April 05, 2004


Something has gone terribly wrong, writes the Globe and Mailís Simon Houpt:

On Thursday evening, the basement of Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church rang with passionate denunciations of institutional racism. Community leaders called for a boycott, spoke of arrogance toward blacks, and threatened a class-action lawsuit. Their unlikely targets? Institutions that the causal observer might think would be bedfellows of the black community: The Democratic Party and Air America, the country's first full-scale attempt at a commercially viable liberal talk-radio network.

Something has gone terribly wrong. The launch of Air America was supposed to agitate Republicans and conservative talk-show stalwarts.

Instead, itís agitated Ted Rall:

I believe that Air America is doomed.

Posted by Tim Blair at April 5, 2004 02:22 PM

Looks like Rall posted that a coupla days early...

Posted by: david at April 5, 2004 at 02:38 PM

Jesse Jackson's Rainbow Coalition needs to roll Air America. As is their way of business, they should demand big contributions in exchange for race sensitivity classes and 'advice' on how to avoid a class-action discrimination lawsuit sponsored by them.

Everybody would win. Jackson's coffers would be recharged, and Franken would learn to celebrate diversity. Of opinion is too much to ask

Posted by: c at April 5, 2004 at 02:50 PM

Jackson vs. Franken, a íRAT fight.

Posted by: ForNow at April 5, 2004 at 02:54 PM

Quoth Rall:

``Listeners to AM talk radio crave honesty, straightforwardness, the ability to think on your feet when dealing with callers. You also have to know your shit, backwards and forward.''

Hey, he's right! Now all he has to do is complete this sentence: Rush Limbaugh is popular because...

Think Rall can do it?

Posted by: Annalucia at April 5, 2004 at 03:00 PM

I've heard from several folks who've listened to it that it replaced a local "ethnic" / foreign language programming station. From what I've read this was pretty common. It's logical enough, I suppose, those are likely to be the easiest stations to purchase at the lowest price. Logical in that not minding looking like you're pure evil way, of course. Someone less lazy than myself might be able to go down the list of Air America affiliates and figure out what the programming was beforehand.

Posted by: Robin Goodfellow at April 5, 2004 at 03:24 PM

Instapundit has a roundup.

Posted by: Sandy P. at April 5, 2004 at 03:29 PM

The best thing about the left is that they prey on their own!

Posted by: nofixedabode at April 5, 2004 at 04:02 PM

Nuts though Rall may generally be, I think he's right about how they needed to do it-- develop a lot of talent out of the spotlight, and see what rises to the top. This business of starting nationally (sort of) with high profile, but non-radio, talent reminds me of some of those big, expensive talk show flops like Chevy Chase or Alan Thicke, where they don't realize that the guy can't actually do the job until they're already world-famous and millions of dollars into it.

Posted by: Mike G at April 5, 2004 at 04:03 PM

Ted Rall thinks Franken's support of the Afghanistan operations is bad? What a freakazoid.

Posted by: Andrew at April 5, 2004 at 04:25 PM

Annalucia, I can't believe Ted "Terror Widow" Rall said that, either. I'm going to have to check my roof first thing tomorrow for flying-pig turds.

Posted by: David Ross at April 5, 2004 at 05:35 PM

How to butcher a context....

One thing that amazes me about the partisan hacks who blog (left or right) is their penchant for saying one thing, and then linking to an article which says precisely the opposite. I mean, do they count on people not clicking on the link to check what was actually said?

So, for the benefit of any readers who make it this far, the complete context for Ted Rall's comment:

I wish them the best of luck, but, to be honest, I believe Air America is doomed.

The article makes it clear that far from being agitated by Air America, Ted Rall is simply skeptical about the commercial prospects of the station. It has a moderate liberal format, and "moderation is death" when it comes to AM radio, he says.

Tim Blair, if you read this, why are you such a phony?

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 5, 2004 at 05:39 PM

This coming from someone without the balls to include his own e-mail address...

Posted by: david at April 5, 2004 at 05:54 PM

Okay Jason, lets try a little exercise - imagine that Tim had put the entire quote in:

Instead, itís agitated Ted Rall:

I wish them well, but to be honest, I believe that Air America is doomed.

Tim's point is still valid - the full quote is not saying something "precisely the opposite". He may have culled it for rhetorical impact, which can sometimes be a risky proposition, but this example was a very poor foundation from which to launch an attack against "partisan hacks who blog"

And a word to wise - when providing the 'complete context' for the benefit of readers, it is a good idea to quote the *exact* words - thats why it is called quoting. Paraphrasing rather weakens your credibility on this issue.

Posted by: attila at April 5, 2004 at 05:54 PM

Great attempted hair split, Atilla.

"I don't believe Tim is being entirely fair in clipping the quote", said Sincerity Slips.

Under the Atilla/Tim Blair standard this becomes..."Tim is being entirely fair clipping the quote", according to Sincerity Slips.

Culling a quote can (and in the case of Tim "quoting" a writer who quotes Rall, does) change the meaning entirely.

Posted by: Sincerity Slips at April 5, 2004 at 07:57 PM

Sorry, Attila.

