STARTING TOMORROW: Adventures in paraphrase!


The author Taddeo's lies: Can you believe the various things you read in our greatest newspapers?

Also, can you believe the various things you're told by our most trusted journalists and academics? 

It's natural to assume that the answer must be yes. But can you safely believe the various things you're told by our leading lights?

Can you believe the things you're told? Not necessary, no! Consider one part of the way Lisa Taddeo's book was reviewed back in 2019.

Full disclosure! We're not sure we'd heard of Taddeo until yesterday morning. Yesterday morning, Taddeo's very strange guest essay appeared in the Sunday Review of the New York Times.

To their credit, many early commenters noted the fact that the essay was very strange. As a general matter, commenters who defended the essay tended to say that Taddeo must have been joking around.

We regard the fact that this essay appeared in the Sunday Times as a "teachable moment"—a teachable moment concerning the intellectual caliber of our floundering nation's most famous newspaper. This week, we hope to explore the intellectual horizons of our liberal tribe writ large.

For ourselves, we've now learned that Taddeo published a substantial best-seller, titled Three Women, back in 2019. The book received a decidedly mixed review in the Times. Parul Seghal started like this:

SEHGAL (6/28/19): Each of us possesses three lives, Gabriel García Márquez told his biographer Gerald Martin: a public life, a private life and a secret life.

Imagine a biography that only charted the secret life. The journalist Lisa Taddeo has produced something of the sort in “Three Women,” a vexed, nearly decade-long investigation into the sex lives and desires of three American women...

Taddeo spent “thousands of hours” with the women, crisscrossing the country six times, moving to their towns for years on end. She even tailed Lina on assignations with her married lover: “After they left, I would go to exactly where they’d been to take in the scenery and the smells and the sounds.”

“Three Women” arrives on gusts of fulsome blurbs and comparisons, by its publisher, to the works of J. Anthony Lukas, Katherine Boo and Adrian Nicole LeBlanc, giants of narrative journalism. It’s a pity. To unfairly and unnecessarily elevate this book gives it so far to fall...

Sehgal's review was decidedly mixed. We aren't saying Sehgal was right or wrong in her overall view of the book. We will make one small observation:

We don't know how Sehgal could have been so confident about the amount of research, and about the types of research, in which Taddeo engaged in the course of composing her book. But for our purposes today, we only note the way the publisher was bruiting the book around.

According to Sehgal, the publisher was comparing Taddeo's book to well-known works by three "giants of narrative journalism"—Lucas, Boo and LeBlanc. 

The publisher had every right to say such things, of course. But one month later, the Washington Post's rave review of Taddeo's book included the highlighted passage—and yes, you're allowed to laugh:

FLOCK (7/26/19): To find these three women, Taddeo drove across the United States six times, posted fliers in diners, casinos and coffee shops, and even started a discussion group at the Kinsey Institute, which researches human sexuality and relationships. In some cases, she moved to the women’s towns to interview them over long periods of time. To write this kind of nonfiction—it’s true, but reads like a novel—Taddeo smartly employs not only interviews but also diary entries, legal documents, letters, emails and text messages. The result is a book as exhaustively reported and as elegantly written as Katherine Boo’s “Behind the Beautiful Forevers” or Adrian Nicole LeBlanc’s “Random Family.”

We don't know how Elizabeth Flock could have felt so sure that the book, which "reads like a novel," could also be said to be "true." Also, we don't know how Flock could have felt so sure about the extent of Taddeo's research methods.

Let's ignore such nagging points—the niggling question of truth. Instead, let's notice this:

Right there in the Post's review was the comparison the Times review had cited one month before! According to the Post's review, Taddeo's book was "as exhaustively reported and as elegantly written as" those books by Boo and LeBlanc! 

One month before, the publisher had been shipping that claim around. Now, the claim appeared in the Post review, presented as the independent judgment of the reviewer herself.

Who knows? It may be that the Post reviewer agreed with the publisher's claim. It could even be that the reviewer included the source of that comparison and some editor took the citation out.

That said, we emitted mordant chuckles when we stumbled upon that bit of text. "Our journalism often works this way," we brusquely told our youthful analysts as they screamed and tore at their hair.

