June 22, 2004

Next time, wait a day before trumpeting your big scoop

The Wall St. Journal's James Taranto was off duty today, so we'll have to wait till tomorrow to see how he backpedals from a little premature bragging he did yesterday:

Last week the partisan "mainstream" press pounded President Bush by falsely claiming that the 9/11 commission had found no connections between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda. The Washington Post's Dana Milbank gave away the game yesterday in an "analysis" that began: "The White House's swift and sustained reaction last week to the preliminary findings of the Sept. 11, 2001, commission showed the potential threat the 10-member panel poses to President Bush's reelection prospects."

Yet Reuters reports the commission "has been told 'a very prominent member' of al Qaeda served as an officer in Saddam Hussein's militia, a panel member said on Sunday":

Republican commissioner John Lehman told NBC's "Meet the Press" program that the new intelligence, if proven true, buttresses claims by the Bush administration of ties between Iraq and the militant network believed responsible for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.

This isn't news to readers of this Web site, which published a May 27 Wall Street Journal editorial on the officer, Ahmed Hikmat Shakir.

It took exactly one day for Lehman's claim to fall apart. Turns out -- and, as Jon Stewart might say, this is funny -- a "senior administration official said Lehman had probably confused two people who have similar-sounding names."

True, the Journal's May editorial was careful enough to include a disclaimer. But just barely:

It is possible that the Ahmed Hikmat Shakir listed on the Fedayeen rosters is a different man from the Iraqi of the same name with the proven al Qaeda connections. His identity awaits confirmation by al Qaeda operatives in U.S. custody or perhaps by other captured documents. But our sources tell us there is no questioning the authenticity of the three Fedayeen rosters. The chain of control is impeccable. The documents were captured by the U.S. military and have been in U.S. hands ever since.

After all, the U.S. military never makes mistakes, right?

Posted by Daniel Radosh


I love this part of the article:

In an interview yesterday, Lehman said it is still possible the man in Kuala Lumpur was affiliated with Hussein, even if he isn't the man on the Fedayeen roster. "It's one more instance where this is an intriguing possibility that needs to be run to ground."

So...given that Lehman confused two people, what is the basis for thinking that the man he thought he was talking about should still be investigated? If I claim that Susan Sarandon is working for Al Qaeda, and then it is pointed out to me that this is not the case, my response is probably not going to be to say, "Well, you have to admit that it's an intriguing possibility that we should pursue."

True, but that's a bad example. Everyone knows Susan Sarandon is al Qaeda.

Taranto is back today, pretending none of this ever happened.

whos is this Daniel Radosh? seems like a complete blithering moron to me

Who is this Kevin Girten? Seems like a gay realtor to me.

Yes, that is absolutely correct. I had made the above comment after reading "Five Reason's why the left can do without Michael Moore". Flawed he may be, but there are many gigantic atrocities happening in the world right now, and blasting Michael Moore in the interest of writing cute, pithy, shallow little articles is self serving and pointless. I'm just happy to see liberal apologists like Radosh and Hitchens now totally marginalized, and Moore getting the credit he deserves.

That article not only has nothing to do with the post that you commented on, but was also written seven years ago! Seems to me that was exactly the time for cute, pithy, shallow articles (or TV shows, in Moore's case). The whole point of my actual post on F911 was in fact that times, and, apparently, Moore, have changed, and that I am now hoping to be on his side again (or rather, to have him truly on our side). The only thing I might disagree with about your comment is that I think it'd be more accurate to say that it's nice to see Moore deserving the credit he's getting.

Also in my F911 post, I noted that I disagree with Hitchens' take on Moore, even without having seen the film yet. Not to mention that, unlike Hitch, I've been adamant in my opposition to the Iraq war from the start, so I'm not sure how I can be put in his camp. The thing that still bugs me about Moore, and, not incidentally, many of his fans, is the paranoid mindset that causes him to put anyone who raises even respectful challenges in the camp of enemy to be destroyed. Moore is a major cultural figure. It's OK to point out his flaws. I think it even helps the larger cause. But to call me a complete blithering moron, true though it might be, when a little examination would reveal that we probably agree on most issues -- where does that get anybody?

I'd be equally hard on calling someone a gay realtor without just cause, but I must confess I like the non-sequitorishness of it.

