Saturday, April 21, 2012

Verifying facts with Beatlology techniques

In a world where the media manipulates the truth, or purposefully lie, it is hard to get the facts straight in any given case.

I've personally got my facts outside of the MSM for about 5 years now. I don't have cable tv, I don't usually listen to the radio news. I do check in on a lot of blogs. I listen to the talk show hosts with whom I agree for the most part. But I still think I can correctly refer to myself as well-informed.

If I'm reading a right leaning blog, say, National Review Online or Mark Steyn, I don't take their word for anything they say, but I don't dismiss them. If I find an article interesting, I start trying to walk through the issues presented, backwards. Which means, for example, if the author asserts that the president made a speech in 2010 vowing to cover all Republicans in shellac, I start googling "Obama speech cover Republicans shellac 2010" and glance at what comes up. If one looks like it may refute the blog's claim I am usually drawn initially to that, and if it does, that's great. Blogger 2 says "That goofy blogger 1! Hey doofus, he did mention shellac, but he said HE was shellacked!". Now I feel I'm getting somewhere. Two sources say "shellac" was definitely in a speech Obama made in 2010. Maybe there's a youtube video of Obama making the speech, just where he says "we really got a shellacking.".But that's the whole clip. And I'm not done because I need to know in what context this is being said.

So what am I looking for? What Obama says he said, maybe in a statement he makes about the speech?

That would provide additional information, but it still could muddle the facts. If the president says "I just meant I have a lot of work to do in order to do the job the people sent me to do," that doesn't tell me much. What I'm looking for is proof or rejection of the hypothesis, "President Obama indicated in a speech in 2010 that he intended to do something unsporting to Republicans," something unsporting that sounds like giving them a knuckle sandwich, or covering them with varnish.

What I'm looking for is something as close to the original statment in writing or video or audio that doesn't seem altered. Writing is preferred, So in this case I would really like to have a transcript of the speech. Going to is a possibility, but I like to modify my search at that point by adding the word "transcript" and using something captured that way. The is probably fine, but say there is a non party affiliated group that likes to keep transcripts of all presidential speeches, something like "The US presidential heritage sight". I made that up, incidentily. But if it did exist I would prefer a transcript from them, which is more likely to be neutral. I click on the site, click on the button most likely to point to the info I want, and take it from there. Finally, I have a transcript. I scan the document and pretty quickly find the word "shellacking"; that doesn't make it into speeches every day. Above the transcript might be text identifying the speech, maybe "speech concerning midterm election results; November, 2010." I probably remember that Republicans did much better than Democrats in that election, so that the entire makeup of Congress changed, so this gives me the context of Obama's words, "we took a shellacking'. I take note of that and also that he then starts to speak about perhaps losing touch with what people needed and wanting to improve his administration's ability to gather that information and make use of it.

Despite the fact that this is just the scientific method, no one taught me this method of gathering facts. It came from pure obsession about two groups of artists: Monty Python and The Beatles.

We didn't have Google when I was a much too obsessive pop culture fan. But we had the Journal of Periodical Literature.   As soon as I learned how to use it in high school, I was off to the races. This publication didnt archive information from things like "Sixteen" and the various special Beatle publications (although that wasn't a problem with the Pythons; their material was a bit closer to highbrow and not covered in such publications). But in some ways it was better to start off with scholarly journals as a jumping off point. I had those, books that I found from every public and every college library near me, and "their own words" from interviews and biographers who interviewd them.

When I got a computer, even before the Internet, I found the usenet group It soon became clear to me there were a lot of different beliefs about every situation. Paul wrote Hey Jude for his wife, one Lennon biographer maintained, but the rumor that he wrote it for Julian Lennon took flight after Paul himself endorsed it. Pete Best was fired because Paul was jealous of his good looks (Pete's version). Pete was fired because he wasn't good enough (the Beatles' version). Ringo played with the Rolling Stones before he payed with the Beatles. He never played with the Rolling Stones. Etc.

After the big miniseries "Anthology" came out, I developed my current plan of attack(in Anthology, there's a wonderful part where it's edited to show George, Paul's and Ringo's answer to a question posed to them about an event. "Ringo was there." " Ringo definitely was there." " I couldn't possibly have been there." or something like that.

So here is my Beatles trivia research protocol:

Seek out at least three sources, one as close to an original document you can find: picture of a piece of paper which contains lyrics to a song or a handwritten letter, for example, or tapes. And for God's sake, don't count solely on Paul's or Ringo's own version of the events!

Oh. And make use of your own common sense. Did Paul write Hey Jude for his business partner's kid, or about himself, in relationship to his wife?  Listen to the song. The lyrics are a primary source. The song is meant as encouragement of a guy who is not sure of himself, who is trying to get up the nerve to approach her. A guy who is probably not five years old.  There's nothing in it about the parents of a kid divorcing, or about a kid at all.  Paul  may have been thinking about Julian when he thought up the name "Jude" and the song developed after that.  But it's at least halfway a song about a man's trepidation about entering a new relationship.

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