Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Canada: Newsweek's controversial cover story

The National Post

Kelly McParland: ‘Hit the road, Barack’ article draws liberal blitzkrieg

A battle royal has broken out in the upper echelons of U.S. political commentary, in a dispute over the record of President Barack Obama.  In one corner, wearing the right-wing shorts, is Niall Ferguson, author and historian, tenured Harvard professor, one-time adviser to John McCain and author of a harsh critique of Obama’s four years in office in the latest issue of Newsweek. In the other corner, wearing an expression of studied distaste, are some of the MSM’s biggest and best-credentialled pundits and Obama fans.

In dismissing the president’s first term as an utter disaster, Ferguson clearly struck a nerve among his fellow academics, analysts and political deep-thinkers, who promptly staged a retaliatory strike. Reflecting the skill set of the participants, the arguments are intelligent, cogent and well-presented. In keeping with the culture of the internet, they’re also harsh, insulting and highly personalized. In Empire, his popular study of the British Empire, Ferguson reflected on the fate of the Rev. Karl S. Volkner, an early missionary to New Zealand, who ran afoul of the Opitiki Maoris. “One of the Opitiki chiefs shot him, decapitated him in his own church, drank his blood and swallowed both his eyes.” Now he knows how it feels.

The blowback has been fast and furious.

Paul Krugman, an economist, New York Times op-ed writer and self-declared Liberal who has crossed swords with Ferguson in the past, wrote: “There are multiple errors and misrepresentations in Niall Ferguson’s cover story in Newsweek — I guess they don’t do fact-checking.” He says the article deliberately misleads readers, misrepresents facts and deserves an abject apology from Newsweek.

James Fallows of The Atlantic, a Harvard graduate, provides the apology for him. “A tenured professor of history at my undergraduate alma mater has written a cover story for Daily Beast/Newsweek that is so careless and unconvincing that I wonder how he will presume to sit in judgment of the next set of student papers he has to grade,” he writes, before disputing many of Ferguson’s assertions.

Read it at The National Post:

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