February 1, 2005

Continued fallout from the "Quick, change that headline!" post.

On Sunday, I posted about the NYT changing a headline on an article about the voting in Iraq. Its original headline had been "Amid Attacks, a Party Atmosphere on Baghdad's Closed Streets," which took us to an article by Dexter Filkins and John F. Burns that began:
After a slow start, voters turned out in very large numbers in Baghdad today, packing polling places and creating a party atmosphere in the streets as Iraqis here and nationwide turned out to cast ballots in the country's first free elections in 50 years.

American officials were showing confidence that today was going to be a big success, despite attacks in Baghdad and other parts of the country that took at least two dozen lives. The Interior Ministry said 36 people had been killed in attacks, Agence France-Presse reported.

But the violence did not seem to have deterred most Iraqis. In Baghdad, Basra in the South, the holy Shiite city of Najaf and even the restive Northern city of Mosul, Iraqi civilians crowded the polling sites, navigating their way through tight security and sometimes proudly displaying the deep blue ink stain on their fingers that confirmed they had voted.

That original headline represented the article fairly. I praised the Times's headlines earlier that day as "a subtle mix of positive and negative," giving us "a sense of the importance of what is happening [without allowing] the bad to overshadow the good." A number of prominent bloggers, linking to the Filkins-Burns article, drew special attention to the "party atmosphere" language in the headline. Later in the day, I noticed that the headline had been changed to "Insurgent Attacks in Baghdad and Elsewhere Kill at Least 24," which completely failed to convey the gist of the article, the text of which had not changed. (The headline became even more negative later: "Attacks in Baghdad and Elsewhere Reportedly Kill Several Dozen.") I thought the headline change was worth blogging, along with my observation that it was "pathetic" -- pathetic to pick out the negative from an article full of positive.

Kevin Drum at Washington Monthly somehow saw fit to launch into an attack, calling me a "wingnut" and delivering an irrelevant lecture about how newspaper headlines are written and websites updated. You certainly can't tell from reading his garbled post that I was writing about changing the headline on the same article and changing it to something that did not fit the article. I've exchanged some emails with Drum, who has an elaborate justification for putting an inappropriate headline on one article so that the whole mix of headlines on the main page that day would not be excessively positive. There was violence in Iraq, the theory goes, so one of the headlines needed to refer to violence, and since there was some reference to violence in the Filkins-Burns article, that was a good place to put the negative headline. I think that may be the best thing that might be said in defense of the Times, though I still have a problem with it. But I have much more of a problem with Drum, who -- despite his lecture about how websites can be frequently updated -- has not seen fit to update his post and make it clear that he misrepresented my post. Frankly, he owes me a public apology, on his website, for calling me a wingnut and for ridiculing me based on his own misreading (or deliberate misrepresentation).

Now, I see that Howard Kurtz at The Washington Post has reprinted Drum's post, nearly in its entirety, without any criticism of it, passing along Drum's insult and distortion. I know it's in quotes, but I'd really prefer not to see myself referred to as a "wingnut" in The Washington Post!

UPDATE: Poliblogger writes that Drum should apologize.

ANOTHER UPDATE: Howard Kurtz quotes part of this response in his Wednesday column. He also quotes this post, which says something I really do care very deeply about.

YET ANOTHER UPDATE: One of the comments over at the Washington Monthly link abuses me for not allowing comments on my blog, which is just rich: I was forced to cancel the comments function over here because I had no way to block the commenters who were resorting to abusive, ugly forms of expression that I did not want on my blog. You can go over there and see the kind of comments that are being made about me, which would be smeared all over my blog if I had comments. Here, I explain why I cancelled the comments. It's a little funny to me to reread that post today, where I summarized the nasty things that commenters were saying about me, becuase some of the comments over there at Washington Monthly fit the categories I came up with last spring, especially: "I claim to be a moderate, but I'm only posing as a moderate for some nefarious reason."

Some people who haunt comments pages are parasites: Why don't they have their own blogs and just link? Because they aren't good enough on their own to attract visitors. Some of them are so bad it's almost funny, like the one today who is saying:
Professor Ann Althouse is a faux moderate in the style of Jeff Jarvis and Michael Totten. She has discovered that the Right pays a hell of a lot better than the Left, and is promoting her own fortunes as fast as she can by sucking up. Like Totten. And like Jarvis. And like them, she has absolutely nothing good to say ever about liberals or liberalism, while making googly eyes at those big strong conservatives, while expressing dismay at the criticism she gets from the left. It's a transparent pose. She completely lacks integrity. Winnable? Anyone who can look at the bunch of criminals in the White House currently and remain neutral is stupid. Someone who just pretends they are in order to line their pockets is beneath contempt.

I hope Jarvis and Totten know this character is on to our little game of sucking up to right wingers for those big cash payouts.

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