Archive for September, 2012

Friday Nonsense: How I Get People to Read Stuff

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

See that link? What the hell is “Bloglovin'” anyway? Well, nobody reads my blog (I get about 20 hits a day) even though I feel like I have plenty to say. That’s one of the reasons I’m using WordPress.com instead of self-hosting. Bloglovin’ is apparently a thing, but in order to have them list my blog, I had to put that link up there. Sounds kind of like a scam, right? I think that’s true…


A Journalist’s Tale

Alex Green was just doing what he was trained to do. As a journalism senior journalism major at Bryan College in Tennessee, he was doing what every journalist is trained to do — reporting the facts.

Apparently, this doesn’t fly at Bryan College:

Alex Green, editor of the student newspaper at Bryan College in Dayton, Tenn., heard over the summer that his Biblical Studies professor was leaving the school. He emailed the teacher, David Morgan, and got a confirmation — and, somewhat oddly, an attached statement from the Christian liberal arts school’s president that said the prof was off “to pursue other opportunities.”

The student editor later learned there was more to the story: Morgan had been arrested in June and faced charges after “after having attempted to meet with a minor child” at a gas station. Green wrote a story based on public records and was prepared to run it in last Friday’s Bryan College Triangle. Then school president Dr. Stephen Livesay ordered it killed.

But like I said before… Alex was doing what he was trained to do: tell the story.

He printed his story and a sidebar and distributed them on Monday […] “I placed them around campus and at the doors of dorm rooms and at public areas around the school,” he tells Romenesko readers. “They were primarily in the main administration building, the library and the student center”.

Green knows he could be expelled for distributing the story…

The Jim Romenesko link above includes Alex’s article. It is not libelous or editorialized, and all attributions are in place. In fact, his top attribution comes from an FBI press release. So why kill it?

I understand that Bryan is private college, so the same legal rules may not apply… but this story hit home for me personally, because as editor of my own student newspaper, I remember a similar instance.

One of my reporters, Josh, had been working on a story about safety on Facebook, and got the Chief of the campus police on the record saying “We have been monitoring [Facebook] very closely…” Further investigation found several officers with Facebook accounts, and Josh mentioned all of this.

The papers went to press, were distributed all over campus… and the next morning were nowhere to be found. But we had angry messages from the police station. They wanted a retraction, we refused to print one, we wanted our papers back, they never acknowledged knowing where they were.  The story was picked up by some national sources, and even seems to have had a role in the university’s “red status” from a free speech in education lobby. (NOTE: There was never any hard evidence to accuse the campus police department of the disappearances, and I am on the record as saying that it is not necessarily the case)

This isn’t the only story I remember:

  • I had phone calls from the presidents of campus organizations asking to have their members’ names left off the on-campus arrest report.
  • I had constant accusations of “misquoting” when I had someone on tape.
  • We had Student Government Association members request a secret ballot when the newspaper and television station was present, so that senators would not be seen voting to deny a gay rights organization recognition on campus.
  • We had people on campus (students and teachers) accuse us of “inventing a race problem” because we chose to report on racism among students.

People have issues with journalists. They do now, and they did then. Sometimes it’s because of accusations of bias — but I think more often than not, it’s because we reported the truths that they didn’t want to face.

In the meeting where we first decided to report on the racism on campus, my co-editor declared “The point of all this is to make a difference”. But our faculty advisor corrected him:

“No. The point of all this is to tell the story.”

Alex Green knew it. And that’s exactly what he did.


Ranch Dressing: A Love Story

I have few true loves in the world: Bacon, Taco Bell, hot wings… and ranch dressing.

I use it as a salad dressing, as a dipping sauce for fries, hot wings (along with its step-sibling bleu cheese), regular-temperature wings, vegetables, fried cheese sticks. It is a sandwich condiment, a hamburger topping, a friend to other condiments, or enough on its own. Its creamy, full-flavored goodness is accented by the additions of barbecue sauce, or jalapenos, guacamole or horseradish. It is an accent and it is a dish.

