Misleading Polls and Bad Statistics: Do Republicans Think Education is Bad?
January 9, 2020


A June 6, 2018, article from ChurchandState.org titled “Propaganda Works – 58 Percent of Republicans Believe Education Is Bad” was shared on social media by liberals and Democrats, gleeful that their assumptions about conservative anti-intellectualism had been borne out in objective, quantifiable data from a respected polling organization. The widely-shared article states that “Fox News, …

‘Richard Jewell,’ Skepticism, and Media Literacy
December 27, 2019


The recent Clint Eastwood film Richard Jewell holds interesting lessons about skepticism, media literacy, and both the obligations and difficulties of translating real events into fictional entertainment. It’s no secret that non-police security officers get little or no respect. They’re universally mocked and ignored in malls, security checkpoints, and airports. The stereotype is the self-important, …

‘Epstein’s Enablers’: Debunking a Bogus Social Media Post
December 4, 2019


A recent Facebook post by a friend-of-a-friend named Gary about Jeffrey Epstein featured a black and white montage of a dozen people he identified as “Some of his friends and enablers.” The photos weren’t captioned, and it wasn’t clear who all of them were, so it piqued my curiosity. With a little research I tracked …

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


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 …