A study in distortion

Lee Atwater, a skilled blues guitarist who recorded with B.B. King and advisor to Ronald Reagan, is often (mis)quoted from a 1981 interview to prove that Republicans are racist to their very core. John Hinderaker wonders What did Lee Atwater Really Say?

Going back to the source provides a good case study on how selective quotation with a serious bias in interpretation can lead to disengenuous assertions that serve more for propagana and denial than they do for clarification and honesty.

As with the obsession with an edifice of plausible deniability, this sort of thing illustrates the use of very interpolation, extrapolation, and interpretation on the same side that demands explicit and non-ambiguous establishment of links between assertion and fact on the other. It also shows the persistence in a falsehood as, once such a distortion is created, it is repeated as an a priori presumption of truth (with conviction).

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