Why I distrust The Nation

Several readers take me to task for my swipe at The Nation, and assert that David Corn in particular is a journalist of repute, whose stories can be relied on. I don’t know Corn’s work; perhaps if I knew it I would share their view of it. If the Valerie Plame story proves out, we will all owe him something.

My distrust of the magazine remains unshaken, however. It comes from personal experience.

Some years ago, a writer for The Nation decided to award me the black hat in a little morality play he was constructing around Clinton Administration drug policy. I wasn’t profoundly damaged, and it was all in the family, since a good friend and colleague was awarded an equally undeserved white hat. But the story was almost pure fantasy, touching reality at only one relatively minor point.

In trying to get the facts made clear, I discovered that The Nation, as a matter of policy:

1. Does no fact-checking.

2. Does not ask its writers to ask the subjects of its stories for their take on the matter in hand.

3. Does not correct errors when they are brought to its attention.

Now maybe those bad habits left with Christopher Hitchens, who (it should be noted) was the same irresponsible, libelous, vicious, drunken bully when he was writing for The Nation that he is now that he is attacking it. But I don’t know that the magazine has changed its morals, and until I do I will treat anything in The Nation with care unless and until it can be independently confirmed.

Update: Edited to remove a false assertion about Hitchens’s role at The Nation. I should have done my fact-checking; fortunately, a reader did it for me. In doing my belated Googling, I discovered something I either didn’t know or had forgotten: The Nation ran pieces by Hitchens defending Mumia abu-Jamal.

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