Over at Volokh, pseudonymous poster Juan Non-Volokh is about to unmask himself, and Eugene Volokh is goading commenters to guess who he really is. The overwhelming consensus: Jonathan Adler.
The L.A. Times runs several pieces on Tony Snow today. I’d like to highlight two, for the juxtaposition.
One story is designed to showcase the view of many on the left that Snow, as a former Fox News journalist, is a sniveling sycophant of the Bush Administration. The story is titled Guffaws About a Fox Guarding the White House, and begins in this way:
NEW YORK — The selection of Fox News host Tony Snow on Wednesday as the next White House press secretary reignited a debate about the network’s political leanings.
The liberal blogosphere chortled about the choice. “Snow, like everybody else on the payroll at Fox, is already a White House spokesman,” the blog Reclusive Leftist read, one of many liberal sites that mocked the move. “Is there really a need to give him an office in the West Wing and pay him a government salary?”
On the same page, another story highlights numerous quotes from Snow designed to reveal the awkward truth that Snow has been very critical of the Bush White House in the past — perhaps too critical! The thrust of the story appears to be: boy, this guy has uttered quite a few things that are certain to come back to haunt him — and here are some of them! The story is titled New Bush Hire Has an Outspoken Past. The deck headline reads: “Some say Tony Snow’s bluntness in matters such as race may be a risk as press secretary.” (Good old “some“! Is there anything they don’t know?) Here is a reference to Snow’s past criticism of Bush:
As a conservative commentator, Snow’s job was to be provocative and fire up the faithful. Sometimes that led him to level blunt criticism of Bush, whose policy agenda he recently derided as “listless.” Snow also said his future boss appeared “impotent” in defending his presidential powers.
A sidebar (apparently not available online) is titled “In the words of Tony Snow” and has these quotes, among others:
“A Republican president and a Republican Congress have lost control of the federal budget and cannot resist the temptation to stop raiding [sic — P.] the public fisc. George W. Bush and his colleagues have become not merely the custodians of the largest government in the history of humankind, but also exponents of its vigorous expansion.” — Townhall.com, March 17, 2006
“No president has looked this impotent this long when it comes to defending presidential power and prerogatives. Nearly 57 months into his administration, President Bush has yet to veto a single bill of any type. . . .” — Townhall.com, Sept. 30, 2005
“Bush, for all his personal appeal, ultimately bolstered his detractors’ claims that he didn’t have the drive and work ethic to succeed.” — Townhall.com, Nov. 16, 2000
The editors appear resistant to the obvious conclusion: that the theme of the first story (Snow’s sycophancy to Bush) is completely undercut by the theme of the second (Snow’s bluntness, including his harsh criticism of Bush). For example, the story about Snow’s alleged sycophancy never says, “But Snow has been very critical of the President. For example . . .” And the other story, about Snow’s allegedly sharp tongue, derides as White House “spin” the argument that Snow’s criticism of the President shows his honesty:
But how will Snow adapt those sharp-tongued skills to his new role at the White House, where his predecessor, Scott McClellan, seemed to make it his goal to appear as sedate and non-provocative as possible? Bush and his aides on Wednesday tried to put a positive spin on Snow’s bluntness, offering his past words as evidence that the White House was not as averse to dissent, as critics had alleged.
Meanwhile, the editors of the Los Angeles Times tried to put a negative spin on it.
And readers of this blog saw through it.
P.S. I love the comment Bush attributed to Snow regarding his criticism of the president:
“For those of you who have read his columns and listened to his radio show, he sometimes has disagreed with me,” Bush said as he introduced Snow to a packed West Wing press room. “I asked him about those comments, and he said, ‘You should have heard what I said about the other guy.’ “
Heh. Now that’s a guy who can outthink and outperform David Gregory and Helen Thomas.
Dana Priest says of Bill Bennett:
[H]e seems to be of the camp that the government and only the government should decide what the public should know in the area of national security. In this sense, his views run contrary to the framers of the Constitution who believed a free press was essential to maintaining not just a democracy, but a strong, vibrant democracy in which major policy is questions are debated in the open.
The framers believed that partisan government officials should have the right to disseminate classified information to partisan journalists?
Or, as Allah writes in his tip about this story: “After all, why should the government decide when Dana Priest and Mary McCarthy are available to do so?”
P.S. The L.A. Times still isn’t reporting anything of the partisan ties of either woman. There are no new stories about Mary McCarthy since their last deceptive bilge, which implied that she is nonpartisan (by repeating quotes asserting that she is not an “ideologue”), while failing to report the evidence that she is indeed very much a Democrat partisan. You still pretty much have to be in tune with the blogosphere to know about McCarthy’s extensive Democrat partisan ties.
Hey, Dana Priest: if the framers were around today, the First Amendment would have an explicit protection for bloggers:
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press, or of the blogosphere . . .
If they read the L.A. Times, they might even be tempted to do away with the bit about the press . . .
UPDATE: Read Jeff Goldstein. Which you should be doing anyway . . .
I am sorry I wasted all of your time with this Da Vinci Code decision code nonsense.
It turns out that the solution was lame. The final message, “Jackie Fisher who are you Dreadnought,” had fully two typos in the space of only 31 letters, so that it actually read: “Jackie Fister who are you Dreadnough.” Even spelled correctly, who cares? What kind of stupid message is that?
Worst of all, the solution is, at the very least, inelegant: a substitution cipher based on the Fibonacci number sequence, with an unexplained deviation at the very third letter. If the judge hadn’t handed the London Times the solution on a silver platter, nobody ever would have gotten it, because it went off the tracks at the very beginning.