Forgive anyone accusing me of being a gay realtor, because that is exactly what I am. In fact, I didn’t even know that was an insult! Also, forgive me of placing an inappropriate post on the wrong blog, I’m not a blogger, in fact, that is the first comment I’ve ever written on a blog. Your article angered me; even though it was seven years old. From both that article, and new articles like the power point Bill Clinton whatever it is, puts you squarely in the “liberal apologist” camp in my mind, along with Hitchens.
Daniel, I just simply don’t understand people like you. What if the “left” had taken your advice 7 years ago and gotten rid of Michael Moore?? We would now be worth a brilliantly persuasive work that may have just been a deciding factor in freeing our country from and incredibly damaging regime. As far as Michael Moore changing enough to now deserves the credit he receives, I’d say it was far more likely that you have just finally acknowledged the importance of his work. He still lacks objectivity and engages in artistic license as he always has, but he also is as sincere and passionate as he always has been, and the stakes higher. What damage has Michael Moore’s work ever done to anyone that didn’t deserve it??
I do however find your work damaging. I guess it’s just not cool enough to criticize the right; you have to go after the left. What good does it do to make petty fun of Bill Clinton??? It’s not even entertaining anymore. I criticized Bill Clinton plenty in his day, but his day has passed, and there are far bigger, more important, and more dangerous fish to fry right now. I know there is a vibrant right wing that will attack everything Moore does, and pretty much anything in film or journalism that seeks too makes a progressive change, and I expect it as does he. Attacks from the “left” are different though, and he was obviously quite hurt and angered by your 5 reasons article.
Do you ever ask yourself what purpose your writing, and indeed your life have? I’ve since read several of your pieces and frankly I can’t think of one that attempts to actually try to affect any positive social change, or enlighten others to do so. You have however given people fuel to say “See, even liberals hate Michael Moore”. Are you just a very clever mole from the right wing? I’m not a writer, but at this time I’m trying to do everything in my power to get this idiot out of office, but I don’t have the power that you do as a writer. If I did I certainly wouldn’t be using my position to rip Bill Clinton or Michael Moore down……I just don’t get it, it saddens me.

Also, since when is calling someone fat a respectful challenge??

I didn't mean to imply that MY challenge was respectful. It wasn't intended to be. But, sure, the fat thing was stupid. Other than that, however, I stand by everything else in the Salon article. I won't rehash them here, but you don't seem to be saying that you don't believe that it's all true or that it reflects well on him, simply that it's forgivable because the left needs Michael Moore. Lot's of folks say that, which is why I wrote the article in the first place.

I'm a progressive not because that's "my team" but because I make honest intellectual inquiries and far more often than not, that's where they lead me. When someone else is dishonest and treats people badly (and gets partisan laughs for jokes that objectively aren't funny), damn right I'm going to call them on it. That's my job as a journalist and a satirist. What damage has his work done to people that didn't deserve it? It has damaged the causes he's fighting for. When someone on the left makes a charge and the response is "that's a lie," and the response is correct, the left as a whole loses ground, no matter how leftists in the audience applauded the lie when they first heard it.

And I do think my article (and others like it) helped lead Moore to clean up his act (Assuming he has. I still haven't seen the movie). I was never one to say that he should be objective or even-handed; god knows I'm not. I just said that he should have his facts cold and aim his fire at the powerful, not the smalltown hicks. Moore himself said that he's made the first part of that a priority for the first time with this film, hiring actual fact-checkers and being prepared to back up every statement when challenged (as he's done very well vs. Isikoff). That's absolutely new for him. Early reports on the second part are also positive. I might also mention that according to an article a few months back, Moore recently realized that he'd been treating his employees like shit, and called several of them to apologize. Good for him.

As for Bill Clinton (hardly a leftist-- you think there's a single thing he and Michael Moore agree on other than (just barely) defeating Bush?), he was the top news story of last week. That makes him a juicy target. My other PowerPoints have taken on John Kerry as well as the Bush administration. I think the anti-Bush one was the strongest because Bush is the most-deserving target of the bunch, but I'm certainly going to continue to mock John Kerry for being a pathetic candidate, as much as I want him to win, because the larger point -- the goal of my work, to the extent that there is any -- is to 1) entertain people and 2) yes, affect positive social change. That means more to me than just winning the next election. I want the Democrats to run better candidates in the future, and I want Kerry, both now and after he's in the White House, to stop being such a douchebag.

