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Why do journalists use “allegedly” when they report on obvious crimes captured on video?

Look at this picture. A guy in a uniform obviously has his hands around a kid’s neck. Why would Business Insider use the word “allegedly” to describe what seems like a pretty obvious assault? If you are Young Sesame Chicken, what makes the Business Insider post worth sharing is the contrast between the mealy-mouthed headline and the powerful image. Why don’t journalists just call it abuse? Why soften the report…

How Fake News Happens: It’s simple! A governor tweets a Fox News graphic from a story that cites a British tabloid’s misinterpretation of a scholarly study, and a false narrative about Biden banning beef stokes political rage

How dare President Biden be invoked by a British tabloid that rather creatively linked a scholarly study to a plan Biden floated during the Democratic primary. How dare Biden be implicated in a Fox News graphic that falsely lists cutting beef sales by 90% as a requirement of Biden’s “climate requirements.” How dare Biden be targeted by the Texas governor who retweeted the misleading Fox News graphic that amplified the…

No, Prince Philip did not dress as a palace guard to prank the queen

I didn’t share this miscaptioned photo, but each time I’ve seen it before on social media, I’ve accepted it as true. This time I checked. According to Snopes, Prince Phillip did not prank the Queen of England dressed as a palace guard. That’s ceremonial attire he has worn in public on several occasions, and the queen would certainly have known who he was. This is a small thing, but it…

No, Dr. Seuss is not being “banned” or “censored” — but Dr. Seuss Enterprises is voluntarily retiring six books that contain racist stereotypes

It’s nothing new that Theodore “Dr. Seuss” Geisel used racist stereotypes, particularly in his wartime political cartoons. I’m seeing social media chatter from people who a few days ago were up in arms about the gender of a potato (which was overblown, manufactured hype) and who are now leaping to the defense of Dr. Seuss, who is (according to the memes) being “banned” or “cancelled.” In fact, it was the…

No, these “Perspective matters” photographers aren’t misrepresenting the size of a fire in Paris

I have shared and liked this image, and incorporated it in lesson plans. The juxtaposition suggests that the little knot of photographers is hunkering down in order to make a small fire appear more threatening in front of L’ Arc de Triomphe in Paris. I have seen plenty of cases where unrelated images were juxtaposed and mislabeled, then shared by third parties who aren’t aware of the manipulation, and are…

Web Literacy for Student Fact-Checkers: Four Moves

The confirmation bias describes the very human tendency to reject evidence that challenges our worldview, and to seek out — and often cling to — evidence that supports it. If we believe black cats are bad luck, we remember every time a bad thing happened to us after we saw a black cat. If someone we love tells us we will catch a cold if we go outside with wet…

Fact Check: No, an NPR story on the Trump supporters’ attempted coup dated January 6, 2021 9:33 AM ET is not a sign of a conspiracy theory

According to the Internet Archive, this is a story NPR posted at 9:33 this morning. As events developed, and the story changed, NPR updated this page — drastically. As you can see, the headline and the picture are different; though the date the page was first created is still there, the page now also includes an “Updated at 3.08pm ET” time stamp. (The blue highlighting is mine.) Conspiracy theorists are…

Oh, No. YouTube is Deleting Videos.

Oh no.  First YouTube institutes a “COVID-19 Medical Misinformation Policy” and starts deleting videos that tout fake cures or discourage people from following the medical advice of the WHO; then, YouTube takes a stand against any video that “misleads people by alleging that widespread fraud or errors changed the outcome of the 2020 U.S. Presidential election.” What’s next? Will they go after videos that include the phrase  “Merry Christmas?” Or…

The false link between Amy Coney Barrett and The Handmaid’s Tale, explained

One of the weirder ways this debate has played out since Barrett was first discussed as a potential Supreme Court nominee is the fight over whether or not People of Praise, the group of which she is a member, is also one of the inspirations for The Handmaid’s Tale. In Margaret Atwood’s 1985 dystopian novel (and its recent TV adaptation), fertile women are forced to live as childbearing slaves called handmaids. The book isn’t an established inspiration — but the story has developed legs anyway.

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The phrase “debate begins” in the headlines of multiple stories on coronavirus does not mean sneaky journalists copy-pasted a press release

If you encounter the same story on different news sites, that does not mean you caught sneaky America-hating fake news “journalists” in the act. A meme I recently encountered shows three slightly different coronavirus headlines, all of which use the phrase “debate begins.” Text shared along with the meme suggests the repetition means the story is a copy-pasted press release. I did some simple Googling. You can follow the links…

Fact check: Biden ad misleadingly suggests Trump called Covid-19 a ‘hoax’

CNN fact-checks a misleading Biden ad, which edited a Trump speech to make it look like he called coronavirus a Democratic hoax. To be clear, Trump’s informal and freewheeling style of speaking at rallies often leaves his exact meaning hard to pin down. But I agree with CNN that this ad misrepresents Trump’s intentions.   Here’s what Trump actually said: Now the Democrats are politicizing the coronavirus — you know…

Meme alleging Trump said “Africans Are Lazy, Good at Sex, Theft” is a hoax

I’ve seen this meme shared by several FB friends in the past few days. It’s clearly a hoax. It was created by someone who wasn’t trained as a journalist. The body of the story doesn’t even include the quotes that are mentioned in the headline. (The head says Trump said “Africans are lazy,” but in the body of the article he is talking about “African Americans.” The terms are not…

If you think I’m wrong that the media fairly covered the Cannon Hinnant murder, but you’re still reading, then I welcome you.

Plenty of news organizations have reported on the tragic case of a white boy who was murdered while riding his bicycle. One must ignore easily verifiable opposing evidence to claim that “the media” are universally ignoring this story. It’s even more unhinged to latch upon the conspiracy theory that the reason for this (non-existent) lack of coverage is that the media organizations are unified in their intention to control a…

Masks serve many purposes. How sad that they’ve become politicized.

I’ve seen the original meme on my social media feed. I’ve fixed it. The purpose of the first three masks differs from the purpose of the fourth mask. The first three masks are designed to protect the wearer from breathing in harmful things in the environment. The mask Dr. Fauci wears is designed not to protect Dr. Fauci from the virus, but to protect people around Dr. Fauci from droplets…

No, this photo of people wearing coats standing in front of bare trees was not a fake news media attempt to misrepresent what’s happening in Texas and Arizona in July

It’s distressing and shocking to realize that some people are more willing to spread conspiracy theory shit than it they are to check their sources. Isn’t it the bad guys who are supposed to be spreading lies? I like reading news stories for myself, rather than spreading disinformation on social media. How hard is it to Google for “Refrigerated trucks requested in Texas and Arizona as morgues fill up due…

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No, Dr. Anthony Fauci did not write the “How dare you you risk the lives of others so cavalierly?” essay

A copy-paste meme I’ve encountered recently compares chickenpox, herpes and HIV with COVID-19, and builds up to a powerful rebuke to those who dismiss the seriousness of the current pandemic. I was particularly moved by these words: For those in our society who suggest that people being cautious are cowards, for people who refuse to take even the simplest of precautions to protect themselves and those around them, I want…

Fact check: DeVos never said ‘only’ 0.02% of children will die if schools reopen in the fall

Several times in the past few days I’ve come across this claim in my social media feed. I didn’t share it or try to fact-check it; I just kept scrolling. Here’s the verdict, from USA Today: “Based on our research, this claim is FALSE. While the education secretary has advocated for schools reopening in the fall, DeVos never said that ‘only’ 0.02% of children are likely to die of COVID-10…

No, Trump’s tweet about “Heritage, History, and Greatness” is not a quote from a speech Hitler gave in 1939

Trump really did tweet “This is a battle to save the Heritage, History, and Greatness of our Country!” Plugging those words into Google Translate yields “Dies ist ein Kampf um die Rettung des Erbes, der Geschichte und der Größe unseres Landes!” I could be wrong, but I think Größe in German just means “physical size,” or “dimensions” rather than “greatness” in the sense of “having achieved many great things.” Hitler…

When is Donald Trump kidding? When is he being sarcastic? When is he being serious? Who gets to decide?

Earlier today a reporter, following her journalism training, asked Trump, “Were you just kidding, or do you have a plan to slow down testing?” His response: “I don’t kid, let me just tell you.” At this weekend’s Tulsa rally, the president had said, referring to the US response to the coronavirus pandemic, “I said to my people, slow the testing down, please.” Monday his press secretary Kayleigh McEnany said the…