Thursday, June 11, 2015

How was Niall Ferguson ever taken seriously?

Jonathan Chiat explains.

Committing the odd factual error is an occupational hazard in journalism. For Niall Ferguson, the commission of error is more than a hazard. It’s a cherished way of life. Ferguson’s distinct contribution to the contemporary political debate is the fascinating juxtaposition of his prestige — author, Harvard professor, resident faculty member of the Minda de Gunzburg Center for European Studies, senior fellow at the Hoover Institution, omnipresent talking head, and all-around handsome authority figure — with an inability to get his facts straight. There is, of course, a link between the two aspects of Ferguson’s profile: Only a figure of his standing would have the ability to publish wildly erroneous claims in major mainstream publications.

Ferguson has finally put his practice into theory. Apparently aware that his habits require a broader defense than “whoops,” his latest Spectator column assails his many fact-checkers for their literalness, and gestures toward a novel theory of truth.
.....  {Some examples}
Since David Cameron is irrefutably good, and Obama irrefutably bad, Ferguson should be free to make any factual statement on behalf of the former and against the latter without being hounded by “fact-checkers.”