02.08.11

The Schwartz was with the NYT Magazine

Posted in Stumble and Fail at 1:43 pm by George Smith

It’s almost too easy to bag on the fancy and fine editors and contributors to the New York Times magazine when they blow up in public like this:

There is an element of uncertainty in every complicated engineering endeavor. “In July 2003, in the Pacific, a Japanese fishing boat was sunk by a flying cow,” Robert Bea told me. Bea is a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California, Berkeley, and a leading scholar of risk; he also spent many years working in research and management at Shell. The cow, it turned out, was part of an illegal cattle shipment bound from Anchorage to Russia; as the plane approached its destination the smugglers became nervous about their cargo and began shoving it out of the plane. “No risk analysis can ever be complete. No one can predict a flying cow.”

Written by Benjamin Wallace-Wells for an article entitled “The Will to Drill,” the Times retracted what was a too-choice-to-be-true and fairly obvious hoax with a brief note on the 5th:

An article on Jan. 16 about drilling for oil off the coast of Angola erroneously reported a story about cows falling from planes, as an example of risks in any engineering endeavor. No cows, smuggled or otherwise, ever fell from a plane into a Japanese fishing rig. The story is an urban legend, and versions of it have been reported in Scotland, Germany, Russia and other locations.

The original — whimsically dubbed “No one can predict a flying cow” — in e-mail, is here although the pages of Wallace-Wells’ article have been cleansed of his goof.

Wallace-Wells’ tagline is even more cringe worthy in its misplaced vanity:

Benjamin Wallace-Wells is a contributing writer for the magazine and a Schwartz fellow at the New America Foundation. His last article for the magazine was about the legal scholar Cass Sunstein.

And there can now be no doubt the Schwartz has certainly been with him.

“As a Schwartz Fellow at New America, Wallace-Wells will examine the shifting role of intellectuals in public policy,” reads his blurb page at the ‘think-tank.’

With such a steely and forward look he is certainly the man for this important job.


File under: Upholding the good reputation of American think tanks.

Comments are closed.