Sunday, February 26, 2006

Author Sentenced... (post removed)

I posted about David Irving, but cannot confirm the account I found at Not sure what proper protocol is, other than to admit the mistake and attempt to get at the truth. Will re-post if we find the account to be factual, and will update on our results, regardless.

UPDATE: It seems I was fooled by a rather lame attempt at satire. I knew the post was coming from an atheist site, and the headline made obvious ('Author Sentenced for Denying Extermination of Christ-Deniers') that we were in for a biting, hopefully-funny, put-down of the crazies who support the anti-free speech laws like the one that put Irving in jail - but I never suspected that the entire blog was satire. I'm used to seeing all kinds of satire in The Onion and on individual blogs with both truthful and satirical posts, but I don't think I've ever seen a blog make up quotes to make a point, much less quotes that aren't obviously satire, and mix those fake quotes in with real quotes. The blog didn't seem like a satire site - the couple of other posts I surveyed seemed to be legit. I saw that the second paragraph used a quote that had made its way around the world over the past few days - it looked like the same one I'd read at least 20 times in many national publications. And then, apparently, the author of the post threw in a fabricated quote. Do what? Here's the offending graph:

The tough sentence, which came after a one-day trial and was based on statements made in 1989, was welcomed by the Los Angeles-based Simon Wiesenthal Center. "While Irving's rants would not have led to legal action in the United States, it is important that we recognize and respect Austria's commitment to fighting Holocaust denial," said the center's associate dean, Rabbi Abraham Cooper. "We must never forget the evil of punishing people merely because of what they believe."

The first sentence of this paragraph seemed factually correct to me. The italicized text is lifted straight from the Simon Wiesenthal Center's press release on the Irving conviction and sentencing - I actually checked that, but I was already very familiar with it, as mentioned above. The AP must have used it in their copy that went out over the wire. The bolded text is completely fabricated - I didn't check that until after I'd blogged about this post.

Bad satire is...bad. It clogs the internet with bad information, which wastes my time. Good satire is obvious - it does not mix-in actual facts and quotes with fabricated facts and quotes in a non-obvious fashion. If an author doubts their own satirical skills or the ability of their audience to ascertain wholly-made-up quotes from actual quotes in a highly-ironic story, then that post should be marked as 'satire'. I think the satirical skills, here, were lacking in the extreme. This Irving case is highly ironic in its true form, alone - without the fabricated quote. We have people punishing other people just for their beliefs - just like the Nazis (or so one could reasonably make the argument). It's the old 'Al Gore invented the internet' line all over again - straight-up disinformation. The Bush Presidency pumps out headlines nearly every day that could be considered satire, but they're actually true. The blog post we referenced was unique in that it managed to mix in an actual quotes with a fake quote in order to convince at least one blogger for at least a little while that Rabbi Abraham Cooper (an actual person who actually commented on the story) had actually said something slightly more ridiculous than he actually did say. Wack.

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