Ranch was undoubtedly by my side throughout my unintentional journey to 300 pounds, and its abandonment during my journey back was heart-wrenching. My love for ranch has caused at least one girl to break up with me. (Not really. Well… sort of).

It wasn’t always this way. In my early childhood I was fairly indifferent to ranch. I much preferred Italian or Thousand Island to top my salads. One evening, when I was 6 or 7 years old I decided to go overboard with ranch dressing, and ended up turning myself off to it.

I rediscovered its excellence in 7th grade, but my admiration for the lovely creamy deliciousness was not yet at its state of being a full-fledged obsession. No, this happened at the age of 17, when I discovered the combined powers of ranch dressing and guacamole. It was at Quizno’s, where I had never eaten, but was in the process of attempting to negotiate employment. The menu included a “turkey bacon guacamole”, and the words “Bacon” and “Guacamole” on the same sandwich were enough to pique my interest. Two months later, when I began working at Quizno’s, I learned how to make this sandwich, and realized the beauty was the ranch dressing and its flavor blended with that of the guacamole.

I also learned to make a number of other sandwiches, and in 2001, ranch dressing was a key ingredient on most Quizno’s subs. So I became quite a big fan. But something was still holding me back. The ranch dressing from Kraft or Hidden Valley that I would purchase at the supermarket just didn’t have the same flavor. In fact, it was kind of gross.

After awhile, I learned that to mimic the restaurant ranch, my options were A: buy the more expensive brands from the refrigerated or produce sections, or B: make my own.

My initial attempts at making my own consisted of buying the powder and following directions. Then, one day a few months ago, I realized that the ingredients for making a good ranch dressing from scratch were in my kitchen all along. And this knowledge has changed my life. I don’t know what’s considered “Official Canon Ranch”, so I call this “Ranch-ish”

Sam’s Ranch-ish Dressing

Ingredients

  • 1 cup of mayonnaise
  • 1/8 to 1/2 cup of milk (depending on how thick or thin you want it)
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 1/2 tsp salt
  • A squirt of lemon juice
  • 1 stalk of green onion
  • Parsley
  • Celery Salt
  • Dill Weed
  • Bay Leaves (the sprinkle kind, not the whole leaf kind)
  • My dad’s pepper powder (if you’re not fortunate enough to have a dad who makes pepper powder, you can use black pepper or chili powder)

Procedure

1. Put the mayonnaise in a bowl. Chop up the green onion, or mince it in a food processor. Add the onion to the mayo and stir it up.

2. In a separate container, pour the milk and squirt a bit of lemon juice in. Stir it slightly until you see it curdle. This looks gross, but it means it will behave like buttermilk in the recipe (this works for almond milk too, but I haven’t tried it with soy).

3. Add the garlic powder, salt, a pinch of celery salt, a couple of shakes of parsley, one shake of bay leaves, several shakes of dill weed, and a couple shakes of pepper or chili powder to the mayo-onion mixture. Stir it all up.

4. Add the milk-lemon mixture to the mayo-spice mixture. If you want to gauge the thickness, add a little at a time, stirring between. If you’re feeling adventurous, just dump it in. Stir until it’s all one consistency.

5. Store in the fridge, or serve immediately. It doesn’t last a long time when stored, so try to use it within 24 hours. I usually make it right before planning to use it, either as a salad dressing or to make chicken ranch pizza.

Modifications

When I make this, I use light mayo and almond milk for calorie reasons. I assume it works just as well with soy milk, or with unflavored yogurt. I do not know if it works with vegan mayonnaise substitutes, so if you have any info there leave it in the comments and I’ll edit this article.

Whatever other spices you may want to play with, by all means go ahead! I like the flavor added by rosemary, but rosemary also has a tendency to get stuck in my teeth.


Don’t Like Facts? Attack the Fact-Checkers

Yesterday, I received a forwarded e-mail from a relative with the subject Snopes no more. Immediately, I had a flashback to a Facebook conversation I witnessed and posted to Reddit a few weeks ago:

“One must beware of Snopes however, they are a very liberal group and don’t always tell the truth about the incorrectness of some jab at liberals.”

