A message to Conor Friedersdorf

Yesterday we posted David Gelernter’s response to Atlantic staff writer Conor Friedersdorf’s critique of “Why is this failed president above water?” Friedersorf’s critique of Professor Gelernter’s Power Line post is based on Obama quotes supposedly showing biblical echoes in Obama’s speeches and writings, contrary to a point Professor Gelernter makes in his post.

Friedersdorf sent us a link to his critique and suggested that a correction was in order. Before receiving Professor Gelernter’s response to Friedersdorf’s critique, I sent Friedersdorf this message, which I thought might be of interest to readers:

I don’t find your Obama quotes meaningful or persuasive. Your piece seems to me like nitpicking. I don’t think a correction is warranted. I think the question remains in the zone of opinion. Moreover, given the highly public nature of the Obama speeches you cite, I don’t think that our readers would be led astray by Professor Gelernter into believing that Obama never cites “God” in his speeches or has failed to discover the political uses of Christianity. I may be wrong, but that’s my take.

I’m curious though. I understand that you used to work for Andrew Sullivan at the Atlantic. Sullivan’s Atlantic site was a torrent of misinformation. Back in 2009, Sullivan posted an item about how Churchill fastidiously opposed the use of torture against captured German spies during World War II and called for the prosecution of Dick Cheney. At his 100-days press conference Obama relied on Sullivan’s post for his understanding of the relevant history. Yet Sullivan’s post was, as you would put it, demonstrably false.

I may have missed it, but I don’t recall that the Atlantic ever corrected that post. Have you ever taken a look at whether the Atlantic should append a correction to it? It seems to me a rather more consequential and revealing error than the one you assert Gelernter has fallen prey to. Looking into it might even deepen your understanding of the effects of partisanship on the brain. I’d be interested in your thoughts.

Best regards,
Scott Johnson

My long commentary on Sullivan’s 2009 “Churchill vs. Cheney” post (the Sullivan post to which I am referring in the message to Friedersdorf) is set forth in “Barack Obama veers into the Daily Ditch.”


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