Editore"s Note
Tilting at Windmills

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October 8, 2010

IT WAS OFFENSIVE ENOUGH THE FIRST TIME.... For reasons that continue to escape me, Forbes recently published an insane cover story, written by right-wing polemicist Dinesh D'Souza, attacking President Obama as a dangerous, radical "anti-colonialist," with the mindset of an African "Luo tribesman."

The obscene piece quickly drew considerable scrutiny, which it failed to withstand. Almost immediately, the Forbes piece was thoroughly discredited -- not just for sloppy errors, but for what was effectively Birtherism with a high-brow veneer. The piece ended up doing far more damage to D'Souza and the magazine than any trouble it could have hoped to cause the president.

And yet, lo and behold, the Washington Post allowed D'Souza to rehash the identical argument in a 800-word op-ed today. Even Howard Kurtz, a long-time veteran of the paper, said, "Why would WP run a condensed version of Dinesh D'Souza's Forbes piece, abetting discredited argument that Obama's dad made him anticolonial?"

That's' a good question. The op-ed, like the article it came from, is garbage. Worse, it's lazy garbage, espousing cheap attacks that were exposed as nonsense weeks ago. Indeed, the lede of D'Souza's op-ed makes sweeping arguments about the president's psyche based on the title of Obama's first book -- arguments that appear ridiculous if one actually gets past the title to read the book itself.

Asked what on earth he was thinking, Fred Hiatt, the Washington Post's editorial page editor, said:

I approved publication of this Op-Eed. D'Souza's theory has sparked a great deal of commentary, from potential presidential candidates as well as from commentators on our own pages.

Let me get this straight. D'Souza's argument has already been exposed as right-wing trash. Hell, a columnist from Forbes itself blasted D'Souza's "intellectual goofiness," "factual problems," and "unsubstantiated ideological accusations."

But the Washington Post is giving the writer yet another platform, on purpose and probably for compensation, because people are talking about just how ridiculous D'Souza's argument really is? Offensive, discredited ideas deserve coveted media real estate, regardless of merit, based solely on their ability to generate political buzz?

Adam Serwer noted that this "basically supports the theory that attacking right-wing nonsense just makes the press embrace it even more."

It's also a reminder that, a little too often, it's not altogether clear why some op-ed pages even exist. Ideally, opinion columns are intended to add context, analysis, and a larger vision to current events. But when a paper decides op-eds don't have to be true, and publishes items that are clearly false regardless of merit, there's a more systemic problem about journalistic standards to consider.

Steve Benen 3:55 PM Permalink | Trackbacks | Comments (37)

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In other news , house keeping reports of a persistent Kristol problem .

Posted by: FRP on October 8, 2010 at 4:06 PM | PERMALINK

This just proves, again, that Fred Hiatt is the worst editor the Post has ever had.

Posted by: Bobbob on October 8, 2010 at 4:08 PM | PERMALINK

D'Souza's charmed career suggests angels, unicorns, and moneyed friends. I'm not sure if this means our right-wing intelligentsia are relentless or if their corporate sponsors expects a certain rate of return.

Posted by: walt on October 8, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

Yeah, we need to bring back the journolist, so we can coordinate and foster only the PROPER stories.

Posted by: hondr on October 8, 2010 at 4:10 PM | PERMALINK

After the Washington Post op-ed page published a series of columns by George Will that were full of deliberate lies about global warming science, which were debunked as such by the Post's own reporters in the Post's own news pages, Fred Hiatt defended his decision to publish deliberate lies by a second-rate sports writer and partisan Republican hack, saying that they were an "important contribution to the debate".

Fred Hiatt knowingly publishes deliberate lies. He does it all the time. He does it for money.

Fred Hiatt lies. For money. It is really as simple as that.

Posted by: SecularAnimist on October 8, 2010 at 4:14 PM | PERMALINK

someday, an intelligent publisher will shitcan the entire oped page (replacing it with multiple voices online but not spending big dollars for "name" oped writers in the dead tree edition), but until then, the oped bias around the country is for moronic right-wing commentators.

and then you've got the washington post oped page in particular, where fred hiatt combines right-wing ideology and stupidity in equal measure to "approve" the content.

Posted by: howard on October 8, 2010 at 4:16 PM | PERMALINK

Not really sure that this hypothesis makes sense. Of course they want controversy for clicks but it must be added with conservatives must always be protected. Why else fire Dave Weigel? Didn't the journolist controversy drive clicks?

Posted by: Unstable Isotope on October 8, 2010 at 4:18 PM | PERMALINK

D'Souza has a brand new code. Weren't the "Kenyan anti-colonialists" the machete-swinging Mau Mau?

That's what Obama wants for America - machete-swinging Mau Mau.

