Newspaper's Fabricated Quote Suckers "Skeptics"

The internet is full of memes, and if you're new to it, they can seem quite strange. ONE such meme is the intentionally strange, "Kill yourself immediately." The word "immediately" is superfluous as any command given without a timeframe is implicitly meant to be done right away, but that's sort of the point. Memes aren't meant to be serious. They're supposed to be peculiar, odd or otherwise memorable to stick in people's minds.

If someone says, "Kill yourself immediately," odds are they are trying to be humorous (albeit in a twisted way). They are not seriously trying to get you to commit suicide. That is why you might see posts like, "God you're an idiot. Kill yourself immediately." It's supposed to be a funny expression of disdain. I never thought it was funny, but hey, bad humor is still humor.

The reason I bring this up is I recently came across a story because of this tweet:

Which struck me as odd as I wouldn't expect a biologist to use an internet meme in a discussion of the President Elect. I Looked into it, and it appears the quotation may be fake. If it isn't, a different quotation in the same story is. That's not what stood out to me though. What stood out to me is the very news outlets reporting this story all seemed to use different fake quotes. Other differences amongst the stories are strange as well. It seems in an era where media outlets can practically just copy and paste text from other articles to get clicks, people can't even do that right.

That link goes to a piece which says, "Yahoo reports on another outbreak of green peace and love, this time from Arizona Professor John Wiens." It then provides this excerpt:

‘Kill yourself immediately’: Biologist takes aim at climate change denier Donald Trump

An evolutionary biologist who says all animal life could be wiped out in as little as 50 years has instructed Donald Trump to “kill yourself immediately”.

Professor John Wiens took aim at the controversial president elect, who refutes the existence of climate change, while describing the “global disaster” taking hold of our planet.

The Arizona University scientist found that 47 per cent of almost 1000 species had suffered local extinctions linked to climate change, according to the Independent.

Professor Wiens joked that if he ever got to meet Trump he would instruct him to “kill himself”, but when questioned again he gave a more serious answer.

“I guess I would tell him ‘what would you think if there was a country on the other side of the world that was releasing gas that was going to cause extinctions in our country, to hurt our crops and make people starve?’

“He would say, ‘tell me where it is and we’ll bomb them tomorrow’. Then I’d say, ‘this is what we’re doing to other countries because we are the big polluters’.”

I won't harp on the general poor quality of the Yahoo article being quoted, but I will note the first two paragraphs quoted above are not part of the article itself. They art the headline and subhead (basically a summary) of the article, things usually not written by the author of the article itself. Given that, it is interesting they quote a person as using the internet meme, "kill yoruself immediately" while the text of the article uses the quotation, "kill himself."

Did Professor Wiens say he would tell Donald Trump, "Kill yourself immediately"? I can't say. What I can say is there doesn't seem to be much of a case that he did. I originally planned to give an overview of the various reporting of this story and how it is contradictory, but I recently discovered something even more troubling. The Yahoo article gives its information as being "according to the Independent." The Independent covered this story wtih an article whose subhead was:

Professor John Wiens describes Donald Trump's election as a disaster for the planet and jokes grimly he should 'kill himself immediately'

While the text of it said:

Professor Wiens, of Arizona University, described this as a “global disaster” and, when asked what he would say to the President-elect if he met him, he joked grimly: “Kill yourself immediately.”

Which uses a different quotation. That raises the obvious question, "Which, if either, quotation is real?" When I went to write this post, I made a shocking discovery regarding that. It appears neither quote was real. Compare what The Independent said three days ago when it published its story to what you see now when you visit the web page. Here is the URL for the story:

http://www.independent.co.uk/environment/climate-change-global-warming-mass-extinctions-species-study-donald-trump-kill-himself-joke-a7464391.html

Take note of the part "donald-trum-kill-himself." Here is a screengrab of the headline and subhead that went with it three days ago:

12_11_screen_head_orig

Here is it now:

12_11_screen_head_new

Here is a screenshot of part of the article as it was published:

12_11_screen_body_orig

Here is the same part of the article as it is now:

12_11_screen_body_new

The quote and all traces of it have been excised from the article. Even the publication date has been changed, indicating when the article was updated to remove what appears to have been fabricated quotations (10 hours ago, as I am writing now). That is something like 24 to 36 hours after I drew attention to the high probability of a fake quotation having been used, both on Twitter and at a major climate blog Watts up With That. As I said there:

Did nobody notice the article quoted in this post contradicts its own subhead, and consequently the title of this post?
...
If you check different news sources, you’ll find contradictory reporting on just what this guy said, when and where he said it, as well as even how you spell the guy’s name. Shouldn’t people take a minute and try to sort of what was actually said before spreading stories? As it stands, it is impossible for anyone here to know what was actually said.

I continued to draw attention to the contradictory nature of the quotations provided in multiple comments there. For instance:

To be clear, your position is this news outlet falsified a quote but you that they only did so to an extent that left the intended meaning intact. Given that trust, you defend the use of a fake quote. I hope you’ll understand why some people might not be so trusting and instead be skeptical of any story which uses fake quotes.

But even if one isn’t skeptical of this article at all, misquoting people is wrong. Everyone should be able to come together and agree people should be quoted accurately.

