THE AGE OF BELIEF: Rolling Stone truly believed!

THURSDAY, DECEMBER 11, 2014

Part 4—The Washington Post checked facts:
Today, a set of sad stories:

In the autumn of our own freshman year, a classmate had earned himself a derisive nickname: “The Birdman of Wigglesworth.” (Or it may have been Holworthy, a different freshman dorm.)

This young man had been behaving erratically. One evening, he had gone out onto his fire escape and issued bird calls into the night. In this way, he had earned the derision.

We can’t recall how we knew this young man; we don’t think we actually “knew” him at all. But we felt sorry for his plight. We spent an hour in his room one day discussing his situation.

We don’t recall a word that was said. Before long, he left the campus, never to return.

We felt sorry for that young man, who seemed to be struggling. We also feel sorry for the young woman at the center of Rolling Stone’s amazingly bungled “gang rape” report.

We think you should feel sorry for that young woman too.

As of today, Rolling Stone’s report has turned out to be one the most remarkable journalist fails of the modern era. We say that because the Washington Post has published a new report, in which a reporter actually interviews some of the people involved in this sad and strange story.

Truth to tell, Rolling Stone failed to interview almost everyone involved in this jumbled matter. The magazine published an horrific story—a story so unrelentingly horrific that it strained credulity in various ways for quite a few observers.

For reasons only the Stone can explain, its reporter and its editors didn’t seem to consider the possibility that the story they were publishing might be false in some major way. They didn’t seem to execute even the simplest fact checks.

The Post has now done some of those fact checks. Most significantly, they interviewed the three friends of Jackie—the victim of the alleged assault—who went to help her on the night of the alleged attack.

In major ways, the testimony of those three students fails to comport with Rolling Stone’s report. Their story involves a byzantine set of events.

These events suggest that the young woman at the heart of this story may be having some serious problems, like the young man with whom we spoke that evening, 49 years ago.

Please note. It’s entirely possible that Jackie was sexually assaulted that night. According to her friends, she did describe an assault that night, although the story they say they heard differs in major ways from the story which appears in Rolling Stone’s report.

According to her friends, Jackie described a heinous assault. A different, even more heinous assault is described in Rolling Stone’s report. By normal journalistic standards, no journalist has the slightest idea what actually happened that night. For that reason, Rolling Stone’s compelling report shouldn’t have been published.

You can read the Washington Post’s new report for yourself. In what follows, we won’t be talking about the student at the heart of this bungled story, which shouldn’t have gone into print. We’ll be talking about the bizarre yet sadly familiar behavior authored by Rolling Stone.

Why in the world did Rolling Stone fail to fact-check its report? We all can speculate about that. But let’s get clear on some of the ways the magazine failed to perform its most basic and obvious duties.

At the start of her report, Rolling Stone’s Sabrina Rubin Erdely told a truly horrific story about an alleged gang rape. In Erdely’s horrific report, Jackie is assaulted by seven fraternity men as two other “brothers” look on.

At the start of her ordeal, the student is thrown through a glass table; “sharp shards dig into her back” as a three-hour assault begins. At 3 A.M., she emerges from the fraternity house, barefoot, with her “bloody body” encased in “her bloody dress.”

Already, Rolling Stone’s report is deeply horrific. According to Erdely, this is what happened next:
ERDELY (11/19/14): Disoriented, Jackie burst out a side door, realized she was lost, and dialed a friend, screaming, "Something bad happened. I need you to come and find me!" Minutes later, her three best friends on campus—two boys and a girl (whose names are changed)—arrived to find Jackie on a nearby street corner, shaking. "What did they do to you? What did they make you do?" Jackie recalls her friend Randall demanding. Jackie shook her head and began to cry. The group looked at one another in a panic. They all knew about Jackie's date; the Phi Kappa Psi house loomed behind them. "We have to get her to the hospital," Randall said.

Their other two friends, however, weren't convinced. "Is that such a good idea?" she recalls Cindy asking. "Her reputation will be shot for the next four years." Andy seconded the opinion, adding that since he and Randall both planned to rush fraternities, they ought to think this through.
The three friends launched into a heated discussion about the social price of reporting Jackie's rape, while Jackie stood beside them, mute in her bloody dress, wishing only to go back to her dorm room and fall into a deep, forgetful sleep. Detached, Jackie listened as Cindy prevailed over the group: "She's gonna be the girl who cried 'rape,' and we'll never be allowed into any frat party again.”
In Rolling Stone’s report, unrelentingly heinous conduct occurs within the fraternity house. When Jackie emerges and asks for help, her friends behave in deeply uncaring ways.

As Jackie stands in her bloody dress, they debate their future social standing. Their conduct recalls the heinous stepsisters from the Brothers Grimm.

In the real world, people can behave extremely badly, of course. Incredibly, though, there is no sign that Rolling Stone interviewed any of the three friends to get their account of the events of that night.

On a journalistic basis, this was amazingly strange behavior. In the past week, the Washington Post did speak to the friends. Their account of the events of that night, and of the surrounding week, differs substantially from the story told in Rolling Stone—and they have emails, text messages and photos to support their deeply sad, strange, convoluted tale.

Question: Did Rolling Stone even try to interview these students? Note the slippery way this point is addressed in its report:
ERDELY: Two years later, Jackie, now a third-year, is worried about what might happen to her once this article comes out. Greek life is huge at UVA, with nearly one-third of undergrads belonging to a fraternity or sorority, so Jackie fears the backlash could be big—a "shitshow" predicted by her now-former friend Randall, who, citing his loyalty to his own frat, declined to be interviewed. But her concerns go beyond taking on her alleged assailants and their fraternity. Lots of people have discouraged her from sharing her story, Jackie tells me with a pained look, including the trusted UVA dean to whom Jackie reported her gang-rape allegations more than a year ago.
Did Erdely actually ask Randall for an interview? Many readers will get that impression from that passage. But no such assertion is made.

Did Erdely ask for an interview? In the highlighted passage, Erdely may simply be reporting something Jackie told her. Beyond that, Erdely never reports what Cindy and Andy, the other two friends, said about the events of that night—nor does she offer any sign that she tried to interview them.

Alas! The friends say there was no bloody dress. They say there were no apparent injuries.

