How Benedict Carey trolls for 'science stories' for the New York Times':
Examples of how modern science news comes to be.
Interim Investigative Report by Lynn Conway [work in progress]
July 10, 2005 [updated 9-20-07]
FAIR sends out an "Action Alert"
Meet Benedict Carey, a new hire at the Times
Trolling the internet listserves for story-fillers
Evidence: Carey's 12-30-04 e-mail
This all seems pretty harmless, right?
Carey knew full well about Bailey's fall into disgrace
Evidence: Carey's 4-06-05 e-mail
Why didn't Carey tell his editors at the Times that Bailey was a disgraced researcher?
What do Carey and Bailey plan to do next?
Evidence: Carey's 6-27-04 e-mail
It's all in the timing, which speaks volumes
Some questions that journalists should ask Carey and the New York Times:Some advice regarding interacting with journalists
HBI member Chandler Burr steps forward to defend Bailey, 7-12-05 (NEW)
Co-author Meredith Chivers breaks with Bailey, 7-21-05 (NEW)
"Bisexuality Study: NYT Gives Prominence To Disgraced Researcher", by Michael in New York, AMERICAblog.com, July 06, 2005
GLAAD "Write Now!" Alert: 'NEW YORK TIMES' PROMOTES BISEXUAL STEREOTYPES...", July 7, 2005
FAIR Action Alert: New York Times Suggests Bisexuals Are "Lying". Paper fails to disclose study author's controversial history, July 8, 2005 (also below).
"J. Michael Bailey moves on to attack the identities of another sexual minority group", LynnConway.com, July 5, 2005
attacks the identities of bisexual men, back in 2002". (contains
the original paper)
FAIR sends out an "Action Alert":
On July 8, 2005, the highly respected
media-watchdog group FAIR (Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting) issued an "Action
Alert" entitled "New York
Times Suggests Bisexuals Are "Lying" - Paper fails to disclose study author's
How did the Times' editors allow this to happen? And what is happening to the Times' so-called "Science News section"? In a recent trend, that section has become a rather gossipy tabloid-like outlet for "pop-psych" pseudoscientific theories of the academic psychology community. How did this happen?
Meet Benedict Carey, a new hire at the Times:
Benedict Carey previously worked at the Los Angeles Times, where he wrote many gay-themed articles, with many focusing on the HIV/AIDS situation. In the process, he became billed as a "health reporter", a specialized niche in journalism. In his search for "health news", Carey somehow began making connections with the academic psychology community, and discovered a source of an endless series of "stories":
Carey needed "health news" and academic psychologists needed media attention.
After all, academic psychologists everywhere are in awe of those in their ranks who've achieved fame via media exposure. Nothing is a more sure-fire way to success than getting media attention on your work. It might even lead to book-deals, and thus fame and fortune. The connections between Carey and this community led to a series of articles that increasingly took on the appearance of "science news".
Based on these "successes in journalism", Carey joined the Times as a health reporter - now reporting under the banner of the Times science news. In his new position, he must now generate a series of attention-grabbing public-interest "headline" stories for those pages, in order to cement his position at the Times and help the Times sell papers.
So how does Mr. Carey get his stories? It's simple. By now he's got a widening list of psychologists who've read his Times articles, and who undoubtedly feed him with story ideas based on their work. But he needs a lot of gossipy filler for those articles, including interviews about intriguing real-life examples of those stories' premises. But this is simple too, especially in the days of the internet:
Trolling the internet listserves for story-fillers:
Mr. Carey follows many specialized e-mail listserves that spawn an endless stream of human-interest gossip stories. Let's say that Carey has (i) a "headline in mind", (ii) a academic psychologist whose "research" supports that headline. All he need to do is troll his e-lists for real-life gossip stories to fill in the blanks. And he doesn't even need to do this directly - because as a New York Times reporter, he can simply post an alert to such lists that he is "working on a story on "X", and list members will do the searching for him!
Here is an example posting that Mr. Carey made while trolling for gossipy stories regarding "Secret Lives" and "Gossip". At the time of this posting Carey apparently already had academic psychologists lined up and ready to discuss their "scientific studies" about these things. All he needed was the "filler" to make the stories "real".
