Where there’s a Will, there no way

WHERE THERE’S A WILL, THERE’S NO WAY…. George Will not only published an error-filled column on global warming, Brad Johnson notes that the conservative columnist “is also recycling his own work, republishing an extended passage from a 2006 column — which Think Progress debunked — almost word for word.”

With this in mind, maybe now would be a good time to consider what George Will has written about bloggers.

There are, however, essentially no reins on the Web — few means of control and direction. That is good, but it vitiates the idea that the Web’s chaos of entertainment, solipsism and occasional intellectual seriousness and civic engagement is anything like a polity (a “digital democracy”).

As Jonathan Chait noted, “If by ‘no reins,’ Will means that bloggers can publish outright falsehoods without consequence, then he’s correct. But he might not be the best person to make this point.”

And speaking of writers and “reins,” Jonathan Schwarz passes along a great anecdote from Noam Chomsky that seems especially relevant given the events of the last few days.

[A] few years ago George Will wrote a column in Newsweek called “Mideast Truth and Falsehood,” about how peace activists are lying about the Middle East, everything they say is a lie. And in the article, there was one statement that had a vague relation to fact: he said that Sadat had refused to deal with Israel until 1977. So I wrote them a letter, the kind of letter you write to Newsweek—you know, four lines—in which I said, “Will has one statement of fact, it’s false; Sadat made a peace offer in 1971, and Israel and the United States turned it down.” Well, a couple days later I got a call from a research editor who checks facts for the Newsweek “Letters” column. She said: “We’re kind of interested in your letter, where did you get those facts?” So I told her, “Well, they’re published in Newsweek, on February 8, 1971″—which is true, because it was a big proposal, it just happened to go down the memory hole in the United States because it was the wrong story. So she looked it up and called me back, and said, “Yeah, you’re right, we found it there; okay, we’ll run your letter.” An hour later she called again and said, “Gee, I’m sorry, but we can’t run the letter.” I said, “What’s the problem?” She said, “Well, the editor mentioned it to Will and he’s having a tantrum; they decided they can’t run it.” Well, okay.

As far as I can tell, George Will’s column, which ran on Sunday, still hasn’t garnered a correction. Perhaps he’s throwing a tantrum.

[Title typo corrected. –Mod]

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