Concerning Taddeo's essay in yesterday's Times, it struck us as borderline nuts. We really began to edge slowly away from the Times when Taddeo, in best Valentine's Day fashion, began describing the various ways she gets her husband to exercise the type of "love language" she prefers:

TADDEO (2/13/22): Say I want to convince Jackson that it’s not safe for our daughter to ride the ski lift by herself. I somehow cannot bring myself to say, “I’m scared, and I don’t want her to go on the lift alone, even though you ski with her often and it is your observed and considered opinion that she is ready.” I understand my fears are not rational, and I know he doesn’t go in for irrationality.

So instead I make up evidence because he respects studies and publications. I often say, “Oh, well yes, they published a study in The Times.” In this case I say there was a study I read, in The Times, about the psychological effects on children ages 5 to 8 of riding ski lifts alone. “They found,” I say, “that it has caused feelings of …”

And here I pause, not dramatically but not casually either, and wait for him to look up—his ears, his eyes, everything ready and willing and open.

“Abandonment,” I whisper. That’s one of his buzzwords.

I add caveats so that it doesn’t look as if I’m lying. “But,” I say, “this was back in 2009, which means of course and naturally things must have changed. Maybe now there are no effects. Like, you know, because of the pandemic.”

But that nonexistent 2009 article will stick in his head. He won’t let her go up alone. I will be happy because I will have gotten my way. I will feel safe.

I am aware that I want to be able to just say, Don’t put her on the lift alone because it scares me. I am aware that I want to be married to my mother. I am aware I am not always or even often in the right. But I am aware that I do not care.

I think this is a feminist perspective?

As Taddeo lies to her husband (her admission), she "adds caveats" so it won't look like she is lying. In this manner, she gets her way. 

She adds the thought that this may be a feminist perspective. And yes—in context, this is all about Taddeo's search for the type of "love language" she says she prefers. Happy Valentine's Day!

The nuttiness of Taddeo's essay certainly doesn't end there. As we noted, commenters who defended the essay generally said that they assumed that Taddeo was joking around. 

We see no particular sign of that in the lengthy piece. We regard the fact that this essay appeared in the Sunday Times as a teachable moment about the intellectual horizons of our deeply flawed liberal tribe.

Within our liberal tribe, we tend to be very sure of our intellectual superiority to The Others. At present, The Others often seem to be baldly insane—but truthfully, we aren't gigantically better here within our own self-impressed tribe.

How dumb can it get within our tribe? It can get extremely dumb. The woods are lovely, dark and deep, but our basic skills are extremely limited, and our ranking journalists and academics are extremely fallible.

At certain times, they may even seem to be less than obsessively honest, though such matters are hard to assess.

We plan to offer examples all week, but we'll focus on one recent point of widespread tribal agreement. It involves an "adventure in paraphrase," one in which our tribe's highly fallible leaders have generally agreed to take part.

We tip our cap to Gardner McKay's TV series, Adventures in Paradise (1959-1962). McKay, who was a serious sculptor and playwright, walked away from such Hollywood dreck at a rather early age

Several stars took similar routes during that general period. When will we liberals walk away from the highly fallible establishment stars we're trained to mimic and trust?

Tomorrow: Judy Woodruff's adventure in paraphrase


  1. "Can you believe the various things you read in our greatest newspapers?"

    In your liberal-goebbelsian 'newspapers', dear Bob?

    When we accidentally read them, dear Bob, we believe that various things are in fact the opposite of what your liberal-goebbelsian 'newspapers' want us to believe they are.

    By the way, dear Bob, we've been informed by an actual news source that "Special counsel John Durham alleged in a court filing Saturday that the Clinton campaign paid for a tech company to hack servers in former President Donald Trump’s residences and the White House to gather derogatory information on him during the 2016 campaign and while he was president."

    Obviously, this fact doesn't exist in your liberal-goebbelsian universe, but if it did, how would you comment on it? Please note the "...and while he was president" part.

    Thanks in advance, dear.

    1. Yes, Mao, this is an enormous scandal. It should be front page news. However, I have one question that seems not to be discussed. What kind of miserable security did the White House have that permitted someone to spy on what was being communicated by the President?

