If youda ast me, I coulda told ya

Eugene Volokh broke a serious media-misconduct story last week. The notorious Cynthia McKinney made a speech in which she said of the United States “In no other rich democracy on this planet do so many people have so little . . .” She was quoted, by David Horowitz, The Washington Times, and several other outlets as saying, instead, “In no other country on the planet do so many people have so little as they do in this country.”

Eugene reports having failed to secure a correction from any of the mainstream media involved, though several bloggers who had linked to the misleading stories took those links down. He also reports having failed to energize either half of the blogsphere to share his outrage.

He’s puzzled in particular that the left-bloggers didn’t jump on a story about right-wing media bias, and offers some candidate explanations: that he isn’t widely read on the left, that the left-bloggers don’t want to be seen defending McKinney, or that they thought the story less important than Eugene did.

I would offer a different explanation, which I know to be correct in my case: the story wasn’t unimportant, but it wasn’t surprising either. My eighth-grade journalism teacher taught me that a dog biting a man isn’t news; it’s only news if a man bites a dog. Lying by David Horowitz and the Washington Times seems to me so routine as to hardly be worth any comment. (In my particular case there were the further considerations that I had nothing to add to the story — except to say, for the thousandth time, that Eugene is a sterling fellow and much too good for the political company he keeps — and that I assume that most of my readers check the Volokh site routinely.)

I would have thought that the natural interest in this story would be on the right side of the blogosphere, where the revelation of lying by the semi-official organ of the Washington Republican establishment might be expected to seem surprising. That means that the silence on the right is what calls for an explanation. One possibility is that Eugene’s concern for truth-telling and willingness to call a foul against his own side aren’t widely shared on the right.

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