Skip to main content

Sometimes you can't make things up.

Under the title "Fact Check", Andrew Ferguson starts his Sunday Washington Post OPED

You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, The Assault on Reason.

Ferguson is absolutely right ... and, amazingly arrogant in his disdain for common understanding of "truth" ...

Like almost every academic / scholarly work published nowadays, Assault on Reason does not have footnotes ... rather it has endnotes.

Ferguson, a Weekly Standard editor and Lincoln buff (author of Land of Lincoln: Adventures of Lincoln) provides a stunning demonstration of Gorephobia in his piece What Al Wishes Abe Said.

Ferguson opens this piece

You can't really blame Al Gore for not using footnotes in his new book, The Assault on Reason. It's a sprawling, untidy blast of indignation, and annotating it with footnotes would be like trying to slip rubber bands around a puddle of quicksilver. Still, I'd love to know where he found the scary quote from Abraham Lincoln that he uses on page 88.

In a continuation of the effort to perpetuate the false screed about Gore claiming to invent the internet, Ferguson throws in other Gorephobia comments, such as: "thanks to Gore's Internet" ...)

In any event, the core disingenuous nature of Ferguson's opening about Gore "not using footnotes" is, well, technically true but the 20 pages of endnotes begin on page 277.  

On page 282, that ENDNOTE providing a source for the quotation:

88  "may prove groundless": Abraham Lincoln, "Letter to Col. William F. Elkins, Nov. 21, 1864," The Lincoln Encyclopedia, ed. Archer H. Shaw (New York: Macmillan, 1950) 40

Boy, that was hard, wasn't it?

The interesting (not outraging) part: Universal Lincoln?

As to the quote itself, there is debate as to whether it is actually Lincoln or a created quote.  This emerged in Ron Chusid's Washington Post Column Attacking Gore Contains Serious Error.  Sadly, if Ferguson had restrained his Gorephobic tendencies, the OPED actually points to an interesting issue in how 'universal Lincoln' (like the 'universal Bible') proves himself useful to all comers, from all political perspectives.

And, the universal Lincoln is valued -- whether he said the words or they're invented (even if not invented by the speechwriter/politician).  Reagan gave a speech quoting Lincoln when they weren't actually Lincoln's words.  Though, Ferguson places this in an appropriate conservative context to highlight the perfidy (reading between the lines) of the 'liberal' press:

As the New York Times immediately and gleefully pointed out, the lines were written by a Baptist preacher in 1916. Reagan's speechwriter found them, under Lincoln's name, in a book called "The Toastmaster's Treasure Chest."

UPDATE Here is one scholarly look (What Lincoln Foresaw: Corporations Being "Enthroned" After the Civil War and Re-Writing the Laws Defining Their Existence) that might refute Ferguson's entire thesis becuse it states that the quote in question is authentic.

"I see in the near future a crisis approaching that unnerves me and causes me to tremble for the safety of my country. . . . corporations have been enthroned and an era of corruption in high places will follow, and the money power of the country will endeavor to prolong its reign by working upon the prejudices of the people until all wealth is aggregated in a few hands and the Republic is destroyed."
-- U.S. President Abraham Lincoln, Nov. 21, 1864
(letter to Col. William F. Elkins)
Ref: The Lincoln Encyclopedia, Archer H. Shaw (Macmillan, 1950, NY)
Some people expressed doubts about its authenticity, given Lincoln's work as an attorney for railroad corporations! It was an interesting job tracking it down and verifying its authenticity.

See this strong discussion calling this into question. In other words, this is a disputed quote -- and that dispute is beyond my ability to resolve at this time.

Now, the critical challenge and issue here is not with the disingenuous nature of Ferguson's Gorephobic broadside.  It is, instead, in the utter lack of credibility for any Washington Post claim for assuring its readership of that they can rely on the Post to provide basic facts correctly.

Again, the banner above the OPED:

FACT CHECK

Could we make that up?

Now, Ferguson's false line will reverberate for months and years to come. It will become part of the false mythos used by too many pundits for time immemorial.

Truth, Truthful, Truthiness

Stephen Colbert can be so useful sometimes.

