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 …

Intuition Nearly Kills Hiker
July 19, 2019 · 1 


On May 9, 2019 yoga instructor Amanda Eller vanished while on a solo run through a forest reserve in Hawaii. She was found seventeen days after her disappearance; the temperate climate helped her to survive, and she told a harrowing tale of eating berries and drinking river water. The trouble began early, when Eller chose …

‘Bring Back Our Girls’ At 5: Boko Haram’s Forgotten Captives
July 3, 2019


It was a bold and brash attack on innocent girls that outraged the world and spawned unprecedented online activism: Boko Haram, an extremist Muslim group in Nigeria, abducted about 276 schoolgirls from a rural secondary school in the town of Chibok on April 14, 2014. Since that time about half have been recovered, and over …

Mass Shootings and Media Literacy
July 2, 2019 · 1 

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This is part three of a three-part series. You can read the rest of the series here. Mass shootings have captivated America for years with little progress in understanding the nature of the problem. The topic of mass shootings is fraught, not only with political agendas but also with rampant misinformation. Facile comparisons and snarky …

Misleading Memes as Cloaked Propaganda
June 21, 2019 · 1 


Soon after a university cheating scandal recently broke, a meme declared that “White privilege is REAL,” and gave three examples presumably illustrating that premise. The first shows a photo of actress Felicity Huffman and states that “Feds will seek 4 months jail time for Felicity Huffman for bribing her daughter into college.” This is contrasted …

The ‘FBI Bigfoot Investigation’: Where’s the Beef?
June 7, 2019


Breathless headlines earlier this week referred to the “FBI Investigating Bigfoot,” a clickbaity phrase if ever social media saw one, along with the promise that newly-declassified FBI files shed light on the mystery. As intriguing and sensational as it sounds, it turns out to be much ado about nothing. I’ll summarize the story, but there’s …

Are 1 in 4 Americans Going Into Debt Buying Food?
June 5, 2019


It’s a scary, dismaying headline that made the social media rounds over the past few weeks: “Nearly 25% of Americans are going into debt trying to pay for necessities like food.”   The piece, which appeared on CNBC, began with the following: “American have an average of $6,506 in credit card debt, according to a …

Who Are Mass Shooters? Mass Shooter Demographics
May 31, 2019 · 2 

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This is part two of a three-part series. You can read the rest of the series here. With the recent tragic attacks against Muslims in New Zealand by an Australian white supremacist, the world once again turned its attention to mass shootings. It’s a subject that has captivated America for years with little progress in …

A Look at Aladdin’s Genie—and Its Jinn Origins
May 24, 2019


With the much-hyped release of the new version of Disney’s Aladdin, I thought it would be interesting to take a brief folkloric look at genies and jinn. Jinn (or djinn) refers to creatures that appeared in medieval Arabic folklore; they were usually depicted as threatening and free-willed—so dangerous in fact that rituals and amulets are …

Trump’s Tricks: The Illusion of Popular Support
May 17, 2019 · 1 


Donald Trump is widely known for boasting. He brags about his intelligence, his physical and mental health, his wealth, and pretty much anything else he can think of or in some tangential way take credit for. But most of all, Trump loves to brag about how influential, adored, and popular he is. From his wildly …