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What is “Fake News”? Satire, Hoax, Click-bait, Conspiracy, and Outrage-bait

A list of “Fake news” sites is making headlines:

The “Fake News” List is mostly not fake shit

The problem isn’t The Onion and Breitbart, it’s confirmation bias. People automatically believe anything they read that confirms their views without even a 5-second google search or just rudimentary skepticism.

Fraudulent websites that are impersonating legitimate news are already illegal and should be prosecuted.

While click-bait and outrage-bait are annoying, calling them “fake” is a big leap. Plus the fact that this list includes Breitbart but not Huffington Post indicates a double-standard.

I think some Satire (especially Borowitz report) is so poorly-written and unfunny that it blurs the line between satire and misinformation.

Anti-Science “News”

My sister-in-law recently unfriended and denounced me publicly after I debunked an anti-vaccination article she shared from some bogus “holistic medicine” website. I had written that I was disappointed that she was spreading dangerous misinformation because I knew she’s smart enough to check the claims being made in the article.

She angrily said in her public call-out post that she “doesn’t have time to fact check every little thing that pops up on her news feed and that when she sees something interesting she shares it and in the case of the anti-vaccine article she hadn’t even read it yet.” Seemingly acknowledging that the article was fake, yet doubling-down on her decision to broadcast it to her friends and family. She routinely shares hoax-science articles, like last year when she shared an article claiming that Johnson & Johnson baby shampoo is toxic.

Deliberate Left-Wing Hoaxes and Myths

The Anti-Science mindset is frightening – the lack of skepticism, the confirmation bias, and the self-righteous ignorance. What’s WORSE is what I see in the Left Wing where hoaxes and false-flags are deliberately engineered and then disingenuously spread as true stories by those who know or suspect they’re false because “they speak to a larger truth.” Like a podcast host said recently when faced with evidence that the gender wage gap was a myth: “[the wage gap is] gonna be up for debate […] [but] the wage gap statistic speaks to a larger rage and injustice.”

I faced enormous backlash for expressing skepticism of the tales of post-election hate crime wave being reported in anecdotes on social media. “How dare I, a straight white man, doubt the experiences of vulnerable people?” I had one (tranny) friend ask me rhetorically “Do I have to DIE to prove to you that bigotry is happening?” to which I explained that I know and trust him, but my trust does not extend to every single trans or non-white individual by virtue of their group identity.

Right-Wing Conspiracy “News”

The Right Wing fringe, on the other hand, with their trust in Mainstream Media at an all-time low, frequently end up in crackpot conspiracy territory, Alex Jones’ Infowars being the fountainhead. It seems fear, mistrust, and ignorance feeds the right wing hoaxes, more than the far left-wingers who promote hoaxes deliberately as a political tactic.

“Fake news” and hoaxes come from both political ‘sides’ – and from non-political anti-science angles as well. Be skeptical.

Michael Moore hoodwinked me so hard it made me a lifelong skeptic

When I was 15 I watched Michael Moore’s Bowling for Columbine. At this time I was a mohawked anarchist and this film confirmed everything I already believed and really fired me up. I was outraged by the injustices detailed in the film. A little bit later I was doing internet searches about the film when I read a detailed debunking. The film (like all of Moore’s films) is a shrewd work of fictional propaganda – with entirely fabricated pieces of disinformation designed to appear true. I felt stupid. I felt used. I vowed to be more vigilant next time. It was a formative experience for me that I’m thankful I had.

Imperfect, but Great

To what extent do the personal lives, indiscretions, or malign beliefs of “great” men of history invalidate their accomplishments? As a culture, we revere our leaders and inventors, yet it has been a trend for decades to disparage America’s “founding fathers” because of their racism or support of/participation in Slavery, undermining the appreciation of their accomplishments and the reverence for the individuals. We crave “heroes” to inspire us, like Martin Luther King Jr., Ghandi, Thomas Edison, or any American Founding Father – yet the more we scrutinize these “great” people, the more we find that they had their own faults, shortcomings, and vices – some of them surprisingly repugnant…

Is it right to revere an individual as a hero for their massive contributions to society, even if they also did bad things or were racist? Should we use some utilitarian measure of their net contribution to society to determine if they are worthy of praise and reverence? Is “Hero Worship” wrong? Or just naive and immature?

