4
Oct/08

'Sarah Palin Endorses Hamas'?


Jeffery Goldberg writes about the Mid-East for the Atlantic. For what it’s worth, he was pro-Iraq invasion in 2002. He recently wrote a piece about Sarah Palin’s comments to Katie Couric that you can read here. His piece was entitled “Sarah Palin Endorses Hamas.”
His argument, as I understand it, is this: because unintended consequences, such as Hamas’ victory in ostensibly democratic elections, can occur, to articulate the US goal in the Mid-east as merely consisting as being pro-democracy, as Governor Palin seems to have done, is to be overly simplistic to point of shallowness. In my view, his title was an example of reductio ad absurdum paradox, a term I just made up, meaning that he attempts to illustrate the fallacy of Palin’s view by suggesting that an otherwise logical inference from her statements, that she would defend Hamas, is an absurd paradox.
A McCain campaign spokesperson wrote to Goldberg and said:

Governor Palin did no such thing [as to endorse Hamas], and your title is nothing short of slander. Having read your work for some time I doubt that you believe Hamas qualifies as “those who seek democracy.” That you would put those words in Governor Palin’s mouth is libel.

I asked a colleague who practices libel law, for his take on the use of the terms ‘libel’ and ‘slander.’ First he gave me pre-scripted talking points that I viewed as non-responsive, so I asked the question again and he responded:

The headline strikes me as a good example of rhetorical hyperbole. No
one reading it in the context of the post as a whole would make the
mistake of thinking Mr. Goldberg meant that Sarah Palin had
deliberately, knowingly expressed support for Hamas. He expressly
questions whether she knew what she was saying. Without a statement
that could be taken as an assertion of fact, there can be no claim for
defamation.
I imagine that the campaign is worried that the headline — without all
its context — might show up in search results when people look for
information about Governor Palin’s views on international affairs. If
that’s happened, I’d say it’s too bad — a blogger can’t be blamed for
the indexing of a bot.

I note that a lot of people read blog posts by means of RSS feeds that display only headlines. I think that in an environment where even ‘straight’ news services use ‘gotcha’ headlines in order to entice readers to click on the story, readers may be somewhat conditioned to not read headlines as staright assertions of fact.
Your thoughts?