ConFABulation: Testing Beatles
History – Just Gimme Some Truth
I’m sick and tired of hearing things……
I’ve had enough of reading things……
All I want is the truth
Just gimme some truth
Confabulation is a memory disorder in which the individual produces false memories. When people confabulate, they either report remembering
events that never occurred, or remember events as having occurred at an
incorrect time or place.
For example, a person who is confabulating may report a conversation that
never occurred, or may report a conversation that occurred three years ago as
having happened today.
When it comes to chronicling Beatles history, writers have several problemsto overcome, especially those of us who are diehard Beatles fans with
unbridled passion for the subject. Who is telling the truth, and who is
Confabulating the story of the Fab Four?
In “Finding the Fourth Beatle”, I felt that, because there were so many Beatles books out there, that I had to explain how I went about doing my research, and what historical tests I use.
There are a number of standard tests that historians use, and which I have always applied to any story I am investigating.
In any legal hearing or trial, there is the case for the defence and the case for the prosecution. Both sides will attempt to provide proof, beyond a reasonable doubt, that the accused is either innocent or guilty.
Documentary evidence is not open to speculation, though it can be
misinterpreted, but the most crucial part of either the defence or
prosecution is the summoning of their eyewitnesses.
These people can swing a case either way, depending on their reliability,
honesty and objectivity. However, neither side in the court will rely solely
on what the eyewitness says; they also have the chance to
cross-examine them and scrutinize their testimony.
Only then will the jury be satisfied that they are telling the truth, or lying under oath. What we have done is examine not only the eyewitness testimony of those who were intimately involved in The Beatles’ story, but the findings of authors, including ourselves, who have written about The Beatles.
Of course, we know that none of us authors is infallible!
Where possible, we have interviewed those key eyewitnesses again.
However, because so many of those first-hand observers are no
longer with us, we have to also apply similar tests to the Beatles authors – none of us is infallible.
Can the eyewitness testimony be trusted? Since it is the most vital of
evidence, and can be compelling and convincing, we have used these tests:
- Intention. Was the intention of the writer or eyewitness to accurately
preserve history, or did they have an ulterior motive in presenting their
testimony in this way? “Hearsay and unverified testimony is often misrepresented as fact.”
(The Beatles and the Historians: An Analysis of Writings About the Fab Four)
- Bias. Is there a bias by the author or eyewitness to make either themselves
or those around them look better than they really were?
Is it objective, honest and fair? “Many authors of Beatles books use
technically factual evidence in misleading ways –for example, by quoting
a source who supports the author’s point of view while ignoring countervailing evidence…when in fact it was just one source’s perspective
on a given ” (A Day in the Life – Mark Hertsgaard)
- Timing. How close to the event is the testimony given? The closer the
eyewitness testimony is to the date of the event, the less likely
the possibility for legendary embellishment or development.
We take into account faulty memories and wishful thinking,
as well as deliberate revisionism.
- Is there multiple, corroborative, independent attestation? What other
eyewitness accounts or physical evidence is there that can corroborate the
testimony, or contradict it? The more accounts that can confirm the story,
the more reliable it is, and the more likely it is to be accurate. It doesn’t mean that a single source should be discounted, but a higher
level of scrutiny is required. “Eyewitness testimony that lacks verification
from other, independent sources will be regarded as valuable but not
unquestionable. However, eyewitness testimony will be granted more weight than secondhand accounts or hearsay.” (The Beatles and the Historians: An Analysis of Writings About the Fab Four)
- Oral History. Have the accounts been passed down so many times that errors creep in, resulting in an accidental “truth” being perpetuated?
It has been said that if you tell a lie often enough and loud enough,
people believe it is true. That is why we have approached this book with
an open mind, accepting nothing and challenging.
- Do all the accounts concur, or are there discrepancies? Have eyewitnesses
changed their stories over the years? What can be considered the truth? As
historians, the truth is often unattainable, but we must gather as much
evidence as possible, and get as close as we can to the truth.
There are many documents available for inspection. Printed materials like
letters, contracts, posters, tickets and programs help us clearly corroborate
the events and support, or refute, eyewitness testimonies.
Evidence and Proof
What is the difference between evidence and proof? Author and historian
J. Warner Wallace – Cold Case Christianity – says that “while evidence is a
matter of objective truth, proof is in the mind of the evaluator, and many of us resist the truth in spite of the evidence.”
How can authors come to such different conclusions when they are often
examining the same evidence? We can offer evidence like eyewitness
testimony and documents all day long, but you have to have an open mind
to examine it and decide if the evidence supports the facts that we have
stated, and whether you feel we have given you sufficient proof.
Evidence: The facts we offer to support our claims of truth
Proof: What we infer from the facts offered
When examining testimony and evidence, we sometimes have to consider
the implications of what has been revealed. There are several ways of doing this, and one of the most dangerous is speculation, which can be
constructed to suit the agenda of the writer. However, what is more
appropriate is the abductive reasoning approach, which is a form of logical
conclusion, which starts with the available evidence, and then seeks to find the simplest and most likely explanation. It is important, therefore, to keep away from supposition, speculation and presumption where no evidence
Don’t just take my word, or the word of any author, based solely on
who we are, our reputations, or previous works, but on the facts and
evidence put before you. The truth is what you make of it, based on the
evidence, not the writer.
To quote Daniel Patrick Moynihan;
“Everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts.”
So follow me on my investigations, where I will separate the myths from the facts, and show you the evidence.
This is taken from “Finding the Fourth Beatle” by David Bedford and Garry Popper