They say they did meet Jackie that night, but not near that fraternity house. They say she did describe a sexual assault—but an assault of a different nature than the one described in Rolling Stone.

Did Erdely try to interview the friends? We can’t answer that question. But this is what T. Rees Shapiro reports in this morning’s Post:
SHAPIRO (12/11/14): The Rolling Stone article also said that Randall declined to be interviewed, “citing his loyalty to his own frat.” He told The Post that he was never contacted by Rolling Stone and would have agreed to an interview.

The article’s writer, Sabrina Rubin Erdely, did not respond to requests for comment this week.


Rolling Stone also declined to comment, citing an internal review of the story.
Did Erdely try to interview Jackie’s friends? We have no way of knowing. But on a wide array of points, there is no sign that Erdely conducted any basic fact-checking at all.

(At some point, Rolling Stone’s “internal review” may help resolve such questions.)

We recommend the Washington Post’s sad, convoluted report. Beyond that, we recommend that you feel sorry for young people who may be having substantial problems—and for a young woman who may have been assaulted on the night in question.

In closing, we want to note two basic points. Let’s start by noting something Erdely accomplished.

In her horrific report, Erdely told the “perfect story” about a campus rape victim. All the conduct is deeply heinous, as if drawn from a Lifetime movie by the Brothers Grimm:

The victim is raped on broken glass by seven different men. When she calls her friends for help, they turn out to be the most self-centered people in the known universe.

The dean is slippery and slick—a fixer. Someone throws a bottle at Jackie with so much force that it somehow breaks on her face.

Jackie says she learns about two other gang rapes at the same fraternity. But those women aren’t “willing to talk to Rolling Stone” either. (We aren't told if Erdely knew their names or actually approached them.)

This is a Perfect Story, a story of conduct which is horrific in every possible way. All too often, our modern “journalism” turns on such perfect stories.

Here’s the problem:

Often, facts must be rearranged, invented or discarded to create these “perfect stories”—perfect stories which fire the soul and compel the reader’s reaction. All too often, our journalism runs on embellished tales of this type. Tomorrow, we’ll consider the most consequential such story of the past twenty years.

Erdely told a “perfect story.” Here’s something else she did.

Erdely discussed a story she never should have discussed. As Rolling Stone went to press, its journalist had no real idea if its story was actually true.

Even as we write today, there is no way of knowing what actually happened, or didn’t happen, to Jackie that night. As of now, the facts are a deeply confusing mess, to the extent that the facts are known at all.

What actually happened to Jackie that night? There is no sign that Erdely knows. But so what? In the absence of actual knowledge, she penned a compelling tale.

Erdely told a perfect story. She didn’t know if the story was true. She made no apparent effort to check it. But still, she rushed the story to print.

As always happens in these matters, large numbers of people believed it.

Tomorrow: False belief changes the world

109 comments:

  1. "All too often, our journalism runs on embellished tales of this type. Tomorrow, we’ll consider the most consequential such story of the past twenty years.

    Any bets on what story Somerby selects?

    Think the lede to this post gives any hint where Somerby first encountered the vistim?

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    1. something something AL GORE something something MSNBC

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  2. A much better article can be found below on the "journalism" of this Rolling Stone article and its unravelling due to the guild's code of silence, a code as unwavering as that taken by UVa frat members to cover their rape initiation rituals.

    Seems like some of the press didn't need to get to the physics of broken beer bottles before asking questions. The broken glass table may have tipped them off.

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/12/11/rolling-stone-uva-rape-story_n_6305832.html

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    1. Does your link also discuss the embellishing of perfect narratives to achieve ulterior motives? I suspect it is just about the absence of fact-checking in the UVa story.

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    2. You suspect? Merely suspect?

      You are lazy and weak on that point. You didn’t bother checking the link, nor report your findings.

      What kind of commentary is this? In part, it looks like the pleasing commentary of the blog defender.

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    3. 12:19 Boring. So boring.

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    4. I know. It is nearly a verbatim quote from Somerby's last post. You could have also called it repetitious.

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    5. "You are lazy and weak on that point. You didn’t bother checking the link, nor report your findings."

      Why do trolls who post links always think people have to follow them and read whatever they point to? That would be a double waste of time.

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    6. @ 3:16 why do commenters who repeatedly call others trolls never bother to follow links? They are like journalists who never check facts.

      Why do commenters say they "suspect" something is the case when they can easily check whether their suspicions are valid?

      Finally, why are you intent on proving yourself an intellectual bedfellow of cicero?

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    7. As I said, because it is a waste of time.

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  3. Wow, majneb continues to get major results!

    Bob's entire post is centered around the Post article I provided the link to yesterday.

    Take it away, ZK ..... !!

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    1. Please don't feed the troll.

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    2. Excellent work again, majneb. And thanks ever so for another of your incessant reminders how much we are on your mind Anon @ 1:34.

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    3. I don't think majneb is pompous for claiming to get results. Somerby does it all the time.

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    4. KZ, as you very well know, I was referring to you, the commenter immediately above me, not majneb. You aren't cute. You are just a creep.

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    5. 346: And you're a repetitive bore.

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    6. Anon 1:34/3:46 thanks for thinking of us even when we aren't here. And it is comforting to know how much of the time you are here. Keeping tabs on things, so to speak.

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    7. I liked Bob adding the Brother's Grimm to majneb's Lifetime Movie line. He used Cinderella, but I think he did it because the seven rapists reminded him of the Seven Dwarfs. Either that or he didn't want to be accused again of being repetitive or familiar with Lifetime television programming.

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  4. The larger issue is the need for mental health services on campuses. What should a campus do if a student who is obviously disturbed will not seek such services voluntarily? I'd like to hear some opinions about that.

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  5. It's sometimes reasonable to lie, when that lie serves a political end that one supports. Bob says we should feel sorry for "Jackie", because she was "struggling", i.e., emotionally disturbed. He may be right. However, it's also conceivable that "Jackie" wanted to promote a focus on the problem of campus rape. If so, her false or exaggerated story would have been a reasonable step.

    E.g., A New York Times editorial 3 days ago acknowledges that Jackie's story may be false. It acknowledges that the claim of 1 in 5 coeds being raped is based on a flawed study. The editorial then uses these unreliable claims as a basis to argue for their preferred approach to how colleges should deal with sexual violence.

