A nation of dummies.

So, in re Friday’s post, I read this over the weekend, the announcement of the final installment of What Was Fake, a Washington Post column devoted to debunking Internet rumors and so forth. It’s not that the author has run out of material, but rather, it’s more she’s run out of hope of ever improving things, mainly because of the rise of fake-news sites.

I try to curate my friend list, and subsequent news feed, so a lot of these things don’t get through. So I was a little surprised to click a link within that story and find this one, about a fake-news entrepreneur who consistently fools credulous readers. This would normally be a reminder that some people simply don’t understand satire, but I found this passage depressing:

Where debunking an Internet fake once involved some research, it’s now often as simple as clicking around for an “about” or “disclaimer” page. And where a willingness to believe hoaxes once seemed to come from a place of honest ignorance or misunderstanding, that’s frequently no longer the case. Headlines like “Casey Anthony found dismembered in truck” go viral via old-fashioned schadenfreude — even hate.

There’s a simple, economic explanation for this shift: If you’re a hoaxer, it’s more profitable. Since early 2014, a series of Internet entrepreneurs have realized that not much drives traffic as effectively as stories that vindicate and/or inflame the biases of their readers. Where many once wrote celebrity death hoaxes or “satires,” they now run entire, successful websites that do nothing but troll convenient minorities or exploit gross stereotypes. Paul Horner, the proprietor of Nbc.com.co and a string of other very profitable fake-news sites, once told me he specifically tries to invent stories that will provoke strong reactions in middle-aged conservatives. They share a lot on Facebook, he explained; they’re the ideal audience.

This is so dispiriting. The country doesn’t need this much ignorance, especially hate-driven ignorance.

So, now that we are officially On Vacation, and in the grip of the holidays, expect nothing much from here, other than an occasional photo, linkage, whatever — I have a lot to do. Cleaned two bedrooms and a bathroom today, which was about as much as I could manage on a mild hangover. It actually made me look forward to my January teetotaling, which I am serious about this year; one dry month with maybe, maybe one night off for the auto-show gala, but maybe not. Stocking up on Pellegrino and lime, and of course, lots of Diet Coke.

So a quick pop to the bloggage, then:

A nice little feature on Jim Harrison, Charlotte’s neighbor, reported just before his wife of 55 years died.

Looking for something to read on your days off? You’ll absolutely find something in Longform’s best of 2015 roundup of very readable journalism.

Any Raffi fans out there? I am, and #notashamed about it at all. A nice piece on the man and his career in New York magazine.

Let Christmas week commence.

Posted at 9:28 pm in Ancient archives, Current events, Media, Popculch |

38 responses to “A nation of dummies.”

  1. Brandon said on December 20, 2015 at 10:22 pm

    Merry Christmas. San Pellegrino is wonderful, but I wouldn’t drink any of the diet sodas. Better regular soda, in moderation. (Do they still make Faygo out there?)

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  2. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 20, 2015 at 10:38 pm

    Lovely interview with Harrison. Grace and peace be his.

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  3. brian stouder said on December 20, 2015 at 10:55 pm

    So we were flipping around on the channels 90 minutes ago, and stumbled upon the Miss Universe show, hosted by Steve Harvey. True enough, I had the poker, and could have changed it…and normally would have – but it was the bikini part of it, and there were maybe 30 contestants left, and they do instant internet voting and so on, and we all (Pam and Chloe and Shelby and [of course!] Grant and I got pulled in.

    So they did evening gowns and another elimination, and then questions and another elimination, until we were down to three ladies – Miss Columbia and Miss Philippines and one other…. and it was time to name the winner, and Steve Harvey (who reminds me of my older brother Alan) named Miss Columbia.

    And they crowned her and all the rest – and Pam kept noticing a white-gloved guy beyond the stage who kept motioning (he looked to me like a director or stage manager – but who knows? -This may be completely unrelated); he was just beyond the stage, and before the first row of seating in the theater.

    And then out came Steve Harvey again, and he looked very grim, and he announced he had made a mistake, and that the card he read stated that Miss Columbia was the First Runner Up…that Miss Phillipeans – standing withe the other contestants on-stage back in the shadows, was the winner.