  • Ferguson stated something "true" -- there are no footnotes.
  • Ferguson was absolutely not "truthful" -- as there are endnotes, his opening and key premise is misleading and based on a statement that does not pass any test of reasonableness for debate.  What he asserts is not the "truth" even if it is, in that narrow context of defining "what is is", "true".
  • Ferguson pursues a false 'truthiness' framing -- can't trust Gore, he makes stuff up. The 'truthiness' is, evidently, far more important than truth and being truthful.

Some more "Truthiness" ... Gore and inventing the Internet

For a diversionary moment, let us return to one of the 2000 campaign's favorite memes: "Al Gore invented the Internet".  

Back on 5 October 2000, Salon published Did Gore invent the internet?

But things that "everybody knows" are always worth examining for defects. And the "Gore claims he invented the Net" trope is so full of holes that it makes you wish there were product recalls for bad information.

Gore never claimed to have "invented" the Internet. What he said was: "During my service in the United States Congress I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

And, the story goes on to quote key scientists and innovators in backing Gore's legislative importance for fostering the internet's emergence.

Showing how easy it is to squash false rumors and frames, Media Matters did an excellent piece on this in February 2007, Media perpetuate myth that Gore claimed to have "invented" Internet:

Gore did not say he "invented" the Internet. In the March 9, 1999, interview on CNN's Late Edition with Wolf Blitzer that gave rise to the myth, Gore actually said: "During my service in the United States Congress, I took the initiative in creating the Internet."

In the past year alone, The Washington Post, The New York Times, the Los Angeles Times, and the Associated Press have all published columns, editorials, or articles that repeat or perpetuate the myth that Gore said he invented the Internet, ignoring their own reporting to the contrary

Hmmm ... the record is not necessarily so good for the truth to shine through.

Back to Ferguson and the FACT CHECK
An OPED in The Washington Post's Sunday Outlook section is prominent inside the Beltway, read by politicians and media alike.  Ferguson's opening lines are likely to be quoted and used as sources by many.

Some questions to ponder:

  • Will The Washington Post correct 'the facts' presented in this "Fact Check"?  
  • Will it do so in a prominent fashion?
  • How many times will we hear that 'Gore didn't even bother to footnote his work'?

My actions:

  • Sharing this information (this discussion and some e-mails)
  • Contacting the Washington Post with my frustration and a call for prominent correction (letters@washpost.com; ombudsman@washpost.com)

Your action?

Originally posted to A Siegel on Sun Jun 10, 2007 at 10:04 PM PDT.

EMAIL TO A FRIEND X
Your Email has been sent.
You must add at least one tag to this diary before publishing it.

Add keywords that describe this diary. Separate multiple keywords with commas.
Tagging tips - Search For Tags - Browse For Tags

?

More Tagging tips:

A tag is a way to search for this diary. If someone is searching for "Barack Obama," is this a diary they'd be trying to find?

Use a person's full name, without any title. Senator Obama may become President Obama, and Michelle Obama might run for office.

If your diary covers an election or elected official, use election tags, which are generally the state abbreviation followed by the office. CA-01 is the first district House seat. CA-Sen covers both senate races. NY-GOV covers the New York governor's race.

Tags do not compound: that is, "education reform" is a completely different tag from "education". A tag like "reform" alone is probably not meaningful.

Consider if one or more of these tags fits your diary: Civil Rights, Community, Congress, Culture, Economy, Education, Elections, Energy, Environment, Health Care, International, Labor, Law, Media, Meta, National Security, Science, Transportation, or White House. If your diary is specific to a state, consider adding the state (California, Texas, etc). Keep in mind, though, that there are many wonderful and important diaries that don't fit in any of these tags. Don't worry if yours doesn't.

You can add a private note to this diary when hotlisting it:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from your hotlist?
Are you sure you want to remove your recommendation? You can only recommend a diary once, so you will not be able to re-recommend it afterwards.
Rescue this diary, and add a note:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary from Rescue?
Choose where to republish this diary. The diary will be added to the queue for that group. Publish it from the queue to make it appear.

You must be a member of a group to use this feature.

Add a quick update to your diary without changing the diary itself:
Are you sure you want to remove this diary?
(The diary will be removed from the site and returned to your drafts for further editing.)
(The diary will be removed.)
Are you sure you want to save these changes to the published diary?