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    1. "It's sometimes reasonable to lie, when that lie serves a political end that one supports."

      This certainly goes a long way in interpreting your commentary.

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  6. In our zeal to be completely non-judgemental to members of various protected classes, we often forget how prevalent compulsive liars exist in society. Usually it starts with a pattern of thinking they are getting away with telling lies to their parents (who don't care enough to protest about it), then becoming emboldened to tell bigger lies as they enter adulthood. I keep hearing the refrain, "there must be a kernel of truth" or " the truth lies somewhere in between". What sense does it make to put ANY trust in someone who has been exposed as a liar? First Dorian Johnson, now pseudonomynous Jackie. These people are both proven liars. It is MORE likely that their stories are FULLY fabricated than to believe there is a shred of truth. Trustworthy people sometimes get details wrong or embellish points, compulsive liars on the other hand routinely invent things that could not possibly happen anywhere but in a tv studio and thus deserve ZERO credibility. Why is this seemingly such a radical viewpoint to hold?

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    1. It isn't quite this black and white. Sometimes people who tell lies are mentally ill. They tell lies not for personal advantage but for other motives that are more complex and more difficult to understood, even in situations where it is inevitable they will be detected.

      Courts of law are concerned with truth. A university must be concerned with helping students, even those who lie. Someone with a tenuous grasp on reality can lie but also believe their own lies. Someone can have something bad happen to them but lie about what, for a variety of reasons. That makes them different from the kind of "compulsive liar" you describe.

      The most accomplished liars interweave truth with falsehood because a lie is more believable when it contains truth. So your idea of lies being "fully" fabricated is not supported by those who study lies and liars (see Paul Ekman's book "Telling Lies" for example).

      But folks here think psychology is BS, so who cares what empirical studies say about lying and liars? Better to rely on folk wisdom, like that suggested by 1:58.

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    2. If a man lied about being gang raped by members of a gay rights club why do I have the feeling that most of the people who are pleading for understanding for Jackie would be screaming for his ass?

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    3. Federal studies have shown that the incidence of false claims by men of being gang raped by members of gay rights clubs is vanishingly small.

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    4. majneb failed to fall for HB's bait.

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  7. Rape should not be covered in the media unless there is a serial rapist on the loose or someone is indicted for the crime.

    If someone is convicted of rape they should be executed or castrated
    and imprisoned for a long time. If someone is falsely accused of rape, the accuser should have their tongue removed.

    That said, these are just suggestions put forth in an effort to further discussion about a problem faced not only by all members of society, but those who are supposed to uphold our valeues through careful presentation of that which can be journalistically proven.

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    1. A student on my campus once reported a rape because she wasn't prepared for an exam and thought that would be a good excuse for missing it. She was suspended from school for a year, but walked in that year's graduation ceremony. She apparently hadn't told her family she had been suspended. Kids get into problems like these on campuses. Do we treat them like criminals or give them slack? Tongue removed? Seems like there may be a different problem involved.

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    2. No. She accused nobody. Slut shaming is perfectly appropriate as long as she did not point a false finger at another. She can keep her tongue.

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  8. Another factor to bear in mind is the reporter's desire to find a melodramatic rape. She said she had rape stories from some other colleges, but they were too pedestrian. If the reporter made the goal known to Jackie, Jackie might have made up a story in order to give the reporter what she wanted. OTOH Jackie might have merely exaggerated a story in order to give the reporter what she wanted.

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    1. This reads like a 4 year old speculating about what Santa does at the North Pole during the rest of the year. You have no evidence about anything in Jackie's life or in the reporter's life to know what either of their motives might have been, nor do you know with clarify what was lie and what was fabricated or by whom. What a waste of energy. Slow work day?

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    2. Sorry -- "what was truth and what was fabricated"

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    3. 417 & 421 - that's just how Dinky rolls.

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  9. Jackie seems to be moderately to severely crazy.

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    1. I can't believe how much space in this post is wasted by Bob apologizing for her.

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  10. Somerby's dogged repetition of other people's hard work in pursuit of Erdely (Penn '94) reminds me of the Salem Witch Hunt. Or perhaps, "Kill the pig!"

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    1. I knew she was Ivy League. The choice of a southern school should have clued in the rest of the rubes.

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  11. Why do so many people here think repetition is bad. In advertising it takes 7 exposures to an ad before someone is convinced to buy a product. In education, repetition is essential to learning. It is the foundation of memory. We form concepts by noticing similarities across repeated exposures to experiences. Little children love to hear the same story retold and adults love to hear their favorite songs and rewatch favorite films. We form habits in which we eat the same things and do the same things and it is comforting, not annoying.

    Maybe the content of the comment box suggests to Somerby that folks here just aren't getting "it" so he needs to keep trying. If there were less deliberate obtuseness in the responses to what is posted, perhaps he might conclude we are ready for the next lesson. On the other hand, he may be assuming there are new readers who haven't yet encountered the basic concepts he wishes to get across. Those who have gotten the point are always free to move on. Why would anyone stick around if they felt there were nothing to be gained here?

    If you say it is because it is so much fun to annoy the other commenters, you belong in therapy, not in civil society.

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    1. You sold cicero. But then he was already really into Somerby's work.

      Maybe the content of the comment box should suggest to Somerby he should tack in a new direction. Advertising.

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    2. There is repetition to make a point or teach a lesson, and there is repetition because one has nothing else to say, but must say something, so habit takes over. It is our belief that this blog has been on the same (downward) trajectory for years. It has taken a modest upturn recently -- simply cutting Rachel Maddow and Election 2000 from the diet did wonders -- but there is still a ways to go. For example, we don't know what this blog is about. It's SUPPOSED to be about "musings on the mainstream 'press corps' and the american discourse," but we see little of that. Back in the day, Bob did that. The "War on Gore" and other stories -- this was mainstream stuff, and it was important. These days, Bob exclusively attacks the left, which is hardly the "mainstream 'press corps,'" and much of his work has been silly and pointless. Is this one event in RS, already covered exhaustively elsewhere, worthy of an entire week's output? When KZ made a witty reference to Stephen Glass, how many people got it? How many people remember Jayson Blair?

