Discredited is victory, but victory is discredited

I can't believe the really intelligent, well-thought-out, and downright encouraging comments and emails this blog has received in response to the "George Harleigh"/"Doug Thompson"/CHB affair. My thanks to all, and again, especially to Glenn Reynolds for linking the post. Discrediting web sites is not what I normally do here. Most of the time, I write long philosophical essays about whatever strikes my fancy, and the only reason for the extended posts about "George Harleigh" and his sock puppet compatriots is that I was embarrassed to see quotations from a "famous" man I'd never heard of who'd worked for both Nixon and Reagan.

While I may be wrong, I think I've gone about as far as I can go with this, this thing. As John Hawkins's February post reminded me, this "Doug Thompson" and his minions (both real and imaginary) were discredited long ago. (At least they should have been.)

And (as people have told me) he's now even more discredited. Which means I can just stop, right?

In a way, yes. (But not for the reasons I might like to assume.)

The normal meaning of the word "discredited" is -- no longer being worthy of being given credit. Not believable. No more credibility. Based on the comments here, based on John Hawkins' post (and plenty of others by less-known bloggers) based on what people have told me, Doug Thompson and CHB have zero credibility, and are discredited.

But what does that mean? Many of Ted Rall's crackpot remarks have been discredited. Many people would say that Michael Moore has been discredited. John Dean discredited his own book ("Blind Ambition" -- long considered a sort of Bible of Watergate). Yet all of these people and more just keep cranking stuff out willy-nilly, and there are always people to buy it. (Another day, another Rall cartoon. Another Moore film. Another Dean book.)

Doesn't this mean that (at least in the eyes of their followers) they are not discredited?

Glenn Reynolds earlier linked to David Bernstein's post which seriously discredits Hezbollah. I think it's fair to conclude that Hezbollah has been discredited. But Hezbollah's followers won't reach any such conclusion.

My question is, considering the nearly unlimited audience capacity of the Internet, can anything ever be said to be truly, finally, completely, discredited?

I doubt it. Rather, I think there will be an ever growing number of people who will be always discredited in the minds of some, and never discredited in the eyes of others. I think that as the online community grows ever-larger, audience growth virtually guarantees a new Warholistic phenomenon -- not so much that everyone gets his 15 minutes of fame, but that everyone gets to be discredited.

And, of course, vindicated!

I do not doubt that Mr. Thompson (or whoever he is) will claim vindication, and his loyal readers will keep right on reading him. That's because of the vastness of the audience. Crackpot conspiracy sites don't wither and die because conspiracies are disproved. To the contrary, they thrive because people don't want them disproved. (The Apollo moon landing was fake! What? Didn't you know?)

This probably sounds like relativism. By definition it may well be relativism in the true, mathematical sense of the word.

Truth, unfortunately, has very little to do with it.

But in truth, aren't some things really discredited?

(I'm tempted to regard discrediting Doug Thompson as approaching a sort of victory for the truth. . . But what about the people whose job it is to discredit the discreditors?)

posted by Eric on 07.21.06 at 02:13 PM


You've got a great site. I've been reading it the last few weeks and I'm digging it. I've added a link to my honor roll.


Jim Rose   ·  July 21, 2006 6:40 PM

What a depressing post. The liars get to keep lying and keep making money for it.

Like I said, depressing.

Paul   ·  July 21, 2006 7:48 PM

I haven't read through all the verbiage on this yet, so I don't know if anyone has noticed this. Today's Capitol Hill Blue lists William D. McTavish as "publisher". It's odd for a former fired reporter to become the publisher, though possible I guess.

The Capitol Hill Blue FAQ (link at the very bottom of the front page) says "Our publisher took break from journalism in the 80s to work for Republicans but is, and always has been, a registered independent voter. When he's been motivated enough to vote, he's never voted a straight ticket."

But McTavish is identified in several of his articles (still on CHB) as a registered Republican who served "three deployments in Vietnam". That's a bit of an internal inconsistency, unless the guy has multiple registrations.

Glen Wishard   ·  July 21, 2006 8:08 PM


You did the right thing.

You are a hero to those of us who care.

And trust me, the number of folks who KNOW this guy has been discredited, going back to when it was 1st done, as you document, far out number his miniscule fan club.

You HAVE scored a victory for truth!

Don't you doubt that!

Like Jim, I've added you to my Blogroll, and will stop by from time to time in the future.

Kiril, The Mad Macedonian   ·  July 21, 2006 8:11 PM

This is the magic that is the blogosphere. Things like this were not possible with Usenet and such--or, well, maybe possible but far far far more difficult.

Up until now, having never read Capital Hill Blue except maybe once or twice, I'd thought it at least a semi-legitimate news source. Now we know it's just a fraud site.

I wonder how many mainstream news sources we can find that quote George Harleigh? It should be interesting to contact a few ombudsmen about this matter.

