Tim Blair’s correction policy

Tim Blair reckons that Australian “leftoid” bloggers are losers. Why? Blair has discovered that those bloggers sometimes make mistakes!. For example, David Heidelberg mistook a spoof of Pajamas Media for the real thing, while Chris Sheil made a spelling mistake. But right-wing bloggers make mistakes too. How do they differ? Well, being weak lefties the bloggers he lists let themselves be swayed by facts and updated their posts with corrections and admissions of error. Whereas someone strong like Blair laughs in the face of mere facts and does not need to correct posts that are untrue. Let’s look at some examples.

I am one of the people on Blair’s list because Miranda Devine published a poorly researched column on DDT. Among the many factual errors she made was a bogus quote that she attributed to Rachel Carson. John Quiggin wrote a post about her mistakes. In comments to his post, I noted that Google couldn’t find any uses of the bogus quote and speculated that Devine was the one who screwed up the quote. Quiggin added an update agreeing with this. “Not so” thundered Blair, claiming that the bogus quote had appeared in The Age and despite not being able to find the quote himself in The Age‘s archives attacked Quiggin because Quiggin had not found it in the Fairfax internal library. Trouble is, the bogus quote did not appear in The Age. Quiggin eventually tracked down the origin of the bogus quote to Murdoch’s tabloid, the Melbourne Herald-Sun. If you compare the posts you will see that Quiggin corrected his error, but Blair did not. Is it is possible that Blair is somehow ignorant of the fact that he was wrong about The Age? Well, no, because in a later post he spins the matter like this:

“It was a mistake on my part to draw the conclusion that Miranda Devine was responsible for adding the quote marks, since I should have considered the possibility of an intermediate republication or reproduction of the quote. I apologise for this.” — Quiggin recants after it is revealed Devine had used a quote sourced from Age archives, earlier published in the Herald Sun

Which is untrue. Blair has linked to his own, uncorrected, post where he revealed that the quote was published in the Age. And the new story that she got the quote from Age archives doesn’t make any sense since Devine works for a different newspaper, published in a different city.

Refusing to admit to even blatant errors seems to Blair’s standard procedure. He seems to have been the only person in the country who thought that Australia’s 2004 election was about Iraq. Even on something as trivial as the sample size of the Lancet study, Blair just would not admit that he got it wrong.

So there you have it. If you correct mistakes, Blair thinks you are a loser. The way to win his respect is, like him, not to admit when you are wrong, no matter how obvious it is.

Update: Gummo Trotsky and David Heidelberg comment on making Blair’s list. Gummo even found an occasion when Blair posted a correction. Though Blair reckoned that the error wasn’t his fault, the sun was in his eyes etc.

Update: To the mystification of his readers, Blair has posted a correction, though without adding a correction to his erroneous post.

Comments

  1. #1 John McKay
    February 9, 2006

    “A spoof of Pajamas Media” That seems redundant. What is a spoof of a joke? Is it like a double negative?

  2. #2 Rachel
    February 9, 2006

    Spelling mistakes? Man has entirely too much time on his hands. I’m sure he’ll now ping you for a few minor typo-style errors in this post in order to make himself continue to feel superior. People who put their ego above all else are thoroughly impossible to deal with and aren’t worth anyone’s time, to be honest.

    Also, nice to see an Aussie science blogger! I just happened upon ScienceBlogs, so I’m new to all the people here.

  3. #3 Bill O'Slatter
    February 9, 2006

    If you think Blair could care less about his own mistakes then you are sadly mistaken yourself. This would be to misunderstand what Blair is. He is a publicity seeking missile fueled by the hate of what he sees as outgroups. He is full of sound and fury signifying nothing. To pay attention to him is to play his game. He is best ignored : he has no contribution to make to any sane debate. It is to be noted that no deviance from the party line is now allowed on his blog. so much for freedom of speech. The key question with Blair is who pays for all his bluster ?

  4. #4 Eli Rabett
    February 9, 2006

    I disagree with Bill O’Satter. The problem being that many people do not have the background or attention span needed to figure out that the Blairs of the world are clueless. The are part of the vast noise machine and need to be, shall we say, challenged.

    See Lott, John for the damage which can be done.

