Tuesday, April 24, 2007

David Halberstam

Amidst all the encomiums to David Halberstam, it is well to remember that he didn't get the facts right. His technique was to interview people who were there and assemble their memories into a narrative. When people went back to check the actual record, Halberstam was often wrong. Catch Bill James ripping him a new one when he discusses the factual errors of Summer of '49:
There are two possibilities, one frightening and one irritating. It is frightening to think that Halberstam, one of the nation's most respected journalists, is this sloppy in writing about war and politics, yet has still been able to build a reputation simply because nobody has noticed.

What seems more likely is that Halberstam, writing about baseball, just didn't take the subject seriously. He just didn't figure it mattered whether he got the facts right or not, as long as he was just writing about baseball.

And that, to me as a baseball fan, is just irritating as hell.
James was right the first time.

There's a whole lot of folks who are mooning about that if more people had investigated like Halberstam had about Vietnam, we wouldn't be in the mess we are in Iraq today. That would be a more powerful argument if DH had actually bothered to do more reading and less just talking to guys.

Update: Okay, that last was unfair. I repent.

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