Apparently I spoke too soon. In my last post, I wrote:
In any event, I think that resolves this issue. There don't seem to be any facts in dispute anymore. I could write a few paragraphs to condemn dishonest and unethical behavior, mock people for their lack of skepticism or any number of other things, but... eh. I'm tired of worrying about that stuff. Instead, I'd like to point something else out: I was right.
I'm not saying that to gloat (well, maybe just a little). I'm saying it because this was so incredibly obvious to me. A professional newspaper provided two different versions of the same quotation within one article, and somehow, nobody at the newspaper and nobody promoting the story across the internet noticed. That's just crazy.
This, of course, was in reference to the fact the newspaper The Independent ran a story in which a professor named John Wiens was confronted with the hypothetical situation in which he met Donald Trump. When asked what he'd tell Trump in such a situation, The Independent quoted Wiens as saying both, "Kill yourself immediately" and "kill himself immediately."
I thought that peculiar and argued one of these quotations must be fake. My last post discussed how according to Wiens himself, the actual quotation was "kill himself immediately." The result of this is headlines like this one, were inaccurate:
— Watts Up With That (@wattsupwiththat) December 9, 2016
There was more to things as The Independent secretly edited its article some time after I first questioned the quotations, something I find despicable (in response, it has re-edited the piece and hid the fact the changes were initially secret). There may be other aspects as well, but I thought things were finally settled as it seemed there was no longer any dispute over what Wiens had said.
Unfortunately, it appears Anthony Watts, proprietor of a major global warming "skeptic" blog Watts Up With That, has chosen to continue to claim the fake quotation is real. I don't understand it, but after seeing a tweet of his:
@Corpus_no_Logos A clarification note has been added, with*. one wonders if you'll go after Yahoo news with the same zeal...probably not
— Watts Up With That (@wattsupwiththat) December 13, 2016
I thought things would be resolved. Watts updated the post in response to the issues I raised. I figured that meant he'd add a note warning readers the quotation used in his headline was inaccurate due to relying upon a news story which included a mistake. That wouldn't be a big deal. It'd maybe be a bit embarrassing, but so what? Nobody would have condemned him for it. I would have even praised him correcting the record.
But he didn't. Instead of correcting the record on this very simple point, Watts decided to double down on the fake quote. His update begins:
*UPDATE/CORRECTION: This post was based on an article in the Independent, which has since been changed.
Then goes on to highlight a bit of what I've covered in my last two posts. He follows this by saying:
Many other outlets, including Yahoo News picked up the story.
This has come about because the biologist in question made a joke, and the reporter used the quote verbatim. The blog “On Second Thought” delved into the details:
As I pointed out to that author on Twitter several times during the discussion he refers to, The Independent provided two different versions of the same quotation. Both cannot be real. For whatever reason, he did not discuss that issue in his piece. He does, however, quote Professor Wiens as saying:
Obviously, I hoped that this would be the end of the topic. He persisted. I did therefore say that Trump should “kill himself immediately” (i.e., his doing this seems about as likely as him following any recommendation from an obscure scientist like myself about stopping climate change). I then made sure that it was clear that it was a joke.
Which shows Wiens saying the quotation was "kill himself immediately" rather than, "Kill yourself immediately." That means, according to Professor Wiens, the headline used for that Watts Up With That article is incorrect. It uses a fake quotation. And while Watts quotes this very statement from Wiens in his update, he says "the reporter used the quote verbatim" and:
So for those confused by the headline, Weins did in fact say that, intended it as a joke, and thought he was in the clear.
Those confused by the headline might be further confused by the fact Watts uses a statement from Professor Wiens in which he claimed to have said "kill himself immediately" as proof his headline which used the quotation, "Kill yourself immediately" is accurate. In fact, Wiens did not say what the headline claims he said (according to Wiens, at least). Watts has no basis on which to claim otherwise.
