Friday, July 29, 2011
On Monday Jeffrey Goldberg added a bizarre and nearly incomprehensible note to a highly controversial post at The Atlantic. The note sought to explain and justify an earlier, unacknowledged revision to the piece whose effect had been to make him appear less foolish. He maintains that he misled readers inadvertently by accidentally deleting the word “UPDATE” from that revision. His account was far from adequate and refers to obscure technical difficulties. Goldberg even said that he couldn’t really understand what had happened as he repeatedly revised the post the previous Friday. He promised to look into his electronic trail to figure the situation out.
Since then, however, Goldberg has added nothing to his garbled explanation. It should be a simple matter to extract from The Atlantic’s servers a record of his updates to that post, if in fact it would corroborate and clarify his flimsy account. As things are, Goldberg stands accused of deliberately doctoring a post to mask how outrageous his original post had been. Prominent journalists such as Jay Rosen have called him to task. And yet four days later Goldberg still has produced no evidence on his own behalf. His colleagues at The Atlantic remain silent as well.
There are detailed descriptions of this scandal here and here.
The facts as I understand them are as follows:
Last Friday afternoon Goldberg posted a two-paragraph screed, “Mumbai Comes to Norway,” blaming the attacks unequivocally on Islamic terrorists. When events demonstrated how reckless he’d been, Goldberg added a third paragraph raising the possibility of right-wing terrorism. By not labeling this as an update, he left readers to conclude that he was just exploring multiple theories rather than using the massacre to make a bold pronouncement about the worldwide jihadist danger. Later that evening, beginning around 8 PM, Goldberg began adding 4 further paragraphs on stray thoughts, each of which he did carefully label as an “UPDATE”. At the same time he also added “(UPDATED)” to the title. So he was capable of noting updates when there was nothing to be gained from not doing so.
On Saturday, Goldberg posted a roundabout defense of his decision to rush to judgment, “On Suspecting al Qaeda in the Norway Attacks.” It is characteristically disingenuous, particularly about what he had written in “Mumbai”.
On Monday, when he learned (via James Fallows) that I had found cached evidence that he’d made those unacknowledged changes to “Mumbai”, Goldberg hurriedly added another update to the post. This was the aforementioned bizarre explanation for not having labeled the first revision as an ‘update’. It is so ridiculous it really needs to be seen to be believed.
The Atlantic needs to address this disgrace. The ‘Mumbai’ post was reprehensible to begin with. The doctoring of it is a further scandal. Goldberg’s ridiculous excuse-mongering makes matters worse. His refusal to apologize for any of it is worse still.
And as if that weren’t shameful enough, his colleagues at The Atlantic have some answering to do for ignoring or excusing all of this. On Saturday James Fallows called for the Washington Post to apologize for a Jennifer Rubin post that, like Goldberg’s, used the Norway attacks to propagandize about Islamic terrorism. His call was seconded by two other Atlantic writers. But none of them has so much as mentioned Goldberg’s reprehensible “Mumbai” post. In correspondence, Fallows bobbed and weaved when pressed about holding Goldberg to basic journalistic standards.
So will Goldberg and The Atlantic ever properly address this bundle of scandals?
crossposted at Flapola