A Bizarre Calumny at Crooked Timber:

I was websurfing recently, and came across a post by Daniel Davies of the Crooked Timber academic blog from September 1 about an Australian controversy over whether the Lebanese Red Cross conspired with Hezbollah to create anti-Israel propaganda. In the comments, and apropos of nothing in particular, he added, "tangentially to which, I was checking back on David Bernstein's laughable and disgusting efforts on the Volokh website around the time of the Qana bombing and lots of them have been substantially edited."

The implication is that my posts were so "laugable and disgusting" that even I thought better of them, and surreptitiously edited them so they wouldn't haunt me for posterity.

So, for the record, let me say that Davies's accusation is 100% absolutely false. I have not gone back and edited ANY of these posts, much less "lots of them." Indeed, while I occasionally slightly edit posts within a few hours of their posting, usually for style, and I certainly often add "updates" (marked as such) within the first day or so, and usually within a few hours, I can't recall EVER going back and editing an old post days or even weeks later.

I sent two emails to Davies, several days apart, denying that I or anyone else went back "substantially edited" any of my Qana posts, and asked him to either provide contrary evidence or to retract his comment and apologize. I received no response to either email.

I don't know Davies, don't actually know who he is, rarely look at Crooked Timber, and have no idea why he would first make this up, and then not respond when called on it. But there you have it.

cirby (mail):
It's probably the old "read something, then add a whole lot of straw men in your head" syndrome. You see that a lot online.

Someone reads something they don't like (for political, personal, or other reasons), and can't come up with a particularly good counter to it. Then they spend the next few days coming up with arguments for the things they wished you said. Then, once they have some responses ready, they go back to do a thorough Fisking, and are shocked when the things they're ready to argue with aren't in the actual article.

So you must have changed it to make them look bad. Really.
10.8.2006 1:18pm
Way to add air to the fire...
10.8.2006 1:31pm
Pantapon Rose (mail):
He's a leftist who writes a lot for the Guardian. I stopped reading his stuff when he wrote a column about how great it was for the poor people of Somalia that the Islamists were taking over.
10.8.2006 1:57pm
A. Zarkov (mail):
Davies misrepresents what Zombietime said about ambulance # 702, making it seem that their whole case was based on what a missile can, and can’t do. Not so. They present more than one piece of evidence that leads to the conclusion that the attack was faked. For example, the Red Cross high-resolution photos clearly show a big hole perfectly centered on the roof emblem. Further magnifications show that the hole is perfectly round, with bare metal along the inner edge, and what appear to be small mounting holes. Zombietime also points out that other similar Lebanese ambulances have a round vent at the same spot. They also show that the bullet holes on other places in the ambulance are rusted. According to Zombietime the Red Cross has since removed the high-resolution photos from its website.

In all fairness, note that a commenter did point this out.
10.8.2006 2:59pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Are you sure the commenter daniel is the same as the poster daniel? I'll presume you are since you went to the trouble to make this post.

Also did you ever talk about the ambulance incident or just the blue hat dude. Did we ever have any after the fact resolution of what really happened there? Seeing as there were many many journalists there did the rest of them make statements about what occured now that they are out of lebannon?
10.8.2006 3:33pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
So I was going to post here that the admission by the IDF that they had indeed hit an ambulance was pretty damn conclusive but I read the link on this blog and the two paragraph story said nothing of the kind. It admitted to hitting 'vehicles' and while it may include an ambulance it isn't clear nor is it clear to me if they hit this ambulance. Furthermore it doesn't sound like the IDF is admitting it hit an ambulance on purpose.

Moreover, the problem with blaming israel for hitting an ambulance is that it is well known that the terrorists in the region make use of ambulances preciscely because israel is more reluctant to bomb them. One explanation (I'm not endorsing it) of the supposed reason to believe in fakery with the actual strike on an ambulance is that Hezbollah was transporting a mortar or milatary personal in an ambulance, israel destroyed said ambulance but since that wrekage would have shown israel to be in the right they switched stuff.

Unfortunatly in situations like this I'm not willing to form any opinion just on the basis of random blog remarks. I've frequently seen blogs claim things were faked, and offer what to a non-expert seemed like good arguments, only to find out they were real (leaked photos of the first iMac springs to mind). Given the level of bitter partisanship on these issues and the existance of blogs arguing both sides it seems clear that people are going to be induced to believe things even when the evidence doesn't really support it.

I would really like an investigation of these sorts of claims by an independent third party I could really trust. I realize this is what the red cross is supposed to be but their mission as a worldwide humanitarian organization that needs to work in these areas makes them less than the perfect choice, and they are not (to my knowledge) experts in investigative journalism. Basically I wish or some similar independent journalism outfit would go analyze these claims and run the arguments by some experts.
10.8.2006 3:51pm
Glenn W. Bowen (mail):
let's work up a plan to get this bird.
10.8.2006 4:09pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
The reason why I really want an independent analysis is the following. While some of the things zombiettime says are pretty convincing others may very well reflect a simplistic lack of knowledge about explosions. For instance the claim that explosions blast things out so we shouldn't see things caved inwards. Well explosions also have backdrafts occuring when the air that had been forced out of the area rushes back in. This is my understanding why the pieces of a bomb can often be found not too far from the explosion (but admitedly not based on authoratative knowledge).

