Posts Tagged “journalism”

Free vector graphic: Ghost, Spooky, Cheeky, Ghostly - Free Image on Pixabay - 156969, via PixabayIt’s been quite awhile since I blogged about the inane journalistic phenomenon of “hauntings as news.” That’s when some otherwise-reputable journalist pens a story telling the world that some place is haunted. I just saw another example of this in a nearby newspaper, the (Torrington, CT) Register-Citizen, reporting on an astonishing “revelation” (Archive.Is cached article):

The Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado is believed by many to be haunted by ghosts, and one family’s photo is the latest to attempt to give credence to the ghostly claims.

The Mausling family of Aurora, Colorado was on a “spirit tour” of the 108-year-old hotel on Sept. 16 when John “Jay” Mausling claims to have snapped a photo of what he says appears to be two ghosts.

It’s really funny that anyone would be astonished at seeing a “ghost” while on a “spirit tour” of a supposedly-haunted building. Why, of course they did! Why, of course the people running this “spirit tour” set up that illusion! I can’t handle relaying any more of this laughable dreck.

Let me be perfectly clear: There are no ghosts. Buildings cannot be haunted. No one can speak with the dead. This is outrageous fucking bullshit … period, end of story.

The reason newspapers resort to “hauntings as news” should be obvious, and that’s because it’s easy reporting. Either people come to reporters with their “tips” directly, or they post them online, but either way, they basically package the story for the reporter, making it simple, easy, and quick. In an age of shrinking newsrooms, hauntings are a fast and ready way to fill up the newshole. In this case, there was the added plus of an association between the place of this claimed “haunting” and the famous movie The Shining. That makes it “catchy” and will help collect eyeballs.

But none of that grants this story — or any other like it — merit. It doesn’t mean the Stanley Hotel is haunted. It doesn’t mean anyone photographed an actual “ghost.” Stories like this one are massive journalistic “fails.”

Photo credit: Pixabay.

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stop signI’ll have to ask you, Dear Reader, for another indulgence. I find I must address, for a second time, something that’s off-topic. But it’s something that urgently needs to be said.

A couple months ago, I said it was time for the mass media to enact a moratorium on reporting our Groper-in-Chief’s tweets. At that point, he’d already tweeted something that had triggered something of a crisis in the federal government, and sent people running to deal with it — even though what he’d tweeted was not based on any evidence, and turns out to have been untrue. It’s one thing for the insane and infantile GiC to tweet stuff; it’s another for the media to treat his drivel as though it’s worthy of being reported. Most of his tweets are not, and it was clear to me, then, that the media needed to act that way.

Well, they didn’t take my advice. Instead, they continue indulging the Apricot Wonder, treating his every utterance as worthy of being repeated, relayed, analyzed, and otherwise worthy of being read by Americans. The GiC, naturally — having been given so much deference by the media — managed to outdo himself in imbecility and immaturity. On Thursday he fired off a crude, childish tweet about a pair of cable-news hosts (WebCite cached article), and earlier today he tweeted a childish, manipulated video of him attacking “CNN,” the cable-news channel personified (cached).

The Groper’s deputy spokeswoman defended his nasty Thursday tweet as a natural, expected, “tit-for-tat” thing (cached):

“The president has been attacked mercilessly on personal accounts by members on that program, and I think he’s been very clear that when he gets attacked, he’s going to hit back,” [she] told reporters during the afternoon briefing.

The deputy spokeswoman lied. No one — and I do mean absolutely no one — “attacked” the Apricot Wonder. Have people criticized him? Sure they have. Of course! Why would they not? And why should they not? No one in the US, not even the president, is above critique! But even with that said, no one has “attacked” him … “mercilessly” or not. An “attack” would be if someone had punched him in the face, or held him up at gunpoint. Nothing of the sort has ever happened to the Groper. And it won’t — because the Secret Service would never stand for it. (And they shouldn’t.)

