Author Topic: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books  (Read 80793 times)

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Offline AGRBear

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #135 on: March 01, 2008, 05:13:00 PM »
I do not believe everything must be balanced on both sides. I believe you can choose only one side, as long as you don't change things around to suit your cause if the view presented is not what was actually stated in the original source. I also believe speculation and offering up possible scenarios are fine- lawyers do this in court all the time- BUT they need to be presented in a way that allows the reader to know that this is what it is and not confuse it with a source it didn't really come from.

I agree.

However, if only one side of an issue is presented, does that qualify as the complete truth?

If an author is to present the complete truth of some historical event,  he or she needs to respect all witnesses so he or she can hear/see/read  all sides of the story.  Example:  if there was a battle,  can the field show that 2,000 men died or 10,000?  Of course it can.  And, this is why Napoleon's figures, which he claimed to be true are, now, being revised.  Can 2 bodies be burned to ashes in 2 hours on a pile of green wet wood doused with gasoline?  No.  How do I know.  I asked the experts.  History is a collection of information.  The more information collected the more accurate a historian is. 

Can we use just DNA alone in our court of law to convict someone?  No.  Why?  There needs to be more information given.  Remember,  I'm surrounded by lawyers who know about such things.

According to Annie,  all the history books found with errors should be thrown into the garbage.  That would mean that everything from the Bible, Shakespear to the QUEST FOR ANASTASIA  by Kleir and Wingay to your local newspaper  woud end up in the garbage next to Annie.  I don't think so, Annie.  Human's are not perfect.  They makes errors ALL the time and in many ways,  as in writing words for a book, editing words for a book, etc. etc. etc.

Like I've said here and over on the FATE OF THE ROMANOVS by King and Wilson is:  Errors happen.  That's life.  Get over it.

If the errors, say in Stuart Kahan's book THE WOLF OF THE KREMLIN are written for the purpose of spreading anti-Jewish proganda, then that's a different ball of wax, and,  so if this is the case, then I agree with Helen's generalization that such books should be subjected to a great deal of attention to prove it is anti-Jewish instead of just the biography of L. M. Kaganovich.
 

AGRBear
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152

Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #136 on: March 01, 2008, 05:45:50 PM »
It's very disturbing to me to see so much fiction presented as fact, and plagerism, being exposed in books and articles, even prize winning writings, the last few years. Has it always been done and the writers were just never caught, or has there been a big decline in integrity and honor in writing and reporting in the last decade?

Good question! I suppose it's probably always been done, but technology has made it much easier to root out offenders. Kind of a new age "checks and balances." Because of this, authors who value their reputations should proceed very carefully....

Absolutely! I think the Internet has changed a lot of that, and it is now a lot more difficult for authors of non-fiction to get away with unethical practices. FOTR is a good example of precisely that, the readers were able to communicate with each other and share information and this is how misinformation in the book was revealed. I personally would probably never have bothered to check up on the sources if it wasn't for other readers pointing out the errors, and so I would have just accepted the information in the book as correct and would never have known about the misinformation/mistakes.

Yawn. After all the personal messages I have received, I have a pretty good idea what readers REALLY think of FOTR and the endless, circling, Sisyphean drag of the campaign you three have waged.....

Airs, Janet? Please pay closer attention when you respond to postings from  three different users and then say "you three." I have no quarrel with you and, in fact, have thanked you for your help on several occasions. Please don't treat me rudely.

Jenn
« Last Edit: March 01, 2008, 05:55:55 PM by Puppylove »
"The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression." Earl Warren

"...and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #137 on: March 01, 2008, 05:49:36 PM »
Sarushka, maybe you overlooked my question. I'm curious to know how you're viewing truth for the purpose of this thread.


Thanks for the reminder. I've been thinking about this, and I'm having a bugger of a time coming up with a concise answer. Historical truth is a lot trickier to nail down than mathematic or scientific truth. Sure, there are facts, but there's a lot more to history than just names and dates. Point of view so often comes into play. If you ask two people -- let's say Alexandra Feodorovna and Alexander Kerensky for the sake of example -- to tell you the "facts" about the Russian revolution, you're likely to get wildly different answers, yet neither one of them would be lying. Events are so much more subjective, which is part of why I think balance is an important aspect of conveying history accurately.

