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February 01, 2005

Comments

The key point is something my dad has been saying for years (as have innumerable others, just not as trenchantly): being corrected by others doesn't count as "correction" (let alone "self-correction") unless you acknowledge your mistakes yourself, or give some kind of structural authority to the people giving the corrections. Otherwise it's just a lot of people contradicting each other.

Who needs "The Truth" when you got moral character?

Powerline:Fact checking?...we don't need no stink'n fact checking!

;-)

I disagree. If it helps democrats get elected I could care less if it's true, false, factual or whatnot. Republican groups don't seem to mind dealing in half truths and lies so why should I? So I can take the higher ground? Screw the higher ground I want to win. Nobody cares who has the higher ground.

I have no responsibility to anyone who reads my crappy little blog. They don't pay to read it, and it's a choice they make. Buyer Beware I say. If you go to powerline or any blog on either side and you believe everything you read there then you are an idiot. It's nice to have a pie in the sky dream of ethics but this is the internet. Anyone can and probably will self publish.

I think credibility is what will drive ethic sensibility here.

The man calls himself "Hindrocket" for crying out loud. How serious should we take him?

Bill: you're kidding, right?

hilzoy: about which part?

I did say Republican groups, not republicans, and yes it's not limited to that side either. Democrats do it too.

Well, when I read your post, Bill, a couple of things leapt to mind. Like: if I have my own moral principles, they are, well, mine, and they are supposed to govern my conduct. Nothing implies that they're a pie in the sky dream, except my own unwillingness to follow them. And: gee, is it obvious that credibility will get us nowhere, politically? And: even if it were, why not at least try to do the right thing and win at the same time? And, since it's fairly easy for people to check what I say, won't lying for supposed political gain just lose me whatever miniscule ability to speak to people on the other side I might have? And, do we really want to take part in the political analog of a scorched earth campaign, helping to destroy whatever is left of dialogue between both sides? And, do I in normal life feel free to harm other people, chuckling to myself that it's their fault for not bewaring enough? No. So why is blogging any different? And stuff like that.

if I have my own moral principles, they are, well, mine, and they are supposed to govern my conduct.

Well I thought you were going for a blogosphere wide code of ethics, not just your own personal set. My bad. Some people have little or no ethics. Should their blogs be regulated?


since it's fairly easy for people to check what I say, won't lying for supposed political gain just lose me whatever miniscule ability to speak to people on the other side I might have?

Yes it would. It would destroy your credibility with the other side and with a few on your own side as well I imagine. Therefore if you desired to be well read and to be considered as factual and "on target" you would strive to be credible right? Couldn't that desire to be credible in the readers eyes drive some form of ethics? Those who have no wish to be credible, well they do what they like and deal with the readers they get.

do we really want to take part in the political analog of a scorched earth campaign, helping to destroy whatever is left of dialogue between both sides?

I honestly could care less about the dialog or the scorched earth. It is what it is at any given time. I think at one time I did care, but that time is gone.

do I in normal life feel free to harm other people, chuckling to myself that it's their fault for not bewaring enough?

Physical harm? Of course not. Define harm. Is misleading someone really "harm"?


I hate to sound like a broken record, but a lot of this is about process. Powerlineblog and blogs in general are part of the process of raising issues to be examined. In the past, the process of which issues were to be raised was pretty much in the control of the main political parties and the mainstream media. That has changed somewhat (though less than many people realize) with blogs able to raise the awareness of certain issues in certain very limited ways. The process of blogs interacting each other often (though not always) allows for a fact-checking-like effect which in some cases may be better than found in the mainstream media. ObsidianWings and others of the very few multi-partisan blogs offer a good space for that to happen. It doesn't always happen on the high profile single point-of-view blogs because they become more of an echo chamber. I'm not sure the comments question resolves the issue, because comments on Atrios' board or at WashingtonMonthly or LGF are pretty much a useless zoo of commentors who pile on ridicule for dissenting points of view. The fact that Powerline doesn't offer comments (but does offer trackback) doesn't seem to be that damning because I suspect it would just be the right's Washington Monthly.

Well, yeah, Sebastian, but they also make statements in the indicative, statements that purport to be true, and that carry the weight of their author's credibility behind them. If Powerline wants to be simply a part of raising issues for consideration, they can say as much, and write posts that say: Here's an issue; consider it, rather than: Here's something that happened. Until they adopt these sorts of qualifications, I think we should take them at their word, and hold them responsible for what they say, for better or for worse.

