From the NYTimes.com front page:
…. Fanned out across the neighborhood were more than three dozen Leadership Lab volunteers, many of them local college students, as well as progressive activists from around the country hoping to learn about changing voters’ minds. Over the last six years, Fleischer’s unorthodox canvassing technique has attracted the attention of social scientists, liberal groups and even presidential-campaign consultants. It has also attracted controversy. In 2014, Science published a study claiming to show that an approximately 20-minute conversation with a gay or lesbian canvasser trained by Fleischer’s team could turn a gay-marriage opponent into a supporter. But Science retracted the study five months later, after the lead author couldn’t produce his data and admitted to lying about aspects of the experiment’s design.
The fraudulent study called into question the validity of the Leadership Lab’s deep-canvassing approach. Had it all been wishful thinking? Maybe, as The Wall Street Journal suggested, Fleischer’s efforts merely “flattered the ideological sensibilities of liberals.” But this week, a new study published in Science by David Broockman, an assistant professor of political economy at Stanford, and Joshua Kalla, a graduate student in political science at Berkeley, appears to serve as vindication of Fleischer’s work. Leadership Lab-trained volunteers were found to be successful at reducing transgender prejudice in front-door conversations, the effects persisting months later in follow-up surveys.
Betsy Levy Paluck, an associate professor at Princeton who studies bias, believes the study will have broad implications for those in her field. “What do social scientists know about reducing prejudice in the world? In short, very little,” she writes in the same issue of Science, adding that the new study’s results “stand alone as a rigorous test of this type of prejudice-reduction intervention.”
Here’s the front and center package right now on the NYTimes.com homepage. It illustrates my subtle argument in a 2015 Taki’s Magazine column, “Ten Thousand Haven Monahans,” about the original wholly fraudulent research that much of the “crisis in the social sciences” isn’t even, at best, about science. Even without all the fraud, what’s being studied isn’t science but marketing research. I wrote:
And yet the most interesting point about this ignominious affair is that even if the paper had been utterly legitimate, it still wouldn’t have been “science” in the sense that most people understand the word: as a search for relatively permanent truths. Instead, it would have just been marketing research.
And that illustrates out a long-term trend. In our Age of Gladwell, leftist social scientists are increasingly giving up on looking for truths about human beings, which could get them in trouble if they found them, and reconfiguring themselves as handmaidens of the marketing industry.
On December 11, 2014, the New York Times trumpeted a study of over 10,000 voters in black and Hispanic districts of Los Angeles that would be published the next day in Science:
“Gay political canvassers can soften the opinions of voters opposed to same-sex marriage by having a brief face-to-face discussion about the issue, researchers reported Thursday.”
This was welcome news to progressives because the November 2008 election in California had been a frustrating mixed bag for them. Large numbers of black church ladies showed up at the polls to vote for Barack Obama, but in California black women voted 75-25 against gay marriage on Proposition 8.
Eventually the media settled on a narrative to explain why gay marriage was voted down in liberal California the same day Obama beat McCain there 61-37: outside agitators from Mormon Utah control the media in Los Angeles.
But that was a little too implausible even for 21st century America. Sure, Caitlyn Jenner was a woman while she fathered six children. Who doesn’t know that? But Mormons running the media … really?
So, the announcement that two academics had proved, using Science, that blacks and Hispanics could be made to see the light on gay marriage just by having a gay – but not a straight — canvasser explain it to them was much celebrated. Jesse Singal notes in New York magazine:
“It rerouted countless researchers’ agendas, inspired activists to change their approach to voter outreach, generated shifts in grant funding, and launched follow-up experiments.” …
Moreover, the sizable publicity this hoax has received has much to do with the widespread resentment that LaCour was undermining The Cause by misleading gay marriage lobbies into wasting their money on an ineffective salesmanship tactic.
The scandal has led to many thumbsucker articles about the replication crisis in science and other weighty topics. But almost all of them are missing the point that even if this analysis had been honest, it still wouldn’t have been Science-with-a-capital-S as most people think of the word. Rather, it would have been lowly marketing research. This was never claimed to be a study of whether or not gay marriage was a good idea. Instead, it just purported to be research into how best to spin gay marriage to voters.
And that’s emblematic of a trend in which the social sciences, having repeatedly failed to demonstrate the truth of the political dogmas espoused by most leftist social scientists, are slowly repositioning themselves as an arm of the marketing industry. …
It’s widely assumed by people on the left that the reason most social scientists vote like they do is because their findings support their leftist views, such as that race is only skin deep, that sex is just a social construct, and that social engineering works. Many people on the right, in contrast, suspect that social scientists come up with this data because they are leftist.
But the truth is far more ironic: leftist social scientists seldom produce numbers supporting their leftist prejudices. …
There’s nothing anomalous about liberal social scientists grudgingly data validating old conservative insights deep in their papers. That’s been going on for a half century since the federal Coleman Report of 1966. …
Due to this endless history of empirical failures, leftist social scientists have pretty much given up using the tools of their trade to come up with evidence in support of Social Justice Warrior shibboleths. That’s almost inevitable: real science is replicable and thus has to be about enduring truths. But the anti-science conventional wisdom demonizes actual knowledge as “stereotypes.”
Hence, social scientists have been increasingly focused not on truth finding but on how better to manipulate the masses.
From the NYT’s celebratory article on the new supposedly non-fraudulent study of how to browbeat voters into agreeing with World War T:
Fleischer is planning more interventions. Though he has devoted much of his political and community-organizing career to L.G.B.T. issues, he believes this kind of canvassing could change people’s thinking on everything from abortion and gun rights to race-based prejudice. He also hopes it will usher in a new era of political persuasion.
So this article is just celebrating a new marketing weapon in World War T.