Teaching People to Become Bullshit Detectors

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation, Truth that's Stranger than Fiction

“Calling Bullshit” is a college course designed to identify & combat bullshit. We need more of these!


From Current Affairs, Science, January 27th, 2017: Two professors at the University of Washington, Carl Bergstrom and Jevin West, have created a website meant to accompany a potential college seminar entitled “Calling Bullshit.” Here’s how Bergstrom and West explain the premise of their course. It’s worth quoting them at length.

The world is awash in bullshit. Politicians are unconstrained by facts. Science is conducted by press release. Higher education rewards bullshit over analytic thought. Startup culture elevates bullshit to high art. Advertisers wink conspiratorially and invite us to join them in seeing through all the bullshit — and take advantage of our lowered guard to bombard us with bullshit of the second order. The majority of administrative activity, whether in private business or the public sphere, seems to be little more than a sophisticated exercise in the combinatorial reassembly of bullshit.

We’re sick of it. It’s time to do something, and as educators, one constructive thing we know how to do is to teach people. So, the aim of this course is to help students navigate the bullshit-rich modern environment by identifying bullshit, seeing through it, and combating it with effective analysis and argument. More…

Visit the Calling Bullshit website.

Get your Bullshit Detector Watch website here.

From Bright Bart News

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Filed under: Satire

Bart Simpson reports on fake news…



WhatsApp Fuels India’s #FakeNews Fire

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Filed under: Fact or Fiction?, Fraud and Deception, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Media Literacy, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

India has a long history of politically motivated hoaxes and guerrilla propaganda. A popular messenger app has thrown it into overdrive.


“Viral WhatsApp Hoaxes Are India’s Own Fake News Crisis”
by Pranav Dixit
Buzzfeed News
January 19. 2017

The United States is currently experiencing a fake news crisis — bogus news articles disguised to look like real ones to mislead people, influence public opinion, and/or to simply use their massive reach to reap advertising profits. These operations are sophisticated, data-driven, and highly targeted. But in countries like India where internet penetration and literacy still lag far behind the US, misinformation tends to have a more grassroots quality. Twitter is a fertile ground for all kinds of rumormongering, but with just over 30 million users in the country, its impact is limited.

The primary vector for the spread of misinformation in India is WhatApp. The instant messenger is fast, free, and runs on nearly all of India’s 300 million smartphones. It’s also encrypted end-to-end, which means it’s nearly impossible to track what flows through it. Its real-world ramifications, nonetheless, can be brutal.

In November, WhatsApp rumors of a salt shortage sparked panic in at least four Indian states and caused stampedes outside grocery shops as people rushed to stock up. The government eventually debunked the rumours — but not before a woman died.

India’s misinformation problem predates the internet. In the early ‘90s, rabble-rousers in northern India trying to stir up tensions in Hindu and Muslim communities would mass-produce cassette recordings full of fake gunfire, screams, and chants of “Allah-ho-Akbar,” and then play them in car stereos at full volume in the dead of the night to incite communal violence. Read more.


Fake Newsmaker Cameron Harris: Lying for Profit

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Filed under: Fraud and Deception, Propaganda and Disinformation

Cameron Harris, a man without shame, fesses up to how he lied, cheated and stole when he created and published fake news that helped sway the national election. He had no reason to do it other than greed and he has no remorse.


From Headline to Photograph, a Fake News Masterpiece, by Scott Shane, The New York Times, January 18, 2017

Cameron Harris

An Obviously Fake Company Pretending To Pay Political Protestors is Invited to be Outted on Fox News

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Filed under: Political Pranks

After fake news about this fake company’s anti-Trump activities is embraced and spread by right wing agitators, Tucker Carlson invites the head of the group, radical activist Dom Tullipso (not his real name), to appear live on Fox News. Carlson apparently thinks he’s going to dazzle (aka publicly embarrass) the guy with all the ways in which Fox TV knows he’s a fake.

Instead, the prankster, who is clearly trying to be as absurd as possible, keeping the interview going as long as he can, while switching from being anti-Trump to pro-Trump, ends up making Carlson look ridiculous for grandstanding against something so obviously silly.

BoingBoing, January 12, 2017:
Obviously fake “paid protester” site sets right wing media aflutter

VOX, , January 18, 2017:
A prankster tried to troll Fox News live on air. It’s the strangest thing you’ll see on cable news

Watch the video posted by someone who clearly has a political ax to grind:

Snopes, January 18, 2017:
Demand Protest placed several ads seeking paid protesters in January 2017, but the “company” was not a legitimate one

Thank you Lori Dorn & Josh Seftel


Has a Trump Inauguration COINTELPRO been Trumped?

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Fraud and Deception, Political Challenges, Political Pranks, Propaganda and Disinformation

Activists sting James O’Keefe’s latest attempt at a 1960s FBI-style COINTELPRO.

COINTELPRO (an acronym for COunter INTELligence PROgram) was a series of covert, and at times illegal, projects conducted by the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) aimed at surveilling, infiltrating, discrediting, and disrupting domestic political organizations.

