Thursday, September 16, 2004


I once got in a "discussion" with a friend of mine about The Wizard of Oz and the Pythagorean theorem. Yes, it's true... I'll freely admit to having no life of my own. Anyhow, when the Scarecrow gets his brain from Oz he immediately spouts "The sum of the square roots of any two sides of an isosceles triangle is equal to the square root of the remaining side."

Well... I suppose that it sounds good, but it simply is not right. Sorry. Anyhow, my friend doubted me because we had both heard the scarecrow say that famous line again on a rebroadcast of the classic film on TV one Christmas when I bubbled up with the comment that Oz must not be much of a wizard if that was as good a gift as he could give... a lame brain. (Johnson once said that he who would make a pun would steal a purse.)

The argument meandered around us for several months and I finally went and rented the damned movie so that we could stop it over and over and replay the incriminating bits so that we could carefully parse what was actually said. In other words, modern technology made it possible for us to go to the original data and get the proof from the original source.

I know that it was silly, but there is no good reason why, if the guys at CBS and Rather want to assert that they don't need to bring out their proofs about the Rathergate forgeries, that they don't release their original research instruments to independent investigators to settle once and for all that they aren't at best dupes of MoveOn.Org or at worst criminals and worthy of banishment from Oz.

These guys have for so long worked on the assumption that they could say and do anything they wanted to without any consequences. The classical sin of hubris comes to mind. Rather wants for us to trust him, and we have... or at least a lot of us have... for a long time. Now he is banking on us being morons and jerks who will forget this little gaff soon and all they have to do is stonewall the story and it will go away. I'll suggest that maybe Rather should go away.

Our buddies at NR via Instapundit have put it much better than I could.

It has been easy for years for Oz to pass off bad geometry habits in that movie because the average person doesn't really have a close ear for the facts. We just assume that because it sounds official it must be right and it comes as a surprise to discover that the Great and Powerful Oz is just a dopey little false wizard hiding behind a curtain. Same with the old mass media news mongers. They just can't stand up to the scrutiny of a medium like the internet where it is easily possible to put the smallest detail in the spotlight. And the result is that the guys at CBS look like bumbling idiots, Watergater Plumbers, or maybe sleeper agents from the RNC who have snuck into the Donks' version of the Watergate to make them look bad.

Like Lileks says, it's time that old format newspapers recognize the fact that they are going to have to become local news vendors if they intend to survive in this new world. They simply can't cheat and get away with it any more. We will rub their noses in it if they do. Shame on you, CBS. When you are exposed as a fraud and a bad and poorly constructed fraud at that, you will cease to have any meaning in a modern information marketplace.