~ This post is about the importance of linking original source material in advocacy writing.
Excerpts from THIS ARTICLE are incorporated into this piece. Thank you Tony Cartalucci.
It is increasingly difficult to sort the ever increasing amount of information from disinformation. This reality applies to almost any subject. It applies to writers, advocates, and ordinary citizens with opinions. It applies to a host of material frequently put forth by governments.
Propaganda is the presentation of material without an adequate reference to facts, and without attribution of source. All credible writing contains two basic components. The most important of these is the identification of the name, or names, of the actual human being(s) that are doing the writing, or are responsible for the material. The second absolute necessity regarding the presentation of any material is a date, the actual date that the material was created. In today’s world, just a year, even a year and a month, don’t suffice. Credibility requires that every post, every article, every information document, video, or written piece requires a date down to the day published, posted, or ‘put out there’.
Disinformation, mindless advocacy, even secret agendas, often hide behind the cloak of undated material and an anonymous writer. Government documents are often the foremost examples of this. At best such documents may contain the name of an agency, but seldom the name of an agent. It’s easy to understand; governments, officers, employees, often do not want to be held accountable.
The presence and persistency of this practice has often tended to corrupt all of us. Many pieces and documents are created and disseminated without so much as a date of creation, or a credible attribution. On social media the concept is so thoroughly entrenched that one is often led to believe that the message is everything, regardless of credibility, regardless of source. The result is often an uninformed, unqualified, chatter. Such chatter is unworthy of serious discussion, or of intelligent discourse, regarding subjects that matter.
Most writing in this age is done on computer. Most computers are connected to the internet, the web. Most everything on the web has, or should have, a URL (url). The url is what makes a link possible. Source information, reference information, cites and citations, can all be linked to any online writing by the use of a url. This includes posts, documents, emails, tweets on Twitter, and a host of other media that is hosted.
That being said, it is remarkable how often a potential link is not linked to create good effect. In fact, often, links are avoided by disinformation agents or agencies because if one were to actually read, or have access to, the source material, the advocacy, the cause, the case, probably would not stand, or would not stand up to scrutiny.
Another favorite device of those willing to propagate disinformation is information overload. The preferred medium for this device is the PDF (pdf file). All pdf files can be linked by the use of a url. Not all pdf files are long. Many, if not most pdf files, however are long, often running to as many as 100 pages or more. Often the page numbers on the document do not correspond to the PDF file page index number. For clear communication this often ends in confusion.
The ideal length of a published (linkable) piece is probably 350 to 1,200 words in length and might include diagrams, photographs, illustrations, or images of documents. If each such information segment has its own url everything is comparatively simple and straight forward.
When one confronts a pdf file that requires the location of a specific page number, available only through endless scrolling, in a file so large that the download time is often beyond that of many computers, then, “We have a problem Houston.” The problem is multiplied by the fact that many pdf files do not have capturable script, or capturable illustrations or graphics. One persons representation of what a photograph shows does not necessarily represent the truth, or any fact. Fair discourse requires allowing another person to offer a differing opinion, not just through comments, but by showing the information in another tweet, or in a post.
Issues regarding source material are not resolved just by locating an attributable article with a url and a date. There are many of those on many, many topics. The best link is generally to an original source, or to a qualified source. The quality of a source may be determined not just by academic credentials, but by quantity of accurate detail and discussion, or by strength of logical and compelling argument. Clarity, followed by coherent brevity, is often key.
It is also important to remember that complex conditions necessitate complex presentations and argument. The test of valid source material often lies in the cohesion and completeness of presentation. There must be clear statements of purpose, clear relevant evidence of claims regarding projected failure or success.
Media reports, government press releases, op-eds, analysis, and policy papers of every kind fill our figurative airwaves. Often such messages and missives are organized to cloud and confuse our reasoning to further the forces of power, greed, and/or administrative abuse. Sometimes the opposite is true.
The truth is hard to arrive at, not only because people intentionally seek to fool others, but because often, many unintentionally fool themselves. Reality can be unpleasant. Bearing witness to the damaging or destruction of a nation, neighborhood, or a community can be heartbreaking. There is often the desire to insulate oneself from the pain through cognitive dissonance. Two of the greatest maxims in human conflict is to truly know yourself, and to know your enemy. Honest advocacy requires a clear presentation of sources, and a willingness to discuss and debate a proposition based on a level playing field, and accessible, reviewable, facts.
In the presentation of argument or information all relevant sources, maps, diagrams, photographs, and documents should always be linked, so reality and facts are accessible.
Donald Clayton – Albuquerque, New Mexico – March 30, 2016 – Word Count 994