Dean Esmay   ·  July 21, 2006 8:22 PM

If you Google George Harleigh, you will find his quotes at the quotes section of thinkexist.com, just as if he were a real person. THAT'S depressing.

Joe Hines   ·  July 21, 2006 8:42 PM

There will be three camps. One group will never allow their idols to be discredited. Another will assume those same idols were already discredited. And a third will base their decisions on the facts.

What the first two groups think, or how they get the information to arrive at the pre-determined conclusions, doesn't matter. But, the blogosphere in general, and your blog in particular, help give information to the third group. This is a noble cause and worthy service.

Jon Thompson   ·  July 22, 2006 3:06 AM

Congratulations! You have done an amazing job. Thompson is out!!! He has resigned! This is his self serving abdication.

sig94   ·  July 22, 2006 11:13 AM

Oh my god. You really are a deluded idiot, aren't you? LOL. What's it like to be a sychophant for the Xtians Who Want to Kill the Homos?

sixfootpolemn@yahoo.com   ·  July 22, 2006 12:18 PM

Hey sixie! Haven't seen you for a long while!

Eric Scheie   ·  July 22, 2006 1:21 PM

I think it should just be Xian, not Xtian.

Jon Thompson   ·  July 22, 2006 5:30 PM

New Orleans, one year later: Still a disaster
Where is Bush?
To the list of daily aggravations in the new New Orleans, add one that augments the heat, spoils the food and drains the cash register: power failures.

A utility repair crew worked on a New Orleans street this month.

The wind blows and a neighborhood’s power goes out. Or it rains and the power goes out somewhere else. Thunder crashes distantly and out goes the power.

Ten months after Hurricane Katrina, the city still does not have a reliable electrical system. Hundreds of millions of dollars’ worth of repairs are still needed on a system devastated by flooding, the local utility is in bankruptcy and less than half the system’s prestorm customers have returned. Of those who have, many have endured hot and sleepless nights with no air-conditioning.

“How do you expect the city to recover when you don’t have a reliable source of electrical power?” asked Robert Harmon, an engineering consultant in the Bywater neighborhood.
Regular power failures. Hmm... what other city has regular power failures? Oh yeah. Baghdad.

RayButler   ·  July 22, 2006 8:40 PM

Wow Eric, your blog is like some kinda magnet for the clueless. Having worked in public emergencies and having done planning in preparation for them (retired LEO CO) let me set Mr. Butler straight, the overwhelming responsibility is on local government. NOLA was a local disaster waiting to happen.

It had THE most corrupt police department in the nation. For years.

If the PD was any example, the rest of the city's public service departments were no better. They had a disaster preparedness plan which they did not follow (I read it, it wasn't all that good) and were more interested in playing the blame game than in helping their citizens. And the State government was no better.

Look for another example Mr. Butler. NOLA won't carry your water.

sig94   ·  July 22, 2006 10:11 PM

If Bill McTavish is a registered republican, he's not a financial supporter. Searching opensecrets.org finds no political donations at any time for one William or Bill McTavish.

It goes without saying there are zero listings for any "Harleigh".

w3   ·  July 22, 2006 10:16 PM

Why does your singular misreading of a Ted Rall cartoon qualify as "discrediting" while you continue to run quotes and provide links to Clayton Cramer?

RayButler   ·  July 23, 2006 9:23 AM

This is not a country of whims and desires. It is a country of law. And the ad hominem attacks on the corrupt police of NOLA is irrelevant. BY LAW, disaster management is a federal responsibility. It's really as simple as that. Your desire to blame this Republican tragedy on Democrats has clouded your ability to reason clearly.

RayButler   ·  July 23, 2006 9:47 AM


You overstate your responsibilities as mother duck. It is your desire to see Clayton Cramer delinked from a site over which you have no control. Does this strike you as conflicting at all with your left-leaning political principles?

I digress... what is that propaganda technique where Person A believes in Process Z and instead of arguing the merits of Process Z, simply criticizes Person B for not following Process Z? I can't remember the name of it. It's not a strawman but it's on the other side of the coin from the strawman.

Ray does that twice here. First by oversimplifying the role of the Fed in disaster management he betrays a belief in Process Fed by which the federal government is supposed to manage all disaster. It's not at all that simple and the fed relies heaviliy on competent and honest brokers at the state level. The fed didn't get that in Louisiana. Governor Blanco utterly failed the people of her state.

Then he does it again, demanding this site be censored according to his preferences. By law, Ray, how does a blog have the obligation to suit your tastes?

w3   ·  July 23, 2006 10:22 AM

Thanks to all! I reciprocated on the blogroll.

I'm sorry to see the demise of Clayton Cramer Watch, though, as it was an honor to find myself shamed in such a prestigious blog.


Unfortunately, I'm now stuck having to be shamed in the comments section here.

To think I once had high hopes that there might one day be a "Classical Values Watch." (I'd say it was all "Mickey Mouse," but that's a confusing term if used with reference to "Watch.")

Eric Scheie   ·  July 23, 2006 1:59 PM

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