Wednesday, March 11, 2009

What 1000s of Errors? "Please Stop" v2.0


Here's a link to the latest Michael Richardson story on the alleged errors in Ma's thesis at Harvard. I don't want to give this story any legs because it is rapidly shaping up to be a poorly done smear and I don't want to spread it. Alas, inoculation sometimes requires exposure to the disease...

First, the Corrector's own problems. Richardson has been coy about the identity of the corrector, but I have my suspicions. I wrote in a comment on the first post (below):
First, there are no "1,000 errors." Until these are established as a fact by public display of the evidence, we have an unsubstantiated anonymous accusation. That is the very anatomy of a smear.

This is exactly the kind of thing that backfires -- finding of error is inherently subjective. Worse, the story is presented as if a native speaker with no ax to grind was shocked. The way things are phrased suggests that the writer is not a native speaker of English -- the misused "as" is like a fingerprint -- but a native speaker of Chinese, and thus probably deep Green and thus, the story has less effect because it can be dismissed as just another deep Green smear.
If you take a look at the Corrector's commentary (I collected the images off Richardson's page above), there are more suggestions that s/he is a native speaker of Chinese....

IDIOM ERRORS: "....was messed up a big time."
MOST OF ERROR: "...most of books"

Anyone who edits Chinglish for a living, as I do, will recognize that very common most of ____ error for most___ or most of the ______. This is not conclusive, merely suggestive. Perhaps there is even more than one person doing this. Who knows?

The Corrector accuses Ma of not knowing how to do research. I accuse the Corrector of not knowing how to use Google. If you look at the claim for the "World Bank Spurs Energy Aid" the Corrector is technically correct: there is no such article on that date. But the article exists -- it is online (link). However, it is dated Aug 22 according to the NYTimes, not the 29th as Ma would have it. Probably a typo, but "no such article" is clearly wrong. The same error by our heroic Corrector is repeated in the third photo, where "no such article related to this thesis..." is utterly wrong (it is here) -- Ma is off by a day, a minor issue. Even worse, the second article in which the Corrector says "no such article exists on this date" is a complete screw up, there is such an article dated Feb 17, 1978, and it is online here. Ma dated it correctly but he got the page wrong, it is page 10, not page 8.* But our Corrector can't even identify the error properly. S/he is a complete embarrassment.

Whoever this person is, they should immediately cease their study of Ma's thesis, which they are clearly not competent to do (note that in the word spacing in the second pic they missed a minor obvious English error) and Michael Richardson should immediately cease reporting on this. It is exactly the sort of stupid thing that could backfire bigtime on the pan-Greens. There is no silver bullet that will pierce Ma's teflon coating. The only thing that will disillusion the public is sustained incompetence on the economy. Focus on that.

*Of course all this assumes the NYTimes website is correct.
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11 comments:

Anonymous said...

Michael Richardson is a dupe for an organization of bitter and disaffected Taiwan Independence supporters (or the opposite others have speculated).

This group has been (rightly) marginalized by other TI organizations and has splintered off in the typical self-destructive fashion of the DPP and its offspring (New Tide vs. Formosa vs. vs. vs...).

As a marginalized fringe group, rather than letting their message speak loud an clear, they have decided the best way to succeed is by attacking other TI groups and attempting to tear them down. This is true especially in their juvenile feud with FAPA.

This groups is wasting human resources, wasting time, and muddling the message that needs to be uniform and resonant. Undermining FAPA is not the way to win friends and influence people. It is an excuse for a viable alternative.

I hope everyone who encounters this group does what they can to shut them down and relegate them to the inconsequential hole of nutty conspiracy theories and first year college debates on the Illuminati. To entertain their agenda is a pathetic waste of all our time and talent.

FOARP said...

There was a similar scam involving Vladimir Putin's doctoral thesis - pointing out that large parts of it may have been plagiarised. Hell, wasn't there something about Joe Biden plagiarising essays as well? I forget. No knowing if any of it is true, of course. But yeah, pointing out errors on a doctoral thesis is pretty stupid - like you say, in the main they seem to be typos and wrong dates, the kind of thing which anyone might find in a document several hundred pages long. However, anyone standing for election for high office should expect to have their work gone through with a fine-tooth comb, we can't be having cheats in high places.

cfimages said...

I haven't been paying too much attention to this story, but it is kind of funny that the "corrector" makes so many English errors.

If this happened in Australia, I'd think it were a comedy group pulling an elaborate prank.

Arty said...

I hope one day my thesis will be looked up by others. Thanks to Endnote and the internet; those citation mistakes are a thing of past.

TicoExpat said...

It is like when they pointed out the mistakes in the Taitung's government book about Taiwan aboriginals. They select a couple of obvious mistranslations -adulthood for adultery- when the reality is that a Native speaker will be repelled to read the whole book, as the whole text is something that gramatically and semantically makes no sense, because it is not the way the language is naturally used.

Seems the corrections are artificial and forced down.

Obviously, as you say Michael, nothing can pierce the guy's perfect image. It works too well with the Taiwanese ideals. If it breaks down, there goes their wjole system of beliefs. And this is the core of the problem: they need to believe. Only a mayor shakeup might awaken the majority from their slumber.

Anonymous said...


Michael Richardson is a dupe for an organization of bitter and disaffected Taiwan Independence supporters (or the opposite others have speculated).

This group has been (rightly) marginalized by other TI organizations and has splintered off in the typical self-destructive fashion of the DPP and its offspring (New Tide vs. Formosa vs. vs. vs...).


Is there any evidence for this accusation, or does this unsubstantiated claim qualify as a smear?

Anonymous said...

That is the impression one gets when they read the river of drivel being generated by members of this group via mass emailings. A bunch of nuts.

Michael Turton said...

I suggest, anon, you join their group for a little while, and see for yourself.

Michael

Anonymous said...

That is the impression one gets when they read the river of drivel being generated by members of this group via mass emailings. A bunch of nuts.


Then isn't it time to name this group, and show examples of their "river of drivel"? So far, you are the only one who knows of their existence.

Are they on the web?

Harry Spam said...

The author prides himself on being such an expert on Chinglish ("Anyone who edits Chinglish for a living, as I do,"), but then a few paragraphs later goes on to write:
"Whoever this person is, they should immediately cease...". THEY? Ironic.

Michael Turton said...

I love spammers and trolls -- it's always entertaining to have people with no functioning brain cells stop by to leave an insult. I suggest you Google the discussion on they as a third person singular.

If you're bright enough to use Google, that is.

Michael