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August 10, 2007
An issue of policy:
What do you do about authors
who are obviously unreliable
characters, but with a knack
for turning a phrase?
I was once thinking about leading off
a piece with a quote from Christopher
Hitchens. A friend of mine saw it, and Hitchens was a hardcore
pointed out to me that he's got some lefty who turned "pro-war"
dubious aspects. when it was fashionable,
and is now trying to
I dropped the idea of using
his quote because I decided If his spat with
I didn't have anything Noam Chomsky is any
interesting to say about guide, he has a hard
it... but if I did want to time focusing on the
use it, then what? facts.
Maintaining a rigid separation
between speech and speaker is
a principle literally only
observed "in the breech"... Attacking someone for
engaging in "ad hominem
It's difficult to attacks" is always a
quote someone without convenient distraction
conveying the move, because everyone pays
impression that you attention to reputation
endorse the speaker. in some form or another,
so there's always some
Quotation in general has sort of "attacking the
a reek of "argument based person".
on authority" about it.
But avoiding quotation
has at least a whiff of
plagiarism about it...
Another case There's a very minor
would be Andrew point where I thoroughly
Cockburn. disagree with Cockburn:
I often like his COUGHING_UP_FLEMING
often agree with But it could be that this
them, which is is telling: he's spreading
not *quite* the an unverifiable story
same thing). because it's such a *good*
He articulated the suspicion (which
perhaps should be obvious) that the
"9/11 Truth Movement" people really A_CHOICE_OF_DENIAL
want to believe that only the big
guys can be behind a big thing. The He also accuses
thought that a *small* group could the truthies of
pull off the "9/11" hit is scary. racism: a bunch
of *arabs* got in
On the other hand, Cockburn a clever hit?
has said some pretty silly Ridiculous!
things... he's looking like
another compulsive contrarian: I have mixed feelings about
good at coming up with unusual that one. Plausible, but
ideas, perhaps, less good at it's such an easy cheap
doing so reliably. shot... it ought to be
It often seems that
Notably: there's pressure on But then the entire
Cockburn columnists to be thesis is somewhere
has come outrageous, to attract between "insight"
down on attention by saying and "mind-reading",
the side borderline-crazy and probably an
of the things-- ala, say, over-generalization.
"global Camille Paglia.
skeptics". It's a fine-line between
an "iconoclastic thinker"
In itself and a "fame-whore". Maybe Cockburn himself
this does is fair game for the
not bother From this point of "mind-reading" treatment...
me -- but view, tedious writing
he seems to might be considered a
be doing a virtue...
bad job of
it. (At last I am
He shows little
he's on shakey
a case for a
Instead he blows smoke,
tries to puff up weak At this point, if you present
references, and so on. the readers with an Andrew
Cockburn quote, they might be
forgiven for wondering what
you think you're doing.
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