Johnathan Mahler has infected the New York Times Magazine with a conspiracy-driven article about the death of Osama bin Laden, modeled along the lines of Seymour Hersh’s book. It is almost inconceivable to find myself on the side of CNN, in opposition to the New York Times. Like Peter Bergen, I revere the reputation of the NYT. But reputation is not the same as the current state. Ominous signs of decay have preceded this, in the forms of
- Shallow focus
- Lack of attention to detail
- Assignment of articles to unqualified authors
- Failing editorial oversight
But all these pale in comparison to the abandonment of Occam’s Razor to embrace the terrible trap of imagined conspiracy. We expect that second rate minds are vulnerable to the trap. We expect the NYT to enfold a concentrate of the first-rate. But times have changed. The paper is under financial pressure. Perhaps the major stockholders demand sleaze. Perhaps the decay is an attempt to adapt to an audience of third-rate minds. But it is the death of presumptive confidence that a Times publication is probably correct.
Now more than ever, the intelligent reader is forced to compare multiple news sources of poor reliability/responsibility/ethic in order to arrive at an estimation of the truth. Now open-source analysis is required of every reader.
One of the purposes of this blog is to make open source analysis a transferable skill. If it is not immediately obvious that the Johnathan Mahler/Seymour Hersh scheme of things is a fraud on the truth, you should dig into the back articles of this blog for detailed discussions of technique.
But in any case, keep Occam’s Razor always within reach.