Thursday, January 09, 2003

J. Bo strikes back on his baby-eating story. The Weekly Standard's J. Bottum today responds to what by his own account were numerous critics -- including Media Log -- who told him he'd fallen for an urban legend or two in his heinous post last Friday on alleged baby-eating in China. Here's what I wrote about it.

Bottum's long response is worth reading in its entirety, but first, a few observations.

  • In essense, Bottum challenges his critics to prove that it didn't happen. Hasn't he ever heard the tired-but-true saw that you can't prove a negative? There really is no documentary evidence that it did happen, and plenty of reason to be skeptical.
  • Bottum asserts that the very fact that these stories are circulating -- and that Chinese performance artist Zhu Yu claims to have eaten a stillborn baby -- says something important about the culture, regardless of whether these stories are actually true. His conclusion: "The picture of a culture of death is being created in front of us. Don't look at the individual pieces as they are held up, one by one. Look at the puzzle that's being filled in." Actually, I suspect he could have written a pretty good column about what it means that such apparently bogus stories are circulating. But that's not what he wrote last Friday. Is it really necessary to say that the truth matters?
  • The headline on the e-mail version of my piece -- though not the Web version -- referred to Bottum's original post as a "blood libel." Bottum notes that the urban-legends site that I referred to uses the phrase "blood libel," and then casually adds that "this is where the Boston Phoenix lifted the 'blood libel' bit." Lifted? Is Bottum always this careless with language? Hey, J. Bo, look at my first post again. I not only linked to the piece, but I also quoted from it, including the "blood libel" bit. Since when did quoting become "lifting"?

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