goffman didn’t fabricate. That could be—I don’t know any of the people involved—but I’d be inclined to believe a simpler explanation for the journalists’ behavior, which is that (a) the story is complicated, and (b) Goffman is the “incumbent” in this situation. That is, Goffman’s side of the story (along with her many prestigious supporters) came first, and so it’s natural to require a high standard of evidence on the other side. In this view, it’s not so much that they want to believe Goffman, it’s more that they’re requiring a higher standard of evidence to shoot down her claims, than she presented in advancing them.

      This burden-of-proof thing comes up a lot in scientific and scholarly criticism, not just journalism, and I think I’ll devote a separate post to it. But for now, let me just say that you might be misunderstanding where these journalists are coming from. (Again, I say this in speculation, without knowing any of the people involved.)

      • Paul Campos says:


        That’s quite possible, and probably plays some role. Also, the motives of journalists in these sorts of situations are often mixed. For example, Singal played a key role in breaking the Michael LaCour story in the media, and he says he went to Philadelphia with the thought that this could be another LaCour situation very much in mind.

        Speaking of mixed motives, I wouldn’t be surprised if a major impetus for the new Times puff piece on AG (they’ve now done four pieces on On the Run) is that Alex Star, who is one of the most powerful people in NY publishing — he’s the former editor of both the NYT Book Review and the Sunday Magazine — made On the Run one of his first major acquisitions after he joined FS&G in 2012. I don’t imagine he’s too happy about the questions being raised about the book.

        • Andrew says:


          I’ve written a bunch of things for the NYT over the years, and my impression is it’s a pretty decentralized place, with lots of people making decisions about what gets run where. So, while I could believe that Star has some input here, I could also well believe that he had nothing to do with some of these articles. I have no idea one way or another, I’m just suggesting that all this could be happening without any behind-the-scenes action.

      • Curious says:


        I am not in a position to defend Goffman as I know next to nothing of the story. That said, I am afraid that the argument you are putting forth relative to the claims about police is not as airtight as you are presenting and I find this type of argumentation to be as problematic as it is common:

        “I spoke to Philadelphia, police, public defenders, and criminal defense attorneys. None of these people had ever heard of anything like the “custom” the arresting officers AG supposedly interviewed purportedly engaged in. I also spoke to personnel at all six hospitals in the Philadelphia with maternity wards. All denied that they would allow police access to visitor lists in this way. I was unable to find anyone at these hospitals who recalled an incident resembling the one Goffman describes.”

        From this argument you are concluding with a strong degree of certainty that Goffman’s statement was made up.

        For the sake of analysis, let’s assume the police did regularly run the names on the list. Under what circumstances could this both be true and also not revealed to you during your investigation?

        1. A single or very small number of people at the hospital who allowed it.
        2. A strong motive not to reveal it as it would be illegal and would likely result in a lost job and career.

        With only these two things being true, your claim could be entirely false and yet you do not allow for this uncertainty. It is this type of argumentation that I find most troubling in a lot of journalism. You would still be on solid ground in challenging the words Goffman chose to describe it, but you would not be on solid ground in claiming that her knowledge of the events was indeed a lie. You would also be on solid ground in making an argument that her claims are less convincing given the absence of identified sources that could be verified. But, this is a different type of uncertainty than you claiming.

        Let’s say the person being accused of breaking the law was in a position to claim Goffman was engaging in defamation. Goffman would then be in the position of having to provide a source or not providing a defense against the claim of defamation. From a lack of defense, we still could not conclude that she was lying as an alternative explanation could be protecting the person(s) who provided the information. You could then argue that this type of research is not something that should be engaged in, etc…. but again that is a different argument and a different issue.

        • Curious says:

          A point of clarification:

          The fact that Goffman’s statement cannot be proved a lie, does not prove it is true. It leaves us with a decidedly uncomfortable level of uncertainty and speaks to what should be required of journalists prior to publishing accusatory statements. If TV dramas are a good indicator of what is required, then simply two people saying the same thing is all that is needed. A rather low bar given what we know about people.

