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pudge's Journal: "Substantiated" 23

Journal by pudge

To: Seattle P-I Editorial Page, Seattle P-I Ombudsman
From: pudge

In a letter the other day, "More evidence that Bush & Co. used false pretenses," the letter writer wrote:

"With the recent disclosure of the secret British memorandum that substantiates the testimony of terrorism expert Richard Clarke and the writing of ex-Secretary of the Treasury Paul O'Neill, it should be abundantly clear that President Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell, Condoleezza Rice and Donald Rumsfeld conspired to lie to justify the war against Iraq."

This is not true. The memorandum does not substantiate anything. To substantiate is to "support with proof or evidence." Every definition of the word has the sense of using facts, evidence, etc. to back up an assertion. But the memorandum merely makes an undetailed claim, without even attempting to back it up.

I know it is a letter, but the letters you publish should not make blatantly false claims. A better rewriting may have been something along the lines of, "... memorandum that reiterated the claims made by Clarke and O'Neill ..."

============

To: pudge
From: Seattle P-I Ombudsman

Dear pudge: Thanks for your message. I can appreciate what you are saying.

However, the idea of the letters column is to let readers express their opinions. Something that is proof in one person's mind is not proof in another's.

To turn the tables a bit, a person could believe that Newsweek's reporting of a Koran being flushed down the toilet at Guantanamo Bay was proof that the magazine is trying to make the U.S. or its military look bad. Other people would disagree. And that's the basis for printing both opinions. The idea is to further the discussion.

I see you've written this to editpage, so the editors involved will have read your message. We appreciate your interest and that you took the time to write.

============

I was not offering an opinion. What I said is factually true: the memo offered no evidence. It didn't even try to. Have you read it? It was a report from someone, but it is just his word, and doesn't even offer any details. It just says "the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy," but provides no basis for this statement, of any kind.

For all we know, he said that because Richard Clarke told him that, which would be not substantiation of the claim, but merely another retelling of the exact same claim. Or maybe it is just a feeling he had, not intended as a statement of fact. Without knowing the basis of the claim, it cannot be seen as substantiation.

My problem here is precisely that your paper printed something that claimed to be a statement of fact but is actually incorrect, and that you just let it slide by saying it is an opinion. But readers will pick it up and assume that because you printed it, that hey, the memo must have substantiated the claims -- or even MIGHT have done so -- when, in actual fact, it did no such thing.

I am all for letter-writers expressing their opinions, whatever they are. No censor am I. But they should not invent facts that do not exist (which, ironically, is precisely what the letter-writer is accusing Bush of doing), and when they do, it is your responsibility to check them for accuracy.

Also, I am not sure how you are "turning the tables;" it appears you mean to imply I might agree with such a sentiment. I would not, as such action alone cannot prove intent.

Maybe Bush fudged intelligence to fit the policy. Maybe Newsweek has seditious intentions. But the Downing Street Memo does not prove the former, nor the article mentioning the Koran the latter.

Regards.

============

pudge: Thanks for the clarification. I'll share it with the editorial page editor.
We appreciate your interest.

This discussion was created by pudge (3605) for no Foes, but now has been archived. No new comments can be posted.

"Substantiated"

Comments Filter:
  • Bush lied by getting Congress to Authorize the use of force 2 years before he was EVEN ELECTED!!!! [iraqwatch.org]

    FWIW, a lot of folks confuse 'facts' and 'truth' with validity.

    Nothing to see here.
    • well duh... I mean you've read the 90 page PNAC haven't you? I mean it's all laid out like Mein Kampf. Besides the geno-bombs and pocket sized flying robots already exist.
    • Great link!

      I looked up the measure [209.157.64.200] (amended, roll call #482) and it passed the house with a 360 to 38 [iraqwatch.org] (your link, thanks) vote. While it was a Republican heavy congress (228 to 206 [house.gov]) at least 168 (81%) of Democrats voted for the bill.

      While Bill Clinton was president.

      And he signed it.

      Were he to not have signed it, the bill (on it's previous vote) achieved 90% which is enough to break a Presidential veto. Were all of the Democrats to have voted against the bill (or even a fair chunk), the bill woul
    • SEC. 8. RULE OF CONSTRUCTION.

      Nothing in this Act shall be construed to authorize or otherwise speak to the use of United States Armed Forces (except as provided in section 4(a)(2)) in carrying out this Act.

      The law to which you linked is about providing aid to the Iraqi people toward the end of overthrowing the Saddam Hussein's regime, not authorizing the US military to do the same. Section 4(a)(2) allows some of the aid to take the form of military equipment and training. So yes, "nothing to see

    • Bush lied by getting Congress to Authorize the use of force 2 years before he was EVEN ELECTED!!!!

      That's one way of putting it. One wierd way of putting it, to be precise. You and I and everyone reading this knows what "getting the Congress to Authorize the use of force" means: authorizing the President to send in troops. It doesn't mean authorizing helping a third party not answerable to Congress in the first place to use their own forces.

