When I point out an error by Radley Balko (a fairly common occurrence), his corrections tend to follow a consistent pattern:
1) Delay and stonewall: Balko will first studiously ignore my correction, to the point where it’s clear nothing will be done unless I bring it up repeatedly.
2) Engage in denial: even as he corrects his error, Balko usually finds a way to imply that he was not wrong at all. (If he can’t do that, he emphasizes that the error was minor and meaningless.)
3) Blame-shifting: inevitably, Balko will find a way to blame me for the whole thing.
I’m not surprised to see that his latest correction follows the old pattern. Let’s take these points one at a time:
1) Delay and stonewall.
It’s clear to me that Balko had no intention of making this correction unless I made a federal case out of it. Here is Radley’s excuse for the delay:
I haven’t responded to point (1) because in the last 36 hours, I’ve been working on a breaking story, had a lunch appointment, had a drink with a friend, and for the last 12 hours have had a massive migraine.
Translation: he was going to do it when he wasn’t busy. And he’s always busy.
Let’s explore this excuse. Balko admits that he knew about the error for 36 hours. His correction — which he made only after I wrote a whole new post about how he seemingly had no intention of correcting his post — consisted of adding an asterisk next to the incorrect language, and adding these 14 words:
(*Note: Patterico insists he included this portion of Dunphy’s post in his initial post.)
I figure that took, what? A minute?
In that same 36-hour period of time, Balko found time to put up three posts, and write a five-paragraph comment telling two of his commenters to fuck off. But he didn’t have time to put a strike tag around the incorrect language, or put up 14 words to correct his error.
(I especially like his five-paragraph comment defending his honor, because it introduces a new phrase to the Internet: “what fluffy said.” See, in a previous comment, commenter fluffy had said: “Brad and Alex, Go fuck yourselves.” Balko echoed the sentiment: “Brad, Alex: what fluffy said.” All this happened in the same comment thread where, in between Brad and Alex’s comments, I had notified Balko of his error. When he wrote his five paragraphs yelling at Brad and Alex, he could have been spending that time adding 14 words to the post to correct an inaccuracy. But his honor was more important than accuracy.)
Let’s compare what Balko had time to write . . . to what he claims he didn’t have time to write:
|What Balko Had Time to Write in Those 36 Hours
|What Balko Didn’t Have Time to Write in Those 36 Hours
|A comment defending his honor, written in the same thread where I notified him of the error:
What Fluffy said. Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.
I didn’t dishonestly “report” anything about Dunphy. I commented on a blog post he wrote, and linked to it so you could go read it and interpret it yourselves. You may disagree with my interpretation. That’s fine. It’s an interpretation that was shared by a hell of a lot of other people, including conservative bloggers like James Joyner. Your attempt analogize this to the actual reporting I do is crap.
Alex, I post links to 10 or more stories per day. I don’t have time to do my own reporting on everything I link to. Mostly because I spend my days doing actual reporting on other stories. In both of the stories you mentioned, I posted subsequent links to the corrections or to critiques of those stories once they were brought to my attention. Blog for any length of time, and you’re eventually going to link to something that later turns out to be false, or misreported. Again, I had no hand in reporting either of those stories. And I posted links to corrections/clarifications when they were published. To ask any more is to ask that I not post or discuss any news story I haven’t personally verified with my own reporting. Which is ridiculous.
As for my politics, if you think I’ve been overly critical of Republicans and haven’t criticized Democrats then you haven’t been reading very carefully. That said, I have no intention of trying to achieve some magical 1:1 balance of critical posts of either party. I’m sorry if you’re unhappy with the balance. Actually, no I’m not. I don’t really care.
If all of this isn’t satisfactory for you, go find other blogs to read. Oh, and Brad, my traffic is up significantly in the last year, both here and the traffic to my stories at Reason. In the last month I’ve been favorably linked by a number of right-of-center sites, including Volokh, Oustide the Beltway, First Things, The Weekly Standard, and National Review. And yes, if lefties want to read me and support my work, I’m more than happy to welcome them, too.
