Patterico's Pontifications

2/3/2007

Painting the Other Side with a Broad Brush is Fun! And Fun Trumps Accuracy!

Filed under: General — Patterico @ 10:20 pm

Brad from Sadly, No! says to me:

I said that the AP should have run a correction of its initial report, since the language didn’t accurately describe what actually happened. I don’t know what more you want me to say about it. Oh wait, yes I do. You want me to admit that the AP is involved in helping the terrorists.

Oooooooh! The conservative boogeyman thinks the AP is in league with the terrorists! Ooooooooh!

Except, of course, that I don’t — as a cursory search of my site reveals. For example, here’s my post from January 5:

You’d have to be crazy to think that there is a widespread conspiracy of AP reporters to help the enemy. Most of them are out there doing a dangerous job. I don’t always think the information is reliable, which is in part a function of the nature of Iraq in general . . . but we should recognize the sacrifice they are making to try to tell us what’s going on.

Meanwhile, Brad’s howling pack of monkey-commenters shrieks that folks like me are simply trying to hide the fact that things are bad in Iraq. A guy calling himself “fridgemagnet” is typical: “This has never been anything except a tactic to distract attention from the actual events.” I have quoted Allah’s take on this before, but in light of the monkey-shrieks, maybe it’s worth the effort to quote it again, with my emphasis:

The only thing that really annoys me about the left blindly defending the AP here is the argument, made most emphatically by Eric Boehlert, that we’re using this incident somehow as a fig leaf for how bad things are in Iraq. If the AP turns out to be lying, the theory goes, we’ll declare all reportage from Iraq suspect by extension and conclude that things aren’t nearly as dire as they seem to be. Which, of course, is patent nonsense. There are Shiite death squads operating in hospitals in Iraq; if you knew nothing else about the country, you could glean from that fact alone how unspeakably horrible conditions are throughout the country.

We’re not using this story as a fig leaf for the war. On the contrary, it’s Boehlert — the same guy who wrote a book claiming that the media is, giggle, right-wing — who’s using the war as a fig leaf for the AP’s anti-American bias. According to him and his pals, to challenge the veracity of this story is to be guilty, essentially, of historical revisionism, of denying the brutality Iraqis are facing. Oh sure, they say en passant, if the AP got it wrong they should be called on the carpet for it — while in the same breath they dismiss the charges as a “smear campaign” or “baseless” or whatever conclusory pronouncement you prefer. They don’t care if the AP blew it or not. They say they do because they know they have to. It’s purely pro forma.

The truth is, and you can see this in Boehlert’s piece or Tom Zeller’s piece in the Times a few weeks ago, they think the AP story is true in the Larger Sense, as a microcosm of the brutality in Iraq, even if it’s not, you know, technically true. Which, my friend, is just another way of saying “fake but accurate.” That’s precisely the line they’re taking on this story, which is why it’s so outrageously disingenuous of them to pretend to give the slightest shit about whether Jamil Hussein is real or not. As far as they’re concerned, if he’s real, the story’s true; if he isn’t real, the story’s True. Heads they win, tails we lose. And the AP, if it’s guilty of bad facts to whatever greater or lesser degree, gets an almost completely free pass. It’s more important that Michelle Malkin be wrong, you see, than finding out if the world’s biggest news agency is passing off crap stories about the most important issue of our time. Repulsive.

. . . . Anything they can do to shore up the AP’s credibility, any argument they can make, they’ll do it, because like I said above, that’s what this is really about — protecting the left-wing media from a credible charge of malfeasance, even though it wouldn’t mean much in the grander scheme of how awful things are in Iraq.

That is right on the money. Every word of it. [UPDATE: OK, maybe there is one word I disagree with: the AP‘s “anti-American” bias. I would use the word “anti-war” and not “anti-American.”] As I said before:

I completely agree with Allah’s take on this. Things in Iraq are bad. In fact, in some ways, things may be worse than many realize, largely due to our decision to repeat the failures of the end of the Vietnam war. Nobody responsible is saying everything is great there, and the lefties who claim that we are, are liars. Pure and simple.

