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July 13, 2009


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Hi Isaac,

I know Thom a little, so I'll say that out front as full disclosure.

I am really confused about your post here. I love good debate and respect both you and Thom. So I was a little disappointed with your handling of this.

Not to be too much of a smart ass, but you say: "The problem is the rest of the post which is basically Thomas Garvey enjoying the fact that he got one over a recent graduate from Princeton,..."

Wouldn't it be more accurate to say that the rest of the post is basically Thomas Garvey trying to wonder how a recent graduate of Princeton GOT ONE OVER ON the New York Times and other media, plus the blogosphere, etc.

Really, the fudge is not Thom's, but Emily's to own and explain. Thom gave her that chance, she didn't or couldn't.

And to go one step further Emily Glassberg Sands and her study have been the subject of much media attention, (including a spot on the Colbert Report?) It has resulted in numerous blog posts, interviews and, I'm sure, panel discussions to come. So, can we drop the frame of the defenseless undergraduate being pounced on?

When all this first broke, Tony from Halcyon Theatre probably best summed it up by pointing out that this "undergraduate thesis seemed to be blown way out of proportion."

However, I will point out that Thom has consistently, from the beginning given the rest of Sands study an enormous amount of respect.

But here is my question Isaac, why do you doubt the veracity of the phone call? What do you mean about that statement? Have you talked to Emily Sands or somebody involved?


I dunno. I have no question with trying to take apart the methodology of any study. It's out there to be proved or disproved. However, Garvey seems to be attacking Sands more than the study, more than the Times etc.

I don't think anyone should expect an undergrad thesis to be as ironclad as a team of well funded researchers would be, but I don't think it was really blown out of proportion. It's not the first study with similar findings, and the pump has been primed as it were.

I think what is the most problematic is we have blinders on as a field and often refuse to hear about our weaknesses. There is very much a sense of "we can't be the reason for any of the issues we face".

Garvey ignores a wealth of other studies in his fisking, essentially saying in his latest post that there is no sexism in theatre and good liberals would never be sexist.

Says Garvey:
"As readers of this blog know, I'm somewhat hostile to this thesis, not because I hate women (although yes, I know I do, unconsciously, along with African-Americans and Latinos and "the Other" in general), but because I often see inferior plays produced by women (Sarah Ruhl, Lynn Nottage, Lydia R. Diamond) who seem to be favored by either the academy or the arbiters of political correctness. . ."

Garvey seems to be doing exactly what he is fisking Sands for. Starting out with what he wants to find and digging and appropriating until he finds it.

Ben TS

I don't think there's anything wrong with people questioning why an undergraduate thesis was given the amount of publicity that Sand's paper received. Ivy-League-directed schadenfreude aside, the skepticism about the source of this study is perfectly legitimate.

That being said, Garvey is being openly two-faced about his correspondence with Sands in a way that is way not cool. He posts an email to Ms. Sands which is respectful and even flattering, then turns around and blasts her and her colleagues on his blog with contemptuous sarcasm (there's no justification for that juvenile "looking sexily persecuted" dig). You can't claim that you're having a productive dialogue with somebody if you're also snarkily tearing them down on your blog.


He seems to have legit concerns about the study, but I can't get past the tone to figure it out. Unfortunate, because the way he went about the story said more about him than the story itself.

Too bad he couldn't get out of his own way.


I guess I'm odd man out.

I still don't get all the outrage.

Garvey seems to be the only journalist/blogger to have:

-Read, digested and analysed the entire study.
-Interviewed Sands and asked her questions about inconsistincies in the data.
-Gave her adequate time to respond to the questions after the interview, including sending a follow up e-mail.
-Reported what he found out.

The main problem most seem to have is with the tone of his writing, which is very flip, granted.

And people seem to think the problem is that he focuses on Sands and company.

I may be confused here, but I don't think that is the PROBLEM with his post, it is POINT of his post.



