Reporter resigns after falsely saying shooter wore a political hat

Berry’s apology came after his earlier controversial tweet, in which he posted an image of the president’s “Make America Great Again” hat and implied that Jarrod Ramos dropped one on The Capital Gazette’s newsroom floor before gunning down five people Thursday. The tweet has been removed.

Berry lamented that his tweet “feeds the warped minds of people who think we wake up every day and try to push an agenda.”

Source: Springfield Republican reporter resigns after tweet about Maryland newspaper gunman – The Boston Globe


False news reports inflame reader emotions and result in an escalating sequence of emotional outrage, increasing social polarization. Nothing good comes from making false claims.

A Reuter’s editor has also apologized for saying the shooting was caused by Trump’s negative comments about the media. (Official statement from Reuters.) An early published report from Reuters weakly linked  Trump’s past “fake news” comments to the shooting, but removed that link from later reports.

The way to respond to accusations of fictional news reporting is to double down on accuracy, objectivity and remaining calm. Unfortunately, the news industry continues to harm itself through self destructive behavior typical of middle school drama. This behavior is bewildering.

Facebook, Google accused of tricking users on privacy settings, making privacy difficult

According to the BBC, the Norwegian Consumer Council use several tricks to push users away from selecting privacy enhancing options, and instead, trick users or force users into sharing more information than they may want.

The social media companies make selecting appropriate privacy options difficult, provide options that give only an “illusion” of privacy, make selecting enhanced privacy a more difficult process than selecting little privacy, and leave out information so that users are unable to make informed decisions – and more.

Another explanation for why propaganda works so well

If a man is offered a fact which goes against his instincts, he will scrutinize it closely, and unless the evidence is overwhelming, he will refuse to believe it. If, on the other hand, he is offered something which affords a reason for acting in accordance to his instincts, he will accept it even on the slightest evidence. The origin of myths is explained in this way.


Bertrand Russell

The most effective propaganda generally leverages and works off of the target’s presumed understanding of a subject.

The main purpose of social media is to spread disinformation?

Is the main purpose of social media to spread disinformation? Sure seems so, whether intentional or unintentional.

Yesterday, our local Sheriff’s Office spread disinformation on Twitter with a goal of encouraging safe driving (definitely approve that!) But they did so by using a logical fallacy linking bike and pedestrian accidents to cellular phone usage, a conclusion that is false per the reference they cited in their tweet.

Because viewers of the tweet learned something that was not true, viewers became dumber by reading the message!

On Facebook, a “friend” shared a poster with a quote from a CEO saying he did not want those who voted for a candidate to shop at his stores. Of course, he did not actually say what was in the poster. Yet none of the people in the FB thread bothered to investigate whether the quote was true or not – they accepted it without question – which only reinforced the message! That left viewers of the post dumber than before they had seen it 🙂 Indeed, I posted a link to Snopes and the only reply to that was that Snopes=CNN, therefore, the correct information presented, is not true (which is a logical fallacy unto itself).

Today, I saw this item on Twitter:

It’s true that the Democrat Governor of Montana vetoed “direct primary care” bills – twice, in fact. The last veto was in early 2017.  However, in December 2017, the state’s insurance regulator went ahead and approved direct primary care offerings and there are now direct primary care medical practices in Montana.

But those who see and share the above tweet will conclude that DPC is not allowed in Montana. This illustrates how very old information lives on forever on social media. A side effect is that people become dumber by viewing social media!

These are 3 examples from the past 2 days. Obviously, there are many thousands of such examples every day.

Social media usage makes us dumber every day!

If its on social media, it must be true …

Appeared on Facebook.

It’s a misquote, taken out of context, says Snopes. (June 28th – the original post has been replaced and rewritten with the following)

Violence broke out at a protest over removal of Confederate related statutes at a protest in Charlottesville, VA. Trump said:

“I think there is blame on both sides,” the president said in a combative exchange with reporters at Trump Tower in Manhattan. “You had a group on one side that was bad. You had a group on the other side that was also very violent. Nobody wants to say that. I’ll say it right now.”


I’ve condemned neo-Nazis. I’ve condemned many different groups,” he said. “Not all of those people were neo-Nazis, believe me. Not all of those people were white supremacists by any stretch.”

Trump’s commentary is interpreted as saying “both sides are bad” and some of the people involved were “good” (including racists) thereby implying racist white supremacists are good.

The CEO of Camping World said those who supported hate were not welcome at his stores.

I listened to the interview and I did not interpret his comments as saying Trump supporters should not shop at his stores. However, CNBC made this interpretation and posted that as the headline. This spin was distributed in online forums, right wing web sites, but not by well known media services.

Lemonis made an unclear statement that was readily interpreted in to what ever the recipient wanted it to mean … and then bungled an explanation that failed to clear up the ambiguity.  As a point of logic, the CEO of a national retailer is not likely to tell half of his shoppers to stop shopping there; that makes no sense. However, he did make an unclear, ambiguous comment that left him open to being misquoted.

