I’ve been struggling to figure out just why it is that I think Michael Hiltzik should not be disciplined for creating mutually admiring sock-puppet identities. I think I’ve finally figured it out. It has to do with the type of dishonesty that most bothers me — that is the most dangerous — and its prevalence at the L.A. Times.
When someone creates sock puppets, like Hiltzik did, is it dishonest? Yes, I suppose it is. But is it dangerous? I don’t think so. Goofy? Sure. Easily mocked? You betcha! But dangerous? Nah.
What bothers me more — and what I find far more dangerous — is the kind of dishonesty that Hiltzik employed in his response to me yesterday: blatant intellectual dishonesty. He fundamentally mischaracterized my argument. He was smart enough to know he was doing it.
And he thought he’d get away with it.
Because his colleagues get away with that sort of dishonesty all the time.
This is the kind of dishonesty that I find far more disturbing than sock puppets. It’s intellectual dishonesty — pretending that they don’t see the point, when they damn well do.
It’s the sort of thing that happens when the paper says that President Bush claimed that Iraq was an “imminent threat” in a State of the Union speech, when he didn’t — and then refuses to correct the mistake. Or when they run a fundamentally flawed story about the costs of the death penalty, and then pretend not to understand the flaws (or just ignore you) when you point them out.
I documented dozens of such examples in my year in review 2005 post, and in previous annual reviews of the paper. This sort of dishonesty — blatant intellectual dishonesty — goes on there all the time. And Michael Hiltzik is far from the only person there engaging in it.
If they do something to him, they’re not getting him for his real sins — and they’re pretending they’re not guilty of the same sins.
That pretense would be simply more dishonesty.