April 08, 2004

Fact Checking MaDo

In the middle of another hastily scrawled screed Maureen Dowd writes:

"But in the wake of the Falluja horror and Shiite uprising, civility must take a back seat to stomping.

The marines had to fire rockets at a mosque in Falluja used by the Shiite followers of the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr, and the hospitals are filled with civilians."

But wait.

Fallujah, of course, is a major Sunni stronghold full of Baathist sympathizers.

Indeed, it's viewed as a key religious center for Sunnis in Iraq:

"The city of Fallujah is well known through out the country for being a religious city. Some of its citizens even speak of becoming the religious headquarters for the Sunni Muslims in Iraq. It religious schools and religious clerks and the role they play is very significant in producing religious advisory opinions and religious books. Among the citizens of this city who were well know and their reputation far exceeded the city and even the county are Dr. Ahmad Al Kabissi and Sheik Abdulaziz Al Samarrai." [emphasis added]

Put differently, the Abdel-Aziz al-Samarrai mosque complex was most definitively not being used by "followers of the radical cleric Moktada al-Sadr."

Like Manolo Blahniks or Prada garb, however, Moktada al-Sadr is the flavor of the week.

So MaDo, forgive her, got a little tripped up in her rush to belittle the Bushies.

Are such erroneous scribblings a la hauteur, as the French would put it, of a columnist at America's leading newspaper?

Jim Hoagland, Dave Ignatius, Charles Krauthammer, Anne Applebaum etc are increasingly running circles around the tiresome and predictable fare of Dowd, Krugman, Herbert (and, to a lesser extent, Safire and Friedman too).

Memo to Bill Keller--your op-ed page needs a revamp.

Or at least more robust, er, oversight.

I mean, next week Dowd might be telling us that Baathist dead-enders and assorted Saddamophiles have decamped and taken over Najaf and Sadr City.

These aren't just minor, petty quibbles.

The nightmare scenario for Iraq, right now, is that Shi'a and Sunni merge forces and a pan-Iraqi anti-American conflagration takes root.

Maureen Dowd's sloppiness, in a way, helps suggest this has already taken place.

It might going forward.

But it hasn't just yet.

Put differently, facts matter--even in opinion columns.

Perhaps Daniel Okrent will begin to take these issues more seriously going forward.

After all, his somewhat flippant tone doesn't get us quite where we need to be--in terms of taking the increasingly routine commission of factual errors by New York Times columnists seriously:

"And Maureen Dowd is followed faithfully around the Web by an avenging army of passionate detractors who would probably be devastated if she ever stopped writing."

As I said, pretty flippant.

And, alas, Okrent's optimistic prognostications appear to be falling short too:

"In the coming months I expect columnist corrections to become a little more frequent and a lot more forthright than they've been in the past. Yet the final measure of Collins's success, and of the individual columnists, will be not in the corrections but in the absence of the need for them."

Well, unfortunately, one is needed today, isn't it?

Wouldn't it be nice to see a prominent correction at the bottom of Dowd's next column?

One saying she mixed up her Sadr with her Samarrai; her Shi'a with her Sunni; her, er, Jimmy Choos with her Blahniks.


A journalist at the NYT writes in:

"So that you can lead your MaDo jihad with more authority, here's a correction:

[You write]: Memo to Bill Keller--your op-ed page needs a revamp.

[But] only the Publisher can hire and fire columnists or veto content. Keller, I believe, has no direct influence over what they publish."

Posted by Gregory at April 8, 2004 08:05 AM
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