        • Paul Campos says:

          The claim that police *regularly* make arrests by running warrant checks on hospital patient and visitor lists is clearly false. If such a practice existed with any frequency, it’s inconceivable that, for example, long-time Philadelphia public defenders would have never heard of it.

          This means either:

          The cops who told AG that’s what they commonly do were lying to her. (She also claims that police wait around outside hospitals to check the IDs of men walking in, and run warrant checks in this way. She provides no basis for this claim).

          AG’s on the spot interview with the cops in the maternity ward never happened.

          For various reasons I think the latter possibility is much more likely. One compelling reason for reaching this conclusion is that, if the cops did run the names against the visitor list and then made three arrests in the ward as a result, this was a, to put it mildly, very unusual event. We’re then supposed to believe that this freakish event, which provides spectacularly memorable evidence for the main thesis of her book, happened to one of AG’s primary informants, while she was actually there to witness it in person, and on top of that the arresting officers then stopped to explain exactly what they were doing to the aspiring ethnographer.

          All this stretches credulity near the breaking point. Now the incident still could have happened as described, as unlikely as that seems. But what’s missing from your comment is any recognition that the book is full of things like this. This isn’t one strange off the wall event. It’s one of many — none of which check out when investigated, although all of them could, individually, still be true if one makes enough interpretive assumptions to transform the facially improbable into something else.

          • Curious says:

            The ignorance of long time PDs would only be inconceivable if the practice were informally considered acceptable. If it is not informally acceptable to break this particular rule (law), then it would not be uncommon for a practice such as this to exist without the knowledge of people one might think would or should know about it.

            In addition, I think your use of the phrase ‘facially improbable’ reveals a bias of reasoning about something you have decided is untrue before hand rather than as a logical extension of the information in front of you. Equally important in an analysis of claims and events such as this is an understanding of the counterfactual possibilities without which automatic processing based on cognitive biases rules the day.

            • rea says:

              In my experience, not in Philadelphia, but it seems improbable that it would be different there, every defense attorney gets the police reports concerning the arrest, unless they are guilty of an astonishing lack of due diligence. And of course, the defendant knows how he got arrested. A pattern of gross discrepancies between reports and client stories over the years would surely be noticed.

              • Curious says:

                One would have thought that a gross discrepancy between NSA claims of no surveillance and the reality of massive surveillance would have been noticed by those with access to the reports as well.

              • Curious says:

                And my broader point above is that the argument that ‘someone would have noticed’ is a very weak argument as the only counterfactual possibility required is that ‘no one did notice’ for a whole host of possible reasons.

              • Corey says:

                One would have thought that a gross discrepancy between NSA claims of no surveillance and the reality of massive surveillance would have been noticed by those with access to the reports as well.

                Bad analogy. Public defenders are in an adversarial relationship with the police officers who generate the reports and have every reason to investigate anything unusual and make malfeasance known to the public.

              • Curious says:


                Do they have the time to investigate all 250 cases they are currently working on? Who exactly is going to notice a pattern that likely includes the noise of having a different cop down the street make the actual arrest under the guise of a traffic stop for a taillight that is out?

                The analogy suggests that busy people, even those responsible for oversight, do not always do so. And it is pointing out that an argument that rests on the premise ‘that someone would have noticed’, is simply a weak argument.

              • Corey says:

                Yeesh. Give it up, man.

      • Mark Palko says:

        Not sure about why Singal may have pulled his punches but the possible motivations of Lewis-Kraus are easier to speculate about. His piece was a painfully conventional New York Times Magazine profile completely dependent on a high level of access to a notably reclusive source. To go any deeper than a “shape of the earth: opinions differ” account of the controversy would have required a great deal of work, would have burned a valuable source, and would probably have produced a messy story that the editors would have liked less.

