Saturday, August 03, 2002
Wednesday, July 31, 2002
Does your weblog own you?
The Guardian adopts a rather different policy towards letters for publication than more reputable newspapers. Whilst the Times will phone you to check on details, confirm proposed changes, etc, The Guardian wades in willy-nilly with what harsh judges might term "its usual regard for the facts". Obviously, this isn't a complaint plucked out of thin air.
Compare the delightfully brusque original
"A reader asks (Letters, July 27): "Imagine if the police in an Islamic state charged into a Christian place of worship." No one found in the mosque in the Midlands will be executed, the fate of Christians in Yemen, Sudan and Saudi Arabia. Indeed, in Saudi Arabia it is unlikely there would be a "Christian place of worship" to raid. "
with the terribly wishy-washy liberal butchery that they inflicted on my musings
Whilst it is regrettable that the police raided a mosque without pursuing any reasonable alternatives, your correspondent (27th July) obviously draws an absurd comparison when she asks your readers to "[i]magine if the police in an Islamic state charged into a Christian place of worship".
There is no suggestion that anyone found in the mosque in the Midland will be executed, the fate of converts to Christianity in, e.g., Yemen, Sudan, and Saudi Arabia. Of course, that is an unfair comparison: in Saudi Arabia, public practice of [other] religion[s] is illegal, and so it is unlikely there would be a "Christian place of worship" to raid.
It is invidious to suggest that heavy-handed law enforcement is comparable to totalitarian religious oppression, and ignorance does not make such comparisons any more acceptable. Britain probably could, and should, act better towards its minorities, but relatively minor failings should not be overstated, especially not by false comparisons."
Frankly, it's a disgrace. I'd never associate myself with such reasonable statements.
Oh, hold on. I've gotten myself confused. Of course the second one is the original version of the letter. And, whilst I can stand my letter being edited to give the illusion of uncaring bigotry (can I really?), what I can't abide is that the editor changed the truth-values of my claims.
As the square brackets indicate, my original letter wasn't perfectly formed, and it's plainly a touch long. Nor, of course, was it comprehensive or conclusive. But it did at least make clear that it is only converts to Christianity who face the death sentence (for belief alone - of course, they're still subject to beheading for homosexuality in Saudi and so forth), and it made clear why there wouldn't be a Christian place of worship to raid - churches are illegal.
I've complained to their "Corrections and Clarifications" page, and await their lack of response with interest. However, it's pretty obvious that the thing to do with letters is to get them right first time, and editing them to say something other than the author clearly intended just isn't on. The Times will spend significant periods of time getting letters it likes "right". It's not necessary to fact-check letters, but if you're going to change them without checking with the author, you should at least check whether the lines you were deleting were essential to the letter.
Sunday, July 28, 2002
I'd been watching Friends on Friday, and when a friend tried to defend something they'd said with the line "I'm not a pervert", I approximately quoted Rachel - "That's what all the perverts say. It's their club pledge. They hold their right hand in the air and put their left down their pants and say "I'm not a pervert"
Obviously, such wit drew merriment at the time, so much so that certain perverse individuals I know (in the Animal House style, nothing worse...) promptly repeated the gesture, and it was an occassional reference for the rest of the evening.
Only on the way home did I discover that one of my friends, drunker or more honest than the rest, had misheard - he'd done the gesture in full, but his "quote" was "I'm a pervert". I suspect that this should be telling me something about my friends - he's the same one who offered to cut off the end of his nose with scissors for £500 (see below)...