The power of the correction, or why Jonathan Chait’s “point” doesn’t “stand”

Jonathan Chait is mad at Harper’s because the Putin-loving (?) lefties over there aren’t making any damn sense:

Bromwich explains that the campaign to defame Putin reached its nadir when Obama’s minions descended upon Putin’s own country to arm his enemies with cookies:

When Nuland appeared in Kiev to hand out cookies to the anti-Russian protesters, it was as if a Russian operative had arrived to cheer a mass of anti-American protesters in Baja California.

Right, it’s exactly as if Russian operatives had come to greet anti-American protesters in California. Except there aren’t anti-American protesters in California, largely because California is part of the United States of America. Kiev, on the other hand, is not part of Russia. It is part of Ukraine, which is a sovereign state.

It’s possible you’ve already spotted where Chait would later have to correct himself, but if not, here’s his correction:

*Update: I completely skipped over the “Baja” part of the sentence, which obviously changes the meaning, since Baja is part of Mexico, not the United States. Still, the point stands that there are not anti-American protests in Baja because the U.S. is not threatening to invade and annex it, whereas Russia is threatening to invade and annex more of Ukraine. Apologies for the hasty error.

Oops. This is kind of a big “hasty error,” no? The whole thrust of Chait’s heavy snarking up there was that “LOL, California is part of the US, moran!” when, in fact, the article he’s trying to snark wasn’t talking about “California,” but about “Baja California,” which is, you know, not part of the US. I’m not sure a defiant “the point stands” was the best way to approach things here.

The thing is that Chait is technically correct in one respect, that there are no major anti-American protests currently going on in Baja California (and kudos to him for getting that one narrow point right), but the whole thing has been totally lost in the online chortling over his inexplicable “Baja” gaffe. Lesson: be more careful before you go full snark on somebody else’s supposed errors!

On the other hand, though, Chait is also kind of full of crap, for a couple of reasons. First, at the time when Victoria Nuland showed up with boxes of Chips Ahoy for the crowds in Kiev, Ukraine was in the midst of the Euromaidan uprising, and Russia was not “threatening to invade and annex more of Ukraine.” The threats (and the eventual annexation of Crimea) didn’t come until after Euromaidan had overthrown President Viktor Yanukovych and replaced him with a government led by Victoria Nuland’s close neoliberal pal Arseniy Yatseniuk. Second, if we’re talking hypothetically, as Harper’s writer David Bromwich clearly seems to have been doing, then I think it’s fair to say that we’d be pretty put-out if a Russian official showed up at an anti-American protest in Baja California and handed out cookies to the protesters, don’t you? That seems a wee bit unnecessarily provocative to me.

Now, for all I know the rest of Bromwich’s piece is a laughably dumb apologia in defense of Vladimir Putin or something (though the piece is on Obama’s legacy, so I don’t see how that could be possible). Harper’s makes you pay for their stuff, and I’m not particularly interested in shelling out money I don’t have just to see where this one piece goes. What I do know, though, is that Chait’s attempt to point and laugh at Bromwich on this particular point has been pretty hilariously misguided.


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