In this Salon article ( , the “bad” lives of “great” authors are discussed, including those of T.S. Elliot (anti-semite), Ezra Pound (Fascist), and Charles Dickens (cruel to his wife) – and what the implications are for their writings and our appreciation thereof:

“Still, there’s much to be said for getting past this form of hero worship. Bad eggs like Naipaul aside, most writers, like most people, are a mixture of the reprehensible and the admirable. Our own personal lives require that we learn to love people flaws and all. When you idealize someone, you can’t truly know him or her, and that makes real, adult love impossible.

Most people begin figuring out how to do this in their teens. It’s not an easy transition. Suddenly, every bad quality in our parents — people who were like gods to us as children — becomes a glaring, intolerable betrayal. They must be repudiated! We don’t realize until years later that this is the first step on the long road to seeing our parents as they really are and forgiving them for being human.

Similarly, needing to believe that your favorite author lived in an exemplary way, embodying all the virtues of his best work, is an adolescent desire, passionate but ultimately unfair. Learning the truth is disillusioning at first, but enlightening in the end. Part of the sadly underrated process of growing up is realizing that people, the world and life are no less beautiful and amazing for being imperfect.”

Video Game & Nerd Culture Wars

Posted 8/3/16

1. Ghostbusters 2016
Universally-hated youtube preview spawns endless media coverage about “misogynistic, racist manbabies” who only disliked the video because it has women. Massive publicity due to this “controversy” creates progressive “girl power”/feminism bucks and critics are obligated to give the film positive reviews or else face accusations of misogyny.

Popular youtuber “Angry Video Game Nerd” (James Rolfe) said he refused to see the film because the preview looked bad and he was tired of shitty reboots of beloved franchises. This was met by a widespread, concerted abuse campaign accusing him of sexism and misogyny.


Red Letter Media (whose 6+ hour long star wars prequel review you MUST watch if you haven’t already) came out this week with a post-mortem on how the entire “misogyny” controversy was a shrewd publicity stunt by Sony, which suggests that accusations of sexism is an effective way to silence critics of anything including a mediocre comedy being sold by a mega-corporation – and also a reliable way to attract progressive sympathy bucks from activists who want to “fight the patriarchy.”


2. Notch-related Controversies
Notch, creator of Minecraft, with 3.79M twitter followers, has found himself on the “wrong side” of the nerd culture war several times, recently earning himself a hit-piece in infamous anti-GG (anti-Gamegate) Gawker Media outlet Kotakuaccusing him of being sexist and a privileged white male.

Today (8/3/16), a lengthy interview with Notch by (GG-friendly) Escapist Magazine where they discuss some of the controversies:

3. Polygon’s Fail First Look Video of Doom
Three months ago, anti-GG outlet Polygon posted a hilarious “First Look” video of Doom…played by someone who obviously has never played a First Person Shooter before.


Apart from being an incredibly poor “First Look” video with agonizingly-slow progression, the video highlighted a wider criticism of polygon and other progressive game review outlets: they don’t really seem to be real gamers who like or care about games the same way their consumers do. It seemed to emphasize the divide that had grown between gamers and the media who seemed to only exist to tell us how sexist and racist we are, rather than actually celebrating or objectively reviewing the game itself.

Related, Polygon had also complained loudly about not being given an advance copy of Doom like other respected games review outlets. Penny Arcade had this to say:



Reason Rally’s Decline

Four years ago, I attended the Reason Rally in DC. It was great. This is my bicep:


Sadly, I will not be attending the rally this year. Here’s why:

“The rally’s major issues of focus are climate change, reproductive rights and LGBT equality” – Link

Reason-Rally-Header-LogoThis is a progressive political rally that is focusing on a handful of controversial political issues that aren’t directly related to atheism or secular humanism. In fact, I wager that these boilerplate progressive positions can be found throughout both religious and non-religious progressives on the left wing.

I’m disappointed that the “Reason” Rally is being used for a narrow political agenda rather than promoting secular ethics and reason-based epistemology in a broader, more inclusive way. By associating Atheism and secularism with specific left-wing ideology, RR neglects and alienates conservative and libertarian secularists who may not adhere to progressive orthodoxy.

