Saturday, December 1, 2007

What happens when rumors are really just lies?

The Washington Post's cartoonist Tom Toles has poked some barbed comments at his paper's treatment of some false rumors, i.e. lies, being spread about Obama.

Toles' cartoon was prompted by how the Post handled a story concerning the false reports afloat that Obama is secretly a Muslim who will take the oath of office on a Koran. Whatever you think of the inexperienced Senator from Illinois, this is completely untrue.

The Washington Post, in writing about it, presented "both sides of the issue" and discussed the rumors [aka lies] without explicitly stating that the story is just false. The Post's Lois Romano's defended the way in which the paper presented the story. Since this discussion has become so heated, Romano said, the Post's
editors decided it was in the readers interest to address it. I have heard people say that they won't support Sen. Obama because they read he doesn't put is hand over his heart during the Pledge of Allegiance. He has denied this -- so airing some of this and giving him a chance to deny its accuracy could be viewed as setting the record straight.
This is, as Salon's Glenn Greenwald observes, patently absurd. The Post should have called these rumors what they are: lies. To compound matters the Post gave the story the following headline:
Foes Use Obama's Muslim Ties to Fuel Rumors About Him
What the Post should have done, Greenwald notes, is what the New York Times did yesterday in a story on how Giuliani uses statistics about his supposedly stellar mayoral record.
All of these statements are incomplete, exaggerated or just plain wrong . . . .An examination of many of his statements by The New York Times, other news organizations and independent groups have turned up a variety of misstatements, virtually all of which cast Mr. Giuliani or his arguments in a better light.
Why am I blogging about this? Because of the decided parallel to how the media often handles claims by Holocaust deniers. Mercifully, this has been less the case with David Irving's contentions since he lost his attempt to sue me for libel. His claims about the Holocaust were exposed as lies and fabrications.

I wonder however if we will soon see the Washington Post presenting "both sides" of the Holocaust denial argument.

Presenting two sides is a good thing when there are two sides. But one "side" is a complete lie it should unequivocally be treated as such.

The Washington Post failed that test.



If this man is a USA Senator then he desrves our respect and admiration. To get there he must have walked many a long mile, worn many shoes and got faith, It matters not whether he slices his food with a fork, the guys a Senator. Hate him, lampoon him and 25 million not surpised voices will say 'It's because he was black' thats why he was given an hard time. And maybe there right?
And the Washington Post was wrong, destroying a mans credibilty of office by passing on hurtful gossip. P.S The Wa Post site hit me with 3 pop-ups, 2 questionaires, and the register form was awesome.

Hume's Ghost said...

In case you didn't catch it at Greenwald's ... I thought this Molly Ivins column hit the nail on the head:

And when the going gets tough for the press in America, the press fudges, the press jellies. That's what we're doing now. We are retreating to a fine old American press cop-out we like to call objectivity. Russell Baker once described it: "In the classic example, a refugee from Nazi Germany who appears on television saying monstrous things are happening in his homeland must be followed by a Nazi spokesman saying Adolf Hitler is the greatest boon to humanity since pasteurized milk. Real objectivity would require not only hard work by news people to determine which report was accurate, but also a willingness to put up with the abuse certain to follow publication of an objectively formed judgement. To escape the hardwork or the abuse, if one man says Hitler is an ogre, we instantly give you another to say Hitler is a prince. A man says the rockets won't work? We give you another who says they will.

"The public may not learn much about these fairly sensitive matters, but neither does it get another excuse to denounce the media for unfairness and lack of objectivity. In brief, society is teeming with people who become furious if told what the score is."

The American press has always had a tendency to assume that the truth must lie exactly halfway between any two opposing points of view. Thus, if the press presents the man who says Hitler is an ogre and the man who says Hitler is a prince, it believes it has done the full measure of its journalistic duty.

hockey hound said...

"the false reports afloat that Obama is secretly a Muslim"

What is Obama anyway? Has he ever professed his faith publicly?

Happy Hanukkah, Fairplay. Cheers.