Supplemental: Intellectual disorder is on wide display!


Is Candidate Carson nuts:
On this morning's Morning Joe, Joe Scarborough aggressively, loudly assailed Ben Carson as a liar.

For ourselves, we'd start with a more elementary question--is Candidate Carson crazy? The story about the Yale psych class is a powerful case in point.

Journalists have been having a hard time summarizing the story. As told in Carson's book, Gifted Hands, the story contains several elements. When journalists offer a quick summary, some part of this highly improbable story inevitably gets left out.

Some part of this highly improbable story? We'd say that's putting it mildly!

If you want to read the full story, it's found in Chapter 9 of Carson's book, all of which appears at this link. Don't miss the three-part tale of the ten-dollar bill, which surfaces for the third time in Carson's psych class triumph.

(A ten-dollar bill also plays a role in Chapter 8, though it seems unrelated to the drama of which runs through Chapter 9.)

Did that story actually happen? Did a Yale professor actually stage a hoax make-up exam in some sort of effort to identify The One Honest Student in her psychology class?

Did she have a photographer on hand to photograph her one Cordelia--who was, of course, Carson himself? Did she then give Carson a ten-dollar bill, thus completing the miracle story which forms the framework of Chapter 9's account of Carson's college years?

There's more! Did the photograph of Carson as The One Honest Student really appear in the Yale Daily News?

To state the obvious, it's hard to believe that anything like these alleged events ever occurred on the earth. And by the way:

If that photograph of Carson really appeared in the Yale Daily News, where's the accompanying photograph of the professor? Presumably, she would have been fired for being batshit crazy and totally out of her head.

That overall story seems utterly crazy, more like some kind of dream fugue. That said, Carson is now presenting evidence designed to show that the story is true. His presentation of this "evidence" is almost as crazy as the story itself.

Carson's evidence seems to suggest that something slightly strange or offbeat actually did occur during his Yale years. According to a report in the Yale Daily News, the campus humor magazine did in fact announce a hoax make-up exam for a psychology class.

According to the news report, this "false exam...was attended by several students not aware that the replacement exam was a hoax." For Kevin Drum's post, click here.

We can think of few people more likely to fall for a hoax than the teen-aged Carson. That said, the report in the Yale Daily News says nothing about a professor pretending to choose The One Honest Student in Her Whole Psych Class as part of this humor mag scam.

Nor has Carson presented the alleged photograph of himself as The One Honest Student, the photograph which supposedly appeared in the Yale Daily News. The claim that Carson was so honored was the whole point of the highly improbable story in his book.

This original story sounds almost completely crazy. Almost as crazy is Carson's post about this "evidence" which he's produced in support of his claim:
CARSON (11/8/15): On Saturday a reporter with the Wall Street Journal published a story that my account of being the victim of a hoax at Yale where students were led to believe the exams they had just taken were destroyed and we needed to retake the exam was false. The reporter claimed that no evidence existed to back up my story. Even went so far as to say the class didn't exist.

Well here is the student newspaper account of the incident that occurred on January 14, 1970.

Will an apology be coming. I doubt it.
To see Carson's post, click here.

You'll note that Carson has omitted the key element in the original story--the improbable-seeming claim that he was honored as The One Honest Student in the Whole Class, with his photograph triumphantly appearing in the student paper.

Needless to say, he's also misstating what the Wall Street Journal actually said. Still unexplained is the ten-dollar bill, the strangest part of the tale!

Citizens, can we talk?

At one time, we had societal gatekeepers. As part of this undemocratic procedure, crazy people weren't allowed to have their own radio or TV shows.

That ended with Imus, Howard Stern and Rush. Today, it's hard to get a major talk radio or cable news show unless you're abler to prove to the bosses that you're at least halfway nuts and/or that you're highly compliant.

Within the two major parties, gatekeepers used to play a second role. They refused to let crazy people become presidential contenders.

Today, the gatekeepers are basically gone, and The Crazy is ascendant. Just yesterday, the Washington Post ran some good solid Semi-Crazy in its Outlook section.

We expect to discuss the pieces by Havrilesky and Tankersley at some point. It's very hard to get that dumb; increasingly, though, the nation's journalists are finding ways to do it. For Kevin Drum's mild-mannered, sane reaction, you can just click here.

