Category Archives: Reporting

Bicameral poxism

In the category of sloppy pseudo-balance-driven reporting today, we have the following comparison between George Will's making stuff up and Al Gore's exaggerating a consequence of a well-established phenomenon.  The New York Times' Andrew Revkin writes:

In the effort to shape the public’s views on global climate change, hyperbole is an ever-present temptation on all sides of the debate.

Earlier this month, former Vice President Al Gore and the Washington Post columnist George Will made strong public statements about global warning — from starkly divergent viewpoints.

Mr. Gore, addressing a hall filled with scientists in Chicago, showed a slide that illustrated a sharp spike in fires, floods and other calamities around the world and warned the audience that global warming “is creating weather-related disasters that are completely unprecedented.”

Mr. Will, in a column attacking what he said were exaggerated claims about global warming’s risks, chided climate scientists for predicting an ice age three decades ago and asserted that a pause in warming in recent years and the recent expansion of polar sea ice undermined visions of calamity ahead.

Both men, experts said afterward, were guilty of inaccuracies and overstatements.

In the first place, George Will is on record for denying that global warming is taking place–he's not just denying its risks.  

Gore, on the other hand, engaged in hyperbole about the risks of global warming, a phenomenon qualified scientists justifiably believe to be taking place.

The difference, seems to me, is fairly obvious.  Is what Gore says wrong?  Probably.  But obviously not in the same Will is wrong.

Here's some prescience by Revkin:

In a paper being published in the March-April edition of the journal Environment, Matthew C. Nisbet, a professor of communications at American University, said Mr. Gore’s approach, focusing on language of crisis and catastrophe, could actually be serving the other side in the fight.

“There is little evidence to suggest that it is effective at building broad-based support for policy action,” Dr. Nisbet said. “Perhaps worse, his message is very easily countered by people such as Will as global-warming alarmism, shifting the focus back to their preferred emphasis on scientific uncertainty and dueling expert views.

But Dr. Nisbet said that for Mr. Will, there was little downside in stretching the bounds of science to sow doubt.

Criticism of Mr. Will’s columns, Dr. Nisbet said, “only serves to draw attention to his claims while reinforcing a larger false narrative that liberals and the mainstream press are seeking to censor rival scientific evidence and views.”

Indeed, perhaps Nisbet could add that a primary cause of doubt in the public's mind is reporting of this variety.  Perhaps it is Revkin's job to help us see the difference between Al Gore's occasional and not wholly unsupported exaggeration and George Will's dishonest rejection of well-established science.  George Wil, in other words, is to blame for making stuff up.  This is not somehow Al Gore's fault.

Never been kissed

Here's a couple that makes a Jane Austin novel look like an adult film.  

The "no-kissing" rule came up as a way to prevent things from getting out of hand.

You see, Fabien and LaLuz both teach abstinence courses to Chicago Public Schools teens. And they say they practice what they preach.

To avoid temptation while dating, they made sure they were never alone with each other in a house. When they watched movies on the couch, they snuggled sitting straight up, never lying down.

"It really tested us and encouraged us to grow closer in our hearts and our minds, just expressing things verbally," Fabien said.

He found other ways to show LaLuz his passion—like by cleaning her car. And washing the dishes.

Despite abstaining, they have no anxieties about their upcoming Bahamas honeymoon.

Yes, they've heard "test drive the car before you buy," but LaLuz has her own analogy.

"You can't take the car out of the parking lot until you pay for it," she said.

You can't really test drive the car in the parking lot however.  But maybe women (or men) aren't like property in the first place. 

Anyway–here's an interesting article about the success or (rather the failure) of abstinence-only education programs.  

The number of the beast

In addition to being a communist, a socialist, a professional politician who won a Presidential election on a center-right platform, Barack Obama might also be the Antichrist.  Indeed, it's a serious question, Newsweek, after all, ran a story about it.  This story included such gems as the following:

No wonder, then, that Obama triggers such fear in the hearts of America's millennialist Christians. Mat Staver, dean of Liberty University's law school, says he does not believe Obama is the Antichrist, but he can see how others might. Obama's own use of religious rhetoric belies his liberal positions on abortion and traditional marriage, Staver says, positions that "religious conservatives believe will threaten their freedom." The people who believe Obama is the Antichrist are perhaps jumping to conclusions, but they're not nuts: "They are expressing a concern and a fear that is widely shared," Staver says.

No.  They're nuts.  Completely nuts.

Via Digby and Political Animal.

