False Attribution and Half-Truth

joseph's picture

A letter to the PRRD Directors,

The agenda of the last Committee of the Whole meeting (on page 119), contains an excerpt from a document titled "Which Hat am I Wearing Now" by Eli Mina.   Among other things, this excerpt states that “decision makers must act in the best interests of the regional district as a whole, even if they conflict with local interests”.

As I'm sure you are by now aware, the text of this article was altered, in multiple places, to change the context for which it was written, and thus alter its meaning and the intentions of the original author.

As an academic, I am appalled by the implication that someone took it upon themselves to doctor a document in such a way and present it to the Board with its original attribution intact.  Any high-school student would know this is an unconscionable and mendacious act.

This act violates at least 3 basic principles of honest communications:

  •  Quoting out of context :  selective quoting that distorts or changes the meaning of the original author;
  •  False attribution : attributing a written work or idea to the wrong person or source;  and
  •  Half-truth : a deceptive statement that contains some truth so as to lead the reader to an incorrect conclusion

Presumably, the intent of the person including this document in your agenda package was an "Appeal to Authority".  However, by changing the text and thus the context of the original article, the author has revealed that, in fact, they could find no support from any such authority, and so instead, simply made one up.  I can only imagine how insulted and incensed you must feel to be so misled by your own staff and/or colleagues.

As I said, I find the level of subterfuge required to do something like this appalling.  In my work environment, this would be a serious breach of ethical norms and academic standards, and would certainly result in academic discipline or censure, and possibly even expulsion from the University.  I am unfamiliar with the standards for advising between staff and elected officials, but I'm pretty sure if any such standards exist, this type of explicit fraud and manipulation would be strictly verboten.  If I am wrong on that, please forgive my ignorance and carry on.

With best wishes and in hopes the Board receive better advice in future.


joseph's blog comments

Thank you for posting this Joseph, I'm anxious to see if you get a response from the recipients.

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