Newspaper Articles and Transcripts

Usually, you just have to take what a newspaper decides to print and reach a decision about the content with no other source of information. Mike Dunford of the Questionable Authority has a post comparing and contrasting the 2 April Seguin Gazette-Enterprise article on a speech given by Eric Pianka against a transcript of the same speech released today. It’s a doozy. It shows an absolutely damning pattern of media bias on the part of the reporter, Jamie Mobley. Mike does the hard slogging of matching up what got in the newspaper with what was in the transcript. Also, Mike takes up audio sources to fill out more details. If you are looking for an instance of the mainstream media caught with its hand in the cookie jar, this is the one. Go read.

Update: The Seguin Gazette-Enterprise apparently also thought Mike’s piece was hard-hitting. They are now carefully scrubbing their website of any trace that they had ever said anything about Eric R. Pianka. Obviously, letting people compare the transcripts to what they had originally reported illuminated clearly the sort of bias that journalists supposedly don’t do. Like so many in the USA, they seem to interpret those sort of guidelines in terms of getting caught rather than in terms of doing the right thing. The right thing now would be to retract the claims of the earlier articles that were based upon a dishonest slanting of the material and issuing a formal apology, both to Dr. Pianka and to their readership. We’ll see whether the removal of the false material is a prelude to the appropriate course of action within a couple of days. The best place for it would be to put the apology in the Sunday paper, the one with the largest readership. If we get to Monday and there’s no apology, I think that the removal of the erroneous material will best be explained as the paper’s management taking up some tips from Orwell’s 1984.

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Wesley R. Elsberry

Falconer. Interdisciplinary researcher: biology and computer science. Photographer. Husband. Christian. Activist.

2 thoughts on “Newspaper Articles and Transcripts

  • 2006/04/08 at 7:49 pm
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    Most of the folks who have been gleefully slandering Eric Pianka are unlikely to revisit the issue over trivialities such as biased reporting — after all, burning witches is mostly about the party and the bonfire. I have sent polite but direct messages to several of the more egregious commentators, and have received one (1) reply, which said “I will take the word of an Officer of the society [Mims, TAS] over a self-serving analysis of a supposed “transcript” by someone who describes himself as a procrastinating graduate student.” So yes, it appears to be all about the bonfire.

    The other entity that needs to step up is the Texas Academy of Sciences — after all, they were condemned by Mims and his like-minded lot for having given Pianka both a standing ovation and an award. If Pianka was gleefully advocating genocide and several hundred TAS members applauded, aren’t they complicit? Now of course, if Mims made this all up, they didn’t applaud any such stuff and should be angry with an “officer” who has so disparaged the reputation of the TAS.

  • 2006/04/09 at 8:53 am
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    The following letter was faxed, by me, to William Powers Jr., President of UT Austin.

    ++++++++++++++++++++

    Norman D. Costa, Ph.D.
    24 Minor Road, Brewster, NY 10509-4203
    (914)393-8921, fax: (845)279-7657, email: ncosta@expertss.com

    04/07/06
    VIA FACSIMILE

    William Powers Jr.
    President
    The University of Texas at Austin
    Main Building 400 (G3400)
    PO Box T
    Austin, Texas 78713-8920
    512 471 1232
    512 471 8102 fax

    Subject: In support of Dr. Eric R. Pianka

    Dear President Powers:

    The purpose of this letter is to ask that you give greater public support to your outstanding professor, Dr. Eric R. Pianka. I ask the University to demonstrate far more vocal support for one of its own community than simply to give a predictable endorsement of his first amendment rights. However, I applaud the University for doing so. I encourage you and your fellow officers of the University of Texas to embrace him publicly, for the sake of science, all scientists, and all faculty who strive to contribute to the intellectual development of humankind. Dr. Pianka is an accomplished, recognized scientist who has a right to advance his views in his own field, even when those views are, to some, controversial and debatable.

    I ask you to be more public in condemning the outrageous character assassinations and misrepresentations of Dr. Pianka and his work. I do not expect the university to endorse Dr. Pianka’s specific views, not anymore than it is appropriate for the University to endorse controversial and debatable aspects of String Theory and Multiverses in physics.

    You have an opportunity to show, in no uncertain terms, a commitment to all your scientists, scholars, and creative minds. Equally, you have an important opportunity to condemn, in no uncertain terms, the disgusting mistreatment of a member of your own University family. How can you stand by and say nothing about the FBI requiring Dr. Pianka to submit to an interview? How can you tolerate the Governor of Texas issuing a condemning statement, one that is derivative of the worst misrepresentation of Dr. Pianka’s views, and not jump to Dr. Pianka’s defense and the defense of the entire concept of what a University represents?

    The function of science is to describe the properties of things: things like liquid water, the particle nature of subatomic phenomenon, and the epidemiological course of deadly pathogens. Sometimes science bears directly upon important social policy issues like public health, environmental protection, military defense, and early childhood education. Scientists must be free to pursue their work of describing nature, so that our society can benefit, without the threat of retaliation, silencing by political authority, and harassment by megalomaniacal ideologs. Scientists also need the unqualified support of the University when they are intimidated, maligned or threatened.

    The defamation of Dr. Pianka by ideologs and demagogs goes beyond the libel and slander of a single scientist. Science and scientists are being demonized and punished by religious, political, and ideological leaders, so that these leaders do not have to relinquish claims of exclusive access to revelation and the authority to be the sole arbiters of truth. As a psychologist, I might be tempted to call it irrational, paranoid, or the excessive perseverance of honestly held beliefs. The real dynamic, however, is the deliberate assumption of undeserved power and authority for personal aggrandizement. They exploit a following that provides unlimited adulation, and they proffer the notion that they, themselves, can exercise discretion over the life and death of offending scientists. This is powerful stuff. What better way to flex this unearned, authoritative muscle than to report these ‘evil’ scientists to the Department of Homeland Security, and expose them for the ‘terrorists’ they are. This is an outrage!

    President Powers, it is instructive to see this as a resurgence of Lysenkoism under Stalin, updated for the 21st century United States. Forcing science and scientists to conform to the prevailing political view was disastrous for Russian agricultural harvests, and even more disastrous for the legitimate scientists who were purged. We have already seen explicit rewriting and expunging of important scientific information from sound scientific research by our government. We now know about the intimidation of scientists who are only reporting their data and discussing scientific implications and predictions. Lysenko is rising from his grave, while another grave is being prepared for Dr. Pianka. I urge you to speak out with a more forceful condemnation of the vilifier’s, and a more generous embracing of Dr. Pianke. Do not let the purges begin.

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