Speaking of lies, there's been a lot of tooth-gnashing recently on the
left about lies, distortion and plaigiarism -- on the left. The
Guardian, with its distorted quotes and fabricated meetings. The
endless hair-shirt laments over disgraced Times reporter Jayson Blair,
which has most lately claimed the two top editors at the paper as
victims. (See for example the Poor Man, who takes the
in Guardian-bashing -- though, unsatisfied with this attack
on such a soft target, he has gone on to fire
for referring to Brit Hume's head as "galaxy-sized", even
though it is signficiantly smaller than most major galaxies). And in
our own little corner, there's the continuing rain of stones
hurled toward The Agonist
Let's put this in context, with another set of stories in the New
York Times. As Howard Kurtz reported
a few weeks ago (and many, many bloggers picked up), Times reporter
Judith Miller very nearly bragged in email to another Times reporter
- I've been covering Chalabi for about 10 years, and have
done most of the stories about him for our paper, including the long
takeout we recently did on him. He has provided most of the front page
exclusives on WMD to our paper.
Let's say that again: the source of numerous front-page exclusives
on Iraqi WMD in the New York Times was Ahmed Chalabi -- a convicted
embezzler and soi-disant "exile leader" who had left the country as a
child and had barely ever been back. But he had gained powerful friends in
the American defense establishment (by spending years telling them
what they wanted to hear), so uncritically reporting whatever he was
making up was, I gather, acceptable.
Now, I'm not defending Jayson Blair. Making stuff up about, say, a
POW's home is unacceptable. But these fabrications, as egregious as
they may have been, didn't have much lasting impact on national policy.
Miller's front-pagers, several, over years, arguably did. And she
hasn't even faced a reprimand.
The Guardian and the Agonist, for their parts, were both quick to
acknowledge their sins and publish corrections -- which is more than
the Times has done for years' worth of unsubstantiated stories about
Whitewater (and an endless rain of calumnies on the editorial page,
penned by Howell Raines, which his latter-day critics seem never to
Nobody's perfect. In particular, no one of the left. But the
Times's errors don't uniformly tend in any particular direction --
though (as Daniel Davies notes in the comments here)
its true bias, to my eyes, is towards stenography to the powerful, and
against the notion that its well-placed and well-groomed sources
might nevertheless be full of shit.
Now, can we get back to talking about the news?
One last thing: I'm not going to cheer for
plaigiarism. But let's remember who's the victim. It's not so much
the readers, as the other writers whose work was ripped off unacknowledged. To my way of thinking, it really isn't as bad as publishing as fact reports that you know, or should have known, to be suspect. I've seen Jayson Blair described as a "plaigiarist", but he wasn't -- finding reliable sources to plaigiarize would have served readers better than what he actually did, which was to just make things up.
Which is worth remembering in, say, the case of the Agonist, who
attributed snippets of Stratfor briefings to "his sources", without
acknowledging the source was Stratfor. Sean-Paul Kelly and the
Stratfor crew seem to have made their peace about this affair, which
puts the bloggers who are still worked up about it in a somewhat
Oh, see also Calpundit regarding the