      In short, we think cutting down on his posts and working to increase the quality is a good thing, but we still think Bob is failing to fulfill his mission statement. It's early days in what is something of a remake, though, so we continue to watch. We are, in particular, curious to see where he tries to take this story, which in and of itself is "piffle and piddle," and will be largely forgotten in a few months by "mainstream" people.

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    3. You know what I think is the most important part of this fiasco that Somerby has failed to notice? The amazingly short shelf life this story had.

      Good grief, Rolling Stone published it on Nov. 19. Twelve days later, Paul Fahri starts debunking it in the Washington Post. With the Thanksgiving holiday intervening.

      It took at least months for previous cases of journalistic fraud to unravel (Cooke, Blair, Glass, Frey to name the most famous and sensational cases).

      This one didn't last two weeks.


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    4. Richard Bradley was the first to call out RS and SRE back on November 24.

      http://www.richardbradley.net/shotsinthedark/2014/11/24/is-the-rolling-stone-story-true/

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    5. Yes, Richard Bradley. A Yalie. And a Harvard man.

      A real journalist. And a real journalism critic. With both academic and professional credentials and experience.

      He covered it. Two weeks before the Howler. In his blog.

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  12. All this focus on UVa and not a word about Cosby.

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    1. Bob's focus is on the media, not on colleges or rapists. If the media is doing a terrible job covering the Cosby story, that's the angle he would write about.

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    2. I didn't like Bob's focus on his own college experience with the Birdbrain guy. He may think telling the story creates sympathy for Jackie's faulty memory, but is seems to much the "perfect story" for his perfect story critique IMHO.

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    3. I have no idea what point Bob was trying to make with the "Birdman" story that he could scarcely remember. Good grief, if you are going to tell a story, at least remember it.

      I suppose his point was that there are some rather "unusual" kids enrolled in college. What a newsflash.

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  13. The reporter did a radio interview with gullible feminists you can link to on Slate. Sorry, we go to the Duke LaCrosse case, the same odious ass covering, yet accusation laced phrase crops up:

    "We can't be sure what happened it that room"
    "I don't know what happened in that room."

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    1. Here is a key difference to remember.

      The Duke lacrosse case was a case of prosecutorial fraud exposed by journalists.

      The Rolling Stone story (and others) was a case of journalistic fraud exposed by journalists.

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    2. Actually, in the Duke case, the journalists helped perpetuate the prosecutorial fraud by shockingly unbalanced reporting. The New York Times was one of the worst offenders.

      The weakness of the prosecution case was reported early by History Professor KC Johnson's blog. The fraud was fully exposed when a clever defense lawyer figured out how to decipher a misleading DNA chart that actually exonerated the students.

      Because of all the yellow journalism, many people still believe that the lacrosse players did something wrong, despite being declared innocent.

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    3. A prosecutor files very serious felony charges against an entire athletic team at a major and very famous institution. How was the media supposed to ignore that? They should not have reported it at all until all the facts were known beyond all doubt? Riiiiiight!

      What happened in this case, David, that you continually deny, is that reporters continued to dig and ask questions until the entire case unravelled, costing the prosecutor both his job and his law license.

      In other words, this is hardly an example of journalistic malfeasance. It is, instead, an example of the way journalism is supposed to work. In other words, an example of journalism at its best instead of its worst.

      Which goes triple for the Rolling Stone case. If you let yourself do your thinking instead of Somerby, maybe you'll stop this "all journalism is like the Rolling Stone, always has been and always will be" and especially the "code of silence" nonsense that never held water.

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    4. "many people still believe that the lacrosse players did something wrong,"

      Care to support that with some evidence? I didn't think so.

      But can I play your intellectually lazy game?

      "Many people" believe the earth is flat.

      "Many people" believe the universe was created in six, 24-hour days, some 6,000 years ago.

      "Many people" believe Elvis is still alive.

      That "many people" existing only in your head still believe -- let alone remember -- 8-year old charges that were completely debunked is proof of nothing.

      But surely you can come up with another third cousin of your wife who believes it. Better still, make him half-black, half-Mexican and half-Chinese.

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    5. Anon 11:00AM I agree with you that the media shouldn't have ignored the story. However, the case was actually weak from the get-go. Balanced reporting would have shown how weak the case was. Instead the media reported as if the charges were true. Some in the media, including the NY Times, included mistakes in which made the lacrosse team look worse.

      Anon 11:05, go read the reviews of the William D. Cohan's dreadful 2014 book, "The Price of Silence: The Duke Lacrosse Scandal, the Power of the Elite, and the Corruption of Our Great Universities" This book, which more-or-less supported Nifong's POV, was nevertheless well-reviewed by much of the main stream media and was a best-seller.
      [Cohan] implies dozens of times that one or more players sexually assaulted Mangum in a bathroom during the party. In recent interviews, Cohan has made his thesis more explicit: “I am convinced, frankly, that this woman suffered a trauma that night” and that "something did happen in that bathroom," Cohan told Joe Neff of the Raleigh News & Observer. In an April 8 Bloomberg TV interview, he ascribed the same view to his three main sources: “Between Nifong, Crystal, and Bob Steel, the consensus seems to be something happened in that bathroom that no one would be proud of.” He said much the same on MSNBC's fawning "Morning Joe" the next day."

      The people who read this book or the mostly-positive reviews will believe that the lacrosse players probably did wrong.

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    6. Elvis is still alive.

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    7. Whoa, do you know what it's like to come dangerously close to agreeing with David in Ca? That was a close one.

      What you might want to do is what I did, actually READ the book on The Duke Lacrosse Case, and it helps if you come to it, as I did, without having really followed the case or built up any prejudices. I think you will find, reading marginally between the lines, that the team was railroaded and Nifong was a skunk.
      Now, in some instances (one is a real groaner) Cohan goes the extra mile in bending over backwards for Nifong. I am afraid that the culprit here, rather than liberal bias, is good old faction access journalism, Nifong seemed to have fully cooperated with the writing of the book. But make no mistake, the outrages facts are all set out for the reader to do with as they see fit. The fact that there was tension between the town and the college you can interpret as A) the unfair treatment the students got was understandable, or B) the unfair treatment the students got was based on prejudices and grudges.
      It should be noted that the Duke students were perhaps not typical of the wrongfully accused: they had smart parents who got organized quickly, and had legal friends in high places. They had the means and the ability to make their case to the press, who took corrective action on high profile vendors like "60 Minutes."
      The victim was, and has been, rarely portrayed as what She is: a nutcase. She was on parol for attempting to run somebody over before the "rape", and not long aft wards killed a guy. Nifong's incompetence boggles the mind, but he is hardly the first prosecutor who will go to his grave refusing to correct himself, under absurd circumstance. It's not exactly a liberal phenomenon.

