Contributions

Trudeau, Cherry, and Canadian Racism Polls
November 15, 2019 ·


The issue of racism in Canada was recently brought into sharp focus when, shortly before the Canadian election, photos and videos of Prime Minister Justin Trudeau in blackface and brownface emerged. They had been taken on at least three occasions in the 1990s and early 2000s. Trudeau—widely praised for his socially progressive agendas—quickly apologized and …

The Lighthouse: A Fog of Madness and Superstition
November 12, 2019 ·


The new genre-bending film The Lighthouse is hard to describe. I’ve seen it mentioned as everything from a horror film to a dark comedy to a psychological thriller. I can’t really tell you what it is, but I can tell you what it’s about, and why you should see it. The basics are pretty straightforward: …

Halloween Scary Phantoms and Phantom Scares
October 31, 2019 ·


Today is Halloween, and amid the make-believe witches, ghouls, and goblins, there are supposedly real-life villains who hope to harm children every October 31. News reports and scary stories on social media leave many parents concerned about protecting children from Halloween threats. But are they real or myth? Here are five scary myths and legends …

Fear of the ‘Joker’ Copycats
October 1, 2019


Over the past week, police and parents have expressed concern over the upcoming new film Joker, and its possible influence on unhinged people. As ABC News reported, “The soon-to-be released psychological thriller Joker starring Oscar-nominated actor Joaquin Phoenix has prompted a ‘credible potential mass shooting’ threat on a movie theater somewhere in the United States, …

Astrology and Racism
September 17, 2019


There are many scientific and skeptical objections to astrology, including the fact that the constellations have shifted since astrology was devised, that many real-world tests have failed to find statistically meaningful patterns in the lives of people born under certain zodiac signs, and that there are multiple—and in fact contradictory—versions of astrology that adherents fervently …

Why Old News Is Often Fake News
September 5, 2019


We’ve all seen it on social media, especially Facebook. Some friend, or “friend,” or friend of a “friend,” posts a news story. Because it’s social media, the story is often selected (by human nature and algorithms) for its outrage factor. Amid the kitten videos and funny or cute memes, the news stories most likely to …

The Trump ‘Distraction’ Quasi-Conspiracy
August 22, 2019 · 1 


One common claim about Donald Trump is that he often says and does things not only for effect, but with the specific goal of distracting the public and news media from something else he wants to keep hidden. The claims have circulated for years, especially on social media; for example one Facebook post recently stated …

Epstein Death Conspiracies: Plausibility and Fuzzy Facts
August 14, 2019 · 1 


This past weekend, financier Jeffrey Epstein was found dead in his New York jail cell while awaiting trial on sex-trafficking charges. Within minutes of the news breaking, conspiracy theories circulated widely on social media, accusing a laundry list of people as playing some role in his death. One of them, President Trump himself, who has …

Why Chupacabra Reports Only Go Back to 1995
August 5, 2019


I recently came across a blog by a fellow cryptozoology writer, Nick Redfern, which began with a well-deserved rant about armchair debunkers. The shabby state of research into Fortean topics is widely acknowledged by skeptics—and some “believers” (for lack of a better word). In this particular case it was unnamed “debunkers” that he vented some …

Peal to Panic: Analysis of a False Abduction Rumor
August 5, 2019 · 1 


A mother recently claimed in a Facebook post that an eight-year-old girl had been abducted by two men in a white van in Felling, England, and asked those in her neighborhood to be on alert. It understandably caused alarm—despite the fact that the victim did not exist.  Rumors about the kidnapping were widely shared on …