With the gatekeepers gone, The Crazy's ascendant. It's surprising to see what we humans are actually like, once the gatekeepers trundle away and leave us here on our own.

Way back in 1992, the highly clairvoyant Katherine Boo warned the world about "Creeping Dowdism." She'd only spotted one part of the beast. Increasingly, The Basic Crazy and its kin are pretty much all around.


  1. Joseph Cannon at Cannonfire is claiming that this hoax happened to him too. He thinks psychology professors may regularly do this kind of thing to their students. As a psychology professor, I know that they do not. However, if the 1970's, some professors were experimenting with different approaches to teaching. I know one professor who gave A's to all the male students (because of the draft) and B's to all female students; another asked students to write the grade they deserved on a 3 x 5 card and pass it in -- they then received that grade. But hoax make-up exams sound like an urban legend.

    I think whether Carson is crazy or not depends on whether he believes his own stories. If he doesn't, then he is conning people. If he does, he is conning himself too. If he were Irish and not running for president, this would be called harmless Blarney. When you run for president, people do expect you to tell the truth.

    1. Professor Corby is your first name Blarney?

  2. "Today, it's hard to get a major talk radio or cable news show unless you're abler to prove to the bosses that you're at least halfway nuts and/or that you're highly compliant."

    That's true.

    1. It's also been hard to get a blogging gig if you are half baked unless somebody like minded will self employ you.

  3. "Just yesterday, the Washington Post ran some good solid Semi-Crazy in its Outlook section."

    Sounds like some of those college kids must have gone on Somerby's lawn and made fun of his Depends.

    Earth to Somerby: When you get around to analyzing these articles (perhaps after Part 12 of "May Look Liberal Bias on Pluto" be sure and tell us what college and prep school they went to.

    1. The failure of boomers like Somerby to reproduce is a major theme of the film Idiocracy.

  4. I see no reason to believe that the story did NOT happen. Yes, it is an odd story, certainly like nothing that ever happened to me, but does that mean it could NOT happen? As for his picture in the paper, if you read the story he never said his picture appeared in the paper. Only that a newspaper photographer took his picture. No reason to assume they publish every picture that they take.

    Further, what difference does the story make to any American? Really, it seems more like tribalism to me. The tribalism that wants to attack members of the other tribe - as lunatics.

    Granted, Somerby is kicking up while doing this, but members of our liberal tribe are certainly using attacks on Carson to also attack the people stupid enough to support Carson. And the media really should be called out for chasing these kinds of tales and for always wanting to talk about the people rather than about the issues or the policies.

    1. I think the story is more likely to have happened than for Carson to have owned a hunting knife as a child.

    2. One of the clues that this is a made up story and not real life is the $10 coming in threes. In stories, things happen in threes (3 little pigs, 3 tasks to win the princess, 3 billy goats gruff, 3 dogs guarding bags of coins). In real life, you don't find 3 $10 bills when you're low on cash. It could be Carson actually received more or fewer $10 bills, but looking back remembered three important ones. But then that makes his retrospective account into a story instead of a factual account. In other words, conformance to literary form makes his book more of a story and less history or biography. If he deviates too much from real life in his account, it becomes fictional. People are questioning how to interpret his books which are put forth as an accurate description of his life events and character but don't seem to be. I think he probably wove a personal myth around the facts of a campus hoax that was described (without him as a participant) in the Yale newspaper. Presidential candidates have done this for centuries, but then they cannot be called truthful when their myths are exposed. Carson cannot have this both ways. He can either be an honest political outsider or a larger-than-life, blessed by God, gifted deliverer of Christian values, but not both.

    3. One of the clues that Somerby makes things up and that his supporters, like those of Dr, Carson, don't care, can be found in the comment of Dr. T. and the response of self proclaimed psychology professor Dr. Corby.

      Dr. T. notes: "As for his picture in the paper, if you read the story he never said his picture appeared in the paper. Only that a newspaper photographer took his picture. No reason to assume they publish every picture that they take."

      Since Somerby published a link to the Chapter in Carson's book it is easy to see Dr. T. is absolutley right.

      Yet two separate times Somerby writes as if Carson claimed his picture was in the paper. The second time, he happily describes his crime detection in ways that remind me of Lt. Commander Queeg hunting keys to the stolen strawberries:

      QUEEGERBY: "You'll note that Carson has omitted the key element in the original story--the improbable-seeming claim that he was honored as The One Honest Student in the Whole Class, with his photograph triumphantly appearing in the student paper."

