Landsburg on Limbaugh incites dialogue at UR

Courtesy of blisstree.com

UR President Joel Seligman issued a statement on Wednesday, March 7 condemning the remarks of UR economics professor Steven Landsburg, who, in a blog post on Friday, March 2, incited discussion about the inflammatory comments Rush Limbaugh made about Georgetown Law student Sandra Fluke and the national debate on birth control.

Fluke testified before congressional Democrats that she wanted her college health plan to cover birth control, which prompted Limbaugh to publicly call her a “slut” and a “prostitute” on his radio talk show over the course of three days last week, saying in one instance that Fluke was “having sex so frequently that she can’t afford all the birth-control pills that she needs.”

Limbaugh garnered credence for his remarks from Fluke’s testimony, in which she said that Georgetown students spend $1,000 per year on contraception, implying, he said, that Fluke is having sex more than five times per day.

Limbaugh apologized for his remarks, saying in a post on his website on Saturday, March 3 that he “chose the wrong words in my analogy of the situation.” His apology came a day after President Barack Obama telephoned Fluke to offer his support in the wake of Limbaugh’s personal attack.

President Obama also thanked Fluke for her public backing of his regulations mandating contraception coverage, the latest development in what has increasingly become a raging political furor.

Prior to Limbaugh’s apology, Landsburg deemed Limbaugh’s remarks a “requisite mockery” and his choice to label her a slut because of her support for free campus contraceptives a “spot-on analogy” in the first of three blog posts on the topic, the first published on Friday, March 2.

“While Ms. Fluke herself deserves the same basic respect we owe to any human being, her position — which is what’s at issue here — deserves none whatsoever,” Landsburg wrote on his blog www.thebigquestions.com/blog. “It deserves only to be ridiculed, mocked and jeered. To treat it with respect would be a travesty.”

Landsburg went on to say that a better word for Fluke would be “prostitute,” rather than “slut,” even though she is not asking to be paid for sex. He goes on to write that she should in fact be labeled an “extortionist” since she “will be having sex whether she gets paid or not.”

But, he wrote, the word choice was irrelevant.

“Whether or not [Limbaugh] chose the right word, what I just don’t get is why the pro-respect crowd is aiming all its fire at Rush,” he wrote in the post. “Which is more disrespectful — his harsh language or Sandra Fluke’s attempt to pick your pocket? That seems like a pretty clear call to me.”

In his statement to the UR community, Seligman wrote that he was “deeply disappointed” with Landsburg’s remarks.

In the afternoon after Seligman released his statement, 30 UR students gathered in Hutchison Hall. They organized to express their discontent with Landsburg and interrupted his Economics 108 lecture. According to a flier distributed at the event, the protesters aimed to denounce Landsburg’s “attempt to smear a gender with derogatory terms.”

“Landsburg has made indefensible comments about women,” senior Alykhan Alani wrote in an email urging students to participate in the protest on Wednesday. “Regardless of your stance on the issues of subsidized birth control, we cannot allow such language to go unnoticed and unchecked.”

Seligman wrote in his statement that he is “outraged that any professor would demean a student in this fashion. To openly ridicule, mock or jeer a student in this way is about the most offensive thing a professor can do. We are here to educate, to nurture, to inspire, not to engage in character assassination.”

Seligman acknowledged that Landsburg has the right to express his views, but added that “no reasonable person would ever assume that he speaks for UR” and that he too has the right to express his beliefs.

“Landsburg now has made himself newsworthy as one of Limbaugh’s few defenders,” Seligman continued. “I wish he had focused on the ideal of a university as an institution that promotes the free exchange of ideas and lively debate at its best in an atmosphere of civil discourse in which the dignity of every individual is respected.”

When asked for a response to Seligman’s statement, Landsburg wrote the following in an email to the Campus Times on Wednesday, March 7.

“President Seligman says that the mission of the University is to promote the free exchange of ideas and lively debate, and I agree. That mission is undermined whenever a member of the academic community elevates raw self-interest over the exchange of ideas.

That’s what Sandra Fluke did. She observed that contraceptives are expensive, and therefore demanded that somebody other than herself and her fellow students pick up the tab. She didn’t even pretend to be interested in debating any of the serious issues raised by the question of when some of us should pick up the tab for others’ expenses.”