So while I am certainly troubled by the claims that this ambulance was hit by a missile it really needs analysis by experts in milatary damage.

Also as to the red cross's role in all this it seems to me quite plausible that some individual red cross employees would be sympathetic to the Hezbollah cause. Now supposing you are the red cross you presumably don't regularly conduct investigations of these sorts of things and it would be an utter disastor to admit that your initial claim had been mistaken and red cross employees had been acting as partisans.

In fact I'm inclined to believe that if such an incident did happen it would be morally wrong for the red cross management to admit that it had been faked if they could get away with it. As far as the israeli palestinian conflict goes this isn't going to change very many people's minds. However, an admission by the red cross that it had been co-opted into advancing a partisan position would imperil the good work it does all around the globe, usually without any partisanship. Even one verified incident of red cross partisanship will let China, Sudan and every oppressive regime in the world raise doubt about red cross reports, reports which are prepared by (presumably) better vetted employees than the ambulance drivers. Sure actively lying about it or covering it up might have even worse consequences but just not looking too hard seems the lesser of two evils.
10.8.2006 4:12pm
logicnazi (mail) (www):
Sorry for the series of posts but based on what I've read it seems to me one of the main problems here is the lack of options for a newspaper to retract a story without effectively claiming that story was false.

Based on what they said at zombietime and the various different reports it seems clear that the initial reports from the driver and others were at least exagerations and that the circular hole in the center of the vehicle was not a puncture created by a missle entry. However, it doesn't seem there is utterly compelling evidence either was as to whether this was an attack with explosive rounds that was exagerated or a total hoax. I mean one can easily imagine that having just been in an explosion you wouldn't give the most sober account in the world. Conversely though given the inaccuracy in the early reports the evidence just isn't enough to support the initial story.

However, this seems to be the crux of the problem. The newspaper's can't really issue a retraction without accusing the red cross of faking things and their own reporters of being dupes yet they don't have enough evidence to really support these accusations.

I really don't know how to fix this problem. It's just part of human nature that once someone puts their name on the line to claim something they believe is true they resent having that retracted or marked possibly false. It's a similar situation as when a family member tells you about how someone was a real ass to them and they got into a fight. If you have clear reason to believe that your family member was wrong you can often make them see it but if you realize that they could be right or they could just have misinterpreted something they feel insulted if you remain skeptical.

Continuing the idea in my previus post I think what is needed is some organization that does meta-journalism. Some respectable group of reporters who never reports directly on the news but whose job is to go in afterwards when there is controversy and judge who has the better of it. But how to fund it?
10.8.2006 5:07pm
reneviht (mail) (www):

It seems to me that any respectable reporter would loose the respect of his/her colleagues after pointing out the many flaws in their stories. This is basically the job description of a pundit, such as, say, Rush Limbaugh (with the possible exception of the word "respectable"). There are plenty of such people and organizations in existance.
10.8.2006 5:39pm
Mac (mail):

Under the heading of adding fuel to the fire, there is also this on the Crooked Timber postings on this subject regarding Volokh. It is comment # 231.
"An Israeli army spokesman told The Age yesterday (in a story dated 2 September)

So the claim is now that the ICRC and the news media in August should have foreseen that there would be another statement along in a couple of weeks’ time? Also note that:

We are not saying it was an accident or that we take responsibility.

The referent of “it” here can only be “the ambulance having been hit by a missile”, which is the event that was reported.

In related news, you have not “proved me wrong on the Gaza beach incident”, and the IDF and civilian government stories differed in the crucial regard that the IDF one said that they did not believe they had shelled the Gaza beach at that time.

Here’s another example: despite initial doubts (which I believe were later resolved), the IDF immediately expressed regret for the civilian casualties caused by the building collapse in Qana.

The “initial doubts” here were expressed by wingnut websites (and the Volokh Conspiracy IIRC; but here I repeat myself) and they were “resolved” by everyone saying “don’t be a fucking idiot, of course the IDF bombed it, they’ve admitted they bombed it, stop blethering on about this stupid conspiracy theory that Hezbollah faked the whole thing”. As far as I can see, this supports my case, not yours."