The “attacks” the GiC and his minion are complaining about, are simply the natural, expected consequences of his own immature words and actions. The Groper is not entitled to flattering press coverage. He is not entitled to never have his insanity or folly commented on. He is not entitled to never have to see or hear news reports, or commentary, he dislikes. No such entitlement exists — not even for the president of the US. It simply doesn’t.

Quite the opposite: As a public servant, the Groper’s job is to take criticism in stride, and react to it like a grown adult. That’s just how life is. He doesn’t have to like it, or be happy about it … nevertheless, he has to just take it, and walk away. That’s his fucking job!

The Groper himself laughably contends the media are actually trying to silence him (cached). Nothing, however, could be further from the truth! In reality the mass media actively comply with his wishes, by reporting on his every tweet instantly. They couldn’t do a better job of relaying and propagating his ridiculous, juvenile bullshit if he were paying them to do so.

The problem with the media relaying the GiC’s numerous tantrums, is that his fanbois in Flyover Country feed on them. They like that he tweeted a vile comment about two cable-news hosts (whom most of them have never seen or heard, but who somehow know — because they’ve been told so by their talk-radio and alt-right overlords — are dastardly commie Leftists deserving only of condemnation). They also thrive on the reactions they engender; they love seeing Democrats and “the Lame Stream Media” aka the “Bicoastal Media Elite” condemn the Groper’s childish bilge. They love seeing their ideological foes are outraged. They’re fueled by such things, which is why the GiC keeps spewing them. It makes them happy, which for him is the most important thing in the world.

The media could, if they wanted to, break this feeding cycle. By not reporting the Apricot Wonder’s juvenile tweets, his fanbois may not hear about them, but even if they do, there won’t be any reaction to them, so they’ll be deprived of the joy of watching that. A moratorium would starve the Groper for the attention he pathologically craves, and would starve his fanbois of the sanctimonious outrage they love to sense.

The time for a moratorium on the GiC’s tweets has come. It’s time for the mass media to grow some cojones, stop indulging the Groper-in-Chief, and get off his fucking payroll already.

Photo credit: Clover Autrey, via Flickr.

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Stop Sign, via FreeFotoPlease pardon this slight departure from the usual topics of this blog.

I’m sure most of my readers know by now about the Groper-in-Chief’s Twitter tantrum, this past Saturday, over his predecessor having supposedly wiretapped his campaign offices in Trump Tower (WebCite cached article). He hasn’t offered the slightest evidence for this accusation — which is quite serious. He’s had a few days to come up with something … anything! … even remotely supporting his claim, but has refused to do so. In fact, the Apricot Wonder has asked Congress to investigate and find the evidence supporting it (cached).

That’s right, folks. Not only does the GiC have no basis for what he spewed, he knows he doesn’t, and now demands other people somehow find that evidence for him.

Julian Sanchez of the Cato Institute offered a breakdown of how the alt right’s Dear Leader came to make this ridiculous accusation (cached). Among the conclusions of his analysis:

It’s worth noting here that, contra Trump’s claim on Twitter, none of the articles in question claim that phones were tapped. Indeed, it’s not even entirely clear that the order the FISC finally issued in October was a full-blown electronic surveillance warrant requiring a probable cause showing. If the FBI was primarily interested in obtaining financial transaction records, corporate documents, and (depending on both the facts and the FISC’s interpretation of the FISA statute) perhaps even some stored e-mail communications, that information might well have been obtainable pursuant to a §215 “business records” order, which imposes only the much weaker requirement that the records sought be “relevant to an authorized investigation.”

In sum, there’s very little there, and what is there, does not, in fact, support the GiC’s contention. He’s lying, plain and simple. And as I said, he has to know he’s lying.

But take note what happened here. The Apricot Wonder used Twitter as the platform for a big fat honking lie … and as a result, we’re now saddled with a Congressional investigation into wrongdoing which — at the moment — we have no reason to believe ever took place. All because of a Twitter fit that the mass media duly reported.

