New Year, Same Old Mainstream Media

Finkelstein, M. (2007). ABC’s ‘sic’ choice suggests belief in afterlife an error. NewsBusters. January 1, 2007. Available online:

“Sic” (“thus”) is a writing device used to distance the writer from an error. It is often used rhetorically to embarrass or ridicule the source of a quote. For instance, if I would say something stupid while misspelling a word, someone else might quote what I say, while writing sic, to focus attention on my poor writing ability. More technically, sic can be used when there is a fear that the reader will mistake a strange usage of the quoted person with that of the editor.

Which makes this disgusting. And sick.

“You were one of my best friends and I will never forget you. All my love and prayers go to your family and I’ll see you again.” (sic)

There is no grammatical error with the quotation — it is composed of two well-formed compound sentences. What the ABC News videographer appears to be distancing himself from — holding up to ridicule — is the belief that a friend will see his own friend — a soldier who died in Iraq — again.

This Richard Dawkins style of atheism — rude and socially inept — is an embarrassment.

3 thoughts on “New Year, Same Old Mainstream Media”

  1. Funny how the most vocal opponents of what they hold to be religious “fundamentalism” seem to sound more and more like, er, fundamentalists. At what point (if any) does atheism take on strict dogmatic quality and become hypocrisy?

  2. Hopefully it was an editing mistake by someone who thought there was a grammatical error when there wasn't, but I doubt it. Its always sad to see someone get so caught up in advocating their idea that they lose all basic human respect and decency.

  3. Heh, Dan, I like your observation concerning the generic usage of 'sic'!

    “It is often used rhetorically to embarras [sic] or ridicule the source of a quote. For instance, if I would say something stupid while mispelling [sic] a word, someone else might quote what I say, while writing sic, to focus attention on my poor writing ability.”


    I think you are correct about the most pedestrian use of 'sic', although there are some really good uses for it. For instance, the mistaken attribution, where an author says so-and-so has said something but in fact the quote is from another. Other factual errors might be highlighted with the term in order to avoid misleading the reader who might not know the facts.

    Myself, I hate the “we'll see you again” motif so often present in local obituaries. I cannot be convinced that the people using the idea have any way to really know it is so — nor, for that matter, that atheists can be sure it is not so! So 'sic' in this context is also a statement of faith.

    The sentiment of “we'll see you again” is … sentimental and wishful-thinking, and I don't care how passionate a defense of the use might be, or a defense of blind faith, etc.

    I can see an argument that the editor is silly for inserting another statement of faith in counterpoint to this friend's statement of faith, by use of the word. However, I'm not at all favorable to the other argument against this editor's use of the word: the politically-correct approach. Since when must anyone else be forced to support a faith-based statement in order to avoid upsetting sensibilities? But then again, the very inclusion of a personal statement alongside the photo was a sentimental move, and not at all newsworthy.

    Here we have the sensationalism so often presented as 'news.' Without 'sic', the personal quote would have been just one more peg in the politically-correct, sensationalist building of a meme meant to tug at heartstrings and sensibilities for no other reason than to get viewers emotionally tuned-in. With 'sic', we have an iconoclastic maneuver intended to either upset the standard transmission of expected sentiment or else perhaps to point out that a nation which has faith in the afterlife need not worry too much about real deaths since we'll all get together again eventually anyway. Or somesuch.

  4. Curtis,

    So I assume you would say that instead of quoting this-or-that-official for saying “President Ford was an honorable man,” the quotes should read “President Ford was an honorable man [sic],” as otherwise the statement is sentimental and wishful thinking? Likewise, I cannot recall any mainstream news source, in a piece explaining Islam, quoting a cleric as saying “Muslims believe in the same God as Jews and Christians [sic]” — a statement that would be questioned by more Americans than the afterlife comment!


    Perhaps ABC merely made the mistake of hiring some militant New Atheist [1,2] as an intern. I do not know.


    I agree.

    Curtis & Adam — have you met before? I think you both share very similar theological views.


  5. Dan,

    Those are some wild assumptions indeed! I thought we were talking about a specific case, not trying to institute a dogmatic doctrine tying the hands of all future journalists who might report deaths!

    Honestly, I've always wondered why anyone would want to work in professional journalism. If reporting nothing but a dry list or report of facts is the only type of reporting allowed, the journalist would be nothing but a voice machine reading off dry data! How exciting can that be? No, I suspect that every journalist sees himself or herself as a kind of memetic engineer, and that such a vision lies behind the desire to become a journalist — even if the best ones are also much better at doing it with subterfuge than the editor in question!

    To desire an unbiased report is to desire the existence of a mythical figure capable of giving such. Many modern journalists have sometimes used the trick of presenting multiple opinions concerning any controversial event in order to give the impression of impartiality, which leads more often than not — actually, almost always — to a reporting of opinions rather than a reporting of facts! Other modern journalists feel quite safe delivering only one opinion on any controversial event if that opinion is the majority opinion of its viewers; hell, that keeps those viewers tuned in, and it might not even be the opinions held by those journalists. This might gain trust which can be exploited elsewhere.

    But where have all the facts gone? Alas and alack.

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