Like others, the Bush administration has sometimes demanded their opponents prove a negative. For example, when the administration claimed there were more than sixty stem cell lines “viable for research” and scientists pointed out that they only knew of around ten, press secretary Ari Fleischer insisted “the burden of proof is on anyone who doubts [our claim]”. While such remarks are pretty obviously silly, Bush officials recently hit a new low: claiming that they were involved in a negative.

Yes, Ben Ginsburg, the lawyer who recently resigned from the Bush-Cheney campaign after it was revealed he was also working for the Swift Boat Veterans for Truth, insisted he was not doing any coordination. In fact, his job was to make sure there was no coordination! As he told Reuters, “I was at the nexus of making sure (coordination) didn’t happen.” I guess the Bush administration is so against coordination that they had to coordinate to make sure they didn’t coordinate.

This reminds me of the time Ashcroft commented that “those who scare peace-loving people with phantoms of lost liberty … only aid terrorists”. His remarks were widely reported but what was less reported was that Ashcroft’s office wrote to reporters who covered the story, insisting that Ashcroft had not attacked his opponents and reporters who falsely claimed otherwise were simply aiding the terrorists. (“Anyone who reported … he criticized anyone who opposed him was absolutely wrong and in doing so became a part of the exact problem he was describing,” were the exact words.)

I could go on for days recounting Bush’s “errorisms”. Like when he introduced his tax policy by claiming that under it a single mother of two making $22,000 a year would pay no income taxes. (She was only paying $72 before.) Or when he claimed seventeen times (long after he’d been corrected) that he said at a Chicago campaign stop he’d only deficit spend in times of war, national emergency, or economic reession. (The statement had been Gore’s.)

But it’s unfair to just pick on Bush; other conservatives are funny liars too. For example, on Tim Lambert’s excellent weblog you can watch as he debunks Ross McKitrick, a prominent global warming skeptic. So desperate is McKitrick to find some way to disprove global warming, that he’s gone thru a variety of increasingly desperate tactics. Once he simply made up an excuse why the data was wrong which was disproved as soon as it was tested. Then he tried something a little more complex but which was still disproved after a little bit of serious analysis. But then things get really weird. He made up new rules of physics, treated missing data as a temperature of zero, and failed to convert between degrees and radians. Finally, in an almost inspired bit of deception, he invented his very own temperature scale to try to prove his point. You almost feel sorry for the guy.

But even this isn’t quite as bad as John Lott, weblogger Lambert’s previous foe. Lott, a “resident scholar” at the American Enterprise Institute, a right-wing think tank, is the author of the bestselling book More Guns, Less Crime. Lott’s book attempted to prove that letting people have concealed weapons actually lowered crime rates. Unfortunately for him, his analysis was bogus (he had miscategorized his data). Of course, being false didn’t seem to hurt sales any. Maybe that’s what led Lott down the road of more bizarre and absurd claims.

For example, Lott claimed a survey showed a gun only needed to be shot less than 2% of the time for effective defense. The lowest previously published number was 21%, so scholars were curious about the source. Lott originally cited sixteen national surveys for the number, none of which could be found. Later he claimed the number was based upon his own survey, but he was unable to provide any proof he had actually conducted the survey, including data (lost in a hard drive crash), pay receipts (the work was done by volunteers), phone records (they did it from their dorm rooms), computer software used (he threw the CD away), contemporaneous notes (he threw them all away), or others he worked with (he can’t remember the names of the volunteers and didn’t talk to anyone else about it). But he really did conduct the survey, honest!

In another low point, Lott went on the Internet pretending to be a female student of his, Mary Rosh. (“[Lott] was the best professor I ever had,” she gushed.) Mary frequently spoke up on Internet discussions to defend Lott’s work. And Lott, under a variety of identities, posted seventeen five-star reviews of his book to Amazon. When this was discovered, he confessed to the Washington Post: “I probably shouldn’t have done it — I know I shouldn’t have done it — but it’s hard to think of any big advantage I got except to be able to comment fictitiously.” His regret was apparently shortlived — he began posting under false names again the very next day.

To bring things full circle, perhaps it was Lott’s success that inspired the seemingly-ubiquitious Swift Boat Veterans for Truth. Despite the fact that their claims are all contradicted by official Navy records, their own previous statements, and all but one of the men who actually served with Kerry, these guys have been attacking Kerry’s war record on every TV talk show. (And their story doesn’t even make internal sense.) But conservative commentator Michelle Malkin (whose new book suggests we should throw all the Arabs in concentration camps — to protect freedom!) did them one better and suggested Kerry intentionally wounded himself. The charge would be sort of serious except for the fact that Kerry’s wound was shrapnel from a rocket-launched grenade. (Imagining Kerry trying to wound himself with a rocket-launched grenade is almost as funny as Ross McKitrick inventing his own temperature system!)