  5. #5 Gummo Trotsky
    February 10, 2006

    FTR – Tim Blair did post a correction once – it’s here. But he made it quite clear that the error wasn’t his fault:

    … what Media Watch won’t admit is that they didn’t know they were right when they aired their initial report. It took Media Watch three weeks of research – prompted by this site and various comments at the Media Watch website – to prove their case. Their situation is analogous to someone who assumes OJ Simpson is guilty because of his race, and who is subsequently proved correct by DNA evidence.

    More from me here.

  6. #6 John Ryan
    February 10, 2006

    Re Blair, Empty vessels make the most noise.

  7. #7 Josh Matthews
    February 10, 2006

    A pertinent question, is how do they differ? I’m no Blair-worshipper, but if I were, it would be because he’s enjoyable to read. Sure, he pursues his lefty rivals aggressively, but his posts are always humorous, pointed, and topical. His one-liners take the mickey with ease.

    Contrast to your five-hundred-odd word rant above. “Devine did this wrong, Quiggin found her out, I blogged about it, Quiggin agreed with me, Blair took the piss, Quiggin researched it, Quiggin found that both he and I were wrong but, alas, so was Blair because he got the name of the paper wrong (how could he!), Quiggin blogged an apology, Blair took the piss again, in doing so Blair just linked to his old post, and he never actually corrected himself at all!”. Well written, mate. To the point. Made some great jokes in there too.

    May I suggest that if you are indeed one of the people on Blair’s list, it’s not because of the role you played in the above melodrama ousting Blair as a notorious incorrect-newspaper-namer. It’s because, in your self-appointed position of king blogosphere-fact-checker, you’ve become a little precious.

    How do they differ, indeed.

  8. #8 Bill Posters
    February 10, 2006

    Yes, Josh, you’re right: Tim Lambert’s post would be much shorter and snappier, were it unencumbered by facts.

  9. #9 Tim Lambert
    February 10, 2006

    Err Josh, it matters quite a bit to Blair and his fans whether it was the evil left-wing Age that screwed up, or the god-fearing right-wing Herald Sun.

    And if you’d criticised Blair on his comments the way you just criticised me, you would have been banned from his blog.

  10. #10 David Heidelberg
    February 10, 2006

    Oh yes, the American flag incident. Now that was comedy gold.

  11. #11 RobW
    February 10, 2006

    I’ve always loved Blair’s claim that Media Watch didn’t know they were right when they aired the initial report. After all, the only fact-checking they did was to phone the press office at Central Command and ask them. Blair used Google.

  12. #12 cs
    February 10, 2006

    Listen to the fools reproach! it is a kingly title! – Blake

  13. #13 Jack Lacton
    February 10, 2006

    There seems to be a lot of playing the man not the issue going on from Tim Lambert recently. He seems to delight in shouting from the rooftops about his ‘enemies’ most trivial mistake. Some of those people might deserve to be slapped about a bit but, on the whole, it’s unseemly behaviour.

  14. #14 Dano
    February 10, 2006

    Jack has an interesting point.

    Certainly if Tim L does nothing, this will be used by the Right to claim the Left is weak.

    At least, in my view, Tim L’s strategy of being out in front of the issue by playing the man would be akin to throwing a curveball to someone sitting on a fastball (to mix metaphors across societies).

    Certainly the Right can use this strategy to trumpet and parade the Left’s unseemly behavior, but the Right will use anything at any time to smear, so what’s the advantage? D*mned if you do, d*mned if you don’t.

    Jus’ sayin’.

    Best,

    D

  15. #15 Josh Matthews
    February 10, 2006

    Ah, so now it’s not that Blair made a mistake, it’s that he knew what the correct paper was and maliciously selected a left-wing paper to blame it on instead, with the intention of scoring some points with his right-wing fanbase whilst hoping that no-one would find him out. Ok.

    In addition, Blair has every right to ban anyone he wants from his blog, as do you. Contrary to Bill O’Slatter’s opinion, such actions have as much to do with “freedom of speech” as you stopping me from spray-painting “Haskell sucks” on your front door. If Blair doesn’t want you mouthing off on his blog, you have every right to mouth off on yours, which, as Jack Lacton points out, you seem to delight in doing.

  16. #16 Anonymous
    February 10, 2006

    [deleted: please be civil. Tim] gets a little confused about what freedom of speech is.
    Hint :Spraying “Haskell sucks” on front door [is not the same as a] blog comment.
    Talking about who pays the piper it is interesting to see that Blair along with Michael Duffy has written for the IPA.So if you are a listener to Duffy’s Counterpoint ( only for amusement) then it is illuminating to hear all the IPA alumni.

