Fake, but accurate?

Clifford May (formerly of the Republican National Committee, now of NRO’s The Corner) today published a document purporting to be from a Marine in Iraq, boasting of how well things are going there and blasting the mass media for misrepresenting the story. But it turns out the same document, which has never been traced to an actual Marine, has been in circulation for more than a year. Will the same people who treated the forged Bush National Guard memos shown by Dan Rather as exonerating Bush from the charge of shirking his duty continue to insist that the disaster in Iraq is merely a media fantasy?

So it turns out that Clifford May, the former RNC communications director now posting at NRO’s The Corner, is using a phony document &#8212 an email purporting to come from a Marine in Iraq, but which has never been attributed to an actual human being and in any case has been around for more than a year &#8212 to argue for the proposition that things are actually going well in Iraq and that the disaster there is a myth created by the mass media.

Of course, that doesn’t prove that things aren’t going well in Iraq. False arguments are sometimes offered in support of true propositions.

Still, I recall that Glenn Reynolds and the Powerline crew, when they were hammering Dan Rather for using what turned out to be bogus documents in support of the true claim that George Walker Bush had been less than minimally diligent in carrying out the duties of the National Guard assignment that kept him out of Vietnam, had nothing but contempt for those of us who acknowledged the falsity of the documents (as Kevin Drum did promptly) but insisted that the claim was still true, and that there might indeed have been real documents with the same content as the phony documents. They used the catch-phrase “Fake, but accurate?” as if it were the mantra supplied by their common TM teacher.

Well, fellas, howsa bout? Now that a document pushed by a substantial journalist on your side turns out to be grossly bogus (at minimum, May gave no hint that it was at least a year old, and no one has ever produced the Marine who was supposed to have written it), are you still prepared to believe that the disaster in Iraq is just a media fantasy?

Author: Mark Kleiman

Professor of Public Policy at the NYU Marron Institute for Urban Management and editor of the Journal of Drug Policy Analysis. Teaches about the methods of policy analysis about drug abuse control and crime control policy, working out the implications of two principles: that swift and certain sanctions don't have to be severe to be effective, and that well-designed threats usually don't have to be carried out. Books: Drugs and Drug Policy: What Everyone Needs to Know (with Jonathan Caulkins and Angela Hawken) When Brute Force Fails: How to Have Less Crime and Less Punishment (Princeton, 2009; named one of the "books of the year" by The Economist Against Excess: Drug Policy for Results (Basic, 1993) Marijuana: Costs of Abuse, Costs of Control (Greenwood, 1989) UCLA Homepage Curriculum Vitae Contact: Markarkleiman-at-gmail.com