February 7, 2001
Buyer Beware: Facts undercut Rampton and Staubers credibility
OAKLAND, Calif.In their flawed new book, Trust Us, Were Experts, Sheldon Rampton and John Stauber erroneously accuse The Independent Institute of compromising its objectivity to benefit special interests. Specifically, the authors allege that the analyses presented in the Institutes book WINNERS, LOSERS & MICROSOFT, as well as its Open Letter on Antitrust Protectionism, were somehow skewed in Microsofts favor in exchange for donations made by Microsoft after the fact.
Rampton and Stauber have failed to separate out those, like ourselves, who are properly and honestly attacking corporate welfare in the U.S., and unwittingly or not, they end up being the defender of such policies, says Institute president David J. Theroux.
Consider the facts:
*WINNERS, LOSERS & MICROSOFT assembles peer-reviewed scientific research conducted over the course of 10 years, far predating the Microsoft case, browser wars, and even the Internet industry itself. Furthermore, donations made to the Institute by Microsoft occurred years after such research was first published.
* The information cited by Rampton and Stauber originated from the now well-known, clandestine smear campaign against the Institute by the Oracle Corporation, led by multibillionaire CEO, Larry Ellison. Oracle, Microsofts chief rival, is seeking competitive advantage via the protectionism of the governments antitrust case.
* The critique of the Microsoft antitrust case presented by authors Stan Liebowitz and Stephen Margolis was never used by Microsofts legal team during the antitrust trial. Furthermore, their book WINNERS, LOSERS & MICROSOFT is critical of Microsofts handling of its legal defense.
* The Institute has never hid the fact that Microsoft is one of its supporters. On the contrary, during the June 2, 1999 news conference for its Open Letter on Antitrust Protectionism, the Institute specified that it received 7-8% of that years funding from Microsoftfar lower than the 20% the authors erroneously report. The internal Institute documents cited by them contains incomplete and inaccurate accounting information. Moreover, the correspondence between Mr. Theroux and Microsoft cited was a letter, not a bill, and no such payment was ever received.
Our restriction on all funding is that it is non-contractual, meaning that the funding sources have no say in the research and how the funding is spent, says Theroux. All of the Institutes work is based on one and only one criterion, peer-reviewed science.
* Being the recipients of funding from only left-liberal ideological advocacy foundations, Rampton and Staubers Center for Media and Democracy fails their own meaningless test for bias. In contrast, there is absolutely no evidence that any aspect of the Institutes research has ever been affected one way or the other by whether Microsoft or anyone was or was not a supporter of The Independent Institute. Furthermore, there is no evidence that any of the Institutes findings are incorrect.
* Rampton and Staubers rejection of science, objectivity, or even getting the facts right, in favor of increased democracy and citizen participation in the scientific process has dangerous implications, and speaks volumes of their own work as quack advocates of junk science. To argue that what may count as true in the scientific community must first survive public opinion polls and voter approval is so wrongheaded that it has its own logical fallacy named after it: argumentum ad populum, notes Theroux.
Pioneering scientific findings that overturn long-cherished myths has seldom set well with partisans hell-bent on their own deeply flawed crusades, and such is again the case with Rampton and Stauber. I believe that they should immediately retract the errors pertaining to The Independent Institute in both their book and at future media appearances, says Theroux. Their own integrity is at stake here.
Otherwise, Theroux says, we can only conclude that the title of their book is quite illuminating not about whom or what they are evaluating, but of the shoddy quality and untrustworthiness of their own highly questionable and, in fact, non-existent expertise.