Landsburg also said that many of the comments on his blog post have slightly impacted his views on the matter.

“The commenters have offered many bright and lively arguments and observations, some of which have led me to modify some of my views,” he wrote in the same email. “This is a wonderful thing. It’s also the very opposite of Sandra Fluke’s approach, which amounts to a contemptuous dismissal of the very possibility of engaging these issues through intellectual discourse. I’d have expected a distinguished academic to feel the same way.”

Many UR students have expressed outrage over Landsburg’s blog post.

Freshman Zachary Taylor, who observed the protest, said he found Landsburg’s comments offensive, but that he disagreed with the way the protest was executed.

“By refusing to say anything, the protesters seemed to verify everything Landsburg said about their anti-intellectual attitude,” he said. “I thought that [Landsburg] deserved a day to clarify and/or apologize, and that [Students for a Democratic Society (SDS)] should have contacted him directly before taking this kind of action.”

It is unclear if SDS was the primary group that orchestrated the protest.

Other students thought the protest was ineffective.

“Angry people disrupted the class, gave people fliers and just stood there to get in the way,” sophomore Andrew Nocka said. “It was obnoxious and the wrong way to go about getting their point across.”

In response to the interruption to his lecture, Landsburg wrote to the Campus Times:

“My only comment on the events in ECO 108 today is that the protestors were stealing from the students who have paid to learn something. In their contempt for the value of ideas, they seem to be in close solidarity with Sandra Fluke.”

Freshman Jordan Oroshiba said he does not believe that Landsburg’s position at UR should be threatened by the controversy.

“As long as Landsburg’s personal views, or any professors’ personal views for that matter, do not interfere with their ability to provide the excellent education and accepting environment which UR is known for, then they should be allowed to remain a member of our wonderful and diverse community,” he said.

One comment posted on Landsburg’s blog bespoke of the ambiguity expressed by some students and faculty.

“Is Landsburg being punished?” a commenter, who wrote under the moniker “Interested,” posed. “As a truth seeker, wouldn’t Landsburg have served his own interests better if he had made the same points without the crude name-calling? Couldn’t he have provoked a passionate discussion, like the ones being held right now, about the legitimacy of subsidizing contraception, rather than about rhetoric and academic freedom?”

Additional reporting by Michaela Kerem, class of 2015.

Buletti is a member of the class of 2013.



You can contact Leah at leah.buletti@rochester.edu.

    36 Responses to “Landsburg on Limbaugh incites dialogue at UR”

    1. Hoss Firooznia says:

      Thomas writes: “Sandra Fluke observed that birth control pills are expensive and therefore determined that the government should force her insurance to cover them.”

      This is the same oversimplification made by Landsburg. You both seem upset over the fact that Ms. Fluke didn’t use her few moments before Congress to present a detailed economic argument for contraceptive coverage. She was there simply to testify as person who — unlike all the male prelates who testified – has actual experience working with issues of women’s health and reproductive justice. As requested, she testified to a serious, real-world need for insurance coverage, and to the real health problems suffered by women who are denied that coverage.

      “The feminist side of this issue is simply lobbying for a wealth redistribution from men to women.”

      No, the “feminist side” is simply lobbying for the health care coverage they paid for. They’re no more seeking “wealth redistribution” than anyone else seeking insurance coverage for basic health care needs.

    2. xyang14 says:

      Thomas: “The feminist side of this issue is simply lobbying for a wealth redistribution from men to women.”

      Hoss: “No, the “feminist side” is simply lobbying for the health care coverage they paid for. They’re no more seeking “wealth redistribution” than anyone else seeking insurance coverage for basic health care needs.”

      Landsburg: “The tax on men is easily the most defensible. First, it’s non-distorting… Second, men, on average, earn more than women do, so if you believe in redistributive taxes at all, this is a great one.” (http://www.thebigquestions.com/2012/03/07/a-contra-conception/)

      This again shows that neither supporters nor detractors of Landsburg have bothered to read his argument and have turned the entire issue into a wonderful opportunity to hear themselves talk. Keep masturbating.

