Fact (noun): Something on the Hard Drive

I just heard an interesting story about Wikipedia. There was a man in Egypt who lived, quite literally, in the shadow of a large obelisk. He edited the Wikipedia article on this obelisk, adding such things as a photograph he had taken himself and the geographical coordinates. However, another man in America re-edited the article, removing or changing some of the information that the Egyptian man had added. Amongst these changes was an adjustment to the coordinates, relocating the obelisk to a place a few miles away. The Egyptian tried to argue his case, pointing out that he could see the obelisk right outside of his window. But while the Egyptian’s assertions were first hand and far more reliable, the American was able to list a source; a textbook from the 1930s that included the incorrect coordinates. Since he had a source, the American won and the errors remained in place.

This reminds me of the way Prison and Probation Service report writers tend to work. It doesn’t matter what you say. It doesn’t even matter what you do. If someone else writes that you said or did something different, it will be endlessly quoted regardless of how much evidence you have that it is wrong.

One guy I know had an argument with his Offender Supervisor about this. He pointed out the errors and inconsistencies and was told that everything in the report was a “fact”. Saying, “I don’t think you know what a fact is”, he received a simply bizarre response: “Of course I do; a fact is something on the hard drive.” Wow.

But that’s just the incompetent side of things. There’s another more sinister side too. A malicious side. Another lad had a very similar argument with his probation officer about potentially damaging inaccuracies in her report. He challenged her saying, “Do you even know how to tell the truth?” and she simply smiled and said “The truth is what I say it is.”

One thought on “Fact (noun): Something on the Hard Drive

  1. Pingback: Facts from the Hard Drive Part 2 | Adam Mac

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