Friday, January 27, 2012

Investigate before you pass it along

Thanks to my beautiful spouse, here's an excellent example of the benefits of a little fact-checking.

Unfortunately, the person who "passed along" the email encouraging my wife to consider the views of Harvard Historian David Kaiser didn't fact check it first.

The tag line reads: "By passing this along, perhaps it will help to begin the awakening of Americans to where we are headed." Perhaps you also received this from a friend or relative.

The preface to the article (which can be described as anti-Obama) includes a lot of objective facts:
David Kaiser is a respected historian whose published works have covered a broad range of topics, from European Warfare to American League Baseball. Born in 1947, the son of a diplomat, Kaiser spent his childhood in three capital cities: Washington D.C., Albany, New York , and Dakar , Senegal ... He attended Harvard University, graduating there in 1969 with a B.A. in history. He then spent several years more at Harvard, gaining a PhD in history, which he obtained in 1976.. He served in the Army Reserve from 1970 to 1976.

He is a professor in the Strategy and Policy Department of the United States Naval War College . He has previously taught at Carnegie Mellon, Williams College and Harvard University. Kaiser's latest book, The Road to Dallas, about the Kennedy assassination, was just published by HarvardUniversityPress.
The article is a poster child for bias and doesn't seem to be written by a person with such impeccable credentials. That red flag prompted my wife to do some fact checking. She found the claims about David Kaiser listed above to be accurate. She also found his blog at

Scanning the prose in the blog didn't seem to match the type of content in the email. But it was the ABOUT ME section that is most revealing:
The email circulating widely attributed to me comparing President Obama to Adolf Hitler is a forgery: see
While the email attempted to provide indisputable authorship information, it was a forgery. Two minutes worth of investigation is all the effort it took. The big step was the motivation to fact check rather than just read, believe and forward it to someone else.

Passing along that email didn't quite have the desired result.

No comments: