Talk about “weasel worded corrections” (as Maclean’s Paul Wells described a Globe and Mail retraction). Maclean’s has finally decided to apologize for its claim that “10 million Finns died under Lenin, almost half due to starvation”. Appended to the online version, it reads:
CORRECTION: In the original version of this story we said that 10 million Finns died under Lenin in the 1917 civil war. The correct figure is 37,000. We regret the error.
Just a couple of problems with this: the original article did not say that 10 million Finns died under Lenin “in the 1917 civil war”. In fact, even the closing paragraph correctly places Finland’s civil war in 1918, not 1917 (and at any rate, Lenin did not rule Finland - formerly a protectorate of Sweden and later Russia, one of Lenin’s first acts when he took power in October 1917 was to grant Finland independence in December 1917). The 1918 civil war was therefore not fought “under Lenin”.
Maclean’s editor Mark Stevenson appeared to acknowledge that the article confused events in Finland with the Ukrainian Holodomor, under Stalin, decades later, or at least that what he seems to suggest when responding to the controversy on the Canadian Magazines blog. He describes a letter to the editor which he initially said served as sufficient correction:
“’When we've run a letter that points out an error we don't then typically run another correction’.
(The letter said, in part, ‘The writer must have mixed up Finland with Ukraine, where some six to 10 million were starved to death in the 1930s. Finland's population was less than four million at the end of the Second World War, when Russia attacked Finland on Nov. 30, 1939.’)”
So which is it?
Better late than never, and better this than nothing, but Maclean’s should do better.
As for Mark Steyn, Maclean’s declined to run a correction for Steyn’s false claim about the U.S. Cap and Trade Bill, opting for a letter instead. Letters, of course, are neither searchable online, nor appended to the online versions.
Reputable publications, like the Washington Post and others, have clear policy in that regard:
“Letters to the editor are not a substitute for corrections by the editors”.
"A reader’s letter to the editor is not a substitution for a correction".
"The retraction... should appear on a numbered page in a prominent section... It should not simply be a letter to the editor".
The letter in Maclean’s, from the January 25th issue reads:
“In his column “Gullible eager-beaver planet savers” (Steyn, Oct.29), Mark Steyn suggested environmentalism is akin to world government, and claimed the cap and trade bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives requires that all homes sold, “whether built in 2006 or 1772”, must comply with national energy-efficiency standards including a 50 percent reduction in energy use by 2018. He writes: “Fail to do so and it would be illegal for you to enter into a private contract with a willing buyer”. This urban myth is patently false: efficiency benchmarks apply only to new homes built after the law’s passage, not existing structures – a point that was made by Factcheck.org and other non-partisan groups, including the National Association of Realtors, months earlier”.
Still waiting for Maclean’s to address this one:
In “We’re in the fast lane to polygamy” (April 9, 2009) Mark Steyn claims that gay marriage leads to polygamy, and that there are “many more takers” for the latter. To support this he provides numbers: “Last year, Aly Hindy, a Scarborough imam, told the Toronto Star that he’d performed 30 polygamous marriages just in the last few weeks”.
This is false. The Toronto Star report from May 24, 2008 reads: “In the past five years, Hindy said he has officiated or ‘blessed’ more than 30 polygamous marriages; the most recent was two months ago.”
It appears to be Steyn who has his foot on the accelerator.