Correction watch: What will the New York Times do!


Can David Brooks possibly think this: We have only scratched the surface of Lawrence O’Donnell’s dissembling last night.

But then, this morning, there’s David Brooks. Can David Brooks possibly think this?

In this morning’s column, Brooks criticizes President Obama’s speech this week to the nation’s newspaper editors.

Brooks makes many criticisms of Obama’s speech. But can David Brooks possibly think this?
BROOKS (4/6/12): Then the president turned to Ryan’s Medicare proposal. The Ryan plan, he charged, “will ultimately end Medicare as we know it.”

In 2011, when Ryan first proposed a version of this budget, Politifact, the truth-checking outfit, honored this claim with its “Lie of the Year” award. Since then, the Ryan Medicare proposal has become more moderate and much better. Obama’s charge is even more groundless.
Good God. Will Ryan’s plan “end Medicare as we know it?” For ourselves, we have no problem with that statement. But quite plainly, that isn't the statement Politifact honored as its “Lie of the Year.”

Indeed, Politifact clarified that point last Thursday, in this post. “Want to invoke our Lie of the Year? Get it right,” Politifact said in its headline.

We aren’t going to waste your time going back over this tired old point, though you can read what Politifact wrote. (You’ll have to read to the end of the post.) Instead, we’ll ask an obvious question:

Is David Brooks really so clueless that he thought his statement was accurate? Here's your other possibility:

Could he possibly that dishonest?

O’Donnell misled you all night long. Then, this morning, there was Brooks! Our discourse is breaking down all around, as has been true for some time.

One more question in the face of this morning’s remarkable misstatement

Will the New York Times acknowledge this groaning misstatement by Brooks? You can feel quite sure that MSNBC will never correct its endless misstatements of the past several weeks.

MSNBC will never tell you the truth. What will the New York Times do?


  1. "Our discourse is breaking down all around, as has been true for some time."

    Are we perhaps seeing the inevitable consequence of the dalliance with postmodernism? Can college students be exposed to a philosophical position that there is no such thing as truth and that all knowledge is subjective without giving up any motivation to seek truth? If there is no objective truth, why not select the version of facts that suit one's own inclinations? Maybe the problem isn't so much tribalism but an abandonment of the search for consensual knowledge of a shared reality.

    1. Excellent questions, sir or madam, that have so far eluded our host.

      I would argue that the philosophical roots of the argument that individuals are free to decide their own truth go back way deeper than the so-called "post-modern" era, but they have certainly come into full flower.

      How often have we heard the phrase, "Perception is reality"?

      And this in a nation that once proclaimed, "We hold these truths to be self-evident . . ."

      I will also add that this is not a liberal vs. conservative issue. You have self-proclaimed liberals and conservatives on both sides of this argument, and often the same person on both sides depending on the issue.

    2. So you really believe college students, most of whom concentrate in vocational majors and couldn't tell you difference between Plato and Derrida, are irrevocably tainted by post-modernism? This in a country with extraordinary high levels of religious superstition?

      Any more jokes for the day?

    3. So you know what "most" college students are majoring in? My, aren't you good?

      But the original "anonymous'" point still stands, despite your week attempt at deflection.

      Once upon a time, there wouldn't be very many people bending morality to the breaking point to think that society is at a good place when an armed guy can chase a unarmed kid down the street and shoot him.

      But hey, these days, we can find all sorts of "truth" to explain it away.

      After all, we have heard:

      1. Lots of break-ins in the neighborhood.

      2. The kid was black. (But let's not discuss race.)

      3. The kid was wearing a hoodie.

      4. The kid was beating the crap out of the armed man who chased him down the street with a gun.

      And people really think Martin was the perp, and Zimmerman was the victim.

      Orwell, be proud. You were indeed a prophet.

    4. @Anon 12:41

      Yes, I do know what the most popular college majors are:

      Biology or biotechnology majors
      Business majors
      Communication or Journalism majors
      Criminal Justice majors
      Elementary Education or Education/Teaching majors
      Marketing or Internet Marketing majors
      Nursing / BSN majors
      Psychology or Counseling majors
      Political Science and Sociology majors

      This according to CNN, anyway.

      If it's your view that the thinking in these realms is tainted by post-modernism, the burden is on you to prove it. Having a beef with post-modernism doesn't prove much of anything.