And that brings me to my idea: A mass media moratorium on reporting the Groper-in-Chief’s tweets. That’s right. What we need for the media to stop fucking reporting on every bit of lying drivel that comes out of the Groper’s Android phone. The country would be spared a lot of trouble, if they’d just do that.

But they won’t. “The president’s tweets are news!” reporters and editors will say. But, while that seems true, it’s not. Presidents say and do a lot of things in the course of a day which aren’t actually newsworthy. The Apricot Wonder’s tweets should be treated that way. If his infantile spew weren’t reported on, a lot of this shit wouldn’t happen. And he wouldn’t be able to misdirect us.

One might also say that the media should report on the Groper’s lying tweets, then debunk them. However, that won’t accomplish anything of substance, and it certainly won’t discourage the Apricot Wonder from lying even more. In fact, this approach actually fuels him, and he’s counting on the media to at least try to debunk him. This is because — amazingly enough — he wants the media to debunk his lies! You see, he’s playing up to his fanbois, and in their eyes, being debunked actually reinforces whatever outrageous thing he says. This is because of a well-documented psychological phenomenon known as the backfire effect. Ultimately, the Groper is counting on the media to report his lies, then make clear they’re lies, because this only deepens his relationship with the people he’s speaking to. Reporters who relay his lying tweets then show they’re lies, are just doing the GiC’s work for him. They might as well be on his payroll!

It’d be a good idea if, generally, the media treated the Groper like the infantile, paranoid, thin-skinned, whiny cretin he is. The media are showing him a degree of respect he hasn’t actually earned. If they did that, the attention whore who infests the Oval Office would have no choice but to grow up and begin acting his age. Cutting off his ability to build on his raging, immature “base” would benefit everyone.

Ed. to add: As of July 2 it has become crystal-clear that a moratorium on the GiC’s tweets is not merely a good idea, it’s imperative.

Photo credit: FreeFoto.

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Observed departure of temperature from average for the period Nov. 2004-Mar. 2005. Superimposed in bold text is the winter forecast made in the 2004 Old Farmer's Almanac for the same period. The Almanac got four regions correct and eight incorrect, with two too close to call. / NOAA-CIRES & Climate Diagnostic Center, via Weather UndergroundEvery year around this time the Old Farmer’s Almanac, and its similar rival the Farmers’ Almanac, trot out weather predictions for the coming winter. And every year we’re treated to media stories about it … as though any of it actually means anything. Yesterday the Associated Press published a story with a lede guaranteed to pique Americans’ interest (WebCite cached article):

Just when you thought you had gotten over last winter, be warned: The Old Farmer’s Almanac predicts it will be super cold with a slew of snow for much of the country, even in places that don’t usually see too much of it, like the Pacific Northwest.

If you don’t want to read about those four-letter words, there’s plenty more to peruse in the folksy, annual book of household tips, trends, recipes and articles, such as animal jealousy, the history of shoes and anticipation for the biggest Supermoon in decades in November 2016.

That crap is all I can take, so I won’t quote any more of it. In spite of the AP story’s paean to a supposedly accurate prediction last year, in truth, the two Almanacs” weather predictions are, in a word, bullshit! A steaming load heaved right out the back of the barn. Claims of over 80% accuracy are not true at all. They’re lies. Real meteorologists who really study the weather, who base their conclusions on real measurements, and who have real credentials that show they know what they’re talking about, have determined the Almanacs actually have very poor track records (cached and cached). The Farmers’ Almanac was, quite famously, wrong about Super Bowl XLVIII being hit with snow.

It’s utterly irresponsible of mass media outlets — especially those as widely-read and respected as the Associated Press — to treat this rank bullshit as though it’s news. It’s not. The Almanacs’ predictions are nothing of the sort! Making everything much worse … because this was released by the AP, it will get propagated by virtually every other media outlet in the country, and internationally too. Which is far more publicity than this crap deserves.

