John from WuzzaDem is holding a pledge drive. He’s the guy who made possible my post about Glenn Greenwald’s (alleged!) sock puppetry, so I’m tossing a few bucks his way. So should you.
In my post about the “Isikoffed” NEWSWEEK story this morning, I cited Harry Shearer as one of the many folks who linked the story as evidence that Alberto Gonzales had called the Geneva Conventions “quaint.” Harry has updated his post to reflect my criticisms, and to make an observation of his own:
FACT-CHECKING UPDATE: A commenter directed me to a website (better known in LA for its LA Times-bashing, which I admire) which fact-checks the Gonzale[s] quote referenced above. I used that version because, having half-remembered the quote, I Googled it, and this version popped up high in the results. But, in his zeal to absolve Gonzale[s] of calling the Geneva Conventions “quaint”–which he achieves–blogger Patterico ignores, as most of us have, the more damning part of the quoted text:
In my judgment, this new paradigm renders obsolete Geneva’s strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners and renders quaint some of its provisions requiring that captured enemy be afforded such things as commissary privileges, scrip (i.e., advances of monthly pay), athletic uniforms, and scientific instruments.”
Forget “quaint”; “strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners” being rendered “obsolete” is what this debate is all about.
I agree: that is indeed what the debate is all about. It’s true that I did not focus on Gonzales’s use of the word “obsolete” to refer to Geneva limitations on questioning. But that’s because my post was primarily a piece of media criticism, rather than a substantive defense of Gonzales and his memo.
I think Harry has a valid point in noting Gonzales’s description of the limits on questioning as “obsolete.” However, in my view, this does not render harmless Isikoff’s distortion of the Gonzales quote. Calling these limits “obsolete” is not quite as dismissive as calling them “quaint” would have been — which is, presumably, why lefties have harped on the word “quaint.” Isikoff & Co. should have made it clear that the provisions deemed “quaint” by Gonzales were, in fact, quaint — and entirely unrelated to interrogation of detainees.
On the substance of the matter, I may still be persuaded that Geneva should be applied to nonsignatory terrorists, though I don’t find particularly compelling the arguments I’ve seen to date. But it’s a debate worth having, and one that I’ve explored recently on this blog.
It’s nice to show up in Harry’s post — if for no other reason than the fact that Harry, while a lefty, is (like me) a rabid critic of the L.A. Times. He is, after all, the guy who invented the term “Dog Trainer.” All I did was steal it.
The L.A. Times this morning revives the fable of “The Church that Might Lose Its Tax-Exempt Status Because of An Antiwar Sermon.” The article is titled Pasadena Church May Fight IRS Summons, and bears a deck headline that misleadingly states: “All Saints’ rector seeks legal and lay opinion on response to probe over an antiwar sermon.”
As that headline suggests, the editors try to make it sound as though the church’s tax-exempt status is being questioned simply because of a little old antiwar sermon:
All Saints came under IRS scrutiny shortly after Regas, the church’s former rector, delivered a sermon that depicted Jesus in a mock debate with then-presidential candidates George W. Bush and John F. Kerry. The sermon did not endorse either candidate.
Regas’ suggestion that Jesus would have told Bush his preemptive war strategy in Iraq “has led to disaster” prompted a letter from the IRS in June 2005 stating that “a reasonable belief exists that you may not be a tax-exempt church.”
Horse hockey. There was much more to the sermon than a little antiwar sentiment — and the L.A. Times knows it.
As I laid out in great detail in this post from November of last year, the rector made a number of anti-Bush points in his sermon:
- Jesus hates war.
- Jesus specifically hates the Iraq war. He thinks it is terrorism, and that Bush does not care about Iraqi children the way he cares about Americans.
- Jesus dislikes tax cuts.
- Jesus does not like Bush’s nuclear weapons policies.
- Jesus wants women to be able to abort their children if they want to. (I’m putting two and two together here; the rector said: ‘’The religious right has drowned out everyone else. Now the faith of Jesus has come to be known as pro-rich, pro-war and pro-American…. I’m not pro-abortion, but pro-choice. There is something vicious and violent about coercing a woman to carry to term an unwanted child.” Since Jesus is not “vicious and violent,” I take it that Jesus is pro-choice.)
How do I know all this? I read it in the L.A. Times last November. Granted, I had to read the November story all the way to Page A14, as the pertinent details were buried on the back pages. But they were there, and they were damning.
In my earlier post, I summed up the rector’s conclusion in this way:
I’m not saying to vote for John Kerry. I’m just saying that the Iraq war, tax cuts, abortion restrictions, and nuclear testing make baby Jesus cry. If you want baby Jesus to cry, then by all means vote for whichever candidate supports these anti-Jesus policies. But if you are asking “What Would Jesus Do?” — well, He would pull the lever for the peacemaker. As between Kerry and Bush, I can’t tell you who that is — but I can say this: it sure as Hell ain’t Bush.
Asked after the election whether he regretted the sermon, the rector said: “No regrets. I only wish I had preached it with greater intensity.” See, because Bush won . . . and the whole point was to get Kerry elected.
But today the paper makes the offending sermon sound like a nice nonpartisan imaginary debate that happened to have an antiwar component. And isn’t it natural for a man of God to be antiwar? When in fact, the rector was pounding the lectern for John Kerry, even as the church demanded tax-exempt status.
At least the previous article contained the facts; they were just buried on the back pages. Today, the relevant facts have disappeared. The editors apparently figure our memories are short, and they can snow us.
I’m here to try to prevent that. And the few hundred of you who read this post will learn the true facts — leaving only the tens or hundreds of thousands who read the story in today’s L.A. Times without reading my blog, and who will consequently be misled by the bias and distortion in this article.
Since Christopher Hitchens is correcting old Dowdified quotes, I thought I’d correct one myself. This one, from a 2004 NEWSWEEK article, is a major Dowdification — in my view, every bit as egregious as Dowd’s original. What’s more, it’s still influencing lefties even today.
Worse, unlike Dowd’s alteration of a Bush quote, the NEWSWEEK story didn’t even use an ellipsis to indicate what was missing. By altering an Alberto Gonzales quote in this way, NEWSWEEK managed to make Gonzales and the Bush Administration appear unreasonably dismissive of the Geneva Convention.
The story was co-authored by Michael Isikoff — the reporter behind NEWSWEEK’s infamous Koran-in-the-toilet story that resulted in deadly riots in several Arab countries. Accordingly, I suggest that when a quote is altered without any hint that it has been changed, the quote should be described as having been “Isikoffed.”
Here are the details of how the Gonzales torture memo was “Isikoffed” by NEWSWEEK:
It’s like I’m living in Bizarro-world. I just read a story by David Savage of the L.A. Times about an egregious Ninth Circuit reversal of a murder conviction — and the article is . . . sensible. Indeed, it is highly critical of the Ninth Circuit in general, and Stephen Reinhardt in particular.
The story distorts no facts. It shows how a story can be laid out in a factual manner — yet through tone, word choice, and choice of quotes and experts to consult, can strongly convey a point of view. We’re all used to that. It’s just that the point of view usually reflects the liberal viewpoint. Today, for some reason, it doesn’t.
As Bizarro-Baquet might say: “This am part of genius L.A. Times self-improvement plan.” Whatever it is, I like it.