Dissent Of The Day

A reader writes:

You said:

In every post, I made sure readers knew that the investigation was ongoing and we did not yet know the full facts.

Did you?  You said that "we know for certain" that it was "no suicide".  Yet the investigators never claimed that; a civilian who witnessed the scene did.  Yes, your post indicated that there were still unknowns, but you essentially limited the question to: "Was it drug lords or deranged tea partiers?"

I must admit that Malkin is onto something here.  At the very least, you made a definitive claim ("no suicide") which turned out to be untrue.  I'm a little surprised that you haven't owned up to that.

On the other hand, if a far-right activist had been found hanging from a tree with tea bags duct taped to his body, would she have reacted thoughtfully and soberly, suggesting that it might be suicide?  I find that unlikely.  As you well know, she doesn't tend to be very thoughtful and sober.  Re-read her post from 9/25/09 and imagine if it turned out that Sparkman had been murdered by anti-government terrorists.  Sure, just like you didn't say that it necessarily was Southern populist terrorism, she doesn't say it necessarily wasn't.  But she wouldn't be looking good right now if things had gone the other way (And why on earth does she bring up George Tiller?  Does that not undermine her case?).  There's no question that her prose is as Malkinesque as ever, while yours is somewhat more restrained. So that's something.

But then again, you did give her a Malkin Award for her over-the-top conclusion to that post, adding: "Many of the details she pooh-poohs have now been confirmed."  However, the details were on her side.  She summarized them thusly:

1) Police have not determined yet that this was murder.
2) He wasn’t hanging from the tree.
3) It hasn’t been determined if he was even working as a Census data collector at the time of his death or whether that job had anything at all to do with his demise.

While #2 is debatable, it's not terribly important at this point.  Meanwhile, the other two details she pooh-poohed have now been pooh-poohed by the investigators, as it was not murder and his job had nothing to do with his demise.

So you declared that it wasn't suicide.  You said that details had been confirmed that had not, in fact, been confirmed.  I don't think Malkin's behavior here is exactly commendable, but I don't read her; I read you.  Thus, I hold you to account.  I think an admission of error and perhaps an apology are in order.

Michael Moyhnihan concurs. I should have been more forthright on reflection. My reader writes:

At the very least, you made a definitive claim ("no suicide") which turned out to be untrue.  I'm a little surprised that you haven't owned up to that.

Well I did write that

I clearly suspected foul play and believed it wasn't suicide ...

which seems to me to be "owning up." But burying that in the last paragraph was too sheepish. I should have made that my first point, written that I "wrote" not "believed" it wasn't suicide and been more upfront about this error (which was not, however, a definitive statement as to who I thought killed Sparkman) and then gone on to show how I did insist in every post that we still didn't know the full facts. Given the polarization around this kind of story, I guess I feel my repetition of our insufficient knowledge while airing my general disbelief that this could have been suicide (and let's face it: that's by far the likeliest inference at first and second blush) was sufficient.

While that might be fine for Malkin, it should not be fine enough for the Dish. I should have conceded that error more forthrightly and less defensively. For stating it wasn't a suicide, based on eye-witness accounts and my own common sense, I apologize. It was premature. For directly accusing far right extremists, as opposed to thinking it was a worrying possibility, I plead not guilty. Because I didn't.