Obama Derangement Syndrome - it isn't just birtherism any more.

Posted by: Okie on October 8, 2010 at 4:22 PM | PERMALINK

Is Fred Hiatt related to Stu Pedasso? -Kevo

Posted by: kevo on October 8, 2010 at 4:25 PM | PERMALINK

What would Walter Cronkite do?

Steve: But when a paper decides op-eds don't have to be true, and published items that are clearly false regardless of merit...

Exactly. What is the sense of having a gatekeeper if anything is allowed to pass? All editors should begin and end here: Would Walter Cronkite run it? Call it, your basic decency/bull puckey test. And if you have any doubts Walter would run it, then for god's sake avoid it...

Posted by: koreyel on October 8, 2010 at 4:27 PM | PERMALINK

Secular Animist has it right. At least Fred Hiatt isn't a liar - he says up front that if it generates controversy and discussion, he'll print it. That's what sells papers; ask the National Enquirer, and other supermarket tabloids that feature stories about Bat Boy joining the Marines to go and fight in Iraq. Once I saw a real wowser about terrorists operating submarines in the Great Lakes, and the photo was of a Russian Typhoon, which is so huge it couldn't get into the lakes - or transit them in most places - unless it traveled on the surface. A bit hard to miss, I'd think. Nobody expects to see real news in them, they're just entertainment. And the Washington Post is getting just like them. It won't be long until their focus begins to drift from politics to photo spreads featuring embarrassing shots of celebrity surgeries and puff pieces about people whose pets look like their owners. Dinesh D'Souza will be in good company.

Posted by: Mark on October 8, 2010 at 4:37 PM | PERMALINK

No one has yet been able to explain to me what's wrong with being anti-colonialist? Colonialism is pretty disgusting. (And I know DSouza's writing in code -- barely -- but that aside, it's a particularly stupid line of attack.)

Posted by: Bat of Moon on October 8, 2010 at 4:43 PM | PERMALINK

Now, contrast this Forbes piece with the media cheerleading for Bush as we headed toward the Iraq war.

Posted by: cb on October 8, 2010 at 4:44 PM | PERMALINK

I guess the Post has decided that it doesn't matter how dumb or deranged its readership is, as long as they look at the ads. Keep it up, Fred. Sounds like a recipe for eternal success.

Posted by: slappy magoo on October 8, 2010 at 4:53 PM | PERMALINK

Howard Kurtz said, "Why would WP run a condensed version of Dinesh D'Souza's Forbes piece?

-maybe to sell newspapers?

Posted by: DAY on October 8, 2010 at 4:55 PM | PERMALINK

What does reminding one of the success the right wing has in attenuating the free circulation of information amongst a wide , non uniform group of individuals produce ?
Just like the investigation of peace groups as likely terrorists was a waste of time and treasure , exposing the confidential Journolist produced nothing beyond political triumphalism .
The yellow journalism of the authoritarian parties broadcast shamelessly by foreigners is okay though ?

Posted by: FRP on October 8, 2010 at 5:03 PM | PERMALINK

Bat, you have to read D'Souza columns to make sense of it, and even then it doesn't make sense to anyone that doesn't want an excuse, any excuse, to hate the President.

But the basic thesis goes like this, Barack Obama's father grew up in pre-independence Kenya and was an anti-colonialist who supported (in priciple and in theory and according to D'Souza) not just achieving independence from foreign colonial governments but doing away with all the vestiges of colonial rule (i.e. taking land away from whites). Barack Obama, who never knew his birth father, adopted these views and also regards the United States as a colonial power. Therefore, Barack Obama is acting to reduce America's power and influence in the world.

D'Souza claims that only by understanding all of this can you understand why Barack Obama pals around with terrorists, belonged to the church of anti-white racist minister and pursues treasonous policies now that he lied his way into the Presidency.

Evey bit of it is total bullshit. It's also disgustingly racist. It should discredit the entire fucking Republican party that Forbes Magazine (owned by a former Republican Presidential candidate) gave space to this garbage and has defended it, and that Glenn Beck and Newt Gingrich and several other Republican and Conservative voices have endorsed it, and none of the leaders of the Republican Party have denounced it.

Posted by: tanstaafl on October 8, 2010 at 5:05 PM | PERMALINK

This outrageous editorial decision is Exhibit "104" in the case that WAPO is a vastly overrated newspaper. "Secular animist" identifies exhibit "93", the infamous 'Will drivel'. Then there is exhibit "59", the proposed sale of access to WAPO scribes and pontificators.

The Washington Post's days of professional glory ended a while ago. The blood that once contained printer's ink now contains a much less attactive and useful substance.

Posted by: robert on October 8, 2010 at 5:17 PM | PERMALINK

Well, D'Souza obviously has a pre-1947 Indian pro-Raj mindset. See how easy? This is fun.

