Thursday, February 15, 2007

The sorry state of the conservative media

The recent use of a fabricated Abraham Lincoln quote by Frank Gaffney, has shone a bright light on just how unethical the right wing media is. I'm not only talking about Gaffney. His error is just that, an error. He hasn't, however, been rushing to correct it, a terrible lapse for a former Assistant Secretary of Defense and the president and CEO of the Center for Security Policy who, according to his speaking bio, "has been nationally and internationally recognized as a resource for timely, informed and penetrating analyses of foreign and defense policy matters."

But, still, I'm willing to believe Gaffney didn't realize the quote was fake.

Look, however, at the FactCheck article which exposed its falseness and you find this, from the man who spawned a million right wing blog posts and comments, J. Michael Waller.
Thank you for giving me the opportunity to correct this important issue. The supposed quote in question is not a quote at all, and I never intended it to be construed as one. It was my lead sentence in the article that a copy editor mistakenly turned into a quote by incorrectly inserting quotation marks.

Additionally, I filed my story with the lead sentence ending in the words "Civil War," which my southern editor switched to "War Between the States."

Oddly, you are the first to question me about this . I'm surprised it has been repeated as often as you say. My editors at the time didn't think it was necessary to run a correction in the following issue of the magazine, and to my knowledge we received no public comment.
Aside from the fact Waller's article was full of historical inaccuracies and the man is a supposed "conservative scholar," he's also the Vice President for Information Operations at the selfsame Center for Security Policy of which Gaffney is president and CEO (which seems an odd sort of coincidence). Despite these credentials, he demurred to his editor and did not correct this error--an error which a more cynical reader might think was no error at all.

So, I want to tell a story. When I left the U.S. Navy and returned to Kansas State University, I took a position as a columnist with the Kansas State Collegian, the college newspaper. In October of 2000, I wrote a column for the paper regarding the need for Americans--even, if not especially, conservative Americans--to support same sex marriage. It began:
If you can count on anything when dealing with other people, it's their ability to surprise you by not being able to be counted on.

Take Dick Cheney, for example. Here is a man who I counted on to be a typical conservative line-toer, who turns out to be a man thoughtful and intelligent enough to challenge his own party's position on same-sex marriage.

True, he did it in what could euphemistically be called a "diplomatic" fashion, lacking any evidence of real political cojones, but he did it nonetheless. He said this about the issue during the debate: "I try to be open-minded about it as much as I can and tolerant of those relationships."

And like Joe (Lieberman), I also wrestle with the extent to which there ought to be legal sanction of those relationships. I think we ought to do everything we can to tolerate and accommodate whatever kind of relationships people want to enter into.

This statement, though somewhat wishy-washy, seems to be one of the best made by any of the four main candidates on this issue during this election season.
You've probably already caught the error here. The third paragraph was supposed to be in quotes as well. It was Cheney, not me, who wrestled with legally sanctioning gay marriage.

To make a long story short, I went to the editor, Reed Dunn (this guy, by the way), and asked him to run a correction. He refused, saying it was no big deal. I argued that it not only skewed the point of my column, but made me look like a plagiarist--and an inept one at that. In the end, I told him that I could not write for the newspaper any longer.

Now, I know that I'm just a nitpicking blogger and that was just a college paper, but shouldn't those taken seriously by the conservative establishment and, by extension the mainstream press, actually aim for a higher ethical standard than me?

4 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

You said and did the right things all across the board. You have your own standards, and you live by them. I respect that. Anyone who lets their own standards slip down to those of others, has none.

7:59 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

And now Rep. Don Yound (R-AK) is repeating it on the House floor.

http://electioncentral.tpmcafe.com/blog/electioncentral/2007/feb/15/gop_rep_recycles_phony_lincoln_quote_during_escalation_debate

It was lame enough for Gaffney to use the bogus quote, but for a sitting Rep. to do so defies comprehension.

Cliff Schecter once called the Republicans the "party of criminals and pedophiles," which is really unfair of Cliff.

Given the performance of Messrs Gaffney, Waller, and Young, Schecter should have called the Republicans the party of "criminals, hacks, and pedophiles."

9:41 PM  
Blogger Nitpicker said...

Jim,

I would love for a Dem to have the cojones to get up tomorrow and point out that Republicans are using made up crap--just like the crap that got us into Iraq in the first place.

10:18 PM  
Blogger Jim said...

Yeah, I wish.

Lincoln is my hero, and it pains me to see his good name besmirched in this manner.

Kudos to you, btw, for having the wisdom to walk away from an editor who would not stand up for your good name.

8:50 PM  

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