Melinda Henneberger, on a somewhat too-pat story that NYT writer Frank Bruni related (admittedly, secondhand) about an abortion doctor telling him that one of his protesters (a woman on a ladder, apparently) took time out to go have an abortion at the doctor’s clinic:
After Bruni’s column appeared, several conservative
writers, a Catholic news site and Gawker — together again, for the very first time — questioned whether there was any such woman, given that a number of suspiciously similar versions of the lady-on-the-ladder tale have been reported before, in a bunch of different places.
[snip of almost-but-not-quite confrontation of the possible fabrication head-on]
I don’t bring any of this up to challenge the ethics or motives behind the column written by Bruni, a talented former colleague and complete professional; no way would he have piped the thing.
Actually, it’s exactly that attitude that allows people to, erm, pipe the thing. Oh, sure, the story is kind of… dubious… but it’s Bob. I’ve known Bob for years! Bob would never burn me like this. Which is, of course, nonsense: of course “Bob” can burn you like that. That’s why they call it “betrayal.” Now, it is entirely possible that Bruni was himself burned by the story – the CNA’s inability to find somebody who would be familiar with Bruni’s Christian-turned-abortionist is interesting, but not definitive – but even if he was that does not obscure the larger point: if something sounds too good to be true, it probably is. Which, of course, nobody ever likes to hear. Human beings love telling stories too much to really want to examine those stories too closely. Which is… fine; except that you sort of have to when a story is being used to justify a policy position. Which is what Bruni – and, really, Henneberger*, too – did.
*When it comes to the merits of Henneberger’s position I am going to remind myself that I quoted this a couple of weeks ago and leave it at that. Especially since this is actually quite a bit of an improvement…