Wonders of the world:

The Washington Post has a cool photo gallery of candidates for the New Seven Wonders of the World. Take a look at the pictures, but don't pay that much attention to the descriptions.

For instance, apparently the "ancient city" of Machu Picchu was "founded by Yale University professor Hiram Bingham in 1911." That's pretty ancient! [UPDATE: This has now been corrected to "found."]

More significantly, Istanbul's Hagia Sophia is "a church that was first built in 537 B.C. as a Mosque when the city fell to the Ottomans." How many mistakes are there in that one line?

  • It was once a church, and it was once a mosque (though it was a mosque only after it was a church, not before), but now it's just a museum.

  • In fact, its construction was more like A.D. 537.

  • Not much chance of its having been built as a mosque even in A.D. 537 (to say nothing of 537 B.C.), since Islam wouldn't even exist for about another century after that.

  • And the city didn't fall to the Ottomans until about 900 years after the construction of the church (and the Ottomans arguably didn't even really exist as "Ottomans" until around 1300).

Anyway, pretty picture!

liberty (mail) (www):
ooh, 07/07/07/ my friends might marry on that day. Seems like a lot of people are paying attention to that landmark day.
3.13.2007 11:14pm
liberty (mail) (www):
Sorry, irrelevent. Those are some beautiful sites and I'd vote many of them in. Certainly good to experience before you die -- whether or not you even know the true history behind them I'd say. That humans created them all is almost enough.
3.13.2007 11:23pm
ReVonna LaSchatze:

(I wish that weren't such an overused term, because it truly applies here.)
3.13.2007 11:24pm
WaPo reader:
From the same people who brought you a "militia means just that." The Post's inability to do basic fact checking is mind-boggling.
3.13.2007 11:34pm
Dick Schweitzer (mail):
Journalism: A faith that there will always be something to get up and write about everyday, whether you have anything to communicate or not.

Most journalists seem to want to be "writers" or more ambitiously, "authors." Many have no time for learning, or facts, as they aspire to and seek a popularly accepted agenda to be advanced, so they can have an audience. Verification is irrelevant to their tasks. "Reporters" are fewer and fewer in number.

As a resident and reader there in No. Va. for over 25 years just past, and before that in Charlottesville 1948-58, I followed the descent of the WaPo, and its growth as a media empire (W. Buffett included). It has not reached the lowest levels of presentations yet. But, many there are trying for that, with a mistaken evaluation of the level of public intelligence.
3.13.2007 11:36pm
Shangui (mail):
I'll add "extending for more than 4,000 miles" about the Great Wall as an obvious mistake. The wall is in lots of different unconnected sections with many many miles of wall-less terrain in between. It was never an continuous wall of even 1000 miles, let alone 4000.
3.13.2007 11:38pm
Paddy O. (mail):
I don't know. You're "corrections" appear on a blog. The Post has a whole system set up to check these kinds of things. Editors and whatnot. So, I'm going to have to go with them on this stuff.
3.13.2007 11:38pm
John Burgess (mail) (www):
I wonder if WaPo will run a correction, correct a writer, or just slough it off to the 'ombudsman'?
3.13.2007 11:45pm
did WaPo get this stuff off of wikipedia?
3.13.2007 11:47pm
Sasha Volokh (mail) (www):
I wish; that stuff is usually true.
3.14.2007 12:09am
At least the errors you cite may be seen as "innocent" ones, that is the consequence of simple ignorance rather than of bias. The same cannot be said of many the appear in the Washington Post's stories about the Arab-Israeli conflict.
3.14.2007 12:13am
Paddy O.

"Your corrections," or assuming you were addressing the blog post itself, "You're corrections appearing."
3.14.2007 12:20am
A. Zarkov (mail):
Paddy O.

I assume you are joking. According to some reporters, even major newspapers have stopped copyediting to save labor costs. It goes pretty much from the reporter's word processor to into the newspaper. Modern management thinks the readers are generally too stupid to notice errors in usage and even grammar. Just read issues of the copyeditors Newsletter called The Editorial Eye. Various issues have discussed the decline of the profession. Rules I learned in high school like pictures are hung, but people are hanged are regularly violated in newspapers. From Blazing Saddles.

[Bart returns unexpectedly after being sentenced to death]
Charlie: They said you was hung.

Bart: And they was right
3.14.2007 12:27am
bornyesterday (mail) (www):
The "founded" seems like a simple typo. It should just have been "found."

The bit about the Hagia Sofia and other things were pretty bad.
3.14.2007 12:48am
Paddy O. (mail):
<i>"Your corrections," or assuming you were addressing the blog post itself, "You're corrections appearing."</i>

I know! I hate when that happens. My fingers get to typing and all sorts of silly mistakes creep in. I get it's and its wrong all the time too, even though I know exactly which to use at the proper time. I hate correcting posts with more posts, but since you brought it up. Clearly, I need a better copyeditor to set me straight before I post.
3.14.2007 2:41am
'Course, this is only a blog, without a whole system to check these things.

Thanks for acknowledging. You wouldn't believe the anti-intellectual horse hockey people often throw out when corrected on stuff like this.
3.14.2007 9:21am
logicnazi (mail) (www):
I just looked and it appeared to say "found" in 1911

The bit about the Hague Sophia was right on.

For awhile I thought this was some clever comment about footnotes but I guess not.
3.14.2007 10:30am
The errors in the blurbs are pretty funny indeed, but my main question is: Who picked these candidates and what on earth is the theme of this set of wonders? Obviously aren't "modern" wonders. In fact, some of the candidates were quite definitely known about when the original ancient wonders were picked yet were left off before.

Candidates like the Taj Mahal, Hagia Sophia, Angkor, the Statue of Liberty, and the Kremlin and Red Square strike me as far more appropriate for a new list than Giza, the Acropolis, the Colliseum, etc. Those sites had their moments of fame.... not that the others haven't...
3.14.2007 11:29am
Who am I going to trust: my old Byzantine history professor, or the Washington Post. Since the WaPo is published and well-known, unlike my old professor, I'll have to side with them on this one. History be damned!
3.14.2007 11:40am
Doc (in China) (mail):
What a tremendous multi-cultural PC wankfest. At least when engineering groups decide on "modern wonders" they've got some criteria.

Let's just go with the Civ list of wonders; at least those have actual benefits when you build them. Of course, that didn't stop at seven.
3.14.2007 11:46am
James Dillon (mail):
Is the Hagia Sophia only a museum now? I was there a couple of years ago and was under the impression that it's still in active use as a church. That might only be the case for the Blue Mosque across the plaza, though.
3.14.2007 11:54am
Not to mention that the structure in Petra is captioned as "Treasury of the Pharoah." The factual errors are almost de rigeur for the old media, but surely they could at least have run the text through a spell-checker?
3.14.2007 1:36pm
Spartacus (www):
James Dillon: The Blue Mosque has always remained an active Mosque (never a church). Hagia Sophia has been inactive for as long as I can remember. I was there back in 1989.
3.14.2007 1:42pm
Mike Brown (mail):

Who picked these candidates and what on earth is the theme of this set of wonders?

They were nominated by visitors to a website

According to their press handout:

The multimedia campaign to choose the New 7 Wonders of the World is in its final stage.

This is the biggest global vote ever to have taken place. Millions of people have already voted for their favorite "wonder." Numerous milestones have already been reached on a journey across the Internet, television and the world's media. This journey will reach its pinnacle on July 7, 2007 - 07.07.07, when the world will discover which monuments have been named as the New 7 Wonders of the World.

On January 1, 2006, the New7Wonder Panel of Experts, chaired by the former head of UNESCO, Prof. Dr. Federico Mayor, short-listed those nominations with the most votes received by the end of 2005. The top 77 choices have been narrowed down to just 21 finalists, which are the focus for the final year of voting. Click here for the January list of the 77 most-nominated monuments from which the 21 finalists were selected.

