I’ve calmed down enough after reading Sarah Boxer’s New York Times sliming of the Iraq The Model/Liberal Iraqi bloggers – the three brothers, two of whom I met and admired in Boston last month – to try write about it without sputtering in incoherent rage.
I’m not angry that she could credit the idea that they are plants without doing any research (hey, she writes for the Arts pages, why bother looking anything up?); I’m not upset that her approving comments only come in areas where the Administration or the war is criticized (hey, she works for the New York Times).
I’m angry because of the careless and cheap way she makes her case, and worse – that the vaunted editors who are supposed to be the boundary between bloggers and journalists, after all (that and the resources to do research, which in her case obviously don’t include an Internet connection capable of using Google or Technorati) let her make such a cheap and careless case.
N.Z. Bear mocked it perfectly, but let me push the point a little further and possibly make it clear why “I’m just sayin'” hearsay journalism is so infuriating.Let’s make believe that I’m a fervent anti-New York Times blogger – I even have as a part of my masthead a mission statement that “This blog campaigns for the removal of the Editor and Publisher of the New York Times.”
I seize on every opening to make the Times and their campaign to gain circulation and ad revenue look bad.
As a part of this, based on my discovery that one of their journalists is from Colorado, is from an area noted for hog farming, and in high school published a sexually explicit poem in a local alternative weekly about the rape of the virginal Gaiea by a giant hog – which in the poem represents the wasteful, patriarchal, white Anglo-Saxon oppression that makes up Amerikka – and I put up a post on my blog that asks:
Did New York Times reporter Suzie Creamcheese have sex with pigs? [Ed. – extra points if you can remember where this accusation came from…]
An internet chat board suggests that a subculture of transgressive high school students used pigs as sex toys. One reporter actually wrote a poem about it, and published it in a local newspaper, We can’t verify that this reporter actually did have sex with a pig, but there are suspiciously pro-pig writings in her high school yearbook, as reported to us by her ex-boyfriend.
Justifiably, my blog would be swamped in angry comments from people who point out that the poem could be interpreted in several ways that don’t support woman-pig sex, and that the chat board is one where people also suggest that Elvis, JFK, and Marilyn Monroe live together in a mansion on Cape Cod which suggests that the veracity of the posts ought to be questioned. The ex-boyfriend who sent the tip to the blog had a restraining order placed on him by Ms. Creamcheese, and there are dozens of other criticisms of the ‘facts’ that were presented on my blog, leaving me with little on which to base my conclusion.
But now – because I said it on the blog – we have a news story, and the Village Voice runs with it:
“Blogger calls New York Times Reporter Pig-F**ker”
In this case, it would be factually true – a blogger did say that.
But it’s also false, because the facts were ignored by the reporter who wrote the story, as was the side of the “controversy” that didn’t support the original blogger’s and the reporter’s biases.
In the absence of facts, you can report a controversy, but it’s fundamentally dishonest not to report the whole controversy. And the problem, of course, is that the targets of your smears have to – as LBJ famously suggested – publicly deny that they have sex with pigs.
Did a dingbat who explains on his blog that his goal in life is to bring down President Bush make these charges against the ITM bloggers on nonexistent facts? You betcha.
Were his facts immediately challenged, and in every case disproved? You betcha.
Did Sarah Boxer report on any of that? Nope.
Did she have sex with pigs? Well, I’ll leave that for her to deny. And yes, I’d love to hear her do it.