Wednesday, March 17, 2010

David Warren Errors – a pattern?

Some early examples and perspective

David Warren and a wikipedia hoax: Narcissism

In an article several years ago, David Warren observes: “Babies spend months in self-contemplation and do not even begin to learn language until they notice the first thing outside themselves usually a dotard mama”. Now, since new mothers are not usually senile, we will assume he meant to say “doting”, and move on to the more important stuff: “On a spur I ‘googled’ the web”, he writes.

And apparently stumbled on a hoax…

Here is Warren describing the typical narcissist who: "flaunts himself in balletomanic (sic) posturing, alarming arm and hand gestures…. exhibitionist clothing, unnecessary adornments, and an endless search for the Klieg lights…It is the old human search for glory….enhanced by that radiant gingival smile. (The one that shows the gums, and not the teeth only)."

Warren doesn’t cite or mention the gentleman, but in what would later be exposed as a wikipedia hoax, Anthony Benis wrote about what he called the "NPA theory of narcissism". Here is his description of the narcissist – complete with the same teeth, gums, and “radiant gingival smile”: "self-flaunting body posturing, expansive arm gestures…instinctive self-adornment, and a natural attraction to the limelight of personal recognition…a striving for glory….the radiant gingival smile (broadly exposing gums and teeth)".

(Now, should Warren have attributed that wording and analysis?)

At any rate, New Scientist explains the bigger problem with borrowing from Benis: "Over a period of months Anthony M Benis carefully built a Wikipedia entry describing his narcissism, perfectionism and aggression (NPA) personality theory." "Benis' theory is far from even the fringes of psychology….It has only ever been described in one book - written by Benis and published in 1985". Benis’ wikipedia entry was later removed.

Warren’s reference to “NPA” in the following quote strongly suggests that his piece is based on Benis, and his “radiant gingival smile” and other descriptors taken from him, since NPA is the invention of Mr. Benis alone and not found elsewhere in the literature. Warren himself then appears to contribute his own apparent clinical discoveries: "We have heard of 'WMD' (weapons of mass destruction), which break down into 'NBC' (nuclear, biological, and chemical). In pop psychology we have 'MPD' (massive personality disorders) which would seem to consist of 'NPA' (narcissism, perfectionism and aggression)".

Now “dotard” might apply better here. It seems that Warren again didn’t google the web for supporting sources. “MPD” normally refers to multiple personality disorder.

“Mourning for Ourselves”, David Warren, Feb. 6, 2008

Warren: “I have a list before me of confirmed Islamist terror attacks since 9/11, in Iraq and all over the world. More than 10,000 of them. In Iraq, the number peaked at 478 bombings in 2005 -- an understatement, because multiple bombings in a single location were counted as one event. The list goes on like a telephone directory”.

This list appears to come from the “anti-Islamic” website The Religion of Peace

(an amateur site providing no independent verification for a supposed “list” of Muslim atrocities). Religion of Peace features headings like this: “Muslims were outraged to learn that Coalition forces 
in Afghanistan may have temporarily detained Islamic terrorists 
in dog pens. We're pretty sure the dogs felt more insulted”. Codes of conduct indicate that journalists should identify a source unless there is a justifiable reason to protect its identity. When a column purports to be based on statistics… readers have the right to know where the statistics come from". Refusing to identify public websites of questionable validity may protect the writer from scrutiny; but this has little to do with protecting a source or serving the public interest.

Thousands of Christian martyrs’ heads on pikes? Not according to the “enemy” journalists from AP and BBC reporting from the ground.

In "Muslims engage in selective outrage" (this was the title in the Citizen) which ran on Dec. 5, 2001 as a news story, Warren, who seems to be standing on a chair “on his tippy toes”, reports breathlessly: "As I write, a large number, quite possibly thousands, of Christians are being massacred in Indonesia by the Islamic Laskar Jihad ('Holy War Army'). This is happening in the interior of the island of Sulawesi, in and around the town of Tentena, about 40 kilometers south of the city of Poso…In the time since Sept. 11…Christian women (have been) raped and all those unable to flee either butchered or forcibly 'converted' to Islam. My information is from Christian mission Websites and email, and my estimate is conservative". The Laskar Jihad "tend to arrive with a collection of heads from the last village, mounted on pikes", and large numbers of Christians have agreed to be beheaded” rather than forcibly convert. They are "actual martyrs, incidentally", Warren reports, condemning the lack of Muslim protest around the globe at "this proposal - to commit a genocide against 18 million people".

While there had been significant sectarian violence in the region in previous years, reports about this incident in major media (AP, BBC, CNN), listed the number of dead from sectarian clashes around Tentena, Sulawesi at this time at about 8 individuals (presumably from both sides) rather than in the “thousands”. Apparently the army arrived to restore order while Warren’s tin can contraption was down (even the one-sided missionary reports, published elsewhere, do not support Warren’s claims). “At least eight people have been killed in the past week” says CNN, the BBC and an AP report in the Globe and Mail at the time. Reports also note the role of armed Christian paramilitary groups in the conflict (the Christian groups were descended from the original head hunting tribes). Apparently “large numbers” of ‘actual Christian martyrs’ did not “agree” to have their heads put on pikes.

On Jan. 26, 2003, Warren writes about: “the ‘Islamization’ of contemporary France. (Did you know for instance that the majority of babies born in French hospitals today are to Muslim parents?)”

But two years later on Nov. 9, 2005, Warren’s “majority” has decreased sharply. He describes France as a country: in which there will be a Muslim majority within two generations. (Already, at least 40 per cent of the children born in French hospitals are to Muslim parents.) On present trends, the Islamicization of France, within the lifetime of most of my readers, is inevitable”.

That’s a pretty significant and alarming prediction without any support. Again, no source for the statistics, one or both of which are clearly wrong. Hard to see how there could be a Muslim majority within two generations when your own figures show a precipitous decline in Muslim births over only two years. But, as (again) uncorrected and isolated erroneous examples, they serve the purpose of creating fear and resentment about impending ‘Islamization’ or ‘Islamicization’ (like the statistics, you can apparently take your pick).

Warren does not identify where he got his statistics (as he should do, according to practice guidelines). Maybe he got his figures from websites like “The Religion of Peace”. Maybe he got them from the kind of chain email or extremist websites that carried those faux ‘Sharia punishment’ photos he later wrote about, or that also featured debunked chain email claims about Obama’s supposed “143 days” of Senate experience – a false number Warren also reported, along with Obama’s “more Arab than Luo” heritage. Maybe he got them from the kind of chain email that contained the same analysis and errors about Democrat lawyers he corrected a few weeks ago. Maybe he got the statistics from “googling the web”.

And maybe Warren doesn’t recognize these as errors. To quote just one of many similar claims he has published about other journalists and their accepted standards of accuracy and objectivity: “Once again I must say -- without qualification -- that our mainstream media are despite their protestations of innocence and ‘objectivity’ objectively working for the enemy”.

Isolated view, or a widely held opinion? After all Warren is not just some blogger; he’s writing for Canada’s largest media organization, whose (former) CEO, Leonard Asper, has called other journalists 'lazy, dishonest, biased Marxists'. If Warren is indeed indicative of what Mr. Asper’s preferred practice looks like, I think the public would benefit from a much larger discussion.

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