It’s time for the mass media, especially the AP, to just fucking stop falling for bullshit like this. Yes, as I said, the lede of this story is compelling. It’ll draw eyeballs for sure … but it will still be uninformative and useless crap that no one should bother seeing. Both Almanacs sell well enough that they don’t need the AP shilling for them.

P.S. Mention of the Almanac‘s prediction of a “supermoon” in 2016 is superfluous. A supermoon, aka a “perigee-syzygy of the Earth-Moon-Sun system,” is a very predictable phenomenon. Astronomers (as in, real scientists using real equipment) can predict them many years in advance, and have done so — without the specious help of the Old Farmer’s Almanac or their mysterious, undisclosed algorithms.

Photo credit: NOAA-CIRES & Climate Diagnostic Center, via Weather Underground.

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#CharlieCharlieChallenge Vine screenshot / via USA TodayMost of my readers will, no doubt, already have heard of something called “the Charlie challenge” (or perhaps more correctly, “the Charlie Charlie challenge”). Apparently this is something teens must do to entertain themselves, because … I guess … the poor little things just don’t seem to have any other entertainment options left (I mean, it’s not like they have TV, radio, video games, Netflix, Youtube, Twitter, Facebook, or any of thousands of other outlets to occupy their time).

In case you don’t know what I’m talking about, the idea is to line up two pencils in a cross formation, one balanced on the other, with “yes” and “no” marked in the quadrants they border, then talk to them (and to some putative Mexican demon), flip out when they move on their own, then post videos of all this on the Internet to impress one another. Or something.

I don’t quite get it, but then I’m a curmudgeonly old guy who’s just not “hip” enough to understand the importance of it. Or something.

At any rate, this supposed paranormal game is getting a lot of play in the mass media. I guess reporters are bored, too, and have run out of stories to investigate. Or something. Here, for example, is a piece by USA Today on this topic (WebCite cached article); here’s Time magazine’s story on it (cached); and here’s CNN’s piece on the subject (cached). All of this constitutes yet another example of the “paranormal as news” trope that’s infected journalism for a number of years. Yawn.

The usual suspects have lined up to declare that the Charlie challenge is, in fact, the supernatural (or maybe more precisely the preternatural) at work, and have taken to whining and bellyaching about it, warning teens not to partake. For example, a Catholic priest has ordered people to avoid it, calling it “a dangerous game” in which demons truly are summoned (cached).

There are so many things wrong with all of this, I hardly know where to begin. First of all, contrary to the legend that accompanies “the Charlie challenge,” there’s no “Charlie” demon in Mexico (cached). People in Mexico, who speak Spanish for the most part, would give their legendary demons Spanish names, like “Carlos,” instead. Second, there’s no such thing as a demon … nor is there any Satan, or devils, or anything else of the sort. They do not exist — period.

Third, the supposed “paranormal” effect is rather easily explained, in a mundane fashion, using conventional science. The (UK) Independent, among other outlets, goes into it (cached) … although I suspect those who truly believe in the paranormal aren’t going to buy that it’s merely “gravity” doing it. They’ll just insist it couldn’t possibly be anything that simple … because, you see, they were there, and simply “know” it couldn’t be!

I suppose a skeptic like myself could perform a test, by setting up the pencils — without markings and without the required incantation/question — and then see what the pencils do on their own. But I doubt any “true believers” would really care about the results of that test. Yeah, they like to whine and gripe that skeptics are “closed-minded” and won’t just take their word for the bullshit they fabricate; but ironically they, themselves are “closed-minded” to any possibility that their paranormal B.S. might be invalid. Hmm.

Photo credit: #CharlieCharlieChallenge Vine screenshot / via USA Today.

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“Then I will declare to them solemnly, ‘I never knew you. Depart from me, you evildoers.’” (Matthew 7:23, New American Bible)I’ve blogged before about Bishop Robert Finn of Kansas City, who some 2½ years ago had been convicted of failing to report the abuse of a minor (WebCite cached article). In the real world most of us live in, being convicted of criminal wrongdoing while on the job usually results in an automatic firing from that job.

