Dick Margulis writes:
An NPR reporter this morning, talking about people in Libya: "…have never spoken to a Western reporter, much less seen one."
I hear this frequently (although I don't recall reading it). It is a reversal of what was intended: "have never seen a Western reporter, much less spoken to one."
This occurs with both "much less" and "let alone."
I wouldn't begin to know how to do a corpus search to detect the frequency with which people reverse the arguments of the expression in speech. It occurs to me, though, that the production error seems to be akin to the misnegation phenomenon that you've posted about more than once.
"NEGATIVE X, much less Y" presupposes that X and Y can be placed on some scale of accessibility, such that X is easier/commoner and Y is harder/rarer. Normally, in fact, you need to pass through X in order to get to Y. A typical example from the NYT:
For all his achievements, Rex never got their attention, much less their rightful applause.
If X and Y are in the opposite order, with X being further out or less accessible, then the normal idiom is "NEGATIVE X or even Y":
Now over thirty years old, he had never dated or even associated with women.
Note that in such examples, X and Y can be inverted by switching idioms:
For all his achievements, Rex never got their rightful applause, or even their attention.
Now over thirty years old, he had never even associated with women, much less dated them.
And Dick is right that people sometimes get their scales and idioms confused. Here are some apparently-backwards web examples with "much less":
I've never tried Trimmit, much less heard of it.
We can read virtual books that we've never bought or borrowed, much less held in our hands.
Before using JavaBuilder, I had never used YAML — much less heard of it.
And here's one with "or even"
It's crazy because I saw Hackers a few times as a kid and never noticed that shit or even thought about it.
And Dick is right that these reversals have something in common with what we've called misnegation, namely confusion about the interaction of negation, semantic scales, and modality (here in the sense of gradation of counterfactual situations).
Individual backwards examples might represent a local semantic confusion — like a word-interchange error, but on a more abstract level — or might reflect a systematic re-interpretation of the meaning of the idiom. In the case of the NPR report, my money would be on the speech-error interpretation.
But let's note that this use of much less is indeed an idiom, rather than a regular combination of the words much and less. One source of evidence for this is the fact that attempts to fill out the paradigm of combinations in other ways generally don't work: "X, much more Y", "X, a little less Y", and so on. (Though "still less" does work…) Another piece of evidence is the fact that (what the OED identifies as) the original way "to characterize a statement or suggestion as still more unacceptable than one that has been already denied", namely "less" without any "much", is now distinctly odd:
a1637 B. Jonson Magnetick Lady iii. iv. 72 in Wks. (1640) III, You never fought with any; lesse, slew any.
1663 B. Gerbier Counsel to Builders sig. g4v, Dimensions and Formes, which are not to be mended, lesse contradicted.
And the earliest citation for "much less" is from 1671:
1671 Milton Paradise Regain'd iii. 236 The world thou hast not seen, much less her glory.