« Why I hate The New Republic | Main | Grace Paley, R.I.P. »

August 23, 2007

Some Of My Best Friends Are TNR Fact-Checkers

By Ezra

Though I sympathize with many of the sentiments in Kathy's blast against TNR, I feel compelled to say that I don't think this is right:

The obnoxious white boy entitlement complex probably also explains why TNR has harbored more than its share of frauds and fantasists. Because if you’re as special as we are who needs fact-checkers, right?

I know a lot of the folks in the TNR fact-checking department, and I don't know of another Washington magazine where verification is taken half so seriously. There are various theories as to why TNR's gotten punk'd so many times -- including that they strive for Atlantic-style long-form narrative articles while on an American Prospect style budget -- but the place is littered with fact-checkers , and they do their best. The nature of this medium lends itself to fabulists, and only so much can actually be fact-checked. TNR has come in for more than their share of liars, but that seems more like bad luck and a soft spot for narrative work -- which can evade fact-checking, as it relies on personal integrity -- than an attitudinal issue. And given the mania over Beauchamp's article, I think it's important to point that out.

Indeed, it's a shame that so much attention is given to untrue narratives -- which, really, can only be protected against so much, and are published because readers love them -- and so little offered to untrue arguments. The Weekly Standard, which led the charge against Beauchamp, is a locus of bullshit, from flagrantly untrue portrayals of Iraq to discredited supply-siderism, but somehow, such quackery never attracts The New York Times' notice. We demand truth in our colorful tales but accept lies in our serious arguments about public policy. It's infuriating.

August 23, 2007 | Permalink

Comments

Oh, jeez, Ezra, just send them your resume already.

Seriously, though, this is a great point:

We demand truth in our colorful tales but accept lies in our serious arguments about public policy.

Posted by: Stephen | Aug 23, 2007 5:44:51 PM

> The nature of this medium lends itself to
> fabulists, and only so much can actually be
> fact-checked.

Stephen Glass was making up quotes wholesale from non-existent trade organizations and trade press. He did that for 9 months, and he was only caught when a guy who read _Nuclear News_ regularly called up TNR and asked them where he could find the supposed nuclear trade press that Glass was quoting. 9 months and none of those fact checkers were ever concerned that they couldn't locate any of these trade organizations and experts?

Cranky

Posted by: Cranky Observer | Aug 23, 2007 5:45:11 PM

No Exit.

Posted by: Atrios | Aug 23, 2007 6:02:13 PM

"We demand truth in our colorful tales but accept lies in our serious arguments about public policy. It's infuriating."

I hear Naomi Wolf helped Al Gore invent the internet, which means he should't be president. Also, he had fuzzy math!

Posted by: Nicholas Beaudrot | Aug 23, 2007 6:03:08 PM

If TNR has fact-checkers out the yin-yang, they sure don't appear on the masthead.

But fact-checking isn't THE issue (although I thought editors were responsible for asking for documentation of articles routinely, but maybe editors don't view their jobs that way anymore). The progressive complaint that seems to count is their contrarianism against what looks like only the Dems that don't agree with their TNR pitch.

Let's face it, none of the liberal magazines or journals have much actual impact on DC lawmaking or policymaking. Congress really is overloaded mentally but the myriad issues, interests, and commitments, and they don't even read the bills they vote on.

I suspect Ezra believes that having a place for new voices (to the left of Attila the Hun) to be heard is worthwhile (and I agree). The TNR has done that, but it has also fostered more Hunish voices at the same time. On balance, I guess I think it is better for the TNR to exist than not exist - but just barely sometimes.

I think that Kathy is more right than wrong by a large measure, so I'm glad she vented her inner rant. It is good to be reminded that the TNR is published on the Death Star by forces of the Dark Side.

If the TNR was consistently progressive/liberal across a range of policy issues, they would likely have no more influence than The Nation or Mother Jones - which isn't much at all. They now exist, it seems to me, as the voice that rightists of several varieties get to quote reinforcing their fantasies and assorted other disorders. That's their real influence, and it is more than minor.

