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.


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??


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?

How Do We Solve A Problem Like The Donald??

I admit it.  I have been stumped by Trump.  Why has this joke not gone away?  My reading came together this morning with an editorial by Charles Krauthammer, and a Psychology Today article posted by a former teacher colleague of mine I greatly respect.  The disregard for thinking deeply, along with the rise of bullies who shout the loudest on social media goes a long way to explain the Trump phenomenon.

The solution to the Donald Problem is education.  It is NOT a quick fix, and apparently it is too late to save us from Trump.  Only Hillary or Bernie can do that right now. Ultimately our saviours will be our teachers.  If we can stop burdening them with senseless testing requirements, there will be time to teach students the deep reading and analytical skills they will need in this complex world.  We will have time to teach them how to debate with their intellect and not the volume of their voices.

The article by Charles Krauthammer  supports the ideas expressed in the Psychology Today article.  In the editorial Krauthammer explains why so many Evangelical conservatives support Trump, even though it is obvious to ANYONE who has EVER attended a Christian church regularly, that Trump is NOT an Evangelical….or even a serious Christian.  What he IS, is a loud-mouthed bully who gets his way by being the most aggressive.  People are scared and think this is the only way to be safe in a world increasingly run by bullies. It is easier to have a bodyguard than to find a way for people with differing opinions to live together in peace, treating each other with respect.

 We DO have a choice.  We can resist the Trumps of this world, or we can bow down and pay them the protection money and power they are trying to extort. Which will it be?

Discouraged by Discourse

After a week of enduring the Republican National Convention, and “looking forward” to the Democratic National Conventions, I am afraid I really dread the election season.

I decided to spend some time…very unusual for me…on Twitter. Which led to other commentaries and on and on. For the most part, the commentaries I read,on both sides of the aisle so to speak, were thoughtful. It is reading the public comments that gets me down. The amount of mis-information that gets tossed around is epic. Do folks ever do a fact check…or do they believe whatever seems to be the “best” (aka most outrageous) statements coming to them via the latest outrage emails?

The language is horrendous, and the reasoning non-existent.

I hope that English classes spend some time having kids read opinion pieces and composing short, to the point, and accurate responses, minus gratuitous swearing and/or “Come on, make my day!” rhetoric. Lets give kids guidance in what has become a real-life writing experience.

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