Mask-wearing cuts Covid incidence by 53%, says global study

Globally, Covid cases exceeded 250 million this month. The virus is still infecting 50 million people worldwide every 90 days due to the highly transmissible Delta variant, with thousands dying each day. Now a systematic review and meta analysis of non-pharmaceutical interventions has found for the first time that mask wearing, social distancing and handwashing are all effective measures at curbing cases – with mask wearing the most effective.  —Guardian

Loki’s Loop Escape Room

Great  concept for a virtual escape room devoted to debunking fake information online. For years a supplement called “Euphorigen” has been used by the very wealthy to boost brain activity and productivity. Now the Government wants to make the benefits of Euphorigen available to everyone by introducing it into the public water supply. The company that makes Euphorigen claims to have completed successful trials, and an announcement of the deal is expected shortly. But your investigator friend has suspicions, and has heard that a prominent scientist has recorded a statement on whether or not the company’s claims are to be…

Lies about history in Texas can be traced to the Lone Star State’s own Big Lie: The Alamo

Yet many Texans feel they need the Alamo story. As one of the authors of Forget the Alamo stated, the myth speaks to what many Texans desperately want to believe about their state: that it arose from heroic circumstances, and that there’s a reason Texas is special. This includes the current crop of Republican Texas legislators. Instead of allowing critical thinking and a serious examination of the historical record, Abbott and his allies decided to go the despotic route and unilaterally declare the false mythology is now fact. In a move that critics decry as a pure expression of fascism, the Texas governor requires his “patriotic…

Dennis G. Jerz | Associate Professor of English -- New Media Journalism, Seton Hill University | jerz.setonhill.edu Logo

In October 2001, I was blogging about nothing, apostrophes, the anthrax scare, and Boilerplate

In October 2001, I was blogging about Nothing Matters. (A teaching metaphor that had a big impact on my pedagogy… I’m glad I had the occasion to revisit it. Even when I blogged it 20 years ago there were a lot of broken links on the site, but the main idea is still completely valid) The Apostrophe Protection Society Job Hunting Tips (satire from The Onion) Walking Sports Database Scorns Walking Sci-Fi Database The need for editors on the Web Boilerplate: Mechanical Marvel of the 19th Century (a steampunk robot photoshopped into historical photos creates an alternate history timeline that…

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Media Bias Chart 8.0 (Liberal / Moderate / Conservative on the X axis; Factual / Opinion / Misinformation on the Y axis)

Don’t reject a news source just because it slants against your own slant, and don’t accept a news source just because it slants the same way you do. If you find a news source where you agree with all the content all the time, that doesn’t mean the source is 100% reliable. It just 100% shares your bias.

How to lie with charts, by the @NYTimes

I tend to defend journalism when showboaters & slogan-quoters attack “the media” in general, but I’m eager to read legitimate critiques of individual news stories. Here’s one that seems to manipulate data out of context to support a fearmongering narrative. (Don’t do this!) 1. Data not normalized2. Not the appropriate visualization3. No differentiation between data and projections4. Not the whole story5. No contextualization of risk And NOT a @nytimes staffer; should be clear in byline, not small print at the bottomhttps://t.co/GqrKYcDg5t — ⚡️Kathy E Gill | Get vaccinated, wear a mask! (@kegill) September 22, 2021  

Media Bias Chart 8.0 (Left vs. Right; Fact vs. Propaganda; Complex vs. Clickbait; Idle Chatter vs. Original Reporting) Version 8.0

From AdFontes Media. If you never disagree with the slant of your news source, then you probably aren’t reading a balanced news source; you’re just reading a source aligned with your bias. A truly informed person will consult credible sources (above the green line) on both the left and right. Know where your biases are, and make an effort to read credible, fact-based news and analysis that presents views that differ from your own.  

Sights, Sounds, and Smells of Elizabethan Theater

Somewhere during my education I picked upon the meme that “Shakespeare’s contemporaries referred to ‘hearing’ a play, not ‘seeing’ a play,” and I regularly trot it out to emphasize how growing up in an auditory culture meant that the average Elizabethan probably got a lot more out of casually attending a Shakespeare play than the average student gets from studying an annotated script. Practically speaking, I encourage students to listen to an audio adaptation while they read, but I also point out that our task in the classroom is to study Shakespeare’s words and the historical context in which he…

The YouTubers who blew the whistle on an anti-vax plot

While rational minds worry about the impact of biased cable TV channels, and as the Delta mutation spreads globally, a mysterious marketing agency is offering to pay social media influencers to post anti-vax disinformation. Mirko normally ignores offers from brands asking him to advertise their products to his more than 1.5 million subscribers. But the sponsorship offer he received in May this year was unlike any other. An influencer marketing agency called Fazze offered to pay him to promote what it said was leaked information that suggested the death rate among people who had the Pfizer vaccine was almost three…