This reminds me of a Russian saying: The truth is found between two lies.

More musings as they occur to me...

Beautifully said, Sarushka! Your example of Alexandra and Kerensky is right on the money.
"The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression." Earl Warren

"...and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #138 on: March 01, 2008, 05:55:22 PM »

If an author is to present the complete truth of some historical event,  he or she needs to respect all witnesses so he or she can hear/see/read  all sides of the story.  Example:  if there was a battle,  can the field show that 2,000 men died or 10,000?  Of course it can.  And, this is why Napoleon's figures, which he claimed to be true are, now, being revised.  Can 2 bodies be burned to ashes in 2 hours on a pile of green wet wood doused with gasoline?  No.  How do I know.  I asked the experts.  History is a collection of information.  The more information collected the more accurate a historian is. 


AGRBear

Respect is an unusual choice of words re witnesses. All witnesses are not created equal. And expert witnesses are occasionally the most suspect of all.
"The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression." Earl Warren

"...and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #139 on: March 01, 2008, 06:01:37 PM »

Can we use just DNA alone in our court of law to convict someone?  No.  Why?  There needs to be more information given.  Remember,  I'm surrounded by lawyers who know about such things.


AGRBear

Please feel free to correct me since I'm not a lawyer, but can't a jury vote to convict or acquit regardless of evidence? Generally the public won't know if they made their decision based on one piece of evidence or a hundred.
"The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression." Earl Warren

"...and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

Offline AGRBear

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #140 on: March 01, 2008, 06:12:51 PM »
Not exactly sure what you mean,  Puppylove.  If you are asking if the jury person has to tell anyone why he or she voted guilty or not guilty, the answer is,  "No."

But what I was saying is,  if a lawyer  presents his/her case and uses DNA,  they just don't say,  "Here is the DNA," and then add nothing more.  Why?  More evidence is needed to back up  the DNA."

AGRBear
« Last Edit: March 01, 2008, 06:36:34 PM by AGRBear »
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #141 on: March 01, 2008, 06:35:27 PM »

If an author is to present the complete truth of some historical event,  he or she needs to respect all witnesses so he or she can hear/see/read  all sides of the story.  Example:  if there was a battle,  can the field show that 2,000 men died or 10,000?  Of course it can.  And, this is why Napoleon's figures, which he claimed to be true are, now, being revised.  Can 2 bodies be burned to ashes in 2 hours on a pile of green wet wood doused with gasoline?  No.  How do I know.  I asked the experts.  History is a collection of information.  The more information collected the more accurate a historian is. 


AGRBear

Respect is an unusual choice of words re witnesses. All witnesses are not created equal. And expert witnesses are occasionally the most suspect of all.

Do you mean a person should only interview the Bolsheviks and not interview their victims or interview just the victims and not the Bolsheviks?

Like someone said,  the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and,  it's up to the historican to find out where the middle is.  An historian can't find out where the middle is if you don't talk to everyone (good, bad, the ugly and everyone inbetween) invovled.

AGRBear
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152

Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #142 on: March 01, 2008, 08:49:16 PM »

If an author is to present the complete truth of some historical event,  he or she needs to respect all witnesses so he or she can hear/see/read  all sides of the story.  Example:  if there was a battle,  can the field show that 2,000 men died or 10,000?  Of course it can.  And, this is why Napoleon's figures, which he claimed to be true are, now, being revised.  Can 2 bodies be burned to ashes in 2 hours on a pile of green wet wood doused with gasoline?  No.  How do I know.  I asked the experts.  History is a collection of information.  The more information collected the more accurate a historian is. 


AGRBear

Respect is an unusual choice of words re witnesses. All witnesses are not created equal. And expert witnesses are occasionally the most suspect of all.

Do you mean a person should only interview the Bolsheviks and not interview their victims or interview just the victims and not the Bolsheviks?

