THE PLANK MARCH 28, 2007
Over at Slate, Jacob Weisberg horsewhips Andrew Roberts, the new favorite historian of the Bush administration and its sycophants. My favorite passage is this:
Roberts is as sloppy as he is snobbish. I am seldom bothered by minor errors from a good writer, but Roberts' mistakes are so extensive, foolish, and revealing of his basic ignorance about the United States in particular, that it may be worth noting a few of those I caught in a fast read. The San Francisco earthquake did considerably more than $400,000 in damage. Virginia Woolf, who drowned herself in 1941, did not write for Encounter, which began publication in 1953. The Proposition 13 Tax Revolt took place in the 1970s, not the 1980s--an important distinction because it presaged Ronald Reagan's election in 1980. Michael Milken was not a "takeover arbitrageur," whatever that is. Roberts cannot know that there were 500 registered lobbyists in Washington during World War II because lobbyists weren't forced to register until 1946. Gregg Easterbrook is not the editor of the New Republic. "No man gets left behind" is a line from the film Black Hawk Down, not the motto of the U.S. Army Rangers; their actual motto is "Rangers Lead the Way." In a breathtaking peroration, Roberts point out that "as a proportion of the total number of Americans, only 0.008 percent died bringing democracy to important parts of the Middle East in 2003-5." Leaving aside the question of whether those deaths have brought anything like democracy to Iraq, 0.008 percent of 300 million people is 24,000--off by a factor of 10, which is typical of his arithmetic. If you looked closely enough, I expect you could find an error of one kind or another on every page of the book.
Weisberg's tone here reminds me of the scene in A Fish Called Wanda where Wanda corrects the pretentious philosopher wannabe Otto:
"Wanda: Aristotle was not Belgian, the principle of Buddhism is not "every man for himself," and the London Underground is not a political movement! Those are all mistakes, Otto. I looked them up."