Yesterday I talked about how misquotations are bad because I wanted to show a strange one I found at Climate Audit whose author, Steve McIntyre, chose to ignore. Instead, after the second time I said there was a misquotation, he changed his post to fix a problem he found because of what I said. He then proceeded to say absolutely nothing to anyone about the change he made.
The result was it went completely unnoticed, even by me, until I wrote yesterday's post. I was, I believe understandably, perturbed by this. By changing his post without giving any indication, McIntyre would alter the apparent meaning of my remarks. Anyone who saw me point out problems then looked at the "fixed" version would be misled about what I said. McIntyre defends this, saying:
Brandon, I didn't add the ellipses "secretly" - I corrected the error after you pointed it out a second time.
— Stephen McIntyre (@ClimateAudit) October 12, 2017
This denial doesn't deny any facts I alleged. McIntyre claims he didn't make a change secretly, but he doesn't say how anyone could have possibly been aware of the change. On top of this, he doesn't mention the fact he made an additional change to his post which I hadn't noticed. Nobody had.
According to McIntyre, he didn't make any secret change to his post, yet even as he said this, he knew neither I nor anybody else had noticed the second change which I'll discuss today.
Before continuing, I want to point out McIntyre's tweet here says he fixed an error after I "pointed it out a second time." Two tweets before this, he had said:
you pointed out missing ellipsis in 2 quotes, then nagged me for not correcting within 1 day. I checked, corrected late yesterday.
— Stephen McIntyre (@ClimateAudit) October 12, 2017
McIntyre acknowledges I brought this issue up only two times, yet he claims I "nagged" him. According to McIntyre, my two comments in 24 hours highlighting an error in a post he wrote was nagging. That's nuts. Who portrays a person in a negative light, as though they are persistently painful or troublesome because they made a whole two comments in 24 hours?
I'm not angry about that. I'm just baffled at how silly it is. Similarly, I can't get mad at McIntyre making small, secret changes to his blog post then denying there was anything secret about it. While I think that's wrong on many levels, it's so weird all I can do is laugh. I mean, look at the change I was pointing out McIntyre made to his post. Here's the original version:
Here's the updated version:
It's really small. If he was going to make that change in response to things I said, why not throw a quick response up saying something like, "Added an ellipsis to fix this"? There wouldn't have been any downside. It wouldn't have made him look bad. It wouldn't have changed any point he was making. Instead, he made the change and didn't tell anyone, then he denied there was anything secret about making that undisclosed change.
It's even stranger when you realize that's not the only change he made to the post. This is from a quote block in the original post:
McIntyre changed it to this:
He didn't mention that change anywhere either. Why not? What possible benefit could there be to making a change like that without saying anything? Not saying anything is just silly. It's even sillier that McIntyre didn't say anything about this change even after I accused him of making secret changes in regard to the first example.
What is the rationale behind responding to accusations of making a secret change to a post by denying the accusations while intentionally not mentioning the other undisclosed change you made? McIntyre denied making a secret change, mentioned one change he did make and... just chose not to say anything about the other change he had made, a change nobody had noticed yet.
That's just silly. There's no potential upside to doing that. I know some people will dismiss this all as "nitpicking," but if these issues are small and don't matter, what possible reason is there for not getting them right? How could anything be made better by changing a post to fix misquotations in it without doing anything to indicate changes have been made?
Now, after I made yesterday's post McIntyre edited my second comment pointing out his post had issues to add an inline remark which said:
Steve: I don’t agree that there was a “gross misquotation” in the post. However, there was a missing ellipsis in the first two quotations which I’ve remedied.
But inline responses like this don't have timestamps so nobody reading his blog will be able to tell he only added that response acknowledging he had changed his post after I criticized him for not disclosing such. Again, that's silly. Unless his purpose was to try to create a false trail which made it seem like he had disclosed what he did of his own volition, why do this? How would anyone be benefitted by making this disclosure in a way which masks how events unfolded?
