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NewsBusters reports (for links, go to the NewsBusters site):

Former CNN and MSNBC commentator Bill Press has denounced bloggers as people "with no credentials, no sources, no rules, no editors and no accountability."

On his official site, BillPressShow.com, Bill Press ... reported [last week] on the "Lovenstein Institute of Scranton, Pennsylvania" and their IQ study that the last six Republican presidents have had an average IQ of 115.5, while the last six Democrats had an average IQ of 156. Press proudly noted that it was with "President Clinton leading the class at 182."

As for George W. Bush:

You guessed it again: George W. Bush, with his rock bottom IQ of 91: seven points lower than his Daddy.

So now we know. Iraq, Iran, North Korea, Social Security, Medicare, Stem Cells, FEMA, the deficit, immigration...

The reason George Bush has screwed up in so many areas the last six years.

He's not just incompetent. He's just plain dumb -- the dumbest president in the last 50 years.

The only problem with this stunning "new development" is that it is a joke, a five-year-old one. According to Snopes.com [details omitted -EV].... [The item has been removed from the site, but i]t can still be accessed with Google Cache....

Snopes, incidentally, reports that "As obvious as this joke was, at least two publications were taken in by it: The [London] Guardian and the New Zealand Southland Times. Both ran the "Presidential I.Q." tale as a factual item (on 19 July and 7 August 2001 respectively). The Associated Press publicized The Guardian's error on 12 August, moving The Guardian to post a retraction on 14 August, and U.S. News & World Report clearly reported the I.Q. item as a hoax on 20 August, 2001." Several news reports also state that Doonesbury had fallen for the same hoax.

UPDATE: By the way, here's an OpinionJournal Best of the Web item on this from the 2001 hoax season.

llamasex (mail) (www):
I wish Newsbusters was a bit more objective. I don't see where "Press proudly noted that" or "Here is the entire text of Bill Press's scathing indictment of low IQed Republicans:" Republicans as the group listed had 1 point lower then all the Democrats listed as a group. I is a scathing false attack on Bush not Republicans, at least that's how I read it.

I still like that people are taking down those who get huaghty about being journalists.
7.26.2006 7:01pm
Dylanfa (mail) (www):
The [London] Guardian

Since it was formerly the Manchester Guardian, and is still, as Wikipedia acknowledges, often referred to as such in North America, I recommend designating it as the "[UK] Guardian," notwithstanding the present day location of its offices.
7.26.2006 7:12pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
This goes to your innumeracy comments, for order-of-magnitude calculations. The President is (intentionally or unintentionally) inarticulate, but an IQ of 91 is dumb. Setting aside that the Gaussian normal's mean is 100, most readers of this blog probably have not had a substantial conversation with anyone with an IQ anywhere in the lower half for a long time, in most cases since before our high school years or (if applicable) time in the armed services. Conversations with ignorant people, or people with widely different backgrounds or views from one's own can be enlightening, but conversations with dumb people are downright painful.
7.26.2006 7:12pm
JohnAnnArbor:

most readers of this blog probably have not had a substantial conversation with anyone with an IQ anywhere in the lower half for a long time, in most cases since before our high school years or (if applicable) time in the armed services.


Not that you assume people in the armed services are dumb or anything, right?
7.26.2006 7:20pm
Nobody Special:
Does anyone really think that George H.W. Bush, who was Phi Beta Kappa at Yale, really has an I.Q. of 98?

That alone should tip people off.
7.26.2006 7:43pm
Lev:
Yes, Press got the story wrong, the scientific analysis was that the IQ's of Republicans averaged -86, of Dems averaged +565, and while Repubs are all impotent Dems are super competent sex machines - confidence level six std deviations. The scientific analysis was made through surveying Bill Press's closest associates which is why the confidence level is so high.
7.26.2006 7:46pm
KeithK (mail):

Does anyone really think that George H.W. Bush, who was Phi Beta Kappa at Yale, really has an I.Q. of 98?

That alone should tip people off.

