21 March 2012
|Sometimes thinking and tanking go hand in hand. Image.|
I am curious as to why the Dustin Beilke piece on the MacIver institute ("Beware of the MacIver spin machine") lived such a short life on your page.
I have been following this little drama with interest over the past couple days, as the post came and went, and was relieved to see this morning that it had made it past the blog round and into your forum. This relief was immediately troubled, however, by how quickly it was removed, and I would like to suggest that this removal lends unwarranted credibility to the contention that there was anything wrong with the opinion Mr. Beilke put forth in his post.
I read the piece and found it said nothing that had not been said (and published) many times of the well-catalogued and undeniable bias of the alleged "think tank," and was only defamatory in that the facts of this case point to the obvious conclusion Beilke puts forth: the MacIver Institute is a very thinly veiled propaganda arm of the Republican Party, masquerading as a "news" outlet. If the facts of this case are inherently defamatory, that does not mean they are untrue; Mr. Beilke is merely the messenger.
I hope that you have not bowed to the specious and unsubstantiated claims of "libel" that James Widgerson so vaingloriously delivered yesterday. I would hope, rather, that you examine the piece of its own merits and err on the side of recognizing freedom of expression and freedom of press. If the MacIver Institute is free to spin every story into Governor Walker's favor, Mr. Beilke should be equally free to point out the obvious fact that they are doing so.
Thank you, and I look forward to sharing this story with all my friends when it reappears (hopefully soon) on your site.
Heather DuBois Bourenane
UPDATE ( 21 March 2012): The Dustin Beilke is now published here on Citizen Action of Wisconsin for those who would like to see what all the hullabaloo is about.
Update #2 (22 March 2012): Response from the Cap Times
The Cap Times was quick to respond, and I have to admit, they have a compelling reason for pulling the piece in light of the reasons explained by editor Chris Murphy. Frankly, I find the errors minor and more a question of While I still hope they follow up on this story (which has become even more of a sensation following today's publication of 9 facts and a note of opinion by Blogging Blue), I can see now why they withdrew the original post. I was concerned that pulling the piece gives unnecessary (and inaccurate) leverage to the MacIver Institute, but wonder now if perhaps pulling the story isn't actually the best and only way to deal with it, as opposed to giving MacIver an open platform for providing their counter-argument and watching the fireworks explode.
Several of us heard from both Brian Fraley and James Wigderson about factual problems with the piece. In particular, they said that it has been some time since Fraley lobbied for the insurance industry and that Wigderson denied being part of an ongoing Republican GOTV operation aimed at suppressing Democratic votes. Dustin apparently agreed that these were problematic because he removed both statements from a revised version of his piece.
It's true that neither of these assertions was central to Dustin's real thesis -- that the MacIver Institute is operated by people with long and deep ties to the Republican Party and so it should therefore not be treated as an objective source of news -- but it's my experience that the main point gets lost when there are problems with the facts. If Dustin had been working for us or if we had commissioned the piece from him, we might have had him correct it and then explain to readers what was going on, but the fact was that the piece had already appeared elsewhere and the discussion about its aftermath was going on elsewhere, too. Rather than devote a lot of staff time to a piece that wasn't ours and that was already proving to be problematic, we decided to just take it down.
I don't think doing so implies that we are any less skeptical of the institute than we have been in the past. In recent weeks, we have taken sharp editorial stances toward them ourselves (http://host.madison.com/ct/
news/opinion/editorial/john- maciver-would-not-approve-of- the-distortions-being-made/ article_ffed9605-5e89-5055- afba-075116a09a11.html) and allowed others to question their operation as well (http://host.madison.com/ct/ news/opinion/column/bill- lueders-ad-campaign-comes- close-to-the-line/article_ 1f10c87c-2cdb-11e1-adfc- 0019bb2963f4.html). We won't have any hesitation about doing so in the future either, but we'd like the ensuing conversation to be about the merit of the arguments and not whether the underlying facts are correct.
Chris Murphy, Managing Editor, The Capital Times.
So thanks to the Cap Times editors for allaying my fears and for being a steady voice of reason as we've all struggled to come to terms with the assaults on democracy and free speech in Wisconsin. I will never forget this piece in particular, from September 2011: "The Epic Arrogance of Scott Walker." This was the piece that inspired me to write an open letter to Brian Williams, which led to going on the Ed Show (and calling Scott Walker a tooljob on national tv), getting a death threat, speaking at the November rally, and generally coming to terms with the fact that if I don't do everything I can, I'll never shake the feeling that I haven't done anything at all. So thanks, Cap Times, and even if you don't publish the revised piece, I look forward to your continued exposure of MacIver's curious disregard for objectivity.