    Here’s an early-appearing article –


    It was an amazing moment, when it was live. We were saying aloud ‘surely they cannot take the crown away from that woman, right?!’ – and then they did.

    Certainly, everyone involved should qualify for the congeniality title

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  4. Dexter said on December 21, 2015 at 3:03 am

    Miss Universe didn’t hold my interest more than the time it took to bring the ten finalists up to the front, and I crowned Miss Australia immediately, turned to football (a boring slaughter) for a few moments, then “Homeland” came on. It’s too bad Homeland had a couple seasons that just weren’t very compelling and lost viewers, because this season’s Berlin chapter was incredible and really gripping. If you have Showtime OnDemand watch it before they take this season down. Then “The Affair” was on, and this Showtime soapie dragged on through the season finale, and mercifully we get a break from it. I wish I had never started watching it. It should have wrapped up for good by now. Shows about adults constantly fucking each other in and out of marriage just begin to bore the audience, at least me.
    I enjoy satire on the web as well as comedy news sites like “The Onion” but I ignore phony news sites. One can usually smell a rat if the story is sensational with celebrity murder or whatever and no one else is reporting it.
    Beverages to stock for a dry month…back in the 80s I drank Coca-Cola on off-days. The past decade soda has been getting such a bad rap many folks have abandoned soda altogether. I do remember caffeinated soda on hangover days was a bad idea. The alcohol + caffeine used to throw my ticker into arrhythmia.
    Now I can drink as much coffee and Earl Grey tea as I want and never get those scary missed heartbeats.
    Years ago my wife and I were returning home on the Indiana Toll Road and the roadway was packed with motorcycles coming back from Sturgis, SD, and the giant motorcycle events there. The travel plazas all had riders getting gas and resting a bit…I waited at a pump behind one dude on a Harley Sporty with a sissy bar. On the sissy bar he had a leather bag, sorta like a backpack, and wired to the bag was an antique small stove-top style coffee maker and a coffee cup wired on there also. I just asked “Friend of Bill?” “Yes sir I am.” And we had a ninety-second AA meeting right there at the Toll Road gas pumps.
    (Bill was Bill Wilson, founding partner of Alcoholics Anonymous.)
    Fifty years ago the TV theme was “You meet the nicest people on a Honda.” Nice folks ride Harleys too…just don’t cross them!

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  5. alex said on December 21, 2015 at 7:24 am

    The fake news isn’t that hard to spot. It’s usually at the very bottom or along the side of a legit web site just like internet advertising, which I also never look at. No doubt the spy bots that track your interests and bombard you with targeted advertising probably do the same with fake news. There’s sucker bait for the liberal leaning just as there is for conservatives, but I don’t see much conservative stuff popping up anymore, probably because they’ve gotten a handle on my reading habits. I do see constant ads for products I purchased or researched recently.

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  6. Suzanne said on December 21, 2015 at 7:52 am

    I was sad to see the “what’s fake on the Internet” column go, especially for the reasons given. I know a few of those people who quote fake news sites and good luck convincing them. If you show them a fact check site, they’ll tell you it has a liberal bias & is untrustworthy. I have a Facebook connection (why I don’t delete him, I don’t know) who is a librarian and posts fake stuff far more than a librarian should (all very right wing. He is almost in mourning that Jindahl dropped out of the race.) When called on it, he always falls back on “Well, it may be inaccurate, but this COULD happen, and we all need to be warned.” But how many people bother to read all the comments and go off thinking that some Christian bakery really was burned to the ground in retaliation for not making a cake or some other alarmist story? Far too few.

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  7. ROGirl said on December 21, 2015 at 8:40 am

    Fake news/history has a long and successful track record. “The Protocols of the Elders of Zion” comes to mind.

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  8. MarkH said on December 21, 2015 at 8:44 am

    What’s disheartening is how Miss Universe kerfuffle shows how few people know the difference between Columbia and Colombia. And not just blog posters, but news reporters as well. More proof that editing is a dying trade. Spelling matters.

