The Strange Case of Michael Fumento

There’s this strange sort of schoolyard bully pleasure in taunting Michael Fumento. I wonder, though, if we’re the bullies, or if he is. I sorta feel like the skinny guy, taking pleasure in the bully’s comeuppance. But I dunno. Maybe we’re being the bullies. Should I feel bad, picking on poor Michael?

The thing is, Fumento is, at times, a quite talented journalist. But then, over and over again, he shows himself to be a complete tool.

My first encounter with his work was a solid take-down in Reason of Gary Taubes’ New York Times Magazine piece on the wonders of the Atkins diet. I probably liked the piece because it fit my biases, but whatever. It was a solid piece of work.

I’d forgotten the byline, though, until last fall when Fumento published this at Tech Central Station on the study in Lancet about the deaths in Iraq:

Cluster sampling can be valid if it uses reliable data, rather than on inherently unreliable self-reporting. But it can also be easily skewed by picking out hotspots – like determining how much of a nation’s population wears dentures by surveying only nursing homes.

In fact, intentionally or otherwise, that’s pretty much what The Lancet did. Most of the clusters had no deaths whatsoever. But here’s the real bombshell: “Two-thirds of all violent deaths were reported in one cluster in the city of Falluja,” the journal reported. That’s it; game over; report worthless.

The problem, as a quick reading of the paper in Lancet showed (gory details here), the researchers threw out the Fallujah numbers as an outlier. Fumento was easily and demonstrably wrong, as he must have known if he had read the paper. When Tim Lambert and I pointed this out in various blogs, Fumento’s response was not to defend his argument, or to correct his mistake, but to mock the worthlessness of blogs.

I think it’s worth pointing out again because of the simple audacity of it. He said something that was false, easily demonstrated to be so, and his response was not to defend his argument, nor to correct his mistake, but to attack his critics, apparently confident that, in his words, Lambert and I were “fully contained in the blogosphere”. The falsehood remains on his own web site.

Well, now Fumento has a blog. Needless to say, it’s subject to the same sort of shortcomings he has suggested in others. But whatever, there it is, and today’s missive is an odd sort of defense after the whole sock puppet incident, wherein he argues that because I post things that agree with Lambert, I’m somehow a human socket puppet – whatever that is. As Lambert points out, the blog post has its share of falsehoods. Again. Including the assertion that Tim Lambert tells me what to write.

For the record, Tim Lambert has never told me what to write. In this case, I take my clues from Michael’s oddly self-destructive behavior when he tries to act in his own defense. Step on a rake? Thwack. I’ll write about it. It’s the schoolyard bully thing.

Are we piling on? It’s just that the guy makes it so easy.

The strange thing is, as I said above, Fumento seems to be capable of really good work. I happen to agree, for example, with the point he made in his Weekly Standard piece about the hyping of the bird flu. But, with little personal knowledge of the subject, I just have to wonder what sort of Lancet-style howlers might be in there that he’ll be unwilling to acknowledge and correct if he got them wrong.

That’s why it’s important for journalists to acknowledge and correct their mistakes. Their credibility is at stake.


  1. Inkstain:
    The reason I didn’t find it hard to believe Fumento accusing you of being a sock-puppet for Lambert is for a very good reason-Lambert has done it before He did it to me.

    In my case he used Scott Church another human biodegradable , a hard leftist and considers everyone to his right extreme right wingers. Church sells pictures over the web. He thinks it is art. I know art and its little more than pictures you find being sold in tourist traps.

    I emailed Church on one occasion after he promoted a particularly nasty piece he wrote about the 2000 presidential and Washington elections. His “research”, as he called it, was nothing more than a cheap shot at Republicans. When I asked him if he ever mentioned the fact that it was Gore who tried to cherry-pick the precincts and whether he knew that Gore had tried to prevent military personnel from voting there was silence.

    Next up I found that my correspondence was discussed in thread on one of Lambert’s posts. Amazingly Lambert came up with the fact that it was me who had emailed Church about this subject. I call it the bingo thread.

    I have serious issues with Lambert and the way he does things. Early this year he attempted to hijack Tim Blair’s site because Lambert ostensibly did not like the way Blair handled comments. I also don’t like the fact that Lambert’s slag- heap of a site is only there to abuse right-wingers paid for by the university of New South Wales. He operates the site from the UNSW server.

