Thursday, April 07, 2005

Self-correcting indeed

So, can someone explain to me exactly how this "self-correcting nature of the blogosphere" thing is supposed to work?

Because it's just a masturbatory fantasy if the people who make mistakes fail to adequately correct themselves when their errors are pointed out.

Which means, when it comes to right-wing bloggers, we can pretty much fuggedaboutit. Being conservative, as we know, means never having to say you're sorry.

Case in point: Powerline, the Time "Blog of the Year."

Powerline, you'll recall, made its reputation for supposedly exposing "Rathergate," even though none of its claims held up under careful scrutiny. But stardom being what it is on Planet Conservative, no one paid that any mind.

So when Powerline began leading a fresh bandwagon questioning the authenticity of the Republican memo calling the Terri Schiavo matter a "great politicial issue" for the GOP, many wondered how it would turn out. Notably, Powerline, just as it did with the Rathergate memos, posted a copy of the memo, pointing to technical and authorial details it believed revealed that, once again, the memo was "fake" -- a characterization it maintained over subsequent weeks.

John Hinderaker, the chief author of the Powerline posts, went on to publish a piece in the Weekly Standard claiming it had the smell of a "political dirty trick" (talk about projection!), and even went into "Rathergate"-like ruminations on its authenticity:
Questions about the genuineness of the memo intensified when, later the same day, the far-left website Raw Story published, for the first time, a JPEG version of the scanned memo, which it said "[a] source on Capitol Hill has leaked." The print version of the memo, as posted on Raw Story, was identical to ABC's "exact, full copy of the document," except that the four typos that ABC had identified with a "sic" were all corrected. Interestingly, however, the fifth typo--"applicably" instead of "applicable" in the sixth paragraph--which ABC did not so identify, was not corrected in Raw Story's "leaked" version of the document.

Powerline's obsession with the "Schiavo memo" lasted for at least a couple of weeks. Throughout, it consistently called it "fake" or "apparently fake." It even repeated the charge opn Wednesday.

But then it turned out this morning in the Washington Post that they were all wet:
Counsel to GOP Senator Wrote Memo On Schiavo

The legal counsel to Sen. Mel Martinez (R-Fla.) admitted yesterday that he was the author of a memo citing the political advantage to Republicans of intervening in the case of Terri Schiavo, the senator said in an interview last night.

Brian H. Darling, 39, a former lobbyist for the Alexander Strategy Group on gun rights and other issues, offered his resignation and it was immediately accepted, Martinez said.

It's noteworthy that, even when caught, the mendacity from Republicans continues. Martinez was effusive in his mea culpa, but then tried to claim that he "inadvertently passed it to Sen. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa), who had worked with him on the issue. After that, officials gave the memo to reporters for ABC News and The Washington Post."

Of course, this characterization of events -- from a senator whose previous veracity has not held up well -- was immediately seized upon by the bloggers whose own miserable relationship with the truth had just been exposed. Powerline does report the memo's authorship, but nowhere points out that its voluminous speculation on the matter, as well as its constant characterization of the memos as "apparently fake," was wrong, wrong, wrong. Then it goes on expend thousands more words explaining that it's all Tom Harkin's and Mike Allen's fault!

Roughly translated: "Yes, well, the memo was real, and we were kinda a little bit teensy wrong, mumble mumble. (If you're going to start talking about the gross irresponsibility of my groundless speculation, I'll just cover my ears.) But hey! We can still find someone else to blame."

One problem with that: Harkin says otherwise, according to the Post story:
Harkin said in an interview that Martinez handed him the memo on the Senate floor, in hopes of gaining his support for the bill giving federal courts jurisdiction in the Florida case in an effort to restore the brain-damaged Florida woman's feeding tube. "He said these were talking points -- something that we're working on here," Harkin said.

Not only does conservatism mean never having to say you're sorry, now we can add a corollary: The blogosphere is self-correcting, but this only pertains to the left, since the right never needs correcting, because it is always right even when it is wrong.

UPDATE: Media Matters gives a thorough accounting.

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