My first thought upon reading that comment was a quote from Stephen Colbert:

Whether or not you agree with the liberal bias of reality, people who use Snopes for political reasons don’t base their political views about it – we use it to fact-check specific stories. Arguing with birther claims, for example, doesn’t mean you support all of the President’s policies… just that you aren’t going to stoop to lies to make your point.

Anyway, back to the e-mail I received:

SNOPES NO MORE

Wow…read this one! Then check out the suggested web sites!!!

Many of the emails sent or forwarded that had any anti Obama in it were negated by Snopes. I thought that was odd. Check this out.

Snopes, Soros and the Supreme Court’s Kagan. Well now, I guess the time has come to check out Snopes! Ya'[sic] don’t suppose it might not be a good time to take a second look at some of the stuff that got kicked in the ditch by Snopes, do ya'[sic]?

We’ve known that it was owned by a lefty couple but hadn’t known it to be financed by Soros!

Snopes is heavily financed by George Soros, a big time supporter of Obama! In our Search for the truth department, we find what I have suspected on many occasions.

No evidence is offered for the claim that Snopes is financed by George Soros. But I think it stands to reason that if Soros was funding even a tiny fraction of the site, it wouldn’t be so ad heavy. And what is a Search for the truth department?

In any case, without evidence for a claim, it’s probably better not to accept it.

I went to Snopes to check something about the dockets of the new Supreme Court Justice. Elena Kagan, who Obama appointed, and Snopes said the email was false and there were no such dockets. So I Googled the Supreme Court, typed in Obama-Kagan, and guess what? Yep, you got it; Snopes Lied! Everyone of those dockets are there.

No specifics are offered on what Snopes article is being “debunked” here. A Snopes search for Kagan yields three results: one is an incorrectly attributed opinion column (unrelated), one is where she’s mentioned in a story about a Chinese restaurant thanking Jewish people for eating there on Christmas (also unrelated), and so, presumably, the article in question is called Kangaroo Court, and debunks the claim that Elena Kagan represented President Obama in nine cases concerning his eligibility for president (a.k.a. birther claims).

So Here is what I wrote to Snopes:
Referencing the article about Elana Kagan and Barak Obama dockets:
The information you have posted stating that there were no such cases as claimed and the examples you gave are blatantly false. I went directly to the Supreme Courts website, typed in Obama-Kagan and immediately came up with all of the dockets that the article made reference to. I have long suspected that you really slant things but this was really shocking. Thank You. I hope you will be much more truthful in the future, but I doubt it.

That being said, I’ll bet you didn’t know this. Kagan was representing Obama in all the petitions to prove his citizenship. Now she may help rule on them. Folks, this is really ugly. Chicago Politics and the beat goes on and on and on. Once again the US Senate sold us out!

Now we know why Obama nominated Elana Kagan for the Supreme Court. Pull up the Supreme Courts website, go to the docket and search for Obama. She was the Solicitor General for all the suits against him filed with the Supreme Court to show proof of natural born citizenship. He owed her big time. All of the requests were denied of course. They were never heard. It just keeps getting deeper and deeper, doesn’t it? The American people mean nothing any longer.

It’s all about payback time for those who compromised themselves to elect someone who really has no true right to even be there.

Here are some websites of the Supreme Court Docket: You can look up some of these hearings and guess what? Elana Kagan is the attorney representing Obama!

Check out these examples: http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/09-8857.htm

http://www.supremecourt.gov/Search.aspx?FileName=/docketfiles/09-6790..htm

These links are to cases unrelated to eligibility to the presidency. As Solicitor General, Kagan would be representing the White House. That’s part of the job.

Snopes itself has responded to the e-mail claims, though, and other blogs have also taken it on, so I’m not going to spend any more time on the assertions.

