|National Radio, Nine to Noon programme 20th October, 2005 Interviewer: Eva Radich Published by permission of Radio New Zealand and slightly edited by GayNZ.com for clarity. Radich: Let's have a look at the workings of the Maxim Institute in the wake of their admission that the organisation's director has been plagiarizing. Bruce Logan has apologised for not always fully acknowledging the work of others and has promised to try and be more vigilant in future. His statement came after Paul Litterick of the Association of Rationalists and Humanists gave several examples of where Mr Logan's writings contained phrases and sentences used by others. The Maxim Institute is a social research and policy think-tank which wishes to see a country built on strong families caring for one another and for their communities. Its mission statement envisages a country of responsible compassionate citizens of good character who demand excellence. Well one journalist who has carried out a number of interviews with representatives from the Maxim Institute is Chris Banks, from GayNZ.com, who used to work for the television programme Queer Nation as well. Chris, what's your reaction to this news about the plagiarism?
Banks: I have to say that the extent of it was rather shocking. In the investigations that I've done into Maxim's work before, it's been clear that none of the research they've presented in their submissions to Parliament or quoted in their articles has been original. It's been retreads of material from overseas, usually right-wing fundamentalist organisations. But I have to say the news that the commentary as well has in places been lifted wholesale from other sources is rather shocking because it leaves one wondering what do they actually do? Radich: So these are the sorts of articles one might have seen in some of the newspapers in this country, which have run under a byline from one of the Institute's people?
Banks: Yes. Also submissions to Parliament against legislation such as the Civil Union Act and the Care of Children Bill, et cetera. Radich: And these submissions now have been plagiarized from other sources?
Banks: The research that's quoted in this we found some time ago, when digging into this, when one looks closer, some of the research was very wanting. For the Care of Children legislation, for example, they cited the studies they'd done that [showed] fifty-five percent of lesbian relationships were violent and this showed why children shouldn't be kept in lesbian relationships. But when you looked at the source that they'd use you found that it was a self-selected study that had actually been done at a womens music festival at a workshop on violence in relationships. Radich: But in the submission there was no reference to that?
Banks: No.There was also another piece of research they used saying that twenty-eight percent of white male homosexuals estimated they'd had sex with more than a thousand partners. But you discovered that, when looking at the source, it was a study that had been done in the late 1970's and that all the people in the study had been recruited from sex clubs and saunas. Radich: So, hardly representative?
Banks: No. They do this all the time. They use studies that cannot be generalised to the population and then use [them] to try and prove points. Probably one of the more amusing ones was an author that they quoted called John D. Unwin, a British anthropologist apparently, but it was discovered that that author didn't actually exist at all. Radich: Where was he quoted?
Banks: He was quoted in several of their submissions. Radich: He was simply a fictitious person?
Banks: Well, the actual guy's name was Joseph Daniel Unwin, but what was fictitious was a quote that they'd quoted from his book but then, when going back to the actual book, the quote could not be found. this, this was a book that was being used to support their idea that, that marriage was a traditional institution that, that, that should be kept, should be kept for straight couples. but when you wen through the book you found quotes, quotes like, there is no such thing as christian marriage, so it was obvious that the man's writings were being used for the precise opposite of what he'd actually written. Radich: You've had a chance to talk to some of the people from Maxim. When you've put some of these concerns to them, what response have you had?
Banks: Well, this is where it gets interesting. We had quite a number of circular debates about their positions on things. When I tried to get to the specifics about research I was always referred to Bruce Logan, and Bruce Logan was the one person that I was never able to get to speak to. I attempted phoning the Christchurch office and I also asked the people in the Auckland office that I've spoken to. It would be great to speak to Bruce because there are a number of serious questions about research here. I'd like to know "where you've got the stuff from" and "why you're quoting it out of context," and I was always told to forward questions in writing. I wasn't able to get to speak to Bruce directly. Radich: Did you get to speak to anybody else who was able to help you?
Banks: No, not on the question of research. I mean, I'd bring up "this study here, [and] this [other] study here," and usually the answer would be: "Oh well, we've quoted a number of sources and I can't remember that particular one and you'll have to forward through the questions and we'll see what we can do." There was never any commitment to actually answer the questions. Radich: And were there any answers forthcoming?
Banks: Well, to tell you the truth on that, I gave up in the end. Because the evidence was so blatant that the stuff they'd been using was distorted that I thought, 'well there's, there's really not much point in pursuing it any further.' Radich: So when you say "distorted," you're not accusing them of making anything up but of using things out of context and changing some of the slant, is that what you mean?
Banks: Well in some cases, I mean obviously with the Unwin example, some of the stuff has been made up. On another issue they got caught out twice on a couple of their pieces on prostitution law reform... Radich: What mistakes did they make?
Banks: They claimed that the New Zealand Prostitutes' Collective had received $150,000 a month funding from taxpayers, when in fact that was only around fifty thousand a month. Then there was another study that they quoted saying that a Christchurch School of Medicine study found that nearly two-thirds of Christchurch street prostitutes were under the age of eighteen. [But] going back to the study, you actually found that out of 303 prostitutes, there are only twelve that were over the age of eighteen. Radich: What role do you think all of this work the Maxim Institute has been doing had on those two bills that went through the last term of parliament, the Prostitution Reform Bill particularly, and the Civil Union Bill?
Banks: It's difficult to say because the two bills did actually pass in the end. I wasn't involved with really monitoring what happened with, with prostitution law reform. Radich: But you would have monitored the Civil Union Bill.
Banks: With the civil unions, I think in some ways that the people that would already be not supportive of civil unions would get behind the Maxim stuff because it would reinforce their own prejudices. Whereas I think that the people who supported civil unions were already rather skeptical. But in terms of public debate, I think it's quite clear that Maxim were working behind the scenes quite a lot and writing pieces in the papers and coming across as if they were an objective organisation that had done their own research and were genuinely concerned - when [for] a research organisation, the very nature of research is that you set out to find truth. But for Maxim, the truth is pre-ordained. They already know what their beliefs are, they come from a certain type of Christian background and it's all pre-ordained for them. So they just look for research that they can find that will back that up. And when they can't find it, they will make it up. Radich: Thank you very much for that Chris Banks, a journalist who works for GayNZ.com. - 28th October 2005