This is an unfolding story that needs more verification, but…


Is Project Veritas Conducting Political Hit Jobs for Donald Trump?
Rightwing operative caught offering money to protesters to stage violent disruption of the Trump inauguration, part of a pattern of attacks orchestrated against progressives by James O’Keefe, in coordination with Breitbart News and with the support of Donald Trump.


Produced by Lauren Windsor and Peter James Callahan.

Learn more about this here: Counter-Sting Catches James O’Keefe Network Attempting To Sow Chaos At Trump’s Inauguration, by Ryan Grim, Huffington Post, January 9, 2017

and here:

Cenk Uygur and Ana Kasparian, hosts of The Young Turks, break it down.
Project Veritas has been caught trying to pay liberal groups to break the law.

and…

A warning goes out to women attending the Women’s March on January 21, 2017

Creative Activism at the Library

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Filed under: Creative Activism, Media Literacy

Algorithms be damned! Power to the people! Library workers take the fate of automated inventory control into their own hands in a cheeky way.


Librarians Go Rogue In Devious Attempt To Save Books From Getting Tossed, Hilary Henson, Huffington Post, January 6, 2017

The scheme involves a fake patron named “Chuck,” who checked out thousands of books last year.

A Florida librarian has been fired after in connection with a scheme to create a fake patron to check out books.

Staff at the East Lake County Library say they were just trying to save books.

But one librarian has been fired in connection with a scheme involving the creation of a fake library patron who “checked out” more than 2,000 books over the last year, as first reported by the Orlando Sentinel. Read the rest of the article here.


Improv Everywhere: No Pants Subway 2017

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Practical Jokes and Mischief

From Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere:

On Sunday, January 8th, 2017 tens of thousands of people took off their pants on subways in over 60 cities in over 25 countries around the world. In New York, our 16th Annual No Pants Subway Ride took place in windy 22F degree weather and was spread out over seven meeting points and eleven subway lines. Thanks to everyone who participated all around the globe! Enjoy the video!

Getting Off to a Good Start with Hollyweed

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Satire

Update January 5, 2016: Meet the Artist Behind the Cheeky Transformation of the Hollywood Sign


Hollywood sign altered to read “Hollyweed’ in apparent New Year’s Day prank
ABC7
by Leanne Suter and ABC7.com staff
January 1, 2017

HOLLYWOOD (KABC) — Hollywood residents awoke Sunday morning to find the iconic Hollywood sign had been altered to read “Hollyweed” in an apparent New Year’s Day prank.

The sign was vandalized about 3 a.m. by a male suspect who was recorded on surveillance video, said Lt. Guy Juneau of the Los Angeles Police Department’s Security Services Division.

Dressed in all black, the unidentified vandal scaled Mount Lee, made his way over a fence and then climbed onto each of the landmark’s “O” letters, the lieutenant said. He then draped those letters with black tarps so they each appeared as a lowercase “e.”

Read the whole story here.

Thanks Andrea!

No Santa? What’s Left to Believe In?

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Filed under: The Big One

Rome theater fires orchestral director for denying Santa
AP
Dec. 31, 2016

MILAN (AP) — Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. Or else.

An orchestral director lost his job at the Auditorium Parco della Musica in Rome after telling an audience filled with children that the man in the red suit who delivers gifts to good girls and boys does not, in fact, exist.

The news agency ANSA said Saturday that Giacomo Loprieno lashed out at the young audience for failing to applaud following a performance of “Frozen” on Thursday.

The theater underlined the severity of the offense with a Facebook posting of the production’s new orchestral director alongside Santa Claus.

On social media, the firing has been both applauded for protecting children’s fantasies, and derided for punishing someone telling the truth.

“Les choses sont contre nous” (‘Things’ are against us). Happy New Year!

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Filed under: The History of Pranks

“Resistentialism is largely a matter of sitting inside a wet sack and moaning.” So says Paul Francis Jennings, author of this Report on Resistentialism first published in 1948 in The Spectator.


Report on Resistentialism by Paul Francis Jennings
from The Jenguin Pennings, Penguin Books, 1963

It is the peculiar genius of the French to express their philosophical thought in aphorisms, sayings hard and tight as diamonds, each one the crystal centre of a whole constellation of ideas. Thus, the entire scheme of seventeenth century intellectual rationalism may be said to branch out from that single, pregnant saying of Descartes, ‘Cogito ergo sum’ – ‘I think, therefore I am.’ Resistentialism, the philosophy which has swept present-day France, runs true to this aphoristic form. Go into any of the little cafés or horlogeries on Paris’s Left Bank (make sure the Seine is flowing away from you, otherwise you’ll be on the Right Bank, where no one is ever seen) and sooner or later you will hear someone say, ‘Les choses sont contre nous.’ ‘Things are against us.’
 