    It takes a certain personality type to try and steal someone’s site, then later accuse the victim of being dishonest and stupid, as Lambert has done with Blair.
    I have a bee in my bonnet about Lambert because he attacked Blair’s site and tries to savage him, and uses UNSW time and resources to attack people he disagrees with.

    So if you are supporting Lambert in his jihad against Fumento you are associating with nasty, dishonest company.

    Next time you talk to Lambert you may want to ask him the following questions:

    1. Did he correspond with Church and set up the bingo thread to attack me.
    2. Did he attempt to hijack Blair’s site and then try to savage him
    3. Does he use the UNSW server to run his jihads.
    4. Are his attacks and the way he uses UNSW resources a breach of UNSW ethics

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  3. Hi Tim Lambert

    Maybe you ought to look in the mirror sometimes and think about your own actions and what you have done in the past.

    I take it, Tim, by using your standards, those you applied to Fumento, can onlu mean one thing. You don’t want to because they may show you in a very bad light or there is not enough wiggle room for you to lie your way out

    I used to read some of your stuff without commenting until the time you attempted to hijack Blair’s website. I felt that you have certain standards to uphold as a university teacher at UNSW. Honesty is one of those standards. What happens when the issue of piracy or website fraud comes up on school discussions with the kids? Do you tell them it’s ok that for you to go a hijack a site like you did with Blair’s but they can’t do those sorts of things? See, that’s where the issue of integrity comes in.

    What about the ethics policy at your school,l which states that you shouldn’t co-mingle private use with UNSW resources? Does that count for anything, Tim or doesn’t it apply to you? You are still using UNSW servers and such, right? You are still posting at other websites and at your own during university working hours aren’t you?

    When you expect high ethical standards in others you ought try to maintain them yourself, do you not? It is called integrity.

    What I find remarkable about you is that you are such a hater. It takes a certain amount of hate in a person to hijack a person’s website and then post comments on your own site referring to the guy (Blair) as stupid and a hypocrite as you did in recent posts. This is not normal behavior as some other Australian bloggers have suggested:

    “At all universities you will find many members of faculty who do indeed suffer from severe personality disorders, the compulsion to steal other bloggers’ sites being just one manifestation”.

    There are numerous critical comments about what you did to Blair at many other sites, as you well know. Yet you offer no apology to Blair other than showing scorn, which is remarkable.

    Nearly all your posts are character assassinations of right- wingers, which is ok in itself as that goes with the political games we play these days. However, your jihads go much further than that, as you know.

    You seem to have a thing about wanting to know who is posting at your site. I am not talking about posting “Mary Rosh” type posts like in Wiki. It seems you have this unhealthy fascination to know who it is rather than what they are saying, which gets us back to the sock puppet accusations you throw around.

    What you did to me partnerning with Scott Church in one of your threads was nothing more than another form of contrived sock puppetry. Lets educate the audience with what you did. You pretended just know by simple educated guess that I sent an email to Church. Then Church cutely responded that “Bingo” you were right it was me who had emailed him. This setup, demonstrates dishonesty and deceit that you have fervently shown about others. I have reached the point now where I consider you are nothing less than a pathetic hypocrite looking for action because your job or life is too boring to live.

    Commensurately you seem to get a kick out of deeply hurting other people who don’t agree with your campus left views even by being dishonest about it.
    I have no plane to catch with Fumento and really cannot even comment on who he was until your introduction to him recently. I saw another Lambert type curve ball you through at him that seems again to show your double standards and hypocrisy.

    Fumento told you that he wrote a piece for a newspaper organization (that owns several newspapers-12 in fact, as we later learn). Your quick response to Fumento was that his piece was only carried by free rag having a circulation of 3,000. You used this point to highlight the fact that your website has a bigger circulation than that. Fumento was forced to correct this distortion and inform the readership that his piece was carried by all 12 newspapers owned by the group, not the smallest one you picked out for dramatic effect to weigh down his point.

    Or how about the time you attempted to deliberately mislead everyone when another poster was asking about your ethical breaches of the UNSW code of practice. Recall your reply? You told him you used WordPress paying for it personally, remember? Some of us know WordPress is free, Tim. So it must have been really embarrassing for you when that same poster came back and showed evidence that you in fact did use university equipment to run your jihads.

    These are the things I find incomprehensible about what you do and how on earth you feel superior to others. Or more importantly how can anyone ever believe your posts.

    Now, for anyone reading this I am not a blogger and only dislike Lambert because of his intellectual dishonesty.

    And no, Tim, I am not the side kick, but thanks for asking.

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