The other day I praised hilzoy as a level-headed blogger who manages to disagree with opponents while refraining from nasty, baseless attacks.
I spoke too soon.
In one of her final posts, she draws up a list of bloggers who, she says, “didn’t bother to do the most basic, rudimentary research that any blogger ought to do” regarding the House’s health care bill. Not content with disagreeing, hilzoy contended that the alleged mistake made by these bloggers was proof that they should be completely disregarded for all time as utterly lacking in credibility:
[S]ince life is short, it’s nice to find an actual, objective test for things like intellectual irresponsibility, one that lets you just see that some people are, really and truly, intellectually irresponsible, and thus that you can dismiss them forever, and read them only for laughs, while saving your precious free time for others who deserve it more.
This is just such a test. Tom Maguire passed. The other bloggers I listed failed. That’s useful information.
(All emphasis in this post added by me.)
Among the bloggers she listed who can be dismissed forever: “Patterico.” This, she proved by linking to a post written by . . . Karl.
Mmmm, that’s some crack research, hilzoy!
To be fair, the post by Karl contained hardly any hint that it was written by “Karl” — and not, as hilzoy falsely claimed, “Patterico.” The only clues were subtle indeed:
- A line immediately under the post title reading: “Filed under: General — Karl @ 11:00 am”
- A line immediately that reading: “[Posted by Karl]”
- And a tag line at the end of the post reading “–Karl“
I generally consider myself to be a reasonably careful researcher. My training and temperament lead me to document the things I say. Yes, I make mistakes — as does any blogger. Including — here’s a secret! — even hilzoy!
hilzoy’s decision to argue that I lacked credibility for all time, based on a post that I did not write, evinces some pretty sloppy research on her part. If we were to apply the hilzoy standard, we could safely disregard her for all time. Frankly, I think that’s an unfair standard, and I’m not going to make that pronouncement. I’ll simply note the irony.
I guess it’s a moot point, since she’s not going to be posting any more. I’ll just leave it at this: I thought I was going to miss her blogging (which I didn’t read often, but did occasionally). Now I’m not so sure. To have my 6 1/2 years of careful and well-sourced blogging so cavalierly dismissed on the basis of a post written by someone else — well, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.
This is not a minor issue. If I leveled a broadside against hilzoy, and cited as evidence a post written by, say, publius, I think hilzoy would be offended. And rightly so. Well, this is the flip side of that coin.
Plus, when you leap upon your high horse and excoriate others for allegedly sloppy readings of text, it’s generally a good idea to refrain from even sloppier readings of others’ texts — at least in the same post. You know?
P.S. On the substantive issue of the correctness of Karl’s post, let me say this:
I don’t pre-screen the posts of my guest bloggers. I trust them, and they have repeatedly shown that they have earned that trust. I do not always agree with them, and I do not have time or inclination to fact-check every one of their assertions.
If I believe one of my guest bloggers may have gotten an issue wrong, I will of course take steps to rectify it. And I did so here. When I saw hilzoy’s post, I sent an e-mail to Karl alerting him to Tom Maguire’s analysis. Karl has posted an update and clarification that more carefully explains the nature of the bill, and notes that the quoted language from Investor’s Business Daily lacked the necessary nuance to make its explication accurate. I am satisfied with Karl’s update, and believe that no reader who sees it will be misled.
What’s more, if you look at the entirety of Karl’s work on the health care issue, it’s quite clear that he understands the issue well, and has done great work in helping make it clear to readers here. It would not have been fair to dismiss his credibility on the basis of one post with an allegedly misleading passage — any more than it would be to dismiss the entirety of hilzoy’s work simply because she carelessly attacked my reputation based on a sloppy and lazy reading of a post on my site.
And yes, I will be writing hilzoy and asking for a correction.