Tuesday, August 26, 2014


As reported by Steve M. at No More Mister Nice Blog, retired Air Force colonel Morris Davis, who's sick of wingnuts pretending Obama's a traitor ("battling faux patriots" is one of his hobbies), posted a tweet tailor-made to attract that crowd: It claimed Nixon and Bush had attended the funerals of generals killed in action, and Obama was breaking tradition by skipping the funeral of Major General Harold Greene, who was recently shot dead in Afghanistan. Turned out the claim wasn't true, and Davis had only made it to prove a point I make here all the time: that for many conservatives "too good to check" and "stop the presses" are pretty much the same thing.

Steve's got his own angle, but for me the most interesting thing about the incident was the reaction of Byron York, who got stung by the colonel's tweet. In his column York describes the evolution of the story at length, and gets very stiff whenever discussing Davis:
On Sunday, I sent a note to Davis asking why, given the credibility that comes with his military career and law school position, he had distributed information he knew to be false. As he had in his earlier tweet, Davis claimed the falsehood was "sarcasm"...
Here's York's closing graf:
There are several lessons to be drawn from the affair. The first, and most important, is to be skeptical about everything one sees on the Internet and make a good-faith effort to ensure that information one passes on is accurate. I will certainly redouble my efforts on that score in the future. The second lesson is that when one makes a mistake, correct it as quickly as possible, more than once if necessary. And the final lesson, narrower but still important, is: Never trust a word Morris Davis says; it might be "sarcasm."
Now, York's one of the more high-class conservatives when it comes to this sort of thing -- that is, rather than just circulating any old bullshit, as so many of the low-rent types do, York prefers to explain why hearsay and innuendo is sort of okay if it's for his side, as in this classic bit:
Rick -- Sure there were lunatic preoccupations in the Clinton years. The boys on the tracks story, for example, was a peculiar fascination at the Wall Street Journal editorial page. Mena was something similar for The American Spectator. There were others, although most conservative publications simply ignored things like the "Clinton Chronicles." Clinton himself found some of that stuff useful, and cited it in his public remarks, because it allowed him to cast his opponents as nuts. Hillary used it too -- in the famous "vast right-wing conspiracy" appearance on the "Today" show in 1998, she world-wearily said that the right was "accusing my husband of committing murder, of drug running." 
On the other hand, what about the stories that were grisly but true? Clinton led a colorful life and hung out with colorful people. Troopergate was probably the most bitterly denounced of all the anti-Clinton stories, and some of Clinton's defenders wrote off anybody who took it seriously as a hater and a kook. But the core allegation of the story -- that Clinton used his Arkansas security team to facilitate his philandering -- was true, and the story was, in retrospect, the most accurate predictor of the kind of behavior that Clinton so disastrously exhibited in the White House in the Lewinsky matter. So the haters and the kooks were right on that one.
This kind of classy mendacity, however, is a world away from circulating Snopes-worthy falsehoods -- especially when you're duped into it and then caught at it.

That would make York mad enough, but I think he was extra pissed off because he had been burned by someone with "the credibility that comes with [a] military career and law school position" -- that is, the kind of brass hat a conservative should be able to count on to provide York and his buddies with solid anti-Obama ordnance.  Once a wingnut could just accept on faith that all the uniformed types were on their side, but now each one must be vetted before York can trust him. Think how discouraging a thing like that must be!

UPDATE. Forgot this other York classic: "I didn't intend to rekindle the old [Vince] Foster-suicide questions... But I do agree that the Clintons did everything in their power to make it look suspicious." That's how the pros do it, folks! Original posts here and here.


  1. On Sunday, I sent a note to Davis asking why, given the credibility that comes with his military career and law school position, he had distributed information he knew to be false. As he had in his earlier tweet, Davis claimed the falsehood was "sarcasm"...

    It's okay when the entire right-wing media does it, though.

  2. montag211:12 AM

    Shorter Byron Wanker: "Why isn't Col. Davis more like Col. Ralph Peters?"

  3. It's even more okay when the entire GOP does it.

    Yup, given that even as we type, Townhall is still hyping the original bullshit so helpfully catapulted by York and William Jacobson.

  4. "if your mother says she loves you, check it out."

