This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 15, 2012.
Former tenured CU Professor, Department Head, and Indian Ward Churchill, was somewhat famous for many notes with his texts that suggested great research and devotion to accuracy. Some of the notes referenced books he himself had written, sometimes under other names, so his standing for accuracy was something he could have fabricated, which in at least one case he did.
When literate and informed people actually read his books, you'd have hoped that they would have immediately seen through it. But regarding academic peer review in lesser history, that ship apparently has sailed, rounded the Horn, taken water off Coronel, and now sleeps with Craddock. I have to admit a lot of footnotes impress or intimidate people who should not be easily impressed or intimidated whatever, but are. Churchill implied he was not alone in these methods. In my own ventures into research, I've found Churchill is right.
Here's a melded example of how this might appear.
In a description of a battle between Indians and our Army, say, a dying officer is credited with some implausibly coherent set of last words. It is heavily notated as being from, say 15 separate sources. Impressive. But doing minimal research reveals that those fifteen sources, some from books authored by soldiers at the battle, all got the story from a single newspaper published decades after, wherein a friendly Indian scout, who did not speak English, was interviewed in his dotage by a white man who did not speak the Indian's language but used a translator. Well, sorta. The translator got the tale in sign language. Who was the translator? We may or may not know. Sometimes, it's not admitted there was one.
So, it's odd how the quotation from the Indian, which included the quote from the officer, sounds very much like Thomas Carlisle or Pitt the Elder, using predicate tenses difficult to utilize in English and absolutely non-existent in the Algonquin related Indian's language, where words have variable stand alone meanings. Insofar as we know the words used by Indians in that year, which nobody really does. And God knows, sign language does not add accuracy. Indian languages have been committed to paper and standardized today, but they bear small reflection to the living language of the past, which wasn't written.
Also? It turns out the reporter belonged to the same Civil War army unit as the dead officer, who once recommended a medal for the writer. So, nothing suspicious here, right?
It bothers me that people count the number of footnotes and endnotes and how many pages of bibliography the author claims and don't validate any of them. It's the impression of substance by quantity that sways not only idiots and the ignorant, but the educated and the lazy.
This demand for quantity of data rather than quality or, actually, fact, is a depressing facet of our times. We're requested to participate in surveys at every website visited, some restaurants, every retail purchase. Apparently, we're to believe the business is really interested in our opinion to serve us better. Please. It's just to increase hits and visits at the inevitable website, false stats that will be used to sell advertising to folks who should know better but do not, and who in turn try to mislead the public.
We're inundated with worthless political polling, which the media itself jokes is pretty meaningless unless there is a dramatic shift and that can be used to fill up a few minutes. It's data, but it's worthless, because it's those who are at home and answer the phone. How representative and informative is that? About as informative and meaningful as baseball statistics. Baseball is now entirely a game of ridiculous stats. Fitting for a nation that serves each other surveys five times a day.
I give blood at Bonfils Blood Center every two months. For whatever reason, perhaps that I have no children, it makes me happy that some infant might live because of my superior vintage. I imagine my blood is requested by name.
But, I am also politely requested to fill out a survey, which I no longer do. That's because they want to know, with six questions of five options each plus essay, if my experience was okay. Every visit. I've told them unless they heard from me, all was fine. I'm grateful and impressed enough with the people who work there that unless I see them sipping my blood from a saucer with cookies at the table, I probably wouldn't complain. A saucer? Were they raised in a barn?