Tuesday, April 8, 2008

Spin, Doctor, Spin

After having read Dr. Kieschnick's response to Mollie Hemingway's WSJ article, the following anecdote struck me as clever but sad.

A professional genealogical researcher, discovered that a politician's great-great uncle (whom we shall call "Billy X") was hanged for horse stealing and train robbery in Montana in 1889.

The only known photograph of that uncle shows him standing on the gallows.

On the back of the picture is this inscription: "Billy X. Horse thief. Sent to Montana Territorial Prison 1885, escaped 1887, robbed the Montana Flyer six times. Caught by Pinkerton detectives, convicted and hanged in 1889."

The researcher e-mailed the politician for comments. The politician's staff sent back the following biographical sketch:

"Billy X was a famous cowboy in the Montana Territory. His business empire grew to include acquisition of valuable equestrian assets and intimate dealings with the Montana railroad. Beginning in 1883, he devoted several years of his life to service at a government facility, finally taking leave to resume his dealings with the railroad. In 1887, he was a key player in a vital investigation run by the renowned Pinkerton Detective Agency. In 1889, Billy passed away during an important civic function held in his honor when the platform upon which he was standing collapsed."

And that's the way it's done.

In a similar vein, there was reportedly a track meet between the Soviet Union and the United States. On this occasion, the United States' athletes beat those of the Soviet Union quite handily. The next day in the Moscow newspaper, the headlines read: "U.S.S.R. comes in second; U.S.A. finishes next to last."

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