The Star-Trib piece, by the way, reads like an Op-Ed, and no paper fact-checks Op-Eds. Problems with Op-Eds are supposed to reflect primarily on the credibility of the author, not the paper. Getting papers to even publish corrections to Op-Eds is difficult, so the Powerline blogger was being ridiculous.

"I think we should take them at their word, and hold them responsible for what they say, for better or for worse."

Sure, and they raised over the course of 4 months a huge number of issues regarding voter fraud in Racine, most of which have been proven quite credible--enough to get a federal indictment. If a regular newspaper were to write a series of stories on an issue, most of which were proven to be correct and one of which there was a tape that wasn't audible, I wouldn't consider that a particularly effective attack on their credibility. What seems to be happening in this particular instance is that people are taking a prosecutor's statement that he can't prove something beyond all reasonable doubt as an exoneration of the voting registration group. If all newspaper (or blog) stories had to be provable to that level, nothing would ever get reported.

In other words, I'm not at all sure that this instance is deserving of a correction.

Now I think bloggers in general ought to be able to point to their sources whenever possible. I will also note that the bloggers I read regularly don't rely on anonymous sources for important topics nearly as often as many newspapers I read.

Sometimes weblogs produce commentary, sometimes original reporting takes place. If a weblogger gets it wrong, he'll know right away if there are good comments sections. The good ones will make corrections quickly and forthrightly. A weblog isn't a finished journalistic product. It's more like an ongoing investigation, with reports and updates made as new information becomes available. I see a weblog as a virtual reporter's notebook, laid out for all to see. Sometimes we'll see great reporting and blockbuster news, other times we'll see dead ends. For that reason, I don't believe a weblog should be held to the exact same standards as professional journalists, but at the same time, we should be responsible for getting the facts right.

Rathergate is a very important event in American history. It is the first time it was proved that the media has been lying to get Democrats elected. This fact was suspected for 60 years but blogers such as Hindrocket proved it.

But but but .... Cambodia!!111!!! oopma loompa [email protected]!!11

The man calls himself "Hindrocket" for crying out loud. How serious should we take him?

I dunno; in real life, he's probably a pretty serious guy. When I was a new lawyer, I helped litigate a case against one of his partners, Ken Liebman -- who's a good guy and a good lawyer. And Faegre has a decent regional reputation.

Although I must say that I'm pretty surprised that my* case is listed as a "representative" patent infringement case on Faegre's website (http://www.faegre.com/firm_practice_detail.aspx?practiceID=123). Weird. Given the result, I wouldn't have thought it'd be used for horn-tooting. (No, I won't identify which case.)

von

*I'll call it "my" case even though, well, it clearly was very much more an "our."

I agree with the right-wingers, and I quote "Ethics are for Liberals and Islamofacsist and traitors who hate liberty!"

God is dead (except for those born-again, they are REALLY beyond good and evil).

"The American Spirit will not be crushed by morals!!!"

I heard a group of Republicans chant that before they went to work.

Really...someone told me.

"It is the first time it was proved that the media has been lying to get Democrats elected. This fact was suspected for 60 years but blogers such as Hindrocket proved it."

Indeed. It's the only possible explanation for how the Democrats have maintained such a lock on the Presidency for so many decades. Eisenhower, Eisenhower, Nixon, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Reagan, Bush, Bush, Bush: all flukes. Republican control of both houses of Congress, Republicans having nominated the majority of the Supreme Court: all due to the Democratic media. If only Republicans could own newspapers and magazines and tv stations and radio stations and media conglomerates, and control whom they hire, and what editorial line is taken!

But that could never happen, due to the way employees control the owners of corporations in America! The Democrats in power fixed it that way!

Also, a lot of kidnapping of good Republicans by aliens. We have proof!

"It's the only possible explanation for how the Democrats have maintained such a lock on the Presidency for so many decades."

Assuming that the media slants toward Democrats (which honestly I don't have the energy to argue about today), unless you also assume that the media is almost all-powerful, it would seem quite possible that the American people could elect Republicans anyway--it would just be harder for Republicans to be elected than Democrats.

Although I like Powerline, in this instance I agree with you, hilzoy -- the story shouldn't have been published without fact-checking. But look what Atrios and Drum did with it [Atrios]
"Conservative bloggers engage in faith-based blogging."
"Wankers" [Atrios referring to conservative blogs]
"The most laughable member of the conservative blowhard group" [Drum referring to Hugh Hewitt]

If someone here said "leftie blogs suck" they'd be rightfully laughed at, but Drum and Atrios can't resist using Powerline's misstep to smear every blog on the right. An inferiority complex at work? How bilious.

It's begining to look systematic...I mean the lies about a certain Liberal Vet sure were repeated over and over and over. They were the biggest cheerleaders, as well as the MSM they claim to hate, on the run-up to the war...this is not a rare moment.

