The Daily Sandwich

"We have to learn the lesson that intellectual honesty is fundamental for everything we cherish." -Sir Karl Popper

Location: Boston, Massachusetts, United States


Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Frustration Nation

It's a big day in frustration for me. In the previous post I stated that the frustrating thing about political blogging is how often it boils down to minor variations on a standard theme. And this one is as shopworn and agonizingly moronic as they come:

In Sunday's Washington Post, Weekly Standard senior editor Andrew Ferguson had a little hit job on Al Gore's new book, built around Gore's citation of an Abraham Lincoln quote which, according to Ferguson, has been falsely attributed to The Great Emancipator. Here's how Ferguson opens the piece:

You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver.

Still, I'd love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.

Well, Mr. Ferguson, the answer to that is quite easily to be found on p. 282 of the book where, in the [20 pages of] endnotes, Gore provides the citation. (The Lincoln Encyclopedia, Macmillan: 1950, Andrew Ward, ed., page 40.)

To paraphrase the author, this is a pretty clear case of the Bush-era classic "lying or incompetent." And not just on the part of Ferguson-- the WaPo's editorial staff missed a glaring factual error (or at best an intentional distortion) in the opening sentence of an article they published. And whaddya know? It's all to the detriment of Al Gore.

The blogosphere can sometimes wring corrections for this sort of thing out of stubborn editorial staffs, but they're typically half-assed and buried deep within the paper.

In this case, commenters note that while the paper did issue a correction, they fail to point out one very simple fact: that Gore does cite his sources, thereby invalidating Ferguson's premise. While the entire readership got to see this "inventor of the Internet" rubbish, the sort-of correction isn't going to get nearly the attention. It'll just be recycled endlessly with the words "According to even the liberals at the Washington Post..."