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    8. Yes, I am sure that the woman in this cased falsely accused the Duke athletes was lying and an overzealous prosecutor jumped on the case to further his career.

      But Greg, in the future, keep this in mind.

      A woman can be a "nutcase" as you so callously worded it. She could also be guilty of several other crimes ranging from bank robbery to drug smuggling.

      But she can still be a victim of rape.

      Or have you been reading Somerby so long that you have lost all sense of human compassion and dignity?

      If not, then tell us how pure of heart, mind and deed must every rape victim be before you extend to them the simple decency of your concern?

      Or do you find it, like Somerby, so easy to write them all off as liars?

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    9. Could you point to a passage in any TDH blog entry in which all women who claim to have been raped are written off as liars?

      Thanks in advance.

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    10. Can you point to any Grimm fairly tale where a woman is raped?

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    11. Sure. Sleeping Beauty. So what?

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    12. I guess I just don't know what happened in that room! The woman tried to run someone over with her car. It is not callous to call her a nutcase. Had more people called her a nutcase, the poor slob she would go onto kill might still be alive. I don't know how She got out of jail in the first place. You might consider a little compassion for HER victim. You remind me of the bust out humanitarian feminists who have laughed off Moses Farrow stories of abuse.

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    13. But what if Moses Farrow is a nutcase? To your sick way of thinking, that makes it impossible for him to be a victim of abuse, and thus unworthy of my sympathy.

      As a matter of fact, any woman who alleges rape must be completely sound of mind, and free from any criminal past, lest Judgmental Greg call them childish names and deem them beneath his contempt.

      In other words, you are in no position to lecture anyone about compassion.


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    14. Isn't deadrat mistaking being pricked by a flax spindle for being spunked by a flaccid prick?

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  14. Zarkon from another PlanetDecember 12, 2014 at 10:34 AM

    Why did it take a U-Va. gang-rape allegation to make us care about campus sex assault?

    That is the headline above a column written by Petual Dvorak in the Washington Post on December 5.

    Her lede?

    "The story about a gang rape at a University of Virginia fraternity has fallen apart."

    It wasn't until December 8 that this story, which had already fallen apart, made its way to Howlerville.

    Instead of focusing on the article, subsequent events, and the media dissection of "one the most remarkable journalist fails of the modern era" in BOB's own words in this post, Howler readers were treated to a treatise on the human brain. Hopefully that indicates BOB plans to wind around to addressing the issue raised by Ms. Clark in her column. Eventually. We hope. You may differ.

    Before he "gets there" BOB has asked many other questions.

    12/9

    "Do you believe in physics?"

    "With malice aforethought, would nine young men have put themselves in such major jeopardy?"

    "Was Rolling Stone’s gripping story impossible on its face?"

    "Do you believe this incident actually happened? Given what you know of physics, do you believe this incident could have occurred?"

    "Do we believe the college student was assaulted in the manner described? Do we believe that someone outside a bar angrily threw a bottle at her, hitting her in the face?

    "More specifically, do we believe that she was hit with so much force that the bottle actually “broke on the side of her face?” Do we believe that this could happen without the student being seriously injured, possibly even killed?"

    "Do you believe that occurred?"

    "Given his miraculous brain, did the editor ask if such an incident could have occurred? Did he question the claim that a bottle was thrown with such force that it actually broke on her face?"

    "Did the student actually say that she was hit in the face by a bottle? Did she say she was hit so hard that the bottle broke on her face?"

    Those are just the questions raised in Parts 1 & 2. Four days after a minor columnist for the Washington Post raised the most important question of all.








    http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/why-did-it-take-a-u-va-gang-rape-allegation-to-make-us-care-about-campus-sex-assault/2014/12/05/dc497304-7cb4-11e4-84d4-7c896b90abdc_story.html

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Maybe Somerby focused on the bottle because it reminded him of strawberries.

      Delete
  15. SRE wins RS college journalism competition during her college Junior year.

    "Rolling Stone journalist Sabrina Rubin Erdely's first ever story for Rolling Stone had serious factually problems according to her.

    "On camera in 2012 Erdely describes how her award-winning college article was seriously, seriously wrong."

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v7WGo6ktkaE

    ReplyDelete
  16. Why did it take a U-Va. gang-rape allegation to make us care about campus sex assault?

    Part 2

    That pertinent question was asked in the Washington Post three days before BOB began his coverage of the November 19, 2014 Rolling Stone article. He inched closer to it in his third post of what he called "one the most remarkable journalist fails of the modern era."

    "What should universities do?"

    This was BOB's headline for Part 3 on December 10. An excellent question!

    But before he hinted at an answer, BOB felt other questions needed to be raised.

    "Did a college student tell Rolling Stone that this event occurred?"

    Before you, or BOB post readers at the time, wonder if the question relates to the gang rape that was the centerpiece, it doesn't. It's about the the bottle.

    "Did a college student named Jackie actually tell Rolling Stone that this event occurred? Did she tell Rolling Stone that someone threw a bottle at her head? That the bottle hit her with so much force that it “broke on the side of her face?”

    BOB went on to ponder....

    "Did the student tell Rolling Stone that it did?"

    BOB then winds through eight paragraphs before resuming "Let’s return to that broken bottle so we can tell you why."

    "Should it perhaps be troubling in some way when the student keeps refusing to name her attackers? Should the student perhaps be encouraged to step forward?"

    "Was anyone concerned about the student’s refusal to report?"

    "Was anyone troubled by the fact that the student refused to name her assailants, even as assaults continued at their fraternity house? Did anyone try to persuade the student that, despite her apparent traumatization, she ought to report?"

    These questions relate to the headline question, and after exploring one possibility put forth by the RS reporter, BOB's inquiries resume.

    "Under the circumstances, though, would that have been a wise decision? Would it even be allowed under the federal guidelines which now regulate these matters?"