What’s disturbing here is the tendency to attack sources (or resources) that present facts when the facts seem to contradict a belief. Snopes is not a primary source, but a resource that investigates claims and compares them with the information available from reliable sources. It’s not flawless, any more than Wikipedia (another resource unfairly attacked by people who see it used as a source), but it’s a quick shortcut for those who don’t necessarily have the time to hunt down claims for themselves.

When your beliefs are based in presupposition, rather than evidence, you start to see contradictions as malicious, or lies. To call out Snopes as “liars” follows naturally from this, but a dangerous effect is that it neutralizes any attempt to set someone straight on future claims. If you want to correct someone’s claim, you are suddenly tasked with doing a bunch of primary research that has already been done, because the person making the claim is going to write off the people who have already done it.

Suppose that Snopes had been wrong about the Kagan claim. When “Snopes lies” is coupled with “Snopes is funded by George Soros”, both claims are going to be accepted even though there is no evidence for the latter.

The trend is making its way into the higher profile, with congressmen making comments like “I don’t care what Fact Check says“.

Einstein is rumored to have facetiously said “If the facts don’t fit the theory, change the facts.” But I think a more telling quote here is from John Maynard Keynes: “When the facts change, I change my mind. What do you do, sir?”

But that’s Keynes… and if you disagree with him, he must be a liar. Right?


WELP! Never Mind…

So, Chick-fil-A COO Dan Cathy has found a loophole in his support of groups that oppose marriage equality. This week, he began raising working on the WinShape Ride for the Family, which is a fundraiser for an organization that lobbies against gay marriage. With Chick-fil-A and WinShape logos on everything.

The loophole? Well it seems that he’s asking participants to write checks directly to the “Marriage and Family Foundation” instead of them going through Chick-fil-A or WinShape.

When I was a kid, I was in the scouts, and I sold popcorn every year. When people wrote checks, they were made out to Boy Scouts of America, not to me. That doesn’t change the fact that I was acting as the salesman.

So I take back everything I wrote yesterday. Sorry, Cathy, no dice. Still going to cook copycats of your chicken from internet recipes.

And Anti-Chicken Day is still on.


Chick-fil-A: What Now?

The Huffington Post is reporting that Chick-fil-A will cease donations to hate groups, namely the Family Research Council and Exodus International.

HuffPo’s source was an LGTB activist group, the Civil Rights Agenda, who announced in a press release that Chick-fil-A distributed an internal memorandum, and would:

  1. Cease donations to anti-LGTB groups.
  2. “treat every person with honor, dignity and respect-regardless of their beliefs, race, creed, sexual orientation and gender”

No word yet from Chick-fil-A themselves about the cessation of donations, but their website does say on its FAQ:

The Chick-fil-A culture and service tradition in our Restaurants is to treat every person with honor, dignity and respect –regardless of their belief, race, creed, sexual orientation or gender. We will continue this tradition in the over 1,600 Restaurants run by independent Owner/Operators. Going forward, our intent is to leave the policy debate over same-sex marriage to the government and political arena.

If I remember correctly, though, it already said this even while donations were being made.

In any case, I see no reason to doubt the stories at this point. And, with that tentative acceptance, I think it’s a great step forward for gay marriage in America. But…

Is it enough?

In my opinion, yes. But there are a few things to consider…

While the widely-known Chick-fil-A boycott was sparked by Dan Cathy’s comments on July 16, boycotts have been in place for the past year, based on the Exodus and FRC donations. If you were boycotting Chick-fil-A, you should probably ask yourself why.

If it was for the donations, as was my own decision not to support them, then this move is enough to resume that support. Now, this doesn’t mean I’m about to drive down the road and eat an army of chicken nuggets. But I will no longer make a point not to support them.

If you chose to boycott them due to Cathy’s comments, though, you’re in for a world of hurt if you try to universally apply that. Can you really claim to know the sociopolitical views of every COO, CFO, CEO, and President of every company you patronize? Do you boycott them all?

What about personal donations?

Now here’s another question: What if Dan Cathy decides to donate to the organizations from his own pocket? It gets a little more complicated there, because Chick-fil-A is his livelihood. But in my opinion, it would not be enough not to eat at the restaurant.