Anyway, I'm glad you're reading and posting. And not that I need everyone to agree with me, but it's true that most of my left-leaning political work isn't online, simply because it's been done for venues without decent web sites. But if you're looking for stuff I've done that should prove I'm not a right wing mole (which as I've implied I think is only possible if you believe that politics is simply a team sport, but anyway...) try some of these.




Not to mention just about every other post on this blog (including the one these comments are inappropriately under), which, admittedly, reaches a grand total of 600 people a day.

Well, I have a long winded response to your last post, but firstly I’d like to challenge you to do something. Go see the movie (you really owe it to yourself and Moore to see it immediately), and then immediately afterward read your “five reasons” article. I would also ask, if possible, that you try to get out of your head through the entire process and into mind a little, because though some weird conincidence, that was the sequence of events for me that prompted my blithering moron comment.

Ok, now for my long winded response. Keep in mind that we may live in pretty different worlds. I assume you live in New York, I live in Kansas City. My experience growing up gay sharing a state with Phred Felps ( www.godhatesfags.com ), but also growing up in a highly educated, left leaning family, has given me a peculiar perspective on the state of our nation. In my everyday dealings I come across a lot of hyper patriotism, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, ECT. I know the profile of the Bush voter. I also think I know the profile of the person Moore is speaking to. Sometimes it requires a machine gun approach to reach them (I suppose you have to include me in this group).

I would assume from what you’ve said, and from the writings referenced above (I really enjoyed the one about Christian thrillers, in one of my more confused teenage moments I was a huge Hal Linsey fan), that politically we share a common enemy. It is how to best confront this enemy that we seem to wildly disagree.

Your defense of the 5 reasons article, as far as my simpleton Midwestern mind understands it, is that blasting Moore is good for the cause of the left, because Moore’s recklessness damages the greater cause of the left, and therefore needs to be challenged. The problem I have with that assertion is I find the article itself FAR more reckless than anything Moore has ever done. You hold Moore to a high standard; do you think you meet this standard?? As far as I’m concerned, and living where I live; Moore will be crucified for his work whether all of his facts are correct or not, and any “damage” he may have caused the left not only is insignificant to the good he has done, it is absolutely overwhelmed by the complete and utter fiction that poses as “fair and Balanced” on nationwide television.

Michael Moore and Al Franken are trying to reach Joe Blow in Missouri, because they understand that is exactly who needs to be reached. Living in Missouri I can attest the fact they are reaching people. I can also tell you we DON’T need any more liberal “apologists”. For years the extreme right has shamelessly broken every rule of integrity to ruthlessly promote their cause, and this has served them to great effect. For many I’ve spoken to, the mere observation of their extremism seems to somehow make me an extremist. FUCK THAT. They made liberal a dirty word. They made it just not ok to confront them and call them on their crap. It does far more harm to be overly cautious as not to appear too “extreme” than it does to confront their hate head on and call it what it is. I can’t help but feel your latest Moore article is still apologist, why do you find it necessary to throw in things like “I’m still no fan” and call him a “prick”, I just don’t get. I don’t “worship” anyone, but I’ve met Michael Moore and the word prick just doesn’t come to mind. At the time he was obviously tired, but he still came across as one of the nicest people I’ve ever met. Putting myself in his shoes I can understand how in reading the “5 reasons” article he would feel it was just a vicious attack instead of constructive criticism – do you honestly disagree??

Long, but not at all long-winded. Thanks. I do appreciate your thoughtful comments. Look, we're obviously on the same side, bigpicturewise, and if you disagree with me about Moore, I can live with it. Lots of my friends do. Rather than re-argue all my opinions about the man and his work one more time, I will just say that to understand my take on him, it probably helps to know that I write far more frequently as a media critic than as a political pundit, and it is largely through that lens that I view him. It's also worth noting that at time I wrote it, there was no Moore-bashing cottage industry. I went after him because no one had ever called him on his bullshit, and I thought it needed to be done; today, I'd be less interested in attacking him even if I thought he still deserved it as much. (And yes, I absolutely hold myself to the same high standard as Moore. I mean, not on my blog, obvs, but my published work should be beyond reproach -- as journalism, not in terms of how it advances "the cause.").

Oh yeah, I'm surprised to see you lump Moore and Al Franken together. Franken is one of my favorites, and I consider him in many ways the anti-Moore. Yes he's just as direct and "extreme" and all that stuff that you and I both like. But he's meticulous about the truth, he rarely panders or takes on easy targets without tongue firmly in cheek, and his jokes are smarter and, in my opinion, funnier.