And:

Michael Jankowski, (at least) one of the two quotes in the news article used for this post is fake. One could give naive odds the headline of this post uses a falsified quote. That’s not okay. It’s not okay if such a falsified quote is then spread across social media due to things like this site’s Twitter account using it as its hook.

It’s a simple matter of standards. When fake quotes are promoted in the same fashion as real quotes, it is impossible to tell which quotes are actually real. That’s why everyone should agree to a standard in which quotations must be accurate.

If I see a news article has used a fake quote, I don’t trust anything it says. If they can’t accurately report what someone says, why should I believe they are reporting anything accurately?

And:

I have no doubt he said what he said. My only doubts are that what he said has been reported accurately. Comparing the quotations provided in the news article for this post shows at least one is fake. If somebody can direct us to actual documentation of what he said, such as a recording (if spoken) or printed copy (if written), then we can know what he said.

Otherwise all we have is somebody’s reporting of what he said. If that reporting is not credible, then how can we be sure what was actually said?

I would say every one of these comments has been proven right. The Independent has taken down any reference to these supposed quotations, going so far as to hide the fact it ever posted any. It makes no mention of the fact the article has been updated, and no reader coming across the story now would ever realize The Independent has covered this up. The most likely explanation is The Independent realized the quotation was wrong and wanted to hide the fact it used a fabricated quote.

This post isn't just to gloat about being right, though I do feel it is appropriate to say, "I told you so." A bigger issue is the fact dozens of news outlets have covered this story, widely promulgating the idea this professor used an internet meme to tell the President Elect to commit suicide. It seems probable all that coverage is based upon a falsified quotation. That The Independent now tries to cover up its error does nothing to address the widespread belief it created.

In fact, the cover up makes things far worse as now there are many articles citing The Independent as their source even though The Independent no longer backs up what they say. That's crazy. If The Independent had at least acted honestly and ethically by posting a correction noting the change and reason for it, then there would at least be some chance people exposed to the apparently fake quote would come to learn it wasn't real.

I don't know what to say about all this. This post is pretty rushed as I spent a fair amount of time on the original version of the post before discovering The Independent's secret alterations to its story. I would like to take more time to be more thorough and get this post "right" (and perhaps figure out some juicy rhetoric with which to condemn this dishonest and unethical behavior), but I Wanted to get it out as soon as possible. Because as I pointed out to another user discussing this story:

Chimp, by Monday, nobody will care what he said. The story will have come and gone. Even if it turned out he had actually said, “I think the world would be a better place if you killed yourself, though I don’t want you to,” by Monday, it wouldn’t matter. Few people who heard about the story and got upset would even hear about any correction that got made.

That’s why journalists are supposed to put a lot of effort into verifying the things they write. They know how important getting things right the first time is.

I Don't know what this professor actually said. It is possible he did say he would tell Donald Trump, "Kill yourself immediately" because he's hip with internet memes. It is also possible he said something somewhat similar to that. It is also possible this quotation was nothing but the figment of somebody's imagination. I can't say for sure.

What I can say is this story was immediately questionable when I first read it. I talked to people for over a day about how the various versions of the quotation I had seen didn't make sense. Sometime after that, The Independent secretly changed its article to cover up all reference to any version of this quotation. At this point, I'd say even if that quotation were real, we'd never be able to tell because of the The Independent's dishonesty.

Absent hard evidence Professor Wiens said anything about Donald Trump killing himself or a public statement from him confirming he did, I'd say there is absolutely no credibility to this aspect of the story.

As a final note, I hope anyone and everyone who ran or promoted this story will now make a public acknowledgment there is no basis for the quotation, and as such, their headlines and pieces may well be incorrect.

10 comments

  1. As an update, The Independent has modified the article again to add this note:

    This article has been altered to remove a joking remark made by Professor Wiens about Donald Trump. Several websites have misrepresented the comment as a serious suggestion, omitting the key context that it was meant as a joke, and Professor Wiens has received a number of threatening emails and phonecalls.

    And in the process has reverted the publication date back to the original date, causing one discrepancy mentioned in this post to no longer exist. I'll note The Independent offers no indication of when this note was added (making this post seem misguided as a naive person might think I simply missed the note). Additionally, it does nothing to address the fact it had provided two different versions of the quotation, meaning we have no indication which (if either) quotation is correct.

    That said, it is my understanding another individual I've spoken to has talked to Professor Wiens and gotten more information. I'll post another update when I know more.

  2. The WUWT article now also links to Alan Porier's blog, which has additional information from Weims himself. Given all the information, I think it is fair to say that we now know the following about the incident:

    1) Ian Johnston's Independent article is the sole source of the original quotation.
    2) Ian Johnston's quote of "Kill yourself immediately" was in fact a verbatim statement from Dr. Weims.
    3) Dr. Weims assumed it would not be reported "since it was meant to be ridiculous."
    4) The Independent's stealth alteration of the article to remove the offending remark was not for inaccuracy, and certainly not because it was fabricated. (IMO, the likeliest explanation is that it became inconvenient.)

    On WUWT I identified the Independent as the likely original of the story, and noted that the quote there was "kill yourself immediately". While the Yahoo story WUWT used dropped the word immediately from the text, it was clearly derived from the Independent's account, and all other references I checked with "kill yourself" could also easily be traced. In the text above you also recognize the difference between the Yahoo story and the Independent account, and the differing quotation between the (original) Independent subheading and the (original) Independent text and say it raises the obvious question of "Which, if either, quotation is real?" It's obvious which quotation *should* be real -- the subheadings can't be the "real" quote, because they are derived from the article and (as you noted) not even typically written by the article writer itself. Nor can the Yahoo story contain the "real" quote, since it references the Independent and a comparison of the two stories shows that it is clearly derived from the Independent account.