    5. It precedes "post-modernism." Ever heard of Plato? Or Shaftesbury? Or Nietzsche? Or....

  2. Hey Bob,

    Your preoccupation with opinion peddlers is all the more strage, in light of the daily journalistic malpractice in plain sight (for that matter, if Brooks' lie is the worst thing you see in today's column, you may want to rethink your major).

    Consider, for example, the JOBS act: has a fine story today on the signing of that bipartisan monstrosity which manages to quote only supporters of the bill. You'd never guess, reading Ms. Hart's work, there there's anything but universal acclaim for this astonishing investors' rights roll-back.

    Moving upscale, we have James Stewart on the front page of the NYT, giving a thoroughly misleading accounting of the Ryan budget -- not all that surprising, given the fees he's collected from the financial services industry over the years.

    Of course, this two remarkable pieces of disinformation, further tainted in the Times by the Dowdism of Stewarts' approach (he's so darned clever!) require an independent knowledge of the facts -- the sort of thing you reproach opinion peddlers for not bothering to attain.

    The question is, are *you* willing to attain it?

    1. Ah, come on. We were just told the other day that the New York Times doesn't cover the Ryan budget.

    2. Anon 12:15, great post. That James Stewart article was spectacularly bad. I hope Dean Baker rips it up. Today he was busy reacting to the way the Washington Post was helping the extremely rich peddle this mendacious debt fear. I guess both big papers are selling this right-wing hogwash.

      I'd also like Bob to show with their Iran coverage that the NYT has learned no lessons from one of their most embarrassing performances ever, the cheerleading during the Iraq war run-up.

    3. Come on, fellas. Don't you know that Somerby is involved in far more important pursuits? Like chasing down everything Soledad O'Brien got wrong during her town hall special a week ago.

  3. The distinction between perception and reality goes back to the Greeks but the difference between what we experience via our senses and the real world is not what I was talking about -- the emergence of science asserts that even though we cannot experience reality except through our senses there exists a separate knowable reality that can be observed and measured in a realiable way so that we can determine what our world is like. Further, the Greeks believed that reason (formal logic applied to agreed upon assumptions) permits us to arrive at truth. So that is not postmodernism. Postmodernism is the abandonment of any belief that the world is knowable, that there can be agreement about its characteristics, etc. because of the inherent subjectivity not just of individual perception but also of science. Modern science of course does not agree with this perspective, but the humanities bought into it whole hog. I was just asking whether journalism education was affected by that, leading to journalists placing their own interests, biases and interpretations ahead of finding and communicating truth because their professors no longer agreed that any such thing as objective truth exists.

    I like Bob Somerby's blog and I read it every day. I am distressed by the influx of idiots posting here in the comments and I hope Bob is not reading them and becoming discouraged. Most commenters are utterly ignoring his points (or perhaps missing them). The level of agression here is comparable to comment sections elsewhere -- ugly. Maybe when this Zimmerman issue is resolved most of you guys will go away and stop abusing our host.

    1. Yeah, we wouldn't want Bob to get his feelings hurt by others applying the standards to him that he applies to others.

    2. Although I agree with much of what you are calling postmodernism (it is a very difficult definition to pin down), many use some of its simplest ideas to come to solipsism. This is the real danger, and I think this is what you really are objecting to. That one's personal opinions are good enough by themselves. For even if one believes in only subjective reality, one still must concede that there is a shared reality. To be ethical as a citizen, realizing that we must live together, we must also agree on a set of principles and goals, and the best ways to measure how well we are progressing toward those. This requires respect for other perspectives. One of the problems that is created by dismissing relativity, is that it makes one too quick to label other views as false, and therefore without value.

    3. On the other hand, if all opinion is equally valid, then what are the grounds for discussing anything?

      It's also a both/and question, rather than an either/or. You can respect a differing opinion that examines the same facts and arrives at a different conclusion. At least in that case, there is room for further discussion, and even perhaps persuasion.

      But when someone supports their opinion by making up their own truth.

      And this is where my argument with Somerby and his obsession with a handful of media types.

      George Zimmerman had every reason to concoct a preposterous story out of whole cloth. But let's not look at that, as well as any of the other serious issues this case arouses, such as why should a black kid walking down the street be deemed "suspicious," and what about those "stand your ground" laws that look more and more like a license to kill.

      Instead, let's focus our entire attention on the truly tangential things his hated media types haven reported perfectly.

