June 13, 2008

Chinese Whispers

If you haven't been following the Kozinski "porn" scandal, look here and here. I'm not sure I agree with Lessig about how reasonable it is to expect that people won't paw through your personal stuff if you leave it unattended and accessible, but this is right:

What I mean by "the Kozinski mess" is the total inability of the media -- including we, the media, bloggers -- to get the basic facts right, and keep the reality in perspective. The real story here is how easily we let such a baseless smear travel - and our need is for a better developed immunity (in the sense of immunity from a virus) from this sort of garbage.

It seems to me the LA Times is entirely responsible for manufacturing this phony problem and for colluding with the malicious informant's personal vendetta against the judge without disclosing his bad faith to its readers. The description of the material itself seems to have been deliberately constructed to mislead readers about the materials being reported on; I don't see any way read it otherwise. (The article at the LA Times link has been silently "updated" with a paragraph making it appear that it is merely a report on the suspension of the trial. If I'm not mistaken, the original article from Wednesday was published before the suspension, and in fact seems to have actually caused the suspension, and was based on a Tuesday night interview with the judge on the basis of the allegations of the malicious informant, about whom they were, and remain, silent. Bainbridge quotes it here -- it's the second blockquote. I agree it's news now, but I think it's clear that the Times isn't being as forthright as readers have a right to expect.)

I'd say the Times should apologize, retract, correct, and beg for mercy, and should probably also attempt to demonstrate good faith by firing the writers and those others responsible for letting it get into print. It's disgraceful behavior for a major newspaper and it should really be discouraged.

Posted by Dr. Frank at June 13, 2008 07:24 PM | TrackBack

As an act of penance, I think the people responsible at the Times should allow a competing publication and/or their own moms to comb through their personal computer files.

Posted by: Nate Pensky at June 15, 2008 05:35 PM