    As far as I can tell, prior to the Independent's stealth alteration, there is *no* reason to believe that the original quotation as reported by the original reporter is anything other than "kill yourself immediately". But you were already referring to it as a "fake quote" on WUWT before the Independent's alteration confirmed to you, incorrectly, that the quote wasn't just inaccurate but "actually fabricated" (both quotes from responses to my comment there). I find it surprising that you, of all people, leaped so quickly in debunking a remark that set off your spider-sense as to actually allege that Ian Johnston *fabricated* the quote on such slim evidence. (I do note that Weims, in his email to Porier, quotes himself as saying he should "kill himself immediately", opening the possibility that Weims actual words were "I would tell him he should kill himself immediately" and not "I would tell him 'kill yourself immediately." Or it could be Weims altering the person when reporting the quotation to a third party. Weims does NOT allege a misquotation by Johnston.)

    Now it's clear from Dr. Weims comments that he is happy neither with the article nor Mr. Ian Johnston. The good professor wanted to talk about his article, while Johnston hadn't read it and wanted to talk about Trump. The professor comes off as a bit naive to me, assuming his statement would not be reported because it was ridiculous, and this remarkable statement: "Next, to further indicate that I wanted to change the subject, I suggested that the UK should make its former colonies switch leaders." Certainly another ridiculous suggestion, but how Johnston could've possibly concluded from that remark that Weims wished to change the subject is beyond me.

    An accurate quotation can certainly be misleading by omitting the context. Dr. Weims clearly feels this is the case here, as although Johnston repeated his line (and labelled it as a joke), he did NOT report Weims' insistence that Trump wouldn't listen to what he had to say anyway. But if we take a step back, why is it that this story caught legs among the "suckered skeptics". Did they think that Weims thought that if he had access to the President-elect, he would say "kill yourself immediately" and Trump would do so? Did they think Weims would *actually*, if given the opportunity, tell the President-elect to "kill yourself immediately?" Or was it that they thought this "grim joke" represented the desires of his heart, and that Weims really wishes Trump *would* kill himself, precisely because of his climatic fears?

    There are no shortage of people who would secretly be pleased if Trump were to die, even among those who voted for him. I myself would have found the Republican ticket more appealing if headlined by Pence instead of Trump. And Weims appears to genuinely believe that climate change is "an important issue that might lead to millions of deaths through the impacts (as pointed out by many people)" as he wrote to Porier. If one man is preventing action that could prevent *millions* of deaths, what moral person *wouldn't* want that person to kill himself? The danger here is not whether a lone professor would be in fact rude enough to vainly tell the President-elect to kill himself. The danger here is that many people, even a professor publishing in the field, sincerely believe that we are facing massive, catastrophic impacts due to climate change. What would they not dare? What *should* they not do? Note that Johnston's revised article now lacks the offending remark, but is still chock-full of catastrophic alarmism.

  3. Dale S, I find your position baffling. You say we should conclude:

    2) Ian Johnston's quote of "Kill yourself immediately" was in fact a verbatim statement from Dr. Weims.

    Based partially upon the fact we have a statement by Professor Wiens, a statement which directly contradicts this quote you claim we now know "was in fact a verbatim" quotation. You acknowledge The Independent provided two different versions of the quotation, and you acknowledge Wiens provided his version of the quotation, yet you say we now know the real quote was in fact the other one. That's not how logic works. Learning a person's account of things contradicts that of the one we were initially presented does not mean we now know the original version is correct.

    On a related note, you say:

    As far as I can tell, prior to the Independent's stealth alteration, there is *no* reason to believe that the original quotation as reported by the original reporter is anything other than "kill yourself immediately". But you were already referring to it as a "fake quote" on WUWT before the Independent's alteration confirmed to you, incorrectly, that the quote wasn't just inaccurate but "actually fabricated" (both quotes from responses to my comment there). I find it surprising that you, of all people, leaped so quickly in debunking a remark that set off your spider-sense as to actually allege that Ian Johnston *fabricated* the quote on such slim evidence.

    This is untrue. I didn't claim to know that particular quote was fake during my discussion of it. I went out of my way, numerous times, to specifically say we couldn't know which (if either) quotation was accurate. You might "find it surprising" I'd do what you describe, but trust me, I'd find it even more surprising. I don't where you get this idea, but the only time I did what you claim is in my initial tweet. That was due to space constraints and haste getting in the way of clarity.

    Now it's clear from Dr. Weims comments that he is happy neither with the article nor Mr. Ian Johnston. The good professor wanted to talk about his article, while Johnston hadn't read it and wanted to talk about Trump. The professor comes off as a bit naive to me, assuming his statement would not be reported because it was ridiculous...

    It's worth mentioning he disagrees with the reporter as to which portions of their conversation were "on the record."

  4. Yes, I screwed up in my long post. I had written it out when I noticed that the wording used by Wiens and Porier was not the same as used by Johnston, and went back and edited the third paragraph, but my point #2 in the summary was not corrected and is incorrect. I also give Wiens as "Weims" throughout. Rather embarrassing on my part, I think.