    --a thing all real journalists get taught when they are learning to do real journalism.

  5. Derelict11:40 AM

    Truth is far less important that "truthiness," as Colbert pointed out so long ago.

  6. Poor Byron York- it's not pretty when a guy, especially a college boy with nice hair and upper-crust pretensions, realizes that he's actually pretty far back down the Human Centipede.

  7. JohnMyroro12:21 PM

    I wanna know where his golf clubs are made. And his balls.

  8. Ellis_Weiner12:28 PM

    First: "the story was, in retrospect, the most accurate predictor of the kind of behavior..."

    Next: "the Clintons did everything in their power to make it look suspicious."

    Because why not? When you're telling ghost stories, it doesn't matter if they're true. They just have to be scary!

  9. The first, and most important, is to be skeptical about everything one sees on the Internet and make a good-faith effort to ensure that information one passes on is accurate. I will certainly redouble my efforts on that score in the future.

    Sure you will, pal.

    Every so often, it's worth taking a moment to reflect on all the times that bloggers, pundits and our wonderful newsmedia have fallen for hoaxes. They never learn a goddamn lesson from this, and likely never will. Gullible as some of these people are, that's really not the problem. The problem - as York hints at and Roy pins down - is that there's too much to gain and too little to lose from passing on rumor as fact. If a dubious Obama story puts wingnut asses in the seats, why wouldn't you run with it? They'll forget all the misses, anyway.

  10. So I guess Davis' crime is he made a mockery of the fine art of making shit up?

    That must have been a real blowout orbital fracture to York.

  11. mortimer200012:34 PM

    In 2004, York criticized Paul Krugman in an article at NRO called "Krugman’s Vast Right-Wing Conspiracy."

    Guess whose book a year later was titled The Vast Left Wing Conspiracy: The Untold Story of How Democratic Operatives, Eccentric Billionaires, Liberal Activists, and Assorted Celebrities Tried to Bring Down a President - and Why They'll Try Even Harder Next Time.

    It wasn't Paul Krugman.

  12. Are you sure that's the book title and not the entire book?

  13. Socialist Cubone12:41 PM

    I'm glad the Republican Party has no quarter for party operatives, eccentric billionaires, activists, or assorted celebrities. Or else we'd really have reason to be angry.

  14. Derelict12:45 PM

    Next: "the Clintons did everything in their power to make it look suspicious."

    I guess saying the story was false amounts to "everything in their power to make it look suspicious." But this is the standard in conservative world with respect to "liberals" and Democrats: Make a baseless accusation, and the subsequent denial by the accused is proof-positive that the baseless accusation is true.

    Is it any wonder why these people have a problem understanding the notion of consent?

  15. Derelict12:48 PM

    Sorry--I was listening to Ted Nugent at maximum volume on my local Clear Channel radio station and only turned it down when the commercial for Koch Industries came on. What were you saying?

  16. gratuitous12:49 PM

    And one sarcastic tweet is sufficient for York to blacklist Davis forever as unreliable. Yet John McCain, Lindsey Graham, Jon ("not intended to be a factual statement") Kyl, and a host of other Republican luminaries can lie their pasty white rumps off week after week, and never lose an ounce of credibility with the popular media.

  17. That's not poop for dinner again, is it?

  18. SomeJerkface12:59 PM

    For those of you who have forgotten about this, it is my pleasure to remind you.

  19. gocart mozart1:09 PM

    Before we expect them to double check their facts, shouldn't we expect them to single check them?

  20. gocart mozart1:11 PM

    Vehemently denying something is exactly what you would expect a guilty person to do.

  21. Does location matter that much, in a Human Centipede? Aside from lead, that is.

  22. I forgot that Clinton line "everything in their power to make it look suspicious" but man it goes to show how far back the "call him a pigfucker and make him deny it" school of propapunditing goes.

  23. "But I do agree that the Clintons did everything in their power to make it look suspicious."

    HILLARY: What's up, jerkwad?

    BILL: Vince Foster apparently just killed himself.

    HILLARY: "Apparently," eh? Well, you know what we have to do.

    BILL: Yup. Do everything in our power to make it look like it might not have been suicide, but something which we might have had a hand in. Mua-HA-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaa!

