Friday, May 27, 2005

On Matters Extraordinary


1. Beyond what is ordinary or usual: extraordinary authority.
2. Highly exceptional; remarkable: an extraordinary achievement.
3. Employed or used for a special service, function, or occasion: a minister extraordinary; an extraordinary professor.

Extraordinay claims require extraordinary proof.

I never really liked that expression. It always smacked of moving the goal posts, because it is those asking for the proof who decide what is and is not extraordinary. If the person does not wish to be convinced, then he could simply declare that the extraordinary standard has not been reached.

That thought came up after reading the post by Roger L. Simon in response to the question wheter the newly formed Pajamas Media will be "Fair and Balanced". Short on an answer, he turned the question to his readers. Silicon Valley Jim wrote about balance in sourcing:
Proper sourcing, including disclosure of sources if it can be done, is important, although it may go more to the point of responsibility rather than fairness and balance. There can be disagreement as to what proper sourcing means, but, as in science, extraordinary conclusions require extraordinary evidence.

Jim is making an unsupported assumption here, namely that there is a standard measure of "extraordinary". This stems from the fact that Left and Right don't agree on what "ordinary" is.

Ordinary, in the case of liberals in general and main stream media in particular, is that Liberals are people of good faith and caring of their fellow man, and that Conservatives are scheming manipulators and liars. Anything that claims outside of that worldview is therefore extraordinary, in need of extraordinary proof. Compare the Vietnam dust up of the past election. John Kerry was given a pass on any claims that his actions in the war were different that what was in his (self-penned) after action report, while George Bush had to release his dental records to show that he did his duty, and even that did not stop the questioning. That's not even going into the Texas Air National Guard memo forgeries for an instance of variable scrutiny of evidence. It came down to who was seen to be ordinarily truthful.

Another instance is the NEWSWEEK Koran desecration fiasco. The ordinary regarding the military is that they will do anything and everything to reach its goals. Anything that supports that thesis is considered to be ordinary proof. Therefore, one unnamed source in the government is sufficient to run a story that claimed the government had uncovered abuse of the Koran as an interrogation tactic. The fact that the story relied upon was ultimately shown not to be true is of little consequence. Since the ordinary is that the military is made up by people unwilling to consider human rights, the rules of evidence can be reversed:
The article starts with a description of the current unrests and continues:

Late last week Pentagon spokesman Lawrence DiRita told NEWSWEEK that its original story was wrong. The brief PERISCOPE item ("SouthCom Showdown") had reported on the expected results of an upcoming U.S. Southern Command investigation into the abuse of prisoners at Gitmo. According to NEWSWEEK, SouthCom investigators found that Gitmo interrogators had flushed a Qur'an down a toilet in an attempt to rattle detainees. While various released detainees have made allegations about Qur'an desecration, the Pentagon has, according to DiRita, found no credible evidence to support them.

How did NEWSWEEK get its facts wrong? ...

Up to this point there is no evidence in the article that Newsweek DID get the facts wrong.

Sorry, but the onus on a reporter is to prove that they got the facts right, a proof that did not appear in the "retraction" either.

So back to the issue of extraordinary, fair and balanced is as subjective as ordinary. Sometimes it is necessary to ask "what is ordinary in your universe?"
Power Line, Instapundit, and LGF already have multiple stories up. Reynolds is already claiming "People died because Newsweek rushed to get out a story designed to make Bush look bad."

I don't think Newsweek would write an article about Newsweek getting its facts wrong unless they really thought it was so. But they do reveal that they delivered the story up the chain of command to the Pentagon for confirmation and they didn't dispute it. Doesn't that sound suspiciously similar to the WH verifying the TANG documents for CBS?

If the WH deliberately verified parts of the Newsweek story simply to make Newsweek look bad, then who is really responsible for the riots and the deaths? Either that or it was completely overlooked by the staffer, in which case they're not exactly well-versed in the meaning of the Koran to the Muslim world.

"Killing a man to defend an idea isn't defending an idea. It's killing a man." -Jean-Luc Godard, "Notre Musique"
by dday on Sun May 15th, 2005 at 16:39:53 PDT [to the Daily Kos article linked above]

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