  17. #17 Bill Posters
    February 10, 2006

    Ah, so now it’s not that Blair made a mistake, it’s that he knew what the correct paper was and maliciously selected a left-wing paper to blame it on instead, with the intention of scoring some points with his right-wing fanbase whilst hoping that no-one would find him out. Ok.

    And this is supposed to be an implausible scenario why exactly?

  18. #18 Josh Matthews
    February 11, 2006

    Anonymous seems to have misunderstood a fairly basic analogy: Blair’s blog is his property, Lambert’s front door is Lambert’s. If Blair does not want me writing on his blog, he has every right to stop me doing so. If Lambert does not want me spray painting on his front door, he likewise has every right to stop me. Neither have anything to do with “freedom of speech”.

    Bill Posters, the point is less about relative plausibility and more about Lambert’s accusations. Lambert’s post claims that Blair does not correct himself when he makes mistakes. When I pointed out that Lambert’s primary example was a somewhat minor mistake involving the name of a newspaper, Lambert then insinuates that Blair didn’t make a mistake, he maliciously selected a different paper with the intent to mislead. So either Lambert’s example is a 500-odd word ramble about a minor mistake, or it’s irrelevant to the point he was trying to make since it wasn’t a mistake in the first place.

    Frankly, it’s painful to have to spell my points out for the commenters on this blog, and ironically that was my initial point. Blair’s posts are frequently witty, sharp, and short, conveying meaning in relatively few words. Having to describe a complex to-and-fro situation involving several people and several mistakes and retractions by those people just to illustrate that Blair got the name of a newspaper wrong just leaves you looking, as I said, a little precious.

  19. #19 dave
    February 11, 2006

    A long time ago, in a galaxy far far away, Tim Dunlop identified a Blair error from a post and newspaper column in which he was explaining how the left are stupid. Blair conceded the error, albeit reluctantly, with the statement “consider my ass fact-checked”. Tim thought this was fair enough, and so credit to Blair for acknowledging the error.

    Links to Tim D’s pages are: here and here

    When explaining why you think a particular group of people are stupid, it’s best not to set an example yourself. I do not think that The Australian ever ran a correction.

  20. #20 Nabakov
    February 11, 2006

    Josh, expending hundreds of words on why Blair’s mistakes don’t count makes you look both overly precious and defensive.

  21. #21 jade
    February 11, 2006

    Blair’s posts are frequently witty, sharp, and short, conveying meaning in relatively few words.

    Blair’s beliefs are garbage, so his wit (such as it is) is in vain.

    Out of curiosity, has anyone actually caught Dim Blare saying something funny? I remember coming across an page-long column of his in the Bulletin which consisted almost totally of hopelessly unfunny jokes (or ‘jokoids’, to use the technical term).

    Perhaps we are using the right-wing definition of humour as ‘lumps of solidified snideness which make me feel superior’, as opposed to the left-wing definition of humour as ‘that which makes me laugh’.

  22. #22 Gummo Trotsky
    February 11, 2006

    Jade,

    Hate to go all precious on your arse, but my personal definition of humour isn’t “that which makes me laugh”. It’s stuff that’s actually … er … funny. Circular, I know, but there are a lot of social situations where you can get people to laugh without meeting this requirement.

  23. #23 tim
    February 12, 2006

    ” … being weak lefties the bloggers he lists let themselves be swayed by facts and updated their posts with corrections and admissions of error.”

    Actually, the two bloggers you selected from my list — Heidelberg and Sheil — didn’t do that. Heidelberg didn’t update his post; he removed it before posting an apology/correction. Sheil replaced the comical misspellings at his site without admitting any errors. Daily Flute did him the favour of fixing the same goofy spelling flaws (again, no errors noted) in Flute’s comments, then redirected links so readers from my site couldn’t visit.

    Will you be correcting this post, Tim?

    As well, here’s something else to correct. You write that this — “Devine had used a quote sourced from Age archives, earlier published in the Herald Sun” — is “untrue”.

    It isn’t. As I’ve explained to you twice in emails, the Age mistakenly archived that Herald Sun piece as an Age item, which led to the flaw in Devine’s correction. You’d do well to ask one or two questions before declaring with such certainty that I’d lied.

    One more time: the error came from the Age, which mistakenly archived a Herald Sun piece containing the dodgy quote. Devine repeatedly the quote (the source, Herald Sun or Age, isn’t particularly important, as John Quiggin has noted) having retrieved it from the Age archives via the internal Fairfax system. She didn’t invent it. And, once alerted to the error, she published a correction.

