On the left-hand side of our page we have placed some fixed pages that explain what we’re up to and who we are. As a matter of fact, we added another one about bias. People accuse of this too often. Here’s what we wrote:
>You might have noticed that this page criticizes conservative commentators far more than it does liberal ones. It does. Is this evidence of some kind of bias? Nope.
>First, bias has to do primarily with accurate presentation of fact. For this reason, newspapers can be biased in their presentation of facts, or in their selection of facts, or in the way they interpret factual disputes. Judges can be biased if they tend to accept the factual claims of one side of an argument over another. And so on. The basic question of bias, as you can see, relates to assertions regarding whether or not a certain state of affairs obtains. Since we are largely not interested in questions of fact, we can’t be guilty of this.
>Second, over the two years that we’ve been doing this, we’ve had the opportunity to get a pretty good look at the punditry in the major daily newspapers. We have pointed out numerous times in posts that for the most part, conservative columnists defend their positions with arguments. For this reason we admire them. We also think that few liberal columnists argue as energetically as their conservative colleagues. Since the liberals don’t argue, you will find the conservatives strongly represented on our pages.
>Third, we’re not a newspaper and we have no commitment to “balance.” We find those accusations meaningless anyway. Balance exists in nature. Just because George Will cannot envision anything other than a moronic liberal interlocutor, doesn’t mean we have to go find a liberal who does the same thing.
>Fourth, the failure of some particular argument of some particular conservative writer does not in any respect entail the liberal counterpart. It entails–if we’re right–only the failure of that particular argument.
>Finally, we don’t ask you do draw any conclusions other than the ones we explicitly make in the individual posts. If you think–as many often do–that those conclusions are unwarranted, then tell us. We take all thoughtful criticism seriously.
I thought I’d foreground that because I’d like to hear some comments on it. Another thing we do in these pages is complain about the standards of our national discourse. Thus this website. Editors, we thought, don’t check anything other than grammar on the op-ed pages. Or so we thought. Today, the Washington Post’s ombudsperson Deborah Howell wrote (a propros of the William Arkin blog entry we discussed yesterday):
>Readers usually take things literally. And an editor should have told him to take out the word [mercenary]. That’s what editors are for: They keep opinion writers from making fools of themselves.