Looking forward to our next exchange.


Daniel doesn't need me to speak for him, so he may not welcome what I'm about to say, but I suspect he'll respect it. Though we haven't always been in touch, we've known each other for almost two decades now. Our politics may differ (e.g. *I'm* the mole- he's not.) but there is one thing I like to think we share- a low tolerance for bullshit, regardless of the source.

Daniel also understands that you cannot call attention to the speck in someone's eye while ignoring the beam in your own. If someone like Moore were to get his facts straight, his position would be that much more unassailable, thus increasing his political effectiveness. To the extent he errs or deceives, he decreases that effectiveness. He may be, as you claim, a swell guy. Last I checked, though, "swell guy" wasn't a requirement for making a documentary. Facts, on the other hand, are. If Moore's feelings are hurt just because he played fast and loose with the truth, well, he made that bed himself.

My feeling is that Daniel would prefer to win his points with truth, and holds others to the same standards he holds himself. He also doesn't take himself nearly as seriously as you do.

Just a few comments before I finish:

You wrote: "In my everyday dealings I come across a lot of hyper patriotism, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, ECT. I know the profile of the Bush voter."

Thus proving that prejudice and generalizations are not restricted to the so-called rabid right. So much for tolerance.

You wrote: Living in Missouri I can attest the fact they are reaching people. I can also tell you we DON’T need any more liberal “apologists”. For years the extreme right has shamelessly broken every rule of integrity to ruthlessly promote their cause, and this has served them to great effect. For many I’ve spoken to, the mere observation of their extremism seems to somehow make me an extremist. FUCK THAT. They made liberal a dirty word. They made it just not ok to confront them and call them on their crap. It does far more harm to be overly cautious as not to appear too “extreme” than it does to confront their hate head on and call it what it is."

I could substitute "New York" for Missouri, and "conservative" for liberal, and "left" for right, and would feel satisfied that it paints as accurate a picture of politics around here as you did of politics around your locale.

Now, Kev, I know that our politics aren't the same (unless I'm a clever mole, or maybe a double-mole) but you're going to have to ask yourself one thing- are scorch-and-burn win-at-all-costs disregard-the-truth tactics *really* the way you want to win this? 'Cause I know *I* don't. They may say that it's better to be a live jackal than a dead lion, but I'd rather be a live lion, when all's said and done.

Argh. That's what happens when you go to eat dinner in the middle of writing a comment- someone goes and answers everything for you. So it goes...

Wow, this thread took off. Anyway, to clarify my comment from a while ago, no, I did not intend "gay realtor" as an insult. I meant to point out that the answer to the question "Who is this Daniel Radosh?" could be easily answered with a web search (or, indeed, a visit to his "about me" page), much as I was able to easily answer the question "Who is this Kevin Girten?"

Hmmm, scortch and burn?? I don't know. Honestly I see absolutely no left equivalent to the right on any level for one. I guess there is just a huge difference of opinion here. I understand everything Daniel says about the reasons why he initially critisized Moore, it all sounds great, but still when I read the acticle its just absolutely hateful, and obviously Moore felt the same way. If the article was very tough on Moore but did it in a non-hateful way, I would have understood what it was trying to do and respected it. I guess that is what I see the difference between right and left in this country is; one is hateful, one is angry. Anger might be reckless and cause people to make mistakes, but it is understandable. Hate is intolerable, and there is no justificaton for it under any circumstances; it is also an epidemic in this country. Anyway, did you all see the movie?????

scorch-and-burn = my attempt to say "slash-and-burn" while thinking "scorched earth."

As for hate being a primary difference, well I really can't agree that the left has a monopoly on hate. I mean, for every white-baiting Sharpton, for every Bush=Hitler sign, for every "digital brown shirt" reference, you're going to find something equally vile on the right, I'm sure. Generalization is a servicable tool, but you've got to understand its limitations.

No, I meant the opposite of what you thought. If anyone has a monopoly on hate, its the right. I suppose of course that it depends on what one's definition of hate is, but a bush=hitler sign is not hateful in my book. This administration, as well as the whole of the extreme right, has systematically used hate to advance their cause, as did Hitler. Is calling someone on their hate make you hateful?? I don't think so.

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