    HILLARY: I'll summon the "making it look suspicious" squad. You want them to plant that blue dress while they're at it?

    BILL: No, I'm saving that for a ... special occasion. Mua-HA-ha-ha-ha-haaaaaa!

    HILLARY: [Under her breath] This had better be worth it in 2016.

  24. He refused Obamacare, I'm sure, so he'll just have to shake it off.

  25. Jimcima1:45 PM

    Note, folks, that the esteemed representative of the New Republic has no idea what the hell a credit default swap is. But he sure knows what a minority homeowner looks like.

    I love MT.

  26. RogerAiles1:45 PM

    York was just doing his job.

  27. philadelphialawyer2:08 PM

    -------Yeah, I'm no fan of this York guy, but I have to say I don't much like the "I made shit up as part of a one man 'sting' operation to see who would buy it" game either. For one thing, it is dishonest. And I don't want to be on the side of guys who are dishonest. For another thing, it creates a "meme" that could take on a life of its own, even though it was BS right from the start.
    -------No matter how much of a liar, BS artist, repeater of false accusations, etc, etc, York is, the fact is that this Davis guy did Obama no favors, nor his supporters, nor opponents of wing nut BS generally. Folks like York can just say they were misled, and, in truth, they were. OK, so their fact checking has been discredited. Big Deal. I don't think proving that (as if it needed proving anyway), is worth blowing one's reputation for honesty, nor the creation of a false meme that the very people one is trying to discredit will love and spread far and wide.

  28. Jay B.2:11 PM

    The first, and most important, is to be skeptical about everything one sees on the Internet

    Did he beam this back from 1996? I mean, it really tickles me to think that he somehow thinks this makes him look dedicated to the truth in 2014 and not like a willfully obtuse scumbag.

  29. Jay B.2:18 PM

    I honestly don't care either way. Credulous idiots or scheming assholes, they don't care about "truth" or "lie" or any of that shit. Obama not going to a funeral, in reality, will only generate fake outrage from people who already hate him. That other Presidents ALSO didn't go to military funerals hardly matters not at all. I mean one of the animating motivations of the right wing now is to bitch that Obama is golfing, as if that hasn't been something that Presidents haven't done and celebrated for 60 years. I mean Jesus, Gerald Ford was given a tribute by the PGA.

  30. montag22:20 PM

    Noted, but, one has to accept that Davis proved his point--that the wingers will run with anything that makes Obama, in particular, and Democrats, generally, look bad, true or not. York wants to make this about his supposed temporary lapse in fact-checking, but it's not about that. It's about an eager--nay, kneejerk--willingness on the right to believe anything that might make Obama look bad.

  31. glennisw2:45 PM

    Is this from Ed Klein's leaked manuscript?

  32. montag23:07 PM

    Since when was Yorkie ever a journalist? He's been a propagandist pretty much all his working life. I mean, shit, look who he's working for... National Review doesn't exactly have a trophy cabinet full of Polks and Pulitzers, do they?

    This guy couldn't do a story about a dogcatcher election in East Bumfuck, Nevada, without rooting for the guy in favor of starving lost puppies to death.

  33. Redoubling zero effort is still zero effort.

  34. Not when it's a Human Centipede Ouroboros.

  35. Helmut Monotreme3:39 PM

    "Wishful thinking" and an "overwhelming, credulous desire to see Obama lose" are not considered by most people to be enough corroboration to establish the truth.

  36. sharculese3:47 PM

    I had forgotten about it, thanks. Still beautiful.

  37. TGuerrant4:09 PM

    Yes, you see? And Obama followed suit by making it seem suspiciously like he wants to be impeached. The one I can't quite get is George W. Bush making it seem suspiciously like he wanted to be laughed at.

  38. mortimer20004:16 PM

    For one thing, it is dishonest. And I don't want to be on the side of guys who are dishonest.

    Me neither. But instead of an Air Force Colonel and former chief prosecutor at Guantanamo righteously baiting the worst elements of the lying right-wing media machine, call me when our side starts carving letters into their foreheads and blaming Teabaggers, or making deceptively edited "undercover" racist videos that vilify innocent people and get them fired, or using young children to stage violent acts at political rallies, or any of the vast, egregious ratfucking that the right-wing has been doing for decades.