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  9. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 21, 2015 at 8:55 am

    Here’s a quiz that also requires most of us to do math in our heads (exchange rate is about a buck and a half for a British pound): http://www.telegraph.co.uk/finance/newsbysector/retailandconsumer/12061930/The-cost-of-Christmas-past-this-is-how-much-festive-classics-used-to-set-us-back.html

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  10. Icarus said on December 21, 2015 at 9:13 am

    I try (and usually fail) to do my teetotaling in February since it’s only 28 days although 2016 is a leap year so I guess it doesn’t matter either way.

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  11. brian stouder said on December 21, 2015 at 9:28 am

    I would have missed on a quiz any distinction between Columbia and Colombia!

    And, I would have spelled ‘teetotaling’ with an ‘a’ (teatotaling) – and I’d have been wrong there, too…

    So – I’m consistent, anyway

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  12. alex said on December 21, 2015 at 10:41 am

    And Lindsay Graham once again shows that he has more good sense than any of his competitors. And drops out.

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  13. Heather said on December 21, 2015 at 10:51 am

    Just a shout-out to Charlotte: I made your smoked trout pate for my family’s early Christmas celebration yesterday and it was a huge hit! I think it’s my new go-to canape.

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  14. Sue said on December 21, 2015 at 11:23 am


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  15. Dexter said on December 21, 2015 at 2:05 pm

    Columbia just ain’t Colombia theme made me remember my fuck-up a few years ago on a political blog that had quite a few educated sophistos as readers. I interchanged “capital” with “Capitol”. And I was laughed at and ridiculed as an uneducated weed-in-teeth Midwesterner. Which I am, I truly am…minus the weed wedged betwixt my two rotten teefs. 🙂

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  16. jcburns said on December 21, 2015 at 2:16 pm

    As I take a big sip of my coffee, a rich Columbia, South Carolina blend.

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  17. brian stouder said on December 21, 2015 at 2:50 pm

    Well, I like Steve Harvey – and he immediately manned-up and took the hit.

    It was an amazing little teevee moment; amazing and excruciating. Pam and I said aloud something like “They’re not going to take the crown away, are they?” – and then they did.

    It had to be the nightmare scene that any high-profile, bright-lights personage would break into a sweat over; most especially including the young ladies themselves

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  18. Jakash said on December 21, 2015 at 3:02 pm


    You may or may not be particularly well-“schooled”, but your contributions here certainly indicate that you’re more educated than the vast majority of Americans, be they sophisticated or not…

    As for “looking forward” to teetotaling, NN, Hear! Hear! A few trial runs after New Year’s Day are definitely in order, but that’s what Lent’s for, even when one’s left behind the rest of their Catholic upbringing. A month is for pikers! ; )

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  19. Charlotte said on December 21, 2015 at 4:38 pm

    Heather @13 — glad it worked for you! Such a simply recipe — and you can use it for lots of different fishes.

    The Harrison article made me really sad and angry. Linda was a wonderful, funny, warm person who was deeply loved by so many of us around here — and to see her death given less attention than what they *ate* (as the phone call came in saying she wasn’t going to make it) — well, it seemed enormously sexist to me. She was so much more than simply one more opportunity for the Great Man to Opine Great Thoughts. It’s going to be a very hard Christmas for her daughters this year without her … it was such a shock. We all thought she was getting better, and then the doctors said no, there was nothing more they could do. She did get a chance to say her goodbyes though, which is a small blessing. She is deeply missed.

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  20. beb said on December 21, 2015 at 4:55 pm

    Dexter, your Friend of Bill on a Harley story gave me a smile on what has been a long, dreary travel day. Thanks

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  21. Joe K said on December 21, 2015 at 8:54 pm

    We’re not a nation of dummy’s. I just watched live space x launch a falcon 9 with 11 sattilites on board. Not only did they launch the payload, they recovered the first stage by flying it back and landing it back at the cape standing up!! This has never ever been done, this means they can lower the cost of a launch significantly, the best part was showing the engineers back at the cape going crazy, not all button down with white shirts and ties, but jeans and sweat shirts. Amazing history being made and I watched it live on my I pad, including watching the payload deploy from space. Just fantastic.
    Pilot Joe

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  22. Deborah said on December 22, 2015 at 12:09 am

    After reading the Jim Harrison article I thought the part about the phone call from his wife and his reaction to it was very odd. It seems like he would have cut short the interview after that at the very least. I started to think back about the books of his that I’ve read and I had to look him up on Wikpedia to be reminded of them. I do remember reading “the Road Home” and liking it a lot. Wikipedia said he lives in Livingston and part of the time in Patagonia, AZ, which I thought was interesting because between Christmas and New Year’s we’re going to be about 20 miles from there. We’re going to be visiting my husband’s uncle at his place down there.

