Leveson and self-regulation – always doublecheck your sources

December 13, 2012 15 Comments
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This is a cautionary tale, largely against myself – sometimes I have to do my own debunking.

Keypoint 1: Are hyperlinks enough?

A few years back, a retired Scottish scientist [a real one] took me to task for using hyperlinks – he expected I’d know, as an academic, that it was vital, when quoting, to list author, title, publication, date and page as a minimum and preferably the publisher as well.

I did know that and had spent most of my academic career drumming that into students – that it was fine to quote someone for support, indeed they needed to refer to someone to give weight to their arguments but that it had to appear via numbering as both a footnote and the source as part of a bibliography at the end.

If you look at how Wiki does it, you’ll note the sources listed below.

I argued that on a blog, there is neither the time nor the space for all that – to hyperlink to the source, provided the source gave author, title, publication, date and page as a minimum and preferably the publisher as well, would suffice.

Keypoint 2: Research is a 90% to 10% thing

In my trilogy, there’s a point where the main characters got some information wrong and the conversation went:

‘The danger is in looking at only, say, 80% of the story, when the last 20% alters the picture significantly.’

I’d refine that now to 90% and 10%. In that story, failing to go that last 10% can have you believing something, on the strength of the quotee, when in fact it should be questioned because of the last 10%.

This is illustrated in the next keypoint below, further reinforced by the Holcombe Syndrome I’m always quoting:

Perry Mason, advocate, had just finished pointing out an anomaly in Sergeant Holcombe’s evidence in a murder trial and now asked, ‘Does that seem logical to you?’

Sergeant Holcombe hesitated a moment, then said, ‘Well, that’s one of those little things. That doesn’t cut so much ice. Lots of times you’ll find little things which are more or less inconsistent with the general interpretation of evidence.’

‘I see,’ Mason said. ‘And when you encounter such little things, what do you do, Sergeant?’

‘You just ignore ’em,’ said Holcombe.

‘And how many such things have you ignored, Sergeant, in reaching your [current] conclusion?’

Keypoint 3: Accurate quoting is everything

Some days back I ran a post on the political elite and asked just who they were – we know they exist, people refer to them but just who are they? The quotes included in that post all reinforced the proposition that there is most certainly a “power behind the throne”, that those we think are in power are not, at least not completely.

Two mainstream supports for that are the EU, [in relation to the UK] and Common Purpose, [in relation to anyone we think is in power in this country, from regional heads to council chiefs]. But I included many other quotes going back into relatively recent history and the message was that there is indeed a power behind the wheelings and dealings.

One of those quotes was of Churchill and I stood on him as an authority which, as you will now see, might not have been the wisest thing to do.

Keypoint 4: We are living through an age of spin, of gross disinformation

Two days ago was a post about the gay “marriage” stats and it said:

THE government’s claim that a majority of people are in favour of its push to legalise same-sex marriage is “dishonest”, The Daily Telegraph reports.

MPs will be told today that a survey of 228,000 people who took part in a “listening exercise” earlier this year found a narrow majority in favour of allowing gay couples to marry.

But until now it has not been made clear that petitions organised by campaigners show a huge majority against gay marriage. More than 500,000 people signed up against same-sex marriage, as against 64,000 signatories supporting it.

There are also complaints that the listening exercise was not limited to people living in the UK. There have been claims that lobbying groups in the United States were trying to recruit people to send in responses.

As they say – sheer dishonesty for political purposes. And there’ve been posts all over the place, from various bloggers and the MSM, on the government massaging stats and including things or ignoring things which then significantly alters the true picture.

Which immediately reminds me of Matthew 24, which states:

[6] And ye shall hear of wars and rumours of wars: see that ye be not troubled: for all these things must come to pass, but the end is not yet.
[7] For nation shall rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom: and there shall be famines, and pestilences, and earthquakes, in divers places.
[8] All these are the beginning of sorrows.
[9] Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name’s sake.
[10] And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.
[11] And many false prophets shall rise, and shall deceive many.
[12] And because iniquity shall abound, the love of many shall wax cold.

And:

[24] For there shall arise false Christs, and false prophets, and shall shew great signs and wonders; insomuch that, if it were possible, they shall deceive the very elect.

And currently topical, in relation to December 21st:

[36] But of that day and hour knoweth no man, no, not the angels of heaven, but my Father only.

Which is why I don’t subscribe to December 21st being the end, though it may well be.

Keypoint 5: Beware of requoting or quoting quotes of quotes

And so to that misquote I’ve been promising through this post. Here it is:

From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, to those of Trotsky, Bela Kun, Rosa Luxembourg, and Emma Goldman, this world wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilization and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence and impossible equality, has been steadily growing.

That’s how I found the quote long ago on some site and then found it many times as such around the net. If you google it, you’ll see it quoted by many and the quote quoted. This is how almost all political bloggers do it, relying on the integrity of the blogger they’ve quoted and by and large, that might work but occasionally it doesn’t.

When it doesn’t, we expect a blogger of integrity to make corrections and say why he has done that. We expect the context of the quote to have been mentioned as well but the issue is that none of us are full time researchers – we are bloggers and caught in this bind which both the MSM and Leveson take us to task over.

I made the point myself yesterday – that if we state something, even if an oblique comment can be construed as a statement, then we need to back it up. This is the whole point of Leveson and everything the government is currently trying to do to the internet.

When I researched that quote of Churchill’s, there was nothing on the first pages of google to help but then I came at it from a different angle and golly gosh – what did I find?

She had a wide readership. Winston Churchill praised her in a 1920 article entitled “Zionism versus Bolshevism: A Struggle for the Soul of the Jewish People,” in which he asserted, “This movement among the Jews is not new.

From the days of Spartacus-Weishaupt to those of Karl Marx, and down to Trotsky (Russia), Bela Kun (Hungary), Rosa Luxembourg (Germany), and Emma Goldman (United States), this world-wide conspiracy for the overthrow of civilisation and for the reconstitution of society on the basis of arrested development, of envious malevolence, and impossible equality, has been steadily growing. It played, as a modern writer, Mrs. Webster, has so ably shown, a definitely recognisable part in the tragedy of the French Revolution.”[9]

Webster also published Secret Societies and Subversive Movements, The Need for Fascism in Great Britain,[10] the Menace of Communism (with Mrs. Katherine Atkinson) and The Origin and Progress of the World Revolution. In the latter book, published in 1921, she wrote: “What mysteries of iniquity would be revealed if the Jew, like the mole, did not make a point of working in the dark!

No doubt the writer who wanted that quote spread around the internet had reasons for dropping the “as a modern writer, Mrs. Webster, has so ably shown“, for who wishes to quote a fascist who is down on the Jews?

Does that negate what Churchill said? Not necesarily because he was also widely read and was not relying just on her but on how it related to his previous experience. As for the French Revolution, was there ever a more misquoted era, even at the time?

There is a quote by Mirabeau widely available on the net and the source is “the private papers of Mirabeau”. Nothing specific he wrote. I looked into it further and found that there were allegations of papers having been added to Mirabeau’s after his death by pamphleteers, two of whom were named.

The purpose? To co-opt Mirabeau to their cause. Now if that was so, then they were spinning like a top, even back then. Which then raises the question of what can be trusted and whom?

Well, for a start, I trust a biased account because you know what you’re getting. So Debka is fine for me because I know it is Mossad and the Israeli government. I only need go to al Jazeera to balance it and then make the mind up.

The second approach is to just lay what you have, for and against, on the table and let people join their own dots.

Keypoint 7: Avoid gilding the lily

The third approach is to be careful with gilding the lily. Many scholars say the Gospel of Mark has had text added and that might disqualify Mark if that added text significantly alters the message. It appears it didn’t, that it was gilding the lily but it’s still unsafe.

How can I know that? Because I accepted Christian scholars who were pro-Mark but who admitted additions and rejected clearly atheist/rationalist “scholars” from the last century whose whole purpose was to tear down the bible.

I mean, one is left with the question – is there anything at all or anyone at all we can trust?

Well there is. People we’ve found trustworthy until now can still be fairly trustworthy by their lights. They may make errors but those errors can be honest and they can be due to their known bias. For example, that quote by The Week about the gay survey is clearly anti-gay “marriage” and yet that quote of theirs about the petition is pretty hard to refute.

We also ask ourselves – how sound is The Week? How sound is American Thinker? How sound is The Atlantic? The best take on UMP seemed to me to be le Figaro, long a rightwing supporting paper. What I failed to see at the time was that it was pro-Fillon in a big way and anti-Cope. So that is yet another example of having to be careful.

What’s the point of this post?

Leveson is crowding us in the sphere. If we are to mount effective resistance, it’s not enough to just refer the PTB to Arkell and Pressdram.   We must also look to ourselves and like Caesar’s wife, become unimpeachable.

That’s called self-regulation.

15 Responses to Leveson and self-regulation – always doublecheck your sources

  1. December 13, 2012 at 8:29 am

    A blog post is informal in nature, therefore hyperlinks are perfectly fine. I certainly don’t intend to treat my witterings as if they are academic publications. You can if you wish, of course, but not me and I doubt the others will.

    I made the point myself yesterday – that if we state something, even if an oblique comment can be construed as a statement, then we need to back it up.