    Dishonest? Seriously? This doesn't even come close.

  39. montag24:20 PM

    Oh, I'm pretty sure that ol' Georgie always thought everyone was laughing with him.

    He was wrong about everything, so it wouldn't surprise me about that, too.

  40. The hardest thing of all was when George Bush Senior had to find a way to smuggle someone else's vomit into the Japanese Ambassador's lap. Now that is going the extra mile, conspiracy wise.

  41. Its not dishonest its parodic and sarcastic. It wasn't meant to be believed. His problem is that its so dull and filled with false detail that it passes for something too trivially true to be false. He'd have done better tweeting, right afterwards something obviously false and stupidly partisan attacking Obama still further but the problem is that the right wing would have run with that, as well. At this point there is literally nothing they won't believe and retail about Obama up to and including things like "President takes dump in Resolute Desk Drawer--on a picture of Ronald Reagan!"

  42. Yeah, this. Repeating a tweet is not reporting. Its not even court stenography. Its just playing telephone with strangers and trying to monetize your mistaken mishearing of stupid shit people you don't know said to/about someone else.

  43. Helmut Monotreme4:56 PM

    With a half twist it could be a Human Centipede Möbius Ouroboros.

  44. That wasn't butting heads. That was one butt-head getting his ass handed to him on a shiny platter.

    I swear you can see the point where the Taibbi-trap snaps shut. It takes York a bit to notice but soon he's trying to nonchalantly gnaw off his own leg so he can get away.

  45. marry me.

  46. DocAmazing6:39 PM

    A Poe is a lonely place.

  47. TGuerrant6:49 PM

    At least he can let down his guard when he picks up a Jeffrey Goldberg book to read in hardback.

  48. AGoodQuestion8:03 PM

    Doesn't York get paid for writing this shit. Is it too much to ask that he know the difference between an actual presidential tradition and one that some guy just pulled out of his ass? The fact that said ass-puller was deliberately making a fool out of people like York - exactly! - does give this story some extra entertainment value, but it's soooooo easy.

  49. AGoodQuestion8:05 PM

    And you thought Dan Quayle couldn't do anything useful.

  50. AGoodQuestion8:09 PM

    Kind of like when you say it's not opposite day, that means it actually is opposite day.

  51. Smarter than Your Average Bear8:10 PM

    It's way too small to be called a club, unless were talking nanoscale. And he doesn't have any.

  52. AGoodQuestion8:12 PM

    Hell, McCain's '08 campaign was making hay out of the chick who claimed that ACORN thugs or the like had carved a backwards B into her face weeks after her story had been debunked, which it was almost immediately.

  53. satch8:43 PM

    "Note, folks, that the esteemed representative of the New Republic has no idea what the hell a credit default swap is."


  54. satch8:56 PM

    "...that for many conservatives "too good to check" and "stop the presses" are pretty much the same thing.

    Add to that:

    "This may not be true, but it's just the kind of thing he (Obama)/they (Liberals) would do."

  55. Derelict10:28 PM

    Not enough upvotes on the internets for this comment!

  56. Derelict10:29 PM

    Well, they're just little four-legged moochers, now, aren't they? They should be pulling themselves up by their leashes.

  57. davdoodles10:38 PM

    ”…be skeptical about everything one
    sees on the Internet and make a good-faith effort to ensure that information
    one passes on is accurate. I will certainly redouble my
    efforts on that score in the future.”

    Twice zero is still zero, Byron.

  58. philadelphialawyer11:07 PM

    ----Yeah, seriously.
    ----Sure, you can point to examples of the other side doing more dishonest, and generally worse, things. So what? What call you "righteously baiting" was in fact deliberate falsehood. Under any theory, that is not merely "close" to dishonest, it is dishonest. So, I am "calling" you now.
    --- Indeed, the listing of all of York's various mendacities and other sins kinda gives the game away. Because, in THIS case, he can plausibly claim to be the injured party. And no recitation of all of his misdeeds, however long and however accurate, changes that.
    ---Nor do the credentials of the guy doing the lie matter much.

  59. freq flag11:59 PM

    And wouldn't it be a pity if we neglected to bring props to one of the hoariest of propapunditing chestnuts:

    Is it irresponsible to speculate?
    It would be irresponsible not to.

  60. BadExampleMan5:09 AM

    Pshaw, 2 dimensions? I want Human Centipede 4: The Klein Bottle!

  61. mortimer20007:50 AM

    Your tremendous concern is duly noted and very admirable, I'm sure. I'm guessing you're not a big fan of The Onion. Do you think the famous fist-bump New Yorker cover was dishonest "under any theory," too?

    But just out of curiosity, let's imagine you're a military officer who's tired of right-wing nuts that they will latch onto any unverified statement from anywhere -- in this case, a fucking tweet for god's sake -- that allows them to excoriate the president for imaginary insults to the troops, and you want to demonstrate just how devoid of scruples they are. What better way to go about demonstrating this? But I'll let the good Colonel speak for himself. Here's what he told York:

    ... in the right-wing's bash Obama glee, my tweet has been retweeted a couple of hundred times without anyone taking two minutes to Google to see if it's true. It's similar to a Chinese news agency reprinting that Kim Jong-un had been named the sexiest man alive without checking and finding that The Onion is a satirical site. It's also a sad commentary on how gullible people can be and how willing they are to latch onto "news" that supports the narrative they want.

    And this is rank dishonesty in your book? Will you switch sides now?

    (See aimai's comments above and below for a much better explanation of what's involved.)

  62. redoubtagain8:06 AM

    Pretzel Illogic And Warm Tongue Baths: A Primer On The Years Of George W. Bush

  63. redoubtagain8:19 AM

    Because this is what happens when you "graduate" from the Wishing Makes It So School of Journalism.

  64. philadelphialawyer9:11 AM

    -----The Onion is known as a satirical website. Those who get burned by it have no excuse. A military officer commenting about military funerals, on the other hand, is going to be seen as a sober, serious, source of information. So, we can put that comparison to bed.
    ---Next, there are any number of "better" ways of demonstrating that right wing attacks are unsourced. Indeed, this was not a good method of doing so at all, because there was what appeared to be a good source: a high ranking military officer.
    ----And, again, folks like York have put in the position of claiming to be, with much plausibility, the injured parties here. Is that what you want? They were lied to. You can't just wish that away, because you think the lie was in service of a good cause.
    -----It is, in fact, total dishonesty. And, no, I will not switch sides. Indeed, "sides" have too much to do with it as it is. "Our" side did it, so folks are reluctant to call it what it is, ie lying.
    ----Glancing at aimai's comments on this thread, I see nothing to change my mind.
    ---As an aside, is that OK? Am I allowed to not change my mind and/or not switch sides? Is it important to you that we reach unanimity on what is clearly a side issue to a side issue? There is the substance of political debate. Then there is the issue of the right wing's reliance on hearsay and rumor. And, further attenuated, there is the propriety of what was attempted here. I think it was not proper. Folks here disagree. Fine. I have presented my reasons for my view, and folks have presented theirs for theirs. Beyond that, doesn't a question of piling on develop? You, for example, in your response to me, didn't say anything of substance that wasn't said before. Didn't offer one new argument. Basically, you are simply asking (demanding?) that I go along, for its own sake.
    ----No thanks. But your concern is duly noted and, no doubt, also quite admirable.

  65. tigrismus9:17 AM

    However, the fact that this story is believable, on its face, says
    something about our government and the society in which we now live.

  66. satch9:19 AM

    Peggy? Is that you...?

  67. mortimer20009:28 AM

    Okay, just curious again, but if I didn't offer anything of substance that wasn't said before, or one new argument, and if it's all just so much piling on, why do you keep responding to it with nothing new of substance yourself? Or is it simply that it's a typical Internet comments section and you have to have the last word to feel satisfied, or something? Always fascinating.

    BTW, I'm neither asking nor demanding anything of you. That would mean I gave a shit. Everyone is entitled to their opinions, and it's great that you apparently believe you live on a higher moral plane than the rest of us. Cheers.

  68. tigrismus10:07 AM

    No, but it would've been irresponsible of you not to speculate...

