I was reading the Powerline blog today for some reason and came across this polemic on Tom Friedman, NY Times columnist and author. Powerline, you might recall, is the conservative blog run by lawyers who count conspiracy theories among their hobbies. Powerline had a role in repudiating the Bush National Guard memos, resulting in the dressing down of Dan Rather and calling into question the integrity of CBS News, and when a memo encouraging Republicans to capitalize on the Terri Schiavo case was leaked, Powerline surmised that it was part of a vast left-wing conspiracy to discredit the GOP.
In the case of the CBS memos, the prevailing common wisdom is that there was definitely something rotten in
For the last century there have been academic debates among scholars about the Authorship Question. How, they ask, could an undereducated Elizabethan stage actor have written some of the world’s most enduring literature? Several suspects for the true authorship of the Shakespeare canon have been proposed, from Christopher Marlowe to Francis Bacon, but one thing scholars have yet been able to do is prove one way or another that William Shakespeare wrote William Shakespeare’s plays. If we were to follow Powerline’s logic, we would have to assume that because there are questions of authenticity in the bard’s plays, then Shakespeare is a fraud and his plays are forgeries.
That’s not a leap I’m willing to make. Inconclusive is inconclusive. With that said, if you’re running a news operation that has any aspirations of integrity, it would be a good idea not to tout inconclusive evidence as the truth, which is why CBS was rightly dinged for the memo story. But Powerline was far from redeemed…
As to the GOP memo on the Schiavo case, which Powerline vetted as a forgery, it turned out to be written by a Republican staffer, who has since resigned in disgrace. Powerline insisted their arguments still had substance based on a litany of unimpressive technicalities revolving around (of course) media ineptness, yet John Hindracker never admitted they were just flat out wrong about the issue. The memo was not, as they postulated, a devious lefty ploy to make the GOP look bad. The GOP was doing it themselves.
One last thing about Thomas Friedman. The criticism discussed in the Powerline post is hardly unearned. Michael Kubin of the Observer has him figured out and accurately portrayed his style, albeit in a cheeky way. But I like Friedman, I like reading Friedman. His work has helped me personally to understand the wide-ranging effects of globalism, his latest topic, as well as the Israel-Palestine conflict, another Friedman favorite. I don’t always agree with him or like what he has to say, but he makes you think, which only the best pundits are able to do. Most just tell you how to think.