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Knee-jerk sharing of memes denigrates the truth.

Trump never told People magazine that Republicans are dumb, Sarah Palin never said “I can see Russia from my house,” and when Obama said “gotta have ribs and pussy too” in 1995 he was reading a line spoken by a character in his book. Sharing miscaptioned photos that criticize public figures or organizations for things they never actually said or did generates the kind of emotional response that can lead…

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It’s Not “Fake News” Just Because You Disagree With It

I use the term “fake news” to refer to doctored social media posts that were never written by the purported authors, or real photos taken out of context and given new captions. Sharing such posts because they flatter your pre-conceived notions of the targets contributes to the devaluing of the truth. Politicians have put spins on news since there have been politicians. Satire has a long literary history. Tossing the…

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Principal fires security guards to hire art teachers — and transforms elementary school

The school was plagued by violence and disorder from the start, and by 2010 it was rank [sic] in the bottom five of all public schools in the state of Massachusetts. That was when Andrew Bott — the sixth principal in seven years — showed up, and everything started to change. “We got rid of the security guards,” said Bott, who reinvested all the money used for security infrastructure into the…

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How to Deal With 2016 Despair

Don’t let a TV screen make you live a life of fear. Be thoughtful participants, not passive consumers, in your culture. Create something. Improve something. Maybe yourself. Maybe the Wikipedia page for your hometown. Share your creation. Encourage and appreciate and critique and applaud what those in your community have created. Increase the sum total of good things in the universe by participating in the life around you. Heavy TV…

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Almost all the traffic to fake news sites is from Facebook, new data show

I think and post about fake news a lot. Just the other day, I came across a Tweet that seemed to show evidence that a very public figure had flip-flopped on a divisive cultural issue. First I had an emotional reaction, then I checked who shared the post I was reacting to. I didn’t recognize the name, but then I noticed it had been shared to the Snopes Facebook page…

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Emily Dickinson’s Singular Scrap Poetry

There’s never enough time to cover Emily Dickinson in an AmLit survey course. Only ten of her poems were published in her lifetime, all anonymously; publication was, as she put it, as “foreign to my thought, as Firmament to Fin.” Not that she intended her poems to go unread—she often sent them in letters to friends, sometimes with other enclosures: dried flowers, a three-cent stamp, a dead cricket. She also…