This is the nearest English translation I can find for the basic concept of Resistentialisin, the grim but enthralling philosophy now identified with bespectacled, betrousered, two-eyed Pierre-Marie Ventre. In transferring the dynamic of philosophy from man to a world of hostile Things,’ Ventre has achieved a major revolution of thought, to which he himself gave the name ‘Resistentialism’. Things (res) resist (résister) man (homme, understood). Ventre makes a complete break with traditional philosophic method. Except for his German precursors, Freidegg and Heidansiecker, all previous thinkers from the Eleatics to Marx have allowed at least some legitimacy to human thought and effort. Some, like Hegel or Berkeley, go so far as to make man’s thought the supreme reality. In the Resistentialist cosmology that is now the intellectual rage of Paris Ventre offers us a grand vision of the Universe as One Thing – the Ultimate Thing (Dernière Chose). And it is against us. Read more…

Improv Everywhere: Random Parade Leader

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Filed under: Culture Jamming and Reality Hacking, Practical Jokes and Mischief, Prank News, Pranksters

From Charlie Todd of Improv Everywhere:


Random Parade Leader Wanted

Improv Everywhere: Random Parade

For our latest mission, a woman in a marching band uniform stands on the sidewalk with a sign that reads “Parade Leader Wanted.” When a stranger agrees to help out, a huge parade led by a marching band emerges from around the corner and follows him wherever he goes. The band plays “Jingle Bells” and is followed by a cast of characters that includes two yetis, Frosty the Snowman, and two guys holding giant flags that read “Random Parade.”

This mission was made possible by Caring Crowd, a crowd-funding platform where people come together to fund global health projects.

Enjoy the video first and then go behind the scenes with our mission report and photos.

Pizzagate: Cheesy Hand-tossed Lies

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Filed under: Conspiracy Theories, Fact or Fiction?, Hoaxes vs. Scams, Political Challenges, Propaganda and Disinformation

The bizarre tale of Comet Ping Pong restaurant and “Pizzagate” provides a case study in how fake stories proliferate online.
Update: And now it’s somehow gotten darker.
Another update: There is now a direct link between the spread of Pizzagate rumors and the nascent Trump Administration.


“The saga of ‘Pizzagate’: The fake story that shows how conspiracy theories spread”
BBC
December 2, 2016

_92730809_pizzagate3

No victim has come forward. There’s no investigation. And physical evidence? That doesn’t exist either.

But thousands of people are convinced that a paedophilia ring involving people at the highest levels of the Democratic Party is operating out of a Washington pizza restaurant.

The story riveted fringes of Twitter – nearly a million messages were sent last month using the term “pizzagate”.

So how did this fake story take hold amongst alt-right Trump supporters and other Hillary Clinton opponents?

Let’s start with the facts.

In early November, as Wikileaks steadily released piles of emails from Clinton’s campaign chairman John Podesta, one contact caught the attention of prankster sites and people on the paranoid fringes.

James Alefantis is the owner of Comet Ping Pong, a pizza restaurant in Washington. He’s also a big Democratic Party supporter and raised money for both Barack Obama and Hillary Clinton. He was once in a relationship with David Brock, an influential liberal operative.

Alefantis – who’s never met Clinton – appeared in the Podesta emails in connection with the fundraisers.

And from these thin threads, an enormous trove of conspiracy fiction was spun. Read more.


Sensitivity Training for Mummers

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Filed under: Hoax Etiquette

Philadelphia requests full spectrum satire…


Mummers seek inclusive tone after insensitive displays
by Errin Haines Whack
Associate Press
December 4, 2016

credit Philly mummers.com

credit Philly mummers.com

PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Organizers of the Mummers Parade are hopeful that cultural education efforts will help the city’s annual New Year’s celebration be more respectful and inclusive following a string of racially and ethnically offensive displays.

The initiatives include sensitivity training sessions and online videos that explore issues such as cultural appropriation and privilege, sexual identity and the rules of satire. Mummers’ leaders also published an open letter last week condemning “expressions of hate and bigotry.”

“We want to make this open for more people,” said George Badey, a veteran member of the Fralinger String Band and chairman of Love the Mummers. “The parade needs to evolve and represent the full spectrum of Philadelphians.” Read the rest of this story here.

Russia’s New Transgenetic Weapon

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Filed under: All About Pranks, Fact or Fiction?, Media Literacy, You Decide

Putin prepares for world dominance.


“Is 14-legged killer squid found TWO MILES beneath Antarctica being weaponised by Putin?”
by Joey Millar
Express
November 30, 2016

killer-octopus-putin-735175Doctor Anton Padalka claims he was part of a Russian scientific expedition to a subterranean lake in the Arctic that discovered the terrifying creature – known as Organism 46-B.

He said their discovery at Lake Vostok was covered up by Russian officials who are now looking at ways to weaponise and breed the deadly squid – with potentially devastating effects.

Dr Padalka said the squid, which was discovered in a fresh water lake trapped beneath two miles of ice, possessed an array of weapons and was responsible for the deaths of at least two of his scientific colleagues on the expedition.

Giving details which sounded like the script of a B-movie horror film he said: “We encountered Organism 46-B on our first day. It disabled our radio – which we later learned, to our alarm, was intentional.

“It is also able to paralyse prey from a distance of up to 150 feet by releasing its venom into the water.

“Tragically my colleague and lifelong friend was killed this way. He tread water wearing a blissful smile as the organism approached him. Read more.