I posted the Snopes link on FB and the only response was from one person saying that Snopes = CNN (an assertion), therefore this refutation of the statement is not true (logical fallacy). Numerous philosophers have said a statement is true or false regardless of who makes the claim. Thus, the analysis is true or false – even if you don’t like Snopes. By asserting that CNN is false, and Snopes = CNN, therefore this analysis by Snopes is false is itself an invalid argument.

But since it was on Facebook, it must be true.

The joy of living in a fact-free world of official government propaganda #Cellphone #Crashes #Propaganda

WCSO is the Washington County Sheriff’s Office. They put out this social media poster on Twitter, regarding cell phone usage / distracted driving and fatalities.

They cite ODOT Crash Analysis & Reporting, 2015.

But check the details.

  • Per the ODOT report just 1 of the 73 pedestrian fatalities was linked to cell phone usage (see page 18, fatal pedestrian accident data).
  • 0.7% of all accidents and 0.5% of accidents having a fatality were linked to cell phone usage.

Most people today presume a very large portion of auto related crashes are due to cellular phone usage even though neither state nor Federal data support that conclusion.

This works as propaganda through the use of:

  • Logical Fallacy – linking phone usage (the text in their tweet) to the item in their graphic (“Oregon was home to 73 pedestrian fatalities in 2015”) leads the reader to believe 73 pedestrians were killed due to cell phone usage in 2015.
  • Appeal to Authority – They cite an authoritative source for the data (Oregon Department of Transportation) as an Appeal to Authority. Even though the report does not support their claim, they likely know no one will read the report.
  • Each of the text points in the propaganda Tweet are factually correct but lead the viewer to a false conclusion (this is how high quality propaganda often works).
  • Their web site page, linked in the tweet, says nothing about cell phone usage and driving or pedestrians (it does say to avoid being distracted by a cell phone while your young children are swimming).

Our quick System 1 brain immediately concludes 73 pedestrians were killed due to cellular phone usage. But their cited report says only 1 pedestrian was killed as a consequence of vehicle operation and cell phone usage.

This is a great illustration of the power of official government propaganda messaging. At this point, the public thoroughly believes cell phone usage is a leading cause of all vehicle crashes. Over the years, newspaper reports have made bold claims that one third or more – and sometimes even the majority – of all accidents are caused by cell phone usage, even though this is not supported by actual data.

I have asked the WCSO on their Twitter page if they could help us understand the data they’ve cited.

(When real world data does not support a popular belief or theory, those who believe the theory must be correct invent an ad hoc hypothesis to explain the discrepancy. The ad hoc hypothesis is that police are not accurately reporting cell phone usage and if only they did, then this would prove cell phone usage causes many or even most accidents.While cell phone usage has skyrocketed over time, the number of drivers has increased each year and the average number of miles driven has increased each year, the number of fatalities has been on a long term downwards trend and the number of crashes has been nearly constant. In order of unreported cell phone related crashes to explain 1/3d of all accidents, then other factors would have had to decline by 1/3d. Thus, you then need yet another ad hoc hypothesis to explain how other factors were disappearing.)

Updated June 28th, 2018:

“Statistics show that 9 percent of all crashes are attributed to distracted driving — mainly cellphones,” said Utah Highway Patrol Lt. Todd Royce. “However, we do know that it’s underreported.”

That means less than 1 in 10 crashes are attributed to the category of “distracted driving”; cell phone usage is a subset of that. The claim that it’s “mainly cellphones” is not supported by the data. Note the ad hoc hypothesis “we do know that it’s underreported”.

Second, the reporter does not verify the claim and reports it as if it is true. Readers, having seen these incorrect claims numerous times view these claims as proven facts.

Third, because reporters are not verifying claims made by interview subjects, news is developing a reputation for propaganda messaging and fictional news reporting.

News: Being overly dramatic

The Intercept published an article about likely locations of NSA voice and data intercept equipment located in AT&T “central office” network switching locations. They’ve promoted the article on Twitter with this poster:

  1. Electronic equipment does not need a windowed office with a view. Duh.
  2. They are kept in “fortress-like concrete structures” because they are designed as critical infrastructure keeping our voice and data systems running in the event of natural disasters.
  3. “and behind their fortified walls” … because we actually don’t want just anyone or various disaster scenarios to take down our communications infrastructure.

The statement they’ve written is basically true but is written using numerous emotional click bait words to exaggerate. Each of those attributes are features that make perfect sense and have nothing to do with their likely co-location of NSA surveillance gear.

The intent in the above wording is engage your System 1 “emotional thinking” to cause you to read the article. This is typical of advertising – don’t think! Just feel!

Much propaganda messaging appeals specifically to your emotions, to engage your gut level feelings. This is why it is so hard to correct factually incorrect propaganda – processing a correction takes more effort than the easy emotional response.

News: The difference between percent and percentile

This is a frequent error in news reports:

In 2015, Frappuccinos were 14 percent of Starbucks revenue: Year-to-date, however, the drink’s sales are down 3 percent — and now account for only 11 percent of the company’s revenue.

Source: Starbucks has a ‘void in innovation’ and healthy beverages won’t turn the tide

3 percent of 14 percent is 0.4 percent, not 3 percent.

What should have been written is “sales are down 3 percentile points“. As says

Never leave a journalist alone in a room with a number.