From the "Smartmarriages" Mailing List Archive:
" [Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]
. . .
- HELP: NEW YORK TIMES SCIENCE SECTION ARTICLES
Hello Diane and a merry New Year to you.
I am trying to get out in front on some stories. A couple of them are ripe
for comment from your group:
1) Secret lives. This story will explore the idea that many people
are very well wired to conduct two or more lives--to
compartmentalize--and that it's a natural skill, at least up to a
point. This is not always a matter of marital infidelity but of
having some other business or hobby or whatever going, which may or
may not interfere with the life of the couple. Some couples I think
feel this is a betrayal no matter what the the 'secret' is and others
allow it to some extent in the interest of space, of privacy, of
individuality within the relationship. Again, often it is a disaster
but we're all capable of emotional multitasking of some form
(otherwise we'd be in panic attacks constantly), and I'd love to hear
some stories from the smartmarriage group.
2) Gossip. Here again I'm going to look at the function and social
value of gossip, and what psychologists know about how it moves thru
groups, when it 'slips' and not, for that matter how it acts to
screen people who can't keep a secret! there is some study and
theorizing on this topic out there but it seems like a good one for
smartmarriage comment too.
These are for NY Times science section stories, the first perhaps
within a week, the second later in the month.
. . . "
This all seems pretty harmless, right?
It is in this milieu of stories and reporting that Benedict Carey operates. It mostly seems harmless, because after all most readers know the pop-psych nature of academic psychology and most folks don't take this stuff seriously as "SCIENCE" in capital letters.
However, do remember that Carey's stories appear under the banner of the New York Times science section. Thus, when someone claims to have made a real scientific finding in one of those stories, people do take it seriously - very seriously.
Benedict Carey meets J. Michael Bailey:
Somewhere along the line, J. Michael Bailey was introduced to Benedict Carey. Was it perhaps through Bailey's connections with the older-generation Fourattist gay scientist controversy-book writers Dean Hamer, Simon LeVay and their network of friends? Or did Carey find Bailey as a result of the controversy surrounding his book. Who knows. But in any event, they connected some while back and this recent article is hardly the result of a recent "science breakthrough announcement".
Carey knew full well about Bailey's fall into disgrace:
It is also very clear that Carey has long known about the huge controversy surrounding Bailey's book and the fact that he had been forced to resign as Chair of Psychology at Northwestern. Here is some evidence, in the form of an e-mail that came to me out-of-the-blue from Carey:
From: "Benedict Carey" <email@example.com>
Hello from New York. I am a reporter in the science section of the NY
Times, doing a story on the controversy surround Bailey's book, and by
extension Blanchard's theories. The story will focus on Blancard's theory
and objections to it--evidence on either side; perceived motives, etc.--and
I'd like to have you in the story.
Please call--soon!--or email a good time to call you, if you are open to
talking about this.
212 556 1499
Upon reading Carey's e-mail, I suspected possible going-in bias, because of the way he posed the article as wanting to do a "balanced discussion about Blanchard's theory (the discredited theory behind Bailey's book) versus those who doubted it (the theory)".
By this late date, it should have been obvious to Carey that Mr. Bailey has been totally disgraced, and that Blanchard had proved himself to be quite transphobic by recently making statements in the media that postop women were merely "men without penises".
Therefore, no responsible journalist would give Blanchard any credence anymore.
I checked into Carey's background and learned of his story-connections with academic psychology controversy-seekers. I then speculated that he'd somehow been attracted by the media controversy surrounding the Bailey, Blanchard, Lawrence and LeVay clique's transphobic science - and had begun serving as a mouthpiece for Blanchard and Bailey, much as Dennis Rodkin had done at the Chicago Reader.
I declined to be interviewed by Carey, but sent him lots of links to relevant pages in my website and Andrea James' website. I even followed this up with links to Bailey's "defense" on April 28, 2005 of his homosexual eugenics writings.
Thus there is no doubt that Carey was fully informed about Mr. Bailey's bizarre history.
