Virus: How to recognize “fake news”

The ability to send a recording on Messenger is getting out there now, and people are taking advantage of it to spread questionable audible information.

Artwork by 123RF.com

I have received two messages of the same recording by a woman with an Australian accent, who says she has heard from a hospital that the Chinese have examined corpses and concluded the virus can be regarded by drinking hot liquids. Another said that drinking lemon in hot water will protect from the virus. Another said gargling with salt water will do the trick.

Two people forwarded me a recording of some guy saying he worked for a state senator — he didn’t say which one — that we’d have martial law by Monday.

Other messages warned that the virus was being spread by gas pump handles, so don’t touch them with a bare hand. Probably a good idea, but that is not typically how the virus is spread.

Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are major purveyors of false information, but there has been a surge of fake text messages directly to your phone.

There has been no discussion of martial law, although there have been discussions of various moves the federal government could make to ramp up production of needed products, or to use federal troops to help, as often happens during emergencies.

People have been receiving, then forwarding, this misinformation. The crap spreads faster than the virus. Please keep this text message in mind: Half the stuff on the internet is bullshit, Abraham Lincoln said.

Most Americans do not read a newspaper. Most do not have an all-news radio station. Most do not watch any televised newscast — not national, not local. Most Americans, actually, live in a news-free burrow. That is not good for society, but it is uniquely harmful now, during an emergency that is the equivalent of World War III.

Since this is just about never taught in school, now is a good time for me to lead a brief seminar on how to recognize actual “fake news” and how to apply litmus paper to a rumor.

First, ignore almost all information that begins with the words, “I heard that…”

Here I settle a score with Democrat Harry Reid, who was then the Senate Majority Leader. It was during the 2012 election when Reid said, “Word is out” that Mitt Romney didn’t pay federal taxes for 10 years. It was, and is, a disgusting lie. “Word is out” that Reid has sex with kittens. See how easy it is? 

“Word is out” and “I heard that” are meaningless. They are almost red flags that was follows is BS.

You should ask, “Who put the word out,” or “From whom did you hear that?”

What this means is, find the source. Is he or she an authority or someone in the know? Look — sometimes your cousin will hear something that is true, but not often enough for you to place trust in what he says. 

Decide if that source is credible.

Sorry, Trumpsters, the New York Times and the Washington Post are valid and trustworthy sources on news reporting. Never mind the columns and editorials. Sorry, Lefties, Fox News is a credible source on news reporting. Never mind Fox and Friends and the opinion shows.

Will the above make occasional mistakes? Yes, and will apologize when they do.

The polls sponsored by networks are also trustworthy. The Gallup, Harris and other well-known polling operations also can be trusted. Yes, they got the 2016 election wrong, but they got the primaries right. 

There are online fact-testing sites you can try: FactCheck.org, PolitiFact.com, OpenSecrets.com, Snopes.com, HoaxSlayer.com 

Some are accused of leaning left, but they are generally reliable.

Remember the adage — If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. 

Same for anything that sounds too bad to be true.

Here’s another adage from my line of work: If your mother tells you she loves you, check it out. 

13 thoughts on “Virus: How to recognize “fake news””

  1. It was a great article, and I was going to share it, but then you had to put the slur against Trump supporters. Please keep things apolitical right now.

  2. HAPPY wet MONDAY !!!
    my, my, my…….. sensitive, early in the morning, aren’t we ?!? Yesterday, I upset Tom, with a simple play of words that was in fact, an oxymoron. Who’s turn next ?
    Anyhow, I read Stu’s latest awhile ago, but I had to feed the critters. Priorities, you know.
    Fake news . Growing up in the port, we called it BULLS**T ! Later on in construction, I decided that if someone was adding to a story, more bull, e.g., he wasn’t there but made himself a part of the story, that person was allowed to add 10% for handling. Kinda sorta like postage & handling for stuff seen on T.V..
    Then I became a big shot ( in my mind ) and got to act like a valuable inspector/engineer on projects. At my decision, work would differ or alter from original contract specs and drawings. Why, you may ask? Because I could. Being the site person in charge, with knowledge comes latitude. I would simply tell the contractor to do as I said, and if questioned, “Tony said” would be the correct response. This became the(accepted) routine concerning me, but like anything and everything, “fake news” would rear its ugly head. To skirt proper procedure, some people of questionable character would try “Tony said” and would pay the price when – not if- caught.
    How to recognize fake news. Easier said than done. The press, for one, can manipulate a speech to suit their agenda – and do ! When people draw their info or conclusions from limited sources, fake news is readily appears. I think that we need to try and keep an open mind. Some things that the democratic presidential candidates had to say, were valuable. You just had to have the patience to listen and learn. As the problem showed, the good piece of info was surrounded by “fake news”. Same with republicans, mayors, presidents………………………………..
    Tony

