The Corner

Re: Re: “Fit to Print”

Cliff, I respectfully disagree.

When lawyers are trying to narrow cases down to the issues truly in dispute, they enter stipulations. A lawyer always wants a “fact stip” rather than what he often settles for, a “testimonial stip.” In a fact stip, the parties agree, for example, that Exhibit 1 is heroin. In a testimonial stip, the parties agree, to the contrary, that if called to testify a chemist would say that he had x amount of training, that he examined Exhibit 1, and that he concluded it was heroin based on his training and experience.

The difference is obvious. The fact stip establishes a conclusive reality. The testimonial stip lays out the relevant circumstances but leaves it up to the jury to draw a conclusion.

To me, the Times is forever giving us fact stips – sculpting reality as the newspaper would have it – rather than just telling us what the witnesses would say if we could talk to them ourselves and make up our own minds.

Bernstein’s assertion is case in point. Whether Bush’s credibility is, in fact, thoroughly tarnished is a much different question from whether a bunch of Europeans say it is, or even from whether Europeans generally and genuinely believe Bush is a liar. Bernstein, though, is not just reporting (as you are saying) that the Europeans are rabidly anti-Bush. He is flat out saying that Bush’s credibility is tarnished.

If, for example, all Europeans were to think the administration dishonest, but all Europeans were delusional, it would be perfectly true to say the Europeans were broadly attacking Bush’s credibility, but it would not be true to say that Bush’s credibility had actually been tarnished. That would be reporting an opinion as if it were a fact – something the Times does so matter-of-factly and skillfully that it often goes undetected (especially when the Times offers us one of its “news analysis” pieces that are just editorials masquerading as news stories).

I did not mention it in my first post, but Bernstein pulls the same stunt a few paragraphs later. He writes: “Others pointed out that the Bush administration’s definition of torture did not include practices like water-boarding – in which prisoners are strapped to a board and made to believe they are about to be drowned – that violate provisions of the international Convention Against Torture.” (Italics mine.)

To the contrary, it is far from indisputable that water-boarding violates the torture convention (UNCAT). It undoubtedly violates the interpretation of UNCAT to which Europe adheres and which the Times favors. But, as I’ve pointed out on other occasions, the U.S. ratified UNCAT with important reservations that are fairly construed as allowing for coercive, non-torture practices like water-boarding.

People reading this “news” story are not told that. We are not told that the Europeans are claiming water-boarding violates UNCAT but that the U.S., based on its constitutional ratification procedure, has a different view. That’s not “fit to print.” Instead, we are told that the U.S., presumably using water-boarding, is in violation of international law.

That’s how MSM conventional wisdom is born and bred.

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