    Johnston's original article -- "when asked what he would say to the President-elect if he met him, he joked grimly: “Kill yourself immediately.”"
    Porier quoting Wiens -- "He asked me what I would say to Donald Trump... I did therefore say that Trump should “kill himself immediately.”

    So we do not, in fact, know whether Wiens said "kill yourself immediately" or "kill himself immediately". Johnston's wording would be grammatically correct if addressing Trump, while Porier's form would not. Of course, if Wiens was describing to a third party what he would say to Trump, it would be entirely correct to say "I would tell Trump that he should kill himself immediately".

    The distinction arises from the beginning of Porier's blog post, where he states:

    "The British newspaper The Independent published an article in which Wiens was quoted as saying that if he had occasion to meet President-elect Donald Trump, he would tell him to “kill himself immediately.”

    That would be a correct statement if the quotes around "kill himself immediately", but as it stands is incorrect. So point #2 should say:

    #2) Wiems has confirmed that he did say he would suggest Trump kill himself immediately, but it is not known whether he used the pronoun "himself" or "yourself" in the verbatim quote.

    The "two different versions" of the quote in the (original) Independent article concern me not at all. There is only *one* version of the quote in the article, the other is in a subheading, not part of the article and clearly derived from it. It's possible for a headline or subheading to contradict an article, but when that happens it's a defect in the headline or subheading. It says nothing at all about the article itself.

    Here's the paragraphs were you mention fake quotes, in response to my post identifying the Independent as the original (now known to be true) and containing the quote "kill yourself immediately" (the only version of the quote reported by Johnston himself):
    ---
    AS a preview, what you’ll find is this quote has been reported in at least four different forms: “kill himself,” “kill himself immediately,” “kill yourself,” “kill yourself immediately.” A variety of other changes between the stories not tied directly to the quotation exist as well. The Independent article you refer to might be accurate, but given the circumstances, I’m not inclined to make any guesses.

    What I will say is stories which use fake quotes should not be the basis for blog posts unless the inaccuracies of the quotes are discussed I don’t think this particular case would change much if things were reported accurately, but I also don’t think that matters to my point. My point is simply that fake quotes shouldn’t be used and promoted. If you don’t know what somebody said, just don’t’ give a quotation from them.
    ---
    My point -- to which you had responded -- was that the Independent seemed to be the origin, and Johnston himself gave exactly one form of the quote, "kill yourself immediately". I fully agree that basing the WUWT article on the Yahoo article was a mistake, since it would be more sensible and logically to reference the Independent article it was derived on. But even the Yahoo article didn't use a "fake quote", it used a truncated one (in the text). The actually fabricated came in your following post:
    ---
    Dale S, that post is now live, though I changed the focus of it quite a bit (and had to delete a fair amount of what I had written) because I discovered The Independent has secretly deleted any reference to any such quotation in its article. The obvious inference is it screwed up by posting false information and is now trying to cover its error up. You can see my discussion of this here:

    http://www.hi-izuru.org/wp_blog/2016/12/newspapers-fabricated-quote-suckers-skeptics/

    At this point, I don’t think anyone can reasonably believe there is any credibility to the idea Professor Wiens said what he was quoted as saying. By all appearances, this story is nothing more than a bunch of people breathlessly rushing to spread a quotation they saw which was actually fabricated.
    ---
    To you, the "obvious inference" is that the quote was incorrect -- even "actually fabricated". To me, the "obvious inference" is that the quote became inconvenient, precisely because a bunch of people were breathlessly rushing to spread a quotation they saw as unflattering to the originator. You didn't think anyone could reasonably believe there is "any credibility" to Wiens saying what he was quoted as saying -- yet far from the quote being "actually fabricated", the substance of the quote was confirmed by Wiens.

    I'll agree it's worth mentioning the disagreement over "on the record". For those who may only be reading it here, here's the quote on Porier's blog:
    ---
    As Wiens wrote in his email to me, “I recontacted Mr. Johnston over the weekend because I thought that I had said explicitly not to repeat the joke in question. He said that I had not. He removed it because I was getting violent threats.”
    ---
    I do find it curious that Wiens both thought that he had explicitly said not to repeat the joke and yet had earlier written "I also assumed, wrongly, that it (the joke) would not be reported, since the statement was meant to be ridiculous." If he had explicitly asked for the joke not to be repeated, there would be no need for the incorrect assumption. Note also that Wiens claim about off-the-record is weak ("I thought that I had said"), while Johnston's response is not ("He said that I had not").

  5. Dale S:

    The "two different versions" of the quote in the (original) Independent article concern me not at all. There is only *one* version of the quote in the article, the other is in a subheading, not part of the article and clearly derived from it. It's possible for a headline or subheading to contradict an article, but when that happens it's a defect in the headline or subheading. It says nothing at all about the article itself.

    I cannot agree with this statement. It is possible for a headline (or subhead) to be accurate while an article is inaccurate. I've seen it happen a number of times. For instance, I've seen headlines be written before the proofing on an article has been finalized, with the article being edited afterward in a way which introduced an error.

    Here's the paragraphs were you mention fake quotes, in response to my post identifying the Independent as the original (now known to be true) and containing the quote "kill yourself immediately" (the only version of the quote reported by Johnston himself):

    These paragraphs clearly show I did not claim that particular version of the quote was fake like you claimed.

