ENDLESS IMPROVEMENT! One more journalist changes the facts to produce a treasured contradiction: // link // print // previous // next //
SATURDAY, AUGUST 27, 2005
THE WEEKENDS FEEL-GOOD STORY: Wake the kids and share this story! On Wednesday night, the Baltimore Orioles Sidney Ponson racked up his latest DUI. The team hopes to void the pitchers contract. But in this mornings Washington Post, one of Ponsons loyal team-mates says hes planning to stand by his man. Jorge Arangue delivers:
ARANGUE (8/27/05): Ponson was asked by the team to stay home on Friday. Some teammates offered support.Kids, there is no i-rony in the word team! In Arangues moving rendition, we see the modern face of teamwork: The steroid abusers stand by the drunk drivers. Once again, we beg our readers: Run, dont walk—wake up the kids!
ENDLESS IMPROVEMENT: Two weeks back, we noted that the mainstream press corps almost always improves the Joe Wilson story; they rearrange what he said in his Times op-ed to make his conflict with Bush more dramatic (see THE DAILY HOWLER, 8/12/05). This week, the Los Angeles Times tackled the story—and the paper did it again! In a 5600-word report, Tom Hamburger did play it cool; he never quoted or directly characterized the claims in Wilsons op-ed column. But he did offer this account of what Wilson learned in Niger:
HAMBURGER (8/25/05): On his trip, [Wilson] interviewed Niger officials and citizens and talked with French mine managers.But when exactly did Wilson say that? When did he say he concluded that there was little reason to believe Iraq had tried to purchase yellowcake from Niger? In his Times op-ed piece, he plainly said something different:
WILSON (7/6/03): I spent the next eight days drinking sweet mint tea and meeting with dozens of people: current government officials, former government officials, people associated with the country's uranium business. It did not take long to conclude that it was highly doubtful that any such transaction had ever taken place.Plainly, Wilson said he concluded that it was highly doubtful that a sale had taken place. This conclusion, of course, doesnt contradict what Bush said in his State of the Union—that Iraq had sought uranium. And so, from that day to this, journalists have improved what Wilson said, hoping to heighten the pleasing conflict, producing a sense of stark contradiction. Hamburger does it again in this lengthy report.
From such episodes, we get a look at how our press corps works—and at the nature of our own species. How do humans reason? Quite poorly! More than two years after Wilson went public, every journalist knows he must improve the facts about what Wilson actually concluded. To a man, to a woman, they obediently reinvent Wilsons findings, thereby producing the contradiction absent from Wilsons original report. Of course, the press has routinely done this sort of thing over the course of the past fifteen years. But this is one of the rare cases where they do it in service to a Dem/liberal framework. The hapless Bush was put in the White House by two years of this kind of clowning (the clowning there was more extreme). Now, the press corps adopts an inaccurate framework to heighten a charge against Bush.
Yes, your press corps frameworks change—but what never changes is their blatant fact-fiddling. Do you think that Hamburger doesnt know that he has improved what Wilson said? Alternate question: Do you think all those journalists really believed that Al Gore said he invented the Internet? That Al Gore said he inspired Love Story? That he lied about Bradleys health plan?
PERSISTENT IMPROVEMENT: Perhaps craftily, Hamburger never quotes what Wilson said in his Times op-ed column. But at an earlier point in his lengthy report, he offers this account of what Wilson was saying on the day the op-ed appeared:
HAMBURGER (8/25/05): Ten weeks after Bush landed aboard an aircraft carrier in front of a banner that proclaimed "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq, Wilson created his own media moment by questioning one of the central reasons for going to war.According to Hamburger, Wilson said he debunked the claim that Iraq had sought large quantities of uranium from the African nation of Niger. But what did Wilson actually say he debunked? Heres his actual statement on Meet the Press. There was a big yacht race on Nantucket—sorry, in Buffalo—that day, so Andrea Mitchell guest-hosted:
MITCHELL (7/6/03): Now, we only learned later when U.N. inspectors first looked at the documents, this was a year later, that, in fact, these documents were fraudulent, a year after your first trip. What did you think when you first saw the president making that comment in the State of the Union?In fact, Wilson said he had debunked the notion of a sale. But as Hamburger notes above, Bush didnt say that a sale had occurred—only that Iraq sought one.
Are these important distinctions? Only if you like rational discourse. At any rate, theyre important enough so that reams of journalists—scribes like Hamburger—know to rearrange the facts to keep such distinctions from, troubling your mind. But this is how your press corps typically works. Keep this in mind when youre told about the wonders of your species, the ballyhooed rational animal.