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  23. Dexter said on December 22, 2015 at 2:35 am

    Joe, “Apollo 13” was on cable last night. That’s the movie in which the fellas had to devise a crude air purification box from “gray tape” (duct tape) and several odds-and-ends to survive. That mission was over 45 years ago; my how things have changed. I am not a big space fan, so thanks for that report. I never thought that could be done.
    Now, as to my education, I started in a church basement kindergarten, on to a two-room rural schoolhouse then to a small-town Indiana high school, then into factories where I learned how to nickel plate, operate lathes, run heat-treating operations, drive forklifts, run presses, and eventually handle union tasks (finance and shop floor steward duties). In between some of those factories the US Army taught me about hand grenades and rifles , then how to patch-up people who had gotten on the wrong end of those rifles and mines and stuff like that. Then I went to college on the GI Bill until I went broke and sick at the same time, and had to get a job in a lab analyzing metal for a living. Irony played a part…my two-summer attempt at getting a professional baseball player contract ended in abject failure, as my one offer for a spring tryout for a minor league team (Montreal organization) ended before it got started due to the military draft. Most ironically however was that of all the situations I found myself involved with, the most spiritual and rewarding and bucolic moments were spent half-hanging out of the side door of a UH-1 Army helicopter as a lookout , wearing helmet, goggles, flak jacket, holding an M-16 with a steel box of clips handy, just in case things heated up. This was just a part-time thing I did to help out the DustOff crews when they needed a fill-in medic, so I only did the gun-thing maybe three or four times(and never had to fire those weapons) , but man, Vietnam is a beautiful country from way up in the air moving at 180 knots. Today I continue to be educated…in church basements. OK, this is where I came in.

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  24. beb said on December 22, 2015 at 7:53 am

    Joe K, I didn’t watch the take-off or landing but I was feeling pretty giddy when I checked up on it’s progress later and saw the Falcon first stage sitting there on the platform, surrounded by technicians.

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  25. beb said on December 22, 2015 at 8:01 am

    Meanwhile over the weekend Nikki Haley, governor of South Carolina, reinstated a celebration of South Carolina’s treason against the United States, which ended with a (black) woman being arrested for shouting profanity at the celebration and having pot on her. If this had been a Juneteenth celebration I’m sure then would have been one than one white protester armed with AR-15’s, and the police would have just told them to move on; no arrests.

    I can only hope that whoever is the Democratic nominee will plan to challenge any loss to Republicans for voter fraud. Because the R’s stole one election and probably stole a second. Tjhey’ll do it, that’s just how mad they are.

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  26. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 22, 2015 at 11:07 am

    Courtesy of the Dispatch’s excellent reporting team on education (it’s bylined Jim Siegel, but I’m sure there’ve been other hands contributing), here’s an overview of what I’ve been up to this fall here in Ohio. I hope this also gives Deborah some context for what she’s hearing out in New Mexico. Lots of initiatives all over the country to adjust programs and responses around pushing attendance up as an administrator expectation, without looking first at what attendance problems really are — from my chair, very, very few kids who are skipping school don’t want to be there. It’s a factor, but much smaller than you think. And the number that are just skipping to stay home and watch TV or play games, or to roam the streets smoking weed, are vanishingly few. It happens, but only as a result of, not a cause.

    And the causes are legion, but they tend to cluster around kids and families that have trauma and poverty challenges dragging them down, holding them back, or just plain obscuring their sense of what can come next other than another smack across the face. So they either hunker down, or go out of their way to provoke a blow because, hey, if it’s coming anyhow, let’s just get it over with.