    Which brings us back to your initial claim:

    “It looks like Devine is the one that fabricated the quote … Devine seems to be the one who added the quote marks.”

    You were wrong.

    Quiggin has posted a correction and apology; why not you?

  24. #24 Warbo
    February 12, 2006

    “Devine repeatedly the quote …”

    Ooh! Ooh! Blair made a mistake. How comical!

  25. #25 David Heidelberg
    February 12, 2006

    I updated my post as soon as I found out it was incorrect. I saw no reason to keep the original, as the incorrect parts were reproduced at tim’s site.

  26. #26 Josh Matthews
    February 12, 2006

    If what Blair says in his above comment is true then may I suggest that you owe your readers an apology.

  27. #27 Tim Lambert
    February 12, 2006

    Tim Blair,

    Heidelberg did update his post with a correction and an admission of error. Shiel’s spelling mistake was not in a post, but has been corrected anyway. (Nor is it necessary to indicate when you correct a spelling mistake.)

    Nice job with the selective quoting, AGAIN. Here’s the full quote “Quiggin recants after it is revealed Devine had used a quote sourced from Age archives, earlier published in the Herald Sun”. What was revealed was the (false) claim that the quote was published in the Age, it was NOT revealed that it was published in the Herald Sun. I did not “declare with certainty” that you’d lied. I wrote that your statement was untrue. Which it is. I did not say that it was a deliberate mistake on your part.

    So we agree that the Herald Sun screwed up the quote and not the Age or Devine. Quiggin corrected his post saying it was Devine. You haven’t corrected your post saying it was the Age. Which was my point.

  28. #28 tim
    February 12, 2006

    I’ll leave aside, among other things, your bewildering claim that Sheil’s signature misspelling didn’t appear in a post (as well as in comments); for the sake of clarity, let’s just look at this, from you:

    “You haven’t corrected your post saying it was the Age. Which was my point.”

    I did, in a later post (in the manner of Heidelberg, whom you support) when I wrote: “Quiggin recants after it is revealed Devine had used a quote sourced from Age archives, earlier published in the Herald Sun.” Which is true. Better correct that in the post above.

    Now, to my point: you still haven’t dealt with these allegations, which are rather more serious than tracing an Age archivist’s bumbling error: “It looks like Devine is the one that fabricated the quote … Devine seems to be the one who added the quote marks.”

    Quiggin apologised for repeating an error that you’d made. Why won’t you?

  29. #29 tim
    February 12, 2006

    Incidentally, I’ve now posted a correction re the Age and Herald Sun. Over to you.

  30. #30 Michael
    February 12, 2006

    Tim Blair is a playground bully, and Tim Lambert shall be the hero who stands up to him! How original of you Lambert.

    I wonder what your next post will be about?

    Oh wait, I see it’s Fumento again. How stimulating.

  31. #31 Bill O'Slatter
    February 13, 2006

    Josh I agree with anonymous unanimously. A blog has a couple of features which are different to front doors.One I would have thought would have been the right to reply and to express opposing views. This is because blogs are public places and one should be public spirited in those places. ( Said without a hint of irony). No joshing .

  32. #32 Josh Matthews
    February 13, 2006

    Bill, I reckon it’d take more than one O’Slatter to agree unanimously, but I’ll address your point regardless. You seem to be a little confused about the “right to reply and to express opposing views”. Of course you have those rights; you can always reply or express your view on your own blog should you wish. The web is a public place, not individual blogs, and should a person not want you expressing your views on their blog, they have every right to stop you doing so.

    Sorted, Seamus?

  33. #33 Tim Lambert
    February 13, 2006

    tim, At the risk of repeating myself: What was revealed was the (false) claim that the quote was published in the Age, it was NOT revealed that it was published in the Herald Sun.

    Heidelberg updated his post to correct the erroneous claims. You have not done this, though with your new post I gve you points for trying to correct the record.

    Yet again: Devine was not the origin of the bogus quote as I originally suggested, it was the Herald Sun.