Posted by: JimPortlandOR | Aug 23, 2007 6:27:11 PM

Indeed, it's a shame that so much attention is given to untrue narratives -- which, really, can only be protected against so much, and are published because readers love them -- and so little offered to untrue arguments

While I think the jury's out on whether readers love untrue narratives (except possibly Harry Potter), I think the Glass affair rather showed that if you were rigorously fact checking, you'd have caught them. Granting that Beauchamp is not what the right makes it out to be, exactly, I'd still say the problem with TNR is that does seem attracted to "colorful" narrative when facts are really what's required. I think that may be why people find the opinions they promote (and the writers they create and set loose on the world... Sully especially comes to mind) so frustrating - it's often that they take the anecdotal (like, say a cancer statistic), and make it stand for something it's not (proof that our healthcare system is working just fine). It's factually accurate... it's just not true. Rigorously fact checking isn't the problem... it's the rigorously thinking that's in question - and it's the substitution of colorful stories for more evidence based analysis, I think, that really does make one wonder how serious TNR is about policy.

Posted by: weboy | Aug 23, 2007 6:51:57 PM

With all due respect, TNR's narratives got attacked because they weren't conservatarian enough. Their fact articles get attacked for the same reason. It's not about narrative/policy -- it's about conservatives getting a pass for lying and liberals getting every statement passed under a microscope, with falsehoods deployed to "debunk" us as necessary.

Posted by: Kimmitt | Aug 23, 2007 7:01:31 PM

thank god I am a lawyer and only have to sell myself to my clients

Posted by: akaison | Aug 23, 2007 7:19:11 PM

I don't see how the budget is relevant. Publishing patently untrue things under the pretense of journalism is simply negligence no matter the circumstances.

Does it happen, all the time, there's always some stone left unturned or some bearer of false witness who will confirm lies. Do these things happen with the regularity we see at TNR, not if you're doing it right.

Posted by: Thomas | Aug 23, 2007 7:31:03 PM

Ezra misinterprets (though I'm glad he did, because in venturing the post, he ends up making the stunningly briliant point about fetishizing accuracy in narrative and neglecting it when it comes to argumentative claims). In this part of her essay KathyG wasn't writing about fact-checkers or the lack of them. She was writing about the kind of people fact-checked--raising a question about a certain (small, I think) subset of the kind of people attracted to TNR: arrogant kiddies who have been told from the cradle they're so brilliant their shit doesn't smell. It inculcates an awful sense of entitlement.

Posted by: ykcir | Aug 23, 2007 8:05:41 PM

To clarify. The problem is writers who, just as Kathy says, don't think they NEED fact-checkers. I'm a freelance writer, and I consider fact-checkers an annoyance but also a blessing, welcoming their power to save me from myself. That's the view of any mature person, I daresay. The problem is people so arrogant and immature they don't think they needed to be saved from themselves.

Posted by: Ykcir | Aug 23, 2007 8:08:05 PM

Factual claims are generally far easier to pin down than arguments are. The premises of arguments can be fact-checked easily enough, and they typically are, but the arguments themselves are, as a rule, not open to the same kind of checking.

Posted by: Sanpete | Aug 23, 2007 8:14:04 PM

Ezra, I'm not going to accuse you of trying to sell yourself to TNR through your blog post. However, it seems to me that you have more respect for TNR than the rest of us because they provide a service -- nurturing young policy writers -- that you appreciate and helps your peers. The rest of us don't have a dog in that fight and, probably, couldn't care less. As a consequence, we're less willing to accord TNR any goodwill.

Posted by: Tyro | Aug 23, 2007 8:23:36 PM

The short version of my TNR problem: the EIC is Marty Peretz, who is, as the kids say, "crazy go nuts."

