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Obama Bin Laden:

"Their attorneys blamed their conviction on the numerous times prosecutors used al Qaeda and its leader Obama bin Laden in trial. Cooke also allowed jurors to see a videotape of Obama bin Laden." A big whoops!, from the Daily Business Review (South Florida), caught by David Markus. Yes, I know, such gaffes had been heard before, but it's a little worse in written text.

DeezRightWingNutz:
A little whoops...

Shouldn't your post be titled "Obama bin Laden:"
1.23.2008 6:55pm
Eugene Volokh (www):
A big whoops! on my part -- thanks for correcting me so promptly; fixed the post accordingly.
1.23.2008 6:56pm
fishbane (mail):
I still don't understand why word processors don't do multiword exclusionary matching, at least as an option. I've seen lots of mistakes along these lines, wherein multiword phrases that substitute, near-miss words with another phrase due to brain misfire. Some are more funny than others, and some are more embarrassing than others -- although there have been at least a couple of cases I've seen with this particular "gaffe" that seemed pretty obviously intentional.

At the very least, news orgs would know if they were making a mistake or making propaganda then.
1.23.2008 7:23pm
neurodoc:
...Miami criminal defense attorney Milton Hirsch said. "The United States government has all but said he was tortured," he said. As a result, Hirsch said U.S. troops are in danger if they make a wrong turn and end up in the wrong hands. "When the terrorist warlord laughs and says, 'We will treat them as you treated the Padillas and the folks at Guantanamo,' what will our answer be?'"
Criminal defense attorney Hirsch believes that if the United States government does not adhere to the highest standards at all times and under all circumstances, then we cannot expect a "terrorist warlord" to do so. He has shown himself capable of breathtaking stupidity.
1.23.2008 7:31pm
John (mail):
I'm sure anyone captured by a terrorist warlord would welcome being treated as Padilla was.
1.23.2008 7:57pm
Anon3e424:
neurodoc:

talk about stupidity. pointing out the inability of the US to decry warlord torture due to US sanctioned torture =/= if the US does not torture, neither will warlords. two very different statements. try to keep up.
1.23.2008 8:00pm
Brett Gardner (mail):
Interesting thought fishbane.
1.23.2008 8:00pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
I'm just waiting for someone to refer to the Senator as Barack ben Canaan.
1.23.2008 8:16pm
Donald (mail) (www):
Fishbane:

For the most common possibilities (say, Obama bin Laden for Osama Bin Laden, at present), one could simply add the anticipated error with correction to Word's autocorrect function.
1.23.2008 8:33pm
fishbane (mail):
Donald -

Sure, there are various functions in most apps that provide macro functionality like that (I don't use Word, but my two main tools both support similar functionality.)

I'm talking about an advisory flagging probably via the spell checker), much like the "squiggly line" thing, rather than a macro replacement function. The reason why these should be different is that it would be valid for a journalist to write an article about the spate of "Obama bin Laden" references in popular media, and a macro function would get in the way of writing that.

In my field (software development), I actually really dislike having a bunch of macros defined - I do it for some very common constructs, and otherwise set everything to alert on possible typos. I also realize I write code much differently than many, which is why I still use vi and not one of the whizzy IDEs that seem to enamor people who aren't self-taught.

I mention that only because writing code, in one sense, is even less forgiving than law. In a legal filing, there's a good chance that a typo will be overlooked (of course, not always), but a compiler won't. In journalism, typos might be laughed at, but rarely suffer more pain.

To me, this says that there's much more of a possibility of decreasing typo rates for journalists than for programmers. After all, my compiler will complain at me if I screw up - catching it before then is merely a convenience to me. Work product checking, at the level of producing something (not speaking to quality), is very nearly all or nothing. Journalists have much less of a net for catching mistakes. Lawyers are somewhere in between, but there's at least cost savings to be found there, I think.

Hm, now I'm starting to have a lot of ideas around this...
1.23.2008 8:57pm
fishbane (mail):
Great example of the value of advisory typing assistance - I'm typing this in a little browser window, instead of my primary tools. My keyboard has a crumb or something under the '9' key, and I didn't notice a failure to open the parenthetical on my second paragraph, something to which vi would have alerted me.

Need to take my laptop apart and fix that.
1.23.2008 8:59pm
BGates:
The answer to Hirch's question would obviously be, "Oh thank God, I thought I would be beheaded on videotape or burned alive and hung from a bridge like previous US captives. If instead I am to be treated like Padilla, when can I see my lawyer?"

Anon - saying that waterboarding and the use of stress positions is subject to abuse or beneath the dignity of the United States might win some converts. Equating what has happened to Americans taken prisoner and what the US has done to prisoners is...less likely to convince anyone.
1.23.2008 9:48pm
Bill Poser (mail) (www):
The daughter of one of my (native) Indian friends here, for whom salmon is the traditional mainstay of the diet, thinks that he is called "Salmon bin Laden".
1.23.2008 11:54pm
neurodoc:
Anon3e424talk about stupidity. pointing out the inability of the US to decry warlord torture due to US sanctioned torture =/= if the US does not torture, neither will warlords. two very different statements.
Criminal defense attorney Hirsch wondered, "When the terrorist warlord laughs and says, 'We will treat them as you treated the Padillas and the folks at Guantanamo,' what will our answer be?'" And you see an "inability of the US to decry warlord torture due to US sanctioned torture." There is only one answer that will do, and it is the only meaningful way to decry the conduct of terrorists, that being to do our best to kill them.
1.24.2008 12:47am
wfjag:
Dear Prof:

"Obama" is a US Senator from Illinois currently campaigning for the Democratic Party's nomination for President. "Osama bin Laden" is the guy hiding in the mountains of Pakistan. Recognizing that a few days before Sen Obama was sworn in, Sen Kennedy of Mass. introduced him at the National Press Club as "Osama Obama", I still think that over 3 years later you'd not title an article "Obama Bin Laden" when you meant "Osama bin Laden" or state:


al Qaeda and its leader Obama bin Laden . . .
1.24.2008 5:47pm
wfjag:
Sorry Professor:

Not being especially internet savvy, a friend pointed out my error. You linked to a website stating "al Qaeda and its leader Obama bin Laden . . .". That website then changed (without noting the change) the article to read "al Qaeda and its leader Osama bin Laden . . .".

Now, when researching rumors about Sen. Obama being a supposed closet Muslim and other possible dirty tricks this campaign season, the article you linked on the web won't turn up, but your blog will.

Ahhh. The marvels of modern technology.
1.25.2008 1:18pm