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Down with Fake Politics! Down with Fake Government! Long Live the Free Press!

You can’t get much more American than Thomas Jefferson. He did not love every newspaper reporter on the planet; however, he wrote that, if forced to choose between government without newspapers or a newspaper without government, he would not hesitate to choose a newspaper without government (under certain very sensible conditions). The people are the only censors of their governors: and even their errors will tend to keep these to…

I touched up an intro to hypertext essays from 2000.

When I initially wrote this introduction to hypertext essays in 2000, my assumption was that readers would be experienced writers who already knew what an essay was, so that I could use that knowledge to differentiate between an ordinary essay and a hypertext essay. By 2017, we are teaching “multimodal composition” in our freshman writing classes. Some of the students come in with great writing skills (and I always tell them…

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My dad predicted Trump in 1985 – it’s not Orwell, he warned, it’s Brave New World

As my father [Neil Postman] pointed out, a written sentence has a level of verifiability to it: it is true or not true – or, at the very least, we can have a meaningful discussion over its truth. (This was pre-truthiness, pre-“alternative facts”.) But an image? One never says a picture is true or false. It either captures your attention or it doesn’t. The more TV we watched, the more…

Why We Fall for Fake News and How to Bust It

Measuring the impact of fake news spread through Facebook or Twitter is more difficult. Did made-up reports of pre-election ballot-stuffing for Hillary Clinton in Ohio before the election change any votes? Perhaps not, but it did lead the story’s original author, a Republican legislative aide in Maryland, to lose his job last week On many college campuses, professors are teaching their students identify and analyze fake news shared on social…

America’s Shakespeare

Shakespeare continues to be the most performed playwright in the United States, but his appeal has a global extension, and it has long been so. Sublimity has ever called to sublimity. The great modern nations boast great writers who depict and define the national life and character: Victor Hugo for the French, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe for the Germans, Leo Tolstoy the Russians, Herman Melville and Mark Twain the Americans,…

Take my feedback if you want to pass.

As my students in a compressed online course start writing a term paper, I ponder the importance of feedback. I can’t force them to read it, but I do intend to give it. Should they choose to ignore it, I simply have to evaluate their work fairly and, if they ask for an explanation, encourage them to go back and read the feedback I’ve already given. From my perspective, I can…