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The Blogosphere's Eagerness to Report Led to Egg On Our Faces
The blogosphere yesterday (PirateBallerina included) fell with great relish--nay, with exalted glee--upon the story of Ward Churchill's admission that he was not an Indian. That Churchill would make such a self-damning admission seemed crazy, but not much crazier than calling innocent victims "little Eichmanns" or likening the chickens on farms to the inmates of Auswich. That Churchill is bombastic and occasionally foolish, followers of his antics have known this for years. In that light, the "I'm no Indian" admission was, well, possible.
And then comes the retraction. The Honolulu Star-Bulletin originally wrote:
The retraction changes that quote to
"Is he an Indian? Do we really care?"
"Let's cut to the chase, I'm not[.]"
"Is he an Indian? We really care. We're trying to protect the rights of Indians to divine for themselves, say this circle of flies in the form of white reporters circling a manure pile like it's of all consequential importance. Cut to the chase on that."
An aside here: I'm no expert at divining garbled speech on tape-recordings, but how does one get that first brief quote from the much longer one the Star-Bulletin now says (and I'm prepared to agree) is what Churchill actually said?
I remember thinking during the heady first few hours after the "admission" was published that Churchill had to have an unhealthy professional-death-wish to say something like that. It occurred to me that it was curious that none of the other news media, not even Fox News, was on this story. No one but the Star-Bulletin had the story--which might have been fine had this been an exclusive interview, but the "admission" was made at the end of a press conference. That should have been a huge red flag.
As a former reporter and editor, I should have been more suspicious of the report. And I was, to a certain extent. I posted on LGF three possible reasons Churchill might have said such a foolish thing (I quote the post in full):
I know it's kinda late in this thread, but if there are any Psychologists out there, I'd be interested in hearing a pro's opinion of whether Churchill is a psychopath or a sociopath. I favor sociopath, myself.
Also, I can think of only three possible reasons he admitted he was not an Indian:
1. He honestly believed it would not make a difference (not my first choice)
2. He understood perfectly the fallout of such an admission, and wanted to self-destruct (a possibility, I think)
3. He believes he is indestructible, and that he can say anything (which his history has pretty much borne out, I'm sad to say) and get away with it.
The third possibility is the one I favor most, and it's why I think he is a sociopath.
Obviously, I should have been more objective and--as my Daddy used to say--"lay back in the tall grass." I should have exercised more caution; I should have been less credulous. But as you can tell from my LGF post, I was all too willing to believe the worst.
Now, I--along with many other bloggers--have contributed to the blogosphere's first set-back, after a string of victories including Dan Rather's memogate and the Eason Jordan resignation. We all rushed to judgment on this, and now we're suffering the inevitable consequences of failing to confirm first reports. We should have remembered the old newspaper adage: "if your mother says the sun rises in the East--verify."
Churchill has been spewing his vitriol against the United States and "the white man" for years now; he's been claming Indian blood for at least that long. Those of us working for his professional downfall should have understood that he's not going to hand us victory with an offhand remark.
As much as I am loathe to say this, I apologize to Ward Churchill for my foolish rush to contribute to the gleeful furor over his "admission."
And now, I return to the hard but what I expect to be ultimately rewarding work of debunking everything Churchill has ever said about himself, about Indian history, and about the United States.