Why didn't Carey tell his editors at the Times that Bailey was a disgraced researcher?
One key question is whether Carey told his editors at the New York Times that Bailey was a disgraced academic whose career was on the rocks?
Another is whether he told them that this was not a new story, but merely news that Bailey had finally found a publisher for an old study he'd done and had already announced in a poster session way back at IASR 2002!
We can hardly believe that he told his editors about these things, for it's very unlikely the article would have then been approved for publication.
Why then did Carey deliberately hold this information back from his editors? Could it be that he is strongly ideologically inclined to support Mr. Bailey's defamatory stereotyping of transsexual women and bisexual men, i.e., that he inherently believes that Bailey's science must be true? Or, is he willing to generate a controversy just for the sake of bringing more notice upon himself? Could he perhaps have hoped to even exploit this new controversy himself?
What do Carey and Bailey plan to do next?
Carey and Bailey must have known that the bisexuality article would generate a major controversy. The might not have been able to gauge was how big it would be, but they may have hoped that they could contain and control it - maybe with Carey becoming THE journalist who reported on the follow-on story:
"Science VS identity politics: Who are we to believe, the scientists or those whom they study?"
Now, how's THAT for a catchy title. Maybe that's the article Carey now hopes to write and "present both sides of, in a balanced way?" Remember, psychologists take little risk in being interviewed for such stories. Science always seems to trump "what people say about themselves", at least in the banner headlines.
Guess what? There is evidence that's exactly what Carey had in mind, as when he sent Lynn Conway yet another e-mail about another article now in the works:
Hello again. I am going to write soon about studies challenging people's
self-described sexual identities, and this will include the flap over
Bailey and his book.
I have read the book and read through your site--which contains good and
pointed critique--but we should talk about this.
Let me know when would be a good time to call.
212 556 1499
It's all in the timing, which speaks volumes:
That e-mail was sent on June 27, 2005, only eight days before the bisexuality article was published and the new controversy erupted.
I declined to be interviewed for that article too, having been around for a while and seeing through that one. But think about the timing here:
Carey's bisexuality article was in the pipeline and Bailey and Carey knew when it was coming out. They also well knew the controversy it would cause.
Here we see Carey already positioning himself to exploit the new controversy - ALREADY beginning to gather up quotes from people who'd been involved in the Bailey book case - but without them being aware of the NEW controversy he would launch just after interviewing them!
Note [7-13-05]: This section and the last one were first posted on July 11, 2005. On July 13, 2005, Chicago journalist Gary Barlow published the first report of a response from the New York Times to criticisms of the Carey article:
"We thought the article was thorough and fair," the spokesman said. "It is of course only one part of the coverage we will continue to do on this issue."
Right on cue, eh? Seems that the New York Times editors were indeed fully aware that they were starting a controversy - and that once started they could exploit the controversy in more articles (by Carey). We've already predicted the approximate title of the next article (see above). Stay tuned for the next chapter in this saga!
Some questions that journalists should ask Carey and the New York Times:
Here are some questions that journalists should ask Mr. Carey and his editors at the New York Times:
Did Carey inform his editors that Bailey was a disgraced academic who had been forced to resign his department chairmanship following an investigation into his research misconduct?
Did Carey also inform his editors that the study in question was not a new one, but instead an old one?
After all, as Andrea James reports in her profile of Rieger, the results of this study were previously announced way back at IASR 2002. The only news this year is that Bailey has at long last found a second-tier journal that would accept his paper for publication. And, since it's initial announcement way back in 2002, there has been no interest whatsoever in the study by other researchers, and no follow-up research by others to confirm Bailey results.
And what about the peculiar timing of his article, which appeared one day before IASR 2005 began? Bailey and his students had absolutely no new research to present at the conference this year, not even in poster sessions, and were desperate to dispel the disgrace Bailey had fallen into during 2003-2004. Why was the Times' article timed so as to bail them out of this disgrace, even if only temporarily at the IASR conference?
Then, did the editors notice Bailey's name as being the principal figure behind the study, with his name buried as it was way down in the article? And if so, did they check out who Bailey was by Googling his name as a sanity check on the article?
