Tuesday, January 17, 2006

Why are letters editors such assholes?

Over here, PZ Myers describes the flamefest going on in a local(?) paper, in which his name is apparently being taken in vain (as well as being misspelled). Watch closely as the letters editor turns out to be a complete scumbag in allowing a hopeless misrepresentation of PZ's position into print.

Writes PZ (emphasis added):

If a science teacher cannot grasp basic concepts of biology, he or she has no place teaching our children in the classroom.

Note carefully PZ's position -- that teachers who are incompetent at basic biology should not be teaching biology. That seems pretty straightforward, no? And yet, note an excerpt from a letter that was submitted in reply that was actually selected for publication:

In his letter ("Creationists weaken science teaching, Herald, Jan. 10) associate professor P.Z. Myers of Morris, Minn., suggested that anyone believing God created the universe "has no place teaching science in our classrooms."

Which is, of course, not at all what PZ said. Note how the respondent carefully lifted and quoted just the part he wanted (and not even accurately for that matter), then simply grafted on total fiction. And notice how the letters editor had no problem promoting this wretched dishonesty to that paper's readers.

I'm wondering if I can pull the same stunt and artificially construct someone else's position. I know -- if Stephen Harper opposes same-sex marriage by saying something like, "We all know that the only true definition of marriage is between a man and a woman," I can write to my local paper saying something like:

Regarding Stephen Harper's position on same-sex marriage, I think it's appalling that he would say that "the only true definition of marriage is between a man and a" gerbil.

I think this has potential. I can't wait to try it.


Anonymous said...

You can have even more fun with strict logical parsing. Assuming "we all" means "all humans," as seems reasonable, then you can paraphrase Harper, in a sense accurately, thusly:

Stephen Harper writes suggesting that he does not consider anyone who denies his position that "the true definition of marriage is between a man and a woman" to be human.

Rev.Paperboy said...

Mulroney said "give us ten years and you won't recognize this country" we gave him nine and we're still cleaning up the mess he made. Give Stephen Harper ten years and not only won't you recognize Canada, you won't even be able to find it on the map anymore.


Alison said...

Dear Blogger
I am writing to protest in the strongest possible terms the views expressed on one of your blogsites.
Canadian Cynic, as he styles himself, is attempting to revive that tired old long-discredited urban myth about Mr Harper and the gerbil. I think it's appalling that Mr Cynic would attempt to smear Mr Harper in this way.
Mr Cynic has no place preaching his intolerance in our blogosphere.

Anonymous said...

Dear Alison:

Grab a reality cheque - yours bounced apparently.

Skewering Harper for his own words in the past few years, and the utter lack of action his part to deal with the extremist elements (mostly former Reform/Alliance factions) in the CPC is reason enough to be deeply suspicious as voters.

Harper 1997 Speech

This essay he wrote in 2003

Pictures of Harper attending gatherings of the "Canadian Alliance" - a religious "family values" lobby in early 2005.

Yeah - the leopard's changed his spots - uh-huh. I don't think so.

It's not a smear campaign when your holding someone up to account for their own words and actions.

- and don't get me started on idiot MP's like: Rob Anders, Jason Kenney, Art Hanger, Rob Merrifield and other leading lights.

Perhaps you haven't had to live through the hell that has been Ralph Klein's restructuring in Alberta - I don't know. Perhaps you never attended a Reform or Alliance party meeting in the early-mid 1990s when the party's radicalism was more visible. As far as I can tell, it's still there - and uglier than ever.

Harper has yet to convince this voter that he's done anything that deals with the extremists in his party other than tell them to keep their yaps shut this election. (Which, with the exception of Link Byfield and Elsie Wayne have been remarkably quiescent - I've even seen a few of the more radical blogs shut up)

CC said...

Um ... I'm pretty sure Alison was being suitably sarcastic. At least, that's the way I read it.

Anonymous said...

I didn't read sarcasm - sorry.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with Alison on this one. There has never been any concrete evidence to describe Mr. Harper's relationship with the gerbil. No witness has come forward. The gerbil was never examined medically, and its veterinary records are confidential. We can't say what sort of relationship Mr. Harper and the gerbil may have had. There is some speculation, but I feel it would be irresponsible to wade in. One way or the other.

But I may continue to write "Mr. Harper", "relationship" and "gerbil" in the same sentence as often as I like...