Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Tom Schaller is Unbelievably Awesome

FERGUSON'S FACT-LESS CHECK OF GORE. In Sunday's Washington Post, Weekly Standard senior editor Andrew Ferguson had a little hit job on Al Gore's new book, built around Gore's citation of an Abraham Lincoln quote which, according to Ferguson, has been falsely attributed to The Great Emancipator. Here's how Ferguson opens the piece:

You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, "The Assault on Reason." It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver.

Still, I'd love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88. [emphasis added]

Well, Mr. Ferguson, the answer to that is quite easily to be found on p. 282 of the book where, in the endnotes, Gore provides the citation. (The Lincoln Encyclopedia, Macmillan: 1950, Andrew Ward, ed., page 40.) Is Ferguson so manipulative that he is using the endnote/footnote difference to mislead the readers into believing there is no sourcing whatsoever in Gore's book?

Or is Ferguson so damn lazy he didn't even bother to notice that Gore's book includes endnotes? Though I'm willing to give Ferguson the benefit of the doubt (he can email me at schaller67@hotmail.com to clarify), either way it looks bad for him. And if his point is merely to dispute Gore's use of The Lincoln Encyclopedia as a source or, worse, that the publisher's stylistic choice of endnotes rather than footnotes is intended to obscure the sourcing of the quote, are these complaints really worthy of space in the Post's Sunday section?

As for the Post's editors, did they, too, fail to fact check Ferguson's "not using footnotes" assertion which, had they done so, they would have discovered it to be true merely in the very misleading, endnote-v-footnote definitional sense?

To borrow a phrase from Ferguson, his piece and the Post's editing of it turns out to be a rather "sprawling, untidy blast" of misinformation.

Makes one wonder what the criterion is to make "senior editor" over at the Standard, eh? If all of this is not galling and ironic enough for you, the Post's choice for title of the op-ed is ... wait for it ... "Fact Check."

UPDATE: The Post has up a correction now ... though, as a commenter notes, it's hardly a complete one.

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