  5. Martha says:

    The maternity story is so fake it is embarrassing Alice didn’t walk it back when she was first confronted. All hospitals maintain records of events, all labor and delivery hospitals in Philadelphia are videotaped. If Alice wanted to prove an event even remotely similar to what she described in her book, it can be proven with non-police data. She chooses not to share and the implication is obvious to all non ethnographers as far as I can see…

    • Martha (Smith) says:

      FWIW: The Martha who wrote this is not me — I have been contributing to this blog using just my first name, since there have (until now) been no other Marthas contributing. So I’ll try to remember to use last name from now on (but might forget).

  6. Paul Campos says:

    Police would have no reason to try to hide such a practice from PDs.

    Your interpretation of the phrase “facially improbable” doesn’t make sense.

  7. Ivan says:

    Hmmmm… does publishing sensationalistic titles on blogs and taking one side on some unresolved scientific controversy count as data fabrication? Can I cite your blog as proof that Goffman is guilty? You seem to be the judge&jury here, Andrew.

    As for the specific event Goffman describes, I still find it entirely plausible: maybe the cop just told her something to go away, maybe it was regular practice just for that cop, maybe also the black community believes this to be the case, which would lead Goffman astray…

    • crh says:

      Your last possibility is my guess. I think one of her subjects relayed this anecdote to her, perhaps distorted by retelling and/or not-entirely-unjustified paranoia, and she 1) accepted it uncritically and 2) decided to write about it as though she’d witnessed it personally, either to lend it her credibility or just to make the book more interesting. Of course, this explanation, if true, wouldn’t exactly absolve her from blame; she’d still be a liar and a lousy scientist.

    • Andrew says:

      Hi, Ivan. In answer to your question: No, neither the title of this post nor its content count as data fabrication.

      Also, I don’t think the fact that you find the story to be plausible much evidence in favor. Of course, some people found the story plausible, else it wouldn’t have been published in the first place. The point is that Campos and others looked into the details and the story fell apart. As commenter crh says, maybe Goffman believed the story at the time, but at this point she seems to be working hard not to confront the evidence that suggests she was misled.

  8. Ivan says:

    I think you’re being overly harsh towards Goffman. let’s say she produced thousands of data points for her ethnography and if Campos disproves one her whole story should be invalidated?

    What about researchers who make up data analysis stories for their papers? Shouldn’t they be held to the same standard? You always give them the benefit of the doubt and ascribe best intentions to them, whereas Goffman is described as ‘rogue’ and fabricator on par with Lacour. I find this double standard appalling.

    And I stand by my initial word: the title of this post is worthy of tabloids & your verdict is prematurely judgemental.

    BTW, Shamus Khan’s response is better measured (at Q4):

    • AF says:

      My thoughts exactly. I am curious: what made A. Gelman think that Campos allegations are more plausible than Goffman’s story? In both cases, verification is difficult and problematic. Moreover, I am still unclear how Campos’s allegations are systematically verified based on convincing evidence. When asked, his response is: “I talked to hospitals, police officers and others and my publisher fact-checked it” How? In addition, Goffman allegedly presented a very detailed account to folks at her department, responding to Campos allegations point by point. If I am not mistaken, the departmental investigation concluded, based on what she presented to them, that the allegations were baseless. So on what grounds should we think Campos is right? What makes AG think that Goffman is a fraudster and Campos is not?

      I am very curious to hear what AG has to say, because, this is the person who gave us STAN, Monkey Cage, and everything else, and stands as one of the biggest promoters of honest conduct in science.

      • Manny says:

        FWIW, Paul Campos is infamous in law schools for having written an essay in which he admitted that he is a fraud:

        • Andrew says:


          I followed the link and I think your statement is misleading in the context of the above discussion. When Campos characterized himself as a “fraud” it was in the sense of him being a law professor but not believing in what law schools do. He was not saying he was a fraud in the sense of publishing false stories as if they were true.