    4. I would agree, Anon 12:19.

      It sort of amazes me that so many are here solely to attack Bob, while grieving over some old Bob that once fought "the good fight". And this is repeated over and over again like a mantra.

      I particularly find it amusing when those who are the most abusive toward "our host" claim to have been abused by those of us who rise in his defense. It's like Bizzarro-world.

      Witness the response to your fine insightful comment.

      My question for all those who carp and cavil on here: Why do you stick around? Bob won't be changing any time soon. You're like Woody Allen fans longing for the days when he was funny. Get over it.

    5. No way to know for sure, sherrlock, but as you're a fairly recent arrival here (at least, in the comments section), it's entirely possible, indeed likely, that Anon 12:19 is complaining about you and your buddies.

    6. Yeah. Considering what the Schoolmaster had to say about my noxious personality, I thought of that.

      Thing is, I agree with Anon 12:19 on virtually every issue he raises. Most of the ugliest commenters are here to attack Bob and beat each other over the head about Zimmerman. As is The Schoolmaster.

      Most people, he suggests, are utterly ignoring or missing Bob's points.

      Me and "my buddies" are interested in discussing those points, not merely insulting, belittling, and generally attacking Bob.

      Again, I'm not surprised by the heat of the debate. But given your hatred of the "new Bob" and everything he stands for, wft are you doing here?

    7. (what fuck the?) Sorry for the typos. Nothing wrks well before first cuppa jo.

    8. Oh, so now those with an opinion are "utterly ignoring or missing" Bob's obviously brilliant points.

      Which is: The reporting on the Trayvon Martin story has contained some errors.

      Gee whilikers, Bob! Who woulda thunk it?

    9. "...the emergence of science asserts that even though we cannot experience reality except through our senses there exists a separate knowable reality that can be observed and measured in a realiable way so that we can determine what our world is like."

      Except when we're talking about quantum mechanics.

    10. "No way to know for sure, sherrlock, but as you're a fairly recent arrival here (at least, in the comments section), it's entirely possible, indeed likely, that Anon 12:19 is complaining about you and your buddies."

      How can you come to the conclusion "indeed likely?" Rereading the second paragraph of Anon 12:19, (s)he is clearly not talking about sherrlock and his buddies.

  4. Yeah, sherrlock. Too bad everybody doesn't think exactly like you do. Would be a wonderful world, wouldn't it?

    1. Gawd, no. It would be a world boring and tedious beyond compare.

      In fact, the opinions of other intrigue me no end. And while I have no qualms about debating them, my guiding assumption, sans other evidence, is that they are worthy to debate.

      A few years ago I was studying French at the Alliance Francaise in Seattle and, as it often was wont to do, the conversation turned to politics. This being Seattle - the classic liberal bubble - eight out of eight people sitting in the room were liberals. At one point in the discussion, I said something like, "Well, I asked my conservative friends and they thought [whatever]." Without exception, 7 heads turned in my direction. Seven good liberals expressed astonishment. "Why do you have conservative friends?....They're idiots...morons.....etc."

      Now this exchange occurred in the later years of Bush. Emotions were high, a country divided.

      Still, I was amazed to discover that no one else in the room had a conservative for a friend. What's more, that they were actually repelled by the very idea.

      Far from seeking out like-minded folk, I'm looking for extreme variety, anywhere on the planet.

      What I don't understand here is why the majority of commenters spend most of their time attacking Bob and his mission. That's not an exchange of opinions or even real debate. It most resembles the fulminations of jilted lovers, comparing notes on the gal who betrayed them. Kinda seems a waste of time on your part, don't it?

    2. And yet another personal story pulled out of YOUR nether regions. Which proves what?

      And for a guy "looking for extreme variety," you sure do get your panties in a wad when you find it.

      Guess what? Bob publishes an open blog on the Internet, with a com box.

      Why do you find it so puzzling and hard to understand that not everyone agrees with everything Bob writes?

      Hint: That's not "attacking Bob," so quit whining about it. It is indeed the "exchange of opinions" which you claim to relish -- until confronted by it.

      Then we get back to: "Oh why, oh why doesn't everybody see this exactly the way I do." Followed by more ad hominems and mind-reading of motives from a person who says he just HATEs ad hominems.

      And just to further knot your panties: You sound exactly like a pseudo-intellectual hypocrite.

      Check, that. You ARE one.