On 07.07.07, the world will learn which of the Earth's treasures will stand in history alongside the Ancient 7 Wonders of the World.

Half of all net revenues raised by the New7Wonders campaign will be put towards restoration efforts worldwide.
3.14.2007 2:40pm
NickM (mail) (www):
Well, that explains why Santa Sophia made the list. Turkey is fond of national campaigns to have its citizens vote in international "best of" polls. A few years back, they nearly propelled Kemal Ataturk to first place in Time magazine's "man of the century" listing.

It still doesn't explain why Wikipedia Brown is writing for the WaPo.

3.14.2007 2:56pm
Leave it to VC readers to shoehorn gripes about media bias, guns, the Palestine-Israel conflict, and political correctness into an innocuous post about "wonders of the world"! Yes, there is some awful prose in those captions. What you are seeing is uncopyedited text. Clearly this feature was pushed live before being trafficked properly; it is a production error, and tells you exactly zero about the competence of journalists or anyone else, except perhaps the managers at the Post who are cutting corners on web features. I'd like to think I wouldn't write grammatical and factual howlers like you see here, but I know from much experience that even very learned people can write very dumb things in a first draft, especially when they are relying on copyeditors to clean it up.

Some more errors I noticed:

"...Giza Pyramids in Cairo is the only one of the original seven..."

"...but homess discovered Jan. 30, 2007, beneath the grounds.." (Stone Henge)

Looks like they created this thing in a hurry, and spent more money on the fancy Flash programming than the text content. Too bad, it has some great photos and is a nice presentation otherwise.
3.14.2007 4:00pm
Anderson (mail):
Typical journalistic ignorance. We're supposed to feel flattered that they even bother with this old-timey stuff any more.

The bit about Hagia Sophia reminds me of Norman Cantor's aside, in The Civilization of the Middle Ages (p. 124), that "It took the Arabs ... seven centuries to take Constantinople." It's not just journalists who nod.
3.14.2007 4:38pm
markm (mail):
"a church that was first built in 537 B.C. as a Mosque when the city fell to the Ottomans."

Aside from the AD/BC [1] typo, that sounds to me less likely to be straight from the reporter without editing, than something that was copy-edited into nonsense. That is, did an editor cross out a clause about the conversion from a Christian church (somewhere between "BC" and "Mosque")? OTOH, I have seen reporters totally garble everything they were just told...

[1] Or CE/BCE, if you want to be politically correct - and greatly increase the chances of such typos!
3.14.2007 4:50pm
Dick Schweitzer (mail):
Since so many commented on "corrections," wouldn't it be startling if some "principled" publication began printing its corrections - in full type - on the front page, starting above the fold, and continuing on that page if need be then on to page two?

It might have the knock on effect of AFLAC's action for shareholder votes on compensation.
3.14.2007 5:34pm
5 failry easy choices:
Pyramids of Giza
Great Wall
Taj Mahal
and then I rounded it out with:
St. Basil
Sydney Opera House

but it is absolutely criminal that St. Peter's basilica isn't on the list.
3.14.2007 5:35pm
markm, that sounds very plausible.
3.14.2007 5:37pm
Pyrthroes (mail):
See "Gods, Graves, and Scholars" (1950s): Hagia Sophia, Church of the Holy Wisdom, was built to crown Constantinople by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I. (Robert Graves describes his Empress Theodora as a former Madam, favored of Hippodrome charioteers. Her exertions make Hillary Clinton look innocent and foolish [which she is neither].)