      • Hoss Firooznia says:

        xyang, your objection is a non-sequitur. You may have read Landsburg’s argument, but you don’t seem to understand it.

        • xyang14 says:

          Just to clarify, what I pointed out was that Landsburg is not against the redistribution of income from men to women.

          The fact that Thomas thinks income redistribution is Landsburg’s argument against subsidizing birth control, shows that Thomas has no idea what Landsburg’s argument is. And the fact that you failed to point this out shows that you have not read Landsburg’s post either.

          Please enlighten me as to what I misunderstood.

          • Hoss Firooznia says:

            Thanks for the clarification, xyang.

            Regardless of whether Thomas understood Landsburg’s argument (I’ll leave it to him to address that accusation) he didn’t attribute the claim about income redistribution to Landsburg; that was his own addition, along with the arguments about women supposedly having an easy life compared to men. My response that you cited above was simply a response to Thomas’s assertion about what feminists supposedly want. It had nothing to do with Landsburg, nor his arguments. Sorry if it seemed otherwise.

    3. paul.averill@gmail.com says:

      Leah,

      Your journalism leaves much to be desired. Either you failed to actually read the material you quote from thoroughly, or you engaged in outright distortion, in either case it’s not very impressive work.

      “Landsburg deemed Limbaugh’s remarks a ‘requisite mockery’ and his choice to label her a slut because of her support for free campus contraceptives a ‘spot-on analogy’…”

      No, Landsburg did not deem Limbaugh’s choice to label her a slut a spot-on analogy at all, that is a blatant misquote. The analogy Landsburg refers to as ‘spot-on’, which, given it follows a colon directly after that statement should be pretty obvious, is:

      “To his far greater credit, he did so with a spot-on analogy: If I can reasonably be required to pay for someone else’s sex life (absent any argument about externalities or other market failures), then I can reasonably demand to share in the benefits.”

      Which he follows with this qualification:

      “His dense and humorless critics notwithstanding, I am 99% sure that Rush doesn’t actually advocate mandatory on-line sex videos. What he advocates is logical consistency and an appreciation for ethical symmetry. So do I. Color me jealous for not having thought of this analogy myself.”

      Furthermore, regarding Limbaugh’s use of the word slut, Landsburg says:

      “There’s one place where I part company with Rush, though: He wants to brand Ms. Fluke a “slut” because, he says, she’s demanding to be paid for sex.”

      Followed by:

      “There are two things wrong here. First, the word “slut” connotes (to me at least) precisely the sort of joyous enthusiasm that would render payment superfluous. A far better word might have been “prostitute” (or a five-letter synonym therefor), but that’s still wrong because Ms. Fluke is not in fact demanding to be paid for sex. (Not that there’s anything wrong with that.) She will, as I understand it, be having sex whether she gets paid or not. Her demand is to be paid. The right word for that is something much closer to “extortionist”. Or better yet, ‘extortionist with an overweening sense of entitlement.”

      The last quote which you somewhat halfheartedly attempted to address in your article.

      Given your ability to accurately quote throughout the rest of the article, and the utter laziness/lack of reading comprehension skills it takes to transform:

      “To his far greater credit, he did so with a spot-on analogy: If I can reasonably be required to pay for someone else’s sex life (absent any argument about externalities or other market failures), then I can reasonably demand to share in the benefits… There’s one place where I part company with Rush, though: He wants to brand Ms. Fluke a “slut”…”

      into:

      ” Landsburg deemed Limbaugh’s remarks a ‘requisite mockery’ and his choice to label her a slut because of her support for free campus contraceptives a ‘spot-on analogy’…”

      I’m left to wonder whether this was ever actually written as a news story as it’s advertised, or an opinion piece as it resembles. I’m finding it quite difficult to swallow that two UR students (you and and the editor) could make such a mistake honestly.

      I have no issue with opinion journalism, I do have an issue with opinion journalism masquerading as objective jouralism.

      * My personal view is that I wish all journalists would just be up front about their personal opinions on the matter being discussed. Pretending journalists don’t have opinions and that they don’t influence their writing I find to be naive and disingenuous, and generally not helpful at encouraging honest public debate as I presume journalists are attempting to facilitate.