    2. I do not think this latest filing actually claims the White House was spied on.

    3. No, you are right. It does make that claim.

      "The Government’s evidence at trial will also establish that among the Internet data Tech Executive-1 and his associates exploited was domain name system (“DNS”) Internet
      L traffic pertaining to (i) a particular healthcare provider, (ii)
      Trump Tower, (iii) Donald Trump’s Central Park West apartment building, and (iv) the Executive Office of the President of the United States (“EOP”)"

      It certainly looks like Clinton immorally and illegally spied on Trump and was even happy to lie to the FBI about what they found. They were trying to take Trump down with made up falsehoods. Yes, that is really, really big news. Although it has not been proven in court yet of course.

    4. I think as Democrats we should all apologize to Trump supporters for our immoral behavior towards them and their preferred candidate.

    5. Security is fine, David, we presume. Technically speaking. The issue is who exactly this security works for.

      Think of Strzok, McCabe, and all the rest of those characters, the highest ranks of the F.B.I. Who did they work for? Certainly not for Joe Public, and not for the duly elected president.

      Why would the WH security be any different?

    6. To assert that Clinton spied on anyone, you would have to establish a link between Tech Executive-1, and I don't believe that has been done.

      Is it "spying" when Tech Executive-1 contacted the FBI with concerns about what was going on and asked them to investigate?

      No one except conservatives loonies thinks these accusations are going anywhere. This is part of the broader conspiracy mill that tries to convince Trump supporters that there is "fire" by "generating a lot of specious smoke".

    7. "Yes, Mao, this is an enormous scandal. "

      It is nearly as big as the scandal over Hillary's e-mails. My god, she destroyed a cell phone by smashing it with a hammer! The horror!

    8. Oh look, David the treasonous bastard has Hillary in his sights again. You're gonna get her this time David! Bwahahaha!!

      et’s start, though, by cataloguing the false claims made by a man who played a key role in US national security for the entirety of the Trump Administration.

      First, he [Kash Patel] claims that the Hillary Campaign, “ordered … lawyers at Perkins Coie to orchestrate a criminal enterprise to fabricate a connection between President Trump and Russia.” Thus far, Durham has made no claims about any orders coming from the Hillary Campaign (and the claim that there were such orders conflicts with testimony that Kash himself elicited as a Congressional staffer). The filing in question even suggests Perkins Coie may be upset about what Sussmann is alleged to have done.

      Nothing to say about the coup plotted by your hero, David?

    9. Mao says: "Security is fine, David, we presume. Technically speaking. The issue is who exactly this security works for."

      1. The FBI: "Operating under the jurisdiction of the United States Department of Justice, the FBI is also a member of the U.S. Intelligence Community and reports to both the Attorney General and the Director of National Intelligence."

      2. The White House: Security is run by The United States National Security Council, which in turn reports to The Executive Office of the President of the United States (e.g., Trump).

    10. ..which in turn reports to The Executive Office of the President of the United States (e.g., Trump).

      Well to be fair, he was much too busy wobbling his fat corrupt ass around his various golf courses to worry about such matters as White House Security.

    11. Yes, Mao, this is an enormous scandal. It should be front page news.

      Here we see David giving us a wonderful demonstation of how he scrupulously gathers information from a wide variety of new sources (ie, FOX in the morning, FOX in the afternoon, FOX in the evening) to form his totally objective opinions. LOL

    12. 2:01 - I don't think they will be ale to tie it Clinton herself in the end. I wouldn't worry about that. Some people in her campaign will be thrown under the bus is all. All of that is by design. Insulate the person at the top from the sleaze. The good thing about these Durham indictments is he is showing us all how the sleaze happens - all the way down to who was billed. God bless them, the Clinton campaign, illegally, immorally and with tremendous sleaze tried to take Trump out with false allegations linking him to Russia. Didn't work though. It's just interesting to see exactly how they did it. Don't worry about Hillary though - she'l be fine.

    13. Durham is inventing a distraction from the 1/6 investigation findings. He is trying to make it seem like the Democrats are as bad as the Republicans, but he has very little to work with. Nothing will come of it because it is as empty as the Benghazi investigations, none of which produced anything at all, but they gave Republicans something to talk about.

      You are aware that Hillary is not a candidate for any office?

    14. Anonymouse2:02pm, you might find this interesting.

    15. That chick is hot.

    16. "Durham is inventing a distraction from the 1/6 investigation findings."

      That remains to be seen. The evidence will be there for all to see and judge. The emails and texts, the testimony, the meetings and the invoices.