Whereas 4 years ago (at the last rally) we had Richard Dawkins headlining – we now get Bill Nye, pretty much exclusively known for global warming activism the past couple years. What a steep decline.

At the last rally, we had Bad Religion performing, a band famous for promoting secularism and criticizing evangelical Christianity (whose band logo and t-shirts prominently featured a crossed-out cross). Now we get some (not all) “members of the wu-tang clan” – a rap group known for rapping about drug dealing, ghetto life, and partying- with slang from nation of islam, Kung Fu movies, and comic books.

I won’t be attending the rally this year, sadly. I don’t believe this rally fairly represents a united front for non-religious Americans. I believe this rally is politically divisive, misguided, and only tangentially related to secularism. And frankly the lineup is disappointing.

thunderf00t also addressed the decline of Atheism as a movement and the failure of the 2016 Reason Rally in this video:

IT Ghost Busting

Working as desktop support for Food Service personnel takes patience.

Many of the frontline staff can’t read English, some can’t even read in their native (spoken) language – which makes using a computer a process of memorizing abstract shapes and motions, like a magic spell.

Even the Managers, at times, lack language skills and end up taking the “mystical” approach to Computing – i.e. rather than reading prompts on their screen, they just blindly click buttons and hope for the best.

One Chef Manager in particular who I support is probably the most computer-illiterate person I have dealt with in four years. He’s a phenomenal chef, of course, so I have total respect for him as a professional in his field – but assisting him with basic computer tasks is a harrowing trial of patience, communication, and carefully restraining my demeanor and tone.

This morning, he called me because he noticed that all of his emails were being deleted before he could read them – never appearing in his inbox. As he works at a remote campus 45 minutes away, I asked him to set up a screen-share so I could assist him. So begins my Tribulation.

Setting up a screen-share for remote-assistance is something I walk users through every day – but after about 20 minutes, I despaired, gave up and asked this user to find someone else in the building who could work with me.

He called back 5 minutes later and said that he figured it out and had the access code for me to join his screen-share session. I joined his session and discovered this delightful and somewhat frightening vision:


It appeared that this user had indeed managed to start a screen-share session – He then also joined his *own* session, creating an infinite-regression of computer screens, like a digital House of Mirrors, before providing me with his access code so I could become trapped in his terrifying but beautiful remote-session of infinite recursion.

This tale does not end here, my friends.

After dispelling the user’s unwitting infinity-mirror, we got to work on the primary issue: emails being mysteriously deleted.

I quickly discovered that there were three inbox rules which had been created on this user’s Outlook – all titled “delete it” and all set to delete all incoming emails…

Not able to conceive of a way that the user could have possibly, accidentally, created three inbox rules to delete all his own emails, I mused aloud that perhaps someone was playing a prank on him and created the rules…No, the truth was more amusing.

After some questioning and investigation, I determined that the user himself was both the culprit and the victim and had indeed, against all odds, managed to accidentally use the advanced inbox rule feature against himself, creating malicious rules that delete all his own emails upon arrival. He managed to do this three separate times, like he was possessed by some malignant spirit that guided his hand to ill-purpose and then went on to haunt his email inbox. He then woke from this possession to bewilderment by the misfortunes befalling his inbox, and with no memory of the dark incantations that he had woven to bring about this state of affairs.

This is what actually happened, ON THREE SEPARATE OCCASIONS:

  1. User wanted to delete an email
  2. He right clicks, with the intention of clicking “Delete” from the context menu which appears
  3. He misses, and instead clicks the option above the “Delete” option: “Create Rule”
  4. Confused at the “New Rule” dialogue window which appeared, the user decides to forge on with courage
  5. He types “delete it” as the name of the rule
  6. He then scans the rule options and doesn’t see one with the word “delete” in it – so clicks the “Advanced Options” button, revealing the “delete” rule, which he selects
  7. He clicks Save
  8. At this point, a warning popup appears, to the effect of “This rule will delete all messages in your inbox and all messages that arrive in the future.” to which the user clicks “OK”

The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street

Watched The Twilight Zone last night, “The Monsters Are Due on Maple Street”

Maple Street, USA, late summer. Children play, adults talk. Then a roar, a flash, and the power goes out. Not only that, but nothing works – cars won’t start. A child suggests that this was in a comic he read – that the sound was a landing alien spacecraft of monsters and that several aliens are already living among them, disguised to look exactly like normal people.


