Fact Checking the Internet

A few times in the last month or so, I’ve noticed some misinformation––some things big, some small––published on the Internet, and it occurs to me that these mistakes should not go unannounced.  So here I am to dispel them!  To no one!  And to no purpose!  Hurrah!

1. First, this is a small one, but as these initial two errors were both committed by the Guardian‘s film review department (or however they fuck you want to label it) I do think it’s time for them to tighten up the ship a little.  I mean, it’s not THAT difficult to get these details correct.  Here is a review of the latest offering by Rama Burshtein, haredi Israeli director of Fill the Void:

Israeli-American director Rama Burshtein follows her impressive debut, Fill the Void – a drama about marriage set in Jerusalem’s Haredi community – with another picture dealing with relationships set against an orthodox Jewish backdrop.

Fill the Void was set in Tel Aviv, not in Jerusalem.  I get the mistake (you hear “haredi,” you think Jerusalem) but it was well-reported that it was in Tel Aviv, so just Google it, will ya?

2. Ah, Peter Bradshaw.  How many loathe thee for thy spoilers!  Personally I don’t have a dog in that fight, although I do question how you made such a simple error in this review of Nocturnal Animals:

The clash between supercool LA and this couldn’t be more jarring. Because this is no feathery literary confection: it is a brutal west Texas crime thriller about a married man – Susan imagines Tony, that is, Jake Gyllenhaal in the role, who takes his wife Laura (Isla Fisher) and his daughter Helen (Ellie Bamber) on a road trip on vacation across the remote desert, where they are terrorised by a wild gang of good ol’ boys led by the brutish Ray (Aaron Taylor-Johnson).

Ellie Bamber’s character is named India, not Helen.  Not even a little close.

3. In a recent book titled Bellevue: Three Centuries of Medicine and Mayhem at America’s Most Storied Hospital, writer David Oshinsky says that Sylvia Plath was one of the many celebrities hospitalized there after her breakdown.  He only mentions it once, in passing, in the introduction.  I have read Plath’s collected journals, as well as the many biographies of her that have been written over the preceding twenty years (side note: Levy Center fellow Heather Clark is obviously an expert, but what on earth do we not know about Sylvia Plath’s life by now?!) and I don’t recall any mention of Bellevue.  So I digitally searched for the word in five biographies of her, and again, found nothing.  I suspect that Mr. Oshinsky just read that piece of misinformation somewhere, thought it sounded plausible (which it does) and sexy, and added it in.  And for the record, I’m not the only one who questions Oshinsky’s sourcing, as New York Times critic Jennifer Senior calls it “inexplicably sloppy.”  So there.

I was also about to rail against those who claimed Simone Weil was a convert to Catholicism, although with further research it appears that in fact I was probably wrong about this, and I’ve decided to fess up to prove that even the best among us make mistakes!

I’m missing a few instances here, but it’s best not to get too caught up in petty things.

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