An Institute Retrospective: The New York Times Reports on Our Founding in 1984

Nineteen years before Judith Miller’s authoritative dispatches on WMD in Iraq (and a full twenty-four years before the debut of William Kristol’s column), The New York Times reported on the founding of the Institute of Expertology. Here’s what they said: 

New York Day By Day: Experts’ Average
By Susan Heller Anderson and Maurice Carroll

[Published: August 29, 1984]

Most fields have their institutes, complete with experts and their publications and pronouncements. So it comes as no surprise to receive the first publication of the Institute of Expertology, an august body of experts on expertise, founded by the writers Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky.

”It’s a very serious organization,” Mr. Cerf declared, ”that studies the works of experts in every field and comments upon it.” The first publication, The Experts Speak, is to be published shortly by Pantheon Books. In it are about 2,000 quotes from experts in nearly every field. What the quotes have in common, Mr. Cerf says, is that they’re all fallacious.

”This is positively my final marriage,” said Barbara Hutton, after her sixth. (She then went and did it again.)

”Degas is repulsive,” said The New York Times on April 10, 1886.

”We just had noticed that experts were being quoted on everything, and that decisions were being made based on experts’ pronouncements,” Mr. Cerf said. ”But very few people went back, a few years later, to see if the experts were right.”

”I’m sorry, Mr. Kipling, but you just don’t know how to use the English language,” wrote the editor of The San Francisco Examiner in a rejection letter to Rudyard Kipling in 1889.

”I’ll never run again. Politics is a filthy business,” stated Edward Koch after a 1962 defeat in the State Assembly primary. (He then went and did it again, and again, and again.)

”This doesn’t mean that experts are always wrong,” Mr. Cerf concluded. ”They may be right 50 percent of the time. Our research continues.”

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Robert Kennedy, Jr., Will Interview Navasky & Cerf on This Week’s “Ring of Fire,” Broadcast on “Air America”

Mission Accomplished! coverTune into the popular “Ring of Fire” program on Air America Radio on Saturday, June 21 at 3pm Eastern Time (or, if you prefer, Sunday at 8 pm) to hear Robert Kennedy, Jr., interview Victor Navasky and Christopher Cerf about the definitive collection of Iraq misstatements and lies in their new book, Mission Accomplished! (or How We Won the War in Iraq).

As one reader said about Mission Accomplished!: “I laughed till I cried.” If you want to learn more about the “Ring of Fire” show, or listen to a live stream of the program, just click here.

Victor Navasky Discusses Expertology and Iraq Misstatements on “Anti-War Radio”

Scott Horton interviewed Institute of Expertology co-founder Victor Navasky last week on his radio program, “Antiwar Radio.” You can read about and/or listen to it by visiting Scott Horton’s “Antiwar Radio” Website.  Or you can listen to the interview — enhanced with video segments and images provided by Scott Horton himself –by clicking on the links below:

    PART ONE:

    PART TWO:

    PART THREE:

    PART FOUR:

 

“It Takes a Village….”

Hillary Clinton’s extremely gracious and effective Saturday speech in support of Barack Obama notwithstanding, the Institute has received a plethora of calls over the past few days in hopes we might be able to shed some light on the message the New York senator was attempting to deliver by choosing to wear a costume to her Wednesday AIPAC gig that looked almost identical to the one  “Number Six,” Patrick McGoohan’s famous character on the TV series The Prisoner, found himself decked out in after he was kidnapped and incarcerated in “the Village.” 

  

Although, as meta-experts, we cannot be expected to offer expertise on any subject beyond expertise itself, we can’t help but notice the similarity between the following exchange and the the interrogatory that opened every episode of The Prisoner

     What does Hillary want?

     The nomination.

     She won’t get it.

     By hook or by crook she will.

Thanks, Brooke Allen!

Brooke Allen is the author of Twentieth-Century Attitudes: Literary Powers in Uncertain Times, a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, so she certainly qualifies as a meta-expert, and the Institute of Expertology would have been proud to welcome her to full membership even if she hadn’t just written a glowing review of our recent publication, Mission Accomplished! (or How We Won the War in Iraq. But, it turns out, she has written such a review and it appears in the May 26, 2008 edition of B&N Review. We encourage you to read it (below), and to join us in as we proudly welcome Ms. Allen to our organization.

 

Reader’s Diary, by Brooke Allen

What were we thinking? Five years after the launch of Operation Iraqi Freedom, a hung-over America surveys the damage and wonders just how it got into this mess, while the very same politicians, journalists, and “experts” who sold us the war are now busy disclaiming all responsibility. In their marvelously (if grimly) amusing new book, Mission Accomplished! Or How We Won the War in Iraq (Simon & Schuster Paperbacks), Christopher Cerf and Victor S. Navasky have collected a chapbook of priceless quotations from the warmongers — including “the highest government officials, diplomats, Cabinet officers, four-star generals, big-foot pundits, prize-winning Middle East scholars, top think-tank strategists, the leadership of the Central Intelligence Agency, and such” — that predicted instant victory, a new world order, and liberty and oil for all.

This book has now superseded that old standby The World’s Stupidest Criminals as my favorite bathroom reading. Here, for example, is Laura Ingraham on UN arms inspector Hans Blix: “He couldn’t find a stretch-mark on Rosie O’Donnell.” And Alan Foley of the CIA: “If the president wants to go to war, our job is to find the intelligence to allow him to do so.” Charles Krauthammer’s 2003 claim that “the only people who think this wasn’t a victory are Upper West Side liberals, and a few people here in Washington” was echoed by General Tommy Franks — who of all people should have known better — a year later, when he said that “history will record” Operation Iraqi Freedom as “unequalled in excellence by anything in the annals of war.” John Yoo, Condi Rice, Christopher Hitchens, Alberto Gonzales, and of course Dubya himself (“No president has done more for human rights than I have”): all the biggies are here, trapped now in their own sticky web.

 

Institute’s New Treatise on McCain’s Iraq Expertise Available on Tomdispatch.com

The Institute of Expertology is proud to announce that Tom Engelhardt has made a new article by Institute co-founders Victor Navasky and Christopher Cerf the main feature on his blog, Tomdispatch.com, for May 29, 2008.  The article, entitled “McCain (Mis)Speaks: How the Senator Won the War of Words in Iraq (again and again and again…),” features the findings of a new Institute study designed to put (as Engelhardt phrases it) “Senator McCain’s particular brand of expertise in context.”  You can read it by clicking here.

 

View Bill Moyers’ Wonderful Video Compilation of Quotes from “Mission Accomplished!”

As previously noted, when the Institute of Expertology’s co-founders, Christopher Cerf and Victor Navasky, guested recently on PBS’s Bill Moyers’ Journal, Moyers kicked off their segment with a brilliantly crafted collection of clips showing George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, Paul Wolfowitz, et. al., actually speaking the immortal words that earned them recognition in Cerf and Navasky’s “definitive compendium of Iraq misinformation,” Mission Accomplished! (or How We Won the War in Iraq).

Click below to see Moyers’ video: