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

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 pecking,
As of someone gently pecking,
pecking my computer screen. 
'Tis some follower, I muttered,
pecking 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 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. 

The President is tweeting, is tweeting, is tweeting...

When the President has trouble sleeping,
He frequently turns to tweeting.
Sometimes he'll tweet till the morning,
And change policies with no warning.
You might say it's his style of leading.
Over a hundred years ago, Rev. W.L. Watkinson preached a sermon titled The Invincible Strategy. In it, he said, “It is far better to light the candle than to curse the darkness.” These days people prefer to light Molotov cocktails and other incendiary devices.
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.