The Corner


The Left’s Citation Cartels

As Corner readers know, leftists want to win (that is, obtain power over society so they can run it according to their precepts) by controlling the spread of knowledge. Ideas they favor are endlessly touted and ideas they dislike are, as much as possible, suppressed. If people don’t know about facts and arguments that undermine their vision, they can’t become dissidents.

In today’s Martin Center article, Richard Phelps, founder of the Nonpartisan Education Group, discusses one of the insidious ways the left does this — citation cartels. Phelps explains:

This influence can be achieved through ‘citation cartels,’ where sympathetic researchers cite and reference one another and ignore or dismiss the high-quality research of others that reach different conclusions. Citation cartels belittle research they disagree with, rather than refute it.

Citation cartels are responsible for the utter one-sidedness of the research on contentious issues. As one illustration, he points to a recent book by progressive writer Anya Kamenetz, which purports to analyze standardized testing and its effects. However, she wrote the book and got it published without any references to people to are in favor of keeping standardized testing. Her research information came entirely from opponents of standardized testing. The anti-testing citation cartel evidently worked to make Kamenetz believe that there was no rational argument for such testing.

(This also indicts book publishers who increasingly let supposedly scholarly books get into print even though they are horribly slanted — such as Nancy MacLean’s Democracy in Chains.)

I like Phelps’s conclusion:

Academic integrity and public knowledge can be threatened by ideological cartels on the left and the right. Education journalists need to hold themselves to a high standard to fight off cartel influence, and funders need to avoid funding them. In that way, truth is the final arbiter of ‘acceptable debate,’ and the public can make informed decisions about American education.

George Leef is the director of research for the John William Pope Center for Higher Education Policy.

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