19 July, 2007

The greatest living American?

The Greatest Living American, according to Huffington Post writer Greg Easterbrook, is Normal Borlaug, who besides winning a well-deserved Nobel Peace Prize was awarded a medal by the president a few days ago. If you can survive some of the poison in the article, give it a read. Personally, I think the greatest living American is a contest between my mom and my wife, because they have to put up with me, with my wife edging out because she actually has to live with me, whereas my mom is free. But that's another story.

The point of Easterbrook's post is not, apparently, to laud Borlaug, although we get a lot of that. The main point is to lambast the news media for not covering the event. I can dig that, but...

Easterbrook got a few facts wrong. First, there are more than two living Americans to win the Nobel Peace Prize. You learn that if you read the comments. Okay, that's chump change in the grand scheme of things, but you also learn from the comments that, in fact, ABC and FOX News both reported on the events, and maybe a few others besides. Why didn't Easterbrook know? His admittedly "unscientific survey" consisted in, well, channel- and web-surfing.

This is what passes for "serious" research in weblogs. (Including this one! Although usually I try not to be as nasty as most.) This appears to be yet another reason not to read the Huffington Post, which, if I understand correctly, tries to pass itself off as a "serious" news source. Don't know what the other reasons are, but it's the Huffington Post, so there must be some. Reading the comments gave me a few reasons, but I suppose one could read HP without reading the comments.

Will Easterbrook will be reprimanded, let alone fired, for basing an entire column on glaring factual errors? Probably not; it's the internet, after all. In the mainstream news media, by contrast... okay, he probably wouldn't be fired either. In some cases, it will catch up to you. (Dan Rather, Jayson Blair, ...)

In the American Catholic Church, by contrast, it will get you a job as a liturgist.

(Yeah, I know: let it go. But still...)


Clemens said...

As for your nomination of either your Mom or your wife as the greatest living American: is she now an American? If we are considering only Native Born Americans, would that give your Mom the edge? Even if she is free of you, as you put it.

jack perry said...

I thought about that detail only later. My wife is not an American yet, if the standard is bona fide citizenship. She is a "resident alien" in the legal terminology.

If we consider only native born Americans, however, that wouldn't give my mother any sort of edge. She is a native-born Italian.

So, my immediate family has only five native-born Americans, versus three immigrants. (Parents, siblings, wife, children.)

In my current state, I'm in the minority: one of two native-born Americans, versus five native-born Russians, not counting the family dog. :-)

Clemens said...

The dog, I presume, is native? We enforce the laws about bringing in illegal animals.