Yesterday, I wrote a rather derisive piece about a Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court ruling abouta lawsuit against a tobacco company. I based my commentary on the Boston Glob’s coverage, and someday I’ll remember that using them as a single source is not the best of ideas.
wavemaker, a student of the Mass. courts, apparently, thought there was something odd about the story and did some digging. He did more than I (or, for that matter, the Glob’s reporter) did — he got his hands on the ruling and actually READ it. And he discovered that the ruling was not about absolving the victim, but based on a long-established principle of law. I disagree with the court’s ruling on principle, but it seems that they were on semi-solid legal ground when they made their ruling.
This, naturally, sent certain folks into paroxysms of glee. One particular commenter talked about “Tea-lemmings” (a concept I find slightly flattering, in the thought that I could inspire such a following, but more insulting) and was positively ecstatic that I might have publicly made a mistake.
Like that’s anything new. I’ve lost count of the number of retractions and apologies I’ve issued. It’s an occupational hazard. I deal with it and move on.
But back to this case. My first reaction to markswrite’s assailing was to get defensive. I’m one guy, a nobody from nowhere with a nothing job and no life, who read the story and pulled the best information I could get my hands on with such short notice. I don’t have access to the kinds of resources that a newspaper like the Boston Globe (owned by the New York Times) does. And if they get a story wrong, why can’t I?
But then I realized that that was wrong. I do have access to better resources than the Glob, and this incident proves it.
I have you folks.
Here’s the proof: yesterday, I had a full analysis of the Court’s ruling, showing exactly what the court ruled and why. And I got it by one of the easiest ways I can imagine: I just opined on the matter publicly.
You, the readers, are an amazingly diverse and resourceful group. I personally know of doctors, lawyers, engineers, scholars, authors, politicians, students, mechanics, and scads of just plain folks who are experts in almost every imaginable field or endeavor. And I can tap those resources at will, with almost no effort.
The first method is the obvious one — I can ask. I’ve done that a few times, and it’s worked out all right.
The other method is far more effective. I just have to say something wrong, and you folks line up to take turns at whacking me with the truth. And if it’s a debatable point, you folks will sometimes go at it hammer and tongs. It’s sometimes a little bruising to the ego, but it’s a good kind of bruising — I usually end up a smidgen wiser afterwards.
This is the greatest power of the blogosphere, and though it’s been said many times before, it always bears repeating:
They may be smarter than any of us. But they sure as hell aren’t smarter than all of us.
Thanks, wavemaker. And even a little thanks to you, too, mark.