Thursday, September 29, 2005

Intellect Disposer
You may remember Stephen Pearcy (no, not the lead singer of Ratt) as the person of inestimable profundity who employed his house in Southern California as a gallery of adolescent angst. Then again, maybe you were not made aware of his fifteen minutes.

Obviously, I don’t think his rather sophomoric antics have any bearing upon the cogency of those arguments made for or against the war. Clearly, his “art” speaks to his own grasp of the issue much more than it speaks to the issue itself. However, I would be remiss as an observer of human affairs if I didn’t mention that the sheer abject idiocy quotient among those protesting the war (or at least those who get all the media attention) seems quite staggering. Cindy Sheehan, anyone?

I must say that the lionizing media attention that Mr. Pearcy received struck me as quite dubious. Essentially, the media raised a marginal voice (I think I’m being generous here) to include it in the national debate as if it had offered something of great worth. While this reflects incredibly poorly on the ability of the media to parse out the debate, I thought I might turn my attention directly to Pearcy. I admit, he’s a very easy target – but given the status he’s been afforded, he deserves some scrutiny.

I started reading his blog first in an effort to understand his arguments. His arguments struck me as little more than self-congratulating puffery and faux-outrage. Such arguments cannot be met, only ignored. However, in a moment of unabashed journalistic heroics, Mr. Pearcy decides to pen an entry “exposing” the ostensible barbarity of the U.S. military, ostentatiously titled, “The Real Cost of War in Iraq”. It contains the following:
In the night of 14 July, young Yassin was sleeping on the land in his garden because it was hot and there was still no electricity to cool the home. At 3 in the morning, an American armoured vehicle ran right over an exterior fence surrounding the garden and then ran right over Yassin. Some of Yassin's neighbors tried to help Yassin as he lay there, but the U.S. soldiers would not let them near. U.S. soldiers then immediately shot him dead. The armoured vehicle continued on and then broke through the house where Yassin had lived and destroyed it and then his family's car.
It is hard to believe on the face and especially so when one considers that it reads like an Al Jazeera piece. I was not ready to summarily dismiss it however, until I knew its source. So, I clicked on the comments for the blog entry and noticed that someone named “bart” had already requested sourcing:
Can you tell me your source on this particular story?
That’s straightforward enough. No baiting or histrionics, just a request for a source. Pearcy responds with:
A much more reliable one than the source you rely upon to believe that Bush didn't lie.
Hmm, so maybe he’s just in a bad mood and he intends to eventually reveal the source. Bart, it seems, decides to be charitable and largely ignore the bait and reiterate the question:
All right, I understand your need to reiterate your view that Bush lied, but instead of pussyfooting around my question, maybe you can answer it.
Pearcy replies:
First let me ask: Do you think that news reports from Iraq that are first reviewed and approved by the US military are credible?
I’ll resist the urge to quote the entire comments section even though I’d like to because as the debate developed there, Pearcy first deleted the entire post, then when taken to task for it, he put it back up and when further taken to task for avoiding offering a source he finally disabled commenting altogether. Fortunately, Google cached it (though I’m sure it won’t stay for long.)

Anyway, I joined the fray and pushed for the source. So, okay, I’m gonna quote the damn thing after all because who knows how long Google’s cache of it will last. Here’s the back and forth between Pearcy and yours truly:
"First let me ask: Do you think that news reports from Iraq that are first reviewed and approved by the US military are credible?"

Typical. Let me ask: What fucking difference does it make what some eponymous righty thinks about reports vetted by the US military vis-a-vis your claim? Wave your arms much?


How do you miss these points all the time?

It would certainly matter to Bart if my source was an official military one and he regarded such a source as credible. That was the reason I asked HIM the question. Maybe YOU would have a different standard for credibility than he would.

Brain Trust,

Notice the part where I say, "vis-a-vis your claim"? See that? What I meant by that, which should be fairly obvious, is that it is generally considered responsible (I know - how passe!) to cite one's sources. This standard obtains irrespective of the audience. See? Not complicated.

In other words, why not just come out and cite the source? Why needle bart? It matters, in the empirical sense, not one wit what bart thinks of the source - the citation serves ALL audiences, not just the ones who would agree with your sentiments.


Your comments are irrelevant to my question to Bart. Regardless of whether it's responsible to cite the source, I still asked Bart a legitimate question. Bart was afraid to answer my question because he realized that answering it might commit himself to accept the legitimacy of my source once I disclosed it. See? Not complicated.

Self-appointed “Exposer”: "Your comments are irrelevant to my question to Bart."

You're quite a dancer aren't you. Actually, no: your ploy is quite transparent. A more accurate description of the situation would be to say,

"Your question to Bart is irrelevant to the issue of citing sources for inflammatory and dubious claims. In fact, it is likely a diversion from the fact that you either don’t have a source or are unwilling to share it because it will be dismissed by all but your sycophants.”

I’m also impressed by your willingness to delete posts/comments in which you get a drubbing. Quite sporting! Is it with that same devotion to integrity that you practice law?

Mal, if you thought that this original post had "inflammatory and dubious claims," then you should have been pleased when I saved as a draft (which removed it from the blog). But then you complained and accused me of "deleting" it.

Why don't you make up your mind? Apparently, you'll complain whether it's up or whether it's down!

Some posts simply become dated. And sometimes I save old ones, for example, that got very few comments, or none at all, as drafts.

In any event, if I deleted posts just because someone criticized me, then almost all of them would be gone. So that's never my motive.

Uh huh. Keep on dancin'. Meanwhile, more than a month has gone by during which you have yet to reveal the source for your story.

When I left comments (in another post) to the effect that this post had been "poofed" out of existence and left a link to Google's cached image of it, you promptly deleted my comment and voile - the post reappears. Couple this with the fact that you've dithered and dissembled for a month while two people have asked for a source on this story, and most sane people would have difficultly concluding that you are being anything other than perfidious. (Never mind that another post – in the comments section of which I provide a thorough and hermetic case for the probability that you are actually an AI construct created by Noam Chomsky and Gore Vidal – also disappeared.)

See here, Pearcy: I don’t give a good god damn what you do with your blog. Display as much or as little intellectual honesty and rigor as you wish. Craft flimsy stories about how you “save as drafts” those posts in which you are demonstrated to be fast and loose with ethics. I care not. I am simply pointing out, as any ombudsman would do with any journo at any paper in the country, that without sourcing, your claims can be considered little more than spurious.
Anyway, it was a few days later that comments were disabled on his blog. Way to “advance the debate” Pearcy. While you’re wasting your time with my exposé of the exposer, check out Google’s cache of this other exchange.

posted by Malaclypse the Tertiary at 4:53 PM ·

Smart Blogs:
(in no particular order)
Deinonychus Antirrhopus
The Knowledge Problem
The Volokh Conspiracy
The Kolkata Libertarian
Andrew Sullivan
Little Green Footballs
Dave Barry
Libertarian Samizdata
Balloon Juice
Discount Blogger
Truck and Barter
Peking Duck
The Gweilo Diaries

Ludwig von Mises Institute
The Cato Institute
Junk Science
David Friedman
Tech Central Station

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