How it Works, Part II

Robin Scarborough of the Washington Times writes a fairly competent hit-piece directed at Joseph Wilson. Theme: he’s a loony leftist, a showboat, and a Democratic partisan. It leaves out little details such as Wilson’s $1000 contribution to the Bush 2000 campaign, but for a Washington Times story it’s only moderately nasty and slanted.

The headline, on the other hand, reads: “Wilson, wife have tight ties to Democrats.” Not a syllable in the story itself supports any inference whatever about Valerie Plame Wilson’s political leanings. The headline-writer (not the author) simply made it up.

Then the Drudge Report links it, and reverses the order: “Exposed spy, husband have tight ties to Democrats…” Thanks the glory of Google, it will now be forever on the public record that Valerie Plame Wilson is a partisan Democrat, and we can expect Bush’s defenders to work that detail into their stories from now on. (She deliberately arranged for her own exposure in order to try to discredit Karl Rove.)

Only the minority of Drudge’s readers who bother to follow his links, and only the minority of that mionority who actually read and ponder the full text of the Scarborough story, will ever know that the most salient fact in the Drudge link is entirely imaginary.

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