    3. Why bother to respond to a series of personal attacks, culminating in - pretty laughably, imho - yet another claim that *I'm* indulging in ad hominems.

      Actually, it just struck me. You don't know the meaning of ad hominem. To be quite clear, Fritz, it's not going after someones opinions or ideas. It literally means to attack someone personally. To insult them, rather than argue their ideas and/or opinions.

      Here's a fun little exam for you.

      Tell me where in my post I used ad hominems.

      Finally, don't be coy. You write "not everyone agrees with everything Bob writes." The constant refrain, the endless drone, the overwhelming majority of the anti-Somerby crowd here makes a mockery of that statement. And you know it.

    4. What a delight it would be, sherrlock, if all the wonderful things you've said about yourself -- that you're a model of courtesy, that you love diversity of views, that you never launch personal attacks, that sure, you may you lose your temper from time to time when folks here disagree with you, but your heart really is in the right place -- were true.

      Wouldn't that be grand?

    5. Oh, there you are, Schoolmaster. At least I assume it's you from the tone of aggrieved weary petulance.

      And in that assumption lies our difficulty, I believe.

      As I've said on a number of occasions, you actually know my identity. Your personal attacks are quite literally personal. I, on the other hand, have NO idea who I'm responding to. A series of angry anonymes? One paranoiac with multiple personalities?

      Sheesh. It's like boxing with shadows. I really have no idea who's saying what to whom.

      In the end, your ideas and opinions are hogwash. At least those that I ascribe to you.

      I really have no idea WHO the hell you are and therefore can ONLY attack your ideas and opinions. You may be an upstanding individual, moral and charitable, a fine human being. I would never say otherwise. Because I don't know you.

      Are you, schoolmaster, also unaware of the meaning of ad hominem?

      If not, answer me this - can one commit an ad hominem upon an anonymous person?

    6. Know what? Nobody really knows who you are, either. They only know what you CLAIM to be.

      And that's the way Internet forums work. You get to claim to be anybody you want to be.

      And for the record, an "ad hominem" is an attack on the person, not the idea. And there you go again.

      And the fact that you get all stompy foot because I choose to post anonymously, while brave you post under a tag then try to gloss yourself with credentials because your opinion can't stand up to scrutiny, is the very essense of ad hominem.

      Which you, professional actor of course, would NEVER, ever do.

      Face it, you don't want to get into examining where Bob Somerby has morphed into a "Media Matters" for the right wing, making it his mission in lif to expose "liberal" lies in the media wherever he either sees or imagines it, no matter how trivial.

      You see, I got a whole bunch of Bob's archived blog posts to back that up?

      What have you got? A temper tantrum because I won't post under any name, assumed or otherwise.

    7. Hey Schoolmaster,

      That is a really good name for you. You have literally wrote previously that you were trying to educate other posters here.

      Have you, or anyone else here (let's open up the question), ever had a teacher that you thought was skilled at the position, that used sarcasm so much? Or yelled insults at their slower students?

      It is human nature that within a group, if an individual doesn't choose a name for themselves, one will be given to them. Thanks, sherrlock. Well coined.

    8. Oh, I see. "Schoolmaster" is apt, except you say why a teacher doesn't use sarcasm or insult students.


      Here's a clue for you. You can't "educate" those who refuse to be educated. And among those who refuse to be educated are those who follow a emperor and can't stand it when his emperor stands out there naked and exposed.

      For quite some time now, Bob Somerby has made it MSNBC and the New York Times his sole focus, almost pathologically.

      And you know what the tragedy of Trayvon Martin is to him? Nothing more than another "club" that he thinks he can use to beat MSNBC and the New York Times with.

      He doesn't give a damn about the "truth", and hasn't for quite some time. That's how obsessed he is with MSNBC and the New York Times.

      And he certainly doesn't give a damn about Trayvon Martin or George Zimmerman for that matter, other than their usefulness as a weapon in his personal crusade against MSNBC and the New York Times.

      And that is all anything means to him these days.

      Quite sad to watch. But hey, he throws hay to his cattle very morning. Enjoy.

    9. Yawn.

      It's a day for cooking brisket. With a few subtle changes, I'm using the Splendid Table recipe - actually from an older source - called My Mother's Brisket. I heartily recommend it for carnivores.

      Schoolmaster - easy to check up on identities and you know it. But that's not my point. I don't care who you are in RL. It's irritating to attempt to tease out just who's saying what here to whom.