But everyone knows that Republicans are dumb. My friends are all smart and we all vote only for Democrats![/sarcasm]

People fall for jokes like this when they are they let their strong opinions cloud their judgement. They don't think critically about something which seems to support their cherished position. Happens all the time, on both sides of the aisle.
7.26.2006 7:48pm
josh:
I love when blogs post an isolated mistake from the MSM (whatever that means) as if a lone, anecdotal piece of evidence counterbalances the rife inaccuracies in blogs (this site, mstly, notwithstanding).

This is the weak logic of such sites as Powerline, Instapundit and LGF. I expect more when I come here.
7.26.2006 7:49pm
Howard in NJ:
Lev writes: "...while Repubs are all impotent Dems are super competent sex machines - confidence level six std deviations."

If the Dems are such super competent sex machines, one wonders how they end up with six STDs.
7.26.2006 7:50pm
ray_g:
"Does anyone really think that George H.W. Bush, who was Phi Beta Kappa at Yale, really has an I.Q. of 98?"

Of course they can, it fits their idea that all conservatives must be stupid, because obviously anyone intelligent would be liberal (and the unspoken flip side, that anyone liberal must be intelligent). And of course his accomplishments at Yale could easily be faked because his family is rich and influential. See, wasn't that easy?
7.26.2006 7:53pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
josh: Actually, this blog has pointed out many more than just one mistake in the mainstream media -- and more than just one mistake in blogs, such as Bill Press's blog (which is the subject of this post). There's plenty of inaccuracy to go around, and there's no need to "counterbalance" anything. There is a need not to trust everything you read, whether in the mainstream media or in blogs. As to what you expect when you come here, well, you have a constitutional right to expect whatever you please.
7.26.2006 8:00pm
PatHMV (mail) (www):
Josh, the post doesn't attack all of the MSM or do anything like what you say. Rather, it points out the particular hypocrisy of one member of the MSM, Bill Press, who has made a generalized comment about all bloggers, while having recently posted on his own MSM site a massive, foolish, ridiculous error. It's a reminder that each member of the MSM, like each blogger, must ultimately be judged on their own merits, not with generalized attacks on the entire medium.
7.26.2006 8:07pm
Chris Bell (mail):
I have a friend who HATES President Bush and always talks about how dumb he is.

...At which point I point out that Bush got a higher SAT score than he did, and that was before the recentering the occurred several years ago.

He gets so angry about this.
7.26.2006 8:19pm
Steve in CA (mail):
John,

I don't think the implication is that people in the military are dumb, it's that the military, like high school, is a broad cross-section of society that probably includes many people of below-average intelligence. Unlike, say, law school.
7.26.2006 8:20pm
Barbara Skolaut (mail):

Several news reports also state that Doonesbury had fallen for the same hoax.
What makes you think he "fell" for anything, Professor?

Even if he knew it was incorrect, it's the sort of thing the Doonesbury cartoonist would want to perpetuate anyway.
7.26.2006 8:22pm
Mickey (mail):
you have a constitutional right to expect whatever you please.


Really? And where precisely is that right to be found?
7.26.2006 8:24pm
Doug Sundseth (mail):
EV:"...you have a constitutional right to expect whatever you please."

Mickey: "Really? And where precisely is that right to be found?"

I'm pretty sure that's a 9th Amendment right, though I don't know that it's been explicitly federalized by the courts against the states. From the available and unrebutted evidence, it does hold against the Volokh Conspiracy, though.
7.26.2006 8:34pm
Salaryman (mail):

I love when blogs post an isolated mistake


Not sure what "isolated" means here. Apparently at least 3 "traditional" news sources (i.e., those who presumably have "credentials, sources, rules, editors and accountability") made this mistake. (I don't know what Bush's IQ is and he certainly doesn't strike me as intellectually nimble, but it does seem like the presidential IQ study is bogus.) Is the point that these are simply repetitions of a single mistake and that the alleged unreliability of the MSM is not a proper subject for discussion absent evidence of some critical mass of error? If so, how many such errors must Prof. Volokh include in his posts to pass muster?


as if a lone, anecdotal piece of evidence counterbalances the rife inaccuracies in blogs


I don't get this either: Is the point that citing to a single MSM mistake is somehow misleading, while averring to the "rife inaccuracies" in blogs (without even one citation to such an inaccuracy) is OK?