    To you, the "obvious inference" is that the quote was incorrect -- even "actually fabricated". To me, the "obvious inference" is that the quote became inconvenient, precisely because a bunch of people were breathlessly rushing to spread a quotation they saw as unflattering to the originator.

    The reason it is the "obvious inference" to me is The Independent has covered up the fact it provided two different versions of the quotation. Even now, after it has edited its article again to note the (previously secret) changes it had made, it has not acknowledge that is provided a fake quote.

    You seem determined to focus only on the body of the article, but my discussion has consistently focused on the article as a whole, including its headline and subhead.

    You didn't think anyone could reasonably believe there is "any credibility" to Wiens saying what he was quoted as saying -- yet far from the quote being "actually fabricated", the substance of the quote was confirmed by Wiens.

    I don't think it is reasonable to assign any credibility to anything The Independent publishes given it has shown itself willing to engage in dishonest and unethical behavior by secretly editing published material and covering up the fact it published a fake quotation. If people are willing to be dishonest and unethical in their reporting, I don't think you should trust their reporting. I think that's a reasonable position. I think that remains a reasonable position even if it turns out what they reported in a given case turns out not to be too far from the truth.

    Any trustworthy source which published a fake quotation would acknowledge it had done so. WUWT chooses not to.* The Independent not only chooses not to, but in fact covers up the fact it did. If not for my efforts, The Independent wouldn't have even acknowledged it made any change at all.

    *The WUWT article bolded text to emphasize the idea Wiens had said Trump should "kill himself" as well as including, "Kill yourself immediately" in the same quotation and the headline. That means WUWT went out of its way to draw attention to a fake quotation. Either you believe the version Wiens provided and the WUWT headline uses a fake quotation, or you disbelieve what he said, decide the WUWT headline was correct and decide WUWT bolded text in material it quoted to draw readers' attention to a fake quotation.

  6. While it's possible for the subheading or headline to be correct while the article is incorrect (perhaps because the article has changed), that does not mean the subheading or headline is not defective. The *point* of the subheading or headline is to reference the article, and if the article changes and causes the headline to no longer reflect the article, the headline is wrong for its purpose. If it happens to be correct in fact, as in your hypothetical, that's accidental.

    An example of this would be the Yahoo article linked to by WUWT. The article itself changed the quote from "kill yourself immediately" to "kill himself", but the headline and subheading used "kill yourself immediately"--the exact quote from the Independent article. In comparison to the source of the quote -- Ian Johnston's *article*, the Yahoo headline was more accurate than the Yahoo text or the Independent subheading. But in all those variations, it's still clear what the originalsource of the quote is -- Ian Johnston's article. *Before* the Independent modified the article, you were already questioning the quotation on the basis of variations in *derived* text, despite the fact that at time you had NO evidence that Ian Johnston's quotation was incorrect. This is rather like claiming that if you make a post here and quote from a personal communication, and Eric Worrall has a post on WUWT that references and summarizes your post, but changes or shortens the quote from the personal communication, that *your post's quote* is suspect, because *other people* have rendered it differently.

    Of course, the "different" renderings in this case have equivalent meaning. The problem with the subheading in the Independent isn't so much that the quote differs, it's that the quotation marks imply it is verbatim. If it had identical wording *except* for mirroring the quote in the article, it would read terribly:

    "Professor John Wiens describes Donald Trump's election as a disaster for the planet and jokes grimly he should 'kill yourself immediately'"

    The person is now wrong. "Kill yourself immediately" and "Kill himself immediately" are not mutually exclusive. They are both correct depending on who you are talking to. Consider the hypothetical where the joked-about conversation actually takes place:

    Ignorant President-Elect: "O Wise Climate Scientist, what should I do?"
    Wise Climate Scientist: "Kill yourself immediately."

    Intrepid Reporter: "O Wise Climate Scientist, what did you tell the Ignorant President-Elect?"
    Wise Climate Scientist: "He should kill himself immediately."

    The second quote from the climate scientist does not in any way contradict the first quote, it accurately describes the first quote. The reporter could reasonably infer that the climate scientist said "kill yourself immediately" to the president-elect, and the reporter could not reasonably claim, even though it was a direct quote from the scientist, that the climate scientist said "he should kill himself immediately" to the president-elect.

    We don't know if Wiens used the exact words "kill himself immediately" or "kill yourself immediately" when speaking to Johnston. We do know that if the joke had actually happened, Wiens would have used the words "kill yourself immediately" to Trump.

    Now consider Wiens' "contradiction" of the quote in Johnston's article. According to Wiens, Johnston "asked what I would say to Donald Trump". Wiens resisted, Johnston persisted, and Wiens "did therefore say that Trump should “kill himself immediately”". Wiens put that phrase in quotes, but unless his grammar is very bad, it is *not* would he would say "to Donald Trump". However, without the quotes around kill himself immediately, it *is* what he would say when talking to Porier. Like the subheading to the Independent article, it's not the wording that's problematic. It's the quotation marks.