      Why increase the natural chaos inherent in attempts to communicate? If the anonymous posters would add a single identifier at the top or bottom of their posts (i.e. "George here"), it would significantly reduce signal to noise.

      And read my earlier response again. I said several times over that ad hominems were attacks upon persons not ideas or opinions. I asked if it were possible to deliver an ad hominem at an *anonymous* person. Get it? (God, I hate to explain my feeble attempts at humor - it enfeebles them all the more. In other words, aren't ad hominems directed at the anonymous kind of like a stab in the dark?)

      Perhaps you were blinded by my sheer loathsomeness.

    10. It's like when you call someone 350 pounds "Tiny."

      But I am reminded of the Dr. Katz episode where the good doctor was trying to explain a joke he just told to his bartender, and his friend told him, "You gotta stop explaining the joke. If you do that, ... it's ... life's not worth living."

    11. "Yawn."

      Exactly the type of response that a person always in the search for diversity of opinion would give.

      Oh, and since you can check out identities so easily, I'll admit who I am. Clint Eastwood.

      Go ahead. Make my day. Check me out.

      Oh, and obviously, since your name is not "sherrlock" and I have no idea, nor do I care to find out, if who you claim to be is true, and since I can't possibly know anything about you if your fable about yourself is true, then I guess it can't be an ad hominem, under your definition, to call you a lying, stupid, ignorant, pseudo-intellectual, pseudo-liberal sack of shit can't possibly be an ad hominem, can it?

    12. You, sir, have real problems that can't be addressed here.

  5. "But let's not look at that, as well as any of the other serious issues this case arouses, such as why should a black kid walking down the street be deemed "suspicious,"

    Zimmerman answers this question himself in his call to 911. He states that Martin was not walking down the street but loitering in the rain and seemed to be looking at houses. In other words, he was exhibiting suspicious behavior. 17 year old kids don't care about architecture. When it rains, most people want to stay dry and that means getting indoors. A hoody is not a rain coat. I can picture a 17 year old lingering because he was talking to a friend on the phone, but doing that in the rain makes little sense. Neighborhood watch is supposed to look for suspicious behavior. Suspicious behavior encompasses young men who linger in the rain to look over houses.

    I do not understand why it is OK to assume that Zimmerman is lying whole cloth and targeting Martin because he is black (much less stalking him) but not OK to assume that Trayvon Martin, previously found with women's jewelry in his possession at his high school, away from home and stranded in a strange neighborhood and poorly supervised by his father's girlfriend, might not have been trying to augment his pocket money by casing and ultimately robbing houses (as seems to have been done by other young men in that same neighborhood).

    1. Oh, well. If Zimmerman said he was loitering, then it must be true. Except for the inconvenient fact that Zimmerman didn't say that, and Martin wasn't loitering. He was walking back from a convenience store where he, quite legally, purchased candy and an iced tea. That fact is undisputed.

      But feel free to imagine any new detail you want excuse the shooting of a black kid for the crime of using the sidewalk. The Zimmerman's camp's story is getting so complicated with all the new details, that even you can't keep them straight.

    2. "I do not understand why it is OK to assume that Zimmerman is lying whole cloth"

      Because his story is preposterous? And you aren't helping by adding even more preposterous "details" pulled out of your nether regions?

    3. Except his story is not preposterous.

    4. He's getting his head slammed against the pavement and somehow he is able to pull his gun and shoot the guy in the chest?

      Yeah, that's not preposterous.

    5. A 17 year old volunteers to go out in the rain just for skittles. That's preposterous.

    6. Oh, I get it now. Despite the fact that he DID go to the 7-11 and buy Skittles and an Arizona iced tea, he couldn't possibly have gone to 7-11 to buy Skittles and an Arizona iced tea. Why? Because it was raining. Probably a monsoon, too.

      Yet you believe not only believe everything Zimmerman says, you make up all sorts of new stuff to make his story even better.

  6. This site is and always has been a critique of the press. Bob is discussing the issues he has always discussed; other issues will be discussed in other forums.

    1. Except that it's not really a "critique of the press." It's a critique of MSNBC and the New York Times, which is hardly the sum total of the "press" in the United States of America, particularly in the Information Age.

      And watching Somerby carry on, day after day, about these two media to the virtual exclusion of everything else is getting quite disturbing.

      I'm beginning to think he needs help.