That, Sadly No! commenters, means you.

Reinforcing the point, I said of the Burning Six story in this post:

[I]s it really that hard to imagine such an atrocity in the vicinity of Baghdad nowadays? The answer is, of course, a resounding “no.”

It’s so very much fun to paint the other side with a broad brush. For Brad and his commenters, the fun outweighs any need to be accurate.

P.S. And yes: knowing what we know now, I think the war was a mistake.

Also, it’s probably not constructive for me to describe Brad’s comments as a lack of concern for accuracy. I have contempt for a lot of the commenters at Sadly, No!, many of whom generally treat any opposing point of view, however politely expressed, with disdain and profanity. They did it to DRJ yesterday, and are doing it to Bradley J. Fikes today. It’s embarrassing. But Brad and Gavin are talented writers and have some degree of intellectual honesty. It’s probably worth acknowledging that. It’s not true of all the posters there, but it is true of those two.

Did She Cut Her Hair Too Short or What?

Filed under: Crime,Dog Trainer,General — Patterico @ 9:35 pm

The L.A. Times has a story about the sentencing of scientist William French Anderson for lewd acts with a child. It has this puzzling passage:

Blair Berk, one of Anderson’s lawyers, said his client would be targeted by inmates as a child molester, so a prison term would mean “either a death sentence or solitary confinement.”

“His”?

The story purports to be quoting Berk directly. So how did the reporter miss the fact that Berk is a female?

AP (and Now Sadly, No!) Owes a Correction

Filed under: General,Media Bias,Morons — Patterico @ 3:26 am

Recently I quoted an AP story that reported that Sunnis had claimed that four mosques were “destroyed” in Hurriya back in November. I then said:

I understand that some ill-informed leftist bloggers have claimed, without proof, that this language was out there for 20 minutes and never made it into an actual story. I’m not linking these morons out of principle. You can easily find their stupid posts yourself. The name of their moronblog rhymes with the phrase “Madly Ho.” My response to these dunderheads is simple. Uh, ill-informed leftist bloggers? Meet Lexis/Nexis.

OK, fine. I’ll break my rule, just this once — for the entertainment value.

I was referring to this post, in which Sadly, No! blogger D. Aristophanes said that the term “destroyed” is

a term that appeared in a raw AP feed for approximately 20 minutes, and which was removed before a single story was published.

In my recent post, I said that Sadly, No! was wrong to say that this language was out there for 20 minutes and never made it into an actual story. Then Gavin M. doubled down — big-time. Referring to my post, he said:

You know how sometimes you run across something and you’re like, Damn, that’s a whole new flavor of stupid…?

My post was stupid, Gavin claimed, because I questioned D. Aristophanes’s assertion that the article had a brief 20-minute existence as a “raw feed.” (A “raw feed” is different from those cooked articles, which are subject to journalistic standards and such. In raw feeds, you’re allowed to say any old damn thing, so the moronbloggers’ logic goes. This is because, after the raw feed appears, it immediately self-destructs like those messages on the Mission: Impossible! TV shows — never to be seen again.) Here’s Gavin’s caption to my screenshot of three entries for the article on Nexis. Marvel as he describes the short, sad, squalid life of our friend the raw feed:

This AP feed with the imprecise word, ‘destroyed,’ was up for roughly 20 minutes before being supplanted.

I guess that’s true . . . if by “supplanted” you mean picked up by web sites across the world. The article has been published in various places around the country and the globe. It is still available in at least seven places on the Web, in addition to being archived on Nexis without a correction.