Posted by: Sincerity Slips at April 5, 2004 at 08:07 PM

What a couple of pedants SS and Stokes are. It doesn't matter that Tim "culled the quote" -- he provided a link to what Rall said, anyone could read the whole thing themselves, your showy outrage is what's phony. Go huff and puff on someone else's blog.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 5, 2004 at 08:11 PM

I take it for granted that Ted Rall wishes Air America well. What makes the quote noteworthy is his pessimism. If I cared at all what caused it, I would have followed the link. In any event, what makes his opinion linkable is not the well-wishing but the doom-believing.

In context, does the article say "precisely the opposite" from Tim's quote? Only to someone who is confused about the difference between wishes and thoughts.

Posted by: lyle at April 5, 2004 at 08:52 PM


I have received an answer using this e-mail address.

Rall is one of my favorite people: unrepentantly stupid. I wrote him to commiserate about the destruction of his candidate Dean and his loss of position at the New York Slimes. He seemed down about it all. Sad.

Re "liberal" talk radio, I used to listen to a man called Hightower (ex secretary of agriculture for the state of Texas) but he ended every sentence with the conclusion that it was all the fault of the thieving corporations and, as a result, is no longer with us.

Now I listen to Colmes of SeanH & Colmes fame. He is much more reasonable and has the attraction of getting pi55ed at his callers when they talk sense.

[Why are the first five letters of Sean's last name "QUESTIONABLE CONTENT"?

Posted by: Theodopoulos Pherecydes at April 5, 2004 at 10:31 PM

Attila et al.

See, you take something that seems to support your side, but is said by someone known to be on the other side. An intriguing paradox, no? So you link to it and the people who were made curious by it all follow the link and...

Oh never mind.

Posted by: Mike G at April 5, 2004 at 11:25 PM

Mike G: If you're expecting these folks to make sense, don't hold your breath. Blue is not your color.

Posted by: JorgXMcKie at April 6, 2004 at 12:22 AM

Hey, what a coinky-dink! I think Ted Rall is doomed.

Posted by: Bruce at April 6, 2004 at 12:46 AM

Some responses...

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 6, 2004 at 02:20 AM

How bizarre

I can't post my response because the server replies my post contains "questionable content." I can't for the life of me figure out where the questionable content in my post is. All it does is reiterate my critique of Tim Blair's use of Ted Rall's quote. No obscenities, no flames. So now I can't even respond to criticisms. It's almost Orwellian. What should I do?

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 6, 2004 at 02:27 AM

p>Some responses to comments to this thread...

First of all, the important one: I managed to misquote Rall in my response to Tim, which I agree isn't a good start. All I can say is that, unlike certain bloggers, I don't pretend to be infallible, and instead of cutting and pasting, which is my usual policy with quotes, it was so short I typed it out from my memory what I had just read, got up to do something else, and then forgot to check it against Ted Rall's text before posting. Quotes, of course, are tricky things, and now I know to be ultra-careful with them.

Ted Rall's amended actual quote:

I wish them well, but to be honest, I believe that Air America is doomed.

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 6, 2004 at 02:29 AM

The point of course stands. Mr Blair is not representing the quote, or the article it relates to, fairly. He provides a quote from Ted Rall and suggests he is "agitated" by Air America: the post he links to says, quite clearly, that Ted Rall is not "agitated" by Air America, and the complete context of that quote demonstrates that, in fact, he wishes them well. What he does say is that he is skeptical about the commercial prospects for Air America, because Air America has a moderate liberal format, and (direct, double-checked quote) "moderation is death" when it comes to talk radio.

I defy anyone with an open mind to read Ted Rall's post, read what Tim Blair says about it, and conclude that Tim Blair is representing the quote, or the post, fairly.

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 6, 2004 at 02:30 AM

Ok, now some responses to other comments:

David: I think you were talking to me. I provided my address in the email field, and the link appears to be working. It was working up to the weekend; please let me know if it bounces.

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 6, 2004 at 02:36 AM

Andrea Harris:

You say it "doesn't matter that Tim "culled the quote"" because he provides a link to the post in question so that people can check it for themselves. But the issue is that Tim Blair completely distorts the context of the quote to the point where he could be accused of outright misrepresentation. If Tim Blair describes Ted Rall as being "agitated" by Air America, and then provides a link to a post where, far from being agitated, he in fact wishes Air America well, this goes to the heart of his credibility. Like many bloggers, he seems to be under the impression that his readers lack the elementary ability to follow a link and compare it with what his summary purports it to say.

The key here is how you summarise the content of a post. I inadvertently paraphrased Ted Rall when trying to quote him, and I sincerly apologise for that. Yet my accidental substitution in the first clause didn't substantially misrepresent what Mr Rall actually said. Indeed, it was because my brain processed the quote on the semantic level, rather than word for word, that I made the mistake I did.

Tim Blair quotes Ted Rall accurately, but conveniently snips the first part of the sentence which doesn't support his point. This is deceptive and wrong.

