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Balanced Fare: We Report, You Deride

Tuesday, August 05, 2003

Glenn Reynolds Lets 'Em Off Easy

And Mark Kleiman contests for King of Comedy!

Let's have the InstaMan go first:

MARK KLEIMAN EMAILS THAT HE'S "FISKING" ME for linking to a piece by Tony Adragna.

The post in question was this:

TONY ADRAGNA WRITES on a U.S. "war crime" that wasn't.

There have been a lot of those, haven't there? But somehow I had missed this one.

Glenn is linking to a discussion of an incident in Iraq where US troops detained for questioning the wife and daughter of a wanted Iraqi lieutenant general, and then left a note saying "If you want your family released, turn yourself in." Was this hostage-taking, or just the detention of legitimate intelligence targets? One sentence is not a lot to "fisk", but if a chap can fisk a sandwich, I suppose it's OK to fisk this.

So, off to Mark Kleiman, who gives some background, then delivers the indictment:

"...where Adragna is merely not convinced that there was a violation, Instapundit, speaking in Andraga's name, somehow knows that this was "a US 'war crime' that wasn't."

Oh, dear. Glenn may have rushed to judgement AND misled his readers. On the other hand, anyone following Glenn's links (as Glenn points out in his own timid and ineffectual defense) would realize immediately that Tony Adragna was not as conclusive as Glenn portrayed him, and that there was a debate raging on this very incident. In fact, by following a few of Mr. Adragna's links, the other side of the debate comes clear.

Let's put in Mark Kleiman's big finish:

When is the Titan of the Blogosphere going to start to hold himself to the same standards of accurate reporting he expects of the New York Times or the BBC?

A fascinating question. But I have a different one. If Mark Kleiman is so keen to "fisk" someone for rushing to judgement on the underlying issue, why doesn't he go "fisk" himself? In a laudable bit of irony, Mark Kleiman provides a link to his original post on this very subject. He did not fisk it himself, but perhaps we can help him do so:


Here's a story (*) from today's Washington Post that turned my stomach, twice: first for the facts reported, and second for the language the reporter and headline-writer use to describe them.

Calmer Kleiman: The Adragna piece (*) is long and convoluted, with a number of references to various bits of international law. He makes out a reasonable case -- which he admits is not a conclusive case -- that the actions in question might be legal under the law of war.

Mad Mark: Now, class, please notice the delicate use of language. "Aggressive" and "nimble." Aren't those interesting words to refer to kidnapping wives and children to put pressure on husbands and fathers?

Can anyone in the class suggest other words? Yes, Tom Spencer? "Morally bankrupt," you say? Very good, Tom. Anyone else?

Okay, Atrios. Yes, I saw that you had your hand up. You always have your hand up, don't you, Atrios? Atrios says "criminal," (*) class. And see the nice piece of the Geneva Conventions Atrios brought for show-and tell?

Calmer Kleiman: ..., that opinion isn't ironclad: arguably, as Col. Hogg's defenders have pointed out, the wife and daughter were legitimate targets for detention as possible sources of information about the whereabouts of their husband and father.

The "Calmer Kleiman" did link to the InstaPundit and some of the other players on the other side of the debate. The closest "Mad Mark" comes to introducing the possibility of alternative viewpoints is this:

For your assignment, please write a brief essay either supporting or rebutting the assertion that the action described in the Washington Post constituted the crime of hostage-taking as prohibited by Article 75 of protocol I of the Geneva Conventions.

With his well honed sense of irony, it is hard to interpret this. However, it is clear that the "Calmer Kleiman" should take "Mad Mark" to task for (a) rushing to judgement; and (b) failing to present alternative views in either his original post or an update to it.

My suspicion is that Glenn would rise to the defense of Mad Mark - its his blog, he can say what he jolly well pleases, and who promised "fair and balanced", anyway?

Whether either "Mad Mark" or the "Calmer Kleiman" want Glenn defending them is problematic; whether either Kleiman wants to extend to Glenn the same freedom to blog that they happily exercise themselves is also an open question.

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