I've been commenting over at Watts Up With That (WUWT) because some people there accused Tom Peterson of having committed a crime when he shared the e-mail Anthony Watts sent him accusing him and other people of having committed fraud. I've discussed that e-mail a bit recently (see here and here), and I'm not going to discuss it today. What I want to discuss is something I happened to see while I was reading WUWT.
To be more specific, when I turned on my computer earlier today, I skimmed my RSS reader to see what comments it had for me. I follow a few blogs, and recently, I added WUWT to the list. One of the first comments I saw was:
agreed, the article does not need fake quotes.
Naturally, it caught my eye. I loaded up the post, and I began reading. There were about a dozen quotes, and at a quick skim, I couldn't tell which was the "fake" one. It wasn't until I read some comments I realized it was this one:
That is not actually an "Email from Holdren to Karl." It's something the author of the post, Tim Ball, wrote himself. He apparently feels this is okay because if you read the post in its entirety, you can see:
See that one word I highlighted? The post is ~1,700 words long. I hope you didn't miss that one word in it. If you did, you wouldn't realize the quote labeled "Email from Holdren to Karl" is fake. You'd think it is just like the very next quote, a real one, which was provided in the same manner.
Ball defended this:
I was aware of the potential confusion and deliberately used the words “possible email” and separated the email with dotted lines as a break. I also made sure the actual quotes in the mail we’re separated by quotations. Reading skills are important and required. The CAGW blogs will misinterpret to suit their agenda as they always do.
But that seems a weak defense. This:
Does nothing to indicate the quote following it is fake. And he didn't label the e-mail a fake. He called it "a possible email." I don't even know what that means. Can we just say, "This is a possible quote" then put anything we want in quotation marks? Remember, the quote was immediately preceded not by the warning it was a "possible" quotation, but by:
Email from Holdren to Karl:
Why?! If it's a fake quote, why would you label it a real e-mail? Why doesn't that line say, "Possible email from Holdren to Karl"? I don't get it. Tim Ball says some people "will misinterpret to suit their agenda as they always do," but how is anyone supposed to interpret this correctly? Sure, he offered a single word to say the e-mail is only a "possible email" (whatever that means), but he then explicitly labeled it an "Email from Holdren to Karl." And he followed it up with multiple real quotes right after.
I don't know what to call that. I kind of want to say it is a misquotation, but it is so weird, I don't think it is one.
But wait, hold the phones. I may have some important news. Tim Ball may have just e-mailed me. The following is a possible email from Tim Ball to me:
Email from Tim Ball to Brandon Shollenberger:
I smoke crack on a daily basis.