Obviously, Josh is entitled to be ticked off by whatever ticks him off, and blogs, as products of human exertion, are like all products of human exertion (including the work of Bill Press and the press generally) prone to, and perhaps rife with, inaccuracy. But blogs, although perhaps lacking "credentials, sources, rules, and editors" [whatever such terms might mean in this context] certainly don't lack accountability -- people like Josh can point out perceived inaccuracy/unfairness in blog posts (either in comments to the posts or on other blogs, including their own), present their reasons and, if their arguments are convincing, convince others.
7.26.2006 8:45pm
Shake-N-Bake (www):
The GHW Bush would be a dead giveaway. Even as a person who thinks GW Bush and crew aren't very good at running a country (not really the same thing as being dumb, as lots of smart people would fail at that), I didn't think HW did that bad a job, it was just his misfortune that the deficit that was made in the 70's and greatly exacerbated by "Voodoo Economics" in the Reagan era would eventually send the economy down on someone's administration, and it was GHW's misfortune that it was his. That, and Perot jumped in the election against him. GHW Bush always came across as a very smart guy.

I think the reason people believe GWBush is dumb is two-fold:
1) He and his administration have done a pretty lousy job in office according to a majority of the country. I mentioned above that there are plenty of smart people that would fail at running the country as well.
2) His malapropisms. However, malapropisms are simply a sign he can't speak extemporaneously all that well or can't perfectly memorize a speech, certainly not the same thing as intelligence. Most people who make fun of his malapropisms (some of which are indeed really funny) would be scared to death if they had to speak in front of a large crowd and probably would do far worse than Bush does.

Is W a genius? Hell no. But most people in this country that call him dumb are not smarter than he is. Of course, I'm sure plenty of readers of this site (myself included) are smarter, but it doesn't mean we could do a good job as the Decider either :)
7.26.2006 8:45pm
Frank Drackmann (mail):
I'd bet 182 is closer to the number of sexual encounters President Clinton as had since leaving office than to his IQ. Flying a supersonic jet fighter without killing yourself takes a certain amount of technical competence. I don't think Al Gore could do it.
7.26.2006 9:09pm
Seamus (mail):

Flying a supersonic jet fighter without killing yourself takes a certain amount of technical competence. I don't think Al Gore could do it.



I know there's no comparison, but this immediately made me think of the P.G. Wodehouse story in which Uncle Fred says that jellying eels requires a pretty keen mind, and that he doubted whether Ramsey MacDonald or Winston Churchill would be up to the task.
7.26.2006 9:24pm
Hattio (mail):
Did anybody else think that EV finding this mistake on Bill Press' blog sort of proved Mr. Press' point? I mean, you can probably assume that his blog doesn't have an editor and a fact checker. And, if it's not supported by his employer, there's probably no accountability, or rules. Granted he still has the same credentials, and likely has the Lexis news service at home. Still, three out of five ain't bad.
7.26.2006 9:36pm
Salaryman (mail):
I don't know, Hattio -- do you think that the same story being reported by The Guardian and New Zealand Southland Times sorta proves EV's point? Heck, for all we know, Press saw the item in the Guardian and simply repeated it verbatim because of his confidence in the MSM's "credentials, sources, rules, editors and accountability."
7.26.2006 10:46pm
narniabound (mail):
Bush reportedly scored 1206 on the SAT. There's no way his IQ is below a hundred since he scored in the 84th percentile.
7.26.2006 10:53pm
MM:
Interesting new twist, for what it's worth: the July 28 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that Dean Keith Simonton at UC-Davis just published an article in the August 2006 issue of Political Psychology. In it, he estimates the IQ of all American presidents by "[u]sing statistical methods to translate several personality traits associated with intelligence." Simonton concludes that GWB is intelligent, but below the level of many of his predecessors. He estimates JQ Adams had the highest IQ of any American president, with Jefferson, JFK, and Clinton also scoring highly. He had Monroe, Andrew Johnson, and US Grant at the bottom.
7.27.2006 12:32am
Bleepless (mail):
Yes, Doonesbury published the Bush IQ hoax. The "retraction" was a work of art: lofty, snarky and the absolute minimum.
7.27.2006 12:34am
David Chesler (mail) (www):
I don't think the implication is that people in the military are dumb, it's that the military, like high school, is a broad cross-section of society that probably includes many people of below-average intelligence.

