Hobby Historians and the Plethora of Poor Sources Online

I do much of my research online and I love access to information for free. The amazing ability to have information at my finger tips has one significant downside: any deranged conspiracy theorist can upload their speculation and present it as fact.

I have spent so many wasted hours doing research only to have the sinking realization that the source is not credible. Have you ever watched a Youtube video about history only to realize that the creator of the video has a delusional agenda and nothing you have heard is credible?

So, how do you separate the real from the delusional? Well, you have to look at a few factors and think critically. There are also some great resources that provide accurate information to compare new sources and fact check.

How to Check for Accuracy and Bias:

  1. Who is the author? Is there an about page that may show more information? Does this person claim special “secret” knowledge or access to information not available to the public?
  2. Some keywords that point to conspiracy rantings are: secret, elite, Rothschild, illuminati, Big Pharma, Bilderberg,  wake up, and many others.
  3. Look at the links to other pages or the sponsors. Is this person linked to more obvious sources of conspiracy or hate? Is this person profiting off the “secret knowledge” they provide? This is especially common in the “Big Pharma” conspiracists.  They inevitably are selling a “natural” or “safe” alternative to legitimate modern medicine.
  4. Does it all fit together just a little too neatly? Does it claim a single cause for world events or for illness/harm? Truth is complicated and complex. There is rarely a single cause of any event. It is almost always a complex series of events that lead to anything.
  5. Are the sources used current and reputable? Here is a hint: The Protocols of the Elders of Zion is never a sign of reputable information unless the writer is holding them up as false. Do they reference primary documents anywhere or do they only reference works by other historians that do not have credentials? If a historian has only been self-published or has no creditable education, read with caution.

Reliable Sources for Fact Checking the Claims Made:

WhoWhatWhen – A site that allows you to search famous people and events

Smithsonian Institute – Founded in 1846, the Smithsonian is the world’s largest museum and research complex, consisting of 19 museums and galleries, the National Zoological Park, and nine research facilities.

UH-Digital History –  Includes: a U.S. history e-textbook; over 400 annotated documents, primary sources on slavery, Mexican American and Native American history, and U.S. political, social, and legal history; short essays on the history of film, ethnicity, private life, and technology; multimedia exhibitions; reference resources that include a searchable database of 1,500 annotated links, classroom handouts, chronologies, glossaries, an audio archive including speeches and book talks by historians, and a visual archive with hundreds of historical maps and images. The site’s Ask the HyperHistorian feature allows users to pose questions to professional historians.

Local Historical societies and university-affiliated history projects


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