After-Birth Abortion & The Echo Chamber
William Saletan has a piece on Slate today talking about how the Internet echo chamber made a two-year-old piece he wrote about “after-birth abortion” seem like breaking news. Turns out I was one of the prime movers in this event. I didn’t do it on purpose. Somebody on my Facebook feed sent a link out, and I read the story without looking at the date. I reasoned — faultily — that this must be a New Thing because I had never heard of it. I blogged it without looking at the date at the top of the story. I honestly thought it was new. I apologize for sending out old news, but it was a mistake, not an intent to deceive.
I notice that this happens a lot on Facebook and in my Twitter feed: people sending out old news as if it were brand new. Slate, being Slate, denounces the Saletan story rehash that I and other conservative bloggers and journalists started up as an example of the “right-wing echo chamber” at work, and they’re half right. But I get almost as many left-wing echo chamber posts on Twitter and FB, not, I suspect, from liberals trying to start trouble, but from liberals who honestly believe that what they’re sending out is fresh news, because it’s the first time they’ve heard of it.
Bottom line: all of us have to do a better job of checking the dates on these stories before we post them. I’ll do better on this. What Saletan observes here is an unfortunate thing, but it’s not a right-wing media conspiracy; it’s just carelessness and the pressure to pass on information without checking it out. Many of us are guilty of this. The after-birth abortion story is still outrageous, but the fact that it was reported two years ago and nothing much came of the proposal it discussed significantly diminishes its heat. Had I known it was two years old, I wouldn’t have put it on the blog — not because it’s any less offensive a concept, but because it was nothing new.
UPDATE: I should have pointed out that Saletan himself is even-handed in the piece, saying that he sees this dynamic on the Left too. It was a Slate copy editor (presumably) who inserted the headline crediting the “right-wing echo chamber” with this effect.