Are you like me? Was your Sunday ruined by this long, horribly depressing New York Times Sunday Magazine piece describing an epidemic of sexual slavery in America? Well, there may be a little bit of help on the way. It turns out that there are some problems with the piece. It doesn't look like we're talking Shattered Glass level problems, but there are some issues. While it's still depressing that there are any sex slaves in America, the epidemic-level numbers in Landesman's article are not well-supported and most of the truly disturbing incidents he describes are thinly sourced. Real journalist Daniel Radosh and king of all media critics Jack Shafer are on the case. Peter Landesman is sticking by his story on CNN, so this could get interesting. As Radosh rightly points out the tone and packaging of the article were sensationalistic and prurient, especially the trashy cover, and Landesman is making some pretty bold, sweeping claims and accusations in this interview. No one's saying that is a case of Stephen Glass level fabrication. My guess is that that level of psychosis is probably something you only see once in a lifetime. However, the alternate realities going on here are truly striking. The Times' editors obviously felt that this story was worth pushing to the hilt, and here Landesman is going on TV and making even bolder claims, calling for policy changes etc. On the other hand, Radosh's and Shafer's criticisms of the article seem pretty damning. It will be interesting to see how this plays out. And Radosh is calling for full blog-hive-mind participation.
UPDATE: Jack Shafer now has a second column on the piece up. Radosh has widely decided to bugger off on his promise to keep following this in detail, and leave it to Shafer. A good decision, since just trying to follow this through these two was making my head hurt personally, so I can't imagine what it would have been like to actually pick over the magazine piece and interview transcripts again and again.