Sources are important when writing a scholarly article. So, I was quite surprised when it came to my attention that this blog was cited as a source by Vivian Lee, Ph.D. in “Nobody Died at Sandy Hook.”
Since when do opinion blog posts written by unknown, anonymous authors, with no listed or verifiable credentials make good sources for scholarly writing? The answer is never, but let’s first look at how I was cited.
On page 77 in “Nobody Died…”, Lee writes, “Not only did Lanza squeeze through this hole and edge carefully through the narrow space between the couch and table, but so did ten policemen, all with their guns and gear, according to sworn affidavits.61”
And here’s the referenced footnote 61 found on page 96:
My essay, Pictures of Lily, has nothing to do with the officer’s sworn affidavits on how the school was entered. It has nothing to do with the shooter’s or police entry into the school, nor does it discuss the placement or possible movement of furniture in the Sandy Hook lobby.
My essay in no way supports Lee’s statement. And let’s be clear. No essay on this blog in any way supports a single line in that book and I’m a bit disgusted to be cited in it.
The inclusion got me looking a little closer at Lee’s article than I otherwise would have. I wondered if perhaps she mixed up the citations and mine belonged the next page, where she discussed the Gaubert photo.
On page 80, Lee writes,”Lily’s mother supposedly discovered the error and made it public via Flickr.64.” It seems Lee chose to cite a more conspiracy friendly source and selected a YouTube video by Enterthe5t4rz, probably meaning to delete mine altogether.
The Contributor’s section of the book purports Lee to be a Ph.D holder and a tenured professor at an American university writing under a pseudonym. Surely, Lee is familiar with best practices for evaluating research sources.
Now, I’m no PhD, but I did have to write a few research papers back in the day on my way to earning a lowly B.A. Back in those days, we didn’t have the internet and I had to rely on the university library, my knowledge of the Dewey Decimal System, and my finesse with a microfiche reader to find credible academic sources to support my research.
Today, college students rely on the internet which is great, but it makes the job of vetting sources much harder. Back in the day, our university librarians vetted the books on the shelves so I didn’t have to wade through thousands of flyers and self-published materials distributed by people all around the world along the way.
Most schools today have published guidelines to help students determine the credibility of an internet source. According to Cornell University’s Digital Literacy Resource Source Evaluation Checklist
, one of the critical components to vetting a source is a critical review of authority. The researcher should ask, “Is the author identifiable?” Enterthe5t4rz is an anonymous author, just as is Lee and yours truly, making none of us good sources for scholarly research. (I would have preferred to cite Lee’s own university’s guidelines on citing from the internet, but I was unable to since Lee doesn’t provide a way to verify her credentials– making her fail Cornell’s second test on the authority checklist. I guess we’ve ruled out Cornell as Lee’s employer. )
All this got me looking into Lee’s other sources. On the same page as the misplaced reference to my blog, Lee states:
“But how did he get past the furniture, with all his weaponry, without moving anything out of position?60”
Here, she adds some commentary in the footnote as she oddly cites this New York Times article:
Reading the article, you’ll find nothing in it that discusses the placement of lobby furniture before and after the shooting. It’s another citation that doesn’t support her argument. However, she does insert her own editorial in the footnote in an attempt to cast doubt on the accuracy of the article. She seems to suggest the Times use of the term “window” is inaccurate. Apparently, unless you specifically describe a window as “plate glass” you must be only be referring to a window three feet off the ground.
Earlier in the chapter, Lee supports her claim that “Images of Soto were inserted into photographs in which she did not originally appear, and several shots of her face were created from a single photo.62” Here, Lee references another anonymous YouTuber who demonstrates in a video that you can take two images of Soto’s face taken at approximately the same angle, tweak the sizing of both images, and line up eyes, ears, mouth to a perfect match. ‘Cause you know, you wouldn’t be able to do that with pictures of a real person that weren’t photo shopped because the facial features change drastically from picture to picture. Not only is the source off base with his conclusion, he does not provide his identity or any credentials to verify that he is an expert in photo shopping.
I could go on and on, but I encourage you to check out Lee’s sources for yourself. Lee sources 30 YouTube videos – including one that was terminated due to copyright infringement. (Cornell doesn’t seem to provide guidance on what to do in that case, I’m thinking because Cornell undergrads are smart enough to know that a banned YouTube video isn’t a good source.)
There is some good news here. If you are lucky enough to be one of Lee’s students at that unknown university, writing your research papers should be a snap. Just make a few YouTube videos and have your roommate make a blog post to support your position. Boom. Research done.