Or did the editors simply assume that some "young new researcher" (i.e., Mr. Rieger) had just made an important scientific discovery that was being announced by this article? Of course readers familiar with Mr. Bailey's past defamations of trans women instantly recognized that this was Bailey's work, and that it announced an media-manipulated attack on yet another sexual minority.
Or instead could it be that the editors were fully aware of all these things, and agreed that the article would make for an interesting controversy and help sell papers?
And if they were aware of all this, do the Times' editors now plan to publish follow-on articles about "who should we believe, scientists or the people they study"?
These are questions that we need answers to.
Some advice regarding interacting with journalists:
It is important to realize that Bailey, and men like Blanchard, LeVay, Hamer and others in the clique surrounding Bailey, will try to position themselves as "scientists" who are reporting "truth". They will then channel the story as being "Who do you believe, them or us?", claiming that those who disagree with science are merely biased and ignorant or are identity politicians.
However, that is not the story. Do not let that clique channel the discussion in that direction. Remind journalists that the story is about those men, about their shoddy science, and that clique's sexual-minority bashing via bizarre interpretations of scientific data. We should especially ask and seek answers to the following questions:
Why and how can they get away with doing junk science that defames the identities of sexual and gender minorities? How do they get such junk science published by powerful institutions such as the National Academy of Sciences and now the New York Times?
Why do other scientists never criticize the rogues amongst them? Why are their colleagues so afraid to speak out against their outrages? And in the end, how can these guys live with themselves, after what they've done? Have they no shame?
Then too, why has junk-science controversy-generation in the media become a prime path to fame and fortune as a scientist? Isn't that the underlying problem here?
THOSE are the questions journalists should now be asking, if they want to get the real story.
And if you doubt that Bailey will try to position himself as a "scientist under attack from the left and the right", just see what his proxy and spokesman Chandler Burr said in a letter to the Times editors:
HBI member Chandler Burr steps forward to defend Bailey (7-12-05):
By writing his letter to the editors, Chandler Burr emerges as Bailey's new proxy and spokesman in this new controversy. Perhaps Bailey hopes that by having a well-known gay male spokesman and defender, he can blunt gay male criticism of his bisexuality "science".
In his letter, Chandler Burr takes the exact stance that we predicted would be used by Bailey supporters: He tries to shift attention away from Bailey's shoddy science and bizarre interpretations of mediocre data by attacking all critics as being "anti-science".
This is exactly the way that earlier Bailey proxies and spokesmen John Derbyshire, Dan Seligman, Steve Sailer and Stephen Pinker had defended Bailey's attacks on the identities of transsexual women.
In addition to his "gay gene" ideological connections with LeVay, Hamer Bailey and Blanchard, Chandler Burr is also a member of the Human Biodiversity Institute (HBI), along with Bailey, Blanchard, and many of Bailey's earlier spokesmen (Derbyshire, Seligman, Sailer and Pinker).
The HBI is the group of racists, anti-immigrationists and genetic superiorists whose activities were exposed by the prestigious Southern Poverty Law Center (SPLC), in the Winter 2003 SPLC investigative report entitled:
QUEER SCIENCE: An 'elite' cadre of scientists and journalists tries to turn back the clock on sex, gender and race.
Co-author Meredith Chivers breaks with Bailey (7-06-05, 7-21-05):
On July 21, 2005 Ethan Jacobs of BayWindows.com published an interview with Meredith Chivers. Chivers is of the authors of the original bisexuality study article, along with Gerulf Rieger and J. Michael Bailey. The interview followed-up comments Chivers made to the Ottawa Citizen on July 6, 2005. The 6th was one day after the Times article came out, and the first day of the International Academy of Sex Research (IASR) Conference in Ottawa, which Chivers was attending.
In her on-the-record comments in these articles, Chivers distanced herself from Bailey and Rieger and failed to support their highly promoted interpretation of the bisexual study's data. Here are the comments she made to the Ottawa Citizen on July 6, 2005 (bold for emphasis), which got only local notice for a while:
"Ms. Chivers cautioned that the research should be taken in context. "This doesn't mean that bisexuality in men doesn't exist," she said. "It's kind of a ludicrous statement to define someone's sexuality solely on the basis of arousal patterns.""