Why does Watts double down and defend this fake quotation? I can't say. I can't read people's minds. I'd prefer not to think Watts is intentionally saying things he knows to be false. Interestingly, I discussed a similar matter with the author of the piece Watts quoted during our Twitter exchanges. It was about what The Independent had done, but my view is largely the same on this as well:
— Brandon S? (@Corpus_no_Logos) December 12, 2016
— Brandon S? (@Corpus_no_Logos) December 12, 2016
Why won't Watts just admit he ran a piece which used a fake quotation? I don't know. What I will say is I didn't anticipate he wouldn't. I figured he'd ignore this issue or make an accurate quotation. There's just no sensible reason to continue defending this. Even worse, Watts adds extraneous text to his update which includes yet another completely baseless statement:
So for those confused by the headline, Weins did in fact say that, intended it as a joke, and thought he was in the clear. This illustrates the perils of making jokes while talking to a reporter. President Ronald Reagan learned the hard way back in the 80’s with his famous bombing quote. From the Wikipedia account*:
"On August 11, 1984, United StatesPresidentRonald Reagan, while running for re-election, was preparing to make his weekly Saturday radio address on National Public Radio. During a sound check before the address, Reagan made the following joke to the radio technicians: 'My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you today that I’ve signed legislation that will outlaw Russia forever. We begin bombing in five minutes.' The joke was a parody of the opening line of that day’s speech: 'My fellow Americans, I’m pleased to tell you that today I signed legislation that will allow student religious groups to begin enjoying a right they’ve too long been denied — the freedom to meet in public high schools during nonschool hours, just as other student groups are allowed to do.'
Contrary to popular misconception, this microphone gaffe was not broadcast over the air, but rather leaked later to the general populace.
Just reading the material Watts quotes shows Ronald Reagan didn't tell this joke to reporters. He told the joke to sound technicians. The story then leaked to reporters. Why would Watts say Reagan "learned the hard way" the "perils of making jokes while talking to a reporter" while using an example in which Reagan didn't talk to a reporter?
I don't know. There might be some insight to be found in his closing remark though:
So for all those people who got their panties in a twist over this (Brandon S. for example), that’s the clarification.
Watts never quoted or directed anyone to anything I said, so I'd say this is a pretty lame swipe. More importantly though, Watts seems to think I'm getting my "panties in a twist" because I do things like criticize people for using fake quotations. Watts portrays me (and unnamed others who probably don't exist) as acting unreasonably, but what exactly is he deriding? I haven't been ranting, screaming or cursing. All I've done is say people should be quoted accurately and changes to published material should be marked so readers are aware.
Panties in a twist? Watts wrote 600 words and made multiple inaccurate remarks while posting a backhanded swipe against me when all he had to say was something like:
Update: The headline for this post inadvertently used an inaccurate quotation due to a newspaper it relied on making a mistake. The word "yourself" should have been "himself." This error was repeated in text quoted in the post as well. It shouldn't change anything.
And everything would have been over. I'm not sure why Watts feels my panties are in a twist, but I thought this was over. I assumed I wouldn't write anything more about this topic again. It never occurred to me when confronted with an explicit statement of what the correct quotation was, Watts would write a petty, 600 word update to insist a fake quote was actually real.
I don't expect people to get outraged about the phrase "kill himself immediately" being changed to, "Kill yourself immediately," but Watts quoted Professor Wiens explicitly stating he had said "kill himself immediately." It is simply bizarre Watts would do that then claim the quotation, "Kill yourself immediately" is accurate.
Hopefully this will be the last post I write about this. I still can't believe I've had to write as much as I have simply because people can't be bothered to quote what others say accurately.
*The quotes Anthony Watts provides from this Wikipedia article is inaccurate in that it begins, "On August 11, 1984, United StatesPresidentRonald Reagan..." The Wikipedia article correctly places a space between each of these words. I assume Watts accidentally removed those spaces while copying the links over. It doesn't change anything.