NOW THAT'S WHAT I CALL AN EXPERT

Posted in Quick Hits on October 29th, 2013 by Ed

In its "The Experts" feature, the now NewsCorp-owned Wall Street Journal collects the best and brightest minds in the public sphere to provide insight on the most important issues of the day. Which means that it featured, naturally, an anti-Obamacare rant from Suzanne Somers. You may know Suzanne Somers as that woman who was briefly famous like thirty years ago for making her tits bounce around behind John Ritter on Three's Company. Oh, and she has spent the last decade hawking an increasingly bullshit-laced string of "Holistic" alternatives to the evils of medicine. Did you know that mistletoe extract is more effective against cancer than chemotherapy? You didn't – because it isn't truebut Suzanne does.

I bring attention to Somers' column not because it is in any way useful, novel, or interesting – take the 60 seconds necessary to read it if you so choose – but because it manages the rather staggering feat of necessitating three corrections from the editor. Three, in a column that does not quite hit 600 words. She used two quotes and both of them are fake, a fact that five seconds of googling would have revealed. That the Journal made three corrections just hours after going to press with the story suggests that they had no intention of trying to slip one past their readers – it suggests that they simply didn't fact check it. The piece is so staggeringly wrong on so many levels (Retirees? They're on Medicare. Does Suzanne know that Medicare is a separate program?) that it's possible no one even read it let alone checked it.

"The Experts" indeed. You would think that a column from Suzanne Somers, Washed Up Actress and well-known Alternative Medicine Quack, would cry out for greater attention than usual from the fact checkers. Yet this scarcely seems to have been read. Why she is an "Expert" is an equally valid question, with Jonathan Chait suggesting that, "whatever she lacks in traditional analytic skills, she more than makes up for with a strong love of freedom. If your newspaper is going to publish a weekly column by Karl Rove, you have already crossed whatever conceptual boundary might stop you from publishing Suzanne Somers." Someone call the burn unit.

Look, I understand that modern journalism is an absolute disaster and there is no pretense of shame anymore, only the quest for hits, viewers, and advertising. What baffles me is that the WSJ could have run a hack anti-Obamacare column from any one of ten thousand writers, and this is the one they chose? They might as well start trolling the mommyblogger forums for some anti-vaccination experts if this is what they're going to print. The ideological hatchet job is something we expect; at least have the goddamn decency to find a writer who can produce something roughly similar actual journalism and who can be bothered to google the quotes they plucked from Uncle Larry's forwarded email before publishing them in the second-highest circulating newspaper in the Greatest Country in the World.