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…

Election ‘distracted’ Trump team from pandemic response, Birx tells Congress

More than 130,000 American lives could have been saved with swifter action and better coordinated public health messages after the virus’ first wave, Birx told lawmakers. “I believe if we had fully implemented the mask mandates, the reduction in indoor dining, the getting friends and family to understand the risk of gathering in private homes, and we had increased testing, that we probably could have decreased fatalities into the 30-percent…

Missouri governor vows criminal prosecution of reporter who found flaw in state website • Missouri Independent

I’m shocked… shocked that a reporter published a newsworthy story about a rookie cyber-blunder made by a powerful government agency. A reporter viewed the HTML code (a one-click process on many web browsers) and noticed that the social security numbers of school teachers and administrators were embedded in web pages served up by Missouri’s department of education. The reporter contacted the agency, and held the story until the problem was…

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The Masterpiece Society (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 13) Space Thing Threatens Genetically Perfect Colony

Rewatching ST:TNG When a Space Thing threatens a genetically perfect colony, the wary inhabitants resist Picard’s offer to evacuate. Humans on Moab IV have for two centuries enjoyed a carefully designed society. The charismatic leader Conor speaks glowingly of fulfilling the role he was genetically engineered to hold, while the rigid traditionalist Martin undiplomatically scoffs at LaForge’s blindness. Conor is taken with Troi, who seems charmed by his attention. LaForge…

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Unification, Part 2 (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 8) Spock Nurtures Romulan Peace Movement

Rewatching ST:TNG Beyond stating that he is on “a personal mission of peace,” the AWOL Ambassador Spock is reluctant to explain his presence on the Romulan homeworld. Referring to events depicted in the movie Star Trek 6 (which had not yet premiered when this episode first aired), Spock says he is reluctant to risk any one else’s life on yet another peace mission, but is personally committed to encouraging the…

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Unification, Part 1 (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 7) Picard Questions Sarek about Renegade Spock

Rewatching ST:TNG Informed that the venerable Ambassador Spock has vanished without a word and has been spotted on Romulus, Picard visits the ailing Sarek, who reports Spock’s optimistic hopes to reunify the Vulcan and Romulan people. This was an important theme in the early 90s, with the recent fall of the Berlin Wall and the collapse of the USSR. As a fan of Trek and good acting, I remember being…

FBI launches flurry of arrests over attacks on journalists during Capitol riot

Imagine that. Nearly six months after the U.S. Capitol riot, the Justice Department has begun arresting a new category of alleged criminals — those who attacked reporters or damaged their equipment as journalists documented the violence perpetrated by supporters of President Donald Trump. The first such charge came last week, when 43-year-old Shane Jason Woods of Illinois was charged with engaging in violence on the Capitol grounds Jan. 6, as…

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Ensign Ro (#StarTrek #TNG Rewatch, Season 5, Episode 3) New Bumpy-nosed Officer Is Stubborn

Rewatching ST:TNG Picard is ordered to accept a bumpy-nosed humanoid officer who didn’t want to be transferred to the Enterprise — but she admits the new assignment is better than prison. A complex plot introduces the backstory of Bajor, which will eventually be the premise for the spinoff series Deep Space Nine — an ancient and noble race of architects and philosophers was 40 years ago displaced by the militaristic…

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…

‘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…

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…

All those fights over late-ar­riv­ing mail bal­lots were much ado about very lit­tle

Just in case you haven’t been thinking lately about the passionate accusations of massive voter fraud in the 2020 presidential election (which led led to the Jan 6 storming of the Capitol  Building), here’s an article from the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. Note that the Post-Gazette editorial page endorsed Trump in 2020. Massive voter fraud? This author, an NYU professor of constitutional law, checks the numbers and begs to differ. Perhaps surprisingly,…

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…

Royalty: For the Irish, it’s like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and, also, your grandfather was murdered by a clown.

When I lived in Canada, I had friends who were Monarchists, but I could never tell whether they were really serious about it. I am not at all into royal-watching, but I am definitely into this Irish Times story about the royal family. Having a monarchy next door is a little like having a neighbour who’s really into clowns and has daubed their house with clown murals, displays clown dolls…

The Backstory: A reporter arrested while covering a protest faces trial Monday. Here’s why you should care.

Journalists are human, humans make mistakes, and no human journalist should be above criticism. In fact, cub reporters benefit greatly from making mistakes — it’s important for them to learn the consequences of spelling a name wrong or repeating a claim without checking it. However, general, unfocused contempt for “the media” is dangerous to a healthy democracy. Journalists arrested at last summer’s racial justice protests are still facing charges, jail time,…

The Value of Truth: We are living through an epistemological crisis.

In the jargon of academia, the study of what we can know, and how we can know it, is called “epistemology.” During the 1980s, philosopher Richard Rorty declared it dead and bid it good riddance. To Rorty and many other thinkers of that era, the idea that we even needed a theory of knowledge at all rested on outmoded, Cartesian assumptions that the mind was an innocent mirror of nature;…

The Terrible Things I Have Said and Done My Entire Life, and Right Up Until a Few Days Ago, Do Not Represent Me As a Person

The media constantly takes things I say and then repeats them on their news shows and in their magazines, and they always leave something out, like the thing I haven’t even said yet that lets you know I don’t believe the thing I already said. If the media wants to be completely accurate, they should write down every word I’ve ever said in my entire life, then wait for me…

Media Bias Chart 7.0 (Left vs Right Bias; High vs Low Value and Reliability; Ad Fontes Media)

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. Update: Media Bias Chart 8.0 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.

A practical application of close reading skills: Nazi-spotting

Whenever I teach a literature class, I put a lot of energy into helping students understand the difference between the plot summary and personal engagement (“The character I could most relate to in this story was…”) they got praised for doing in high school, and the more advanced literary close reading skills I ask them to do in my literature class. I’ve had some success drawing on the pre-existing skills…