    17. It does remain to be seen. None of it has been proved.

      You’ve got a lot of Marcy Wheeler stuff in the comments to go.

    18. What remains to be seen? You're obviously in a state of distraction. See, it worked.

      You mean, FACTS, Cecelia?

    19. Anonymouse 5:18pm, I didn’t say anything particularly revolutionary. The case has to tried. Until then you’re going to hear a lot of internet parroting here, there, in the media.

    20. The charging document suggests that Durham accused Tech Executive-1 of lying to the FBI. Not any of the other stuff speculated about as conspiracy-fodder by the right. Durham isn't finding anything to support these claims. The lying charge is chickenshit and there is nothing else.

    21. I haven't seen the Right this out for blood since the Republican Party reduced security budgets at foreign outposts, because they were pretending the country was broke so Obama couldn't help the citizens during the worst economic crisis in over 6 decades, and they blamed the resulting deaths from the reduced security at Benghazi on Hillary Clinton.

    22. @2:01 -- I'm not interested in "getting" Hillary. what good would it do for me or for the country to "get" her? I am concerned about integrity of government officials and security of White House communications.

      @2:59 I don't watch FoxNews, but you bring up a good point. If the mainstream media ignore stories harmful to Democrats, then people who don't follow at least one conservative media won't know about such stories or will disbelieve them.

    23. You're a lying piece of shit, David. You support a corrupt traitor who plotted a coup, instigating an attack on the nation's capitol. And you'd do it again i a heartbeat.

      you said, Yes, Mao, this is an enormous scandal.

      Go ahead, traitor, describe the enormous scandal you have your head up your ass about.

    24. Anonymous you don't have to have him describe it to you, you can just read the Durham indictment yourself. It's absolutely fascinating because it shows you how the sausage is made. They were trying to Swiftboat Trump before the election with a tie to Russia. A true tie or a loose one that appeared to be true. The indictment shows you exactly how it was done and how they came up with a false tie between Trump and Russia and how they brought that to the media and the FBI at the same time and how Hillary Clinton herself tweeted out when the story they planted was released. It's good stuff if you're interested in learning how sleazy political operations operate. Just read it yourself.

    25. If the emails and texts between the Democratic operatives in the indictment are false, turn out to be false and forged or whatever then it would all be false. But if they're true it shows us all how sleazy political operations operate all the way down to who does what and who bills who. Which is very interesting stuff if you're interested in politics which I assume you are. Yes, it is the party you support who was caught this time. But don't worry. Nothing major will happen. And it's true also you will be able to turn to partisan information silos and be able to either completely avoid it or be given story lines with which you can rationalize and create scapegoats around it. The world is your oyster.

    26. Just like all the rationalizations and scapegoats that they created around the Russia Trump collusion narrative which is really just an extension of what you see in the Sussman indictment. They've been trying to tie him to Russia from very early before the election. And it's worked amazingly. People still believe it. And trot out these trite ridiculous scapegoats that they have been spoon fed to them by the same types of operatives.

    27. The Democratic propaganda machine is extremely effective. People still run around saying that Russia hacked Wisconsin voting machines and that Russia effectively used polling data given to them by the Trump campaign to swing voters in swing states. There are dozens and dozens of completely ridiculous claims people will still make even to this day.

    28. The video from 4:28 is interesting. According to Comey, Russia hacked the GOP too. Didn't know that.

    29. I agree with Bob Somerby and 6:33, that anyone can just throw around accusations, especially if they want someone thrown in jail.

    30. 6:24,
      It didn't work that amazingly. Trump still won the election by promising Republican voters all the bigotry and white grievance they craved.

    31. Sure, Trump may be a self-admitted sexual predator, but he still knows bigotry and white grievance is what Republican voters hunger for.

  2. Replies
    1. If it’s what you say, I love it, especially since it's not bigotry or white supremacy.

    2. Somerby should admire this paraphrase.

  3. Someone really should talk about what Somerby said today, on Valentine's Day. First, Somerby hasn't the slightest clue what a "love language" is. The subhead on the NY Times article is about women who have difficulty asking for what they want from their husbands. It isn't about the glories of lying to or manipulating your spouse. It is about finding a compatible style for expressing love so that your spouse feels loved. It is written from a wife's perspective, and that is perhaps guaranteed to make Somerby edgy.

