Northern Valley Beacon

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Monday, June 13, 2005


A primer on academic shysterism

This letter explains why we find that a column by Ken Blanchard violates professional journalistic and academic standards. The American News chose not to acknowledge his transgressions of fabrication. We disassociate ourselves from any organization that tolerates and endorses such practices.

May 2, 2005

Ms. Cindy Eikamp
Executive Editor and Vice President
Aberdeen American News
P. O. Box 4430
Aberdeen, SD 57402-4430

Dear Cindy:

I write to call your attention to falsifications of quotations from the Northern Valley Beacon web log made by Ken Blanchard in his April 12 column in the American News.

In response to questions and concerns about the column from Brown County Democrats, the Beacon published a print and e-mail edition that detailed Blanchard’s misquotations and fabrications. However, we recognize that this incident has journalistic and academic implications and, although it occurred in a political context, it is essentially a professional issue. As the column ran under the editorial auspices of the Aberdeen American News, we think it appropriate to allow the newspaper editors to examine the incident and deal with it to their satisfaction before we take further action.

The pertinent paragraph from the column is:

On a more local level there
Is the Northern Valley Beacon,
an Aberdeen-based blog. About
John Thune they write “His
ads show him to be a thing—
too debased to be called a
man.” As for Republicans in
general, they are an “oozing
malignancy,” a cancer that
must be cut out of the body
politic, by civil war if necess-
ary. “As long as one cell of
cancerous tissue remains
active, the body is
not healthy.” That is what is
known as hate speech.

This paragraph contains a number of instances of subreption, fabrication by splicing phrases from disparate sentences together, and supplying false subjects to sentence predications.

The sentence in Blanchard’s column reads: “About John Thune they write ‘His ads show him to be a thing too debased to be called a man.’ ”

Indeed, the post took John Thune to task for the ads that ran under his name as part of the divisiveness that has torn the country apart and cites the Republican dirty tricks tradition as the instigator of personal attack and malicious rhetoric as the campaign tactic Thune chose to employ. The full quotation from which the phrases were taken is:

The American News, like most newspapers in the Bush league, refuses to acknowledge that the nastiness is first perpetrated by the Republicans. Ever since Richard Nixon's dirty tricks squad was revealed, the Republicans have worshipped vicious defamation, blatant lies, and gross deception as the road to victory. The dirty tricks tradition is a part of those values the Republicans represent and practice.
Their opponents have to respond to the lies. Unfortunately, too many people are not literate enough to distinguish between the aggressive lies and defamation and the attempts to counter them. John Thune is a liar. His ads show him to be a
thing--he is too depraved to be called a man--possessed of the lowest, nastiest, and most malignant values. The ad his campaign mounted against the Daschle family is sufficient reason to disqualify John Thune from any claims to moral
competence, honesty, and decency.

While a writer may disagree with and protest our strong condemnation, fabrication of the passage divorced from its context and its subject is dishonesty. Blanchard also changed the original adjective “depraved” to read “debased” in his version.

Blanchard goes on to say, “As for Republicans in general, they are an ‘oozing malignancy,’ a cancer that must be cut out of the body politic by civil war if necessary.”

The falsifications in this sentence are numerous. The phrase “oozing malignancy” was not applied to Republicans nor does Blanchard quote it accurately. It was applied to the source of divisiveness in our politics. The sentence from which it was lifted states:

It would be a gross mistake to forgive and forget the malignancy oozing [emphasis added] away and not realize that every moment of its existence destroys what is American about America.

The metaphor of cutting a malignancy out of a healthy body also had the divisiveness of the campaign, not Republicans, as its subject. The role of a responsible press in eliminating the divisiveness was the point. The passage reads:

"When a person gets cancer, physicians do not talk of healing until the cancer is cut out of the body. As long as one cell of cancerous tissue remains active, the body is not healthy and will soon again be ravaged and destroyed by the malignancy.There can be no healing in America until we define and cut out the malignancy. It can be done by a responsible press doing its fact-checking, as many responsible news organizations and the Annenberg are doing. But it may boil down to a civil war of some nature. It would be a gross mistake to forgive and forget the malignancy oozing away and not realize that every moment of its existence destroys what is American about America.

"It is not time to heal. It is time to operate on the malignancy. It can be done through open, honest, robust intellectual dialogue through which the facts may be established. Or it may be done in the streets, as has happened before. The preferable way of approaching the moral bankruptcy is to let people of good will and good minds take over our political dialogue."

Our post was harshly critical of the American News and stated our objection to the malice and false accusations in the 2004 election campaign in strong terms. Our political opponents may have taken offense at our strong language and our pointing to the sources of the malice, but we did not make the statements as represented by Blanchard or engage in hate speech. I am enclosing a reprint of our post in the Northern Valley Beacon for your reference.

Brown County Democrats have responded with indignation and strong recommendations for action regarding Blanchard’s fabrications. I have requested that the American News editors be provided opportunity to fully examine the matter before it becomes a political issue.

As a long-time journalist and professor, I truly regret having to write a letter of this nature. I think the level of dishonesty exhibited in the Blanchard column requires it, however.

David L. Newquist

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