Voodoo Journalism

20 February 2008

A Textbook Case of Hoodwinking

The Old World, according to Stefan Theil in the latest issue of Foreign Policy, is succumbing to a dangerous pro-left bias. In an article entitled ‘Europe’s Philosophy of Failure’ Theil surveys high school textbooks, finding them both hackneyed and representative of a larger economic malaise. His evidence seems so compelling that he has generated a vigorous online debate about the limits of European economic sensibilities. But beyond the headline, something is amiss.

Captial and Kapital

Blog posts on Theil’s thesis of despair are fairly easy to find, and troublesomely accommodating. Marshall Jevons’ link-and-comment post on Bayesian Heresy merely points to an “interesting article”. Eric Skilling’s post on Flashcube.Org at least cites a passage, but only offers a similar passing comment on a “great article”.

There is much to be said for traditional linking blogs and their ability to disseminate information. But in this case the minimalist posts obscure a crucial failing of Theil’s piece: it’s not about Europe at all. Skipping from the Europe of his title to specific accounts of French and German textbooks, Theil reveals a sweeping illogic. How can we possibly draw continent-wide conclusions from two states, even if their economies are the backbone of European development?

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