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The fun in finger-pointing

A post yesterday, “In the realm of the White Queen,” about some of the preposterous things public figures say, provoked this comment from Bruce Robinson: “But, dear host, why do continue to give credence to the cretins by perpetuating their outrageous (?) ideas?”

He’s entitled to an answer.

When a plane crashes into the side of a mountain, we are more interested than when a plane lands without incident at BWI. When a public official or public figure makes flat statements so blatantly unreliable that a child could expose them, it captures our attention.

Then, too, you have to remember my trade. Establishing factual accuracy is part of my job description, and error, either ignorant or deliberate, draws my attention, offends my sensibilities.

There is additionally the journalistic imperative to see to it that the public has reliable information on which to make judgments. If it jangles your nerves when I bring up political whoppers, think instead of Jenny McCarthy’s efforts to expose multitudes of children to preventable, and dangerous, childhood diseases because of her discredited belief that immunizations cause autism.

But I don’t want to claim too much nobility. In plain fact, I derive from pointing out these misrepresentations foisted on the public the same satisfaction that people get from watching YouTube videos or jay Leno: an unearned sense of superiority.



Posted by John McIntyre at 10:43 AM | | Comments (2)


It seems to me that it is earned.

Your column reminds me of Curtis McDougall,....Was a Professor at Northwestern University. He wrote a book about hoax's, pulled on the public. (in fact that was the name of the book.) I wrote to him, he wrote back, and we became pen-pals.,,,No computers then.

When he decided to run for Congress,(in the mid-70's) we were active with his campaign. Alas---he lost....

I think of Plato---"The only man who can be trusted with authority is the man who does not want it: but his opposite is almost always the man who gets it."

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About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at
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