I was flipping through the Volokh Conspiracy yesterday when I stumbled upon an article that revisited an incident involving their contributor Jim Lindgren.
Apparently about a decade ago, there was a book out that claimed that very few people in early America owned guns, and therefore the 2nd amendment couldn’t possibly have meant that individuals should have had the right to own personal firearms. Upon closer examination however, most of his footnotes and sources were fabricated. Lindgren was a co-author on the article that took the book author down and completely turned his point against him….all because they actually bothered to track down the small print.
If you really disagree with something, it’s always worth checking out the footnotes for a few things:
- That the source cited actually exists
- That the source cited backs up the part of the sentence that really needs backing up.
- That the source cited actually backs up the thing it’s being used to back up, and doesn’t just reference it obliquely.
- That the source cited states the point as strongly as the article authors state it.
- That the reference isn’t so old as to be outdated, replaced, or from a paper that has been unreplicatable.
I’m not saying everything you disagree with can be undone using these, but it’s pretty amazing how many citations don’t pass these 5 tests.