Saturday, July 7, 2007

Adventures in Fact-Checking

See, I go ahead and praise a paper for producing an insightful take on an esoteric subject and then they go and stab me right in the back.

This letter is unforgiveable:

I understand why pacifists are coming out of the woodwork again, and they certainly are entitled to their opinion; so, for all of the history deprived, I wish to recall, that prior to WWII how many pacifists circled our post office area protesting what was soon to be a world war. Shortly after the Japanese bombed Pearl Harbor, this group dwindled, and it seemed like overnight, all young men in my neighborhood went off to war. These heroes saved the world from Hitler's ugly determination to rid the world of all humans, except what he called the master race, white Anglo-Saxon race, then along with the Japanese, they would enslave the rest of the world's population.

Actually, according to Hitler and Nazi ideology the “master race” was the Aryans – not to split hairs or anything…

Werner Von Brown was Hitler's scientist who worked on the atomic bomb, and came perilously close to attaining his goal, but when Germany surrendered prior to the defeat of the Japanese, he was captured by American forces. He then started working with the United State on the bombs that defeated the Japanese. Had Von Brown completed his assignment for Hitler, we would be flying the flag of a different color. No one will ever be able to convince my generation that WWII was fought in vain.

I have no idea who Von Brown was, but Wernher von Braun was a rocket scientist for the Third Reich who was instrumental in developing the V-1 and V-2 rockets (and a little later, the U.S. space program). I’m pretty sure von Braun was not a part of Hitler’s team in charge of building an atomic bomb – ballistics and atomic physics requiring two entirely different skill sets, and all. Werner Heisenberg was in charge of the German A-bomb, and just how close he came to building it is the subject of much scholarly debate (and some pretty good theater, too).

Let's never forget the horribly experience created by ignorance during the Vietnam was, when our brave men were called baby killers and were actually ashamed to wear their uniforms when they returned home. Pacifists at that time created very false image of what America really stood for. They were wrong. So let's put all of the Benedict Arnolds of today in their place, and start to realize that our government has kept us safe from the devils who seek the demise of what we believe and stand for. The people taking a negative stand on the war against terror may be in for surprises beyond belief if we don't prevail. We have to fight them over there or here, one way or the other. It's up to us to make the right choice. God help us!

Gaylord LaGraves
Stevens Point

(Emphases added)

LaGraves has a perfectly valid point – as much as I disagree with it – which should be allowed a venue, but his gross negligence of the facts should not be printed. The editors of the SPJ should have worked with LaGraves to fix his mistakes or appended his letter with the relevant corrections.

This goes beyond spelling mistakes. The implication of LaGraves letter is pretty controversial: he’s basically saying that if we don’t stay in Iraq, we’re going to get nuked someday (why else draw the parallel between the Nazi atomic bomb project and the current military endeavor in the Middle East?), a variation on President Bush’s We-don’t-want-the-smoking-gun-to-be-a-mushroom-cloud argument that he skillfully deployed during the run-up to the war.

LaGraves supports the war – fine. He’s welcome to that opinion, but he’s not welcome to the facts, and by allowing these fairly basic errors to go unchecked the SPJ is not only making LaGraves look foolish, but also itself.

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