For years I’ve been having breakfast conversations with my lady. I would bring her news from my feeds and my point of view. As a trusted source she had no problems engaging people in her feeds with the information, facts and opinions I gave her in the morning.
On one particular morning I told her about something I had heard. She forwarded it to her feeds and got slammed. What I had told her was factually incorrect. I had not checked my sources, I had not bothered to verify what I had heard. It was one of those “too good to be true” stories and it turned out it wasn’t.
I damaged my reputation with my lady with that one clumsy action.
To this day, if I have not personally verified something I will tell her that I have not verified it myself. If I have verified it and said as much she will trust my representation, but if I have not specifically verified the information she will before she uses it.
I am an opinionated S.O.B. I tried to ground my opinions in facts and figures. I don’t always succeed.
When I started to write here I took it upon myself to make sure that I very carefully delineated my opinion from actual facts. This has caused me to do deeper dives into content than I had originally intended. Most of my articles take hours to write. I’ve had some take 8 to 10 hours including all the research.
To that end I’ve attempted to make sure that I quote my sources and that I provide references.
So we need to talk about references or sources. There are three types of sources we deal with, primary sources, secondary sources and first hand sources.
If I report that I observed a particular thing, that is a first hand or first person source. I am reporting what I saw or heard. For example: I observed that nobody in my area had any issues with people destroying Trump yard signs. The local police didn’t do anything. The local media didn’t report it. When there were two or three BLM signs vandalized the police investigated, the police issued a statement and the local media published multiple articles regarding the evil of the right-wing.
Now if you repeat that story “AWA wrote an article about how destruction of Trump yard signs was treated differently from the destruction of BLM yard signs.” That is a true statement. People can reference my article and draw their own conclusions.
On the other hand, if you were to write your own article based on the information I provided you would be using a secondary source.
In order to help with this, I attempt to provide references to my primary sources. These would be links to local media, links to police announcements, links to images of destroyed Trump signs. Now I won’t do that because I really don’t want to say what “local” means.
Over the years of watching 2A videos and reading 2A articles I noticed that they often showed a document or the talked about a document but they never put links to the documents.
The reason for this is likely simple, PACER. PACER is Public Access to Court Electronic Records. The idea is that all documents that are filed in court are recorded in PACER for the public to access… at $0.10 per page.
While no one document will cost more than $3.00 there is a heck of a lot of documents that get filed. You would have to pay for all of them. In addition there is a price for doing searches. “Anytime a search is performed you are charged a fee based on the number of pages generated in the search, even if the search displays “no matches found.” There is no maximum fee for these searches.” So if you get a huge set of search results, you better save it as there is going to be a bill associated with it.
In addition, transcripts are charged at $0.10 per page. With the formatting on transcripts this can be pretty big.
The Second Circuit maintains its docket in the Case Management/Electronic Case-Filing (CM/ECF) system for all appeals filed on or after January 1, 2010. Anyone wishing to view docket entries and electronically filed documents for an appeal with a docket number starting with “10” or higher can access the docket by logging in the Second Circuit’s CM/ECF database linked with PACER.
It is the same for district courts as well. The Supreme Court, on the other hand, keeps their documents open and available and free.
What this means is that if somebody pulls a legal document from PACER they can’t just post a link to it and worse, PACER claims to own all of the documents they have, so sharing it is also forbidden.
This often times leads to extended searching in order to find primary sources for court documents. And the actual words of some of these documents make a difference.
For example, in my article about As the Narrative Turns – “Gun reform” Episode 32768 has a mention of the Supreme Court ruling for New York State in regards to the CCIA. In reading the actual opinion published by the Supreme Court you quickly find that it isn’t a victory for anybody.
Alito clearly says that the case is being left with the second circuit court to allow them to work through in the normal course of a court. He also tells the plaintiffs to reapply to the Supreme Court if the second circuit doesn’t give them the reasons for the current stay or if the second circuit doesn’t give them an expedited hearing on any appeal filed with them. Finally, the opinion mentions a number of district court cases by name regarding the CCIA. All of which is polite talk from the Supreme Court to the second to get their act squared away.
The words make a difference.
One problem with some of these documents is that I don’t have clean electronic copies of the primary references. The Gun Control Act of 1968 exists in PDF form on the net. It is a sequence of images of the act. In order to provide you with quotes from the Act I had to transcribe it by hand.
Regardless, references are important and you should all strive to use primary sources. Watch for weasel worded quotes. Anytime you find a quote with ellipses (…) you should ask yourself what was left out. We’ve seen many cases where the author of an article uses ellipses to cut out words that change the entire meaning of the quote.
That is one of the reasons my block quotes get so big. I want to provide you with complete context, or nearly so.
Finally, be careful of circular confirmation or single source items.
A circular confirmation is when multiple articles all report the same base set of facts. It seems like those are the actual facts. But the different articles often times reference back to each other. It isn’t that the NYT has independently confirmed fact B, it is that they read in the Washington Post that B was a fact. The Washington Post hasn’t independently confirmed fact B, it is that they read in the NYT that B was a fact.
Finally there is the single source problem. This is when multiple articles reference a single source. Then more articles reference the first set of articles. In a short period of time everyone is reporting the same set of facts. Unfortunately, all of the sources for that set of facts leads back to a single source, which may or may not be trustworthy.
When you write about a subject, you are adding the weight of your reputation to the that subject. Get your facts right before you begin. I really don’t want to admit the number of times I’ve deleted paragraphs from an article because my research showed that I was wrong about the base facts.
Finally, pay attention to your sources. There are people out there that want to make you and I look bad. They do that by creating content and attributing it to respected sources. Or pretending to be that respected source. If somebody tells you that Ben Shapiro said something that doesn’t match what you expect to hear from him, demand the proof.
I use to watch Glenn Beck, I was often told that he said horrible things. All I needed to do was to search youtube and the proof would be there. I did. What I found was a few dozen videos of Glenn Beck saying bad things. The total time he spent saying those “bad things” was around 5 to 10 minutes. So for a man with 1000s of hours of live broadcasts to have only 5 to 10 minutes of things that sound bad, out of context, that’s doing pretty good.
So check. If it doesn’t sound right, it likely isn’t.
And remember, there are people that will fake things just to mess with you.
2 thoughts on “Bad References”
“The Gun Control Act of 1968 exists in PDF form on the net.”
Save a few steps…
The actual GCA is available as part of a searchable/copyable web site. Go here: https://www.govtrack.us/congress/bills/90/hr17735/text
And, for following up on references cited, or the sections of US Code that the GCA, or any other Public Law altered, go to the Cornell Law Library. Link to Title 18 US Code: https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18
The Cornell Law Library is a fantastic resource, check the tabs, citation, and almost everything is linked. Citations and links to the public law are provided. They also have searchable archives of Code of Federal Regulations, with links to the Federal Register notices of rulemaking. This way, you can find out the reasoning behind the regulations.
I do use the Cornell Law Library. I also use scholar.google.com and a few others. My biggest issue isn’t in getting access to the actual laws and bills, it is in all the filings that are done at the district and circuit court levels.
Thank you for the reminder to use Cornell
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