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This crow is delicious! May I have another serving?

Yesterday, I wrote a rather derisive piece about a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling abouta lawsuit against a tobacco company. I based my commentary on the Boston Glob's coverage, and someday I'll remember that using them as a single source is not the best of ideas.

wavemaker, a student of the Mass. courts, apparently, thought there was something odd about the story and did some digging. He did more than I (or, for that matter, the Glob's reporter) did -- he got his hands on the ruling and actually READ it. And he discovered that the ruling was not about absolving the victim, but based on a long-established principle of law. I disagree with the court's ruling on principle, but it seems that they were on semi-solid legal ground when they made their ruling.

This, naturally, sent certain folks into paroxysms of glee. One particular commenter talked about "Tea-lemmings" (a concept I find slightly flattering, in the thought that I could inspire such a following, but more insulting) and was positively ecstatic that I might have publicly made a mistake.

Like that's anything new. I've lost count of the number of retractions and apologies I've issued. It's an occupational hazard. I deal with it and move on.

But back to this case. My first reaction to markswrite's assailing was to get defensive. I'm one guy, a nobody from nowhere with a nothing job and no life, who read the story and pulled the best information I could get my hands on with such short notice. I don't have access to the kinds of resources that a newspaper like the Boston Globe (owned by the New York Times) does. And if they get a story wrong, why can't I?

But then I realized that that was wrong. I do have access to better resources than the Glob, and this incident proves it.

I have you folks.

Here's the proof: yesterday, I had a full analysis of the Court's ruling, showing exactly what the court ruled and why. And I got it by one of the easiest ways I can imagine: I just opined on the matter publicly.

You, the readers, are an amazingly diverse and resourceful group. I personally know of doctors, lawyers, engineers, scholars, authors, politicians, students, mechanics, and scads of just plain folks who are experts in almost every imaginable field or endeavor. And I can tap those resources at will, with almost no effort.

The first method is the obvious one -- I can ask. I've done that a few times, and it's worked out all right.

The other method is far more effective. I just have to say something wrong, and you folks line up to take turns at whacking me with the truth. And if it's a debatable point, you folks will sometimes go at it hammer and tongs. It's sometimes a little bruising to the ego, but it's a good kind of bruising -- I usually end up a smidgen wiser afterwards.

This is the greatest power of the blogosphere, and though it's been said many times before, it always bears repeating:

They may be smarter than any of us. But they sure as hell aren't smarter than all of us.

Thanks, wavemaker. And even a little thanks to you, too, mark.


Comments (12)

This is why I read Wizbang.... (Below threshold)

This is why I read Wizbang.

The judge in this case may ... (Below threshold)
Gambit:

The judge in this case may be "on semi-solid legal ground" but that does NOT automatically make it right(See the Dred Scott decision, for just one example) Legal decisions are made at the whim of judges, and you should never forget that judges are just people, and prone to making mistakes. You don't have any idea what influenced that decision at the time they made it, but you do get stuck with a "precedent" for making the same mistake, over and over again for all eternity. Being on semi solid legal ground is no defence for being idiotic.

"They may be smarter tha... (Below threshold)
Billy Hollis:

"They may be smarter than any of us."

I'd have to see some evidence of that before I'd be willing to believe it.

Mmmmm...crow. Stil... (Below threshold)
jp2:

Mmmmm...crow.

Still heapings to go through. Hopefully it won't spoil too badly.

Jay Tea,The effect... (Below threshold)
Faith+1:

Jay Tea,

The effect you are describing is the gist of Reynold's book An Army of Davids...

Faith, it predates his book... (Below threshold)
Jay Tea:

Faith, it predates his book, but it's nice to be reiminded of it with concrete examples...

J.

Ah shucks I'm speechless. Y... (Below threshold)

Ah shucks I'm speechless. You are most welcome, Jay.

Gambit -- it was a SEVEN TO ZERO vote of the Supreme Judicial Court -- to be clear.

The ancient phrase is, I th... (Below threshold)
Mikey:

The ancient phrase is, I think, called "Jumping to Conclusions."

A said testimony to your being human.

No, no, no. You got it wron... (Below threshold)
bobdog:

No, no, no. You got it wrong, you rank amateur.

The correct way to publicly apologize is to say that "We were unable to corroborate our anonymous sources. We apologize IF SOME OF OUR READERS TOOK IT WRONG."

See? You don't apologize for screwing up, you apologize if READERS took it wrong.

That's the way it's done. Please apologize properly. You may refer any questions you may have on this subject to the Editor at the New York Times, CBS, ABC, NBC, the Washington Post, the LA Times, or the Minneapolis Red Star Tribune.

You mean the the red Trib i... (Below threshold)
virgo:

You mean the the red Trib is still around? i thought they went out of business about 10 years ago?shows you how much i read the newspapers..

Once again, this is why I r... (Below threshold)

Once again, this is why I read Wizbang (to agree with epador). Other blogs like Instapundit and Powerline and Michelle Malkin that DON'T have regular commenting (I've seen Malkin allow it temporarily at least once) don't have the community of "experts" as you so interestingly put it. You can come away feeling at least a little bit more enlightened (and in the case of some of the more rabid comments) a bit more energetic in either direction.

Good job. Retractions and c... (Below threshold)
Mike:

Good job. Retractions and corrections are part of the deal and, when issued timely and without rancor, serve to increase credibililty rather than diminish it.

A truism "Paul", in his post(s) concerning Nagin's re-election in New Orleans, would be well advised to emulate. His approach to commenters? FOAD.




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