The hypertensive guide to fake news

Much has appeared in the media recently about fake news.  Librarians have been concentrating our efforts with out students for years on evaluating sources.  This election has certainly proved the need for this education.  We all look for one quick and definitive test for vetting a site.  I think I have that for you.

A BI-PARTISAN HYPERTENSIVE GUIDE TO FAKE NEWS

Is  it real or is it memorex? (this slogan sure shows my age)  Is it fake or is it slanted?

SYMPTOM:  Blood pressure is through the roof.  OMG! This is OUTRAGEOUS.  I must post this to FB immediately.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT:  It might be a hoax from a fake news site. Calm down and do your research before posting.

Have a glass of wine!

SYMPTOM:  Blood pressure is normal or below.   WOW!  I knew I was right.  I must post this to FB immediately.

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT:  It is probably a story from a news source that is slanted towards your side of the political spectrum. Don’t believe everything you read on this site.  Go outside your comfort zone a little to read a site with another point of views.

Have a glass of wine!

SYMPTOM:  Blood pressure is normal or slightly elevated.  Oh my! Some of this is challenging my long-held convictions.  Some of it matches my opinions. Whatever should I do?!

DIAGNOSIS AND TREATMENT:  It is probably a story from a news source that is a little more balanced. You still should not believe everything you read on this site.  Research and read some more.

Have a glass of wine!

Who Ya Gonna Call??

Hoaxbusters??

I agonize sometimes when I see blatant falsehoods on Facebook Memes.  I have seen them on both the conservative and liberal memes.  But let’s face it…trying to distill complex issues and opinions into a phrase or two is impossible…and ultimately hurtful.  Throwing half truths and insults at each other is what the internet has created.  It is why I have blocked many sites and try to share only humorous and inspirational memes .  I DID say that I would post more in-depth articles of interest from time to time.  This article covers an issue dear to my heart….ferreting out internet hoaxes.  In it Silverman says. “When we spot hoaxes, we should play a role in calling it out.”. He was talking about the organization he works for….but I think we need to all play a part in keeping truth and respectful discussion alive.  It is a tough job…but we ALL have to do it.

Declaring war on internet hoaxes

Some of my favorite lines from the article are:

“Falsehood flies, and truth comes limping after it,” Jonathan Swift once wrote. BuzzFeed wants to tighten up the race.

Ask any political fact-checker how hard it is for the truth to overtake the bogus campaign trail claim. The shelf life of poppycock is depressingly long.

“There have always been hoaxes and rumors, but they are much more common in today’s world,” Silverman says. “The false stuff gets traction. It contributes to stereotypes and influences what we think. If we’re not knocking it down, it contributes to a more fractious society.”

He says the mission is complicated by the fact that people just don’t seem to share the corrective article nearly as much as the splashy but incorrect original story. “Hoaxes are better crafted to share,” he says. “Debunkers are seen as spoilsports.”

[Silverman] noticed that fake news was starting to emerge, “and social media was throwing gasoline on it.”

Has Social Media Eaten Our Brains?

I read Esther Cepeda’s column today in my morning newspaper...A deliciously revolting takedown of our Internet-obsessed way of life”. 

In her column, Cepeda reviews the book I hate the Internet: A Useful Novel Against Man, Money and the Filth of Instagram.

I must read this book. Her review reminds me of a much-panned book I read a few years ago … Killing Time by Caleb Carr.  I wrote a blog post quoting passages from the book. Is it real..or is it Spark Notes? expressed my concern about the negative potential of a media where anyone..even me….can be a published author, and where information is being summarized and deep reading is discouraged.

To our students, information all pretty much looks the same.  As a matter of fact, garbage posted in a pretty package actually looks better than the most profound literature posted in plain, old-fashioned html.  I see so much mis-information being thrown around on FB et al.  If that is what you depend on for your news…you will never understand what is real and what is fake.  Recently I have blocked all political posts from my FB feed.  I have made a conscious decision that I will NOT get my information from a platform that is perfect for having a social conversation, and terrible for finding accurate “just the facts” news, let alone measured, informed opinions.

I confess. I HAVE made an exception for Donald Trump.  I search for the most balanced and accurate reports that I can find and post links.  Why the exception? Because people did not do enough to stop Hitler and look what happened there!!  I feel it is my moral obligation to reveal the danger of Trump.  But part of his amazing rise to prominence has to do with the fact that he talks in the outrageous sound bytes that passes for intelligent discourse these days.  In the words of Caleb Carr:

The human brain adores it [Information] – it plays with the bits of information it receives, arranging them and storing them like a delighted child. But it loathes examining them deeply, doing the hard work of assembling them into integrated systems of understanding. Yet that work is what produces knowledge… The rest is simply – recreation. (Killing Time, p. 235)

And in the words of Esther Cepeda:

As a result, social media and participatory journalism sites became “a place where complex systems gave the mentally ill the same platforms of expression as sane members of society, with no regard to the damage they caused to themselves or others.” And this had the effect of making Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Reddit, Gawker, BuzzFeed and so many other sites where people have so-called conversations an environment that “preyed on the gullible, asking them to create content based on inflamed emotion for the sake of serving advertisements.”

 Sound like anyone we know?

What exactly does “closely held” really mean?

And will these “closely held” organizations be completely transparent about all the implications of their particular religious beliefs?  There is much to think about with regard to the Supreme Court Hobby Lobby Decision.

