January 27, 2004



Douglas points out that not everybody is buying Landesman's research.

Jack Shafer has a piece up at Slate doubting Landesman's methods, and Daniel Radosh has posted several times about it. Maybe I'm just too riled up, but my first reaction is: What a strange reaction. Had either of them uncovered truly bogus research, I'd better understand the impulse to write these pieces. (Blogs aren't magazines, and that makes Radosh's remarks different. Half-finished thoughts are the luxury of the blogosphere, and we all indulge.) This seems like vague distrust thrown at what they see as vague methodology. Why doubt Landesman? Is the piece fully void if the numbers are slightly off? Shafer and Radosh leap up to confront the horror by suggesting we hold our repulsion until we're SCIENTIFICALLY SURE people can be this terrible.

Shafer gives himself a pass by admitting sex slavery is a terrible reality and that it's hard to research--no fucking duh--but still wants to douse the fire. And what the fuck does Radosh mean by "the Internet=scary trope...is so 1997"? Is that like "the murder=bad trope is so 1945"? Sounds like the blogosphere hewing to the cynical baseline attitude: whatevs, we did everything last year. And that's how we figure out if it "matters." Next story, please=fucked ideology.

Maybe, like Radosh, I'm reaching for my own "inflammatory" parallel, but this feels reminiscent of various denials, whether of the wage gap or the Holocaust. Or, overblow the parallel into the red and plug in our own pharaoah: Wait until we get all the numbers. It's probably not all that bad. Gotta be prudent. We will consider all the options when we know what we know.

Things will go all pear-shaped if the piece turns out to be substantially fabricated. But does anyone really expect that? And if the numbers are a little hot, how much difference would that make? How different would a difference have to be? And why would you focus on that aspect of the piece? Maybe because it's easier than believing the rest of it? Radosh says "However, the article does raise a few serious (if you care about journalism) questions." Landesman is THREATENING JOURNALISM ITSELF. If this article prevents one person being harmed, you can have journalism back, whatever that is. (And how might it fall apart exactly, considering what "it" has sustained? Does journalism have an address I can send a nasty postcard to?)

There is this, though: "If a trained investigative reporter can't get closer than one, two, or three steps removed from these alleged sex slaves, how are the johns finding them?" Probably by offering to pay to have sex with them. So, the question: Why did Landesman decide not to pull a Kristof and end up in a room with one of these girls? Talk to them at the crime scene? I can guess he didn't because he was trading access of one kind for another, but it would be interesting to hear Landesman answer that.

[Also: "Sleight-of-hand" needs an "e" and "non sequitur" needs a "u," not an "o." But typos are another luxury of the blogosphere, so I ain't gonna write a piece about that.]

Maybe all this shit is checks and balances and totally fine, but I'm too heated right now to read it that way. I doubt I'll see it that way tomorrow either.

It seems that Jane Smiley hasn't read Landesman's piece.

Landesman on NPR's Fresh Air.

Posted by Sasha at January 27, 2004 01:46 PM | TrackBack