    Second, Somerby "wonders" whether an author of a non-fiction book really did the research that is claimed by her publisher (and no doubt in her own preface, where non-fiction writers normally describe their process and difficulties they overcame dealing with the material). Somerby strongly implies that this author is a liar, but as always he supplies no evidence to support that claim.

    Third, Somerby is notoriously squeamish when it comes to women's sexuality. He can perhaps blame the nuns or his mother (or both), but that gives him no right to verbally abuse an author for writing about three women's inner lives, including their sexuality (which is a major part of what most people, men and women, keep secret from others, even family and spouses). Getting anyone to talk honestly about sex requires special investigative techniques. Because this author spent time at the Kinsey Institute (which developed such techniques), it seems highly likely she knew how to get the information she needed to write an honest book.

    Fourth, Somerby has previously said that sexy time fun appeals to prurient interest, and he has said highly derogatory things about Maddow and anyone who discusses sex (except Bob Saget, who joked about incest and rape, deviant male sexuality). And, of course, because this author wrote about sex, Somerby implies she cannot ever write anything on a par with other nonfiction.

    Fifth, someone could ask what Katherine Boo knows about untouchables living in Mumbai slums, being a white American woman, but Taddeo is presumed to know nothing about other women's sex lives, even though she is approximately the same age, lives in the same culture, spent a lot of time and effort on research, and didn't have to go to Mumbai for her data.

    Sixth, Boo also tells stories about her characters much as a novelist does. Boo won a Putlizer for her work, despite the novelization.

    Seventh, Somerby didn't like it when Chanel Miller wrote a book describing her experience as a rape victim. Somerby hated that book. It seems wrong, to me, for Somerby to join in trashing Taddeo's book simply because he doesn't care about and doesn't want to know about women's private lives, including their sexual desires. Many women would want to read such a book, if only to compare their own inner lives with the three women chosen to exemplify women in general (carefully selected, which is why Taddeo first did a survey of what women's inner lives are like).

    Eighth, Somerby doesn't care much for qualitative research. He prefers surveys, which he can then deride for having improperly worded questions or insufficient sample sizes. The in-depth interviews combined with wider sampling done in The Women is an appropriate way to approach the topic. In fact, it is closely similar to how a researcher would investigate a topic and write a dissertation or monograph, which often gets turned into a book later on. In other words, Somerby is an ignorant, sexist jerk and his remarks can be safely disregarded because he is out of his depth with today's essay.

    And this is why expertise is important. So that people like Somerby, who entirely lack expertise, don't make fools of themselves writing garbage that may or may not mislead other people. It seems clear that his intent is to try to damage sales of this book (Three Women), but I doubt he can actually do it much harm. Books about sex tend to sell well, even ones about women's sexuality.

    1. Holy crap was there something in there about the substance of Somerby's post? Honestly I got lost on all the side issues and just couldn't make it through... and I'm sorry for commenting when I haven't read through the whole comment, but it's just... painful. So feel free to ignore me on those grounds.

    2. If you didn't understand Somerby's essay and you didn't see how my comment related to it, there is no need to announce it to the world. You can go back and re-read what Somerby said, or just go play with Mao.

    3. Yeah, you're not going to gatekeep me, so sorry.

      I read and understood Somerby's whole post, and skim reading your comment is enough to see it sidesteps the meat of the issue and instead tries to throw a bunch of mud and see what sticks. It's ad hominem fallacy times what, eight I think.

    4. Anonymouse 2:35pm, do you think that Taddeo ostensibly buried herself in the covert secret sex lives of three women, because that underworld is the place where she can explore exposure, possibility, and autonomy without the fury of her anxiety?

    5. Cecelia, I think she wrote a book about other women, not herself.

    6. The book was about other people and the way she could absorb and later expel them.

      The essay is about finding a way to sanely communicate and to safely receive communication from others.

      Quite the NYT’s sort of valentine.

    7. The book is about the three women, not Taddeo.

  4. “We regard the fact that this essay appeared in the Sunday Times as a teachable moment about the intellectual horizons of our deeply flawed liberal tribe.”

    This is preposterous.

    No one except an idiot thinks the New York Times or its editorial board speaks for liberals.

    And no one but an idiot would believe an essay by Lisa Taddeo about her daughter and the ski lift is emblematic of how “liberals” think.

