Abandon Text!

W. H. Auden once said: "Poems are not finished; they are abandoned." I have been abandoning writing projects for many years, since only the pressure of deadline and high expectations ever got me to finish, or even start, anything of merit. This blog is an attempt to create a more consistent, self-directed writing habit. Hopefully a direction and voice will emerge.

Sunday, February 18, 2007

Scooter What's-His-Face

The Onion may be a satirical newspaper, but it usually does a thorough job of checking its facts. A spoof of post-modernism is that much funnier when the author shows they really do know what post-modernism is about, amd what post-modernist professors are really like, before skewering it.

So I was surprised when today I discovered the first-ever factual error in an Onion feature. In their coverage of the Scooter Libby trial, the Onion states that he is "is on trial for identifying CIA agent Valerie Plame to the press." Well, no, actually he's on trial for perjury, for allegedly lying under oath about who leaked the name of Valerie Plame to the press. The person who really leaked the name is already known: Richard Armitage, former deputy secretary of state. He is charged with no crime, presumably because, as it turns out, Valerie Plame's identity wasn't that important (she had a desk job) nor was it particularly secret (lots of people knew about it and the CIA freely confirmed her identity when asked.) See the Wikipedia article for the gory details.

So, it would be more accurate to say: "Scooter Libby is on trial for allegedly lying about a non-coverup for a non-crime."

So why does The Onion's error bug me? (At least, enough to write about it on a Sunday morning?)
  • I happen to know the real story, and feel smug about being right.
  • I get to be morally indignant about how awful such confusions are, since they are exactly the same sort of logical fallacies that make people think Saddam Hussein had something to do with 9/11.
  • I'm annoyed that I don't get to display my smugness and moral indignation directly to The Onion, since they have absolutely no feedback forms of any kind (no doubt because they got tired of unsolicited story ideas, and no we don't publish unsolicited material, and for God's sake it's just a humor site anyway, Jesus why don't you get a life?)
  • Twenty years of reading Dorothy Rabinowitz's coverage of falsely accused people in the Wall Street Journal makes me especially sympathetic when someone seems to be getting a bum rap.



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