    "Does it still seem that the university should have warned the campus about that fraternity?"

    "What kind of journalism is this?" BOB knew. He teased he would tell us. But he, like the Rolling Stone, never got around to answering his own opening question.

    So here is our question to you. Since BOB covered campus rape extensively the same month as the Rolling Stone article came out, should we look back at the series on the M.I.T. rape survey for an answer to BOB's opening question? Or in Part 3 should we look at the questions raised by BOB in his Part 4?








    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. The MIT rape survey has no bearing on what universities should do or must do. The problem with journalism about campus rape is that it does not explore the limits of campus administrators who encounter possible false and possible true allegations and must protect the rights of both the accusers and the accused. These are complex issues that are not well explored in the emotional contexts whipped up by articles like that in Rolling Stone.

      But, of course, you have no interest in the questions of campus rape but only in making Somerby appear foolish. That's because you are a useless troll who uses serious issues to carry on a personal agenda. YOU should be aware that some people are deeply concerned about the way rape is ignored in our culture -- for an example of this, witness the virtual silence about the unfolding allegations against Bill Cosby. He is not being excoriated by the media to the same extent as his accusers because he is (1) African American and thus would raise racial issues, (2) a beloved comedian, (3) a powerful person in the field of entertainment, (4) old and pathetic and thus a more sympathetic character than the traditional media villain. In short, he doesn't fit well into the kinds of narratives the media prefers. Chasing down privileged white kids is more to their tastes.

      Delete
    2. And, the rape accusations against Bill Clinton were even more ignored or pooh-poohed, except by conservative media. In Clinton's case, I suspect the media didn't want to face questionable rape accusations against a sitting President.

      Delete
    3. "The MIT rape survey has no bearing on what universities should do or must do."

      Right!

      Universities "should" not try and determine the extent to which their students have been assaulted,
      reported such assaults, to whom they reported them, and why or why not.

      Universities "should" not try and determine if there is a difference in what students say they experienced as sexual assault and what is considered to be assault by rule and law.

      Right!

      Universities must not conduct "periodic assessments" of sexual assault and effectiveness of school efforts at combatting sexual assaults in order to comply with Title IX as outlined in the "Dear Colleague" letter from the Office of Civil Rights, US Department of Education dated April 4, 2011.

      Right!

      And don't let that stop you from jumping immediately to say the national media brouhaha over Bill Cosby isn't really happening and the reaon is because he is black.

      What's a cubit?

      What total fools Somerby is down to among his supporters. You didn't happen to live in Wigglesworth or Holworthy your freshman year, did you?

      Delete
    4. " . . . witness the virtual silence about the unfolding allegations against Bill Cosby."

      KZ, this poor lad must be visiting your home planet. Because down here on planet Earth, I think there's been quite a bit of coverage re: Cosby.

      Delete
    5. Cubits and cubits of it, as God once said to Noah.

      Delete
  17. Why did it take a U-Va. gang-rape allegation to make us care about campus sex assault?

    Part 3*

    We have twice noted this question. It was asked in the Washington Post. Three days passed before BOB began his coverage of what he came to label "one the most remarkable journalist fails of the modern era" and a "Lifetime movie by the Brothers Grimm."

    This was not BOB's first foray into the troubling question of campus rape or his musings on mainstream media coverage of the heinous topic. That began in early November, when the New York Times covered a survey conducted about sexual assault by M.I.T.

    BOB did not ask "What Should Universities Do? in that series which lasted through at five parts and at least one Supplemental.

    Instead he concluded, in Part 5:

    "The original survey, MIT’s report, and the news report in the Times form an unholy trifecta. Boyden Gray's daughter then came along, sweetly reciting for Time.

    We point out Bob's dismissive identification of the Time reporter, a woman, as being someone's daughter. From now on we may begin referring to BOB Somerby as "son of a strip club operator." But that is another matter.

    BOB did "seem" to tell us what universities should not do.


    * Universities should not conduct "murky" surveys which are "so voluminous that you pretty much had to drop out of school for a year to answer all its questions."

    (MIT estimated it took 10-15 minutes to fill out this voluntary survey. By contrast, the US Census Bureau estimates it take 40 minutes to answer its American Community Survey, which is a mandatory udpate of the US Census conducted every month of a random sample.)

    * If you must conduct a survey, make sure those who devote their lives to fighting storyline "embellishment" aren't able to characterize it as "the survey reads like it was translated from the Norwegian by native speakers of Urdu."

    * Don't leave major media critics in a "ball of confusion" about whether you clearly stated the survey was conducted in the Spring so they can repeatedly state falsely your statistics might be in error because you might not have conducted the survey when you reported that you conducted it.

    * If 5% of respondents your confusing voluminous murky linguisitcally questionable survey (which really isn't a random sample and might be higher if limited to second semester senior females) say they were raped, don't be quoted showing concern for those who say they were sexually assaulted but don't personally consider it rape.

    Here seems to be BOB's conclusions from Part 5:

    "In our view, the numbness of that Times report makes it a piece for the ages.....Five percent of undergraduate women say they’ve been raped while students at MIT?...We almost thought we saw the pitiful practice in which we liberals try to embellish preferred statistics, thereby aping the methods of Fox. We’ll mention a gruesome example:

    Everyone knows that women are not paid 77 cents on the dollar “for doing the same work as men.” Still, we modern liberals love that claim. We seem to be willing to dissemble and lie in order to sustain it."

    Murky rape numbers and pay equity number fudging. Damn liberals!

    What IS a university to do?

    Why DID it take a U-Va. gang-rape allegation to make us care about campus sex assault?

    Why ARE women sometimes reluctant to report rape?

    Don't ask BOB.


    * Parts 1 & 2 were originally translated from Dutch by deaf mutes from Surinam. Part 3 was translated to Dutch by descendants of trained monkeys once employed by the grandparent of a famous Harvard graduate whose roommates went on to play ficitonal characters or fib about their accomplishments.

    ReplyDelete
  18. In other WaPo Headlines from the Old Dominion.......

    Former Virginia Governor McDonnell’s sentencing guidelines: 10 years at least

    Thank heavens Governor Ultrasound Still Hasn't Been Charged!

    Just because a traffic study is bungled does not mean it is not legitimate.