    But while we can't be certain what the exact wording is that Wiens used to Johnston, Wiens comments do *confirm* the substance of the "joke". There's no doubt that Wiens told Johnston that he would tell the president to kill himself immediately. None. Johnston wrote that. Wiens confirmed it. And yet here you are, calling it a "fabricated quote". Someone reading only your words might well think that Johnston *invented* the quote, a gross journalistic malfeasance for which there is *zero* evidence. And you doubted Johnston's quote before there was *any* reason to think that anything was wrong with the quote, based solely on variations done by *other people* in work *derived* from Johnston's article.

    I seem determined to focus on the body of the article, because *that is the source of the story*. You choose to treat the subheading and the headline as an integral part of "the article of the whole". But it's well known, and you are certainly aware, that the subheading and headline are composed *in response* to the article. Absent evidence that the subheading and headline were composed *by Johnston*, there is absolutely no reason to treat them as integral, and they cannot be used to impeach Johnston's article.

    You can use them to impeach the Independent itself, of course. It's a fair point that the media in general, and the Independent in particular, is not exactly sacred writ. There are no 100% accurate sources anywhere, not journalists, not papers, not climate scientists, not bloggers. But you went beyond a reasonable general skepticism to specifically target a quotation which has had its substance confirmed -- and instead of reflecting on how it was that *you* got fooled about the quote, you're still talking about a "fake quotation" under a head post that says:

    "Absent hard evidence Professor Wiens said anything about Donald Trump killing himself or a public statement from him confirming he did, I'd say there is absolutely no credibility to this aspect of the story."

    And yet after Wiens *admits* it, and the deletion of the quote is directly connected to the *reaction* to the quote, you're still referring to it as a "fake quotation", and criticizing WUWT for not acknowledging it used a "fake quotation". Did you not notice that WUWT's update of the post includes the alterations to the Independent article, and links to and quotes Porier's blog? It's your article that's out of date. (Though at this point, I don't know if you can alter the misleading "newspapers-fabricated-quote-suckers-skeptics" in the URL.)

    For the record, I'm not impressed with the original WUWT post. It should have been fairly easy to track down Johnston's article and use that rather than referring to a shortened re-hash. And since the shortened re-hash dropped the "immediately" in the main text, it was also incorrect for WUWT to echo the "immediately" in the headlines -- though it turned out to be in the original, this was an accidental accuracy. Finally, I'm disappointed in Worrall concentrating on the "joke" in the first place -- I thought the other daft things Wiens was saying were far more interesting, especially since he apparently believes them. His "more serious" answer is far more alarming to me than his "joke".

  7. Dale S, this is getting ridiculous. You keep portraying me as being unreasonable for questioning both forms of a quotation which were provided by the same news outlet. For instance, you say:

    But in all those variations, it's still clear what the originalsource of the quote is -- Ian Johnston's article. *Before* the Independent modified the article, you were already questioning the quotation on the basis of variations in *derived* text, despite the fact that at time you had NO evidence that Ian Johnston's quotation was incorrect.

    But guess what? If a newspaper publishes different versions of a quotation, it is perfectly reasonable for people to question which (if either) is accurate. That one version appears in the body of an article and another in a headline (or subhead) doesn't mean people are obligated to assume it is the one that is incorrect. It is perfectly okay for people to say they don't know which (if either) version of the quotation might be real.

    So yes, I did in fact have evidence the "quotation was incorrect." That evidence is Ian Johnston's employers and boss providing a different account. That evidence may not be conclusive, and there may be evidence supporting a different position, but it is in fact evidence. It remains evidence even if you wish to constantly hand-wave it away.

    Incidentally, your view is quite interesting. According to you, I questioned the validity of a quotation without any evidence. Then, the quoted individual provided an account which confirms (to whatever extent its testimony can) the quotation was incorrect. That's an incredible coincidence. I guess I'm just really good.

    Of course, the "different" renderings in this case have equivalent meaning.

    No, they don't. I've gone over this multiple times. Choosing not to discuss what I've said about this while directly contradicting it won't get us anywhere. When you're writing hundreds and hundreds of words to say someone is wrong, it helps to actually quote them or otherwise directly indicate what they supposedly got wrong. The importance of this can be seen above where you falsely claimed I said Ian Johnston's version of the quote was incorrect early on at WUWT.

    Rather than flood this comment with more verbiage, I'll just make two more remarks. First, you say:

    And you doubted Johnston's quote before there was *any* reason to think that anything was wrong with the quote, based solely on variations done by *other people* in work *derived* from Johnston's article.

    This isn't true on any account. That you may not like the reason I had for questioning the veracity of a quotation does not mean it stops being a reason. Additionally, the reason you refer to isn't the only reason I offered. I've repeatedly pointed out the wording of the phrase itself made me wonder if it were real.

    Second, what, exactly, would be your reaction if Professor Wiens were to, say, provide a copy of an e-mail exchange with Ian Johnston which clearly showed he did not use the quotation Ian Johnston published?

    Oh, and actually, a third point. Your clearly haven't read the latest post I wrote. Combine that with the multiple inaccurate things you've written, and I have to wonder if perhaps you'd be better off reading more and writing less.

  8. Brandon,

    You are correct that I hadn't read either of your most recent posts on the subject. I reached this post from the link you left at WUWT, and this post did not mention either of your most recent posts until your last response. I have now read them.

    In this post you say "Absent hard evidence Professor Wiens said anything about Donald Trump killing himself or a public statement from him confirming he did, I'd say there is absolutely no credibility to this aspect of the story.

