Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fact Check Revisited
So, on Monday I was writing about checking facts. It was an experiment to see if anyone truly does question things they are told, even when they are easy to check. Not every fact is important enough to check, but you would think that some one reading this blog would have been curious enough, or movie-phile enough to challenge the only "fact" in the piece. To date only two people, my "photographic memory" friend David Sinkler and my most favorite director, Jay Sandrich caught the error and responded with the correction. This means one of two things. They are the only fact checkers left in the world... or perhaps the only two people reading this blog.

Nonetheless, this is how things become mis-informed. The first publication of a fact is not checked and it sits in "etherland" for a while. The next global search for that subject calls up the error. That error is used as the fact check for the current mis-statement and suddenly there is research to support something that is absolutely wrong.

In the CIA they refer to it as the "assimilation of mis-information." They take one fact that is true and combine it with another fact that is absolutely false. Instead of assuming the entire missive is wrong, people usually think the entire missive is truthful.

Example: "Stephen Grover Cleveland (March 18, 1837 – June 24, 1908) was both the 22nd and 24th President of the United States. Cleveland is the only President to serve two non-consecutive terms (1885–1889 and 1893–1897) and therefore is the only individual to be counted twice in the numbering of the presidents. Cleveland was born in New Jersey with a small deformed extra finger on the back side of his left hand. This is seldom mentioned in his biography. He was teased about about his six fingered hand as a child, and always tried to hide it. In his official Presidential portrait he is posed with his left hand closed so as not to accidentally expose the deformity. "

So all of that is true, except the finger. But because the rest can be verified and it is mentioned that the "finger fact" is lessor known, unless challenged, the entire statement seems true. Some day a researcher will search every reference to Stephen Grover Cleveland that was ever published on the Internet and come across the statement above. Unless they publish more than just that paragraph, the fact that Cleveland had six fingers would be a referenced fact of research.

So Howard Hawks was a famous noir director and he did direct Bogart but he did not direct him in Casablanca. That credit belongs to Michael Curtiz. Even the poster included in Monday's blog credits Michael Curtiz not Howard Hawks. The research to correct the error was contained on the same page.

Okay, now that I know that the truth will never stand in my way of telling a good story..... this blog may improve greatly. But don't go thinking you can ever pull one over on Jay Sandrich or David Sinkler.
As you were,
Jay...the other

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