I more or less agree with you.

Ian David Moss

Isaac basically posted the same thing on my blog, and my response to him was that "Garvey could easily have said what he wanted to say without resorting to nastiness." The problem is that Garvey is trying to have it both ways: playing the Serious Journalist who tracks down the methodological issues, does his background research, and spends a week in bed with the study, and playing the Snarky Blogger who has fun at a public figure's expense. He's actually quite good at both roles, but his insistence on playing the second severely detracts from his credibility in the first. It's just plain unnecessary, and the aggressiveness of his questioning and far reach of his assumptions about her motivations leave him wide open to charges that there is some kind of personal agenda behind his inquiry, or that he's just stirring up controversy for the sake of self-promotion. It's a shame, because his Serious Journalist analysis is extremely valuable to the discussion, and probably would have paid much greater dividends (and certainly would have pissed off fewer people) if he had been able to leave it there.

Thomas Garvey

Really, Isaac, Julia Jordan and Steven Levitt are free to respond to my blog postings at any time; I don't see why you should feel compelled to do it for them. Of course if you had something to add to the discussion - some new fact, some compelling insight - that would be a different story; but you don't.

Instead, you throw insults and toss about accusations you clearly haven't thought through. You criticize me for "repeating a phone conversation whose veracity" [sic] I have no proof of, for instance - but of course I'm quite within my rights to repeat a conversation which I myself took part in, and took copious notes regarding, and typed as close to verbatim as I knew how. For some reason you seem to imagine that the blogosphere should operate like a police procedural - only oops, if I were indeed on the witness stand in a court of law, I would still be allowed to repeat my conversation with Emily Glassberg Sands, just as any reporter is allowed to print his notes regarding conversations he himself has had. Indeed, I even told Emily at one point that I would be writing about our conversation, precisely so that she wouldn't stumble into a "gotcha" moment. (Of course she did anyway.)

So much for that. Nice try, though.

You also say that my discussion of Julia Jordan and Steven Levitt is "entirely speculative" - well, "common-sensical' might be a better adjective. I simply note that Julia and Steve are high-powered, and good friends, and that Julia has an axe to grind about sexism, and that Emily Glassberg Sands wandered into their orbit. That's hardly speculative; it's fact. Indeed, a short, unsympathetic version of the facts could go something like "Julia Jordan used Emily Glassberg Sands, who was so eager to be used that she cut ethical corners when presenting her results." This would be a cynical take, true, but it would also be hard for a disinterested observer (which you are clearly not, Isaac) to deny. I suppose you could claim that one of my sentences, "Levitt was no doubt looking for another public forum for the methods of Freakonomics" is, indeed, speculative. But that phrase 'no doubt' tells you as much, Isaac.

But you didn't seem to pick up on that - instead, nostrils aflare, you insist that "It's worth noting not only that he has literally not one piece of evidence for his j'accuse! meanderings but that the premise of his attack is that Sands draws conclusions in places where she has insufficient evidence to draw them."

The only problem with this, Isaac, is that Julia Jordan's comments on sexism are easy to find on the Intertubes. Indeed most of my " j'accuse! meanderings" came directly from an NPR interview with Sands and Jordan, who I guess were given to their own je m'accuse! meanderings. My portrait of Jordan, the description of Levitt as "geeky," the popularity of Freakonomics, the difficulty in finding data sets appropriate to its methods - it's all out there, Isaac. Try this thing called Google.

And one last point. You wrote that "the premise of [my] attack is that Sands draws conclusions in places where she has insufficient evidence to draw them." But that's not the real heart of the matter. The central issue is that Sands pretended, through a sophisticated set of maneuvers, that she had data she didn't have. She committed "fraud lite." Although I suppose that's not really a "premise." It's more like an observation.

Thomas Garvey

Sorry, the comments function here seems to be garbling my response. For the full text, visit The Hub Review at www.hubreview.blogspot.com

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