  69. philadelphialawyer8:37 AM

    ----Of course it was meant to be believed. That was the point of the entire exercise. That the right wingers would believe it, and run with it, and then Davis would expose them for their lack of fact checking, for their credulity and/or wishful thinking which leads them to publish lightly sourced, rumour like items, if they are negative viz a viz Obama.
    ----That's not "pardoy or sarcasm," its a "sting." And, like all stings, it contains an element of entrapment (although the courts won't say it rises to illegal entrapment), and is fundamentally dishonest. The Abscan FBI agent, posing as a bribe offering Arab sheik, the undercover narc, posing as a drug buyer, they both use lies and deception as routine parts of their work. No different here. Davis lied, period.
    ----You can say it is in a good cause, and I don't disagree. Of course, people defend Abscam and undercover narcs on that basis too. For my money, good cause does not excuse bad behavior. Ends and means, and all that.
    -----And I don't say that to prove, that somehow, I am "better" than anyone else. Rather it is to offer a different perspective. I can be a rabidly partisan as anyone else, as blind to the immorality of my methods, methods that I condemn when used by the right, as anyone else.
    ----Beyond that, the sting was not even effective in doing what it was trying to do, as your advice as to what Davis should have done implies. Because what he tweeted was not so far fetched, and because he himself seems like a credible source, the fact that right wing sites ran with his story does not really indict them in the way it was intended too. York et al, annoyingly, have been put "in the right" here, because of Davis' actions.
    ----And, and this seems to be the point of the blog post over at "No More Mister Nice Blog," the "genius" actions of Davis probably have led to the creation of another anti Obama meme, which even though it is false and has been debunked and was only meant to be part of a sting, is now out there, way, way ahead of the truth, which might never catch up to it...
    ----So, to review, we have a lying, immoral and ineffective (for two reasons) tactic. I feel I am on solid ground for dissenting in this case....

  70. Even if you think its a sting (which it was) and even if you think it was stupid (which SteveM and I both do) it was not dishonest in the common meaning of the word. You can't cheat an honest man--he merely allowed these people to expose themselves. No one made them repeat it without checking to see if it were true. He never pledged his sacred honor to anyone that things that he tweeted would be "true" and anyone who expects that random shit on the internet is true enough to be run with as a kind of media story needs to be brought up short occasionally and thumped upside the head.

  71. No, I don't have to acknowledge any of your points other than to say that I see you are making them. We don't agree. And I'm not going to agree no matter how much you harangue me.

  72. philadelphialawyer3:39 PM

    "Harangue" indeed!
    I am simply making reasoned arguments refuting your criticisms and challenging your characterizations. Of course you can agree or not, and respond or not, but it seems to me that you are now more or less admitting that you have no valid counter arguments.
    You posted on a sub thread in which my post was the lead, and was being attacked, and added to that attack. If anyone has been "harangued" here, and pressured to "agree" with the crowd, it is me, not you.

  73. Now I remember why you call yourself "philadelphialawyer"--didn't you say it was a nickname or byword for a pettifogging, argumentative person? No one is "pressuring" you to "agree with the crowd" but it is true that more than one person disagrees with you. Sorry if you can't handle that rather common occurence.

  74. philadelphialawyer5:15 PM

    Neat trick there. All posters disagree with me and agree with you, yet you are being "harangued" into "agreeing" with me. Boo hoo! And then you turn around and accuse me of playing the victim! I can tell just how "sorry" you are!

  75. What are you a 12 year old girl? This is really not worth the level of hysteria you are displaying. People disagreed with you. Big deal. I have agreed with many of your posts in the past but I don't agree with you now. Its really nothing to get upset about.

  76. philadelphialawyer6:27 PM

    You start off with the pouting over being "harangued," and yet now you accuse me of "hysteria?" You demonstrate your own maturity by calling me names? And you accuse me of being "upset" even as you post over and over again for no other reason than to demonstrate your displeasure. There is some kinda disconnect there.
    I have always had respect for you as a poster, and continue to do so. And that is so even though we have agreed and disagreed before. And I don't care that you disagree with me now, or that others do so. That is no "big deal" to me.
    But, please, if you have nothing further of substance to say, just let it go. As you could have done three posts ago.

  77. You really need to take some kind of calming meditation practice.