DRJ resolves the issue definitively:

Let’s recap. Here’s the AP report that I think we’re talking about:

Sunnis Say Shiites Burn Their Buildings
By QAIS AL-BASHIR
ASSOCIATED PRESS

BAGHDAD, Iraq (AP) – Sunni residents in a volatile northwest Baghdad neighborhood claimed Friday that revenge-seeking Shiite militiamen had destroyed four Sunni mosques, burned homes and killed many people, while the Shiite-dominated police force stood by and did nothing.

The reports were the most serious allegations of retribution in Baghdad the day after Sunni insurgents killed 215 people and wounded 257 with five car bombs and mortar fire in the capital’s Sadr City Shiite slum.

Police officials in the region told Associated Press reporters that nothing had happened in the Hurriyah district, a once-mixed Shiite-Sunni neighborhood that has increasingly come under the control of the Mahdi Army of radical anti-American Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr.

The Sunni residents, who would not allow use of their names for fear of retribution, said militiamen were blocking them from entering burned homes to claim the bodies of victims killed in the fires.”

I’m posting this at 1:35PM EST on 2/2/2007. Right now, this 11/24/2006 report is still posted at the websites of the San Diego Union Tribune, the Las Vegas Sun, the Philadelphia Intelligencer Phillyburbs.com, and Boston’s WHDH7 News. In addition, the report is also present in the worldwide media at the websites of Yahoo’s Asia News, Ireland’s BreakingNews:ie, and Canada’s Ottawa Recorder.

This AP-bylined report is still up at all these websites and there are probably more I missed.

To recap, according to the geniuses at Sadly, No!, this was merely “a raw AP feed” which appeared “for approximately 20 minutes, and which was removed before a single story was published” — except that it appeared in Canada, Asia, Ireland, Philadelphia, San Diego, Las Vegas, and Boston — and is still archived on Nexis without correction.

Damn, that’s a whole new flavor of stupid!

P.S. The defense advanced by some of their commenters is that the story was accurate, and needs no correction, because Sunni residents did claim that Shiite militiamen had destroyed four Sunni mosques. In comments, Gavin seems to accept this as a valid argument — but I’m waiting to see whether he will actually commit to an argument this stupid in a post. Let’s hope he does, so I can take joy in reminding him of the times he demanded corrections from conservatives for accurately repeating inaccurate statements by others.

Meanwhile, it will be interesting to see how he words his post acknowledging that the entire basis of his post mocking me was, well, flatly wrong. Hopefully he’ll use some leetspeak and do a lot of exclamation points mixed in with the number “1.” If that schtick was clever the first time, why then, it’s bound to be extra clever the 2,843rd time.

UPDATE 2-3-07 12:23 p.m.: This Sadly No! post continues to say that the word “destroyed” is “a term that appeared in a raw AP feed for approximately 20 minutes, and which was removed before a single story was published.” And Gavin’s post still says: “Above: This AP feed with the imprecise word, ‘destroyed,’ was up for roughly 20 minutes before being supplanted.” I’m sure the careful factcheckers at Sadly, No! will be correcting those erroneous statements posthaste.

But even if they don’t, that’s OK by their standards, because those posts have been “supplanted” by this one, which acknowledges that the story did run in some places. As long as the truth appears somewhere on the Sadly, No! web site, it’s OK to leave blatant errors up in other places.

By the way, let’s not pretend that the new post is honest. It also pretends that the AP‘s error was slight — an odd stance, given the fact that the AP recently reported only “slight damage” at one supposedly “destroyed” mosque, and nothing more than a broken window at another supposedly “destroyed” mosque. Not to mention the contemporaneous pictures showing worshippers praying in one of the mosques — one day after the attack that supposedly “destroyed” it.

But the folks at Sadly, No! will maintain until the day they die that these are inconsequential errors — hardly worth mentioning, really. “Destroyed” is really almost just like “slightly damaged” or “has a broken window.” Why? Because the Supreme Overarching Goal is to run down Michelle Malkin, and never ever to admit that she was right about anything. Next to that goal, little things like truth and accuracy are minor annoyances.

UPDATE x2: Welcome to Instapundit readers!


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