Journalists should not amplify the ableist biases of untrained sources

Being a cop, lawyer, patriot, protestor, or journalist does not qualify you to diagnose mental illnesses. Journalists are trained to cite credible sources, which would not include citing a random ableist conjecture voiced by a decision-maker or witness. If the source has verifiable knowledge of an actual diagnosis, and the diagnosis is legitimately relevant to the story, that’s a different matter. (Verify or duck.) Avoid unsubstantiated statements from witnesses or first responders attributing violence to mental illness. Studies have shown that the vast majority of people with mental illnesses are not violent, and experts say most people who are violent…

Vaccine hesitancy morphs into hostility, as opposition to shots hardens

What began as “vaccine hesitancy” has morphed into outright vaccine hostility, as conservatives increasingly attack the White House’s coronavirus message, mischaracterize its vaccination campaign and, more and more, vow to skip the shots altogether. The notion that the vaccine drive is pointless or harmful — or perhaps even a government plot — is increasingly an article of faith among supporters of former president Donald Trump, on a par with assertions that the last election was stolen and the assault on the U.S. Capitol was overblown. —Washington Post

A WWII Propaganda Campaign Popularized the Myth That Carrots Help You See in the Dark

Yet another widely held cultural myth falls to the cold hard power of actual research. During the 1940 Blitzkrieg, the Luftwaffe often struck under the cover of darkness. In order to make it more difficult for the German planes to hit targets, the British government issued citywide blackouts. The Royal Air Force were able to repel the German fighters in part because of the development of a new, secret radar technology. The on-board Airborne Interception Radar (AI), first used by the RAF in 1939, had the ability to pinpoint enemy bombers before they reached the English Channel. But to keep that under wraps,…

How Nasty Was Nero, Really?

In The New Yorker, Rebecca Reed reports on modern historians’ efforts to rehabilitate the Roman emperor Nero, whose name has become synonymous with corruption. Depictions of Nero as notorious are “based on a source narrative that is partisan,” Thorsten Opper, a curator in the Greek and Roman division of the British Museum, told me recently. The museum has just opened an exhibition that, if not quite aiming to rehabilitate Nero, challenges his grotesque reputation. “Anything you think you know about Nero is based on manipulation and lies that are two thousand years old,” Opper, the show’s lead curator, said. Indeed,…

Veteran’s microphone cut off when he discusses Black people’s role in establishing Memorial Day

Who is this nobody Memorial Day keynote speaker who dared to make white patriots feel discomfort by bringing up facts that trigger their racism?  It’s not history unless it affirms my world view, right? Where does the lying America-hating fake news media come up with these stories? There so bias!! A ceremony organizer turned off a microphone when a retired Army lieutenant colonel began sharing a story about freed Black slaves honoring deceased soldiers shortly after the end of the Civil War. —Stars and Stripes

No, this Jeopardy! contestant was not making a white supremacist hand gesture

Conspiracy theories, knee-jerk tribal thinking and stubbornness are not confined to one end of the political spectrum, as this NYT analysis of a recent Jeopardy! conspiracy theory establishes. Mr. Donohue’s case is unusually clear-cut, and the allegation is obviously false. So the element of this story that interests me most is how the beating heart of nerdy, liberal fact-mastery can pump blood into wild social media conspiracy, and send all these smart people down the sort of rabbit hole that leads other groups of Americans to believe that children are being transported inside refrigerators. And, I wanted to know, how…

‘Belonging Is Stronger Than Facts’: The Age of Misinformation

As much as we like to think of ourselves as rational beings who put truth-seeking above all else, we are social animals wired for survival. In times of perceived conflict or social change, we seek security in groups. And that makes us eager to consume information, true or not, that lets us see the world as a conflict putting our righteous ingroup against a nefarious outgroup. […] Framing everything as a grand conflict against scheming enemies can feel enormously reassuring. And that’s why perhaps the greatest culprit of our era of misinformation may be, more than any one particular misinformer,…

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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…

Partisan Pa. websites masquerading as local news threaten trust in journalism, new report finds

People with financial interests to protect and political axes to grind are funding websites that resemble local news outlets, with the express purpose of manipulating the attitudes of the general public. Journalists are far from perfect, and no human being is truly unbiased; however, there’s a big difference between responsible journalism that leans left or right, and partisan propaganda that’s camouflaged to resemble a neutral account of the facts. It’s an uphill battle teaching my students how to determine whether a source is trustworthy. Credibility is determined by examining nine apolitical factors, including not repeatedly publishing false content, regularly correcting…