Go to the Original or Primary Sources: or the Importance of Checking for Oneself.

January 29, 2010

I had originally planned on writing about President Obama's State of the Union Address but a severe toothache, tooth extraction, and a week of anti-biotics and Vicodin ES have all conspired to delay me. In my rush to catch up on a lost week, I almost made a basic methodological error. Instead of going to the original source, that is the full transcript of the President's Address, I turned to, and almost used, some secondary sources, that is various Web pundits and their analyses. One of the latter claimed that President Obama said," [n]othing about the spate of terrorist attacks that have gripped our country since the fall, from the Fort Hood shooting to the Christmas bombing attempt. Simply, not a word about the war on terror." Leaving aside the hyperbole of "a spate of terrorist attacks", let us see for ourselves, here is an excerpt from Obama's SOTU, "That is the work we began last year. Since the day I took office, we have renewed our focus on the terrorists who threaten our nation. We have made substantial investments in our homeland security and disrupted plots that threatened to take American lives. We are filling unacceptable gaps revealed by the failed Christmas attack, with better airline security, and swifter action on our intelligence. We have prohibited torture and strengthened partnerships from the Pacific to South Asia to the Arabian Peninsula. And in the last year, hundreds of Al Qaeda's fighters and affiliates, including many senior leaders, have been captured or killed - far more than in 2008." Not a word on terror?


#1 Kathy Orlinsky on Friday January 29, 2010 at 11:38am

Good point.  It’s really amazing how often sources get things wrong.  Sometimes I read an interesting story about a discovery that was made by person X, and when I look for the original article, it turns out it was really person Y who did the work.  And the result wasn’t even what was specified, nor was the conclusion warranted.

#2 JohnnyCrash on Monday February 01, 2010 at 4:14am

Perspective is the enemy in more cases than we’d care to imagine.  Getting lost in the thicket of trees causes one to take yesteryear’s fabels of sacred texts and their mythologies for actual trees (or facts).

In politics it is the same.  Fear, paranoia, and a reluctance to change (some would say “conservatism”) is our Achille’s Heel in the slowness of our evolution.  Fear of violence or or some economic threat or of some group (mythological or real - gay marriage or Al Qaeda or “Socialist” health care) propels some political motives over the facts - or the proper scope of their individual threats.  Inquiry, reason, and logic should be our only guides, not emotions based on fear and superstition.

To let go of yesterday’s fear of fire and embrace its use to forge new tools in its heat and brighter light is a goal hindered by primitive perspective.  Perspective’s a b!tch.

Clarity requires one’s own eyes peeled to the facts in front of them.  Primary sources with an open mind and a balanced perspective are essential.

PS: I Love the photo of Dean Martin from Rio Bravo!

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