Really Bad Journalism 101

doctor

It’s not often that the stench of the really bad article wafts so odoriferously from the Atlantic to the Pacific, but today’s Washington Post [WaPo] piece in question does, raising the question: Is it even POSSIBLE to get up wind of this?

‘Dr. Drew’ show canceled days after host’s negative speculation about Hillary Clinton’s health
Fred Barbash / Washington Post

Drew Pinsky’s six-year-old HLN show, “Dr. Drew On Call,” has been canceled by CNN, effective Sept. 22. In a statement, CNN executive vice president Ken Jautz said he and Pinsky “have mutually agreed to air the final episode of his show on September 22″ but gave no specific reason for the cancellation.

CNN Money, in its reporting of the announcement, connected it to a broader shakeup at HLN, including the end of Nancy Grace’s flamboyant show devoted to criminal court cases. But the decision came eight days after Pinsky’s comments on a radio show on Aug. 17 questioning the health and medical care of former secretary of state Hillary Clinton …

Seriously? You’re going to make Pinsky’s UNETHICAL* commentary the reason for his firing? Perhaps he was crappy all on his own? No: the “Drew Pinsky, Martyr” narrative (cribbed in this article from Right Wing websites) is the driving “motivation” in this story, without the slightest proof that it even exists! [* see below]

freaked

And that, kiddies, is BAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAD journalism. The Washington Post needs to issue a correction and an apology.

The “proof” is actually everyone’s favorite classical fallacy Post hoc ergo propter hoc, or, in English from the Latin: after this, therefore because of this.

You see?

Dr. Drew made (unprofessional) statements about the physical health of a celebrity that he was diagnosing long-distance.

Eight days later his show was cancelled by his network, HLN. (I have no idea what the three-letter acronym stands for. I take solace in the proposition that they might not, either.)

THEREFORE (by the implied causality of sequence) he was canceled for diagnosing Hillary Clinton.

Except it’s a fallacy that’s older than the language it’s being proposed in.

pyrrhic

There are several other alternative casualties, including the one DISMISSED at the beginning of the fallacy: that it’s friggin’ AUGUST and the new fall season begins in September and other shows are being canceled as well. By this reasoning, we can also conclude that The Nightly Show was canceled as a direct result of Larry Wilmore criticizing Baltimore police.

Or, we can conclude that the death of David Bowie caused the death of Prince, since the former preceded the latter. You see? This is, as the link above notes, a common problem in medical diagnosis, and not just in journalism.

jabberwock

Speaking of which, I will note this odd paragraph in the heart of the WaPo article, suggesting where the fallacious causation might have been borrowed from:

Pinsky’s views, which he said were shared by another physician with whom he had consulted, aired on KABC’s “McIntyre in the Morning.”

The episode has been removed from the station’s website, but a transcript was published by the conservative Washington Free Beacon:

Based on the information that she has provided and her doctors have provided, we were gravely concerned not just about her health, but her health care ….

doctor-1

The Washington Free Beacon, it should be noted, is the brainchild of Michael Goldfarb, formerly of the Weekly Standard, where he coordinated the blogswarm against “Private Beauchamp” that began in William Kristol’s office (as witnessed by an intern at the time). Thence, he ran the “internet” media portion of the John McCain campaign, and finally founded the Washington Free Beacon as yet another paranoid believe-the-worst internet cash-cow focus for Conservative dollars (either via advertising, or by direct grant).   The imprimatur of Goldfarb tends to waft its cachet across the vast ocean of its pixellated prose, if you take my meaning.

“We’re true believers, but we’re also troublemakers, and if you look at the work we do, a lot of it has a sense of humor,” Goldfarb told the [New York] Times. His site has one major mission: “We get up every day and say, how do we cause trouble?” he says. —Salon, 24 February 2013

So, perhaps the Washington P0st writer should spend more time reading Variety or the Hollywood Reporter for show cancellations, and less time cribbing news stories from admittedly biased “news” sites.

1872_sholes_type_writer

That’s something for his editor to tell him.

The point here is that there is a large number of “mee-too” sites ALSO pushing this fallacious conclusion. And make no mistake, there is a political purpose to this idiocy: it advances the “Lethal Clinton” meme that the Right has so embraced and little articulated, how somehow if you cross the Clintons, you end up in a body bag.

detective-face sheer luck sherlock

Were this true, one wonders at the longevity of the Faux Nooz staff who’ve been professionally specious in their obsessive-compulsive maligning of the Clintons since at least 1996.  Ah, mystery!

But this shoddy excuse for digging up Drew’s specious diagnosis of someone who’s NOT a patient is unethical in a strict sense, media quackery notwithstanding:

Inasmuch as a diagnosis may be made only by a physician and may depend upon X-ray and laboratory studies, no statement regarding diagnosis should be made except by or on behalf of the attending physician. For the same reason, prognosis will be given only by the attending physician or at the attending physician’s direction.   [emphasis added. AMA Ethics Opinion 5.04 – Communications Media: Standards of Professional Responsibility]

My point is not, however, whether Dr. Drew Pinsky crossed an ethical or even network line. (After all, lawyers will eventually turn it into whatever they want, depending on their billable hours.)

His show was cancelled. He made the statement. The actual order of the two events is reversed, and the “cause” is not shown anywhere to exist.

eyeses

But we DO get to repeat everyone’s favorite fallacy:

Post hoc ergo propter hocor, in English from the Latin: after this, therefore because of this.

And that’s what’s important, after all. Anyone know of a good aftershave to go with Occam’s Razor?

afraid-smiley_m1h2lf

Courage.

[For more on L’Affaire Beauchamp, see here.]

[And, for some real incestuous Rightie reporting don’t miss the Washington Times reporting on Breitbart’s apology to the Washington Free Beacon for confusing the BBC’s Michael Goldfarb with the Washington Free Beacon’s Michael Goldfarb.]

 

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