Newsweek writer Niall Ferguson activated phase two of the "write a provocative, if factually flimsy and intellectually dishonest, magazine article" game plan this morning and did an interview to address the haters, of whom there are plenty. On the phone with Bloomberg TV from Martha's Vineyard (really), Ferguson predictably said his attempted takedown of President Obama, based on cherry-picked and misleading economic data, stands up to the thorough thrashings and wonky parsings it received yesterday. The "liberal blogosphere," he said, has a "tried and tested method for attacking an argument that it disagrees with ... to engage in nit-picking and claim to be fact-checking." Newsweek, meanwhile, is engaging in only the most superficial way possible.
"I don't think you can claim this undermines my academic reputation," contended Ferguson, a Harvard professor. He said Paul Krugman, who led the what-the-hell-are-you-talking-about charge, is being "disingenuous" and that his Newsweek colleague Andrew Sullivan, who dismantled the argument (twice), just doesn't get it.
The magazine itself seems no closer to issuing anything resembling corrections or clarifications and is instead sticking to the line that it will continue to "monitor the debate." Online, some poor reporter was charged with rounding up the "passionate responses across the web" — "and even the most blistering and critical." Those include — in addition to charts, numbers, and facts — words like "careless," "unconvincing," "absurd," "incorrect," "tendentious," and "Fire his ass."
Relishing that kind of attention, even through gritted teeth, doesn't seem like the best way to stop the bleeding at a magazine that just can't help getting beat up. Stop hitting yourself — that'd be a start.
Update: Ferguson has now published an extensive point-by-point rebuttal to his liberal nags beginning, "The other day, a British friend asked me if there was anything about the United States I disliked. I was happily on vacation and couldn't think of anything. But now I remember. I really can't stand America's liberal bloggers." Know what he loves, though? Pageviews.