Wary is the word of the day. Front and center but below the bend of pages A1 and B1 in the paper NYT were two warnings to the naive reader, if such still exists.
First wary warning is John Lefevre’s Straight to Hell: True Tales of Deviance and Excess in the World of Investment Banking a book-to-be based on his purported employment at Goldman Sachs and the tweets he sent from the elevator there then. Neither happened, but he writes well says the publisher, who still intends to publish the book.
Second wary warning is a National Enquirer article (“the first pebble of an [Internet] landslide of malignant fiction”)about Philip Seymour Hoffman based on an interview with his friend, David Katz, who had neither been interviewed nor ever talked to anyone at the paper. Within hours, Mr. Katz filed a libel suit, and shortly thereafter received an apology, a retraction, and a full-page ad of explanation in the NYT — none of which stopped the continuing “web” of lies.
But getting rid of something wrong on the Internet is not easy. Granted that by definition the Wikipedia demonstrates that truth is a work-in-progress, it also demonstrates that errors are difficult to correct and the incorrections may remain and take on a life of their own as part of that work-in-progress.
Getting an entry (a page?) into Wikipedia isn’t always easy either. In the almost-news of the NYT Syle Section last week. Judith Neuman wrote a very funny column about trying to become an entry in Wikipedia. This is a great how-to for those whose Facebook time and spread are too little and who wonder if the ninth runner-up to something can be in Wikipedia, why not I?
So what’s a curious person to do? Well, for starters, always wonder what’s not being said and why. For instance, read two books about the same person and compare. If Theodore Roosevelt is your current person of interest, Roseledge Books will be ready with Timothy Egan’s The Big Burn: Teddy Roosevelt and the Fire hat Saved America, Theodore Roosevelt’s The Rough Riders, Edmund Morris’ The Rise of Theodore Roosevelt, etc. This is a variation on the journalist’s always finding two sources or the researcher’s citing dissenters, too. Dream on, I suppose.
My brother-in-law reads both WSJ and NYT which makes him fun to argue with, even if he’s often wrong. Charlie is the best (usually online) follow-up or follow-through reader I know, which is good because I am not. This may be a definition of teamwork or maybe family.
After a lifetime of wariness — thank you, dad — I mostly read anything always remembering that no source, “webbed” or not, is ever 1) neutral or 2) original (but it may be primary), 3) dead or 4) enough. And Wikipedia is worth rules of its own. Beyond that, play to your audience. (For those not sufficiently wary, Farhad Manjoo’s True Enough: Learning to Live in a Post-Fact Society is useful.)
Brutally cold winter gave in to above zero temps today, but Mpls is still 30+ degrees colder than usual. You know you are crazed — or have character — when this makes you smile.