Corporate structure is more complicated than “This is the guy in charge.” Profits go towards a lot of people’s stock options and salaries… from the COO down to the custodians. And at least one of those people supports something you don’t like, no matter what your views.

Also, you’d have to look at other companies as well… Hardee’s/Carl’s Jr. was run by an anti-abortion and anti-gay activist for a long time. But his donations were from his own funds.

What do you think?

Has Chick-fil-A done enough to earn your support with this move? Will it affect a decision you have made not to eat there?

For those of you who agreed with Chick-fil-A during the boycott, does this change your mind?

(For the sake of argument, please stick to the issue at hand, which is not the chicken. If you don’t like Chick-fil-A sandwiches, or don’t eat them, use your imagination and pretend it was a business you do care about. When the situation was going on last month, I kept having to filter it through the question “What if it was Taco Bell?”)

UPDATE!

Never mind. He’s found a loophole and continues to fund these groups.


Viewing Life in Code

Today’s XKCD comic features a character suspended from a helium balloon, musing about the world, describing it as both sad and wonderful. The final panel says “I just didn’t expect it to be so big.” That final panel can be clicked and dragged, and from there we see more and more of the world. A tall tower on the left, a mountain on the right, leading to a cliff, leading to the first world of Super Mario Bros, with the “pits” in the level leading to subterranean scenes, and eventually to another world beneath the first world.

I didn’t spend an abundance of time on it before I decided to Firebug it. As a developer, I enjoy examining the code of effects I like when I see them on pages. And as an impatient person, I wanted to see if I could access the original image that this giant map of everything was being generated from.

I didn’t spend a lot of time on it, because I discovered pretty quickly that the image appeared to be cobbled together from four individual PNG files. Around this time, I noticed that dating blogger Dr. Nerdlove had mentioned the comic on Twitter. I mentioned the PNGs to him, he said he hadn’t seen them in the code, and as I played with the site a bit more, I discovered that the “four” individual PNG files were changing. In both amount and filename. So I figured XKCD was keeping the image fed via JavaScript. I was still determined to find out how many images comprised the mega-image (and was also vaguely considering creating the superimage to post somewhere, unaware that it had already been done) so I started paying attention to the naming convention of the png files. A number, followed by N or S, followed by another number, followed by W or E…

About this time, I saw that the good Dr. had tweeted his excitement about something he found in the map, and I saw the difference in how we were examining it. I was trying to “crack the code”, to see the entire map at once. Dr. Nerdlove on the other hand, was using the map the way it was intended… a draggable experience, with hidden treasures. Is either way the “right” way? No. But his way was probably a lot more fun.

It did get me thinking, though, about the nerd tendency to want to “decode” things in life. My first thought was to apply it to romantic relationships (probably because the Twitter conversation was with a dating advice blogger), but I think it applies to pretty much any kind of interpersonal relationship. And it also isn’t limited to nerds. I think everyone, at some level, is looking for a straightforward “code”-like cause and effect in the way we interact with friends. Or with employers. Or with potential dates. Or with our kids.

Look at all the opposing schools of thought concerning parenting… none of which have universally produced kids who were either perfect or evil.) Look at the plethora of personality tests, such as MBTI, which seek to quantify and categorize every human being in the world into 16 “types”.

I’m not saying there’s a problem with understanding. On the contrary, understanding the science behind something often makes it more beautiful. (Feynman had a great quote about that, concerning astronomy). I’m just saying that sometimes the pursuit of “hacking” or “decoding” something that is unhackable is detrimental to simply enjoying it. Such as a conversation. Or a kiss. Or a game of tag with a child.

So by all means, decode. Analyze, especially if it’s in your nature (it’s certainly in mine). But don’t lose yourself in the analysis and forget to live.


