Short Cut Debater Delight: URL to a Snippet

June 19, 2020

Let us journey back in time. I was a high school and college debate person. I think one of my “advisors” called us “debaters,” but I think he was saying, “De-daters.” Yeah, popular.

The year is 1964, and my debate partner was a silver tongued Greek American named Nick G. I was a fat, bespeckled trailer court person who hid in the library. My job was to read stuff and write summaries on 5×8 note cards. Remember those?

If I spotted a useful fact about the National Defense Education Act or similar burning topic for a 19 year old, I would cross reference the factoid, index it with a color tinted pencil, and organize the note cards in my really big wooden box. Cool, right?

Flash forward to a debate at some empty campus in January and a “debate tournament.” Sad affairs? You bet. Nick and I were listening to a couple of swifties from Dartmouth explain that Nick and I were stupid, losers from an intellectual nowheresville, and candidates for life in a tuna packing plant owned by one of the Dartmouth wizard’s family.

I spotted a note card, a snippet, and a cross reference. Coincidence,  maybe. Cut to the punch line: The Dartmouth rebuttal person changed the factoids and quoted an edited version of the information I had recorded in my blissful hours of alone-ness in the library.

My turn to speak arrived, and I began by pointing out that snippets out of context were not the stuff an Ivy Leaguer was fabricated. The “fabrication” of misstatements, misquotes, and misrepresentations were proof that the arguments constructed by the shortcut artists from Hanover, New Hampshire (wherever that was) were fluff.

Bingo. I summed up our case and sat down.

We won the debate and the tournament. I think my father-in-law used the trophy as a tie rack.

I thought of Eleazar’s losers. Nick and I ate a pizza at some joint before the bus ride back to the frozen Midwest where our one-horse college pumped information into hungry Illinoisans.

Google is allegedly going to facilitate short cut thinking if the information in “Google’s New Chrome Extension Lets You Link Directly to Specific Text on a Page” is accurate, but today, who knows?

The idea is that a person creates or fabricates a factoid, creates a link, and leads the Dartmouth-type research to just what is needed to support a castle of clips.

The old fashioned approach mostly required finding information, reading something, copying or photocopying the pages, converting the information to a note card, and going through the indexing thing.

The process had the effect of imprinting the information on the mind. If one had a good memory as Nick or I did, we could pull information, find the source, and convert that item into a useful addition to our argument.

What happens if one takes a shortcut? You get the Dartmouth approach to information; that is, fix it up and skip the work.

The write up states:

The Google extension builds upon a new feature that was recently added to Chromium called Text Fragments, which works by appending extra linking information to a URL after a #. It’s the same technology that Google now sometimes uses to link to specific parts of a webpage in search results. However, these URLs can be long and difficult to manually create if you’re linking to longer sections of text, or complex web pages where the same words are repeated multiple times. This extension simplifies the creation process.

Right, who needs context? Also, what happens when Google “hides” urls so one has to use Google search to locate a source?

Any wonder why some of the arguments presented by “real” lawyers and journalists are so stupid?

The intellectual rigor has not just relaxed; it has checked into Hotel California and chilling out. Bump, bump, bump. Hanover arrives in La La Land.

Stephen E Arnold, June 19, 2020


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