    4. paul.averill@gmail.com says:

      Leah,

      “Your comments are merely repeating the same analogy that Landsburg made and serve to show your own agenda the matter.”

      The only agenda my comment betrays is one advocating for journalistic integrity. Nowhere, at all, did I address the contents of anything written or said by Landsburg or Limbaugh. The quotes I lifted were entire paragraphs from Landsburg’s blog and were presented that in no way could be construed as advancing my personal opinion on the matter, they were selected solely to illustrate your unfair representation of Landsburg’s position. Yes, you’re correct that I did repeat the analogy Landsburg made, the purpose of which was exclusively to highlight where you misquoted him.

      The entirety of my post consisted of addressing the way in which you reported on the matter and had nothing to do with my opinions on it.

      “There is nothing misquoted in this piece, which becomes obvious if you read extremely similar articles that refer to the “spot-on analogy” in the Democrat and Chronicle and the Wall Street Journal.”

      I’m not sure how else to present it, or what exactly you’re reading to convince yourself otherwise, but you very clearly did misquote him. The only other way I can present it is that in your article you clearly stated that Landsburg characterized Limbaugh’s analogy between Ms Fluke and a slut as spot-on, while any fair reading of Landsburg’s post says something very different: The analogy Landsburg referred to as spot-on, as he very clearly states, is “If I can reasonably be required to pay for someone else’s sex life (absent any argument about externalities or other market failures), then I can reasonably demand to share in the benefits. His dense and humorless critics notwithstanding, I am 99% sure that Rush doesn’t actually advocate mandatory on-line sex videos.” – The spot-on analogy clearly being between Ms Fluke requesting to have her birth control paid for by others and those others being able to share in the benefits via on-line video (whether that meets the formal definition of analogy may be debatable, but that has no impact on this discussion, it’s the word he chose to use whether he used it correctly or not), NOT Ms Fluke and a slut. And to further discredit your reading he goes on to explicitly distance himself from the term slut and offers his thoughts on a more accurate term (and I think most would agree a much less inflammatory one) “There’s one place where I part company with Rush, though: He wants to brand Ms. Fluke a “slut” because, he says, she’s demanding to be paid for sex… Her demand is to be paid. The right word for that is something much closer to “extortionist”. Or better yet, “extortionist with an overweening sense of entitlement”.

      I’m not sure which “extremely similar articles” you’re referring to, but that really doesn’t matter whether true or not. If the D&C and/or WSJ made the same mistake that makes them equally guilty, it doesn’t exonerate you. You don’t justify bad behavior by pointing to worse behavior.

      If you were offended by my post that was the point, I was offended by reading the article, A because I’m a UR grad and I expect better from my alma mater, and B because I don’t like being hoodwinked and bamboozled (in the words of our president) by bad reporting, whether intentional or not. Furthermore, if I were Prof Landsburg I would be offended by being misquoted, but I won’t presume to speak for him.

      If you have an actual logical case as to where I’m wrong please present it, but so far I’m not convinced by accusations of bias where I haven’t ever addressed the content of anything other than your article, or by pointing to content in other, possibly similarly flawed articles, instead of the actual source material.

    5. Leah Buletti says:

      I was offended by your post because I firmly believe that publicly attacking my intellect and journalistic abilities serves no point in advancing a productive debate. It seems, in my opinion, to resemble Limbaugh’s distortion of a concrete debate on a national issue to a personal attack on a student. I’d be interested to know what purpose you think it serves to take your grievances with my article to the level of blatantly publicly insulting the effort I took to write this article and my ability to write, think, and distill information.

      I don’t want to engage in an argument on semantics, but I will say that I strongly believe this article does not distort Landsburg’s position and that it is an objective presentation of what occurred. Landsburg deemed Limbaugh’s assessment of Fluke’s support for free campus contraception a “spot-on analogy.” One part of Limbaugh’s assessment was the word “slut.” Therefore, my sentence does not misconstrue Landsburg’s position, which becomes obvious if you read the part of the sentence following the word “slut” and the direct quotes from his blog that follow it. Regardless of this sentence, though, I don’t see how anyone could argue that the article misinterpreted Landsburg’s position – even the lines you quote show him in support of Limbaugh’s comments. It hardly seems that this one perhaps semantically ambiguous sentence could rise to the level that you allege I misinformed the entire public.