  34. #34 tim
    February 13, 2006

    I’ll help you out, mate, because you plainly can’t bring yourself to type the words. Simply cut-and-paste the following then post:

    CORRECTION

    At John Quiggin’s site last June I accused journalist Miranda Devine of manufacturing a quote. My exact words:

    “It looks like Devine is the one that fabricated the quote. The version at Front Page doest have quote marks around the first part of the statement, so the author is passing it off as a paraphrase. Devine seems to be the one who added the quote marks. ”

    I was wrong. Devine didn’t add the quote marks or fabricate a quote.

  35. #35 zoot
    February 13, 2006

    Tim Blair, the Australian Eric Olthwaite.

  36. #36 Tim Lambert
    February 13, 2006

    tim, It’s emblematic of your approach to blogging that your objection to my correction is about style and not substance. Is there some particular font you think I should use as well?

  37. #37 tim
    February 13, 2006

    It’s emblematic of your approach, Tim, that you demand corrections from others over tiny perceived infractions but resolutely refuse to correct your own blatant errors. You’re a stunning hypocrite.

    Your readers should be aware that you emailed me to tell me of this particular post (your need for attention is unseemly, to say the least). I’ve previously asked you not to send those “look at me!” emails, and I’ll repeat that request here.

  38. #38 jade
    February 14, 2006

    Hate to go all precious on your arse, but my personal definition of humour isn’t “that which makes me laugh”. It’s stuff that’s actually … er … funny.

    The urge to smile or laugh is generally taken as an indication of the presence of something amusing. It’s a complex subject, isn’t it? A bit off topic here, but perhaps we could all discuss it on our blogs.

    Circular, I know, but there are a lot of social situations where you can get people to laugh without meeting this requirement.

    A tank of nitrous oxide can do wonders (even at a PETA meeting) — as was once demonstrated, somewhat drolly, in a so-called ‘Carry On’ movie which I viewed in infancy. Some say that the word ‘arse’, used unexpectedly, can have the same effect, but personally I doubt it.

    Your readers should be aware that you emailed me to tell me of this particular post (your need for attention is unseemly, to say the least). I’ve previously asked you not to send those “look at me!” emails, and I’ll repeat that request here.

    Did Tim just accuse Tim of being narcissistic? because Tim emailed Tim to tell Tim he had told Tim off on his blog? (Sorry Tim — I didn’t realise you read Tim’s blog.)

    Is the Road to Surfdom involved in this dispute? Somehow, I hope so.

  39. #39 Tim Lambert
    February 14, 2006

    Dear tim, “perceived infractions”? You seem to have conceded that the Age was NOT the original source of the bogus quote. Now it’s just a perceived infraction? And “tiny”? Mistakenly identifying Devine as the original source of the bogus quote (Me, JQ) is the same sort of error as mistakenly identifying the Age as the original source (you). But you think the first error is not tiny and important enough for three posts.

    Your claim that I have not corrected my error about the quote remains false no matter how many times you repeat it.

    You did not ask me not to email posts to you. Your actual words from over a year ago: “You don’t need to email me. I check your site every few days.” Nor did you reply to my email with such a request. Instead, we exchanged a dozen emails. Seems like you are only raising this now because you don’t like how the discussion has gone.

  40. #40 tim
    February 14, 2006

    TimL writes:

    “You seem to have conceded that the Age was NOT the original source of the bogus quote.”

    Seem to? Read my correction again; I stated outright that it wasn’t.

    “Mistakenly identifying Devine as the original source of the bogus quote (Me, JQ) is the same sort of error as mistakenly identifying the Age as the original source (you).”

    If it’s the same sort of error, why don’t you post the same sort of correction? After all, as you wrote: “With your new post I give you points for trying to correct the record.”

    So correct your record with a new post. Not something buried in comments; a new post. Hey, I did it! Extra bonus points if the headline is “CORRECTION” and the line “I was wrong” appears. You suggest that my corrections are reluctant and evasive; let’s see your own correction style.

    (By the way, if you can’t see “You don’t need to email me” as a polite request to NOT email me, I really can’t help you. But that’s no big deal, so long as you now understand that your link-begging emails aren’t welcome.)

  41. #41 Anonymous
    February 14, 2006

    Frankly, it’s painful to have to spell my points out for the commenters on this blog, and ironically that was my initial point. Blair’s posts are frequently witty, sharp, and short, conveying meaning in relatively few words. Having to describe a complex to-and-fro situation involving several people and several mistakes and retractions …

    Complexity! It’s a bitch, ay?

  42. #42 Nabakov
    February 15, 2006

    The fact this issue has degenerated into such hairsplitting only points up how thin on top little tim’s original post was.