Beautiful, Spiritual, Helpful, Controlling, Lucrative, Great Fun, or Simply Stupid

November 17, 2016


The Morning Heresy is your daily digest of news and links relevant to the secular and skeptic communities.

The theme for today is fakery, fake-ness, go ahead fake my day, fake my wife please, have your fake and eat it too, fake a penny leave a penny, John Fake-ob Jingleheimer Schmidt, fake me a cake as fast as you can, fake me when it’s over, and virulent in-fake-tions.

First, we have a very real victory over fake medicine. The Federal Trade Commission lays down new rules for the marketing of homeopathic products, saying straight up that homeopathy is based on debunked pseudoscience, and prohibiting claims about its ability to cure or treat anything. If they do make that claim, they have to back it up with real science. If they don’t comply, they’re breaking the law. Oh, and I am not overstating it in saying that the Center for Inquiry played a major role in this, and perhaps this would not have happened if not for our efforts in pressing the Food and Drug Administration to more strictly regulate this snake oil, and our contributions to the FTC’s research.

Next, the Internet is (finally) worried about fake news. Craig Silverman at BuzzFeed reports that fake news about the presidential campaign well outperformed real news om Facebook in the last few months before the election, with the vast majority being anti-Clinton/pro-Trump news.

Caitlin Dewey at WaPo interviews Paul Horner who runs a “Facebook fake-news empire,” and says Trump was elected because of his hoaxes:

Honestly, people are definitely dumber. They just keep passing stuff around. Nobody fact-checks anything anymore — I mean, that’s how Trump got elected. He just said whatever he wanted, and people believed everything, and when the things he said turned out not to be true, people didn’t care because they’d already accepted it. It’s real scary. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Also, interestingly, he says, “I hate Trump,” but conservatives are easier marks for fake news. “They don’t fact-check.”

I would hope I don’t need to tell you that this picture of Michelle Obama is fake.

And just to make it official, Oxford Dictionaries declares “post-truth” its word of the year.

So what do we do about it? At Vox, Julia Belluz and Brian Resnick are “not entirely optimistic that facts will ever thrive in 21st-century America. … Facts need a champion more than ever.”

China actually feels compelled to send out a diplomat to clarify for the rest of the world that, no, they did not invent the idea of climate change as a hoax. WHICH IS EXACTLY WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT THEM TO SAY AND oh god it’s not funny anymore.

Incoming White House chief strategist Steve Bannon, among many other things, hates secularism. “I certainly think secularism has sapped the strength of the Judeo-Christian West to defend its ideals, right?” He calls World War II “the Judeo-Christian West versus atheists.”

Kansas Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who might be our next Attorney General, is looking at ways to force Muslims in the U.S. to register in a federal database.

Thirty years ago, Skeptical Inquirer published a big study on the veracity of astrology. In 2016, Geoffrey Dean brings a major update with much richer data. “Depending on who we are, we can still see astrology as beautiful, spiritual, helpful, controlling, lucrative, great fun, or simply stupid.”

DID YOU KNOW that starting December 16 you get a digital-only subscription to Free Inquiry? Oh yes. (UPDATE: I erroneously said you could do so NOW, which you can’t yet, so this is a fix.)

Skeptic comedian Ian Harris (who coined one of my favorite terms for so-called ghost hunters: “scientographers”) considers the logic of the chemtrails conspiracy theory for Skeptical Briefs:

I am supposed to believe that the government is doing this? The U.S. Government? You mean the same government that can barely deliver my neighbor’s mail to me on time? The same government that allowed the city of Flint, Michigan’s, water to have more lead in it than 50 Cent? There is so much lead in the Flint water, Superman couldn’t see through a glass of it!

The super-right-wing Liberty Counsel releases its “Naughty & Nice” list of companies who do and do not comport with its Christianist ideology.

At the National Catholic Register, Angelo Stagnaro says the idea that no one has killed in the name of atheism is a myth. But I stopped reading after he said communism is an atheistic religion because the Catholic Church says so. You know what? They say a lot of things.

The After-School Satan Club in Portland, OR is really happening.

A new book chronicles the various reports of UFO activity in Arizona. You know, the ones piloted by aliens. Undocumented. I think you see where I’m going with this.

Quote of the Day:

Very much off-topic. Apple is releasing $200 and $300 coffee table books that are just photos of its products. Mike Murphy at Quartz:

It also appears that the book does not have a headphone jack.

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Photo credit: zakgollop via / CC BY-NC-ND 

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