Thanks to the social media magic of Facebook and Twitter, over 12,000 people read my post on the Seattle Times’ lyingest editorial ever—not bad for a shitty little local blog over a weekend in August. Meanwhile, the editorial’s own comment thread was dominated by readers calling bullshit on the bullshit, even before I chimed in with my thorough takedown.
But make no mistake: despite all the criticism, the Blethens have achieved their objective. From here on out when partisan bloggers and right-wing “think” tanks go looking for concrete examples of heirs losing the family farm to a punitive estate tax, this editorial will find its way toward the top of Google (notice they break from tradition and refer to it as both a “death tax” and an “estate tax” in order to up its search ranking). It’s from the editorial board of a major US newspaper, so surely the facts had to be checked and the thesis vetted, right? For years to come, this editorial will be cited as documented anecdotal evidence of the estate tax forcing the liquidation of a 131-year-old family farm. Whereas my refutation—however devastating—will drift away into obscurity.
And that is how myths are made!
Which is why it is not enough to merely ridicule the demonstrably false assertions in this editorial. For the sake of preserving the integrity of the first draft of history, we must also demand a retraction:
Ms. Kate Riley
Editorial Page Editor
August 18, 2014
Dear Ms. Riley,
I am writing to request that you print a retraction of your August 14, 2014 editorial “Death tax imposes cost on family business stability,” and update the online archive of this editorial to reflect that 1) working farms are entirely exempt from Washington’s estate tax, 2) the McBride property is not a working farm, and 3) regardless of his property’s classification, Ralph McBride’s estate is far too small to be subject to either the state or federal estate taxes.
The thesis of this editorial—that the estate tax cost the McBride’s their family farm—is clearly refuted by the public record. For the sake of promoting an informed and honest public debate on this issue, as well as maintaining the credibility of the Seattle Times, I respectfully request that you correct these errors.
I have sent the email above to Seattle Times editorial page editor Kate Riley and publisher Frank Blethen. I encourage you to do the same (in your own words or mine), appending your full name and contact information, and use the power of social media to spread this as widely as possible.