    1. Tony,
      First of all, you didn’t upset me yesterday……I knew it was an oxymoron! I was having fun with Randy. I was having firehouse fun!!
      It doesn’t always come across well on this medium. I think our different types of humor, that includes all those who comment on Stu’s blog, are indeed, different!
      I guess my comment was what is called ‘dry humor?’ Stu’s is ‘full of it.’ (not, ‘Stu is full of it.’ )

      Stu,
      As to the ‘black and white’….I read the headline, then skip down a few paragraphs…..take it in, and then sometimes I find as I peruse on down farther(further)) what should be or could be the headline. I have found many times, Truth (facts, etc) at the bottom of the story. Headlines can be subjective rather then what they should be….esp., in this Era of The Donald!

    2. Fake news is often real news presented with a twist. E.g., the Russians and the Americans had a horse race. The Americans won, bit the Russians reported the race this way: “The Russian horse came in second, but the American horse finished next to last.” Or Dan Rather would have reported, upon the invention of the light bulb, “The candle industry was today dealt a terrible blow.”

  3. In the past week I have heard all of the following from family members and friends:
    1. “More than a million people have died in China.”
    2. “The malaria drug is a 100% cure for the virus.”
    3. The pope has told all Catholics that if they pray for coronavirus victims, all their sins are forgiven.”
    Etc. There’s more, but why bother? Rumors can destroy lives; remember Jerry Penacoli?
    One other example from a TV PSA I saw years ago (that’s ‘public service announcement’ for those of you who dropped out of grade school): In a grave voice: “In the USA a child disappears every six seconds.” Do the math, then ask yourself…who comes up with this nonsense?

    1. Vince,
      Thanks for reminding me! I have blood work scheduled, have to call my doctor. Otherwise, great observations!
      Tom

  4. HAPPY wet MONDAY !!!
    I tried to send this earlier today. I read the latest, then went out to feed the critters. After that, I sat down in front of the computer and screwed up. So, here we go again.
    Fake news is the topic.
    Did you ever wonder if all of these unsolved medical mysteries are a part of the “big picture” ? Did you ever wonder what will happen to planet earth if we keep over populating ?
    There are over 7 BILLION people on this rock, with about 300 MILLION here in the U.S.. We are supposed to be at the top of the animal kingdom. Every other critter, except for human intervention, is kept in check. We, top of the food chain, have wars and other little episodes. Why is it that we can’t solve the flu problem and we lose millions every year ? Why are wars encouraged to remove whole tribes

    1. Tony,
      Hope you can you handle another compliment. YOU are a wonder!

      Back in senior year. HS a friend nicknamed me ‘Dippy.'( don’t tell anyone). He said I was too philosophical! I didn’t know what the word meant? He would always just laugh at me good naturedly. I was naive.
      My son and I have conversations about politics and the Big “Big Picture” the one we have no control of. Like the Big universe and how there are more stars than grains of sand on our planet, etc.
      So, I guess we are philosophical! Like father like son. Actually, son like father. He’s amazing! (I could write a book about him!!)
      To your point; I ask myself why no cure for this or that disease? Are we all being manipulated? Do wars happen on purpose? Just like you suggested, why do we focus on, or give too much credence to the bottom of the food chain, and everything in between, while havoc prevails amongst us? I don’t know, but you seem to allude?? to a conspiracy?
      You may be right. Keep on wondering. I love to!
      Tom
      I even have a poem called just that, but I won’t bore you.

    2. It’s an odd bit of trivia but true: all of the people on Earth could stand on the island of New Zealand. That’s how much surface area we take up, if bunched together.

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