Yes, and I was afraid it would get interpreted the other way. (And the all-volunteer forces are apparently more selective than when the draft is active.)

Lots of uneducated people are intelligent, but the converse is much less so. If you've spent a lot of years in academic or professional settings it may have been quite a while since you've had significant dealings with someone of even normal/below-average intelligence.
7.27.2006 12:36am
Passing By:
I am not going to join in the idiotic argument that Bush has a sub-100 IQ. I've met enough people with clinically documented sub-100 IQ's to know better. My non-scientific estimate would put GW in the 110 - 120 range - IMHO if he's technically above that level, he's functioning below his potential.

That said, I don't take any wealthy person's SAT, LSAT, or other standardized college admissions test score at face value. Unless you believe that prep courses, practice sessions and private tutoring have no value, there's usually a lot more that goes into the SAT score of a wealthy college-bound student than natural aptitude.

If I wished to be totally cynical I would quip that they weren't taking a thumb print of the person who actually took the test back when Bush obtained his score. But even if I had reason to believe that - and I don't - I doubt that his score would be so *low* were it the case that he utilized a ringer.
7.27.2006 12:57am
Lev:

Flying a supersonic jet fighter without killing yourself takes a certain amount of technical competence.


Several years ago I saw a story that reported a study on various professions in terms of the personality and technical characteristics the people had, probably one of those "what job suits you the best" type of tests I think. They just applied it to people already in the varous jobs.

Fighter pilots' characteristics came closest to....artists.
7.27.2006 1:14am
Lev:

I am not going to join in the idiotic argument that Bush has a sub-100 IQ. I've met enough people with clinically documented sub-100 IQ's to know better. My non-scientific estimate would put GW in the 110 - 120 range - IMHO if he's technically above that level, he's functioning below his potential.


It is anecdotal, but I have been around a number of people who seemed...not too bright...but after having been around them for a while, discovered that there was pretty good brainpower but the were just so screwed up in the personality dept. that they seemed dumb.
7.27.2006 1:16am
therut:
Bill Press is as old,dried up and impotent as Phil Donahue. Both think the are still the new political pundit on the beat. Sorry guys you are not.
7.27.2006 1:59am
Jeek:
Interesting new twist, for what it's worth: the July 28 issue of The Chronicle of Higher Education notes that Dean Keith Simonton at UC-Davis just published an article in the August 2006 issue of Political Psychology. In it, he estimates the IQ of all American presidents by "[u]sing statistical methods to translate several personality traits associated with intelligence." Simonton concludes that GWB is intelligent, but below the level of many of his predecessors. He estimates JQ Adams had the highest IQ of any American president, with Jefferson, JFK, and Clinton also scoring highly. He had Monroe, Andrew Johnson, and US Grant at the bottom.

It is interesting that the same standards that are applied to Dubya were not and are not applied to JFK. Like Dubya, JFK's rich and influential dad lubricated his path through life, and ensured that he got a cushy wartime job that kept him out of direct combat (although JFK had to leave this job after an untidy scandal with a Nazi spy). Like Dubya, JFK coasted through elite schools. Like Dubya, JFK has plenty of pet speechwriters to put smart words in his mouth, though to be sure JFK managed to deliver those words with greater panache than Dubya. Really, JFK's reputation for being "smart" has little basis in fact, and there is no intrinsic reason to believe he was much smarter than Dubya. JFK's principal claim to intellectual superiority rests on his authorship of books - which he clearly didn't write himself and which his dad artificially pumped up into bestsellers.

