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.  
At his trial for murder, Captain Thomas Preston, commander of the British squad, referred to the “unhappy affair.” Samuel Adams called the event The Boston Massacre, and that memorable name helped the story to go viral.
Note: John Adams, a cousin of Samuel Adams, was the defense attorney for the British soldiers who were involved. They were all acquitted.
Samuel Adams didn’t pretend to be objective in his writings. In his book The Day the American Revolution Began, William H. Hallahan asserts that truth was Samuel Adams’ first victim. “To radicalize the populace Adams had adopted a total disregard for it (the truth). In his writings he employed slanderous lies, unvarnished propaganda, and rabble-rousing rhetoric. He whipped the people of Massachusetts and many other colonies into an anti-British fury,” Hallahan wrote.
The following inspiring quotes have been attributed to Samuel Adams by Brainy Quotes. (I’ve also located them elsewhere on various websites about American history.)
“We have proclaimed to the world our determination 'to die freemen, rather than to live slaves.' We have appealed to Heaven for the justice of our cause, and in Heaven we have placed our trust.
“Among the natural rights of the colonists are these: First a right to life, secondly to liberty, and thirdly to property; together with the right to defend them in the best manner they can.
“Our contest is not only whether we ourselves shall be free, but whether there shall be left to mankind an asylum on earth for civil and religious liberty.
“If taxes are laid upon us in any shape without our having a legal representation where they are laid, are we not reduced from the character of free subjects to the miserable state of tributary slaves? We claim British rights not by charter only! We are born to them.
Note: James Otis said it more simply. “No taxation without representation.”
There’s no question that Samuel Adams’ hot-headed rhetoric played an important part in the American Revolution. These days some in the media are following in his footsteps, using lies and propaganda to achieve their objectives. One big difference is that they pretend to be objective.
In regard to Samuel Adams, did the ends - liberty from what he viewed as tyranny - justify his means?
In regard to some of our current media, do the ends that they desire justify their means when they mislead and/or deceive?
Please leave a comment.

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

Tuesday, May 30, 2017

Fake News 101: How to recognize fake news and avoid being fooled by it.

Fake stories have been passed off as news for a long time. Since the turn of the millennium, fake news has been evolving at an alarming pace.

Aside from disconnecting and finding a wireless cave to live in, there’s probably no way to avoid fake news completely. However, it is possible to avoid being fooled by fake news.

Fake News 101 will help readers to recognize various types of fake news including satire, alternative facts, propaganda, and more.

If you’re ready to join the battle against fake news and become a Fake News Warrior, Fake News 101 will be an indispensable resource.

Danny Murphy is an informative and entertaining public speaker. He is available to speak on topics related to Fake News at conferences, seminars, and other events. Send him an email to check into his availability.

Monday, May 29, 2017

Fake Science and Aluminum Foil

When I saw a link to story with the ominous headline below, I clicked through.
How could I resist taking a look? I don’t want to die. Like many people, I have used aluminum foil with some frequency and I have some readily available in my kitchen.
In the blog post, I saw a couple of red flags immediately. First, there’s no named author. One would think that an article about a serious health issue might be by a doctor of some kind. However, since readers have no way to know who the author is, there’s really no way to discern whether he or she is even qualified to write authoritatively on the topic of the post.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Trump's Raven

Once upon a midnight dreary, while I tweeted weak and weary,
Over many vain and various tweets galore,
While I tweeted nearly sleeping, suddenly there came a tweeting,
As of someone gently tweeting, tweeting my computer screen. 
'Tis some follower, I muttered, tweeting my computer screen.
Only this and nothing more.

I refreshed my browser screen, when with many a chirp and tweet,
Out there flew a tweeting birdie, from inside my browser screen.
The birdie perched upon my shoulder and in my ear began to tweet,
Perched, and tweeting, and nothing more. 

"Birdie," said I, "thou foul and demonic thing,
Take thyself from off my shoulder and take thy beak from out my heart.
Leave this place and fly back, back to my computer screen."
Quoth the birdie, "Nevermore."

And the birdie, never sleeping, 
Still is tweeting, still is tweeting, 
Tweeting till forevermore. 

Note: This piece borrows heavily from Edgar Allen Poe's poem The Raven, a literary masterpiece which is in the public domain. 

Check out Peggy Noonan's WSJ op-ed:
Democracy is not your plaything 

True Story! Alex Jones of Infowars apologizes for defaming Chobani, LLC. 

In April, Alex Jones of Infowars published a tweet and a video with the headline, “Idaho Yogurt Maker Caught Importing Migrant Rapists.” The company was Chobani. The story, which was shared widely, was not true. Chobani sued. Mr. Jones apologized.

“During the week of April 10, 2017, certain statements were made on the Infowars Twitter feed and YouTube channel regarding Chobani, LLC that I now understand to be wrong. The tweets and video have now been retracted and will not be reposted. On behalf of Infowars, I regret that we mischaracterized Chobani, its employees and the people of Twin Falls, Idaho the way we did.”
The video below features a rant from Mr. Jones followed by his apology.

I urge readers and viewers to think twice before sharing provocative “news” from outlets like Infowars.

Thursday, May 11, 2017

Fake Hysteria, Orson Welles, and War of the Worlds

Like many writers, I sometimes do other work to make ends meet. One of the jobs I’ve had involved reviewing short written answers to test questions about a designated reading. The students were eleventh graders and one of the readings was about Orson Welles’ famous War of the Worlds broadcast on Mercury Theatre on the Air.
On his show, Orson Welles presented audiences with dramatizations of various novels. On October 30, 1938, the selection was War of the Worlds, an 1898 novel by H.G. Wells. The novel was adapted to depict a live invasion of Grover Mills, New Jersey, by hostile Martians. According to lore, the broadcast sent millions of Americans into a panic.
However, that lore has been debunked.