    D'Leisha Dent can't get into a four year college.

    We have always believed Saddam had weapons of mass destruction.

    Boy that Rolling Stone disaster. Shows the old human brain ain't up to all that hype, what?



    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Ah, the golden oldies of trolldom. Apparently as of 4:05P today you may add "All women who claim to have been raped are liars."

      Show the old troll brain still ain't up to all that reading for comprehension, eh?

      Delete
    2. No deadrat. Bob never made the claim in your comment. Just the other four. Love Story means
      never having to admit you are sorry.

      Delete
    3. I am afraid deadrat only thinks he knows what trolls want for Christmas. They have been waiting all day for Boxcar Bob's greatest oldie:

      "something something AL GORE something something MSNBC"

      Delete
    4. The claim isn't mine; it's from Anonymous @4:05P.

      But let's go over the golden oldies again.

      Governor Ultrasound Still Hasn't Been Charged. TDH posted the blog entry with this headline in the morning of the day the indictment was announced. In the afternoon.

      A bungled bridge study isn't necessarily illegitimate. TDH said we don't know what the perps thought they were doing. Mostly because they all retained lawyers who told them to shut up. TDH also said that any claims of legitimacy could turn out to be a "ruse or a hoax."

      Dent can't get into a four-year college. Yep, contrary to what TDH said, star Tuscaloosa High School student D'Leisha Dent did get into college. One that accepts anyone who applies.

      We have always believed Saddam had WMDs. TDH said that before we invaded Iraq, he believed Saddam had WMDs. This put him in some pretty good company. He also said that one month was too short a time to make a definitive claim for their non-existence.

      I don't think Love Story means much of anything, but if you're a troll you can still be a sorry example without saying the word.

      Delete
    5. Anonymous @5:01P,

      I hope that for Christmas, someone gets you a blog your're interested in reading. It will be a win-win: for yourself, you'll have something good to read. For us, you'll be gone.

      Delete
    6. Oh, I love this blog! Where else can you find a Harvard grad making an ass of himself on a daily basis? Not to mention those long and deeply intellectual debates between deadrat and David in Cal.

      Delete
    7. If you love this blog, then I'm not talking to you. Come to think of it, it's hard to tell which anonymous ignoramus is which. I'm only talking to commenters who find this blog a boring, repetitive, worthless site.

      My responses to DAinCA aren't part of any debate. They're lectures.

      Delete
    8. Your faithful ratster keeps plugging for dear old Bob.

      Bob's headline and post on Governor Ultrasound, deadrat has the time of 1:15 pm. January 21, 2014 imprinted on its page. Just scroll over the date. The "dour" reporter for the Washington Post reported his indictment almost an hour earlier, at 12:19 pm. Bob thought with his headline and post he could claim credit for altering Maddow's behavior and proving her wrong. It turns out she was right before Somerby's clown shaming post appeared on Al Gore's "initiative."

      A legitimate traffic study can be bungled alright. What happened at the GWB was a bungled abuse of government power and calling it a study was a bungled attempt to cover up what was never a study to begin with. The only person with worse explanations than Wildstein throughout this nonsense was Somerby.

      While you keep dismissing where D'Leisha Dent went to college you conveniently disappear the fact she was already accepted on scholarship there when Bob repeatedly, over the objections and to the amusement of his commenters, said she could not get into college.

      Oh, and do let us all forget when Bob crapped his pants over Iraq WMD. Let's overlook the feces on your fingers when you hold those trousers up today and try and claim they are whiter than white. These are his exact words copied, including the date, from his own archives a month after the invasion began:

      "TUESDAY, APRIL 22, 2003

      SEARCHING FOR WEAPONS OF MASS PROPAGANDA: Here at THE HOWLER, we’ve never doubted that Saddam had WMDs. In fact, we’d be surprised if he didn’t. We think antiwar types set themselves up for a fall when they crow about the lack of quick discovery."

      "Antiwar types"? Really deadrat? They really set themselves up for a fall, didn't they? Kind of like the blogger who posted about a Govenor not being charged an hour after a thirteen count indictment had been announced.

      Rolling Stone believed the worst about what happened to Jackie. They've backed off. Only a few still believe.

      Bob Somerby believed the worst about Iraq's weapons. Presumably he is no longer suprised. Only a few, like Cheney and at least one daughter, still believe.

      But deadrat. He believes in his Bob. Truly.

      Delete
    9. We wonder to what extent the left would have suffered if it had gone all in on WMDs, and they HAD been found. The right went all in, and it seems to us didn't suffer all that much for being disastrously wrong. Here at RAFE, we thought the odds were there was something there, but thought the war was such an obvious blunder that it wouldn't have mattered either way: in the end, it would be a foreign policy fuckup with or without WMDs being found, while an "all-in" move against the war had the potential for a big payoff, as it would have seemed both gutsy and principled. What we got, of course, was half-assed acquiescence and half-hearted finger pointing after the fact. It's a complex issue with no way of knowing what the right play was for sure, but the kind of concern trolling that folks like Bob engaged in, it seems to us, resulted in a lose-lose. If WMDs were found, the right claims credit for saving the world and gets whatever short-term benefits come with that; if they aren't found the left can't claim credit for being right, because it shut up about the issue when opposing the war would have mattered. Sometimes you have to take a principled stand for things and take your lumps as the cost. Handwringing just seems to have a cost with no benefit.

      We recall Bush the Elder riding high after Desert Storm I, and getting his ass handed to him in the election two years later. How politically costly would a principled stand against the war have been?

      Delete
    10. Deadrat: "TDH said that before we invaded Iraq, he believed Saddam had WMDs."

      Anon@2;25: "Tuesday, April 22, 2003"

      BWAAAAAAAHAHAHAHA!

      So either deadrat is deliberately lying or too stupid to remember the truth about his naked emperor.

      I'll be kind and go with stupid.

      Delete
    11. deadrat should have responded by now under ordinary circumstances. Is he in a quandry over which spellcaster to blame on KZ? I don't know.
      None of us may ever know.

      That said I do know this. "The Emperor's New Clothes" is definitely not the Brothers Grimm.