    6. paul.averill@gmail.com says:

      You say: “I was offended by your post because I firmly believe that publicly attacking my intellect and journalistic abilities serves no point in advancing a productive debate.”

      And I was offended by your article because I firmly believe that publicly misquoting people or distorting the views of others (whether intentional or not) serves no point in advancing a productive debate.

      I think one thing that any side on this issue can agree on, Landsburg, Limbaugh, Fluke, Obama, me, etc is we should have a public and well informed debate on the issue, that is one of the few areas where there is actually bi-partisan support for something, and that debate is not served when the people partially responsible for informing the public on said issue don’t report the key facts of the debate accurately.

      Prof Landsburg has people protesting his classes and calling for his head, I think the least courtesy he is due is fairly representing his views. As Prof Landsburg could much better present than me, otherwise rational individuals cannot make welfare-maximizing decisions when information is scare or incorrect. Furthermore, I think the least courtesy that is due to me is presenting a fair assessment of the matter so I can interpret it for myself and form my own conclusion, anything short of that, unless otherwise disclosed, is an insult to my intellect. The reason you didn’t receive courtesy from me is because you didn’t offer the same in the first place, to Landsburg or myself – Although I would characterize my post more as blunt than discourteous.

      “It seems, in my opinion, to resemble Limbaugh’s distortion of a concrete debate on a national issue to a personal attack on a student.”

      Well first of all thank you for offering your opinion on Limbaugh’s comment, getting back to my original post, had you also included your opinion on Landsburg and posted them up front it would have helped put the article in context and avoided some of this (although I would still have an issue with such an obvious misquote even in the context of someone’s opinion).

      Secondly, I wasn’t aware students were entitled to some kind of special deference. I don’t see how the work of a student journalist is somehow entitled to more leniency than something authored by the NYTs or any other professional publication. I was under the impression that college was intended to prepare students for the real world. If you haven’t discovered it yet in the real world, especially if your chosen career is journalism, you will be subjected to far harsher criticism than anything I have offered. Have a read through a few of the oftentimes downright vitriolic comments aimed at the journalists on the WSJ or CNN boards. It seems you’re trying to play the “student card”, the existence of which I was unaware of, I certainly don’t recall it being around when I was at UR.

      Given that, my attack was not a personal one, it was a criticism of your work. You have chosen to put your work into the public eye, and thus open it up to public interpretation and criticism (and the same holds true for Ms Fluke – Although, just to be clear, that is not an endorsement of Limbaugh’s particular remark, simply that she has presented her views publically and should be prepared to accept the publics’ reaction whether or not she happens to be a student). You don’t get to post your work for the world to consume then cry “personal attack, poor me I’m just a student” every time someone disagrees or harshly criticizes it. And I would say my harsh/blunt/curt criticism, also detailed and backed up by logic and quotes, of your work is in a completely different category, not even in the same realm, as calling someone a slut. If my feelings were more delicate I may take that characterization of my work as another personal insult to my intellect.

      “I’d be interested to know what purpose you think it serves to take your grievances with my article to the level of blatantly publicly insulting the effort I took to write this article and my ability to write, think, and distill information.”

      Much of the above applies to that as well, but as to what purpose it serves: The purpose of my original post was to induce people who read what I interpret (and I still haven’t seen a very strong case as to where I’m wrong) to be a factually incorrect article, to do further research. I see no way in which this is a disservice. If that person reads Landsburg’s article and still agrees with your interpretation they will have read something they otherwise wouldn’t have and are that much more informed for it (assuming the cost of their time doesn’t outweigh the benefit of more information). If, on the other hand, they change their view after reading Landsburg’s post, then the views of another person are what they should be in a world of better information – Which economics would indicate is better for society as a whole. Either way it’s hard to see who is harmed by my post, aside from your feelings. Had I privately emailed you my grievances it would have completely negated this effect, and therefore defeated the primary purpose of my post.

      Furthermore, if your case is as strong as you appear to believe, no one’s minds will be changed, your public integrity will remain fully untarnished, no one will have any doubts as to your writing skills, and the only reputation that will have suffered will be mine.

