September 5, 2020

HEY, THAT OVERTON WINDOW DOESN’T MOVE ITSELF, YOU KNOW: NPR regrets elevating pro-looting anti-Semite.

Did anyone at NPR read the book, which includes a chapter titled “All Cops Are Bastards”? Did no one at NPR question the wisdom of elevating an activist whose Twitter handle even bears the acronym for “All Cops Are Bastards”? Did it not occur to anyone that, instead of elevating a provocative but worthwhile voice, they were actually amplifying an ignorant bigot with no basic understanding of history or community?

Apparently not, which is why NPR is in the embarrassing position this week of having to issue mea culpas for what was always an extremely avoidable fiasco.

“This piece was fact-checked, but we should have done more,” Code Switch editor Steve Drummond said of the interview, which has been updated to correct Osterweil’s many false assertions.

But even with the corrections, NPR’s McBride explained Thursday, “this failure to challenge this author’s statements is harmful on two levels. Publishing false information leaves the audience misinformed. On top of that, news consumers are watching closely to see who is challenged and who isn’t.”

Too much to quote in the above article, so read the whole thing. I have no problem with NPR interviewing Osterweil. If somebody writes a book with the provocative title of In Defense of Looting — A Riotous History of Uncivil Action, complete with a crowbar on the front cover, and gets it published by the subsidiary of a major publisher*, it’s news after all. Alex Haley famously interviewed American Nazi Party founder George Lincoln Rockwell for Playboy in 1966 — but he asked the appropriately tough questions. In contrast, Natalie Escobar, who interviewed Osterweil for NPR, tweeted (and eventually deleted) the following, which was still cached by Google as of yesterday:

* Bold Type Books, Osterweil’s publisher, is a division of Hachette Book Group, the firm whose staff got the vapors over publishing Woody Allen’s recent autobiography.

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