And here are excerpts from the July 21, 2005 Bay Windows article (bold for emphasis):
Chivers' open criticism of Bailey's interpretations was the first time in years that any sexology researcher is known to have openly disagreed with Bailey, Blanchard, Zucker, LeVay or Hamer (other than recent criticisms of Bailey's book by sexology elders Eli Coleman and John Bancroft). We have many reports from inside sources that the Blanchard clique rules IASR with an iron fist, instilling terror in those they suspect of going against them. With Bailey moderating SEXNET (the list-serve of the IASR sexology community) and Blanchard and Zucker dominating IASR and the journal in which all these folks publish, and with Hamer of NIH providing funding to this clique - no sexologist has ever dared to criticize them up to now.
Many of the trans women participating in the Bailey investigation are quite surprised by Chivers actions. It must have taken some courage to openly defy Bailey in the media, especially since Chivers is a postdoc at CAMH, where Blanchard and Zucker lord over things. Of course the old-boy's club in sexology never pays any attention to what women in the field say, so maybe Chivers feels safe in disagreeing with Bailey and thus protecting her reputation amongst other female sexologists - under the shield of having her opinions considered irrelevant and dismissible without comment by the ruling males.
On the other hand, this might signal a growing realization amongst younger researchers that the handwriting is on the wall for Bailey, Blanchard, Zucker, LeVay and Hamer. It is clear to many outsiders that their domination and distortion of sex research, in careerist efforts to make themselves famous and notorious, has finally run its course - and that they are all about to be exposed for what they are. Thus younger sex researchers like Chivers may begin to jump ship and try to separate themselves from that old-guard clique.
In any event, it's time for journalists and others to ask Benedict Carey some hard questions:
"Did you ever even interview Meredith Chivers? If not, why not? After all, that would have provided a sanity check on Bailey's and Rieger's strange interpretation and generalization of their mediocre data. But if you did interview her, why didn't you report on her obvious disagreement with the Bailey-Rieger interpretations? And, did Meredith Chivers even know that this article was coming out? Or did the NY Times blindside her with it? And, doesn't this break-away by one of the study's own authors completely undermine Bailey's, Rieger's and Carey's media promotion of their interpretation of the data?"
After all, any journalist worth his salt should have seen through comments such as the following, reported by Bay Windows.com on July 14, 2005:
""For some reason some people
think that [the Times article] implies that we are saying bisexual men are
all liars," said Rieger. "Neither me nor Michael would ever say that."
Bailey declined to comment for this story and referred all questions to Rieger."
Ethan Jacobs clearly saw through it. Sure Bailey and Rieger wouldn't actually come out and say that "bisexual men are all liars". Instead they let the catchy Times headline say it for them, just like Bailey let the catchy National Academy Press PR Releases say such things about trans women. But Rieger made a bigger mistake than that here, because we often learn more from what people DON'T say than from what they DO say. Think about it for a minute: What's this "me and Michael" stuff? Why don't Bailey and Rieger ever mention their co-author, Meredith Chivers? Ethan Jacobs figured it out and fully exposed the story.
But why on earth didn't Benedict Carey figure this out in the first place? Was he simply a gullible mouthpiece for Bailey who never questioned the veracity of the "story"? Or did he deliberately participate in generating the controversy that Bailey wanted to create? And where did Carey get that catchy title for the article? Did Bailey suggest it to him? What do you think?
Journalists should follow-up on all this by asking Ray Blanchard, Ken Zucker, Simon LeVay, Dean Hamer and then other researchers outside of that clique: "Who do you believe, Bailey or Chivers? And why?" This might finally put this bisexuality debate back where it belongs: as a debate amongst researchers about the quality and interpretations of someone's scientific data, rather than as a controversial attack on a sexual minority that is whipped up in the public media.
LynnConway.com > TS Information > Bailey Investigation > Bi-Sexuality Revisited > How Carey Trolls for 'New York Times' Science Stories