Caveat lector

February 28, 2005

Kevin Drum demonstrates why you should not believe everything you read on a blog. In this case, he catches Todd Zywicki repeating a misleading statement from a post at the FIRE’s blog to suggest that the University of Alabama had, at one point, banned the display of the American flag, though in actuality they had also banned most (if not all) displays in dorm windows. I usually think very highly of the FIRE and their work, but here I have to agree with Drum. The statement implies a specific ban on the American flag when no such ban existed. Of course, the underlying theme of supressing freedom of speech is the same, but it doesn’t quite have the same ring as "banned the American flag."

Zywicki’s post leads me to believe that he read the original context and understood it, but worded his statement in a misleading way as well:

…this is not the first time that Alabama’s students have stood up to
bullying by their Administrators, who once tried to prohibit the
display of American flags on campus.

Yes, technically they did try to "prohibit the display of American flags" in the same sense that they tried to "prohibit the display of" just about anything else, but that’s not the impression that’s given. Good work by Drum in catching this.

UPDATE: Zywicki has made a correction.

UPDATE2: The FIRE has corrected as well, and it seems this is turning out to be a vindication of the idea that blogs are excellent at correcting their mistakes. I applaud both Zywicki and Shibley for answering Drum’s post (and the emails it generated) so quickly.

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