    It seems to be how a single person decides to deal with a specific situation, and it may resonate with other people who have faced a similar situation (not just liberals), but it has nothing to do with “liberal” thought, that is, with the thought of millions of people who think of themselves as liberal.

    Meanwhile, apparently nothing else of any great importance merited a post by Somerby.


    1. “ No one except an idiot thinks the New York Times or its editorial board speaks for liberals.”

      mh, I just felt a great disturbance in the Force, as if millions of voices suddenly cried out in laughter and were suddenly silenced due to a massive side stitch.

    2. Sounds like dear mh may be eligible for one of those free crack pipes so generously given away by The Great Liberal Father...

    3. Cecelia, your sense of humor is one of your least attractive traits.

      As a liberal, I find what mh said to be not only reasonable but obviously true.

      Like most newspapers, the NY Times has had trouble putting its paper on a sound financial basis. To attract a broader base of readers and better cover conservative politics, the NY Times hired a number of conservative writers and opinion columnists. No one can call any of those people liberal and they have created a visible conservative presence on the editorial page, echoed by the choice of guest editorials. No one who is liberal feels at home with that new slant, which was most noticeable right after Trump's election.

      The NY Times is not like the many right wing propaganda outlets, but it is also NOT a liberal paper. To see this, remember the participation of the NY Times in trying to gain public support for the invasion of Iraq. Look at the treatment of Bill Clinton during his impeachment, and the attacks on his Foundation thereafter. Look at the extreme unbalance in issues-related coverage (much less favorable coverage) of Hillary's candidacies, both against Obama for the nomination, against Bernie and finally against Trump, where the NY Times ran hit-pieces and 24/7 articles about Benghazi and her emails. The NY Times didn't like Biden much and was negative toward his candidacy and since his election has been running Democrats in disarray stories, articles about his failures to pass legislation (ignoring what he did pass), articles exaggerating inflation, and Afghanistan criticisms. It is ridiculous to call the NY Times a liberal paper. And this is without saying anything about Bret Stephens and David Brooks and Maureen Dowd.

    4. As I’ve said before, the NYT is not you, Anonymouse 5:38am. Anonymices are not regular liberals. You are militants. It’s why you do this everyday.

      Don’t be concerned about that because recent history has shown us that the news room is filling up with little authoritarian managerial prigs like you. To the point where executives cower and editors are fired.

    5. Good riddance. The NY Times realized its mistake and corrected it. They are a business -- they can hire or fire whoever they want.

      You don't know the meanings of the words you use (e.g., authoritarian, prig). A manager is given authority by the business itself -- it is their job. Calling them authoritarian is a joke, except you don't mean it that way. You just don't think about what comes out of your mouth -- ever.

    6. I didn’t say they were managers. I said they are managerial prigs- woke Karens if you will, Einstein.

    7. mh, you wrote, "No one except an idiot thinks the New York Times or its editorial board speaks for liberals."

      I'm I'm unclear by what your mean by "speak for". However, if you're saying that the Times isn't a liberal paper, then I disagree.

    8. mh may be used to naked advocacy disguised as journalism. You see that a lot these days on online blogs, MSNBC etc. This is what he may expect of the NYT. It's not liberal if it's not sulfurous, self-righteous, naked advocacy of liberal memes (no matter how legitimate or how ridiculous).

    9. David, you are not the best arbiter of how much a newspaper reflects the views of a party you do not belong to.

    10. "As I’ve said before, the NYT is not you..."

      This is true. I'm a liberal. And the NY Times is a corporate-owned, Right-wing media mouthpiece for global corporations.

      When even an inveterate liar like Cecelia cops to the truth...

    11. "the NYT is not you"

      Can't you say that about anyone who isn't in the bag for the GOP?

    12. Anonymouse 9:20am, I’ve only copped to anonymices being militants rather liberals about every other day.

  5. "The author Taddeo's lies"

    What lie did Somerby prove in Taddeo's work?

    1. Taddeo talked about lying to her husband about having read a study on ski-lifts and child safety in order to manipulate him into always riding the lift with their daughter.

      Later in the piece she wished that her husband instinctively recognized her fears and wholeheartedly acted in a way that showed acceptance and an ungrudging desire to alleviate them.

      The stark change in her tone by the finish of her essay made me hope that too. For the family.