I’ve just noticed the funniest little coincidence. You see, in the comment section to this post, someone named “Mary Rosh” rather fervently defended Dr. Lott, which is not very odd, and in particular excoriated me for posting about the controversy without doing research and contacting the parties involved first. (There was actually a third comment by “Ms. Rosh” focusing entirely on this, which I clumsily deleted while doing a little research — I’ll explain in a second.) That was a bit odd. Bloggers, after all, link to publicly available documents on the Internet all the time without getting in touch with the principals — I rather doubt Michael Bellesiles got an email from every blogger who wrote about him. And at any rate, the bloggers on this story were all linking to Dr. Lindgren’s report, which already included extensive responses from Lott to the charges against him. What was really odd, though, was that this very issue — that we had linked the story without notifying Lott in advance — was one Lott himself had harped on repeatedly in emails to myself, The Gryph and Jim Henley.
It struck me as odd that “Rosh,” as vehement in her condemnation of Lott’s critics (or even reporters on those critics) as she was in praise of Lott, should pick this very point to emphasize. How could she even know that we hadn’t corresponded with Lott before posting? She could, of course, have read Jim Henley’s response to the same criticism with respect to his posts and inferred that it applied to me as well, but it still sounded an odd note.
Ah, but we live in a high tech age. I checked the IP address on the comments. “Mary Rosh” provides, as her email address, an AOL account. But oddly, “Ms. Rosh” was not browsing my site from an AOL IP. She was, in point of fact, browsing from an IP which a little WHOIS fun identified as belonging to Comcast in Pennsylvania. Who, I thought, do we know who lives in Pennsylvania? I compared that IP with the header of an email Dr. Lott had sent me from his home address. And by yet another astonishing coincidence, it had originated at the very same IP address. Now, what are the odds of that?
Sarcasm aside, we’re a little old to be playing dress up, aren’t we Dr. Lott?
Update: This just got exponentially more amusing. In a letter to Dr. Lindgren, Lott wrote:
I have not participated in the firearms discussion group nor in the apparent online newsgroup discussions, but what I have done is respond to e-mails. (The one exception are those from Lambert whose e-mail address was placed on my blocked list.) If you all have questions, I will be happy to discuss them, but I am not going be involved in these online groups. My response to Glenn below goes through some of the history of what I heard on this and when I heard it. The bottom line is that you all should not assume that everyone participates in these discussions.
It is fortunate, since Dr. Lott pays no attention to the natterings of Usenet group participants, that his IP-twin, “Mary Rosh,” has been his indefatigable defender on those very groups in recent months. In fact, a quick search of Google Groups reveals that her extensive knowledge of Lott’s work is matched only by her passion for refuting his many critics. Lucky guy.
Update 2: So there’s some question as to how conclusive the IP match is. Shades of OJ — “if it does not traceroute, you must throw the case out!” Well, let’s consider possibilities. Could it be a floater IP that happened to be assigned variously to Lott and Rosh, both PA Comcast subscribers? Incredibly unlikely, though not inconceivable. But Lott’s IP from emails over the course of a week is consistent, and matches both posts by Rosh, several hours apart. So I think we can rule that out: this is a static IP.
OK, could it be some sort of big PA Comcast firewall with maybe hundreds or even thousands of different users in a particular area behind it? Well, I’d welcome enlightenment from anyone out there who works at Comcast, but I figured out the following rough test. The IP translates to a host-name of the form [specificID].[generalID].pa.comcast.net. If you Google everything from the generalID on down, you get a thousand and change hits, mostly from usage stats. If the IP in question were covering enough users to make this scenario plausible — which is to say, if it had a large enough proportion of PA Comcast subscribers, taking into account that this group is already split by the generalID into some number of subgroups — you’d expect at least a few hits from that thousand when you Googled the full string. But you don’t get anything. That’s hard to reconcile with the picture of a few big Comcast firewalls covering many users each. It is, however, consistent with a much larger number of home IPs, maybe with some dynamic and others assigned to one account or location. Long story short: the odds against this match being due to anything other than a common origin look to me to be at Elvis-lives levels.
Update 3: Dr. Lott has just done something I can only imagine must have been rather difficult, and written confirming the above; “MaRyRoSh” are the first letters of his sons’ names. The account was set up for his children years ago, and kept around as a way to respond to points in online discussions, he said, without the time commitment posts under his real name might have required. Neither Lott nor Rosh, though, subscribed to the firearmsregprof list where this little tempest originated.
Ok — wrap up. None of this really affects the core issue of the survey, which as far as any of us can tell at present, has still been confirmed by someone prof. Lindgren found to be credible. Voluminously attacking your critics under a nom de Net isn’t academic misconduct, it’s just kind of weird. But on that point, I’m hardly inclined to throw stones.
Very Last Update: Does it affect anyone’s judgment that the person who came forward as a survey respondent is a pro-concealed-carry activist with this group? Because he is. Maybe that’s not surprising — someone who didn’t care wouldn’t have been that likely to hear about the controversy in the first place. Still, one more data point. Like Pontius Pilate, I now wash my hands of this bizarre affair, and leave it to Lindgren and other more capable folks to draw conclusions from this strange tangle.