Upon the Turkish conquest Constantine's city (he of "In hoc Signo vinces"), when the last Emperor Michael Paleologos threw off his imperial regalia and charged to meet the foe anonymously, Hagia Sophia became a mosque-- like the Taj Mahal, we see a minaret at each of its four corners today. Of note is, that the Ottoman conquest of Byzantium excluded Venice from the Eastern Mediterranean until the Battle of Lepanto contained Muslim power in 1573 (inspiring the Spanish Armada); a century later, the Grand Turk's siege of Vienna (1683) was a near thing, stopped only by Jan Sobieski (King of Poland) and Eugene of Savoy ("Prinz Eugen" of WWII dreadnought fame).

Gutenberg's interest in movable type stemmed directly from his High Renaissance, pre-Reformation sense that Western culture stood at a crossroads. When Constantinople became Istanbul, lackadaisical responses to Islamic imperialism dating from the Crusades would change only as European populations accessed faith directly. Though Gutenberg's first Bibles were Latin "Vulgates", translators rapidly pushed versions in "lingua franca" ("languages of the Franks"), meaning every national tongue in Western Europe.

Through the late 15th Century, as translations multiplied, Rome endeavored not just to re-assert temporal authority but to reconcile translations with Vulgate doctrine. It cannot be done... into the gap stepped Martin Luther in 1517, and the Great Schism --Protestant Reformation-- disturbed the peace of Europe through 1700 and beyond, when nation-state dynastic politics superseded doctrinal disputes after the Thirty Years' War with spasms through Bonaparte's predations in Revolutionary times.

Right... no-one taught us this, but history is critical to context and perspective. Recent contacts with our offspring's teenage friends reveal that: They have never heard of the Battle of Hastings, Magna Carta, or so-called Common Law. One in eight knew of the California Gold Rush; those few who registered the Gettysburg Address thought it was where someone lived (Lincoln-- who he?). Three thought the Civil War occured in the mid-1930s, because "that's when they did the movie" (Gone with the Wind).

Ah, well... the five percent of us not pork ignorant of culture, economics, socio-political backgrounds (sounds high falutin', don't it?) will eat the rest for lunch. Kids aren't dumb, but self-esteem means "lazy and incurious". Schools like it that way. What do you tell someone who can't identify Hitler, Stalin, Mao T'se-tung, but knows for a fact that Margaret Sanger was a rock-star in the 1950s?
3.14.2007 7:10pm
LL (mail) (www):
"Prinz Eugen" of WWII dreadnought fame." WW2 Prinz Eugen was a Cruiser. Dreadnought is WW1 term due to HMS Dreadnought the first big gun ship not anymore in use in WW2 when the term was battleship. There was indeed a Prinz Eugen dreadnought but in WW1.

As a curiosity Prince Eugene had ships named in is honor in German, Italy and Austria...
3.14.2007 10:07pm
Pyrthroes (mail):
In re Prinz Eugen: Absolutely right. Only excuse is overconfidence. Don't think LL's post is "nitpicking" at all: Once a historical misattribution gets started, it tends to snowball.

Eugene of Savoy is a fascinating historical figure. Born in Italy, raised at the court of Louis XIV, he became quite Francophobic and headed into Austria-Hungary for many an escapade against the Grand Porte. After 1683, Vienna awarded him the Belvedere Palace, a luminous baroque complex overlooking the city to this day. Prinz Eugen fought campaigns with Marlborough, "the handsome Englishman", Churchill's ancestor for whom Parliament decreed Blenheim.

Good for LL! No scholar, but we do love history, and now have an excuse to review WWI naval circumstance. Hm-- come to think on't, maybe we confused the ship of WWI with the "Prince of Wales" that went down with "Repulse" off Singapore in WWII. Absolutely no connection, but that's how rumors start. Thanks again for this dash of cold salt spray.
3.14.2007 11:36pm
The official website lists the Kremlin as a finalist, but the Washington Post shows a photo of St. Basil's Cathedral. They are not the same thing, although often confused. I suspect that many who voted for the Kremlin, thought that they were voting for the very picturesque St. Basil's Cathedral, which is outside of the Kremlin complex.
3.15.2007 12:16am