a, a, b, b, true, false, true, false, Democratic, Republican, William Jennings Bryan

30 August 2008

William Jennings Bryan sides with Atrios against Ron Fournier:

It should be the purpose of the Associated Press to convey to its numerous subscribers the unbiassed, uncolored truth. I recognize that this is extremely difficult and that with even the best of intentions those who report interviews, conventions and events will unintentionally inject their own opinions and yet absolute impartiality must be the ideal at which The Associated Press aims. You furnish news to Republican papers, Democratic papers, papers identified with other parties and to independent papers; and the readers of these Associated Press reports represent every phase of opinion.

Your association is not a party organ. It does not do editorial work; it is not the champion of any cause or the advocate of any man. It is expected to tell the truth about Congressional doings, legislative sessions, municipal matters, and to report correctly that which is given to it for publication. It cannot guarantee its readers against mistakes, for its agents are human, but it can correct mistakes when they are found out, and admonish its representatives to be cautious. It does not furnish the headlines, which are often misleading, but it can see to it that the text is free from intentional errors and that those who trust to its accuracy shall not be deceived.

I take this opportunity to express my appreciation of the treatment that has been accorded me. The association has asked me for advance copies of a great many more speeches than I have been able to give it, and in asking for an advance copy it has furnished the best proof that it wanted to treat me with fairness. Through The Associated Press I have been able to get my ideas and my arguments before the readers of the Republican papers, and I have been less concerned about the editorial comments of Republican papers than about the correctness of the news reports.

Bryan goes on to discuss his ideal newspaper: an independent paper – as opposed to a party organ – with non-partisan news reporting and openly bi-partisan editorials. That may be fine as far as the news goes, but what happens in a bi-partisan media environment when the two major parties are largely in agreement on a subject, but a significant percentage of the population thinks otherwise?

Below the fold: the full report of Bryan’s speech, taken from the New York Tribune of 23 April 1908.

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29 August 2008

I don’t usually pay attention to movie ratings – as opposed to movie reviews – but Netflix has a feature I really like. If you haven’t rated a movie, it shows you both the rating the Netflix users as a whole have given and the rating it predicts you will give based on your previous ratings.

I’ve been watching a lot of older movies lately, so I wanted to see a newer one. There Will Be Blood came up as related to some other movie I’d put in my queue. I hadn’t heard anything about it but the name; I wouldn’t have considered it had the description not mentioned Upton Sinclair’s Oil, which I haven’t read but know something about. Netflix users gave it somewhere around 3.5 out of 5 stars; Netflix predicted I would give it a 1.5. Netflix was about right, but there’s no way to give half-stars, so I gave it the 1 it deserved.


29 August 2008

When I watched a little of the coverage of the Democratic convention this afternoon, I thought I was watching the Olympics again; when I looked at the coverage later in the evening, I was glad to see that the stadium had filled up. There was some talk a week or two ago about the weather: some Obama opponents had been hoping for rain. Fortunately, that didn’t happen, but I’m not so sure rain would have been such a downer.

One of my favorite movie sequences of all time is the convention scene in Meet John Doe. It’s held in a heavy rain and through the downpour the sight of all those umbrellas is quite striking both visually and as a sign of the dedication of the delegates. On the other hand, it ends in a riot, so we can be glad Obama got sun.

You can watch the scene here, starting at about the 0:45 mark. It ends here. (For those concerned with such things: the clips don’t give away the end of the movie, but they’re kind of spoilery.)

Tribune Thursday: Georgia flooding

28 August 2008

  1. In defiance of New Jersey Governor John Franklin Fort, an Atlantic County grand jury – “on which were enrolled state and county officeholders, politicians and some of the biggest hotel and business men of the resort” – refused to indict “the dispensers of Sunday rum in the resort.” Governor Fort has threatened to declare martial law in Atlantic City in order to enforce laws against selling liquor on Sunday.

  3. Interesting headline: “BANKER STRANGELY SHOT.” Charles B. Roberts, president of the Baltimore Supply Company, is in serious condition after being shot near the boardwalk in Atlantic City.

  5. Flood waters are finally beginning to recede in Augusta, Georgia, but the recovery is only beginning. Damages may reach $1 million and “there have been from ten to fifteen fatalities, mostly negro laborers drowned.” The situation is still dire:

    The Augusta Railway & Electric Company cannot run its cars for three days. No power plant is in operation. The telephone lines are not doing business, and the railroads are accepting no passengers. The water service is crippled, but intact. The gas service is impaired, but the gas plant has not shut down. A citizens’ meeting will be held to-morrow.

