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Friday, June 06, 2003
Freudian slip
The Guardian has admitted that the article I (and every other blogger) jumped all over was wrong, and has actually taken the step of removing the article from their site. (Doesn't that seem awfully sneaky, by the way? While I certainly endorse the practice of printing corrections, should a paper really hide its errors by rewriting history to pretend they never published the error in the first place?) At least one blogger has suggested that the error may have occurred because the reporter was working with the German translation of the speech rather than the actual transcript of the speech. That seems slightly plausible, given how quick they were to admit that they were wrong. So let's assume it was an honest, unintentional error.

But step back a minute, and try to figure out exactly what they were thinking. First, a reporter had to read the speech and interpret it that way. Then, an editor had to approve the story. And neither one thought anything was strange about this story, as written? Wouldn't someone reporting such a bombshell pause for a minute and consider whether there was something wrong with it? And if they did, and concluded that it was reasonable? What does that say about them?

In order to believe that this story was reasonable, they would, fundamentally, have to believe that it was true: the U.S. war was about oil. Okay, well, a lot of people believe that, although I'm not sure they have a clear grasp of what "about oil" would mean. But they would also have to believe either that (a) the Bush administration had suddenly, inexplicably, decided to admit this inconvenient truth, or that (b) it was such a self-evident truth that Wolfowitz just couldn't help but admit it, even though he was trying to keep it a secret.

If that doesn't sound that strange to you, insert different facts. Would you think it remarkable if Jacques Chirac "admitted" that he opposed the war because he doesn't like Jews? Or if Gerhard Schroeder "admitted" he did so because he was on Saddam Hussein's payroll? If you heard either of those things secondhand, even if you believed it, wouldn't you say to yourself, "Hey, wait, that can't be right. He wouldn't say that. Maybe I'd better doublecheck that"? Of course you would. For neither the reporter nor his editor to do so? Can't you just picture them sitting there, reading it, nodding, and saying, smugly, "Well, of course. I already knew that. No point in going to the original source. That's obvious." For one guy to do it, well, someone can be biased. But for two people (or more, for that matter)? What kind of groupthink is there over at the Guardian?

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