But in the strange, surreal, alternate universe of the Roman Catholic hierarchy, that doesn’t hold true. The bishops don’t generally like to have to pay too much attention to insignificant little things like criminal courts. They’re above all that, you see. So Finn was able to keep his post.

Until today. As Religion News Service reports, at long last — 2½ years after his conviction — the Vatican deigned to allow Finn, finally, to resign (cached):

Pope Francis has accepted the resignation of an American bishop who was found guilty of failing to tell police about a suspected pedophile priest.

The Vatican on Tuesday (April 21) said the pope accepted the resignation of Bishop Robert Finn, who led the Diocese of Kansas City-St. Joseph in Missouri.

The resignation was offered under the code of canon law that allows a bishop “who has become less able to fulfill his office because of ill health or some other grave cause” to resign.

What’s remarkable about this is not that it took so long for the Vatican to act, or for Finn to quit. The Church had long resisted admitting Finn had done anything wrong in the first place — even after his conviction. But what’s remarkable is that he was let go after 2½ years. That amount of time strongly suggests there had originally been no intention of having him leave. Something changed — maybe 1½ to 2 years later — that made this happen … but what was it? I have no idea.

The other thing I’ve noticed, in reporting on this, is that media outlets (including the RNS article I cited, plus many others) make little or no mention of the 2½ year delay between Finn’s conviction and his resignation. I can’t imagine why that’s the case. This delay is certainly noteworthy, and anyone reporting on it ought to have mentioned it … even if only to concede there’s no known reason for it. Religion reporters appear to have taken a pass on that part of the story. It’s hard to imagine why, but they have. For this reason, I’m marking this as an example of a “journalism FAIL.” The delay should have been reported, if not thoroughly investigated — but it wasn’t.

Photo credit: PsiCop original graphic, based on Mt 7:23, NAB.

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Ebola Facts - v by SouthernBreeze, on FlickrIt’s old news by now that Ebola virus has been on a tear through three different west African countries. It’s also not news that a man came to Texas from Liberia carrying Ebola and eventually died of it in a Dallas, TX hospital. What’s more, it’s also not news that two nurses who’d cared for him have contracted it (cached). All of that is bad enough. But the reaction to these stories has been … well, the phrase “fucking insane” may not quite do it justice.

First, we have the inevitable political reaction from Republicans using this as another way of tearing into Barack Obama’s hide. Their reactions range from the calm yet still irrational, demand that the CDC’s director resign (cached), which will accomplish nothing whatsoever, as well as demanding travel bans from the affected countries (cached), which also isn’t likely to do much good, to the extreme and ridiculous, such as bundling several crises into one big, neat package of hate, sanctimony, and paranoia by claiming ISIS/ISIL/IS fighters have contracted Ebola and are (cached) trying to get over the country’s southern border to infect Americans en masse (cached) — there is, of course, no evidence of any such conspiracy. And then there’s the garden-variety wingnut Religious Right wackiness of claiming Obama caused (cached) the Ebola crisis as a way of “taking over” or something (cached) — as though that makes any sense at all.

But on top of all this, we have a number of other asinine reactions (cached):

That’s not the limit of the insanity, but it’s enough to illustrate what I’m talking about. It really needs to fucking stop already.

I’m with Shepard Smith of Fox News. Please watch as he decimates the (largely media-driven) insanity:

Smith cites influenza, which annually kills thousands of Americans, as a much greater danger than Ebola, but I can think of another, that being Enterovirus D68, which currently is something of a problem in the US. Although Ebola is more deadly than either of these, Americans are incredibly less likely to contract it. Which means it’s not something they have any reason to be terrified about. The panicking lunacy is enough to make me tag this post “you’ve gotta be fucking kidding me.”

OK, people, I get it. You don’t want Ebola. Really, I understand. I don’t want it either. But this blind panic isn’t going to help you avoid it. I’ll tell you what will: Calm down, grow up, and get over it, fercryinoutloud!

Photo credit: SouthernBreeze, via Flickr.

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