All details here.
All in all, as poorly conceived and proofread as the opinion itself — which at least got the result right, but with extremely poor writing.
Again, my apologies.
UPDATE: I have embedded my own message in this post, in honor of the judge.
Editor and Publisher has published two responses to their recent (and lame) article on Michael Hiltzik, which I told you about yesterday, in this post. You can read them here. The first, a set of two letters, is from our old friend AMac, and duplicates two comments that AMac left on this blog yesterday evening, here and here. AMac’s initial letter reads as follows:
In [yesterday’s] column covering LA Times writer Michael Hiltzik’s blogging woes, you were kind enough to provide readers with links to the LA Times’ Editors’ Note, as well as to the NY Times story on the matter.
Readers would have benefitted from a link to the web-log that broke the story. They might then notice that blogger Patrick Frey’s charge was _not_ that Hiltzik used a pseudonym, a common practice. Rather, it was that he employed two pseudonyms to shill for himself, pretending to be two separate people in comments to his own and other blogs. That practice is neither common nor ethical.
It is unfortunate that Editor & Publisher has joined the Times in misstating the central problem with the actions that Hiltzik is alleged to have performed.
I hope that, after investigating further, you will consider amending your story to more accurately reflect the circumstances of this case.
and his follow-up:
It was just pointed out that I misread a sentence in your column. You wrote: “But writing praise about yourself in pseudonym-ed comments is like a sitcom using a laugh-track; pretty lame, but not ultimately harmful.”
Your readers should be aware that this view is accepted by almost nobody in the blogging or newspapering communities. For example, academic John Lott got a world of grief from both erstwhile allies and longtime enemies when his use of pseudonym “Mary Rosh” to shill for his position and needle his adversaries became public knowledge. See this 2003 Washington Post article and its references for details of that case.
I think that the best reporting practice would be to explain the central allegation to readers before dismissing it as frivolous. I hope you agree.
Another letter-writer, Stuart Larson, wrote this:
I enjoyed [David Hirschman’s] article; you made some excellent points. Regarding the case of Michael Hiltzik, however, I think you perhaps missed the point: it’s not the fact that he used pseudonyms in his posts to the Times and elsewhere, it’s the dishonest way in which he did so — by pretending to be someone else, and by using anonymous postings to try to deceptively bolster his own arguments. It is reminiscent of the authors who anonymously write glowing reviews of their own books and post them on Amazon to sway potential readers to buy their books. Both practices are unethical. In doing so, Hiltzik also comes across as petty and childish, which. while not unethical, is certainly below what one would expect of someone who won a Pulitzer Prize for his writing. The posts in question also severely compromise his credibility, which is perhaps the most important of all the issues here.
AMac and Mr. Larson understand the controversy much better than the author of the Editor and Publisher piece did.
It appears commonly accepted that “SMITHYCODE” means the code of Smith, the judge, which means that the portion that needs to be solved is this:
So what does it mean?
Power Line readers proved the Rathergate documents were fake in a day. You guys aren’t going to get showed up by them, are you?
The judge has said that this line from the decision is important: “The key to solving the conundrum posed by this judgment is in reading HBHG and DVC.” HBHG is “Holy Blood, Holy Grail,” whose authors were suing Dan Brown, author of DVC (The Da Vinci Code).
Now you know what I know. Don’t embarrass me.
[I]n a series of brief and ultimately frustrating e-mail messages during the last couple of days, the judge provided a series of intriguing clues. First he said that the different ways codes are broken in “Holy Blood, Holy Grail” and “The Da Vinci Code” should be considered. The idea for the italicized letters, he suggested, came from “Holy Blood, Holy Grail.”
He then suggested moving on to “The Da Vinci Code” and applying one of the code-breaking methods used by its protagonists to solve the mystery of the jumbled letters. “Think mathematics,” he wrote at one point. He drew attention to his own entry in Who’s Who — in which he lists an interest in the history of Jackie Fisher, an admiral who modernized the British Navy, a possible reason that his e-mail address contains the word “pescator,” implying fisherman — and said that the date 2006 was significant.
He even mentioned a page number in “The Da Vinci Code” by way of trying to help. But he declined to go further, saying that “anything else gives it on a plate.”
Yeah, thanks for telling us that page number, Ms. New York Times reporter. You just want to be the first to solve it!
UPDATE: She wasn’t. Someone at the London Times was. Via a commenter comes a link to the story setting forth the solution.
UPDATE x2: This judge is a careless moron who 1) encoded a boring and meaningless message; 2) imported two typos in the space of 31 letters; and 3) bollixed up the code. Details here.
I apologize for wasting your time with what turned out to be utter nonsense.
As on Monday, the L.A. Times web site does not show a business column from Michael Hiltzik today. The column usually runs on Mondays and Thursdays.
UPDATE: Cathy Seipp says she hears that they’re deciding what to do with him this week. That makes sense. They can’t keep pretending that they have suspended only his blog, while his column doesn’t run in the print edition. My guess: look for a decision by Monday.
I hope they go easy on the guy — and I hope he publicly acknowledges the error and its importance. While I continue to believe that this was a minor infraction in the grand scheme of things, there is a significant group of people out there who believe I’m being far too kind. Hiltzik should not minimize the offense, as he did before. He should apologize, and pledge not to do it again.
UPDATE: Editors have discontinued his column. He will be reassigned. Details here.