I object to the term "fact-checking" as used here. That sounds to me like something you do if your going to write about George Washington and want to make sure you have his year of birth right.

This is more in the category of confirming stories, or even "not accusing people of bad deeds without evidence." Judgmental types might go so far as to suggest it has to do with telling the truth. Let's not use a bit of journalistic jargon to minimize this responsibility.

Here's a real Powerline winner: "the alleged failure to find WMDs in Iraq."

Someone better let them know that that one's not on the talking points anymore.

Link

"they also make statements in the indicative, statements that purport to be true, and that carry the weight of their author's credibility behind them."

I agree, but this does reminds me of something...

Kerry said:
Kerry said that the United Nations should have control over most of our foreign military operations. "I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."

Bush said:
Senator Kerry's approach to foreign policy would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions.


smlook,

Speaking of ethics, you might want to give a cite for that Kerry quote, so people know that it's 30+ years old. Not that that would be at all relevant to Bush's present characterizations of Kerry's positions or anything.

smlook, why are you trying to derail this thread?

"SEN. KERRY: That's one of those stupid things that a 27-year-old kid says when you're fresh back from Vietnam and angry about it. I have never, ever, ever, in any vote, in any policy, in any speech, in any public statement advocated any such thing in all of the years I've been in elected office."

Good example of ideology biasing your reporting though. That part was topical.

If someone here said "leftie blogs suck" they'd be rightfully laughed at, but Drum and Atrios can't resist using Powerline's misstep to smear every blog on the right.

No they're not. Drum is saying that there's a conservative blowhard group of which Hugh Hewitt is a typical member (and he's right), not that all conservatives are blowhards. Atrios has been calling particular conservatives wankers since long before Powerline came out; I believe it's a reference to a Poor Man post from last month in which the latter argued that the reason the country is so messed up is that we Americans don't have a word for "wanker".

I think in the long run, this sort of thing takes care of itself -- if someone repeatedly posts stories that turn out to be bunk, the people who care about accuracy will stop reading him/her, or at least not take him/her seriously. Personally, I'm skeptical of any newsflash that looks like it simply reinforces the author's bias and always wait to see confirmation from an independent or opposite-wing source.

Regarding comments, I don't think they're essential, as long as the bloggers can be reached by email and are conscientious about posting corrections. I've seen Marshall, Volokh, etc. post updates based on email they've received. But the advantage of comments is that readers can see all objections raised, unfiltered by what the author considers update-worthy, and make up their own minds.

So Anarch, a misstatement on dKos is a sound basis for me to call Atrios a left-wing "blowhard " "Wanker" "(which he is)". OK. Now I understand the rules.

By the way Hilzoy (& I meant to mention this in my last comment): Excellent post.

the posters and many commenters on this blog deserve extraordinary credit for keeping a consistently high quality blog.

but it's up to each of us if we want to keep the comment thread readable. given the hosts' reluctance to ban and disemvowel, we commenters must make an ongoing commitment to try to ADD VALUE.

ye gods, just look at the LGF, Atrios and WM comment threads! the few commenters making any effort to make a substantive comment are drowned out by utterly childish point-scoring and name-calling.

I'm a guest here and guilty of prior misconduct, so there is some hypocrisy here. but i apologized and since then i have tried to have something relevant and accurate to say before posting.

i urge all us regular commenters to use the preview button and see if our post is something we would want to read if another posted it. Have we said something relevant and interesting? if an opinion, is it unique or merely a copy? if factual, has some effort been made to determine truth or falsity?

[hmm, i sound more than usual like a sanctimonious p***k. but i like it here and i don't want to see it ruined.]

Francis

So Anarch, a misstatement on dKos is a sound basis for me to call Atrios a left-wing "blowhard " "Wanker" "(which he is)". OK. Now I understand the rules.

Did you not read my post? I said that Atrios was doing it before any of this Powerline nonsense came up; he's calling people wankers because he believes they're wankers, not to slight person A because person B screwed up. If you feel that Atrios is worthy of the designation "wanker", knock yourself out. I think you're wrong, but frankly I couldn't care less; the only thing I'd ask is that you refrain from doing so here since it's not a great way to get a productive debate going.

I think in the long run, this sort of thing takes care of itself -- if someone repeatedly posts stories that turn out to be bunk, the people who care about accuracy will stop reading him/her, or at least not take him/her seriously.

This is, unfortunately, wrong. Very, very wrong.

