By Dan Kennedy • The press, politics, technology, culture and other passions

Four months later, InstaPundit checks in

Last October, I wrote an item chastising the InstaPundit, Glenn Reynolds, for writing that opponents of a ballot measure to eliminate the Massachusetts state income tax were “pledging a campaign of ‘massive resistance.'”

The problem was that Reynolds had put massive resistance in quotation marks, yet appeared to be quoting no one other than himself.

On Saturday, believe it or not, Reynolds responded — and it appears that he still doesn’t understand how to use quotation marks. He points to a statement by then-House Speaker Sal DiMasi vowing not to implement Question One if it were to pass (it didn’t). But DiMasi never used the phrase “massive resistance.”

I would say that Reynolds concocted a quote, except that he doesn’t even seem to realize that’s what he did. For good measure, he tells me that the reason he appears to post constantly throughout the day is that he’s set up some sort timing mechanism that posts automatically. In other words, many of his time-stamps are faked. Ethical? I don’t know. I’ll have to get back to you on that.

By the way, if the Glenn (or “Glenn”) who posted a comment to Media Nation isn’t really Reynolds, my apologies. I’m making an assumption that it is, mainly because there’s nothing particularly weird or over-the-top about his comment.

And these people really know how to mangle quotation marks.


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  1. Glenn

    You’re demonstrating a bit of historical illiteracy here. “Massive resistance” was the campaign of southern states to resist legal changes leading to desegregation. My use in that post was a bit tongue-in-cheek (the video clip from Blazing Saddles might have been a tip that the post wasn’t entirely straightforward) and the quotation marks were supposed to indicate that, not indicate a direct quote.You’re generally a nice guy, as I recall, and I don’t want to be rude, but you seem a bit, er, simplistic here. Likewise, lots of bloggers use scheduled posting, and you’re the first I’ve heard to suggest that the resulting time stamps are “faked.”

  2. Dan Kennedy

    Glenn: Please. Massive resistance is not a new phrase to me or to any of my readers. The only thing that’s new here is putting it in quotation marks and attributing it to Question One opponents. If objecting to the practice of concocting quotes is simplistic, then I plead guilty.The time-stamping issue is not a big deal. It would be if you were manipulating the clock backward. Forward is fine.But a quote is a quote is a quote. I will stand proudly and simplistically on that. I accept your explanation that it wasn’t your intention, but I think your attempt at humor was much more subtle than perhaps you’d intended.Yes, we have spoken in the past, and you struck me as a generally good guy, too.

  3. Neil

    For that matter further down in Glenn’s post:Meanwhile, the proponents are styling it a “taxpayer bailout.”Similarly, that proponents link has no actual “taxpayer bailout” quote. So at least he wasn’t attributing quotes only to opponents of Q1–he did it to both sides, which indicates to me that he’s using the quotes as shorthand for so-called, in ironical/comic fashion.Which brings to mind that, though nobody has ever actually used the term, I strike myself generally as a “nice guy” too. So under your tedious rules I’d be limited to striking myself with actual literal somebody-said quotes along the lines of “asshole” and “dickhead”.

  4. Dan Kennedy

    I think it’s possible to use quotes as irony or sarcasm, and I’m satisfied that’s what Glenn thinks he was doing. But you’ve got to be really clear, and I don’t think he was — especially since he used “massive resistance” at the same time that he appeared to be attributing.

  5. cavard

    >> especially since he used "massive resistance" at the same time that he appeared to be attributing. <<Precisely. That was the point.

  6. Michael Pahre

    Re: ethics of time stampsI don’t find anything at all problematical about setting up time stamps that will post stories automatically at a later time.The Boston Globe does it, of course. All their stories for a given day automatically appear around 2 am or so. Nobody thinks that all those reporters have set their alarms to wake them up in the middle of the night, rush over to their computers, and then hit the “send” key.By setting up a future time stamp, the Globe is running the risk, however, that they will be scooped in the interim. Their judgment.Backwards time stamping is an altogether different problem, likely unethical, as you noted above.

  7. Neil

    cavard, Glenn also used “taxpayer bailout” in exactly the same way:And they’re pledging a campaign of “massive resistance.”Meanwhile, the proponents are styling it a “taxpayer bailout.”If you follow the links you see that neither is an actual quote. Since he does it to both sides it seems apparent enough that he’s tossing off an image of two armies collecting themselves under flags as it were, whose mottos are “massive resistance”, and “taxpayer bailout”.

  8. HNG

    Your post reminded me of a banner I once saw on the window of a convenience store. It said: “Frozen Pizza,” and the price below the words was $3.99. What the owner was really saying–though he didn’t know it–was that he didn’t have frozen pizza. I think such quotation marks are used by non-writers to denote emphasis.By the way, two of my linguistics professors have told me that grammar and punctuation rules don’t matter much–that what matters is the way language is actually used by its speakers. In other words, there’s no right or wrong way to use quotation marks.

  9. Peter Porcupine

    DK – there are single and double quotes. Like this – “xx” and ‘yy’.I use a double quote to indicate an actual utterance, and a single quote to indicate a cliche or characterizaion. This us the grammar I was taught in the Pleistocene.Isn’t your real gripe the use of a double, instead of single, quote mark?

  10. Dan Kennedy

    HNG: Not to be judgmental or anything, but your linguistic professors should be boiled in oil. Unless they are at Northeastern, of course, in which case they are unappreciated geniuses.PP: Common misconception, and one that I constantly have to correct. Single quotation marks are used to denote quotes inside of quotes. Period.I recommend the “Blog” of “Unnecessary” Quotation Marks to everyone. It is pure genius.

  11. HNG

    DK: For the record, I disagree with the professors

  12. bob gardner

    Why Will would want anyone to remember predictions from the ’70’s is beyond me. That was when Will ridiculed the people who made the China Syndrome, claiming that he knew scientifically that nothing bad could happen at a nuclear plant. Within weeks Three Mile Island happened. Will’s career went on without skipping a beat. His career survived debategate a few years later. You would think that there would be a lot of competition in punditry. Yeah I know it’s not as easy as it looks, but still there have to be thousands of people who can string together 750 words a couple times a week. The pressure to get it right should be intense, and an ethical lapse like Will’s should sink a career even of a person who was getting it right. But that doesn’t seem to be the case. Will won’t be harmed by this column. Whatever other standards he is held to, he is not accountable for inaccuracy or dishonesty.

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