Tuesday, February 21, 2012

Eight Reasons to Yell at the LA Times, OR, Appropriating Hitler

Yesterday the LA Times ran an editorial about Global Warming. I was fine with that. They'd like schools to teach facts about it correctly. I strongly support that. But a few paragraphs in, I just about lost my mind. I came across one of the worst examples of a bad writing habit, and for any younger writers out there, I want to point this out so you don't repeat it. I'm not singling out the LA Times or these particular authors, though my language may occasionally express how little civility I had left when they invited Hitler to the Global Warming debate.

That is a lie so big that, to quote from "Mein Kampf," 
it would be hard for most people to believe that anyone
"could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."
-LA Times Editorial, February 20th

1. In the above selection we see that the LA Times Editorial Page quoted Adolph Hitler to support their argument. This fact alone is issue #1. When the author got to, “to quote from Mein Kampf,” an editor should have hit them with a ream of printer paper and asked, “Why?” Why on God-damned earth would you feel compelled “to quote from Mein Kampf” in a Global Warming editorial?

2. In addendum to the pure absurdity of quoting Hitler in support of anything, it must be recognized that they were quoting him on a topic of debate that emerged decades after he died. They were not actually quoting his opinion on Global Warming denialism because, unless he was more successful in the occult than previously believed, he didn’t have one. So they were quoting one of history’s most monstrous leaders out of context.

3. What the Editorial Page mangled was Adolph Hitler’s notion of “The Big Lie.” The articles is actually hyperlinked to the Wikipedia entry for The Big Lie instead of Mein Kampf, despite putting the hyperlink exclusive on the title “Mein Kampf.” This caused a small capillary in my forehead to burst.

4. But beside hyperlinking liberally, there lies the issue of the mangling. “The Big Lie” was supposed to be a fabrication so bold nobody would doubt its veracity, because nobody would believe you’d stray that far from truth. This is a ridiculous stretch in application to Global Warming denialism. Not only do millions of my fellow liberals believe denialists are obviously errant from the truth, but none of the layfolk I’ve ever talked to believed such denial true simply because the claim is so bold it must be true. They believe arguments, propaganda, skewed or incorrect data, and conspiracy theories. If you ask, you’re much more likely to hear, “I just don’t see how people could do that. The planet’s so big.” So what the editorial page was really doing was misquoting Hitler to say, “They’re wrong and we don’t like them.”

5. It’s saddening that I got to #5 before touching the actual quote. Their line reads as an abysmal, “That is a lie so big that, to quote from "Mein Kampf," it would be hard for most people to believe that anyone "could have the impudence to distort the truth so infamously."” There is no reason that the content of “it would be hard for most people to believe that anyone” should not be contained in the original quote itself, except for shoddy re-contextualization. The result is not only using Hitler as a valid source for social criticism, but doing so in a way that makes it seem like you might be fudging the Furher on this one.

6. We’re deep into the list, but you really must understand that they were quoting Hitler for cred. Mein Kampf is an old famous book. By quoting it, you are saying, “I’ve read old famous things by old famous people, so I am smart.” I know this because I’ve read too many Freshman term papers that tried to do this, though first-year students usually don’t quote a genocidal asshole. If you lack quality of argument and resource, you at least quote Hamlet, The Constitution or The Bible – those old things that a lot of decent people like. Regardless, the needlessness of quoting a decades-old non-contextual source reeks of needy bragging.

7. Needy bragging about Hitler.

8. Of all the articles and books written in support of the theory of Global Warming, and of all the lectures and rants recorded about it, the LA Editorial Page opted for Hitler. Not a sociologist who's studied data on misconceptions and deceptions. Not a climatologist. Not an American politician. Not even a school teacher, about whom the editorial was supposed to be sniping.

I swear I’m normally a nice person, especially about writing snafus. All of the above could have been mistakes, or the product of thinking at 2:00 AM. I’ve certainly faltered like that in the past. But I beg you – journalists, bloggers, aspiring writers – don’t do this if you can possibly catch yourself. It may kill some mildly unhinged person like myself.


  1. I think #7 is my favorite and I hope your capillary is doing well. *head hugs*

    Furthermore, I apologize on behalf of the state of California. We're not all non-contextual quoting needy braggarts.

    1. I honestly believe this sentence is not the fault of all California, or even all LA, reputations not withstanding. And thank you for the head hugs!

  2. I'm sure you're pissed off, truly. And for that I'm sorry, as I am for all the people who suffered under Hitler's watch (although, you're not, of course, certainly not, one of them), but sorry as I am I can't help but laugh my fool head off.

    1. If you laughed at my outrage, good. Above all things this degree of objection with a sentence deserves humor.

  3. Thank you, John. This gives me more ammunition against the people who vilify our local paper. You won't find them quoting Hitler or Stalin, although they might feature Farmer Brown's prize-winning bull on page one.

    1. If people want to read local papers, I'm glad they're available. I know my mom loves hers. And if people want to read about cows, why not? I write Bathroom Monologues, for goodness sake.

  4. Yes, #7 together with #6. Favorites.

    But, it seems for the authors/reviewers of the editorial, there's a destiny that shapes (their) ends... :)

    ...with all possible apologies to the Bard.

    Might I suggest an ice pack, John? Quick, before they all melt. :D

    1. #7 is part of a package deal. And oh you - melting jokes? I guess I left myself open.

  5. I'm sure the editor was thinking how boring it would be just to drag out facts and figures to support global warming, it was time to whip out the big guns: Hitler.

    I actually snorted when I read #1. Too funny.

  6. I often swear and mutter at advertisements, mockumentaries and news on the television, but I am not had to do so reading a newspaper editorial before. (Although a columnist or two can make my face that attractive purple shade). Your ire at the example cited was more than justified. Do you have the energy to write a letter pointing out the error of their ways?

  7. Agreed. It's absurd that they would quote Hitler of all people on the issue of global warming. I mean, are they trying to get on people's nerves?



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