Hi -- just back from a long meeting, groan. A few things: Sebastian: "people are taking a prosecutor's statement that he can't prove something beyond all reasonable doubt as an exoneration of the voting registration group. If all newspaper (or blog) stories had to be provable to that level, nothing would ever get reported." -- That's not what I was trying to say. I had actually meant to put up the original story, say "gee, I have no idea if this is true, but if it is...", and get to the point. But I didn't get around to doing this yesterday, though I did some of the legwork, and today when I checked Powerline to see if they had a response, they did, and I thought: gee, a federal criminal investigation?, checked, found that there wasn't, and then thought: this is actually relevant.

So all I really meant to say was: as far as I can tell, this statement is not true. (I.e., not "the original allegations were untrue", but "it did not lead to a federal criminal investigation, as Hindrocket said.") Again, as far as I could tell. This may reflect only the fact that such Google searches as " 'voter fraud'+'Racine, Wisconsin'+"federal' " and stuff like that weren't the right ones to pull up the story.)

Von: thanks.

Bernard: I agree. I wasn't trying to minimize his responsibility, and sorry if it came off that way.

Anarch, you missed the significance of the quotes in my post. This has devolved into a rubber-glue dialogue.

One point that I see was partially alluded to (Brian S. at 3:10) that I would expand is that newspapers, when they go on the web, lose the physical structure that undergirds their rhetoric. For ex. there was the problem where a NYTimes writer 'outed' some Iraqi bloggers as having been paid by the US government. Yet the original article appeared in the Style section by an writer who was a comedy writer rather than a political one. Because people can go straight to the article w/o actually knowing how it fits into the newspaper, the opportunities for misunderstandings and outright misrepresentations increases dramatically.

I think the solution comes down to consistency and recognizing it. I don't think Atrios pretends to be someone who is researching and making presentations on particular subjects, he accepts that he is a partisan. Unfortunately, a lot of others (notably among those mentioned by Drum) like to fashion themselves as neutral researchers when they present their 'facts' and then spin around to take those facts to show how it demonstrates their point of view. I mean, do you really think Malkin is qualified as a historian?

While I love the fact that when something happens somewhere where I don't have much expertise, I can find a number of people who have a passionate interest in it, a long ago blog comment summed it up the problem best for me, which was that any hot topic attracts a coterie of wannabe experts who feel that an evening spent with Google gives them expert status. Genocide in Darfur, hey, let me explain exactly what is happening there, questions about election fraud, let me explain what the law that I just read says, let me reference some posts I made on another blog to show you that I know what I am talking about.

Despite the provocative way he phrases it, Bill has a point. There is no way to establish a blogging code of ethics, which is why group blogs are so important. One has to assume that they would demand a uniformity at some level, though given time and distance considerations, that may be impossible. I recall that Clayton Cramer was once a Volokh conspirator, but was kicked off/asked to leave/left of his own volition when it became clear that his standards of assertion did not seem to match the other conspirators.

One suggestion (and this may be impossible, it's just a suggestion) would be a monthly review of the posts which have over a certain number of comments (a high enough number so as to reduce the workload) and a 'hive-mind' review of the problems (or non-problems) of the post (not the thread) Just a thought.

Kerry said: Kerry said that the United Nations should have control over most of our foreign military operations. "I'm an internationalist. I'd like to see our troops dispersed through the world only at the directive of the United Nations."

Bush said:
Senator Kerry's approach to foreign policy would give foreign governments veto power over our national security decisions.

Let's match quotes fairly. Kerry said that well over thirty years ago, and long ago disavowed it; presumably one either allows everyone the slack to disclaim and condemn something they said thirty years ago, or not. Mr. Bush's major political statement thirty years ago was along the lines of: *burp*.

And then he had another beer.

Shall we all agree that bringing up something someone said thirty years ago, and has subsequently condemned, is an unfair tactic that says more about the user than any other point? Smlook? Agree or disagree? By all means, show us your blog ethics.

Gary: when I think about being held accountable for the statements I made around thirty years ago (say, when I was a Muslim (don't ask; it only lasted six weeks), and in summer camp (have you ever tried being a twelve year old Muslim WASP-y type in summer camp? Somehow, I suspect not. Count your blessings) -- well, let's just say it's not a happy thought.

I don't think comments would do much to provide corrections. I think the most effective way for the high traffic blogs to ensure they fix errors would be to read their trackbacks and technorati links, and to encourage readers to send emails about factual errors--and ONLY emails about factual errors--to a specific hotmail/yahoo account or with a specific subject line (something imaginative like: CORRECTION).