      And I completely support your spending time to inform the public, I just ask it be done fairly and accurately.

      Aside from remarking that it seems to me you’ve engaged in quite an impressive feat of mental gymnastics to arrive at your quote, whereas my case was a pretty simple ctrl-c, ctrl-v, I will leave the last part of your post alone, you have offered your argument, and I mine.

    7. xyang14 says:

      Leah, it is clear that you neither took the time to read Landsburg’s article, nor that to fully comprehend Paul’s criticism of your article. This is the section of Landsburg’s article in which he used the term “spot-on analogy”:

      “To his far greater credit, he did so with a spot-on analogy: If I can reasonably be required to pay for someone else’s sex life (absent any argument about externalities or other market failures), then I can reasonably demand to share in the benefits.”

      There is nothing here about Limbaugh’s use of the word “slut”; in fact, Landsburg addresses this only in the next paragraph, where he explicitly disagrees with the word choice:

      “There’s one place where I part company with Rush, though: He wants to brand Ms. Fluke a “slut” because, he says, she’s demanding to be paid for sex. There are two things wrong here…”

      Your belief that “this article does not distort Landsburg’s position” is irrelevant. You are a journalist; part of your job is to check that your quotes are accurate, and that you have completely failed to do. Believing that you did a good job does not change the fact that this article is extremely poorly written.

    8. denver@taconic.net says:

      Paul Averill goes over the top in his criticism of CT writer Leah Buletti. Averill brings attention to a minor error that Buletti made when referring to Landsburg’s blog post. For that minor error (made by a student journalist in her 2nd year as a writer for a university newspaper as well as being under short deadline and writing the piece WHILE the story was unfolding) Averill writes: “Your journalism leaves much to be desired. Either you failed to actually read the material you quote from thoroughly, or you engaged in outright distortion, in either case it’s not very impressive work.’ Averill further writes: “…part of your job is to check that your quotes are accurate, and that you have completely failed to do. Believing that you did a good job does not change the fact that this article is extremely poorly written.” To notice a relatively minor factual error and then to assert that Buletti “engaged in outright distortion, in either case it’s not very impressive work” and “this article is extremely poorly written” says more about Averill’s agenda and unexplained emnity than Buletti’s lack of talent or her alleged unprofessionalism as a journalist. In actuality, Buletti’s mistake in misinterpreting Landsburg’s blogpost is the only part of the article that can be criticized. Averill himself does not take issue with anything else Buletti wrote in the article, yet he is willing to brand the entire piece” extremely poorly written.”

      In his comments Averill makes many good and constructive points that Buletti can benefit from. However, distorting the quality of the writing of a relatively amateur journalist brands Averill a curmudgeon at best, a bully at worst and clearly shows that he should think well and long before he himself writes in a public forum.

      • denver@taconic.net says:

        I just noticed that I attributed some comments by other poster xyang14 to Mr. Averill. For that I apologize to you, Paul. Otherwise I stand by my comments.

        Journalists often make factual errors when writing articles — look how often we see the word in bold in a newspaper “CORRECTION:” Averill would likely have come off looking much better if he had merely pointed to Buletti’s minor factual lapse and left it at that. I say minor, because the mistake makes Landsburg look no better or worse for her error (and certainly does not point to Buletti writing more of an opinion piece than straight objective reporting). People are misquoted in newspapers — from the lowest rag to the New York Times — every day and the reason is rarely that the journalist has an agenda. To try to subvert a minor reporting error into a serious breach of ethics as Averill’s comments would have the public believe is another reason his criticism was over the top.

        What doesn’t reflect well to me is that Averill asserts “I think one thing that any side on this issue can agree on, Landsburg, Limbaugh, Fluke, Obama, me, etc is we should have a public and well informed debate on the issue.” Mr. Averill, with all due respect, if you think Rush Limbaugh is interested in a well-informed debate, then you, apparently, have not been paying attention — and that is putting it nicely.