Posted by dsquared · September 6th, 2006 at 2:03 pm

I do not thank you for sending me to this site. Reading the majority of posts was an exercise in mental mediocrity. I don't think I would worry too much about an author who could actually write the above quoted post and so completely miss the point.
10.8.2006 6:03pm
William Oliver (mail) (www):
I don't really see what's wrong with editing old posts in a blog. It's *your* blog, and you can do whatever you want with it. This is particularly true for copy editing -- I tend to write long posts, and every time I read an old post I find an error or two. No big deal. I repaint my house every few years, too.
10.8.2006 6:22pm
htom (mail):
Could it be that he thinks you're doing what he either does or wants to do? seems to be sampling you every week or so, too, so it would be easy for a refutation or a complaint to be verified. Meanwhile, you've generated traffic for him.
10.8.2006 6:44pm
Bleepless (mail):
Pinko newsies lie. All of them. All the time. The esteemed founder of this website and several people close to him had a lot of experience with, say,Pravda, one of the least accurate major "news"papers of all time. Vermin such as Davies would not be hired by Moscow or, indeed, by Goebbels, on grounds of credibility.
10.8.2006 7:36pm
JonathanG (mail):
David, worry not. All conservative and libertarian bloggers seem eventually to tangle with Daniel.
10.8.2006 7:52pm
Paco Wove (mail):
[I] have no idea why he would first make this up, and then not respond when called on it.
'Cause it's Daniel Davies, dude. That's why.
10.8.2006 8:03pm
I don't think I've visited that site before, although I've seen it referenced in a few places. A blog where the authors defend their posts primarily by insulting and silencing commenters who disagree with them instead of addressing substance just isn't attractive.

It was entertaining to see all those administrators proudly chiming in with their rationalizations for why dissenters needed to be banned/silenced/edited.

saying 'nobody has addressed any of my points' over and over again doesn’t make it true #171
You said feces! #187
People here agreed with Zombietime! #196
You used a fake anti-spam email address here, even though you give your real blog URL which contains your real email address! #191

It must drive them up the wall that they can't dictate what people say on other blogs.
10.8.2006 8:23pm
Anym Ouse (mail):
Daniel Davies commented on Jane Galt's site for a while. My impression of him was that he does this for the game's sake; throw a grenade, and then actively participate in the aftermath discussion with reasonable sounding, but vaguely acrid, commentary. If the competition decides to take him up on the facts rather than playing against him for the game's sake, he eventually tires of it and disappears to some other website, to see what the competition looks like there.
10.8.2006 8:54pm
Gabriel Malor (mail):
You're in good company, David. Daniel also tangled with Steven Den Beste.
10.8.2006 9:30pm
Waldensian (mail):
Maybe Daniel is just confused. David did, after all, edit the living bejeezus out of many responses to his posts -- including mine. A deliciously ironic practice on a libertarian site.

Come to think of it, he may try to blot this one out on the grounds that it is "ill tempered" and "nonsubstantive," so I suppose I had better print it out.... :)
10.8.2006 9:41pm
Charlie (Colorado) (mail):
Why do you think it's called "crooked"?
10.8.2006 10:36pm
Whoa. Dude. You actually wrote, "deliciously ironic."
10.9.2006 1:19am
JAL (mail):
Here's a useless factoid about Crooked Timber: It/they had the same kind of encounter (mathematical malpractice) as Professor Bainbridge did with that psychologist chickie who was all over the blogs a couple months ago, after she was grossly inappropriate on Jeff Goldstein's site. Sheesh -- I have forgotten her name, even though I think it became a weberb. Crooked Timber banned her. So I guess that means sometimes they're spot on.
10.9.2006 1:26am
o' connuh j.:
Even a broken clock is "spot on" twice a day.

Shad, yes, that was the incident (amongst others) I was referencing here in the HLPR thread. For so called "intellectuals" the bloggers on CrookedTimber sure have an intolerant and dictatorial bent of mind inimical to what they purportedly stand for.

10.9.2006 4:34am
Anderson (mail) (www):
A deliciously ironic practice on a libertarian site.

Ah, but as the torture-debate posts resolved, VC is *not* a libertarian site. Though it remains openminded about libertarianism, and torture for that matter.
10.9.2006 12:16pm
o' connuh j.:
Posner is also "open-minded" about torture. He self-identifies as libertarian.

What was your point again, Anderson (other than snark)?
10.9.2006 12:53pm
Maybe I'm just not all that bright, but I don't see what is ironic (and certainly not what is "deliciously ironic") about editing comments on an ostensibly libertarian blog. Incidently, I've never eaten irony so I can't speak to the taste... maybe I'm just metaphor challenged though.

So please, help a slower man out. Would it be deliciously ironic for a libertarian to contribute money to charity even though he opposes government funding of same? Would it be deliciously ironic for a libertarian parent to punish his daughter for smoking pot but opposes having the government illegalize same?

Wait... maybe I'm getting the hang of this. Allow me to propose a new "delicious irony." It is deliciously ironic that a commentor on VS will play "gotcha" like this without understanding the very simple libertarian principle of separating state and private actors.

You know, now that I've done that... irony is rather tasty after all.
10.9.2006 12:59pm
Oops... I mean "VC" rather than "VS."
10.9.2006 1:00pm
Sigivald (mail):
Ah, it's been a while since I saw, even indirectly, a dsquared post.

May it be a while before I have to see one again.

O' connuh: Remember, "intellectual" doesn't mean liberal (in the old apolitical sense), open-minded, or even necessarily smart. The company of self-identified Intellectuals is usually the best reminder of this, though there are gratifying exceptions, I'm sure.
10.9.2006 1:42pm
Anderson (mail) (www):
What was your point again, Anderson

That Eugene Volokh says the VC isn't a libertarian blog.
10.9.2006 1:51pm