It’s not a lie

Another chapter in our dumb national discourse.  The New York Times sent Zev Chafets to interview Rush Limbaugh.  By all accounts, the lengthy New York Times magazine piece lacked a critical perspective entirely.  For a piece on such a divisive figure such as Rush Limbaugh that’s inexcusable.  In defending his work, the author made the following puzzling remarks:

CHAFETS: Well, do you have an example of that? I’m not an apologist for Rush Limbaugh, but I’m a little bit defensive because I think that the liberal media takes such an unfair view of him.

I hear people being vilified on the radio on all sorts of radio stations by all sorts of people all day long. And Limbaugh is not worse than many of the ones I hear, even on NPR. He just has a different point of view.

GARFIELD: The NAACP should have a riot rehearsal. They should get a liquor store and practice robberies?

CHAFETS: Not my sense of humor, but it’s not a lie.

GARFIELD: Did Limbaugh not say that Abu Ghraib was no worse than a Skull and Bones initiation?

CHAFETS: Yeah, he did. It’s his opinion.

The liberal media, oh please.  But besides, how does Limbaugh’s claim not being a lie somehow excuse it?  Those kinds of remarks aren’t the kinds of remarks that can be lies anyway–the problem most people have with gutter characters such as Limbaugh is that they and their ilk actually believe the things they say.  So the problem isn’t whether it’s a lie, it’s whether it’s justified.  And that’s a different story.  Way to go liberal media!  


Put this in the category of "why we can't have nice things" (courtesy of Digby):

Sen. KERRY: …what almost every person in the Pentagon has admitted. I mean, Bob, you’re smart, you’ve talked to these people in Washington. There are very few people who walk around and say, `Going into Iraq was the right thing to do and we should’ve done it. I’d do it again if I had the chance.’ John McCain does. John McCain believes this was the right decision.

SCHIEFFER: Well, let…

Sen. KERRY: He said, you know, you can’t–I have to tell you, Bob, I just came back from the Middle East. I just met with the king of Saudi Arabia. I met with President Mubarak of Egypt. I met with others. You know what they said to me? They said, `You, America, have served up to Iran, Iraq on a platter.’ They are outraged by this sort of, you know, ineptitude of what has been done by those who decided it was smart to go into Iraq.

SCHIEFFER: Let me just ask you one question here.

Sen. KERRY: And they have turned away–yeah.

SCHIEFFER: Before we–before–because we are going to talk about–are you now challenging Senator McCain’s integrity?

Sen. KERRY: No, I’m challenging Senator McCain’s judgment, his judgment that says there’s no violence history between Sunni and Shia. That’s wrong. His judgment that says this is going to increase the stability of the Middle East. It hasn’t. It’s made it less stable. The judgment that says this will, quote “This will be the best thing for America and the world in a long time.”

SCHIEFFER: All right….all right.

Who would have thought Kerry was challenging McCain's integrity.  What kind of question is that?

Primary race

Puzzling words from the New York Times political team:

Mr. Obama has resisted any effort to suggest that the presidential primaries were breaking along racial lines.

“There are not a lot of African-Americans in Nebraska the last time I checked, or in Utah or in Idaho, areas where I probably won some of my biggest margins,” he said Sunday in an NPR interview.

“There’s no doubt that I’m getting more African-American votes,” he said, “but that doesn’t mean that the race is dividing along racial lines. You know, in places like Washington State we won across the board, from men, from women, from African-Americans, from whites and from Asians.”

A Rhetorical Tightrope

David Axelrod, the chief strategist of the Obama campaign, said in an interview that although he and Mr. Obama did not map out a detailed strategy for dealing with race when plotting a presidential run, they were well aware it would weigh on his campaign.

As a consultant to several black elected officials, Mr. Axelrod has been steeped in racially charged elections. And he said Mr. Obama had faced the challenges of racial politics in the campaign that propelled him to the Senate, where he is only the third black elected since Reconstruction.

Mr. Axelrod said he had learned there was “a certain physics” to winning votes across racial lines. Previous campaigns by African-Americans — the Rev. Jesse Jackson and the Rev. Al Sharpton — had overwhelmingly relied on black support that wound up defining, and confining, their candidacies.

By contrast, from the moment Mr. Obama stepped onto the national political stage, he has paid as much attention — or more, some aides said — to a far broader audience. “He believes you can have the support of the black community, appealing to the pride they feel in his candidacy, and still win support among whites,” Mr. Axelrod said.

While Obama resists efforts "to suggest," he is powerless against the very suggestive authors of this article (notice later: "Mr. Axelrod has been steeped in racially charged elections"–oh so suspicious, isn't it?).  I would add that the more proper way of characterizing Obama's position would be this: "The facts do not bear out that this primary race is a racially charged one."  After all, that's basically what Obama said.

Perhaps instead of framing Obama's position as a strategic denial, they could do some investigating, you know, research, and see if perhaps the racial issue warrants very suggestive front page coverage.