Tuesday, July 21, 2015

Monsters Are Real, Connie St. Louis Edition

Is there anyone willing to chase slimeballs — and the epithet is decidedly appropriate — like Connie St. Louis out of the academy? St. Louis, with her out-of-context quote of a speech delivered by Nobelist Sir Tim Hunt at a conference in South Korea, almost single-handedly got him sacked from several university posts. Has she done anything, in her comparatively thin C.V., approaching the sorts of feats Hunt has accomplished? In answering this question, the Daily Mail published a surprisingly good and detailed piece on St. Louis and her vicious willingness to slander an innocent man; St. Louis has manufactured a number of posts and accomplishments that are utter falsehoods:
‘Connie St Louis . . . is an award-winning freelance broadcaster, journalist, writer and scientist.

‘She presents and produces a range of programmes for BBC Radio 4 and BBC World Service . . . She writes for numerous outlets, including The Independent, Daily Mail, The Guardian, The Sunday Times, BBC On Air magazine and BBC Online.’

All very prestigious. Comforting, no doubt, for potential students considering whether to devote a year of their lives (and money) to completing an MA course under her stewardship. Except, that is for one small detail: almost all of these supposed ‘facts’ appear to be untrue.

For one thing, Connie St Louis does not ‘present and produce’ a range of programmes for Radio 4.

Her most recent work for the station, a documentary about pharmaceuticals called The Magic Bullet, was broadcast in October 2007.

For another, it’s demonstrably false to say she ‘writes’ for The Independent, Daily Mail and The Sunday Times.

Digital archives for all three newspapers, which stretch back at least 20 years, contain no by-lined articles that she has written for any of these titles, either in their print or online editions. The Mail’s accounts department has no record of ever paying her for a contribution.

Her work for The Guardian appears to consist of two online articles: one published in 2013; the other, about the Sir Tim Hunt affair, went live (online) this week.

Curiously, that 1,000-word piece, in which St Louis recalled the scandal, was heavily edited after publication. Around 30 changes, some of them significant, were made to it. In an apparent contradiction of usual Guardian policy, the version now running online contains no disclaimer detailing this fact.

Elsewhere on the City University web page, readers are led to believe that St Louis has either become, or is soon to become, a published author.

‘She is a recipient of the prestigious Joseph Rowntree Journalist Fellowship to write a book based on her acclaimed two-part Radio 4 documentary series, Raising Ham,’ it reads.

But that is not the full story. In 2005, St Louis did, indeed, receive the liberal organisation’s ‘fellowship’. She was given £50,000, which was supposed to support her while she wrote the book in question.

However, no book was ever published. Or, indeed, written. An entire decade later, the project remains a work in progress.
So what are the remedies? It seems like there's very limited action one could take against such a person, short of ruining her already horribly tarnished (I would hope) reputation following such a scandal. Yet in the main, it seems the press has moved on. Where are TechCrunch, The Verge, or Gizmodo? The former two have published nothing since their initial stories on the matter, and Giz only made mumbling noises about how awful Internet shamestorms are. Is there such a thing as black privilege that wards off other press criticism?

Update 7/22/2015: A great long-form piece at Unfashionista by Louise Mensch covers a simply huge amount of ground, but it captures the misdeeds and hackery of not just St. Louis, but her enablers in the mainstream press such as Popular Science, the supposedly more sober Scientific American, Ivan Oransky of Retraction Watch (supposedly dedicated to ethics in science, imagine), Pulitzer Prize winner Deborah Blum of MIT, Charles Seife of NYU, and Rose Mestel of Nature. Their principle sin was conspiring to make a story that fit their narrative, omitting inconvenient facts, but even worse, doing so when it contradicted their own reporting.

No comments:

Post a Comment