      SUMMARY:

      (REVISED AS OF 10/05/98 -- Passed House, amended)

      • Actually, Congress authorized the use of force way back in Gulf War I and merely suspended fighting, a 'cease fire' was it were, including instituting a 'no-fly zone' and other stipulations that Saddam failed to adhere to.
        When Congress upheld their prior authorization in 2002 [yourcongress.com], they mention that the intent of the 1998 resolution was well, here, read it:

        Whereas in Public Law 105-235 (August 14, 1998), Congress concluded that Iraq's continuing weapons of mass destruction programs threatened vital United Stat

  • This was a letters page? I don't think it is the responsibility of a newspaper to fact check every claim on their letters page. Rather, they are published to reflect the opinion of people who have taken the time to write to them. No-one reading a newspaper would think the letters page contains the same fact checking that any other part of the paper would. It is not the words of the paper, it is clearly words of the individual. You would have been better to present your own opinion in a letter in answer to t
    • by pudge (3605) *
      I don't think it is the responsibility of a newspaper to fact check every claim on their letters page

      And I think you're wrong.

      No-one reading a newspaper would think the letters page contains the same fact checking that any other part of the paper would

      On this, I *know* you're wrong.

      You would have been better to present your own opinion in a letter in answer to the one you read, rather than complain to the editor, surely?

      My complaint was about newspaper policy, which obviously has similar lax stand
      • Pudge, do you believe the readers of a newspaper realise that on "letters TO THE EDITOR" pages they are reading the newspaper's opinion rather than a particular individual's opinion?

        You seem to be saying you do. Why? Selection of the letters they print?

        It is an essential issue. Because if they believe they are reading an individuals opinion, then they surely have no valid expectation of the newspaper certifying any facts it contains, or lending anybody's opinion the backing of the newspapers reputatio
        • by pudge (3605) *
          Because if they believe they are reading an individuals opinion, then they surely have no valid expectation of the newspaper certifying any facts it contains

          That's false. Newspapers censor or edit letters, syndicated columns, guest editorials, and such for factual problems *all the time*.
          • We aren't talking about syndicated columns or guest editorials. We're talking about letters to the editor. These are censored, presumably for language, and edited, normally for length, but the opinions expressed in them are still the opinions of the letter writer, and it is clear that it is so, and not the newspaper.
            • We aren't talking about syndicated columns or guest editorials. We're talking about letters to the editor.

              I realize that.

              These are censored, presumably for language, and edited, normally for length, but the opinions expressed in them are still the opinions of the letter writer, and it is clear that it is so, and not the newspaper.

              And since I was talking about errors of fact, not of opinion, this is irrelevant. Did I not make that clear? Everyone else seemed to get it.

              What, precisely, are you saying
              • The sidestep is to lump the censoring or editing of letters in with the censoring or editing of "syndicated columns, guest editorials". The two are not the same, and I felt you were muddying the issue.

                I don't need to spell out the differences, they are clear.

                And since I was talking about errors of fact, not of opinion, this is irrelevant. Did I not make that clear? Everyone else seemed to get it.

                Yes, you were talking about errors of "fact". I don't agree that your 'fact' was anything more than your
                • The sidestep is to lump the censoring or editing of letters in with the censoring or editing of "syndicated columns, guest editorials". The two are not the same

                  In regard to not printing false facts, they are exactly the same.

                  I don't agree that your 'fact' was anything more than your opinion, but that is again, a side issue to this whole thread.

                  What are you smoking? I started the thread, and this is the main point of the thread that I started.

                  I said "I don't think it is the responsibility of a newsp
      • by ces (119879)
        My understanding is most papers will try to run a representative sample of the letters they've recieved.

        I don't know if they fact check the content but I've seen plenty of bizzare things claimed in the letters sections of papers I've read. Both from people who agreed and disagreed with the general editoral slant of the paper.

        I've also seen them run the occasional 'barking moonbat'[1] letter where it is clear that the writer has only a limited connection to reality. (fun stuff like NASA faked the moon land
        • by pudge (3605) *
          My understanding is most papers will try to run a representative sample of the letters they've recieved.

          If they get a lot of letters about a topic, yes, they will try to print the best ones that are most representative, usually. Of course, they may also print letters that are unique, if interesting enough.

          I don't know if they fact check the content

          Some do. Some don't. My contention is that they should, and are irresponsible if they don't.

          Heck without the crazies the letters page wouldn't be nearl
          • by ces (119879)
            Ok, I think I get your point.

            The obviously wrong can be printed without comment (usually context shows the author to not be credible), but in less obvious cases the paper should attach a note regarding the accuracy of the author's facts if they choose run the letter.
            • by pudge (3605) *
              I generally think the paper should correct the factual error themselves, if it does not take away significantly from the author's intent; if it does, then it is usually best to not print the letter at all. If they must, then yes, an editor's note may be best.
    • This was a letters page? I don't think it is the responsibility of a newspaper to fact check every claim on their letters page. Rather, they are published to reflect the opinion of people who have taken the time to write to them.

      So if I wrote a letter to them that says the sky is green, they should go ahead and print it? After all, it's just my opinion on the matter.

      I didn't think so.

      • You're missing the point.

        Pudge seems to be saying (and correct me if I'm wrong here, Pudge) that if you were to write that letter and get it published that:
        1) People would think it was the official opinion of the newspaper on the sky color issue.
        2) This is because some letters on "letters to the editor" are edited.
        • by pudge (3605) *
          You're wrong. :-)

          It is not about official positions or that people think that because some letters are edited, all are. Readers don't care about those things. It's just that people believe what they read, when it is presented as fact in a respected and trusted medium (like one hopes one's own newspaper is), no matter who has written it. After all, if it were flatly incorrect, why would they print it?

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