Comment Preferences

Lee, Mark Sumner, Sidhe, JekyllnHyde, Alumbrados, paradox, buffalo soldier, TheC, Mark H, Maccabee, jillian, Trix, Phoenix Woman, GernBlanzten, ferg, Rayne, copymark, Historical Pessimist, teacherken, bluecayuga, apsmith, Trendar, AlanF, cedubose, yerioy, daninoah, Geenius at Wrok, JoelBloom, Mountain Don, dcdanny, Jon Stafford, Winger, gorlim, bosdcla14, Lahdee, tommurphy, Hummingbird, Wintermute, SanJoseLady, TeresaInPa, OLinda, LEP, rhubarb, GayHillbilly, pacified, rightiswrong, eeff, RickD, azale, Duncan Idaho, HootieMcBoob, frisco, RFK Lives, bumblebums, Jerome a Paris, RubDMC, bara, raines, bronte17, conchita, cardinal, Athenian, Einsteinia, Doc Allen, whenwego, because, CoolOnion, highacidity, CalvinV, boadicea, mxwing, Bionic, vmibran, javelina, sagra, sidinny, BruinKid, VA Gal, Nate Roberts, thingamabob, petewsh61, dmsilev, Alna Dem, Alohaleezy, aitchdee, Janet Strange, Dallasdoc, Winnie, lungfish, brainwave, TXsharon, delphine, TrainWreck, Science and Art, Sychotic1, aravaipa, bittergirl, Neighbor2, renaissance grrrl, Calidrissp, papercut, arielle, Eddie Haskell, sommervr, Brian82, inclusiveheart, cevad, luigi, peterj911, WV Democrat, Curt Matlock, OrangeClouds115, CanYouBeAngryAndStillDream, andyj2287, Marianne Benz, kd texan, Daddy Bartholomew, Dave in RI, thereisnospoon, Gorestro, sxwarren, julifolo, Brecht, joanneleon, Fabian, Bluesee, pattyp, Methion, Elise, Tamifah, Independent Musings, PBen, JoMo DemKim, Oaklander, tgray, Sinister Rae, kaye, snacksandpop, Laurence Lewis, NeuvoLiberal, eru, Pyesetz the Dog, washingtonsmith, jwishbone, RedCharlie, jimreyn, McMeier, lotlizard, Captain Future, Sevah, CSPAN Junkie, Shotput8, acb15, Rogneid, Unduna, JanF, kkjohnson, Land of Enchantment, big spoiled baby, Drocket, Tigana, xaxnar, skywriter, SSMir, makeitstop, Coherent Viewpoint, Nance, danmac, Icy, BalanceSeeker, Patriot Daily News Clearinghouse, BlueInARedState, Gorette, theyrereal, Esjaydee, js noble, DeweyCounts, Students for Bhopal, MJ via Chicago, philipmerrill, vickie feminist, paul2port, condoleaser, PapaChach, BalkanID, CTLiberal, bleeding heart, Preston S, el cid, ER Doc, Andy30tx, ChapiNation386, rage, Clive all hat no horse Rodeo, The Disenfranchised Voter, va dare, doin it for the shorties, RantNRaven, MarketTrustee, scoff0165, NYPopulist, NeilP, bstotts, kidneystones, louise the dog, sasher, Joelarama, samfish, Abraham Running For Congress When I Turn 25, Morgan in Austin, schlagle, YD, Sidof79, Winston Sm1th, ibonewits, Cronesense, hockeyrules, dmh44, moodyinsavannah, Terminus Est, celticmuse, Positronicus, ChakraTease, Brix, FishOutofWater, Jimdotz, ezdidit, Sean in Motion, Rex Manning, vbdietz, netguyct, blueisland, pioneer111, word player, madgranny, Captain Nimrod, B12love, TomP, Linda in SFNM, MKinTN, Light Emitting Pickle, LightningMan, Hippokleides, elender, dsnodgrass, homoaffectional, ReEnergizer, IdahoDem, Sam L, Dave Montoya, Mother of Zeus, Residentcynic, pet cow, royalscam, practivist, vanyel, beyondbushco

Subscribe or Donate to support Daily Kos.

Click here for the mobile view of the site