      Along comes Dr. Corby, loving Bob almost as much as Bob loathers professors, and aids and abets novelist Somerby by finding even further evidence in Carson's book, the third ten dollar bill and its relation to the Number 3 in children's stories... Of course to do so the pyschologist had to overlook what was in the actual chapter Somerby to which Somerby linked and the reminder by Dr. T. that Somerby also was FOS.

      Yes, Carson overlooked a key element, novelist Bob. Because it was never in his original story. And yes, Dr. C. you can take Bob's word for it that there are three references to ten dollar bills. But given that he already made up two fictional references to a picture in the paper, I'd say you are betting on the triumphant geometric logic of the wrong guy.

    4. A picture would prove Carson was there. Without it, it is still an unproven, highly suspicious story.

      You are the troll who likes to send people on goose chases by claiming Somerby has lied about some detail. I won't bother looking for $10 you don't actually say is missing.

    5. Sure, the story got bumped for a triple-murder on campus and a school-wide walkout protesting the war. Shame his triumph didn't happen on a slow day. All the news that's shit to print.

    6. Decidere joins Dr. Corby in the Somerby Error Denialist Club.

      The problem is not whether a picture did or did not appear or whether if taken, as claimed by Dr. Carson, it should have appeared.

      The problem is that twice in a post Somerby embellished a tale. He says Carson made a claim that Carson did not make. Carson, he says, may be crazy for telling the tale. Somerby, is either sloppy or a novelist. I opted for the latter based on a long history of watching him, as a journalist, do exactly what he criticizes other journalists for doing.

      I anticipate the next most common denial of the SED club: "But Somerby is not a journalist." I am afraid he is. A bad one.

    7. Anon@11:12 - Bob (perhaps badly) criticizes mainstream journalists for taking Dr. Carson's story too seriously, without challenging the facts. You see this as an opportunity to complain about Bob, without any comment on the action of the mainstream journalists who are the focus of this blog. And your defense is that Bob is in fact a journalist and worthy of your personal scrutiny. Surely you can see that you are off topic.

    8. If you (anonymous #2) would have bothered to click the link to Carson's FB page you can see an article from the Yale Daily News that shows rather definitively that every single detail cited by Carson is wrong.
      The professor wasn't involved at all, it was Psych 10, not 310, the hoax was perpetrated by the Yale humor rag, the Yale Record, the $10 was a booby prized for the most gullible students and in no way did have anything to do with honesty.
      Kevin Drum says as much:

      I don't know where the picture reference comes from, this said.

  5. Carson is being demonized mostly for ambigous statements. Some unverified statements are being called "lies", even though we all know that "absence of evidence is not evidence of absence". I am surprised Bob is going along with this, since his roommate Al Gore was demonized unfairly in a somewhat similar manner.

    Bob even calls Carson "nuts". If you step away from Carson's fuzzy statements and probably some inaccurate memories, and you look at what we actually know, Carson is very sane indeed. Crazy people don't successfully perform the most delicate brain surgery. Crazy people don't spend 20 years as head the Dept. of Pediatric Neurosurgery at pretigious Johns Hopkins Hospital. Crazy people don't write numerous books. Crazy people aren't elected into the National Academy of Sciences Institute of Medicine.

    I don't think Carson's background qualifies him to be President, but he is a truly outstanding human being.

    BTW there are people who promote Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson as black icons, but who demonize Ben Carson. Now, that's crazy.

    1. Carson has a poor grasp on reality. Crazy is an imprecise term. It is sufficient to say he is unfit to be president.

    2. There are people who conflate AL Sharpton and Jesse Jackson - that's really crazy. Is there a reason Carson speaks so vaguely, and should such a vague person be anywhere near the White House? Chauncey Gardener/ Being There was just a movie after all.

