On December 19, Eric Boehlert of Media Matters wrote this column in which he selectively quoted me (which is as good as a misquote) and mischaracterized this blog as a “warblog.”
While I detest intrablog pissing matches, I felt Boehlert’s mischaracterization of my words and their intended meaning merited a response, and I made one, here. At that time I also took issue with some of Boelhert’s other assertions about “warbloggers” which I found to be either unconvincing or simply odd. My post was civil in tone, engaged in no name-calling and simply addressed Beohlert’s mistake – I will call it a mistake and not a maliciously intended distortion – and some of his other ideas.
I did not think to ask Boehlert for a public correction of his misquote; I assumed that he would simply provide one as a matter of journalistic pride and professionalism, and so I let the matter go. In fact, I was not interested enough to check out his third column on this issue until just now, and I was rather surprised to see that – while Boehler begrudgingly and with little grace corrected his misquote of Seedubya in that previous column – he did not correct his similarly mistaken quote from me.
My post correcting Boehlert had been linked to by many in the blogosphere, including Instapundit, which is seen by almost everyone, and so I think it is safe to assume that Boehlert probably saw it. But I’ll give him the benefit of a doubt that perhaps he did not, and that is why he has in his latest column still not corrected himself concerning my thoughts.
Boehlert made a point of featuring quotes by me two weeks in a row. Since I posted my response, he has not named this blog in the steaming “warbloggers” rhetoric of his two pieces proceeding. That’s very nice, but I would still appreciate it if he would publicly acknowledge his mistaken quote, in which – among other things – he mischaracterized me as being “contemptuous” of the first amendment. I am quite certain Mr. Boehlert would not appreciate being misquoted in such a way as to utterly slander his view, and then having that misquote linger, uncorrected. I am equally certain this blog has never given him a reason to believe he would ever be subjected to such treatment.
Unfortunately, because Mr. Boehlert has failed to correct the misquote, or his mischaracterization of this blog as a “warblog,” any charge he makes against the “warblogs” is still a charge against me, and I don’t much appreciate being painted with his broad and rather indiscriminate brush.
Boehlert’s latest column throws everything but the kitchen sink at the “warbloggers,” stating that they are indulging in personal name-calling (this blog has not – neither have some others whom he has also so characterized), that they have called for AP Executive Editor Kathleen Carroll’s resignation (this blog has not, but Carroll has not exactly covered herself in glory, lately), that the bloggers are engaging in a “press conspiracy” (oh, come on, now) and that these “warbloggers” are “defiantly” refusing to “apologize” for “maligning” the AP.
To bolster his argument that a quick and humble apology is more than due, Boehlert claims that FOX News’ Brit Hume declared the AP “vindicated.”
In truth, as Patterico points out in a post that deconstructs some of Boehlert’s piece:
…as the transcript shows, Brit Hume said no such thing. Rather, he said that the AP had been vindicated as to allegations (made by whom, I wonder?) that Hussein didn’t even exist. Hume said:
The AP was widely accused at the time of making up Hussein’s identity in order to disseminate false news about the war. No explanation was offered about why it took so long to confirm his name or why it is being disclosed now, but the AP, it appears, has been vindicated on this.
That is hardly the same thing as saying the AP was vindicated on the issue of the Burning Six, which is what Media Matters implies in its summary.
At least Media Matters included the transcript in its post. But its summary pushes the false narrative that lefties have been pushing for the last 44 hours or so: that the mere existence of Jamil Hussein means that The AP Has Been Vindicated on Everything, Because All Warbloggers Claimed He Was a Made-Up Person.
Indeed that does seem to be the narrative that the left is pressing – because Jamil Hussein has been “found” that means the story about four burned mosques and six immolated human beings must be true.
Let’s test that logic with a syllogism, shall we?
Major Premise: The AP reported four mosques burned down and six people were murdered, and their source was Jamil Hussein.
Minor Premise: Jamil Hussein exists.
Conclusion: Therefore four mosques burned down and six people were murdered.
No, that doesn’t work. The logic fails.
The fact that the AP itself could not find serious corroboration for the story, that it changed the “four” mosques to “one” but has not been able to provide a single picture, that it has never named the victims or talked to the victim’s families or done anything at all to substantiate the story beyond saying “we stand by it,” seems not to matter to some. But it matters, and that is what the bloggers on the right, “war” or otherwise, have been trying to say. A report matters. The credibility of a report (even if the story is “brief”) matters. It matters because every time a horrible story crosses the wires and into the public perception, it plays on gut-level emotions and raises discontent among already warring local factions. In the same way that some would use our own liberties to work against us, such reports embolden those who would take advantage of the fact that America is a compassionate country, that makes war only with relucance. Am I saying that ugly or troubling stories should not be reported? Of course not. But they must be true.
Credible news reports matter because the press possesses the public trust and therefore they have a charge – a duty – to do all they can to ascertain that the information they pass on to the nation is as accurate as it can be. The embrasure of that duty is an honorable one and a privilege. Honest journalism – whether popular or not – is as much a service to the nation as is a noble military or an uncorrupted government. Honest journalism tells the good and the bad without passion or prejudice, respecting the right of the people to “know” and the right of the government to hold classified what it deems truly necessary for the good and welfare of nations. Honest journalism respects the reader enough to trust him or her to receive information with an active mind, and welcomes the reader’s ability to question what it reads, to look for clarification, if necessary. The craft of honest journalism is less an imperious handing down of selected information by “mediating intelligences” than a provocative waltz between writer and reader, both partners challenging, encouraging and turning in sync.
The credibility of reports – of reporters, newservices, papers and networks – matters because honest journalism is all that stands between any people and tyranny. When journalists fail to double and triple-check a story or confirm a source, or when they rely too heavily on unnamed informants, when they stop believing they may be questioned or held accountable by their readers, they may fall prey to temptation, abandoning the give-and-take of the waltz in order to merely lead and spin. If and when that happens, the press fails to carry out its charge, and thus loses the public trust.
It is worrisome to see so many people who are willing to overlook a dubious story full of inconsistancies (and to pretend that such a questionable report is an abberation) simply because partisanship demands it. Throat-ripping instincts and arguments aside, we are all in this together and if we cannot come together on this one issue – the desire to see a well-run and reliable press service the nation – we’ll fall together.
The credibility of the press matters. It should matter to everyone whether on the left or the right.
And the fact that I even have to write something that obvious speaks volumes about where we are in America – Anno Domani 2007 – and where we may be heading if readers are not to question the press, and if some are quite content to shrug off misinformation simply because they hate the questioners.
Allah has more.
UPDATE: Blue Crab Boulevard links here and makes a good point:
I haven’t seen one left leaning blog that said a single word about the New York Times Byron Calame and his conclusion last week that there had been a major – very major – lie told in the pages of the NYT Magazine. Nor have I seen any retraction or correction from the New York Times. [- NY Times printed a correction today. - Admin] But the left is very fast to demand – demand, I say – retractions and corrections from right leaning blogs over sideshow issues to the real problems of the AP story.
Gaius also trys another syllogism.