It’s clear from his appearance on the BBC’s Daily Politics last week that the loathsome Toby Young is slowly but surely being rehabilitated, most likely with the help of his pals in the right-leaning part of the Pundit Establishment. All those most unseemly Twitter excursions are to be played down, the most unfortunate attendance at a Eugenics conference swept under the carpet, and any negatives blamed on Rotten Lefties (tm).
Sadly, Tobes cannot resist reverting to type and veering off on yet another tangent in his efforts to promote dubious research, just because it suits his agenda. Standing in the way, because he uses those inconvenient things called facts and does not merely select only the ones that suit his argument, is Jonathan Portes of King’s College London.
So it was that Tobes gleefully told “Superb piece by @AdamPerkinsPhD outing Jonathan Portes as the anonymous, behind-the-scenes complainant who has been trying to destroy his career”, quoting an article in Quillette magazine, a publication described as seeking to make “tired alt-right talking points sound erudite”.
Andy Fugard, from Birkbeck College, took exception to Tobes’ claim. “I'm sorry, but @jdportes hasn't been engaged in some sort of covert operation to demolish a career but rather public critique - very public. The website Perkins cites (a Storify) consists of quotations from his book, highlighting absurdities, and counter arguments”.
There was more. “Read the Corrigendum for yourself to see how bad the errors were in the journal article the book draws on [HERE] … Examples: - Explained variance out by a factor of 10 - Unadjusted mean differences - A minuscule Spearman's r = -0.018”.
And yet more. “Also, rather importantly, Perkins proposes cutting welfare payments to stop particular kinds of people breeding - even if that means people starve to death. I'm going use that controversial approach of quoting again”. The Perkins quote is unequivocal: “the intelligentsia generally believe that supporting a few freeloaders is a price worth paying for protecting unemployed people from starvation”.
Moreover, as Fugard hints, we are perilously close to the realm of eugenics, and the idea of “breeding out” certain “undesirable” traits. As for the idea that Portes operated anonymously, that was news to him. “Anonymous?!? I've been pointing out the obvious, repeated statistical errors in Perkins' paper (& other work) for more than 2 years”.
There was more. “Note @AdamPerkinsPhD was well aware his paper was riddled with errors, because @inductivestep & I pointed it out on twitter. But he ignored basic academic standards and failed to correct them himself”. As Perkins was arriving at the kind of conclusion that resulted in headlines like the Guardian’s “Adam Perkins: Welfare dependency can be bred out”, all of this matters, and matters rather a lot.
It also shows that Toby Young is still obsessed with what looks like eugenics, walks like eugenics, and quacks like eugenics. That suggests it may well be eugenics.
So while Tobes protests that he isn’t in to that kind of thing, and that it’s all the fault of the so-called “Twitter mob”, it may serve any doubters to see what he is really up to.