Posted by: ManOutOfTime on October 8, 2010 at 5:18 PM | PERMALINK

so it's acceptable to form a colonial empire again?

Posted by: Jamie on October 8, 2010 at 5:22 PM | PERMALINK

D'Souza seems to be proud to be on the wrong side of history. His parents must be so proud.

Posted by: Jamie on October 8, 2010 at 5:26 PM | PERMALINK

It's too bad Fred Hiatt isn't still the Editor at the WaPo, or a BS, poorly written, incorrect, selectively edited piece written by a hack would never have appeared there!
What? He's still the Editor?
Neeeeeever miiiiind.....

Posted by: c u n d gulag on October 8, 2010 at 6:00 PM | PERMALINK

Let's face it, at this point the Weekly World News is more credible than The Washington Post.

Posted by: electrolite on October 8, 2010 at 6:15 PM | PERMALINK

To understand the Right Wing relationship to being embarrassed by all this, recall the time you were in the movie theater and that gang of teenage boys were making noises and either farting or simulating farts all during the movie. Everyone else in the theater wondered why those boys weren't embarrassed by that behavior. However, the idea of embarrassment never even occurred to those boys.

Today we have different boys, but the same fart noises, and the same obliviousness to how they are seen by the grown-ups around them.

Posted by: Robert Moskowitz on October 8, 2010 at 7:23 PM | PERMALINK

Fred Hiatt is there to do what his owners want him to do, there's not much point in thinking about "competency."

Posted by: neil b on October 8, 2010 at 7:49 PM | PERMALINK

The secret of propaganda is to repeat it over and over and over again no matter how many times it is demonstrated to be untrue. Eventually the debunkers get tired, and the bullshit becomes the truth. WaPo is a propaganda rag. What do you expect.

Posted by: rrk1 on October 8, 2010 at 7:58 PM | PERMALINK

I gave up on the Washington Post years ago, in the first GWB term. It is a good thing Howard Kurtz is finally leaving since he may now get some better exposure. E J Dionne is probably the last sensible person there.

Posted by: withay on October 8, 2010 at 8:10 PM | PERMALINK

"Obama - He's Black, from Africa, with Muslim heritage, Anti-American, Socialist, Anti-Capitalist" from a psudeo-intellectual who went to the right colleges.
Of course the WP would run it.

Posted by: Gary D on October 8, 2010 at 8:47 PM | PERMALINK

"who went to the right colleges"?

I think you mean "college" -- singular. D'Souza has a bachelor's degree in English from Dartmouth. Nice school, of course, but D'Souza is rather lightly educated for someone who is celebrated as an intellectual of the right.

Posted by: Zeno on October 8, 2010 at 10:45 PM | PERMALINK

Has anyone suggested to Mr. Hiatt that the idea that 9/11 was an inside job ought to receive prominent space on his editorial page? That idea has certainly generated a lot more controversy than this bit by whosis. And there are even data that seem to back up the idea!

I expect that anytime now he will prominently post an article about how Cheney and Bush deliberately sacrificed the World Towers so that they could have an excuse to invade Iraq and get their oil.

Posted by: Texas Aggie on October 8, 2010 at 11:19 PM | PERMALINK

Hiatt is neocon sludge. That's all you really need to know.

Posted by: TT on October 8, 2010 at 11:54 PM | PERMALINK

Yet another example of why reading the Post is largely a waste of time

Posted by: Eric on October 9, 2010 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK

This is exactly why people should stop buying the Washington Post AND stop reading it. It is a crappy paper and deserves to die off.

Posted by: Bonnie on October 9, 2010 at 1:41 AM | PERMALINK

Suggests that the financial leaders of our country, the readers of Forbes, represent a very low quality of person indeed.

Posted by: bob h on October 9, 2010 at 6:33 AM | PERMALINK

The op-ed page reprise gave the right wing as8hats another chance to run pictures of scary black men -- Obama and his father.

This fits right in with the entire GOP election efforts and dog-whistle racist attacks.

Posted by: grooft on October 9, 2010 at 1:02 PM | PERMALINK

Lies are lies even if they are in an opinion piece.

If the Post wants to let people see how shoddy the original piece was by letting the author repeat it in his own words that's fine, but they also ought to print a piece that exposes the lies.

Posted by: John L on October 9, 2010 at 10:21 PM | PERMALINK

D'Souza is, unfortunately, a stereotypical Dartmouth man: ultra-conservative, bigoted, mean, and not particularly smart. I have no idea if he spent his time up in Hanover getting drunk like so many others trying to survive the New Hampshire winters, but he's nasty piece of work.

Posted by: ellid on October 11, 2010 at 7:39 AM | PERMALINK



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