Sunday, May 06, 2012

Spotting Bogus News Stories

While trolling through the other day, I found this interesting article by David Weigel: Five Ways to Spot a Bogus Story. This is his list ...

The headline contains the word "gaffe."

The headline ends in a question mark.

The headline contains the word "blasts" (or lashes, etc, and etc).

The Headline Is About a "Lawmaker" Saying Something Stupid (Corollary: If a politician is famous, his name appears in the headline, whereas an obscure politician is simply referred to as "a lawmaker.")

The headline contains the phrase "blow to."

I think that's a pretty good list, although I would have added a few ...

The article is based on comments from a source who refused to be identified because:
a. He/she was not authorized to discuss the subject ... but went right ahead and did so; or, 
b. He/she was not authorized to reveal classified information ... but did anyhow.

The source of the article is a think tank or PAC/SuperPAC with a meaningless name that obfuscates its political agenda (such as American Crossroads, Priorities USA Action, or Restore America's Voice PAC).

The story is a major lead on Fox News.

You may also want to refer to Carl Sagan's Baloney Detection Kit*, always useful for evaluating arguments and separating the honest wheat from the quasi-intellectual chaff, or to valuable fact-checking sources like**.

Heaven knows there's a lot of chaff out there, especially this election year. So remember Bilbo's First Law: Never let anyone else do your thinking for you.

Because they'll do it if you let them.

Have a good day. More thoughts tomorrow.


* See the full discussion in Chapter 12 of his book, The Demon-Haunted World.


eViL pOp TaRt said...

Good advice, because those people who offer to your thinking for you are acting only on the purest of motives! ;-)

Duckbutt said...

I'm suspicious about organizations that have generic-type names. They can be for anything.

Also, I'm really skeptical about polls. They're often used for persuasion rather than simply data collection. Or the questions they use employ loaded language.

Big Sky Heidi said...

I like