The idea that Grant could be one of the "stupidest" Presidents is highly implausible on its face. The most successful and effective Civil War general was stupid? This is the common error of the effete academician - to confuse intellectualism with intelligence. Grant may not have been interested in books and other ivory tower pursuits, but stupid he wasn't.
7.27.2006 1:59am
luagha:
To Steve in CA: The military administers a standardized test (the ASVAB) to applicants, and you must make a minimum score to be admitted. While they use a point system now, after deciphering it it goes something like this:
To qualify for enlistment bonuses you will have to be in the 57th percentile or better.
To simply enlist, different forces have different requirements (Air Force is the highest) but you will have to be at the 50th percentile or higher.
All forces maintain some slots for applicants who score in the 43rd-50th percentile but have exceptional qualities that suggest they be admitted. Usually, these slots are not used. http://usmilitary.about.com/cs/genjoin/a/asvabminimum.htm
You won't find many 'below average' people in today's US military.

More on topic about George Bush's IQ score, the scores he made on the Armed Services standardized tests he took have been published and analyzed - when you translate them into an IQ score they're a tiny touch below the Mensa 'genius' line, giving him something like a 125. John Kerry took a similar test (but not the same one) and his scores have also been posted... just the tiniest bit below Bush's at something like 120.
7.27.2006 4:35am
Speaking the Obvious:
Of course it was a joke. Who could seriously believe that Bush's IQ was as high as 91...?
7.27.2006 4:51am
MDJD2B (mail):
Most readers of this blog probably have not had a substantial conversation with anyone with an IQ anywhere in the lower half for a long time, in most cases since before our high school years or (if applicable) time in the armed services.

David Chesler,

Doctors have patients, Lawyers have clients, and everyone works with cleical help, janitors, etc. We almost all interact with people with below average intelligence.

The idea that Grant could be one of the "stupidest" Presidents is highly implausible on its face. The most successful and effective Civil War general was stupid? This is the common error of the effete academician - to confuse intellectualism with intelligence. Grant may not have been interested in books and other ivory tower pursuits, but stupid he wasn't.

Grant also wrote an excellent memoir just before he died. He couldn't have done that if he were a brain stem preparation.
7.27.2006 9:15am
Houston Lawyer:
I remember fondly all the talk about how nuanced John Kerry is and how smart he must be in comparison to Bush. Then we got to see his actual college grades, which included Ds his freshman year.

If lefties want to go on thinking that they are the best and the brightest, I see no reason to disillusion them.
7.27.2006 11:14am
Ed:
One should also remember the standard deviation for IQ is 15 (odd bit of trivia I picked up serving on a jury). This means that even if he had a 91 IQ he would still be within 1 standard deviaton of normal.
7.27.2006 11:23am
Andy Freeman (mail):
> it's that the military, like high school, is a broad cross-section of society that probably includes many people of below-average intelligence.

Perhaps the author will support that claim about the military. After all, others have cited evidence to the contrary, showing that the military is not, in fact, a broad cross-section but is actually selective.

What? He was just making it up?
7.27.2006 11:36am
Shake-N-Bake (www):
luagha: True that the military gives a standardized test, but I don't know if you can straight translate those tests to IQ scores for either Bush or Kerry (neither of which are all that impressive to me), and you certainly couldn't do so today. While it may not have been the case in the 1960's (not being around then, I couldn't tell you), there is no way that the people applying for the military these days remotely resembles a random sampling of the population such that you could translate percentiles on the military exam to an IQ score.
7.27.2006 11:42am
rarango (mail):
Shake/Bake--I enlisted in 1961; the draft was still in place--from my flawed memory of basic training, the draftees tended to be college educated while volunteers such as myself did not have significant education credentials--in fact, my basic training troop was singled out as having something like 9 years of education and that was considered high.

The volunteer military is a much more selective service which comes close to meeting the Lake Wobegone standard that all the soldiers are above average.
7.27.2006 12:44pm
rarango (mail):
Sorry for successive posts, but with respect Shake and Bakes question about converting military test scores to IQ, this measurement psych article is relevant--for those not wishing to wade thru the spritely prose of measurement psych academics, the bottom line is that military scores are one of four ways to determine pre-morbid intelligence:
7.27.2006 12:55pm
rarango (mail):
Sorry--link didnt make it: http://www.assessmentpsychology.com/premorbidiq.htm
7.27.2006 12:58pm
David Chesler (mail) (www):
Perhaps the author will support that claim about the military. After all, others have cited evidence to the contrary, showing that the military is not, in fact, a broad cross-section but is actually selective.

