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A Telling Admission from Slate


I just had a fascinating conversation with Slate’s Jillian Keenan, who published an article lecturing me on research standards in response to my pieces on transsexualism. I suggested that she read some of the work of Paul R. McHugh on the issue. Dr. McHugh is a professor at the Johns Hopkins medical school and the former head of psychiatry there, and was instrumental in shutting down its sex-change surgeries. Ms. Keenan seemed to think that he was some basement-dwelling Internet polemicist associated with an obscure Christian web site. When I corrected her, she said that she made the mistake because she Googled him and that was “the first thing that came up.”

What this means is that Ms. Keenan wrote and published an article on a controversy without speaking to one person, or reading one article, espousing the point of view on the opposite side of that controversy; it would be virtually impossible to do so without becoming familiar with Dr. McHugh and his work. That would be like writing a piece on the IQ controversy without ever having heard the name Charles Murray.

“Look,” she wrote about my piece, “I was offended as a person, but also as a journalist.” The irony in that sentence is rich. She is a journalist whose standard is “first thing that came up on Google” after the fact; which is to say, a journalist who apparently has made a creed out of confirmation bias.

Slate should really append an editor’s note to that article to make it clear what kind of thought and insight went into its making.

Incidentally, the first thing that comes up when I Google Dr. McHugh is his Wikipedia entry and the faculty roster at Johns Hopkins.


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