A post titled “Morning Links”:
# Liquor industry group, MADD part ways over MADD’s plans to push for mandatory ignition interlock devices for first-time DWI offenders. Good. That alliance was formed back in 2000, when the liquor industry agreed to support MADD’s push to lower the national minimum BAC to .08 in exchange for MADD also pushing to raise taxes on beer. It was a pretty shameless move. Glad to see the alliance has crumbled.
# This is also good to see at a place like Slate: Morbidly bese people save the health care system money, despite scary headlines to the contrary of late.
# I’m with the judge, here. I’m having hard time believing this kid was traumatized. Maybe if he sprained an ankle as he was being carried off on the shoulders of his friends.
# Someone at the Bowie County Citizens Tribune has a naughty sense of humor.
# So we can all agree that this was racist, right?
# Here’s a new puppycide twist: U.S. Marshall shoots police K-9 during search.
Each of those six links had to be embedded by hand. Then he wrote this post:
House Pushes Pork-Packed Defense Bill
Unbelievable. Well, okay. Totally believable.
The Democratic-controlled House is poised to give the Pentagon dozens of new ships, planes, helicopters and armored vehicles that Defense Secretary Robert M. Gates says the military does not need to fund next year, acting in many cases in response to defense industry pressures and campaign contributions under an approach he has decried as “business as usual” and vowed to help end.
The unwanted equipment in a military spending bill expected to come to a vote on the House floor Thursday or Friday has a price tag of at least $6.9 billion…
Roughly $2.75 billion of the extra funds — all of which were unanimously approved in an 18-minute markup Monday by the House Appropriations Committee — would finance “earmarks,” or projects demanded by individual lawmakers that the Pentagon did not request. About half of that amount reflects spending requested by private firms, including 95 companies or related political action committees that donated a total of $789,190 in the past 2 1/2 years to members of the appropriations subcommittee on defense, according to an analysis by Taxpayers for Common Sense, a nonprofit watchdog group.
Rep. Jeff Flake (R-Ariz.), a government-spending critic who has long campaigned against such earmarks, has said he will try again Thursday to strike all such spending. But his prior earmark-stripping efforts have succeeded only once in dozens of attempts, and never on defense spending.
“Simply put, Members of Congress should not have the ability to award no-bid contracts” to private firms, Flake said in a statement explaining the 540 proposed amendments he plans to bring up. “The practice has created an ethical cloud over Congress, and it needs to end.” He noted that at least 70 of the earmarks are for former clients of the PMA Group, a lobbying firm close to appropriations subcommittee head John P. Murtha (D-Pa.) that is now being probed by the Justice Department and the House ethics committee.
Every Democrat who ever muttered a word of criticism (justified criticism, in my opinion) about the Bush administration’s no-bid contracts to Haliburton ought to be condemned if they vote to allow this crap to pass. And yes, Republcians did the same thing when they controlled Congress. Trent Lott especially was famous for funding massive military projects in Mississippi that the military didn’t want.
Again, the link had to be added by hand, as did the links in the third post he wrote, which was another collection of links:
Another Cheap Bullet Point Post of Links:
…because I have a deadline today, and way too many browser tabs open.
# D.C. man arrested for disorderly conduct for singing “I hate the police” as a (admittedly odd and juvenile) form of protesting the disorderly conduct arrest of Henry Louis Gates.
# Grandstanding pols still going after Craiglist.
# Brits take aim at next class of weaponry citizens can’t be trusted with: pizza cutters!
# Man gets six months in jail for punching a police dog.
# Philly residents caught having fun. So city bans it.
# Eugene Volokh weighs in on the blogger arrested for blogging about a local undercover narcotics unit.
Again, each of the above bullet points contained a link. Six more links added by hand.
|(*Note: Patterico insists he included this portion of Dunphy’s post in his initial post.)|
During that 36 hours that Balko knew of his error, but did nothing to correct it, thousands of readers were coming in from links from Matthew Yglesias’s blog, a blog at the Atlantic, Outside the Beltway, and numerous other blogs across the Web. They read Balko’s assertion that I had suspiciously omitted a passage that supposedly undercut my argument. And Balko was content to let these thousands of readers read his inaccurate accusation against me — an accusation that he already knew wasn’t true.
