|<< The Creeping Tyranny of Government Control||The Sixth Anniversary >>|
In an e-mail entitled “Why you’re bad for democracy,” a reader takes me to task for this post, in which I passed along a study analyzing the political contributions of journalists. (The study said that reporters give $9 to Democrats and liberal causes for every $1 given to Republicans and conservative causes.)
The e-mailer wrote:
It’s so funny that someone who blogs about biased reporting does what you did:
You quote Mark Singer as saying...
“If someone had murdered Hitler Ã¢â‚¬â€? a journalist interviewing him had murdered him Ã¢â‚¬â€? the world would be a better place. I only feel good, as a citizen, about getting rid of George Bush, who has been the most destructive president in my lifetime. I certainly donÃ¢â‚¬â„¢t regret it.Ã¢â‚¬?
In fact, the quote, in the very article to which you linked, was...
“If someone had murdered Hitler Ã¢â‚¬â€? a journalist interviewing him had murdered him Ã¢â‚¬â€? the world would be a better place. As a citizen, I can only feel good ABOUT PARTICIPATING IN A GET-OUT-THE-VOTE-EFFORT to get rid of George Bush, who has been the most destructive president in my lifetime. I certainly don’t regret it.”
You actually then proceeded to suggest that he advocated the murder of Bush (”Ah yes, the fine reporter would have killed President Bush”), when in fact, he was actually EXPLICITLY supporting the notion of ousting him by the vote - which in case you didn’t realize it, is actually what democracy is all about.
I know you’re not too stupid to know the absolutely massive distance in meaning between your quote and the actual quote. So I can only assume you deliberately chose to misquote him. So you could skew it to your own biases. If that’s not “Michael Moore-ish”, then I don’t know what is!
You should be ashamed of yourself.
The reader is correct in pointing out that the article now contains the Singer quote as rendered in the e-mail.
However, the quote as shown in my post is a direct copy-and-paste from the MSNBC article as it appeared at the time of my post. That’s always how I quote chunks of text from other sources. I’m too lazy to retype all those long quotes.
Whenever I modify something I’m quoting, I enclose all changes in brackets, even if I’m just changing the case of a single letter at the beginning of a word. If I’m removing anything from the quote, I note this using an ellipses enclosed in brackets: “This is a quote from which I’ve removed a few [...] words.”
I do this whether I’m removing a word, a sentence, or a paragraph.
The only exception to the rule of using brackets is if I’m changing the case of a publication that for stylistic reasons capitalizes words or several words at the beginning of a paragraph or section.
This is a standard that I’ve used since starting Brain Terminal over six years ago.
I can’t guarantee that I haven’t missed something, and if I have in any way rendered a quote inaccurately, I hope vigilant readers will let me know. I will post the criticism, I will note the mistake, and I will somehow correct the original post.
Still, I do know that the quote in my original post is a direct copy-and-paste. In this case, MSNBC must have modified the page after my post.
Outlets often quietly change text after an article’s original publication. I sometimes update posts after they’re published if there is a simple typo or of I decide that different wording conveys my thoughts and feelings more accurately. I’ve seen a number of establishment media outlets change text after publication without noting it.
In the future, I should keep screenshots of quotes I cite in order to have more fixed documentation than a simple web link can provide.
[Update: Another reader found proof that the original text of the article matched what I originally quoted in my post.]
But even with the new wording, I don’t think Mark Singer sounds any more sympathetic.
A good writer knows that mere juxtaposition can cause readers to draw inferences that the writer doesn’t want to explicitly state. In this case, Singer doesn’t want to come out and say it would be a good thing to kill President Bush, but here is what he said (at least as it appears in the MSNBC article as of now):
1. Singer says there should “probably [...] be a rule against” journalists making political contributions.
2. Singer then says, “But there’s a rule against murder.”
3. He then states it would have been good to murder Hitler (thereby implying that a rule against murder isn’t necessarily a good thing).
4. And then he starts talking about “feel[ing] good about participating in a get-out-the-vote effort to get rid of George Bush, who has been the most destructive president in my lifetime.”
Either the leap from item 3 to item 4 is an addle-brained non-sequitur, or Singer is saying (1) it’s not necessarily good that there’s a rule against murder, but there is and (2) that’s why I contribute money to anti-Bush causes. And if it isn’t necessarily bad to murder someone as destructive as Hitler, is it such a leap to assume that Singer would support murdering someone he considers “the most destructive president in [his] lifetime.”
I suspect Singer didn’t put those statements in that order by accident. If he’s smart enough and a good enough writer to work for the New Yorker, then I don’t think he’s careless with words.
My take on it is, he’s equating President Bush with Hitler and hinting that Bush’s murder would be a positive event.