Like someone said,  the truth lies somewhere in the middle, and,  it's up to the historican to find out where the middle is.  An historian can't find out where the middle is if you don't talk to everyone (good, bad, the ugly and everyone inbetween) invovled.

AGRBear


No Bear, I agree with you, the more knowledge the better. I meant only that all witnesses are not created equal; just because someone is called as a witness does not validate their testimony. What they do testify to may carry great weight with a jury, or none at all (see Mark Furman).
"The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression." Earl Warren

"...and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

Offline Annie

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #143 on: March 01, 2008, 09:30:31 PM »

No Bear, I agree with you, the more knowledge the better. I meant only that all witnesses are not created equal; just because someone is called as a witness does not validate their testimony.

This is something I have been trying to get through to bear for years. Just because something is 'testimony' does not necessarily make it a 'fact'. Bear, and some others, think that if they can put a page number to someone's quote, it's a 'fact', but the very subject matter we have been discussing proves this isn't so. It may be a 'fact' that someone said something and you can quote it, but that doesn't automatically make what they said a 'fact' itself (such as the list of 'facts' AA supporters like to dredge up of he said/she said that are really only pieces of potential evidence for possible consideration or dismissal, not 'facts').

For example: The foreman at FS's factory job said he thought FS was 'about 5'4". This is a 'fact' that he said it, but it does not make it a fact that she was actually 5'4". He could have been mistaken, lying, or remembering wrong. This is why labeling all testimony 'fact' can be misleading.

 In every court case, half of those who testify turn out to have been either lying, or wrong.
« Last Edit: March 01, 2008, 09:33:22 PM by Annie »

Offline Janet Ashton

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #144 on: March 02, 2008, 02:55:58 AM »
It's very disturbing to me to see so much fiction presented as fact, and plagerism, being exposed in books and articles, even prize winning writings, the last few years. Has it always been done and the writers were just never caught, or has there been a big decline in integrity and honor in writing and reporting in the last decade?

Good question! I suppose it's probably always been done, but technology has made it much easier to root out offenders. Kind of a new age "checks and balances." Because of this, authors who value their reputations should proceed very carefully....

Absolutely! I think the Internet has changed a lot of that, and it is now a lot more difficult for authors of non-fiction to get away with unethical practices. FOTR is a good example of precisely that, the readers were able to communicate with each other and share information and this is how misinformation in the book was revealed. I personally would probably never have bothered to check up on the sources if it wasn't for other readers pointing out the errors, and so I would have just accepted the information in the book as correct and would never have known about the misinformation/mistakes.

Yawn. After all the personal messages I have received, I have a pretty good idea what readers REALLY think of FOTR and the endless, circling, Sisyphean drag of the campaign you three have waged.....

Airs, Janet? Please pay closer attention when you respond to postings from  three different users and then say "you three." I have no quarrel with you and, in fact, have thanked you for your help on several occasions. Please don't treat me rudely.

Jenn

Sorry Jenn - my tongue WAS in my cheek (though you DID call me "high-minded :-) ). I think people who are aware of the history of this will know who I am needling. Your Bible analogy elsewhere was quite apt, for in 2000 years the same three will indeed be here on this forum going round and round the same topics....
Shake your chains to earth like dew
Which in sleep had fallen on you -
Ye are many; they are few.

Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #145 on: March 02, 2008, 10:33:29 AM »

Sorry Jenn - my tongue WAS in my cheek (though you DID call me "high-minded :-) ).

Thank you, Janet. I've read the book twice, but most of the debate goes over my head; because of this I am trying to limit my comments to generalities. To clear the record, "high-minded" was directed at those who bump a thread only to remind us how they are intellectually above the discussion; to me that's just a wasted bump.

I also enjoy cool references like "Sysiphean drag," even though it is just a cheap shot in a prom dress!  :)

Jenn
« Last Edit: March 02, 2008, 10:39:09 AM by Puppylove »
"The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression." Earl Warren

"...and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

Offline AGRBear

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #146 on: March 02, 2008, 05:30:06 PM »

No Bear, I agree with you, the more knowledge the better. I meant only that all witnesses are not created equal; just because someone is called as a witness does not validate their testimony.

