No, this pie chart does not mean that anyone at CNBC believes the typical 25 year old earns a salary of $100k/y and spends $825/mo on rent

Tell me you didn’t click the link without telling me you didn’t click the link. I don’t watch any TV news and CNBC plays no role in my life, but come on. This post has gotten thousands of likes and generated hundreds of comments, many of them suggesting that CNBC is out of touch for reporting these figures as “typical.” It’s easy to attack the messenger, but it’s really not hard to Google “cnbc budget breakdown of a 25 year old” and click the first link.  This chart, from a profile of a specific person who “brings in $100,000 a…

Copspeak, “the past exonerative” tense, and punching Nazis

In the Constitution, any suspect is innocent until found guilty by a court, even suspects who kneel for eight minutes on the throat of an unarmed, handcuffed person who is caught on video pleading to breathe, passing out, and dying. If the court hasn’t (yet) ruled that a death is homicide, then it’s not accurate to describe the death as a “murder” or to describe a person who has just been arrested, but not formally charged yet, as a “killer.” Having said that, the “past exonerative voice” is a powerfully descriptive name for how the journalists who are trained to…

War via TikTok: Russia’s new tool for propaganda machine

“This is the way they go to war; it’s a central part of Russian doctrine,” said Jim Ludes, a former U.S. defense analyst who now directs the Pell Center for International Relations and Public Policy at Salve Regina University. Ludes said Russian disinformation campaigns are intended to galvanize Russian support while confusing and dividing the country’s opponents. Russia tailors its propaganda message for specific audiences. For Russians and pro-Russian separatists in Ukraine, the message is that Russia is trying to defend its own people against Western-fueled aggression and persecution in Ukraine. Similar tactics have been used, including by Nazi Germany…

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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 with “allegedly”? Are journalists in league with cops, protecting them from the consequences of their bad-apple violence? Let’s think about this. If for some reason you were a corrupt news…

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 spin that the British tabloid put on a scholarly study. Biden is such a national embarrassment! Why doesn’t he just spend his time rage-tweeting from golf courses, like presidents are…

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 shows just how easy it is for us to be manipulated. Certainly out there enemies of democracy have already noticed how easy it is to get people to react to…

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 company Dr. Seuss Enterprises that voluntarily decided to stop publishing six books because they include racist stereotypes. That’s not how I define “banned.” If people really need to read rhymes…

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 convinced they’ve found evidence that proves something they already believe. As I was prepping another lesson just now, it occurred to me that I had never fact-checked this “perspective matters”…

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 hair, we remember every time we went outside with wet hair and then started sniffling. We forget all the times when a bad thing happened, but we hadn’t seen a…

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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 cropping out the “Updated” annotation and sharing this image in an attempt to… uh… I’m really not sure what they think they are gaining. Demonstrating how uncritically and eagerly they…

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 will they instead go after videos that falsely allege Christians are systematically persecuted for using the phrase “Merry Christmas?” In all seriousness, Americans are still free to believe whatever they…

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 below and see for yourself all 3 outlets ran the same article, and credited it to the Associated Press:  NBC News, WCPO (Cincinnati), and Globalnews.ca,. Yes, it is unethical when…

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 that right? Coronavirus. They’re politicizing it. We did one of the great jobs. You say, “How’s President Trump doing?” They go, “Oh, not good, not good.” They have no clue.…

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 interchangeable.) There’s no dateline or byline. The last word in the article is newzimbabwe, but there’s no record of this story being published on newzimbabwe.com. I didn’t find any reference on the newzimbabwe…

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 particular racial narrative. If you’ve think I’m wrong but you’re still reading, then I welcome you. That means you might actually be interested in how a journalism teacher responds to…

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 of moisture he may cough, sneeze, or breathe out. The virus itself tiny but it travels through the air on those droplets, which even a simple cloth mask does a…

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 to coronavirus deaths,” and click on literally the first search result: That article has a video (that I didn’t watch), a July 15 photo labeled as a refrigerated trailer in…

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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 to ask, without hyperbole and in all sincerity: How dare you? How dare you risk the lives of others so cavalierly. How dare you decide for others that they should…