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Wednesday, October 13, 2010

And Now For Something Completely Different

I came across this tweet in my stream, and went over to read the linked article. It seems the reporter in question, Lachlan Markay, made a hash of things by referring to a ThinkProgress article on the Chamber of Commerce and foreign funding of campaign advertising as

"a salacious, factually-erroneous report on a highly partisan left-wing blog"

"Salacious" is a sinful-sounding word - all that sibilance just slithering around like that. But what does it mean?

Salacious: 1. lustful or lecherous. 2. obscene; grossly indecent. Synonyms: 1. lewd, wanton, lascivious, libidinous. 2. pornographic.

I tried to find examples of the most salacious, the most lecherous, the most obscene language I could find in the article. I really tried. Unfortunately, it's all safe for work:

  • "the Chamber is likely skirting longstanding campaign finance law"
  • "Under the manufacturing policy goal, USIBC boasts that it 'can play a helpful role in guiding U.S. companies to India, while supporting various policy initiatives that will enhance India's reputation as a major manufacturing and investment hub.'"

Unless there are additional secret references embedded in the text, skirting, boasting and enhancing are about the closest things to salacious language in the entire article.

Well, what about the factually-erroneous part? Markay makes that claim in his opening paragraph, but never cites any examples of the erroneous facts in the article. Not one. Instead, he simply repeats the claim four more times: "a completely bogus smear of a large political group," "unsupported allegations (that) can demonize and victimize a legitimate, law-abiding (as far as anyone can tell) politiclal group," "completely fabricated charges" and "ThinkProgress's bogus 'investigation.'" For someone concerned about erroneous facts, unsupported allegations, completely fabricated charges and a bogus investigation... wouldn't one or two examples be important, as in "Here's a sample of the erroneous facts..."?

The ThinkProgress article actually does make good use of the "who-what-where..." fundamentals of reporting, by explaining who the players are (the Chamber of Commerce, AmChams and fundraising departments like the USBBC and USIBC), what a 501(c)(6) organization is, and where the money seems to be going: the 501(c)(6) general account.

In a Ben Smith piece on Politico, a Chamber of Commerce spokesman said:

"No foreign money - from AmChams of otherwise - is used to fund political activities. None of the AmCham money is used for political activities."

President Ronald Reagan famously said "Trust, but verify." After all, Bernie Madoff had a system in place for managing his clients' money, and we all know how well that worked out.

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