This is something I have been trying to get through to bear for years. Just because something is 'testimony' does not necessarily make it a 'fact'. Bear, and some others, think that if they can put a page number to someone's quote, it's a 'fact', but the very subject matter we have been discussing proves this isn't so. It may be a 'fact' that someone said something and you can quote it, but that doesn't automatically make what they said a 'fact' itself (such as the list of 'facts' AA supporters like to dredge up of he said/she said that are really only pieces of potential evidence for possible consideration or dismissal, not 'facts').

For example: The foreman at FS's factory job said he thought FS was 'about 5'4". This is a 'fact' that he said it, but it does not make it a fact that she was actually 5'4". He could have been mistaken, lying, or remembering wrong. This is why labeling all testimony 'fact' can be misleading.

 In every court case, half of those who testify turn out to have been either lying, or wrong.


Just because I suggest that all witnesses should be interviewed doesn't mean I'd believe every witness. 

 In the early stages of interviews and discovery,  I believe every witness is equal and should be heard.  After collecting as much information as one can,  you placed the testimony in various boxes:

Can be believed
Can't be believed
Not sure if believable
No evidence to back up what was said.....
Evidence backs up statement

And,  after everything is placed in it's box, only then can a historian search for  the middle road, which means the book will   provide all legitimate sides to an event. 

If there are doubts,  they too should be expressed and examples given.


Let me say this in different words with hopes I make it clearer:  Never have I said that testimony is a fact upon itself.   Testimony needs information to support it for it to become  part of a fact.  It alone can not be a fact.  Just like DNA cannot stand alone because it, also,  needs information to support it.

AGRBear

PS  Continue to have a glich in posting.  Sorry.
« Last Edit: March 02, 2008, 05:44:08 PM by AGRBear »
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152

Offline Puppylove

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #147 on: March 02, 2008, 08:24:11 PM »

Just because I suggest that all witnesses should be interviewed doesn't mean I'd believe every witness. 

 In the early stages of interviews and discovery,  I believe every witness is equal and should be heard.  After collecting as much information as one can,  you placed the testimony in various boxes:

Can be believed
Can't be believed
Not sure if believable
No evidence to back up what was said.....
Evidence backs up statement

And,  after everything is placed in it's box, only then can a historian search for  the middle road, which means the book will   provide all legitimate sides to an event. 

If there are doubts,  they too should be expressed and examples given.



I think I understand what you're saying, but my qualm is this: the information gathering/discovery stage you recommend might easily outlive the author. Also I really don't believe a writer needs to be balanced. I believe a writer is entitled to focus on any agenda he might choose, so long as the facts themselves aren't rewritten in the process. As others have mentioned, it's ok to present Alexandra's version of the revolution without presenting Kerensky's.
"The censor's sword pierces deeply into the heart of free expression." Earl Warren

"...and ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free." John 8:32

Offline AGRBear

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #148 on: March 03, 2008, 10:29:48 AM »

I think I understand what you're saying, but my qualm is this: the information gathering/discovery stage you recommend might easily outlive the author. Also I really don't believe a writer needs to be balanced. I believe a writer is entitled to focus on any agenda he might choose, so long as the facts themselves aren't rewritten in the process. As others have mentioned, it's ok to present Alexandra's version of the revolution without presenting Kerensky's.

Of course,  Alexandra can have her version of the revolution without presenting Kerensky.  And Kerensky can have his version. However, if I'm writing about Russian history, not just about Alexandra or Kerensky,  then I'd need to present both of their views.  If I didn't, then I'd be cheating my readers because I didn't tell them the whole story.

Book like FATE OF THE ROMANOVS and FALL OF THE ROMANOVS are not focus on just one person and their views.

AGRBear
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152

Offline AGRBear

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Re: historical accuracy/ethics question regarding writing books
« Reply #149 on: March 03, 2008, 10:44:06 AM »
Eliminated my post because I placed it on the wrong thread.

AGRBear
« Last Edit: March 03, 2008, 11:05:00 AM by AGRBear »
"What is true by lamplight is not always true by sunlight."

Joubert, Pensees, No. 152