Was this always the case? Rarango says no; my sources were describing service in the period immediately after WWII and into Korea. (My most extensive service was registering for selective service, but when I've been off-track professionally I work as a messenger or a driver. There's some minimum level of mental competence to get a commercial driver's license, but it's still a broader range of intelligence than in my professional track.)

No citation, but apparently compatible mates tend to have very close IQs, even if they have different kinds of intelligence. As we get older, our circles get smaller: spouse and family, and co-workers. If we're in a profession, our co-workers are more similar to us in IQ than they are different. The opportunities for spending significant time, day-in and day-out, with a broad cross-section, can be rare, and we might forget what it's like.

And if your time in the Armed Forces has been more recent, then that also wasn't an opportunity to deal with below-average intellects.

Doctors have patients, Lawyers have clients, and everyone works with cleical help, janitors, etc. We almost all interact with people with below average intelligence.

"Interact" is not the same as "have a substantial conversation". Have you never had a conversation where you realized the other party just didn't get it?

More to the point, if it is not so long that you've forgotten, recall that last conversation with someone of low-normal intelligence (like the purported 92.) If most of your conversations are with folks with intelligences more typical of those with post-graduate degrees, I suspect you can tell the difference, and if so, make a guess as to which camp George Bush falls into, whether or not you agree with his politics. (You've got to consider all the evidence, not just the Bushisms and the poor public speaking presence.)
7.27.2006 2:24pm
Richard Aubrey (mail):
Ya know, back in the Sixties when I was an undergrad, the cultural relativism schtick was just getting going.

That meant, when studying psychology and anthropology, we studied all kinds of ways to prove the conclusions of the intelligence tests were irrelevant. "The Bushman, for example...." "The Australian aborigine, for example, can track a kangaroo by the scent of last week's shadow for days in the hot sun without resting or needing a drink of water. And you think an IQ test is important!!! Snort." "The Eskimo has thirty-seven words for snow....."

So I learned that one was intelligent in inverse correlation to one's IQ score. How could it be anything else?

In addition, about the end of the nineteenth century, those with high accumulated classroom seat time managed to convince the rest of us that all the virtues were only available to those with extensive classroom seat time.

The most intelligent thing a smart kid thinks about college is that, to get a job, other people want him to have graduated from college. Everything else is followup.

What nonsense this whole discussion is.
7.27.2006 3:06pm
David Matthews (mail):
"What nonsense this whole discussion is."

Amen. And perhaps the most nonsensical line in it all:

"[u]sing statistical methods to translate several personality traits associated with intelligence."

What possible personality traits would have a high enough correlation with IQ to allow "statistical methods to translate" the adjudged (qualitative) trait to a quantitative IQ score, or even relative position, with a level of confidence that could not allow for a complete reversal of the supposed ranking? What possible traits have correlations robust enough to withstand the extreme biases introduced by sampling from the elite subgroup, "Presidents of the United States?"

Leaving aside the question of IQ as a reliable measure of "intelligence," and the concern of a lack of universally accepted definition of intelligence, just the notion of observing "personality traits" of Presidents and using "statistical methods to translate" those observations to IQ scores, is one of the most ludicrous things I've read in the past month....
7.27.2006 4:04pm
M. Simon (mail) (www):

I am a former Naval Nuke. I have seen some of the material commercial aircraft pilots have to study for their quals. The aircraft systems are as complicated as nuke plant systems. In fact I have been intimately involved in designing and testing aircraft electrical systems.

It is hard to believe that fighter pilots are similar to artists.

People believe what they want to believe. As one poster above pointed out the rule is: "I'm smart. Any one who doesn't believe like me must there for be dumb." It is a universal rule.
7.27.2006 4:51pm
Alaska Jack (mail):
When I took the Air Force Officers Qualifying Test (AFOQT), it was similar to the SAT, except there were a number of sections that tested unusual things -- spatial reasoning, speed in looking things up in a table, and whatnot.
- Alaska Jack
7.27.2006 8:41pm