  6. The Daily Drumlink was a pleasant reprise from the Daily Howler CNBC debate series.

  7. A Carson claim that Bob Somerby and others mocked now turns out to be pretty much validated.

    Yale Classmate: We Did The Prank Test That Ben Carson’s Talking About
    A former staffer for the Yale Record told BuzzFeed News that the hoax Ben Carson described in his book (albeit more as an inspirational tale) really did happen….
    A former staff member of the Yale Record says that he recalls many of the details of a prank that Dr. Ben Carson wrote about in an autobiography.
    The incident has been the subject of media coverage in recent days, after the Wall Street Journal reported on Friday that it found no evidence to support Carson’s claim that he was a victim of a hoax that led him to take a fake psychology test, as he wrote in his 1990 autobiography, Gifted Hands.
    In an interview with BuzzFeed News on Monday, Curtis Bakal, an editorial assistant at the satirical Yale Record who says he helped write the fake test, said he was “99% certain the way Carson remembers it is correct.”
    “When I read about the story in the Wall Street Journal, I immediately said, to my wife and friend, ‘That was the prank we played at the Record! And Ben Carson was in the class,’” said Bakal, who noted he wasn’t actually present during the taking of the fake test. “We did a mock parody of the Yale Daily News during the exam period in January 1970, and in this parody we had a box that said: ‘So-and-so section of the exam has been lost in a fire. Professor so-and-so is going to give a makeup exam.’”
    “We got a room to do the test in and one of us from the Record impersonated a proctor to give the test,” he said.

    1. That doesn't mean Carson was there or that his prof gave him $10 for being honest. It means there was a prank that may have inspired Carson's fiction.

    2. David, are you really that gullible? Don't believe what they tell you on FOX.

      Ben Carson, the only honest person in the class!! Out of 150 students?!? In Yale? How does this validate Carson's self-aggrandizing LIE? The story in the Yale Daily News states the exam "was attended by several students".

      Kevin Drum wrote about this on Sunday,

      This makes the whole story even more fascinating. It's clear that Carson's account is substantially different from the parody. He says the class was Perceptions 301. He says 150 students showed up. He says everyone eventually walked out. He says the professor showed up at the beginning, and then again at the end. He says the professor gave him ten dollars. None of that seems to have happened.

      And yet—it certainly seems likely that this is where Carson got the idea for his story. He remembered the hoax, and then embellished it considerably to turn it into a testimony to the power of God. This even makes sense. It seemed like a strange story for Carson to invent, and it turns out he didn't. He took a story he recalled from his Yale days and then added a bunch of bells and whistles to make it into a proper testimonial.

      According to Carson, this was a setup by the prof to see who was the most honest person in the class. Question: How would the prof know that only one person would remain?

      In 1970, Carson was a freshman, not a junior as he wrote in his book. Where's the part about the test being made almost impossibly harder than the original? According to the parody, the retest "closely resembled the psychology exam given on Monday morning".

      The editors of the Yale Record (creators of fake paper) in 1970 were Garry Trudeau (Doonesbury creator) and Tim Bannon.

    3. OMG Carson's memory of that fake test may have been inaccurate in some details. Put him in an institution!

      OTOH Hillary told lie after lie about things that actually relate to public policy. E.g,

      -- Washington Post gave Hillary Clinton 3 Pinnochios for claiming that 40 percent of guns are sold at gun shows and over the Internet without background checks

      -- She got the same rating for claiming “everything I did [with regard to her e-mails] was permitted” because “there was no law … there was no regulation.”

      - Another 3 Pinnochio rating for her claim that 90% of her e-mails were in the system.

      mm -- IMHO Hillary's brazen lies are more significant than Carson's possible lapses of memory from a long-ago college test. But, the heavy media treatment of Carson's possible lapse is an example of why conservatives believe the media is biased.

    4. I had an acquaintance in college who was hit by lightning while walking down the main street next to campus. He was interviewed by local radio news and told them:

      "I got hit by lightning and survived. Somebody up there must like me."

      He walked into our hangout and one sarcastic associate said:

      "Barrett, you are one of 20,000 people walking down the drag. You alone get hit by lightning and you think that means someobody likes you?"

      So Ben Carson, Freshman or Junior at Yale, gets punked by a fake newspaper. And he thinks that is a sign he has a friend in Jesus?

    5. According to Kevin Drum's analysis of Politifact, Carson had no true statements whatsoever.

    6. >>>- Another 3 Pinnochio rating for her claim that 90% of her e-mails were in the system.<<<

      Yeah, that was a good one. Even though they pretty much confirmed the accuracy of her claim, they gave her Three Pinocchios. Why? Apparently she didn't phrase it to their liking. That's the Washington Post for you. So glad I cancelled my subscription a long time ago.

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