    As a final note, I hope anyone and everyone who ran or promoted this story will now make a public acknowledgment there is no basis for the quotation, and as such, their headlines and pieces may well be incorrect."

    In the subsequent post, after learning that Wiens *confirmed* that he would advise Trump to kill himself, you title it "Confirmation Quotation Was Fake". Your conclusion... you were 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."

    I suppose it *would* be crazy, if one of those "different versions" weren't in the subheading and not in the article at all. I was also a little bemused that you reflect "Naturally, I concluded (at least) one of these quotations must be fake. I noted this almost immediately upon first seeing the story linked to on Twitter" and give WUWT's tweet to their own article.

    But WUWT (at that time) did *not* link to the Independent article at all. They referenced a Yahoo re-hash. Like the Independent, the quotations they gave inside the article differed from the headline/subheading. Your response at WUWT at 5:08 referenced the differences in the Yahoo article that was linked and did not mention the Independent. I did that in my response to you.

    You quote from Porier's blog to give Wiens account, then go on to say "The man was apparently unhappy with aspects of the story and contacted The Independent about this. That's why it removed the quotations from its articel. That is good to know (and what I suggested had happened)".

    But at Porier's blog, Wiens says why it was removed, according to Johnston:

    "As Wiens wrote in his email to me, “I recontacted Mr. Johnston over the weekend because I thought that I had said explicitly not to repeat the joke in question. He said that I had not. He removed it because I was getting violent threats.”"

    And what you "suggested had happened" was that the quotation was removed because it was to "hide the fact they used a fabricated quote". According to Johnston-telling-Wiens-telling-Porier, that's untrue.

    You do see Wiens' different wording as a confirmation that the quotation is in fact a "fake quote". I note that when the Independent subheading differed from Johnston's article text, you say there's no way to tell which one is correct (despite the fact that headlines and subheadings are derived from the article. But when Wiens-to-Porier differs from Wiens-as-quoted-by-Johnston, you consider that Wiens wording to Porier *must* be the original, and Johnston's version is "fake". This despite the fact that Wiens himself draws no attention to the difference, and wrote Porier specifically to *confirm* that he had made the controversial statement.

    Which controversial statement? Porier links to the article, but gives the controversy as " the British newspaper The Independent published an article in which Wiens was quoted as saying that if he had occasion to meet President-elect Donald Trump, he would tell him to “kill himself immediately.”" This was *not* the exact wording within the article, and you criticize Porier for not mentioning the different versions (though in that passage you fail to mention that the differing wording is from the subheading). But as what we have is Wiens response to Porier, it seems probable that Porier asked something like "Did you say you would tell Trump to "kill himself immediately""? If he did, the source of the "kill himself immediately" wording in Wiens e-mail could well be taken from Porier's question, not his memory of his verbatim statement.

    And yes, I do assume it is his memory. When Wiens is speaking of his discussion with Johnston in his e-mail to Porier, he repeatedly says "talk" and describes a back-and-forth between the two. Your speculation in comments that the exchange may have been conducted by email and that the "kill himself immediately" may have been cut-and-pasted seems vastly unlikely and isn't supported by any clues I can see. If Wiens wanted to cut-and-paste from an email exchange, it would be far more logical to cut and paste the entire exchange, or at a minimum the entire sentence, not three words from it. Further, if Johnston had elected for a far less efficient back-and-forth in email for his interview, there would be no reason for Wiens to have "thought" he asked Johnston explicitly not to include the joke -- it'd be in the email if he had.

    Your argument for "kill himself" and "kill yourself" being meaningfully different do not seem to be convincing anyone but yourself. According to Wiens, the question was "what I would say to Donald Trump". Unless Wiens has very bad grammar -- and there's no evidence of that in his quotation in either Porier's blog or Johnston's article, he would not literally say "kill himself immediately" to Donald Trump. The person is wrong. He would have to use the second person pronoun -- i.e. "kill yourself immediately". As I remarked above, the problem *isn't* the differing wording, it's the quotation marks. The wording is completely consistent and equivalent. It's impossible to tell Trump to kill himself immediately without telling him "kill yourself immediately." No amount of suspicion raised in you by an "internet meme" that neither Wiens nor Johnston may even be aware of changes that.

    But I'm repeating myself -- I already said that, and you ignored it, preferring only to quote the flat statement I gave that they have equivalent meaning, not addressing at all my explanation or example of how they have alternate meanings, and then criticize me for not addressing your explanation how they are different that you've explained "multiple times" -- despite the fact that you didn't explain it in this thread. I've now read your explanation in response to MikeN in comments, and don't find it convincing. One of the things you do call out correctly in your discussion with MikeN is that the joke is not a command, or even a wish (both of which could be falsely drawn from some of the subheading/headlines and many of the comments out there.) The joke is that it is Wiens' advice to Trump on what he should do -- and despite the differing wording, Weins recollection and Johnston's article are exactly equivalent on that point.

    I will take your word for your statement that "fake quotes" was not meant to include Johnston's quote, but given that you used it in *response* to my comment identifying the origin of the quote, I do not accept it as obvious *to the reader* that it was not meant to include it. After all, you were still criticizing WUWT for using fake quotes -- in the plural form -- and as I had *just demonstrated*, one of the two forms of the quotes matched Johnston's wording exactly.