    If people construe it as such, then it is their problem. As I and others have mentioned, this is an informal comment thread, it is not a formal debate and it is not an academic publication, nor is it a newspaper. Providing we do not break the laws of libel, then what we say is fine – assuming no one takes offence…

    My comment about the Freemasons wasn’t untrue, wasn’t libellous and didn’t cause anyone offence under the public order act. Therefore, there was no requirement to “back it up” Indeed, the only person who got their knickers in a knot over it was you for some obscure reason. Now would be a good time to get over it, I suggest. No one is going to prosecute us over it

    If there is evidence of a change, then we will deal with the specifics as they arise and when we know what we are dealing with.

    • December 13, 2012 at 11:39 am

      hyperlinks are perfectly fine

      Then we’re in agreement. That’s so nice to know. ;-)

  2. Chuckles
    December 13, 2012 at 10:02 am

    ‘he expected I’d know, as an academic, that it was vital, when quoting, to list author, title, publication, date and page as a minimum and preferably the publisher as well.’

    Why would anyone care what academics do?

    ‘Pardon him. Theodotus: he is a barbarian, and thinks that the customs of his tribe and island are the laws of nature.’
    G.B. Shaw

    • December 13, 2012 at 10:13 am

      Why would anyone care what academics do?

      I certainly don’t.

  3. December 13, 2012 at 10:12 am

    I think the issue has more to do with trust than accuracy and sources. People make mistakes, over-emphasise, under-emphasise and struggle with complexity and uncertainty. We know that and soon learn to trust their intentions.

    If somebody refers to David Cameron as a slimeball, we know what’s behind it and don’t need any references or footnotes.

    Through all this, our aim is to see things more clearly today than we did yesterday, correcting mistakes we made along the way.

    What impresses me about so many blog writers and those who leave comments, including those with whom I disagree, is how many people do their level best to present a worthwhile point of view or some useful factual material.

    That’s enough for me – we aren’t writing theses.

    • December 13, 2012 at 11:37 am

      we aren’t writing theses

      We don’t have the time anyway.

  4. Single Acts of Tyranny
    December 13, 2012 at 10:43 am

    “I don’t subscribe to December 21st being the end, though it may well be”

    No, it really won’t be.

    • December 13, 2012 at 10:49 am

      It will just feel that way… :twisted:

      • David A. Evans
        December 13, 2012 at 6:00 pm

        It will just feel that way…

        No, that will be either 26.12.12 or 01.01.13. :twisted:

        DaveE.

  5. December 13, 2012 at 11:39 am

    Hyperlinking is not a problem, surely. It’s just assuming that what is at the end of the hyperlink is valid that is a problem. When I read any post anywhere on the web that I feel is largely nonsense, I often follow the hyperlinks offered to substantiate the nonsense and at the end of the hyperlinks I find more nonsense. I travel the blogworld much less these days, growing tired of the nonsense.

    • December 13, 2012 at 11:51 am

      I would be inclined to suggest that the initial page should give you forewarning. If you are reading nonsense then it’s a fair bet that the links will be to more of the same. You can save yourself a lot of time and energy that way ;)

      • December 13, 2012 at 1:12 pm

        You are of course correct Longrider, though in my idle moments I do find myself drawn towards some selected nonsense for the entertainment value, and to keep up to date with the latest nonsense, which is important for research purposes. I am not retired myself, but if I do ever get to retire I may have more time for enjoying nonsense.

    • December 13, 2012 at 12:28 pm

      The retired Scottish scientist thought it so and then went on about things being rubbish anyway when the problem was actually his penchant for calling anything he hadn’t personally checked out rubbish. That meant there was a lot of rubbish about, by that definition.

      The scientific method.

      • December 13, 2012 at 12:36 pm

        He was probably right – there is a lot of rubbish about.

        • December 14, 2012 at 8:24 am

          Yes indeed – there is so much dross and that can be seen by the outpourings of certain groups and poltiical persuasions. I wrote in a post later to day at my place, in response to Mary Meeker:

          There is so much dross written by vaguely modern, left-liberalish, feel-goody, do-goody, well isn’t it all lovely types that it clogs up the net andif anything needs regulation [which it doesn't], then it is that. Things like Meeker’s outpourings.

          There are those who are serious in their writing and do the hard yards, get the material and argue a case with back up, there are those who think “wouldn’t it be lovely if this were so” and write reams based on nothing factual except their emotional inclinations and then there are those who just come in and with infinite wisdom somehow granted to them from on high and little knowledge of a topic just poo-poo things for no good reason other than a psychological inability to accept fact. They tend to call anything seriously written and based on evidence as nonsense.

          Fortunately for OoL, neither Longrider, Don Qui Scottie nor I are part of the latter two types. That’s a great relief.

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