As for determining a source's credibility: ask yourself, could a newspaper reporter or op ed writer legitimately rely on or quote this source? If so, great, run with it. If not, ask yourself: does the story have enough credibility, and is it important or interesting enough to link to it anyway? If so, great, link to it, but explain why you have doubts about its veracity, & keep an eye on the story & correct if it turns out to be false.

I also tend to think that, while there is no moral obligation to cover or write about any topic or story, or to shrink from stating your opinion--if you cover one side of the story with any frequency or depth, you should make some effort to cover the whole story. Like, I think it would be less than ethical for me to write about extraordinary rendition under Bush, and deliberately omit the evidence that it actually began under Clinton. And vice versa.

I'm looking at the top ten right-of-center weblogs on the Truth Laid Bear Ecosystem....in order:

I think Instapundit, Powerline, LGF, Michelle Malkin, and the Drudge Report do very badly by these standards--Instapundit less than the others; he corrects his own errors but does not provide context and takes no responsibility for his links. Andrew Sullivan does pretty well. Volokh does very well. Hugh Hewitt is awful.

caveat: I am not a regular reader of any of those weblogs except Sullivan and Volokh so I wouldn't necessarily know for sure. As far as right-of-center blogs that meet a high standard, without going into our own commenters: Tacitus in the olden days, Dan Drezner, Greg Djeridjan, Tom Maguire.

On the liberal side: Kos is a really mixed bag as far as accuracy; most posters don't attempt to tell both sides of the story but some do. Atrios is incredibly partisan and not so fair to Republicans, but very good about correcting his own errors and not bad about taking responsibility for his links. Josh Marshall, Kevin Drum, Crooked Timber and Matthew Yglesias, Juan Cole, and Brad DeLong are all very good.

Oh, and the New Republic and the American Prospect outclass The Corner by miles and miles. I don't read the Nation weblogs so much.

I am extremely skeptical as to whether this takes care of itself. Just look at the top ten for crying out loud. People like to read people who agree with them.

As with the traditional media: I know I am influenced by my own ideology, but even when I do my best to control for that I think the port side is noticeably more credible than the starboard side.

I stand by everything I said thirty years ago -- that I can remember. I do remember having a beer, though.

Thirty years ago I was in a death-race with another sperm. I won, but what happens in the Vas Deferens stays in the Vas Deferens, if you know what I'm saying. It's a jungle in there.

On topic,
I believe that we are currently in a gluttonous period where everyone's excited about breaking out of the stodgy rules of journalism past. "We don't have to be even-handed anymore. . yay!". Eventually, say within 5 years, a post-modern malaise/hangover will set in, people will have crises of faith since they won't know who to trust anymore, and the pendulum will swing back with some organizations taking a serious stab at unbiased reporting.

I stand by everything I said thirty years ago

I do as well. And if I didn't become the first horn in a major symphony orchestra while simultaneously earning a Pulitzer for my poetry and not being able to speak several language fluently should be attributed to factors totally beyond my control.

I am extremely skeptical as to whether this takes care of itself. Just look at the top ten for crying out loud. People like to read people who agree with them.

Guess I should clarify what I meant by "takes care of itself" -- I'm not saying that every blogger who regularly posts sloppily-researched and biased articles will be abandoned, just that people who value accuracy more than ideology will not be likely to be misled for very long, since a distorted or one-sided story on a blog of any prominence will quickly be debunked by other blogs (usually those with the opposite tilt).

People who just want to see their own biases confirmed don't care about accuracy, and I don't see why we should worry about their being regularly exposed to slanted or sloppy material, since they're actively seeking it out.

We should worry about it, because it's the same thing as narrowcast news slanted to fit a particular pov: people wind up in an echo chamber, where hopeful rumor graduates fast to established fact, and the vector between perceived truth and objective truth widens accordingly.

I'm very liberal, and I don't go much to dKos anymore because of the echo chamber phenom. dKos has some good diaries, but the main conversation threads have become IMO very shallow. I actually wonder if the thread format has as much to do with that as the self-selected audience; I'm beginning to really dislike branching comment trees.

WM is still a very good place for certain topics; science and economics bring out a lot of posters who actually know those subjects. Drum's posts on evolution-v.-creationism and on the finances of SocSec were informative and lively.

WM is still a very good place for certain topics; science and economics bring out a lot of posters who actually know those subjects. Drum's posts on evolution-v.-creationism and on the finances of SocSec were informative and lively.

The advantage is that, as a long-time reader and erstwhile commenter, I know from the first which posters are worth reading and which I can probably skip. So all I have to do is scroll down to see what they have to say and, if they refer to another post, search back up to read that one thing. I can get through a whole 200+ comment thread in about ten minutes that way without elevating my blood pressure in the slightest.

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