I disagree that I'm being a pedant for being angry about our stuff. You see, unlike certain commentators, I really do care about the quality of our discourse. That means comitting to basic standards of integrity, which include not distorting what was said by someone else. I understand this is taught in journalism school. I believe Mr Blair went, so I look forward to his apology to Mr Rall.

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 6, 2004 at 02:39 AM

I've figured it out!

Tim Blair's weblog comments forbids the use of a certain phrase. Ironically, because of this ban, I cannot actually tell you what the phrase is. But I can surely find some way to slip it under the radar. Let's see:

"I think your co mm ent was add ressed to me."

Reassemble and verify it for yourself!

How incredible! What other phrases are banned?

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 6, 2004 at 02:48 AM

Well, I like to think I have an open mind, and my opinion is that it was fair.

I somehow have the feeling though that this response is going to earn me the label "closed-minded" from Jason.

Posted by: Alice at April 6, 2004 at 03:01 AM

You don't think Rall is agitated, Jason? Haven't you read his entire post, in which he complains about Air America's "milquetoast approach" and declares that the station's "execution sucks"?

Does he sound like a happy Ted?

By the way, I never went to J-school (where the hell did you get that idea?) and the banned phrases are intended to block spammers. They're part of a software program we use here; nothing sinister about it.

Posted by: tim at April 6, 2004 at 04:40 AM

Tim Blair writes:

You don't think Rall is agitated, Jason? Haven't you read his entire post, in which he complains about Air America's "milquetoast approach" and declares that the station's "execution sucks"?

Does he sound like a happy Ted?

I did read his entire post. This is why I was amazed at how you butchered the context for Ted's "I believe that Air America is doomed" remark by failing to provide the whole sentence, in context.

You're a working journalist, Tim. Wherever you learned your trade, you should know better than to distort like that.

Is Mr Rall "agitated" at Air America? If you think so, you owe your readers more justification than a doctored quote. After all, Ted Rall praises their roster, "which includes some brilliant comedians." He does say that their execution sucks, but in the same breath as noting that Air America "was a good idea." And the full context for Rall's complaint about their "milqetoast approach"?

The real test for leftie talk radio, as I can attest from my experience during the Clinton era, is whether it can attack a Democratic president from the left. Right-wing talk radio hosts like Rush often attack Bush from the right; they lose credibility when they suck up to authority. One suspects that Air America's milquetoast approach won't allow for that sort of thing.

In other words, Rall suspects(apparently sight-unseen) that Air America might be too partisan, in that they will be reluctant (because of their "milquetoast approach") to criticise Kerry from the left. An odd thing for a supposed member of the left wing media conspiracy to say.

Clearly taking disconnected phrases out of a post isn't a fair way of summarizing it. Ideally, everyone would read the whole thing. But if we do cut and paste, we have the basic obligation to maintain as much of the sense of the quotation as you can, which means not arbitrarily cutting a sentence in half because the first half negates your point, and also to provide for a fair context.

Which takes us to the other way you distort the quote, which is that you (misquote) Ted Rall in the context of a protest at "Harlem's Abyssinian Baptist Church". You imply that Rall is similarly agitated ("Instead, it's agitated Ted Rall"). The reader is subsequently disappointed to discover a relatively straightforward critique of the market prospects of Air America. The first two points are about how badly a moderate liberal station is likely to fair in the strident environment of talk radio. The third point is a hefty critique of their "distribution model." Yeah, Rall sounds pretty agitated, alright.

So it's not just the truncated quote, and it's not just the word "agitated", it's both of these things plus the phony juxtaposition that makes your post really misleading.

As for the filter, I don't seriously believe that it's an attempt at censorship. It's clearly too stupid to be an effective censor. But having run into it, it's clearly a nuisance. Plus amusing for the way it accuses people of injecting "questionable content" into the discussion.

Posted by: Jason Stokes at April 6, 2004 at 06:54 AM

v. ag∑i∑tat∑ed, ag∑i∑tat∑ing, ag∑i∑tates
1. To cause to move with violence or sudden force.
2. To upset; disturb: was agitated by the alarming news.
3. To arouse interest in (a cause, for example) by use of the written or spoken word; debate.

Now, it could be argued that Tim was implying the use of the 2nd definition, but the 3rd still easily applies.

As far as your email address is concerned, "aaa.net.au" seemed fake. Now that I've checked, I can see it's real, so I apologize for jumping to conclusions in that regard.

Posted by: david at April 6, 2004 at 10:11 AM

Jason, I'm ignoring your boring pissantry, but thanks at least for reading the warning that MT-Blacklist (the comment-spam-blocking software used here) gives you. I realize it's rather cryptic, but I didn't write the software.

Posted by: Andrea Harris at April 6, 2004 at 12:25 PM


"I wish them well, but to be honest, I believe that Air America is doomed. "

Let's break this down for analisis, like a body would for an essay. It's got two parts:

I wish them well.
I believe that Air America is doomed.

The logical deduction is that he thinks it won't work, even though he doesn't wish them ill. There for, saying that he thinks it will fail is true. Removing the dead wood of the quote.

If you'd like an English teacher to check it, I can e-mail mine and ask her if it is proper.

Posted by: Sailorette at April 7, 2004 at 01:37 AM