    Just one more point before I take your advice and write no more on this subject -- unlike the variations we've been discussing, "fake quotes" and "misquotes" are not equivalent. There's a world of difference between screwing up a quote accidentally and doing it on purpose, and I prefer not to accuse even alarmist journalists (or anonymous composers of headlines and subheadings) of fabricating quotations when mere incompetence is a possible and IMO more likely answer. I believe your use of inflammatory adjectives partially explains why you seem to be getting so little traction on this particular issue, creating yet another example of Brandon vs. the world.

  9. Dale S, you continue to say things that simply are... not fully correct. For instance:

    "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."

    I suppose it *would* be crazy, if one of those "different versions" weren't in the subheading and not in the article at all. I was also a little bemused that you reflect "Naturally, I concluded (at least) one of these quotations must be fake. I noted this almost immediately upon first seeing the story linked to on Twitter" and give WUWT's tweet to their own article.

    But WUWT (at that time) did *not* link to the Independent article at all. They referenced a Yahoo re-hash. Like the Independent, the quotations they gave inside the article differed from the headline/subheading. Your response at WUWT at 5:08 referenced the differences in the Yahoo article that was linked and did not mention the Independent. I did that in my response to you.

    But you fail to note the story the WUWT post relied upon used both, "Kill yourself immediately" and "kill himself." These are both taken from The Independent. The latter is truncated by a word, but that does nothing to change the fact the contradictory nature of the quotations were highlighted and identified as I describe. This is misleading.

    Similarly, you fail to mention my discussion at WUWT referred to reporting of these quotations across many media outlets. While I did not single out The Independent (at the time I was not certain it was the original source), I was certainly aware of it. I was also aware of many other articles which contained these contradictory quotes. That I didn't focus solely upon The Independent in no way means I did not almost immediately recognize the contradictory quotations The Independent had run.

    And what you "suggested had happened" was that the quotation was removed because it was to "hide the fact they used a fabricated quote". According to Johnston-telling-Wiens-telling-Porier, that's untrue.

    You are again cherry-picking things to pretend all that matters is the quotation used in the body of the article as well as selectively quoting me to distort what I have said. Any fair reading of my writings will show I never said what you claim. Here is a more full version of this quotation:

    I would say every one of these comments has been proven right. The Independent has taken down any reference to these supposed quotations, going so far as to hide the fact it ever posted any. It makes no mention of the fact the article has been updated, and no reader coming across the story now would ever realize The Independent has covered this up. The most likely explanation is The Independent realized the quotation was wrong and wanted to hide the fact it used a fabricated quote.

    Not only did I not limit myself to discussing only one version of the quotation The Independent had provided like you say, but I didn't even limit myself to these quotation and the fact they were removed. I discussed the fact The Independent had covered up the fact it published contradictory versions of a quotation by secretly changing an article then said the "most likely explanation" for that is it wanted to hide the fact it had published a fake quote.

    It would be difficult for you to make your misrepresentation here any more obvious. As such, I am going to stop here. Before we continue, would you please acknowledge you've entirely misreperesented what I said with this selective quotation? Would you also please acknowledge the misrepresentation of what I've said which I draw attention to here. I see little value in writing lengthy comments discussing a variety of issues if you will simply make things up or grossly distort what is said and never correct the record. For instance, why should I bother responding to things like:

    You do see Wiens' different wording as a confirmation that the quotation is in fact a "fake quote". I note that when the Independent subheading differed from Johnston's article text, you say there's no way to tell which one is correct (despite the fact that headlines and subheadings are derived from the article. But when Wiens-to-Porier differs from Wiens-as-quoted-by-Johnston, you consider that Wiens wording to Porier *must* be the original, and Johnston's version is "fake". This despite the fact that Wiens himself draws no attention to the difference, and wrote Porier specifically to *confirm* that he had made the controversial statement.

    When I have explicitly acknowledged Professor Wiens may have given an inaccurate account of the quotation? I am certain nothing I say will prevent you from finding reasons to paint me as incorrect and unreasonable if you're willing to just make things up and misrepresent what I say in obvious ways. No response I might give can stop you so long as you continue to insist upon saying incorrect things then not correcting them. Especially not if you'll then go on to write things like:

    But I'm repeating myself -- I already said that, and you ignored it, preferring only

    You write extremely lengthy comments without making any attempt to address what people say in a systematic or structured manner. You routinely ignore things people say. You then complain parts of your lengthy verbiage get ignored. I have no idea how you expect people not to "ignore" things you write. Addressing everything you say would require 3000 words a comment, and you'd probably just ignore most of those 3,000 words.

  10. I hadn't bothered to read to the end of that last comment by Dale S before writing that comment. In fact, I didn't plan to read it to the end (I meant it when I said I was going to stop there). However, my eyes happened to catch a bit of his last paragraph:

    Just one more point before I take your advice and write no more on this subject

    Apparently it was pointless for me to ask him to correct his many misrepresentations. I find it interesting he decided to bow out with a comment that misrepresented things worse than any of his previous comments had. I suppose if you aren't going to continue to participate in a discussion, there's might be less reason to hold back with your inaccuracies. I just think it looks bad to get worse and worse about misrepresenting things as you reach the point of leaving the discussion.

    There are many possible explanations for that sort of behavior, but one is, "I don't like having my misrepresentations pointed out, so the more people do it, the less I want to talk to them." It seems unwise to engage in behavior that leads to such.

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