Three weeks ago I posted here on a full-page column in The Economist [“A bad day for foreign scroungers,” Economist, Mar. 30, 2013] that was even more sneering, supercilious, and contemptuous of non-elite citizens on the topic of mass immigration than is usual for that magazine.
I was curious to see what reader follow-up that column would generate in the letters columns of The Economist. Answer: none. There were no letters about it in the Apr. 6 issue, none in the Apr. 13 issue, and none in the Apr. 20 issue that I got yesterday.
A rather bland half-page leader on global warming in that same Mar. 30 issue generated four follow-up letters in the Apr. 13 Economist.
For comparison, the immigration piece currently has 184 online comments; the global warming piece, 199.
The calculus by which print periodicals determine which, and how many, readers’ letters to publish is deeply mysterious, and I would not presume to second-guess The Economist on this matter. I did, though, go through the first 100 of those 184 online comments, sorted by “Readers’ most recommended,” and tallied 92 hostile to the column, 8 supportive.
Taking that Mar. 30 immigration column to be a dead letter (as it were), let’s look at the Apr. 20 Economist.
One of the two graphics illustrating that piece is a bar chart titled “The Obama Effect,” subtitle “Number of ‘patriot’ groups” (note the inner quotes there), data credited to . . . the $PLC! The bar chart shows that the number of patriot—oops! sorry: “patriot”—groups increasing mightily since 2008.
So here’s my question to The Economist: Why is a magazine widely believed to be serious and respectable offering data—make that “data”—from a sleazy direct-marketing operation whose “data” is subject to no independent audits whatsoever?
Several of The Economist’s readers take them to task for this in the online comment thread. Here, for example, is reader D. Sherman:
I really with [sic] respectable magazines like the Economist would stop citing and quoting the SPLC. From a journalistic point of view, the problem with the SPLC isn't that it's biased. Everyone is biased. The problem is that its claims are not testable.
Nobody fact-checks the SPLC. Nobody even demands that they provide a workable definition terms like "hate group", "patriot group" and "militia". If they had such a definition, anyone else would be able to go around American surveying the political landscape, apply that definition to all the groups they find, and come up with similar numbers.
The SPLC is very good at one and only one thing: putting out press releases every year claiming yet another increase in the number of "hate groups", "patriot groups", etc. Does anyone even ask the casual question, if there's such an increase in "hate" in America, why aren't we seeing more of the effects of it? Given the supposed ever-increasing number of "hate groups", one even has to ask for their definitions of such obvious words as "hate" and "group". In the absence of any such definition, it seems that "hate" means "political opinions we disagree with" and "group" means "two or more people".
Without any definitions of their terms, there is no way to fact-check them, and any responsible journalist should assume that they just pulled their numbers out of thin air, and aren't worth repeating. Their press releases are nothing more than agenda-driven agitprop, with the agenda being "White people hate Mr. Obama because he's black." If a serious reporter wants to report on the SPLC's ever-alarming press releases, they should confine themselves to writing something like "The SPLC believes that white people hate Mr. Obama because he's black." That statement would be true, because it's a statement about what the SPLC believes, but there's absolutely no reason to take their "group" counts as anything resembling actual data.
Just so. If you want a graphic showing numbers of potentially violent groups across time, why not ask the FBI to supply data? This is their kind of business, isn't it? The Economist is a professional operation with staffs of researchers to dig up this kind of thing. Why lazily fall back on numbers supplied by an outfit as dubious as the $PLC?
Also in the Apr. 20 issue, The Economist lays down some pre-emptive fire just in case, however unthinkable it be to prole-hating journalists, the Boston bombers turn out to be immigrant terrorists (which of course they did).
The “Lexington” column in this issue is the earliest (so far as I know) elite effort to wrest back the immigration discourse and get the Schumer-Rubio lie-o-rama back on the rails. Title: “A nation apart.” Subtitle: “Libertarian America is reasserting itself.”
Executive summary: The U.S.A. is exceptional. Another country might completely change political course after an atrocity, but not the Yanks! They press doggedly forward with what they have decided to do (translation: “with what their elites insist is good for them”) regardless of any sudden irruptions of evidence that the course they have set heads them straight for a reef. And the things they decide to do are libertarian! (Tr.: “open borders!”)
Atrocities are deplored, mourned and debated, for sure; but they do not reliably trigger a consensus that society must be remade so that they never happen again.
That’s just open jeering at the Great Unwashed. Who, exactly, wants to “remake” American society? Those who would flood our country with tens of millions of unassimilable foreigners? Or those who resist the process?