Saturday, August 02, 2008

On the subtle distinction between context and text

hint removal of letters without an ellipses is not removal of context although one might argue that it is removal of ...text

T.A. at Mediamatters allows Dana Milbank to get away with a blatant lie. Milbank claims to have quoted Obama based on a single anonymous source. The alleged quotation has been contested, as other people present when Obama spoke, claim that it is inaccurate. Milbank claims that this contestation did not occur, asserting that deletion of a word without indication is an alleged removal of context.

This is astonishing. Milbank claims that no one is challenging the quotation. However, the quote is contested. Based on a single anonymous source (that is bad journalism) Milbank claimed that Obama said "I have become a symbol ..." that quotation is challenged by people who claim that Obama actually said "I have just become a symbol...". Removal of the word "just" without a ellipses is not removal of context. This is what a quotation which is not challenged except for alleged removal of context would look like "I have ... become a symbol... "

If this occurred it would be an innaccurate quotation. Since there is no recording of the conversation we can't tell who misquoted Obama, but we can tell, without any doubt at all, that the quote was challenge. Thus we know that, on an elementary matter of uncontested fact, Milbank wrote an undeniable falsehood in the online chat.

Only someone who is incapable of understanding the meaning of the words "challenging" and "quote" could have honestly written what Milbank wrote. He is not a complete idiot. He has chosen to lie to the readers of the Washington Post online chat.

update: Many typos corrected

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