Why you should address the smallest number of bad apples, but then make sure you remove the bad apple

Nassim Nicholas Taleb


Overactive Smear Campaigners: Over the years I've had to deal with a few unstable web stalkers posting stuff outside their field of knowledge yet appear on the surface to the uninitiated to be competent and spread their comments by sheer repetition. I am putting this here to spare my co-authors (who are not used to being stalked) some work.

The aim is not to harm these people, to the contrary, this page is only there to give some background information/web link when some official at NYU or a colleague calls me to wonder why he is bombarded with emails about my work, or to spare my coauthors the need to address someone's "critique".

1- Debra Frisch: Strangely angered by a paper I wrote on the law of large numbers, she started posting and, posing for a specialist in probability (she has remote connection as a psychology professor), emailing stuff about my "competence" to all manner of people, including university officials (and strangely, to every prominent person in the fields concerned, such as Daniel Kahneman, Kenneth Arrow, seemingly anyone who ever dealt with probability).  She has been recently arrested for unrelated charges but the problem is that many people she wrote to (like the head of the department and various faculty at NYU) don't know about her background. I feel sorry for her (and her victims) but need to leave her name here so I no longer have to reply to people asking me about "my paper".

2- Eric Falkenstein: Same story initially, after my article of 1997 on the Value-at-Risk, Falkenstein developed some type of progressive compulsion that kept going. So over the past 18 years he spent time obsessively posting and stalking (perhaps as high as 50,000-100,000 words, the equivalent of 2 novels) full of the usual stuff, with strawman arguments and conflations of statistical concepts.  The volume led to much misinterpretation of my work by people who thought he was competent in probability, statistics, mathematical finance and reflected some expert opinion or "peer review" on the subject (the poor fellow is unqualified and hopelessly clueless).  The man is not just abhorent, but there may be something deeply wrong with him. I was privately warned about him and the potential of his behavior based on an incident and took appropriate action. I feel sorry about the fellow and wish him a stable career but this link is here to save time (for me and coauthors in the PP paper) from answering mail and correcting stawman arguments.

Typical misrepresentation:  This imbecile Falkenstein claims I operate principally "outside the peer-review system": check here (and the web is such a place that people believe the crap they read on blogs by mentally shaky people).

Falkenstein's technique: distort the argument in a highly dishonest technique called strawman, and quite often inverting the argument. He caused a mispromotion of my ideas (mistaking what I do for the VIX when it is the opposite). I am extremely allergic to straw-man techniques as they map to theft.  Many people who practice straw-man can then respond, when exposed: look he doesn't take criticism. It is not criticism but intellectual distortion, fraud.

3- Peter Cotton: Some type of failed quant/mathematician with savantic attributes. Every post boast as sole attribute a degree in mathematics or background as chess player. Cotton kept spreading strawman arguments, including the savantic version of the Black Swan problem (see the chapter on the savant's understanding of uncertainty) with a special site "quantapology" and posts that are either distorting or defamatory.  Spread complete deformation of my work. Appears inactive for now.

4- Noah Smith

From ANTIFRAGILE:

...a small number of homeless people cost the states a disproportionate share of the bills, which makes it obvious where to look for the savings. A small number of employees in a corporation cause the most problems, corrupt the general attitude— and vice versa— so getting rid of these is a great solution. A small number of customers generate a large share of the revenues. I get 95 percent of my smear postings from the same three obsessive persons, all representing the same prototypes of failure (one of whom has written, I estimate, close to one hundred thousand words in posts— he needs to write more and more and fi nd more and more stuff to critique in my work and personality to get the same effect). When it comes to health care, Ezekiel Emanuel showed that half the population accounts for less than 3 percent of the costs, with the sickest 10 percent consuming 64 percent of the total pie.