As much of a liberal feminist as I am, I have always supported the right of faith-based organizations to decline covering medical prescriptions/procedures that their church doctrine views as immoral. Part of my opinion is based on the fact that most people are aware of these policies when they are hired by a Catholic hospital or other obviously faith-based employers.  
I DO hope that the law will require that  “closely held” corporations be completely upfront about their religious doctrine when they interview prospective employees, along with the implications those beliefs might have to employees who are not of that faith – even beyond the issue of birth control. For instance, could women employed by a “closely held” Muslim corporation be required to wear a head scarf at work? 
Currently I am trying to find an unbiased source to answer one question. Does the Hobby Lobby plan cover vasectomies? Many sites indicate that they do cover Viagra and other similar drugs. I do not see that as a viable criticism in this context. Viagra is a drug aimed at restoring a natural ability that has been lost. But what about vasectomies? How is that different from birth control? Is Hobby Lobby still covering vasectomies? Are they still covering female sterilization?  I cannot determine that for sure. It is so hard to find an unbiased site with a definitive answer.
Now – before the conservatives start yelling that Hobby Lobby is still covering other forms of female birth control (just not those they see as being equivalent to abortion)…..trust me …. I FULLY understand that a vasectomy is a way to prevent the fertilization of eggs – not to destroy the ability of a fertilized egg to grow or abort an embryo.  And I know that Hobby Lobby is still paying for the pill and other forms of birth control.
BUT, I am looking at the larger implications of this Supreme Court ruling.
I believe this ruling opens the door for Catholic “closely held” corporations to ban ALL birth control, since Church doctrine forbids all forms of artificial birth control. Again – I have no problem with that if the organization is totally upfront about their policies and it is obvious that this is a CATHOLIC organization. But suppose a small Catholic family opens an ice cream store called…say… “Ice Cream Lobby”? How will future employees know of a religious connection? There needs to be very clear government requirements that both small and large employers be totally upfront about what is and is not being covered by their health plans. People need to know what they might be giving up in the way of employee benefits when they sign on to ANY kind of faith-based organization, whether it be a closely held corporation or the Vatican. 
Clearly stating the religious background of all organizations will be absolutely imperative of course. Most of us know the stance on birth control of the Catholic Church. But some may not. How many of us know the full religious doctrine of every faith – Jewish, Mormon, Presbyterian, Hari-Krishnas, Unitarians, Muslims etc. etc. etc.?
Do I agree with the Hobby Lobby decision?  I am not entirely sure. Nothing is ever simple. I need to research some more. The problem is that the noisiest opinions rise to the top of Google. What I have read so far is either rabidly conservative or rabidly liberal. Yes, my conservative friends….BOTH extreme positions are easily found on the internet and other media outlets. Really. The “lame stream media” cuts both ways.
It is moderation and thoughtfulness that are in short supply these days. 
 

Webinars – A New Experience for Me!!

Although I have attended a few (very few) webinars – I have never presented one. So…this retired old librarian learns a new trick…I hope. See details for time and registration below.

On behalf of EasyBib, I will be presenting a webinar on the topic of Web Evaluation. Disclaimer: Please don’t worry that this might be  a pitch to purchase a subscription to EasyBib. I have seen the webinars that they have done in the past, and they present some excellent materials on information literacy.They are very well done and are useful for everyone – subscribers to EasyBib AND those who subscribe to another service or do not plan to use online research/citation services at all. The ones I have viewed were hosted by Emily Gover, who is their staff librarian.  I hope to do half as good a job as she does.
Alas! If you attend, you might feel you are listening to a rerun of a Lauren Bacall movie. Whoops…yet again I show my age. For the youngsters out there – she had a distinctive, somewhat raspy voice. I have a respiratory infection right now, and if my voice doesn’t improve soon, I may sound more like Bob Dylan. Whoops – dating myself yet again I suppose!  The good news is that at least attendees are in no danger of catching anything more serious than a bad case of boredom.
Here are the registration details:
Title of Webinar:
ARE THERE REALLY WHALES IN MINNESOTA?
Web Evaluation Workshop for Librarians & Classroom Teachers
Web address to attend the Webinar:
  or
Tinyurl: http://tinyurl.com/d6w84nj
Content:
Your students have just found a website called GenPets.  They appear to be selling Biogentic Pets.  Animals created in a laboratory?  Hmmmmm…….  It looks very real.  As an adult, you know it is a hoax – but how will your students know?  Even as adults, we wander into websites that seem questionable – but are just not quite sure.
Learn a quick and easy way to evaluate what you and your students see on the web.  You will leave with an incredibly easy and reliable web evaluation checklist suitable for grades 3-12 (and adults too!).  Just think – no more waiting for that check from the Nigerian Royal Family to arrive in your bank account!  This workshop was designed to open educators’ eyes to the need to evaluate, how to teach children to recognize unreliable websites; and how to hold students accountable for the resources they choose – on and offline.
Date and Time:
Wednesday, August 22, 2012 2:00 pm  Eastern Daylight Time (New York, GMT-04:00) Duration: 1 hour.  Once you get to the webinar website on Wednesday, you will simply sign in with your first and last name, and a password for the event.  Then click “Join Now”, and you will receive instructions.
Hope to “see” lots of folks.  I will be in my pajamas, sipping soothing honey & lemon tea (no booze – I promise) and, since it feels a tad weird to be addressing an audience I cannot see – I will have a family photo of the Obamas perched atop my computer, so I feel that I am actually talking to real people!  I’d use my own family photo…but the amount of stuff piled up by my hoarder hubby is blocking the photo albums.  Besides – looking at their faces would freak me out.  I know they never listen to me!