I don't know. What I do know is the part of all this which makes me laugh the most is McIntyre didn't actually fix the quotation I called into question. You can see how McIntyre misquoted displayed in yesterday's post. For a short version, 1) McIntyre left out half a dozen paragraphs at one point; 2) McIntyre left out a single sentence at another point; 3) McIntyre removed a number of line breaks which had been used to separate paragraphs; 4) McIntyre used a translated version of the text without noting the version he offered was not the original.
Any and all of those would qualify as using a misquotation. McIntyre fixed only #1. The other three problems were left untouched. He didn't even address #2 by adding an ellipsis where he removed a sentence. There's still text missing from his quote. I pointed this out to McIntyre a little while ago. It'll be interesting to see if he chooses to fix it.
Which brings me back to the second secret change McIntyre made, the one I only discovered today. McIntyre added an ellipsis to a quote block I hadn't examined before because he realized he had excised some text from this article. However, if you compare that article to McIntyre's version, you'll find some text is still missing. Here are two lines McIntyre excludes:
Jenxcus and Bladabindi
The Najaf variant - md5 2962c44ce678d6ca1246f5ead67d115a
These were section headers. They are part of the article. While it's fine not to include them if you feel they are superfluous to your point, they are part of the text. If you remove them, you need to indicate so. A couple images were also removed. Given the images were used as evidence to clarify/bolster the case being made, removing them without any indication is, at a minimum, questionable. This created a situation where McIntyre joined these two paragraphs:
Security.Najaf seems to match the online handle of a developer apparently located in the Najaf province of Iraq. He is a prolific poster on the dev-point[.]com forums, a forum which has contained a lot of NJ-Rat/Worm-associated material. He is listed as recoder – presumably modifying programmer – in many other malicious scripts. One example is the file with md5 de8e6e14b7e548eda7d4ff33bb3705ad:
In this file, the C&C server is defined to aziza12.no-ip.biz, a domain which also has been used as C&C by Bladabindi malware such as the sample with md5 a5ce6dcb062ceb91a6fce73e99b3514d. This is a DynDNS domain, meaning that there is no domain registration data to look at. However, if we examine the IP history of this domain, we see that it has mapped to a number of IP addresses over time, many of which are located in Iraq. One of these, 18.104.22.168, has also earlier this year pointed to the domain islamstate.no-ip[.]biz.
Into a single paragraph with no line break. This happened because there was no textual line break in the article, but rather, the break between paragraphs was created by inserting an image.
An obvious question in all this is, "How much does any of this matter?" In and of themselves, I would say none of these examples matter much. What matters is the standards involved. This sort of "quotation" may not change the meaning of something in any particular case, but it is lazy and sloppy. A person can get away with being sloppy for a while, but eventually, they will make a mistake that matters.
What's more important, however, is how people respond to situations like these. I make mistakes. Everybody does. When I make a mistake, I try to acknowledge it, correct it and thank anyone who brought it to my attention. That is what a person ought to do. If a person doesn't do it, it forces people to ask why they don't.
I don't claim any of the errors in that post are important in and of themselves. I laughed because I thought it silly such simple errors got made, but if they had been corrected in a normal fashion, I wouldn't have thought anything more of them. Instead, we got a situation where McIntyre made secret changes to his post which only partially fixed the errors it contained, denied having made any secret changes while intentionally choosing not to mention a change he knew nobody had noticed and made strange remarks like saying a person who made two comments in 24 hours was nagging him even though the comments weren't even directed at him.
That's silly. This is all pointless nonsense that nobody should have to waste their time on, but at the same time, it can't be ignored unless one is willing to disregard errors and untruths. I don't think we should be willing to. If nothing else, once you know somebody secretly edits things they publish after-the-fact, you ought to at least wonder how often they make these sorts of changes. Are these the only two examples, or are there more? Are all other examples as "minor" as these ones, or are some much larger?
I don't know. At this point, I don't know what to think about any of this. All I know is this situation is so silly it's hilarious. This is the sort of bizarre situation I think we should all take a moment to get a chuckle out of. Because honestly, this sort of thing is so silly all you can do is laugh.