What is it with blokes named John and sock puppets anyway?

Embarrassing Correction: I screwed up. Somehow I pasted the wrong IP into a query. I thought I was checking Brignell's IP, but it was actually Per's. Per and "James Brown" are the same person, but his real name is David Bell, not John Brignell. I apologize to John Brignell and to Per/David Bell.

After I criticized John Brignell for an innumerate criticism of the Lancet study in this post, a commenter named Per showed up to defend Brignell and attack me. Those of you familiar with the Mary Rosh story can guess the rest---it seems that "Per" is a sock puppet operated by John Brignell.

Here are some the highlights from Per's comments. There's this:

I don't know what Brignell did and didn't consider, 'cos I am not telepathic.

and this:

Professor Brignell, ex of the University of Southampton, has a considerable academic reputation based around measurement science in engineering. It strikes me that his knowledge of statistics and measurement in engineering may well be greatly superior to yours.

At least he didn't claim to be a former student of Prof Brignell. Per finally got very abusive, telling me:

You are a liar.

I told him that he was no longer allowed to post and he responded:

Hey Tim, if you want to rave on in your blog, and don't want to be bothered by any of these "facts", it's all yours. I won't darken your doors again. thing is- now- you will always be a liar.

Apparently he just meant that "Per" would not post again, because Brignell he came back with two new sock puppets identities, "James Brown" (initials JB, get it?) and "M Mouse" posting another 30 comments to my blog with M Mouse abusing Carleton Wu in this thread:

what sort of idiot would fail to understand such basics ? ... Have you seen a psychiatrist ?

Which was backed up a few minutes later by "James Brown":

Wu, how did you get it so wrong! How did you make so many mistakes ? I'll bet you must be feeling a right little peckerhead by now !

In his comments, Per managed to demonstrate a lack of understanding of basic statistics (see dsquared's comments especially).

Just a couple of days ago, on sci.environment, Per attacked Michael Mann for this post, where Mann rebutted McIntyre and McKitrick (M&M)'s attack on Mann's "hockey stick" paper. Per wrote:

I am quite happy to point out---as a matter of fact---that Mann did not disclose his vested interest in his article when he attacked M&M, and that he therefore writes with an undisclosed, vested interest. I am quite clear that many journals do have a code of ethical practice as regards disclosure of competing interests. You obviously think this standard of behaviour is acceptable, and I am content to leave you with that view.

Hoist by his my own petard.

Update: See embarrassing correction at top of post.


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John Brignell has an odd response (scroll down to "Hit Parade") to some of my criticism. He doesn't link, or dare to even mention my name, so it's probably rather mystifying to his readers what he is responding to. Brignell goes on the Michael Fumento road, boasting about how the 2,488 hits he…
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Hi. Can you explain the step-by-step that takes us from Per to Brignell? Thanks.

By FactCheck (not verified) on 04 Feb 2005 #permalink

I'd like to respond to this slur on men named John, which is a gross overgeneralisation. John Quiggin, for one, would never do a thing like this.

Damn, is that the way it works. I've only use my sock puppet to insult or slur my work.

John opps, I mean Yelling.

I think it's important to note that over the past year "Per" made close over 250 posts to sci.environment and in all but one case, they were in response to posts made about M&M. A number of people there have tracked McIntyre and McKitrick's complaints in detail to see if there was anything to them and in every case their complaints have been found wanting. This includes downloading their original spreadsheets and comparing them with Mann et al's original data or realizing that some of the charges made by M&M back in 2003 stem from them not reading the references provided, to downloading the fortran code used by Mann et al to derive their PC values and seeing what exactly they do. Inevitably, that's when "Per" shows up claiming that Mann et al were up to something nefarious and that the M&M approach is completely above board.

By David Ball (not verified) on 05 Feb 2005 #permalink

FactCheck wrote, Hi. Can you explain the step-by-step that takes us from Per to Brignell? Thanks.

I assume it's a combination of an exegesis of the content and a look at the IP address of the poster.

What I see is a serious accusation without evidence, which is out of character here. Please either post your evidence or (poor second choice) explain why you are not doing so.

No, it wasn't a computer with a fixed IP address. The IP address match means they have the same ISP and live in the same neighbourhood. Fanatical support for Brignell by per and similar use of language as well as the JB thing mean this would have to be one hell of a coincidence.
However, Brignell is denying it, so I guess we can't be absolutely certain it's him. But it would be one of the rare exceptions in the history of Internet sock puppetry...

There is an S.C. Brignell who works on peroxisomes (http://www.peroxisome.org/ for what they are). It is a somewhat rare name. However to get much further than that I would have to use Web of Science to find S. Cs. name. The last place he published from using PubMed was the U of Newcastle on Tyne in a PNAS paper in 2003. John Brignell was at Southampton. Where is the IP address?

Per, err, yerr screrred errp, err therp

By Louis Hissink (not verified) on 08 Feb 2005 #permalink

Tim, admitting error is to be commended. 100% on this one.

By Louis Hissink (not verified) on 08 Feb 2005 #permalink

"...admitting error is to be commended. 100% on this one."

Left yerself wide, wide, wide and wide open on that one Louie.

I can see why you'll always be just a hired hand, paid off at the backdoor of the house on the hill.

The whole thing is kind of tedious. You'd think one of you (per or tim) would realize that a lot can be gained by just seeming more restrained. (Best way to do this...be more restrained.) :)