Romney’s Comments and the Unsettling Truth they Reveal

By now, I’m sure everyone’s heard about the comments Mitt Romney made at a private fundraiser in Boca Raton, Fla. earlier this year. Mother Jones broke the story yesterday, including secretly captured videos where Romney makes a few generalizations about the 47% who are “committed to Obama”. The most telling part:

There are 47 percent of the people who will vote for the president no matter what. All right, there are 47 percent who are with him, who are dependent upon government, who believe that they are victims, who believe the government has a responsibility to care for them, who believe that they are entitled to health care, to food, to housing, to you-name-it. That that’s an entitlement. And the government should give it to them. And they will vote for this president no matter what…These are people who pay no income tax. [emphasis mine]

I want to address that supposed sense of entitlement for a second. Is the fact that people need food, shelter, and medicine to survive really a sense of entitlement? Is the fact that some people are in situations where they are unable to provide for themselves a sense of entitlement? What if his statement had been about people “who believe they are entitled to police protection, a fire department, education, libraries, roads, national defense”? People who think the taxpayers should support the preservation of life through feeding the hungry and providing healthcare and shelter aren’t doing so out of a sense of “entitlement”.

But more than that, it speaks to an unspoken a very often spoken opinion held by those on the far right, which is finding its way more and more into mainstream conservative ideology: That people’s financial situations are (almost) always deserved. It’s a worldview that seems to come straight out of the pages of a Rand novel: The rich have earned their place, the poor are lazy, and the unregulated free market will solve everything better than the government ever could.

Other unspoken assumptions in this opinion include the idea that everyone starts at the same level, that everyone is granted the same opportunities along the way. These assumptions are frequently made by white males, who are unaware (or in denial) that they’re playing the game of life on Easy Mode.

The dichotomy, though, is perhaps the most disturbing part. The mantra has become “absolute market control vs. absolute government control”, “Libertarian vs. Communist”, “Strict statism vs. unregulated capitalism” etc.  If a candidate (or voter, for that matter) implies that a resource can be better provided by the taxpayers, the cries of “socialist!” begin, even if other provisions are left up to the market.

It’s possible, of course, that with these Gov. Romney was simply pandering to his crowd. But it’s just as disturbing that his crowd thinks this way. In the eyes of this group, if you support a liberal candidate, you are a lazy freeloader. This is what the people calling the shots think of you.

And this is what a man who wants to be your president thinks of you too.


Things that Sometimes Happen when you Run

I never ran track and field (my fake high school didn’t have a track team, and it never interested me). I started running as part of a weight loss program, about four years ago.

I ran a couple of charity 5Ks in the fall of 2008. I’ve done a few more since, even though I’m never concerned with my place (or even my time). Signing up for events gives me a reason to run, though.

This year, I’ve signed up for the Rocket City Marathon in December. So I’ve been training four times a week. Here are some things I’ve noticed.

Sometimes you have to wear sunscreen all over your torso, in case the nipple chafe makes shirt removal a necessity.

Sometimes your cat won’t leave you alone while you’re stretching.

Sometimes you get very far away from your house or office, and suddenly you have to take a shit.

Sometimes you try to drink from one of the water cups the volunteers hand you, and you choke on it because you tried to drink while running.

Sometimes you think “this was easy” for the first half of your run, then you turn around and discover the second half is uphill and against the wind.

Sometimes sidewalks are uneven in the dark.

Sometimes Google Maps doesn’t tell you that a road is fenced off at certain times of night, so you have to improvise a new route.

Sometimes you have to stop drinking wine because it makes it harder to wake up for a run.

Sometimes you have to start drinking more and more coffee, because you’ve been up since your 4 a.m. run.

Sometimes other people tell you to shut up about running.

Sometimes you compare your pace to other people’s, and it makes you want to give up altogether.

Sometimes, though, you have to ignore that, and just keep running.


Of Brontosauruses, Memes, and Old Lies that Never Die

What is a brontosaurus?

It’s a large herbivorous dinosaur, correct? A sauropod, with a long neck and a huge tail. Right?

WRONG!

It’s a dinosaur that never existed! Most people know the story, but for those who aren’t aware, here’s a basic timeline:

  • A dinosaur was discovered called Apatosaurus.
  • A second skeleton was found, that was larger, and was called Brontosaurus
  • Later it was determined these were both the same species, and Apatosaurus took priority since it was named first
  • People were already used to saying Brontosaurus, and some still do.