    There will be much suffering, especially in the northwestern part of the city, from which the water will not recede for two or three days. The people in the manufacturing district will require help. Whether Augusta will be able to care for the situation among the poor and unemployed will not be known until the water recedes further and opportunity is given for inspection. The flood expanse covers an immense territory, miles of water extending from the foot of the Carolina hills to the south into Georgia. The loss to farms, farm lands, crops and livestock in the valley is not included in the estimate of losses. The bottom cotton and swamp corn, an immense annual product, is ruined.


  7. The International Congress for the Protection of Industrial Property, currently meeting in Stockholm, is debating whether to take action to protest Britain’s new patent law. The United States and Germany both oppose the law.

  9. This is an odd story from Bordeaux: French soldier Camille Marquet was sentenced to six days’ imprisonment for attempting to blackmail President Theodore Roosevelt. The details:

    According to evidence before the court, Marquet wrote to the President on January 9, demanding on behalf of “My Society,” without other specification, $2,000, “on account of services rendered during the Presidential election,” and promising further “immense help.”

    Receiving no reply to this demand, Marquet wrote again on March 9, threatening a scandal “which will cast dishonor upon the whole family unless the money is forthcoming at a fixed date.”

    In conclusion, the writer of the letter recommended the greatest discretion, adding: “The highest heads are no longer safe on their shoulders: look a Portugal!”

    Roosevelt, not one for discretion, gave the letters to the French Consul General, who alerted the police.


  11. Governor Charles Evans Hughes, who still has not been officially renominated to his office but almost certainly will be, delivered a speech before a huge crowd at the Chautauqua County Fair in Dunkirk, New York. Hughes’ speech focused on

    the right of the people to demand the enforcement of the laws on the statute books and the unquestioned duty of the Governor of the state to see that this demand was carried out.

Photo: Governor Hughes at the Saratoga County Fair

the forging of historians

26 August 2008

Lies, Frauds and Hoaxes

Historians are trained to examine all sources carefully, looking for subtle biases, omissions, and silences. But sometimes we are confronted with sources that lie outright or that are themselves fraudulent. How should we approach such sources? How do we determine authenticity and accuracy? How and why are some lies promptly discredited while others remain believable for years? Primary sources will include memoirs, diaries, correspondence, newspapers, maps, and other materials of questionable veracity.

I had a chance to design and teach my own course in grad school, but I never took advantage of it. However, before deciding to put it off for a while – which turned out to mean never teaching it at all – I came up with the draft course description above. It’s probably too vague as to period and place: I likely would have focused mostly on examples from U.S. history, since that was my specialization – but there’s no reason someone couldn’t make a course like this cover all sorts of times and places.

The emphasis of this sort of class was supposed to be on working with sources. My idea was to have, if possible – along with general readings on frauds, forgeries and hoaxes – a few weeks revolve around a particular type of source:

  1. Is seeing believing?: visual sources (maybe doctored photography and/or maps)
  2. The truth and nothing but the truth: legal sources
  3. To thine own self be true: diaries and memoirs

and so on, hopefully all with clever unit names. I suspect it would have been quite difficult to organize the material like that, and I probably would have fallen back on covering particular cases.

I also had the idea of including forgeries and hoaxes in the readings without marking them as such. The idea was to see if students could figure it out for themselves. But it never occurred to me to have them create a hoax of their own. (via)

constructing reality

25 August 2008

This part of the Neil Volz article discussed below deserves to be highlighted:

Volz said Ney would never openly admit that anything he did was wrong or improper. He had his version of the truth and would stick to it no matter what; he expected staffers to do the same.

Even on little things, Ney would have his “own reality,” Volz said. In talking with a reporter, for instance, Ney might claim that dozens of constituents had called about a certain issue, when only one had done so.

“But then that was the reality we had to work with when it came to that issue and that reporter,” Volz said. “Whatever (Ney) said became his truth, and he would stick to that no matter what, that was the way it happened.”

I wonder if any of the reporters caught on, or if they reported Ney’s assertions – unfortunately, Volz doesn’t name any particular issues that can be checked – as fact. If it’s the latter, that doesn’t reflect very well on the media.