Anyway, all this silliness goes a long way toward explaining why the two best news sources these days are Fafblog! and The Daily Show. Sadly, most people watch media where false notions of objectivity insist this absurd nonsense is given an equal footing with, you know, the truth. But on the bright side, at least that idea’s pretty funny too.

posted August 26, 2004 10:27 AM (Politics) (7 comments) #


Why is Big Media losing viewers? Because it sucks
The Behavior Without A Name
What is the real purpose of military spending?
Press Clipping
How Control Works
Right Wing Funnies
Framing the Media
Behind the Thick Black Line
Published Author
Stanford: Day 1
Stanford: Day 2


You shouldn’t be aiding the terrorists this way.

posted by Skeeter2 at August 26, 2004 11:21 AM #

Funny, but a (only a little) bit offtopic is, that just a few hours ago, I stumbled across this:

Top U.S. newspapers’ focus on balance skewed coverage of global warming, analysis reveals


The new study, “Balance as Bias: Global Warming and the U.S. Prestige Press,” examined coverage of human contributions to global warming in the New York Times, the Washington Post, the Los Angeles Times, and the Wall Street Journal from 1988 to 2002 to assess how scientific findings were conveyed to readers.


“In light of general agreement in the international scientific community that mandatory and immediate action is needed, coverage has been seriously and systematically deficient,” said Boykoff. “In effect, the press has provided ‘balanced’ coverage of a very unbalanced issue.”

posted by Sencer at August 26, 2004 12:36 PM #

[quote comment posted by Skeeter2 at August 26, 2004 11:21 AM] “You shouldn’t be aiding the terrorists this way.” [/quote]

I’ll only say one thing, which fits both the quote above and your post (and in that case it really is unfortunate for American politics) : ROFL.

posted by RT at August 27, 2004 04:23 AM #

Aaron, Where to start? Bush “errorism” rarely go unnoticed in the media, yet quotes like ” “The truth, which is what elections are all about, is that the tax burden of the middle class has gone up while the tax burden of the middle class has gone down.”

—John Kerry, quoted by the Associated Press, Aug. 25, 2004. go unnoticed. So I to could sit here and go on all night playing that game. But you have come up with some fascinating rhetoric that needs to be responded too.

The difference between the two parties is that the Republicans know what’s best for their party. Ben Ginsberg, who has an untarnished record, stepped down from the Bush-Cheney campaign. I will not hold my breath for the figure heads of the Democrat ticket to resign because of their alliance with and MediaMatters.

For a party that supposedly fights for the rights of the first amendment when it comes to NARAL and the NAACP, its kind of odd to see the attacks on the Swift Boat Veterans. You feel you need to shut them down because they do not agree with your cause. This story has wings, they will continue to grow. Instead of the character assassinations I would like to see some repudiations to their facts. You have 254 Swift Boat veterans who believe John Kerry is unfit to be Commander and Chief. It seems it would have been much easier for Sen. Kerry to run on his record in the senate than to base the Democratic convention and his platform around a hand full of Veterans and a war that he spent 4 months fighting and a legacy destroying. The fact will continue to come out, like today from ex-Navy Chief John Lehman. “Former Navy Secretary John Lehman has no idea where a Silver Star citation displayed on Democratic presidential nominee John Kerry’s campaign Web site came from, he said Friday. The citation appears over Lehman’s signature.

“It is a total mystery to me. I never saw it. I never signed it. I never approved it. And the additional language it contains was not written by me,” he said. Interesting!
I will leave this in passing. Let me know if you can find 1 Vietnam Vet who has three Purple Hearts and never spent a day in the hospital.
In reference to The John Stewart show with “special guest” Sen Kerry. he was posed two direct questions;

  1. Were you ever in Cambodia on or around Christmas? Answer… None
  2. Are you the most liberal senator? Answer.. NO? Follow-up question…. None. Run on your record Kerry, Oh.. It doesn’t resonate with the American voter.. With regard to the other nonsense that you refer to above, I’ll save that for tommorow Mom’s got Mac and Cheese on the stove. Daddie

posted by daddie at August 30, 2004 08:47 PM #

Why isn’t that Kerry quote covered? Maybe because the AP reporter transcribed the comment wrong.

What’s wrong with and Media Matters? They’re 501(3)(c) groups which can legally work with campaign people. And both groups do good honest work; they don’t spread lies like the Swift Vets.

its kind of odd to see the attacks on the Swift Boat Veterans. You feel you need to shut them down because they do not agree with your cause.

Huh? AFAIK, it’s only President Bush who wants to shut them down by banning third-party ad campaigns.

I linked to some repudiations of their facts in my article. Their story doesn’t make coherent sense, it contradicts their previous statements, and it’s not corroborated at all by Navy records. In short, there’s really no reason to believe these guys.

And Kerry’s not the most liberal senator. When you ask the Republicans where they got that claim, they cite the National Journal. But the National Journal just published a note saying the Republicans are wrong and Kerry is more like the twelfth most liberal senator.

posted by Aaron Swartz at August 31, 2004 12:31 PM #

Lying about statistics is cheap to be sure, but it doesn’t change the facts. People have the right to own guns, reguardless of their statistical effect on crime.

posted by oh ok at September 30, 2004 12:43 PM #

The republicans are now saying that Rick Santorum is too “liberal” because he was supporting Arlen Spector who is according to their line of reasoning a “liberal” republican. Now just try to prove the negative that republicans aren’t “liberal”! I think they’ve gone mad.

posted by Pimpin at November 21, 2004 12:43 AM #

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