No matter what effort goes into the magazine, it will always be 20% more lousy because so much effort is wasted due to having him as the fruitcake in charge.

Perhaps Mr. Ackerman would have more insight into this, but I'd say TNR's problems are more related to the truth of being run by a loon rather than some invented right-wing meme.

Posted by: Aaron | Aug 24, 2007 9:39:49 AM

Ezra, you don't take issue with the main point of Kathy's critique: the writers at TNR are, uh, a racially homogenous bunch. That said, the writers at most of the liberal magazines- including the American Prospect, whcih I don't believe has a single editor or masthead writer who is also a racial minority- are racially homogenous. However, I don't think she's quite right about the gender question: TNR has a fair number of women writers and editors (Cottle, Fairbanks, Reeve, Marsh, Zimmerman). One may not like what they say (I often don't), but there's no doubting that TNR an exclusively male domain.

Posted by: The Corrector | Aug 24, 2007 9:42:48 AM

Right -- I didn't take issue with her main point because I don't disagree with it. These magazines are white, though TNR is actually becoming quite a bit less male.

That said, if folks really think I want to work for TNR, run a search for Marty Peretz on my site, and then ask yourself how you think that's gonna go...

Posted by: Ezra | Aug 24, 2007 9:49:51 AM

You're wrong Ezra.

I'm not 'terribly literate' but real argument
is a passion. So you stuck a chord.
And have always wondered why TNR was so controversial
Was it simplistically... good or bad?

Kathy's piece cleared up some of that.
That the story v. the argument gets combabbulated in
this publication is not important.
What is..is the listing of participants.

There is some wheat and some chaff in that but critical
in the mix is all the poisoned seed. Lots of it.
Very bad actors...many.

You're wrong...misguided loyalties.
I'm surprised.
Be sure you're not becoming yet another twistsider, yourself.

Posted by: has_te | Aug 24, 2007 10:58:21 AM

In light of The Corrector's point and Ezra's response, I would be interested in hearing from informed parties as to why they think the staffs of these liberal magazines (not saying the National Review is any better, of course) are so racially homogenous, and if the Prospect is doing anything to alleviate this problem.

Posted by: Interested | Aug 24, 2007 12:35:43 PM

It is very unfair to expect fact checkers to expose a liar whose lies depend on somewhat arcane knowledge of tanks, etc. The editor himself should have had his bullshit radar set off by Beauchamp, as so many other people did. Once he accepted the stories as plausible, it was hard for underlings to go further. And how silly is it to publish the work of a writer because he is a relative of someone on staff?

Posted by: Yan D. Kamecki | Aug 24, 2007 2:07:19 PM

Fact checking is supposed to be a cooperative effort with the author, not an adversarial game in which you try to spot falsehoods. If it were the kind of hide and seek that Cranky, for instance, implies, absolutely everything would have to be ascertained, as in the case of checking a criminal's alibi. For instance, assuming good will on the part of the author, who would have thought that his placement of the episode of the disfigured woman was a lie, that it didn't take place in Iraq? That was the very first thing put forth in his piece, and the lie that destroyed his credibiity. You would already have to suspect he was a liar, to be motivated to check that out.

Posted by: Yan D. Kamecki | Aug 24, 2007 7:53:26 PM

I worked at TNR as a reporter researcher in the 1980s, so I'm a bit biased, but I think by any standard, those were TNR's glory days and they don't come anywhere need to approaching that these days.

Posted by: think twice | Aug 24, 2007 8:52:50 PM

If TNR has such high standards for fact-checking, why did they allow Seigel and Zengerle to remain on staff after they were busted? You'd think that a magazine that had gone through the Glass fiasco would want to get rid of bad apples as soon as possible. Last summer, when Zengerle got caught trying to frame Daily Kos and other bloggers with a bogus e-mail (which he attributed to the late Steve Gilliard) left blogosphere erupted. But TNR was a lot less responsive to anger on the left (the editor allowed Zengerle off without any sanction) vs. their current reaction to rage from the right. It seems pretty clear that TNR knows which side their bread is buttered on.