      • Andrew says:


        I have no idea what Goffman did or did not do. But it seems that she does not have a lot of evidence for her claims, so trust on the part of her audience is a key part of what makes her work valued. Whether or not she made stuff up, or simply was misled at various points, the trust is no longer there. For her next project she’ll have to either document what she did, or not claim any specifics, or move to advocacy or fiction, or, I don’t know, something. I don’t think she can do anything like a repeat performance where she goes somewhere, tells a lot of stories that she says are true, without providing documentation. There’s no real reason for people to trust her. That’s why my post was mostly about the question, What happens next?

        You note that Goffman’s institution did not discipline her. That’s fine, but I don’t see it as strong evidence that the stories in her book were true. Weggy’s institution didn’t discipline him either, despite the clear evidence of copying without attribution. Institutions don’t like bad publicity, it takes a lot to get them to do something that might look bad, and I can see that from their point of view it would make sense to leave the whole issue up in the air.

        Again, I have no idea what Goffman did or did not do. I found Campos’s arguments convincing, and I did not see any convincing rebuttal to Campos’s arguments. As Campos writes, at most people seemed to be claiming that Goffman’s stories could be true, not that they were true or even particularly likely in their details. But that’s just my take on it; you can feel free to think otherwise. I have no particular knowledge of the case beyond what is included in the post itself.

        Also, I was using the term “rogue sociologist” as a joke (we have a lot of those on this blog). Google the phrase and you’ll see what I was referring to.

        Finally, I’m a contributor to Stan and a contributor to the Monkey Cage but I do not deserve full credit for either!

        • Paul Campos says:

          This has been an interesting thread to say the least (that my criticisms of law schools, which needless to say are irrelevant to the subject of the OP, have been dragged in to it is a fine example of certain types of obsessive dysfunction — or dysfunctional obsessives — within certain of those institutions).

          A couple of clarifications: When I point out that my work in regard to Sixth Street has been fact-checked I mean that when I claimed in my CHE piece that I spoke to people (police officers, public defenders, sociologists, editors of presses etc.) and they said X or Y, I was required — quite properly — to provide my editors with the names and contact information for these various sources, so that my quotations and paraphrases could be checked for accuracy.

          Now a 10,000-word article isn’t a book-length ethnography, and I’m not saying that the same fact-checking procedures used in investigative journalism ought to be used in this or that academic context. But surely there should be real fact-checking of some sort before a work like On the Run is published? Otherwise the book’s readers, academic and otherwise, must put an enormous amount of faith in the integrity of the author. And that’s not a situation that’s likely to end up well in many cases, at least if anyone ever bothers to really check the work at some point.

          • lemmy caution says:

            Pretty much no book does a “what if the author is lying” level of fact checking. she said she talked to the cop at the hospital. If she didn’t that is on her, but this isn’t a fact checking issue.

  9. Spotted Toad says:

    Putting Alice Goffman side-by-side with her father Erving Goffman’s writings on the presentation of self in everyday life suggests that she knows exactly what she is doing ( ); for example,

    “The expressiveness of the individual (and therefore his capacity to give impressions) appears to involve two radically different kinds of sign activity: the expression that he gives, and the expression that he gives off. The first involves verbal symbols or their substitutes which he uses admittedly and solely to convey the information that he and the others are known to attach to these symbols. This is communication in the traditional and narrow sense. The second involves a wide range of action that others can treat as symptomatic of the actor, the expectation being that the action was performed for reasons other than the information conveyed in this way.”

    -Erving Goffman, The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life

    Once, when I asked her what she made of a sustained series of attacks by one critic, a respected quantitative sociologist, she said it was hard to pay proper attention to him when other people were accusing her of felonies. Besides, she said, in a world in which a majority of black men without high-school degrees have been in prison, she had little patience for internecine quarrels. ‘I can’t even muster that much interest,’ she wrote by way of conclusion. ‘Because there’s a big, mysterious world out there, and I want to understand a little more of it before I die. That and tear down the prisons.’

    -Gideon Lewis-Krauss, “The Trials of Alice Goffman,” NY Times

  10. Eli Rabett says:

    Publishing is Freakonomics from dawn till dusk

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