Sunday, October 15, 2017

Fake Photos and the Folks Who Share Them

This is not the U.S. Army football team
kneeling during the National Anthem.
A picture is worth a thousand words, and a picture that gets shared can get exposure at exponential levels. Unfortunately, pictures can be altered in ways that do not depict reality. Sometimes a picture doesn’t even need any alteration. Sometimes, all a skilled photo distributor needs to do is to attach a provocative story related to trending news.
For example, one very hot topic has been protests by NFL players who take a knee during the National Anthem. The photo at the top of this post shows the U.S. Navy football team kneeling in unison for prayer before a game against the University of Tulsa. However, those players certainly didn’t take a knee during the playing of the National Anthem.
Nevertheless, some enterprising “creator” made up a story about the U.S. Army football team taking to their knees in solidarity with the NFL’s kneelers. Then he or she put the story and the photo into distribution.
The photo was real, but the story was a complete lie. When I stumbled across the picture, it seemed preposterous. I did a Google search for “U.S. Army football team kneeling.” The top organic search result was from Snopes.
That post debunked the story, as did a post from That’s Nonsense.
Still, lots of people have shared the story and the picture, probably because they think it shows something very ironic related to the kneel for the Anthem protests.
Another picture that has been circulating recently was of several of the Republican candidates reciting the Pledge of Allegiance before one of the debates in 2016. Donald Trump has his hands at his side while the other Republican candidates have their right hands over their hearts. It was a great picture to confirm the bias among many that President Trump is a hypocrite. That photoshopped picture has been debunked.
This technique of photoshopping pictures to score political points works in the other direction as well. Around 2010, President Barack Obama’s face was photoshopped into a picture of members of the Black Panthers. Just one more fake photo debunked by Snopes. The picture didn’t even make sense, but people who believed the worst about Obama shared it.
Some photoshopped pictures are gross. One recent photo showed President Trump from behind while walking on a golf course. It appeared that there was a stain on his white pants indicative of - to put it delicately - a fecal episode. The stain was added to the pic. It confirmed the bias among some that President Trump is an oblivious buffoon. Similarly, someone photoshopped a picture of Hillary Clinton with a stain on her pants.
When people see pictures that make them chuckle or pictures that confirm their political and cultural biases, many don’t question the veracity of the pictures. That would take longer than the one second it takes to click on the share button.
When it comes to pictures on the internet, seeing should not be equated with believing. Photos can be manipulated, and there’s no shortage of people who are sufficiently skilled to make a photoshopped image look authentic. Sharing is easy. Scratching beneath the surface is work.

5 reasons why people share fake photos during disasters. This article from CNN breaks down some of the biggest reasons people believe what they see on the internet.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

President Trump Signs Executive Order To Reduce Verbal Violence By Late-nite Comedians

In a speech at the White House Rose Garden, President Trump announced an executive order which will limit the number of punchlines per minute by late-nite comedians. Holding up a pen, he said, “Barak Obama once said he could get things done with a pen and a phone. Well, he left a few of his pens behind, and let me tell you, they work very well.”
President Trump explained his rationale for his new executive order. “The late-nite comedians are a disgrace. They’ve weaponized sarcasm, irony, and mockery, and other tricks of their disgusting trade. Night after night, they destroy the lives of Americans. The carnage has increased over the past few decades, and especially since the beginning of my term in office. These people are indiscriminate. They target innocent men, women, and children with no regard for common decency whatsoever.

Tuesday, September 5, 2017

Clickbait for fake news on Sad but true.

I don’t routinely browse because I get the print version of the Times-Union every morning at the end of my driveway. On Saturday, September 2nd, I took a look at the online version because I wanted to share Richard Cuff’s intelligent letter about the controversy pertaining to Confederate monuments.

When I got to Richard's letter at, I saw an ad at the top of the right column which was clickbait for a fake news story about HGTV star Joanna Gaines leaving Fixer Upper and going into the cosmetics business. Having written a blog post about this fake news story, I was familiar with it.

Upon reloading Richard Cuff’s letter to the editor, a banner ad for the fake news story appeared at the top of the page. As a legitimate news organization, it seems like the Times-Union should be able to keep clickbait for fake news from appearing on its website. People and organizations that help to spread fake news are part of the problem. I’ve sent a letter to the editor about this, but have yet to hear anything back about it.

Do you think news organizations like the Florida Times-Union should keep ads for fake news stories off their websites?

Are you comfortable sharing articles from organizations that sometimes help to spread fake news?

#FakeNews #JoannaGaines #FixerUpper

Sunday, July 16, 2017

A Devious Question and Fake News in the Garden of Eden

When I was employed as a salesman at a car dealership, I learned that you can get someone to believe a lie without ever telling him or her a lie. It’s possible to get someone to believe a lie simply by asking the right question. For example, after I closed one profitable deal on a pickup truck, the customer said, “Dan, as much as I paid for that truck, you ought to throw in a set of mats.”
I acted as if I was taken aback. “Mr. Jones, we haggled quite a bit over this deal. Do you seriously think I have enough profit left to just throw in a set of mats?” I didn’t tell him a lie. I asked him a question. If I had just buckled and given him the mats, he would have wondered if he had gotten a decent deal or not.

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Was Samuel Adams a Fake Newsmaker as well as a Founding Father?

Statue of Samuel Adams at
Faneuil Hall Marketplace in Boston
Samuel Adams was a member of the tea-tossing Sons of Liberty. He also had a way with words and proved that the pen is mightier than the sword. With his incendiary writings, he ignited the revolutionary spirit in Massachusetts and throughout the colonies. 
For example, consider The Boston Massacre. A squad of 13 English soldiers - intimidated and perhaps even scared for their lives - fired on an angry mob of hundreds in front of the Boston Customs House. The event could have been called a riot or an incident.  

Monday, June 26, 2017

Ben Franklin: Founding Father of Fake News

Note: Sometimes fake news stories are built around legitimate stories with fake elements thrown in here and there. The fake elements in the post below are for comedic effect and they're fairly obvious. The folks who really know how to write fake news sometimes use similar techniques.  However, they are much more subtle about it. 

Fake news has been around in the United States since the signing of the Declaration of Independence in 1776. Actually, fake news was being produced before that. Long before he became a statesman, Ben Franklin worked as an apprentice in a print shop owned by his older brother James, or Jimbo, as Ben preferred to call him when he was out of earshot. True story!
The shop printed programs for the Boston Red Sox, menus for Legal Seafood, and also published the New England Courant newspaper. Unbeknownst to his older, and apparently less clever, brother, Ben Franklin wrote for the New England Courant using the pen name Silence Dogood. Like the Huffington Post, the Courant was very receptive to free content, whether it came by email or in an envelope slid under the office door. Mrs. Dogood was popular with the readers and it took James Franklin years to figure out her true identity.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Face Cream Fiasco and Fake Celebrity Endorsements: Is Joanna Gaines really going into the cosmetics business?

Since April, a story has been circulating that Joanna Gaines of the HGTV hit show Fixer Upper is quitting the show and leaving her husband to go into the cosmetics business. On April 17th, she wrote a blog post titled Don’t Believe Everything You Read.
“Always remember: if you’re reading big, exciting news about us, and we did not confirm it on our official sites, then proceed with caution. We are so thankful for your support—we wouldn’t be here without you! And just in case you were wondering, YES! We are currently filming season 5 of the show. No! I am not getting into the business of facial creams. And No! We are not expecting baby #5. And no worries, believing some of these stories happens to the best of us. In summary, don’t buy the facial cream, friends.” Joanna Gaines