While at first they disregard the child, the fear sets in as they continue to be without power and machines. “How long will this last? What will we do?” Suddenly, one man is able to start his car, after others failed to start theirs. The paranoia sets in quickly as people discuss how he and his family was always different, and they never came along to the neighbor’s parties. As night falls, fear and mistrust intensifies and a witch hunt ensues with accusations flying between neighbors.

This panic culminates as a figure emerges from the darkness at the end of the street, walking slowly towards them. They immediately assume its a monster come to attack them and arm themselves.

In fear and panic, a shot is fired and the figure falls. Of course, upon inspection, it was one of them all along. Now the hysteria escalates, with the man who fired the shot now being accused of being the monster. The crowd begins throwing rocks at him and his house as he tries to insist he is one of them. In desperation he accuses the kid who originally told the story from the comic book that prompted them.


The crowd turns on the child and chase him down the street. The camera pulls back as we see the chaos in the streets we see a flying saucer and two space men calmly manipulating the power grids in the city.


The narrator speaks: “The tools of conquest do not necessarily come with bombs and explosions and fallout. There are weapons that are simply thoughts, attitudes, prejudices – to be found only in the minds of men. For the record, prejudices can kill – and suspicion can destroy – and a thoughtless frightened search for a scapegoat has a fallout all of its own – for the children – and the children yet unborn. And the pity of it is – that these things cannot be confined – to the Twilight Zone.”

Negative Character Development (Continued)

This post came across my tumblr with ~150k notes:


My reply below:

wow, this is fascinating to me.

I have been noticing this trend in storytelling and didn’t know the word for it. It’s something I struggle with because I will read a book or watch a show and everything is top notch- I’m engaged, invested in the characters, the production is quality – but as the characters I care about keep getting worse, failing, or being victimized, I just experience despair, frustration, and even anger (at the author, the characters, the injustice of the story-world).

This is one of the reasons I hate Tarantino films- everyone is bad, horrific things happen indiscriminately, and the story has no obvious message or meaning. And it’s hailed as gritty, edgy, or “realistic.” It just makes me depressed.

Then there is Joe Abercrombie’s Fantasy trilogy book series “The First Law” which I adored, but quit in disgust and despair a third of the way through the final book. I kep hoping the characters would redeem themselves, but they kept letting me down. And despite the story being a masterpiece, I couldn’t take another book of disappointment.

I just recently quit Boardwalk Empire after the 6th episode for the same reasons.

So it intrigues me to see 100k+ people defend this kind of storytelling. Because I hate it in such a visceral way. But I suspect it’s a matter of perspective- that if I could just “get over” my expectations and need for resolution, I could enjoy these stories.

One of my mutuals, , replied with this interesting addition:

It’s something i’ve felt lately as well, and it turns out it’s a trope, Darkness-induced Audience Apathy. The American Horror Story series does this to me big time. I start out watching, then just stop caring.

Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy occurs when a conflict exists that simply lacks any reason for the audience to care about how it is resolved. This is often because the setting is extremely but meaninglessly Darker and Edgier, and/or all sides are abhorrently, equally evil—or at least, far enough gone that any difference between the two is splitting hairs. As such, consumers of media affected by Darkness-Induced Audience Apathy tend to approach conflict between parties or factions with remarkable indifference; because no matter who wins, the universe will still suck.

Very interesting. I think this describes my feelings towards Tarantino films or a show like Breaking Bad perfectly. And it helps reveal that I’m experiencing two distinct reactions to two distinct, but related, story types.

But in the case of The First Law trilogy or Boardwalk Empire, I’m genuinely invested in the characters, I care about them, and want them to succeed. It’s the opposite of apathy – and the despair I feel when the characters I love let me down and keep getting worse is what I can’t stand…

The comedy Anime Watamote ( No Matter How I Look at It, It’s You Guys’ Fault I’m Not Popular!), also falls into this category. I like the character, want her to succeed, but she just continually fails, never grows as a character. This is more of a stagnation of character than “negative development” – and yet, my feeling towards the story is the same, frustration at the lack of conflict resolution in a story.

Surely this should be a trope as well?