      Delete
    12. Why is deadrat down on trolls for their love of Golden Oldies? As a wise commenter once noted:

      "Why do so many people here think repetition is bad. In advertising it takes 7 exposures to an ad before someone is convinced to buy a product. In education, repetition is essential to learning. It is the foundation of memory. We form concepts by noticing similarities across repeated exposures to experiences. Little children love to hear the same story retold and adults love to hear their favorite songs and rewatch favorite films. We form habits in which we eat the same things and do the same things and it is comforting, not annoying."

      Delete
    13. You keep setting them up; I'll keep knocking them down.

      Governor Ultrasound. Do the times on the blog comments match your local time? They don't for me. You have to look at the HTML page source, where the blogging software records the publication time in a universal time format. And it shows that the "still not indicted" entry was posted before the announcement. But let's suppose that the post came after the announcement. What the worst conclusion we can draw? That the blogger was sloppy and didn't check for or didn't find the announcement before writing a snarky and incorrect headline? This supposed error is not only inconsequential, the complaint misses the point of the entry. TDH doesn't think that the McDonnells' behavior was all that heinous. After all, the ex-governor and his wife violated no state law, and they had the misfortune to have been indicted in a federal court in an Appeals Court district that doesn't require a state violation. If McDonnell could have swapped places with Jindahl, he wouldn't be going to prison next month. TDH also deplored the glee with which some of McDonnell's opponents greeted his legal troubles. Now, heinous is in the eye of the beholder. I agree with TDH on this point, but then I live in a state with an ex-governor in jail for trying to sell a US Senate seat. Your claim to know what "Bob" thought doesn't interest me.

      Backup on the GWB. For some reason, you think Somerby tied to "explain" the reasons behind Bridgegate. For some reason, in one paragraph, you're also apparently no longer on a first-name basis with the blogger. In fact, TDH stubbornly refuses to claim he knows why Wildstein shut down the traffic lanes from Fort Lee. Was it an abuse of government power? Sure, but that doesn't tell us why the abusers did it. Was it because Wildstein wanted to punish the mayor of Fort Lee? Was it because Wildstein wanted to show that drivers who lived in a less Christie-friendly suburb were getting preferential treatment at the expense of drivers who lived in more Christie-friendly suburbs? Or was it to punish the state senator whose district includes Fort Lee. (That one was Darlin' Rachel's favorite.) TDH even says that any excuse Wildstein comes up with could be a ruse or a hoax, but there's no sense in pretending to know when we don't.

      Delete
    14. D'Leisha Dent. I've disappeared nothing and even ventured my opinion that TDH should have corrected himself as soon as Dent got into a four-year school. But again, so what? The series of blog entries wasn't about Dent but about the reporting on Tuscaloosa schools. And unchanged in all your crowing about TDH's "mistake" is that Tuscaloosa High School star pupil D'Leisha Dent seemed woefully unprepared for college. Yeah, she's in one now, but only because her school has made it part of their mission to accept all applicants. Dent was a track star at THS. Suppose she could never win a medal at any track meet. Do you think her athletic program might bear some scrutiny? Suppose it turns out that she did win a medal, but it was at a venue that awarded medals to all participants. Would that improve your opinion of her athletic program?

      WMDs. Your coprophilia notwithstanding, my objection is to claims that TDH still thinks that Saddam had WMDs because one month into the war, he warned that it was too soon to make the judgment that he didn't. Yes, TDH believed the worst about Iraq's weapons. In this, he was in numerous if not good company, including much of our political establishment and Saddam's generals. In this, he and they were wrong. "Presumably," you say, "he is no longer surprised." Good. Then maybe you'll tell your Anonymous ignoramus buddies to stop saying otherwise.

      You can stop telling me what I think any time now. What I believe is that these golden-oldie complaints are trivial, wrong on the facts, and miss the point.

      Delete
    15. Anonymous @8:59A,

      Kind or not, I'm gonna go with your being unable to read for comprehension.

      TDH said that he had never doubted that Saddam had WMDs. Presumably this means during the period before invasion when the chickenhawks were talking up the inevitability of war. One month after the invasion, TDH ventures the opinion that one month isn't long enough to be sure that the WMDs didn't exist. I fail to see the problem with this.

      The problem I have with this "golden oldie" is the sly insinuation that TDH continues to believe Saddam had WMDs.

      For those keeping score at home, we have one sure sign of a troll: somehow this is about me, and what a lying stupidhead I am.

      Delete
    16. RMPNE,

      I'll go a step further and say people should have taken a principled stand against Operation Desert Blunder regardless of the perceived cost. The Democrats who voted for the AUMF knew they were being lied to by unprincipled liars, and they voted for the war anyway, fearful that any opposition would have hurt them in the next election.

      If it's your hobby horse that TDH's blogs constituted "concern trolling" that resulted in "lose-lose," I'm gonna let you ride that one all by yourself. You seem to suggest that it's better to go all in on weak evidence because there was little downside in doing so. THD says he prefers evidence first, and you're welcome to your disagreement with him. My objection is to the continued claims that TDH still believes there are WMDs because one month into the war he warned that one month in Iraq wasn't long enough to be sure.

      Delete
    17. Like we said. deadrat. He believes in his Bob. Truly.

      To paraphrase our blogmaster:

      We think pro-Somerby types set themselves up for four rebuttals when they crow about the "truth" behind Somerby's more glaring mistakes.

      Delete
    18. Like we said.

      So no substantive response, then? Imagine my surprise.

      Some of the claims of mistakes are accurate. So Dent actually did get into a four-year college. Some of the claims are wrong. Thus nothing TDH has written may fairly be used to infer that he believes Saddam's WMDs will still be found. All of the claims are about trivia. For instance, when the Gov. Ultrasound headline was posted.

      But keep guessing about what I really think. 'Cause that's what's really important in your comments about the blogger.

      Delete
  19. KZ makes some salient points but for now, I'm going to have agree with Bob on this one. That said, I will be scoring some pot later so things may change.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Of couse you find KZ salient then go for Bob.

      http://www.livescience.com/46483-cannabis-and-schizophrenia-genetic-link.html

      Delete
  20. Why ARE women sometimes reluctant to report rape?

    I dunno, because someone, namely BOB, might happen to be critical of embellishment and fabrication posing as "journalism"?


    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Your comment does happen to be one of the better examples of what Somerby was talking about regarding the brain being way overrated.

      Delete
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