Once well-regarded New Yorker shits the bed on fact-checking yet again
Jon Lee Anderson, a writer for a weekly magazine called the New Yorker, got angry on Twitter today. A reader with the Twitter name of Mitch Lake (@mlake9) had tweeted at Anderson (@jonleeanderson) to dispute a claim of fact in Anderson's online story about the death of Venezuelan leader Hugo Chavez. Anderson had written that Chavez had left his country as "one of the world's most oil-rich but socially unequal countries," and Lake countered that in fact Venezuela was the second-least unequal country in the Americas.
There's probably a useful conversation to be had about Jon Lee Anderson's recent coverage of Venezuela and Chavez. His work is marked by weird internal stress points of fact, where the story he seems to be trying to tell about Chavez fails to align with the history of the country. In his January profile of Venezuela and its then-dying president, "Slumlord," he described Chavez's Caracas as a tragically fallen city, but located the "height of its allure" in 1983, or 16 years and six presidencies before Chavez ever took power. Likewise the Tower of David, the unfinished high-rise overrun by squatters that he presents as the monument to the Chavez era, was by Anderson's own account aborted in 1993—still six years and a few presidencies before Chavez—during a collapse of the country's banking system. Given the amounts of atavistic propaganda in American news coverage of Chavez, it felt as if Anderson hadn't quite gotten himself clear on the question of how broken Venezuela really is, or to what extent that brokenness is Chavez's work.
Ha. The post is about a twitter war between Anderson and Lake -- but isn't the decline of The New Yorker becoming a little obvious? Maybe somebody should do something, as Atrios was wont to say before it became crystal clear that nobody was going to do anything.
NOTE The Gawker lead begins "Jon Lee Anderson, a writer for a weekly magazine called the New Yorker...." Heh. Slips the shiv in but not so's you notice 'til later...