Sigh. This is getting dull. UPDATED

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.

UPDATE II: Big Lizard, guest blogging at Michelle Malkin’s while she is traveling, writes red hot on Boehlert.

About Elizabeth Scalia
  • cathyf

    What’s truly amazing is that the press seems so blithely oblivious to the notion that they might lose the public trust. As if every American doesn’t have day-to-day contact with supermarket checkouts and the tabloid “press.”
    .
    People really don’t like being played for fools, and it doesn’t take much to imagine a day when people giggle about believing AP or the NYT like they giggle about The Weekly World News and The Star.

  • cathyf

    What’s truly amazing is that the press seems so blithely oblivious to the notion that they might lose the public trust. As if every American doesn’t have day-to-day contact with supermarket checkouts and the tabloid “press.”
    .
    People really don’t like being played for fools, and it doesn’t take much to imagine a day when people giggle about believing AP or the NYT like they giggle about The Weekly World News and The Star.

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  • FARRWESTMOM

    Very well said. I agree with you 1000% I know from my own experience that the main stream media can and does lie. We no longer trust them to even tell us the weather.

  • FARRWESTMOM

    Very well said. I agree with you 1000% I know from my own experience that the main stream media can and does lie. We no longer trust them to even tell us the weather.

  • karen

    The more you say it, the clearer and cleaner your words, A.

    What i want to know it what you think of the ~slant~ the Left always says Fox has? That their *Fair and Balanced* is just as slanted Right as their’s (MSM) is to the Left- well, they hardly admit THAT, but you now what i mean.
    @
    Hi Spud, in case you copy/paste these words back to me :).

  • karen

    The more you say it, the clearer and cleaner your words, A.

    What i want to know it what you think of the ~slant~ the Left always says Fox has? That their *Fair and Balanced* is just as slanted Right as their’s (MSM) is to the Left- well, they hardly admit THAT, but you now what i mean.
    @
    Hi Spud, in case you copy/paste these words back to me :).

  • TheAnchoress

    Heh. I don’t like Fox any better than any other broadcast news outlet…about all that I can say is that they DO at least have liberal screamers (Ratner, Colmes etc) on their network as well as conservative ones. When the other nets say they’ve culled together a “balanced” panel it’s usually 6 libs and one acceptable sort of conservative (a Gergen or someone like him, who will be more liberal than most conservatvies.)

    A pox on ‘em all, says I! :-)

  • TheAnchoress

    Heh. I don’t like Fox any better than any other broadcast news outlet…about all that I can say is that they DO at least have liberal screamers (Ratner, Colmes etc) on their network as well as conservative ones. When the other nets say they’ve culled together a “balanced” panel it’s usually 6 libs and one acceptable sort of conservative (a Gergen or someone like him, who will be more liberal than most conservatvies.)

    A pox on ‘em all, says I! :-)

  • Viola

    Anyone who reads your blog on a regular basis knows what was said is silly.

  • Viola

    Anyone who reads your blog on a regular basis knows what was said is silly.

  • http://maxedoutmama.blogspot.com MaxedOutMama

    I agree with your point, but I think your faith in mainstream journalism is misplaced. They do not share your ideals; they believe instead that they have to play the right “themes”, and that accuracy is unimportant. That’s reality, Anchoress.

    Also, do you realize that using an obscene word like “duty” is a red flag to them?

  • http://maxedoutmama.blogspot.com MaxedOutMama

    I agree with your point, but I think your faith in mainstream journalism is misplaced. They do not share your ideals; they believe instead that they have to play the right “themes”, and that accuracy is unimportant. That’s reality, Anchoress.

    Also, do you realize that using an obscene word like “duty” is a red flag to them?

  • Acer Palmatum

    The Anchoress is a warblog? That would make the Anchoress herself a warblogger. I am having a hard time wrapping my head around that one.

    You are more like the gentle Master Po and Master Kan on Kung Fu.

  • Acer Palmatum

    The Anchoress is a warblog? That would make the Anchoress herself a warblogger. I am having a hard time wrapping my head around that one.

    You are more like the gentle Master Po and Master Kan on Kung Fu.

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  • stephanie

    I think some of us ignore the media b/c it is irrelevant. I think it has always been biased and will continue to be so. I watch the local news and browse the WSJ- that’s about it.

  • stephanie

    I think some of us ignore the media b/c it is irrelevant. I think it has always been biased and will continue to be so. I watch the local news and browse the WSJ- that’s about it.

  • Sigmund Carl and Alfred

    I have been waiting a few days before leaving a comment- mostly because I find it incredible that logic gymnastics have become the order of the day.

    Sadly, the blame for such dysfunction falls squarely on our own shoulders. We have allowed the dysfunctions of the media and our elected representatives to become our own.

    Imagine going to a doctor or hospital where the level of care depended on your race, religion, or the politics you espoused.

    If we don’t hold our representative and media accountable, we will get what we deserve.

  • Sigmund Carl and Alfred

    I have been waiting a few days before leaving a comment- mostly because I find it incredible that logic gymnastics have become the order of the day.

    Sadly, the blame for such dysfunction falls squarely on our own shoulders. We have allowed the dysfunctions of the media and our elected representatives to become our own.

    Imagine going to a doctor or hospital where the level of care depended on your race, religion, or the politics you espoused.

    If we don’t hold our representative and media accountable, we will get what we deserve.

  • jtm

    While you are completely in the right, Anchoress, we ought not to be shocked, shocked, that logic fails to win hearts and minds on the left. Classical rhetoricians understood that a message was bathed in logos, ethos, and pathos. You correctly note that the logos of the AP sycophants is questionable; but the sycophants take advantage of the susceptibility of their reading audience to pathos above logos. It’s a sad state of affairs, to be sure. Back in the 1980s, a blue ribbon panel pronounced that America’s educational system had created a Nation at Risk. Today we are witnessing the beginning of the great collapse of intellectual culture that was predicted decades ago. Oh, but we’ll still contribute money to our Alma Maters because of some sappy sentimentality or sports team. And that money is still used to prop up a disgraceful anti-intellectualism in the humanities and social sciences. Again, we are in the grip of a generation that feels, because feeling, not logic, is truth.

  • jtm

    While you are completely in the right, Anchoress, we ought not to be shocked, shocked, that logic fails to win hearts and minds on the left. Classical rhetoricians understood that a message was bathed in logos, ethos, and pathos. You correctly note that the logos of the AP sycophants is questionable; but the sycophants take advantage of the susceptibility of their reading audience to pathos above logos. It’s a sad state of affairs, to be sure. Back in the 1980s, a blue ribbon panel pronounced that America’s educational system had created a Nation at Risk. Today we are witnessing the beginning of the great collapse of intellectual culture that was predicted decades ago. Oh, but we’ll still contribute money to our Alma Maters because of some sappy sentimentality or sports team. And that money is still used to prop up a disgraceful anti-intellectualism in the humanities and social sciences. Again, we are in the grip of a generation that feels, because feeling, not logic, is truth.


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