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Ringling Bros. circus to close after 146 years

The more I learned about elephants, the less I liked the idea of going to the circus. I’m interested in its place in the history of American culture, but times have changed. After 146 years, the curtain is coming down on “The Greatest Show on Earth.” The owner of the Ringling Bros. and Barnum & Bailey Circus told The Associated Press that the show will close forever in May. The…

Wendy’s Bests Internet Troll, Then Unwittingly Posts Completely Unrelated, Obscure Racist Meme

I fixed the clickbaity title for you. A moderately amusing cautionary tale. Recognizing alt-right internet memes is now a marketing survival skill. “We like our tweets the same way we like to make hamburgers,” Wendy’s wrote in its bio. “Better than anyone expects from a fast food joint.” It lived up to those words this week, absolutely destroying a troll who dared to question its claim that its burgers are…

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The Left has a post-truth problem too. It’s called comedy.

As I gear up to teach about memes and fake news in a “Media Aesthetics” class, I am keeping track of good background articles so I can bring my students up to speed. Satire, like fake news, creates a sense of community through rejection. It delights in tearing down institutions but is useless at constructing them. Jonathan Swift said that satire was a mirror in which viewers discovered everybody’s face…

Fake News Is Not the Real Media Threat We’re Facing

Conservative talk radio predates the Internet as a populist alternative to the mainstream media. This article challenges the idea that “fake news” is a new, or even a significant problem, and instead explores how some celebrity conservatives (including radio host Rush Limbaugh) encourage their followers to mistrust traditional news outlets. Fake news has been around as long as real news, as any historian of early modern Europe can tell you (Renaissance…

A Merry Look at Journalism in “The Year Without a Santa Claus”

In the classic stop-action TV special “The Year Without a Santa Claus” (1974), newspaper headlines provide exposition and offer a low-budget way to depict widespread reaction to the events of the plot. Newspapers also introduce a plot hole that’s bothered me ever since I was a kid. When I watched the show again this year, I noticed some typographical oddities in the prop newspapers. First of all, the elves have…