    9. xyang14 says:

      Let’s go back a little bit and reconsider what happened here. Professor Landsburg writes that Rush Limbaugh made a spot-on analogy with the following argument: “If I can reasonably be required to pay for someone else’s sex life…then I can reasonably demand to share in the benefits.” The student journalist Leah instead attributes the phrase “spot-on analogy” to, among other things, “[Limbaugh's] choice to label her a slut because of her support for free campus contraceptives.” Anyone who has read Landsburg’s first post can verify that this is an obvious mistake. This point needs not be debated. It is, however, a forgivable mistake, considering that Landsburg’s position has frequently been misrepresented by the general public and Leah may not have had the patience to actually read through Landsburg’s blog post clearly. Or she could have simply made a rookie’s mistake and strove for conciseness over accuracy. In any case, it is understandable.

      It is also understandable however that some readers of the newspaper may be irritated or angered by the misquotation. Whether they point out the error with a 2-page long rant or a polite friendly note is irrelevant; by pointing out the error, they are doing an immense service to the newspaper by allowing the editors to issue a correction in a timely manner. What is completely incomprehensible then is why the writer of the article – or her coworkers – twice failed to acknowledge this error despite a very detailed explanation from Paul. What is even more disappointing is how the writer not only took the criticism personally, but repeatedly accused her critics of having political agendas for pointing out her error – all the while refusing to even acknowledge that the article might have contained an error.

      Whether Paul has a political agenda is absolutely irrelevant (as a matter of fact, it would be quite silly to assume that he doesn’t have an opinion on the matter). The general public is not concerned about whether a particular reader of the newspaper has a political bias. If he makes a criticism of an article’s factual accuracy, then that criticism should be taken into proper consideration by the writers and editors of the newspaper, without reference to the reader’s possible political bias. It is incredible that we even have to debate about this.

      And while we don’t have standards for readers’ political objectivity, we do assume that the writers of the newspaper have a responsibility in trying to prevent their opinions from influencing their writing. I’m not sure I agreed with Paul that Leah’s mistake in the article reveals a personal bias. But that speculation is no longer necessary after Leah’s two subsequent replies, in which she not only expressed her political opinion in the matter but used it to demonize her critics and portray herself as the victim of sexist personal attacks. This is a despicable tactic, and it is no wonder that Paul is infuriated.

      Even more incredibly, a family friend of the journalist with (apparently) no affiliation to the U-of-R decided to join in the fray attacking her critics as well. That is incredibly unprofessional, regardless of whether Mr. Lorber did it out of his own initiative or because of a request from the student. I am extremely disappointed that the Campus Times has allowed such behavior to happen. Perhaps such behavior provides a clue to why the Campus Times has a lower circulation than the unfunded, amateurish Chinese-language newspaper on campus. In refusing to acknowledge a simple error, and having the personal acquaintances of its journalists attacking their critics, Campus Times has shown that it has absolutely no ability in owing up to its mistakes or maintaining the least bit of journalist integrity.

    10. paul.averill@gmail.com says:

      Xyang14 I agree completely.

      * After my last public post on this Leah and I took our disagreement offline where we addressed a number of points raised by denver, and, I think came to an understanding. Denver if you’re interested and Leah is fine with it I’m happy to share that discussion offline, otherwise I’m just posting some bullet-points here, points I would have made on the above comments regardless of Leah and my private discussion.

      “Averill brings attention to a minor error that Buletti made when referring to Landsburg’s blog post.”

      - My whole point is that it’s not a “minor error” at all. The outrage over Limbaugh’s comments surround his use of the term “slut”, not his underlying logic for objecting to mandatory bc coverage. Given the public outcry over the term “slut”, it was absolutely essential to the article that it properly portray Landsburg’s agreement/disagreement with that aspect of Landsburg’s post, the article failed in this regard.

      - I wonder if people would be calling for Landsburg’s head and protesting
      his classes had the article focused on Landsburg’s logic and not mischaracterized his terminology.

      - The issue is not how nice we should be to people who make errors, it’s how nice we should be to those whose ideas we publically represent to the world. I reject the notion that I’m somehow the bad guy for curtly pointing out an error that potentially caused damage to the reputation and possibly career of a highly respected academic. Professor Landsburg is a longstanding and highly respected member of UR, I think he has earned the right to be fairly represented in a newspaper affiliated with the university he’s contributed so much to. Or that I’m wrong for demanding that journalists have the respect for their readers to get things right (whether the error was intentional or not).