Let’s move on to point #2:
2) Engage in denial.
Note that in his latest post, Balko doesn’t simply admit error. He claims that he read my post several times and never noticed the language that I “insist” was there all along:
I read and re-read Patterico’s initial post several times when composing my response to it. He says I wrongly wrote that he left out a portion of his excerpt of Dunphy’s post. Apparently, I skipped over that portion several times. I’ll take his word for it. Consider this a correction.
Balko says he’s taking my word for it, but look at the way he words that. Boy, it sure does seem strange that I would skip over the same exact passage several times, but if that’s what he’s claiming, I’ll take his word for it. The clear implication there is: I suspect Patterico changed the post and added the language, but I can’t prove it. Why else would he word it that way? This is reinforced by the language of his correction: “(*Note: Patterico insists he included this portion of Dunphy’s post in his initial post.)” He doesn’t say I did include the phrase — just that I “insist” that I do.
Well, Balko, if you truly read that passage “several times” and somehow missed that phrase every time, that doesn’t speak very well of your reading abilities. But it was there. Hundreds, possibly thousands, of people read my post and saw the language there. The idea that I went back and added the language after seeing your post is absurd. But you have to leave that implication floating there, like a turd in the toilet bowl.
Can I prove that I didn’t add the language after seeing Balko accuse me of omitting it? Not to the satisfaction of people who refuse to be convinced. But I can show you this: a screenshot from my editing screen for the post:
As you can see, I have about 15-16 edits for the post. (I read and re-read my posts for typos, infelicitous language, etc. before publishing.) Two of those edits occurred within 8 minutes after publishing; both were minor typos that I first noticed after publishing. (I even discussed one of those edits in the comments with happyfeet.) Five minutes after the last edit, there was an “autosave” which sometimes occurs when you have an editing screen open in two browser tabs, with different content in each.
The post has not been edited since 8 minutes after its publication on July 28, when I corrected a typo or two. Balko’s post appeared on July 29. Obviously, I didn’t go back and add the language after his post was published.
Are you convinced? Not if you’re a radical Balkobot. Like 9/11 Truthers and Birthers, there is always another way to dispute any proof offered. Maybe I photoshopped the screenshot. (I wouldn’t know how.) Maybe I deleted evidence of subsequent edits. (I didn’t, and I don’t even know if that is possible in WordPress’s software.) Etc. etc. etc.
If you read Balko’s latest post about all this, you’d think I was the jerk. Balko a) suggested I was dishonest for omitting a passage; b) ignored my request for a correction for 36 hours; and c) told a laughable story about why he didn’t have time to fix the error.
And I’m the jerk.
I’m sure Balko will feel very oppressed and put upon because of this post. I don’t feel sorry for him one bit. This post would have been completely unnecessary if Balko had handled this properly. You don’t want a 2000-word post showing how dishonest you have been, Balko? Then correct your errors when you learn of them. Don’t suggest that the wronged party might have manufactured the error, and that you might really not have been at fault. And if you decide to stonewall, and you get called on it, don’t dissemble about why you failed to correct the error.
Hey, Radley? What fluffy said, right back at you.
P.S. Balko finally responds to my criticism of his Jimmie Duncan article — and it’s an airy wave of the hand that dismisses all my careful research as “nonsense.”
Everyone who read my analysis and thought it was careful and made good points, take note.
I’m glad. I was in trial when the full article on Duncan came out, and I didn’t have time to recapitulate how misleading the ultimate article was. I have since received the autopsy video. That, together with Balko’s dismissive response, is all the motivation I need to get that post done.
P.P.S. Balko says he’ll be ignoring me from now on, unless my criticisms of him get picked up by other bloggers. This is consistent with his handling of this incident. Balko believes that it isn’t worth responding to a critic he doesn’t like — unless there is a danger that people he respects will actually notice the criticism.
Well, guess what, Balko? Sometimes your errors get caught by, well, critics. If you have a true commitment to accuracy, you swallow hard and make the correction. Even if it’s brought to your attention by somebody you don’t like.
A journalist really should understand this.