My Book Got Trolled By The Left

Peter Wallison | Arthur F. Burns Fellow in Financial Policy Studies, American Enterprise Institute

Every controversial author likes to know that his work has troubled those on the other side – but not so much that they band together to suppress it.

Yet that’s what has happened with my new book on the financial crisis (Hidden In Plain Sight: What Caused the World’s Worst Financial Crisis and Why It Can Happen Again). Almost immediately after its publication, the book’s page began to be “trolled” by opponents of my ideas.

One-star “reviews” (the lowest category) suddenly began appearing. One of the first, by an intrepid soul who hid his name behind the moniker “NYC Reader1,” appeared the day after publication, and began “How dumb does Wallison think we are? Answer: Very.” This attack was followed in the next few days by more than 50 or so other 1-star reviews, saying things like “not truthful,” “biased,” “not accurate,” and “don’t waste your money.”

None of these reviews showed any familiarity with the book, or contradicted the extensive data that shows the 2008 financial crisis was caused by the government’s housing policies – and not, as the political Left has asserted, by insufficient regulation of private sector financial firms.

Soon, the book’s publisher Encounter Books found the source of this activity: someone named Tim Howard (not the Tim Howard who was the CFO of Fannie Mae in the early 2000s).

His post on what appears to be his own website thanked all the people who had posted negative reviews of the book: “I want to praise all of you who have taken the time to do a customer review on Amazon [and] I encourage everyone to do so if you can… Please remember to click on the “was this review helpful link” for all of the 1-star reviews. This will keep them on the top.”

Clearly, the outpouring of negative reviews were nothing more than a coordinated effort by the Left to suppress the book.

From a certain perspective, this attack was simply an expression of the Left’s Stalinist impulse – the fear of information that contradicts a narrative they have confected about the financial crisis. But in a deeper sense it is an expression of the intolerance and bigotry that has begun to infect much of the Left’s attitude toward any dissent. This is an attitude so foreign to traditional American and democratic values that it poses a threat to the nation’s future. If we can’t have a civil discussion about an important public issue we are doomed to a kind of civil cold war, and maybe something worse.

Hidden In Plain Sight, for anyone who might care to actually read it, makes a data-based case that the financial crisis was caused by the government’s housing policy. Yes, this contradicts the Left’s desire to show the government as omni-competent and omniscient, but we have to understand why ithe 2008 financial catastrophe happened in order to avoid pursuing the same policies in the future. This issue needs a robust debate, with facts.

But that is not the way the Left sees it. Robust debate is apparently not going to be acceptable, even about an issue of such importance. The first indication that the Left’s tactic would not be to contradict my position with facts but to persuade people to bypass the issue came with the publication of 2011 column by Joe Nocera of the New York Times invoking Goebbels headlined “The Big Lie.”

Calling important information “the big lie” is much like the police shooing the curious away from a car wreck – “Nothing here of interest, folks, please move along.”

In one sense, I’m happy to know that my book has so disturbed the Left that they are moved to suppress it, but after a year in which sensible people with conservative views have been hooted down or forced to abandon commencement addresses at respected universities, shouldn’t liberals and others on the Left who value a free society and the free exchange of ideas be speaking up?


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