      “For that minor error (made by a student journalist in her 2nd year as a writer for a university newspaper as well as being under short deadline and writing the piece WHILE the story was unfolding)”

      - It’s unfortunate she was under such pressure, however, I was under the impression college is intended to prepare students for the real world. This would not be tolerated in the real world, she would likely be subjected to far harsher criticism at a professional publication (where I assume she one day aspires to work) than anything I offered. I’m sure journalists in the real world work under far more stressful circumstances than anything available in college while being expected to deliver error-free articles. If she was unable to assure the 100% accuracy of the article she should have had the awareness to delegate it to someone else, postpone it, have it proofread, whatever, but given the importance and focus (it’s been mentioned in the WSJ and NYTs) on this debate nothing that wasn’t 100% should have been published. This wasn’t an article on the weekends’ frat parties and it deserved commensurate attention to detail.

      “To notice a relatively minor factual error…”

      - This wasn’t the only factual error, there was at least one more.

      - As pointed out above it wasn’t minor, but more importantly my criticism is wider than that. My overarching criticism is that the article focuses solely on Landsburg’s terminology and completely ignores his logic behind opposing mandatory bc coverage (aside from 2 token quotes which don’t make much sense without the requisite background/context). To my eye the article was written to enrage the reader against Landsburg by focusing on loaded terminology rather than discuss the underlying issue. I think we all agree calling a woman a slut is incredibly inappropriate, I don’t think that’s much of a debate. If we’re really concerned about an intelligent public debate let’s focus on the important issue and not get sidetracked by the nonsense of blowhards, and especially not attribute the nonsense of blowhards to people who explicitly never endorsed that nonsense.

      “says more about Averill’s agenda and unexplained emnity than Buletti’s lack of talent or her alleged unprofessionalism as a journalist”

      - My agenda is to accurately portray people in a public debate, if that agenda offends you I’m not sure we’ll agree on much.

      - As I pointed out in an earlier post after Leah accused me of something similar, there is nothing that indicates a political agenda in my posts, I challenge you to find one. I focused solely on the contents of the article and never addressed any of the underlying issues.

      - I don’t like Rush Limbaugh at all, I find him incredibly distasteful, his slut comment being a perfect example of why. I do like Professor Landsburg and respect him highly.

      - I have no enmity towards Leah, and I think we came to a fairly amicable resolution in our private discussion. Admittedly I do, however, have a very real enmity towards poor journalism and unfair representations of people and their ideas (whether by the political left or right, fox, cnn or msnbc, WSJ, or NYTs, on comment boards, tv, radio, or anywhere else). If you’re going to have enmity towards someone or something I think that’s not a bad choice.

      “..is the only part of the article that can be criticized. Averill himself does not take issue with anything else Buletti wrote in the article, yet he is willing to brand the entire piece ‘extremely poorly written.’”

      - No it’s not and yes I do, see above. I used that one quote to highlight the most egregious example of poor work/bias, but my issue went deeper and starts with the whole framing of the article. There is also at least one further factual error if you re-read it closely and compare it to Landsburg’s original post.

      “…because the mistake makes Landsburg look no better or worse for her error…”

      - Yes it does, and that is why it originally caught my attention. As mentioned earlier the outrage over all this is the word slut, no one was outraged when the debate was focused on religious/moral/constitutional issues around mandated bc, they became outraged when Fluke got called a slut; to attribute that comment to Landsburg is to unfairly associate him with all the accompanying baggage. He explicitly said an appropriate term for Fluke was NOT slut, it’s very unfair and downright untrue to link him to that comment, and given the charged nature of this debate and repercussions Landsburg is facing, very fair to harshly criticize anyone who does, especially a journalist.

      “Mr. Averill, with all due respect, if you think Rush Limbaugh is interested in a well-informed debate, then you, apparently, have not been paying attention — and that is putting it nicely.”

      - I’m sure he isn’t, but I’m equally sure Landsburg is. I also don’t quite see how this matters to the discussion we’re having. I could care less about Limbaugh’s debate tactics, what I’m interested in is ensuring the rest of us can have a well-informed debate, we can’t have that if we can’t get the facts straight.



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