Still out there somewhere despite his recent setbacks, the loathsome Toby Young has found himself confronted with the uncomfortable reality of someone who knows what they’re talking about. It has resulted in yet another short but conclusive debate in which Tobes has come off second best, with only two people involved.
Tobes had enthusiastically endorsed the research by Adam Perkins which had concluded that the “welfare state is warping the personality profile of the population”. As Jonathan Portes has noted in the Staggers, “In an article headlined ‘Tell the truth about benefit claimants and the left shuts you down’ [he] described his findings as ‘bleedin’ obvious’”.
The problem, though, as Portes points out, is that Perkins’ research was not only seriously flawed, but has now been shown to be so. He observes “The system of peer reviewing was introduced for a reason. There is no excuse for accepting and publishing a paper which contains multiple obvious errors, and which uses statistical techniques in a way which would not pass muster in an undergraduate thesis”.
Moreover, the thought enters that Tobes endorsed Perkins’ research because it matched his prejudices, was what he wanted to hear. After Portes had talked of “how @AdamPerkinsPhD's junk science was enabled by junk journalism from @toadmeister and @jennirsl”, and how “neither @toadmeister nor @jennirsl want either to repeat or to withdraw their endorsement of @AdamPerkinsPhD's discredited research”, Tobes clearly felt the need to hit back, however pointless his task.
“Disappointed that Jonathan Portes has repeated the claim that my blogpost for ‘Teach First’ about the modest effect school differences have on differences in exam results was ‘wrong’”, he started, before doubling down in no style at all.
“In fact, I ran that piece past four experts in the field, including three professors [no citation], before publishing it to make sure I’d got the science right. That I had in fact got it right was then confirmed in this piece by @MrAndyNgo in @QuilletteM”. Confirmed by someone who writes for the National Review Online, writing in Quillette, a publication described as seeking to make “tired alt-right talking points sound erudite”.
So it was no surprise when Portes responded simply “Disappointed to see @toadmeister doubling down (not for 1st time) on his lack of understanding of basic statistical concepts. His errors are explained very well here by @policysketch”. The Policy Sketchbook post sets out the reasons why Tobes has once again failed to grasp the concepts.
What say The Great Man to that? But Tobes has already moved on to his next task - to dismiss the idea that schools might have to weigh pupils for Ofsted’s obesity checks. “Expecting schools to remedy every social problem has to stop. Teachers have enough to do without being expected to compensate for the failure of parents to feed their children a healthy diet” he has scoffed. The well-off punditerati always know best, eh?
Well, the ones out there on the right, cocooned in their Pundit Establishment bubble certainly do. And rather than listen to the likes of Jonathan Portes, who insists on using things like facts, that is where Tobes is at. Which is why he’s still getting it wrong.