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  27. Deborah said on December 22, 2015 at 11:44 am

    Thanks for the link Jeff, it’s complicated for sure. In high school, I skipped school a lot. I’m not saying it was right, not in the least but the circumstances were ripe for me to do it. My mother died when I was 14, my dad was at work during the day, so no one was home and my dad wasn’t in a position to be a very good dad since he’d gone through the illness and death of his wife. He wasn’t abusive or anything like that, he was just virtually silent. My high school was ridiculously large, 3,500 students and they were under construction most of the time I was there. We had no place to go between classes so we went to the beach. I never got caught, I turned out to be an OK student but I hated high school with a passion. Dropping out was never on my mind because I wanted to go to college but it was hell.

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  28. Snarkworth said on December 22, 2015 at 12:13 pm

    Raffi fan here. “Down by the bay, where the watermelons grow…”

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  29. Scout said on December 22, 2015 at 12:24 pm

    Since my SO is Colombian, born in Bogata, I never make the Columbia/Colombia error. And it is pronounced Co-lome-bia, with long o sounds. But how embarrassing for the host and organizers of the pageant. Yeesh.

    Deborah, I skipped a lot of high school too. Though it was a very small school, we had a lot of young teachers (that I suspect were getting high as often as we were) who didn’t bother with stuff like attendance taking. I managed to get good grades anyway.

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  30. Deborah said on December 22, 2015 at 2:54 pm

    Can I just say that Trump’s “schlonged” remark about Clinton and Obama is both sexist and racist in a dog whistle way. The sexist part is obvious, but the racist part is a little more subtle, it plays into the black man raping a white woman trope. Sneaky but clear.

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  31. brian stouder said on December 22, 2015 at 3:14 pm

    The Donald is the Republican Party’s own ____________ (fill in the blank) – as he will satisfy their lunatic base, and he will get creamed if he gets himself into the November national election

    I was going to say he was their McGovern, except McG was an actual war hero, and had previously won important electoral office, so that doesn’t work…

    Ditto Mondale, who lost 49 states, but who would have been a credible president

    Really, the Donald is the R’s restored 1964-style Barry Goldwater – who would line up right begind the Shriners and their go-karts at the parade

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  32. brian stouder said on December 22, 2015 at 3:21 pm

    “Extremism in defense of liberty is no vice….and – really, we can schlong the whole damned world, if we want”

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  33. Kirk said on December 22, 2015 at 3:23 pm

    Barry was a crazy right-winger, but he had more class in his little finger than Donald Trump.

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  34. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 22, 2015 at 3:27 pm

    I hear the “I skipped a lot, and here I am” from some principals and lots of superintendents, who feel the attendance policies in general are just a distraction. But a) they get enforced with some interesting, um . . . bias when they don’t have consistency built in, and b) the fact that 20% of those who have chronic absenteeism are on merit or honor roll doesn’t obscure, for me, that 100% of those who end up entangled with juvenile courts have attendance problems as their leading indicator of problems, and the other 80% are many times more likely not to graduate by 18 and drop out.

    That’s where having a good process and people with some skills doing direct contact (not robo-calls and auto-mailing “interventions”) is important; every year there’s a hatful I talk through, close up, and tell the principal “just let this one go, okay?” And since they can’t get charges other than with our office’s co-operation, they usually do. But if the chronic skipper has also antagonized an administrator, I warn them “if you do something that allows them to suspend you, like telling a teacher to go eff themselves, I can’t help you and the truancy will factor into the length of the suspension, so be cool, okay?” Which usually works…

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  35. Jeff (the mild-mannered one) said on December 22, 2015 at 3:54 pm

    Gotta love these: http://www.nytimes.com/interactive/projects/cp/politics/congressional-holiday-cards-2015

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  36. ROGirl said on December 22, 2015 at 5:01 pm

    The Donald is the Republican Party’s own Berlusconi.

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  37. Sherri said on December 22, 2015 at 5:19 pm

    I would guess there are a lot of built-in and often mostly unquestioned assumptions about why a kid is missing school that play into what someone thinks should be done about it.

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  38. beb said on December 22, 2015 at 5:45 pm

    Deborah @30: amen.

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