Posted by: anon | Aug 25, 2007 12:17:36 PM

There are various theories as to why TNR's gotten punk'd so many times -- including that they strive for Atlantic-style long-form narrative articles while on an American Prospect style budget -- but the place is littered with fact-checkers , and they do their best.

You're missing Kathy's point, I think, perhaps because "who needs fact-checkers" is a bit off point on her part. The feeling of white boy entitlement is what causes its writers to make stories up (Stephen Glass), pose as Sprezzaturi (Lee Siegel), relentlessly beat the drums of war without reading intelligence reports (Stephen Beinart), etc. With staff writers like this, one would need an army of fact checkers to keep up.

That's the problem. TNR is the journalistic equivalent of a rich, white fraternity that thinks it can get away with date rape and bizarre, violent hazing rituals. And you know that? They're right. Just as rich white frat boys get away with things because their well-connected daddies pull strings, TNR gets away with things because the knowing airs and Rhodes scholarship-laden backgrounds of its writers convinces gullible observers that there must be something to their ill-informed, shallow, snarky take on the world.

Posted by: Exile on Ericsson St. | Aug 25, 2007 2:59:29 PM

托盘
托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
木托盘
木制托盘
纸托盘
木塑托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
钢托盘
木托盘
钢制托盘
托盘
塑料托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
木托盘
南京托盘
南京钢托盘
上海托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
木托盘
南京托盘
南京钢托盘
上海托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
木托盘
纸托盘
南京托盘
上海托盘
北京托盘
广州托盘
杭州托盘
成都托盘
武汉托盘
长沙托盘
合肥托盘
苏州托盘
无锡托盘
昆山托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
木托盘
纸托盘
南京托盘
南京钢制托盘
南京钢托盘
上海托盘
北京托盘

托盘
托盘
托盘
托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
塑料托盘
塑料托盘

托盘
塑料托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
铁托盘
托盘
钢托盘
铁托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘

托盘
钢托盘
铁托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
托盘
钢托盘
铁托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘

托盘
托盘
钢托盘
钢托盘
铁托盘
铁托盘
钢制托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
塑料托盘

托盘
钢托盘
铁托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
托盘
钢托盘
铁托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
托盘
钢托盘
铁托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘

托盘
钢托盘
铁托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘
托盘
托盘
托盘
钢托盘
铁托盘
钢制托盘
塑料托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
铁托盘
塑料托盘
木托盘
木制托盘
纸托盘
木塑托盘
柱式托盘
波纹托盘
镀锌托盘
南京托盘
上海托盘
北京托盘
广州托盘
托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
铁托盘
塑料托盘
木托盘
木制托盘
纸托盘
木塑托盘
柱式托盘
波纹板托盘
镀锌托盘
南京托盘
上海托盘
北京托盘
广州托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
铁托盘
塑料托盘
木托盘
木制托盘
纸托盘
木塑托盘
柱式托盘
波纹托盘
镀锌托盘
南京托盘
上海托盘
北京托盘
广州托盘
托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
铁托盘
木托盘
塑料托盘
木塑托盘
柱式托盘
波纹板托盘
镀锌托盘
南京托盘
上海托盘
北京托盘
广州托盘

托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
铁托盘
塑料托盘
木托盘
木制托盘
纸托盘
木塑托盘
柱式托盘
波纹托盘
镀锌托盘
南京托盘
上海托盘
北京托盘
广州托盘
托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
铁托盘
塑料托盘
木托盘
纸托盘
木塑托盘
柱式托盘
波纹板托盘
镀锌托盘
南京托盘
上海托盘
北京托盘
广州托盘


托盘
钢托盘
钢制托盘
托盘
塑料托盘

Posted by: judy | Oct 11, 2007 7:18:58 AM

The comments to this entry are closed.