Thursday, September 13, 2012

Margaret Wente “should appall us all”

Sloppy again.  Yes, yes, we know – Margaret Wente pays for her hobby farm in part by drawing cartoons of ‘elite’ environmentalists, like Naomi Klein, who – she suggests today - are making “children go blind or die” in parts of the third world.

All too often, as was the case with her fisherman, her Occupy protester John, or her Québec student protester, the people quoted in Wente’s articles are not who she claims they are.  Today she writes that Greenpeace:

“has lots of allies, including luminaries such as Naomi Klein and groups such as the Canadian Biotechnology Action Network, whose mission is ‘collaborative campaigning for food sovereignty and environmental justice.’ These groups insist that what the poor really need is utopian political solutions. ‘Food insecurity is brought about by lack of enough land, by decreasing rice production and decreasing incomes,” says one Golden Rice opponent. ‘Only through a genuine land reform which ensures farmers’ access to sufficient rice and other food sources will farmers start to become healthy again.’”

Unfortunately, the person whose quote she borrows (without attribution or identification) is not a Western luminary like Naomi Klein.  He is a peasant farmer from the Philippines

“Farmers and church people from the municipalities of Pototan and Zarraga oppose the introduction of Genetically Modified Rice into their respective municipalities...PAMANGGAS (United Peasants in Panay and Guimaras) Secretary General Chris Chavez stressed that Vitamin-A deficiency amongst Filipinos is not the farmer’s sole problem. ‘Most of us are also deficient from zinc, folate, B1 and B12, and calcium.’ The problem hence is multiple micronutrient deficiency.

Chavez also added that the main cause of farmers’ malnourishment is food insecurity. ‘Food insecurity brought about by lack of enough land, by decreasing rice production and decreasing incomes.  Only through a genuine land reform which ensures farmers’ access to sufficient rice and other food sources will farmers start to become healthy again.’”

Factual and attribution errors on Wente’s part are simply too frequent (browse the archives, including yesterday’s sampler).  Had Wente identified the speaker in this case, she wouldn’t have made the error.  Unless, of course, she wanted to mislead readers.

Perhaps Wente should argue for the introduction of GMO seed around her country estate.  But if she wants to force it on Filipino peasants, she should at least acknowledge their opposition by properly identifying them.


  1. Margaret Wente is a menace to polite society, coherent logic, and the meaning of life. It strains credulity to believe that the G&M editors are unaware of her routine plagiarism, false or misleading attribution and weak English. That it always serves to promulgate false notions of class, such as her pet belief in a "meritocracy" in which she occupies a leading role, simply makes it all unbearable.

    A post which has made the rounds characterizes Fox News modus operandi as "rich people paying rich people to tell middle class people that poor people are the problem." Not only does this apply (surprisingly often) to Wente's columns, but I'd go so far as to say they represent a more generalized "elitist people with privileges whining about normal people without privilege that normal people are the elitist people with privileges who need to stop whining".

    Thanks for trying to keep Wente and the G&M honest.

  2. I wish Wente had chosen to use this for research instead:

  3. There are a few columnists out there who seem to be well read, and who have lived long enough to see trends come and go, and who have loads of deep knowledge of subjects I'm familiar with, as well loads of obscure stuff. For example, Rex Murphy, Robert Fulford, and Russell Smith, these folks only as examples.

    But with Margaret, I'm always baffled as to the source of her knowledge base, where do these opinions and policy positions come from? Well, now I know.

  4. I dislike Wente a great deal, but she's not really the core problem, the bigger problem is the 1% ownership of the MSM that encourage, pay and promote people like Wente who are simply corporate puppets, selling their souls for a paycheque (don't know how they sleep at night or look at themselves in a mirror).


    Yellow Journalism

    Asked to give a toast before the prestigious New York Press Club, John Swinton, the former Chief of Staff and editorial writer at the New York Times, made this candid confession at a banquet held in his honor in 1880, nearing the end of his career:

    "There is no such thing, at this date of the world's history, as an independent press. You know it and I know it. There is not one of you who dares to write your honest opinions, and if you did, you know beforehand that it would never appear in print. I am paid weekly for keeping my honest opinions out of the paper I am connected with.

    Others of you are paid similar salaries for similar things, and any of you who would be so foolish as to write honest opinions would be out on the streets looking for another job. If I allowed my honest opinions to appear in one issue of my paper, before twenty-four hours my occupation would be gone.

    The business of the journalist is to destroy the truth; to lie outright; to pervert; to vilify; to fawn at the feet of mammon, and to sell the country for his daily bread. You know it and I know it and what folly is this toasting an independent press. We are the tools and vassals of the rich men behind the scenes. We are the jumping jacks, they pull the strings and we dance. Our talents, our possibilities and our lives are all the property of other men.

    We are intellectual prostitutes."

    [It's worth noting Swinton was called "The Dean of His Profession" by other newsmen, who admired him greatly]:

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