The above is pretty much common knowledge. What seems to be lesser-known is when exactly this mistake was caught and corrected in the scientific community. My assumption had always been that it was within my lifetime. I never went through the “obsessive dinosaur phase” that many young children go through, but I loved The Land Before Time after seeing it in theaters, and had a few children’s books about dinosaurs. These books referred to Brontosaurus, and while the dinosaurs in LBT weren’t referred to by scientific names, we all knew what Littlefoot was, right?

“What a great adventure I just had! I’m glad I don’t have to follow it up with seventeen more straight-to-video adventures!”

Webcomic author Brian Russell has been working on a book called “What I Remember About Dinosaurs”, which is a humorous look at how the things we learned about dinosaurs as children aren’t accurate anymore. He even found and photographed a children’s book with a Brontosaurus reference:

So the change must be recent, right?

WRONG AGAIN!

The Apatosaurus was discovered in 1877. The “Brontosaurus” was discovered in 1879. And the first scientist wrote that they were the same species in 1903… Nineteen-oh-fucking-three?!

That’s 109 years ago! That means that not only have children’s books and our parents lied to us, but their children’s books and their parents lied to them!

How else can you explain that we didn’t know something that the scientific community has known since before human flight was even commercially available?!

And then it hit me… Brontosaurus is a meme.

Not a meme like we find on Reddit (or, more recently, Facebook.) And not really a meme as first defined by Richard Dawkins. But something between. An urban legend, but less detailed. An old wives’ tale, but with a less sexist description. The existence of the Brontosaurus is like the tale of Washington and the cherry tree, or the belief that orange juice prevents an oncoming cold, carrots are good for your eyes, or Sweet & Low causes cancer. Something we believe so prevalently, that we simply don’t question it, even though the truth has been known for much longer than we’re prepared to admit.

There are many, many examples of false beliefs about history, science, or other practices.  And like Internet memes, they continue to spread via technology. But the lies that spread post-internet are often more damaging.

Urban legends used to be fairly harmless. They were stories of a killer with a hook, or a father accidentally being seduced by his daughter… shocking tales, but no real outcome relied on their being believed. Not so with the modern legends. Tell me if you’ve heard this one:

[Unnamed Politician] wants to appeal to the religious crowd, so he claims his favorite Bible verse is John 16:3. He meant to say John 3:16, but got it backwards, and the verse he cited is something about “They will not know me and it will show”. So see? Don’t vote for this person. [crazy paraphrase]

This is a common example, because it comes around every election season. I first heard it in 2000, and it was attributed to Al Gore.  I heard it again in 2004, attributed both to Bush and to Kerry, and then I heard it again in 2008 referring to Obama. Further investigation found a conservative columnist claiming it had actually been said by George H.W. Bush in the late ’80s. But did this ever happen? Probably not. Was it said by Obama/Romney/Whoever you happen to hear it attributed to in the coming election? Definitely not.

But here’s where the second danger comes in. Have you ever seen a newspaper with an incorrect headline on the front page?

Have you ever seen the paper print the retraction in a headline on a front page?

Of course not, it’s always on page twelve, tucked away in the corner. The lie stays powerful.

Now, for a real world analogy (because newspapers, amirite?!) — Have you ever seen someone post something false on Facebook? Do they delete it when the falsehood is pointed out? Or, more likely, do they post a comment that says “Oh, I guess it’s not true.” Why not delete the post?

Or another common response is “It may not be true, but it’s funny.”

And this is valid… to an extent. Humor, inspiration, shock… these can all come from fiction, and I daresay fiction does a better job of them than reality does. But more often than not, the humor, inspiration, or shock value of the story is directly dependent on the story’s authenticity.

Worst caption ever ought to go down in history.

The idea that a Ron Paul supporter met the president while “Vote Ron Paul” was scribbled on his hand is kind of funny, but only if it’s true. The true story… that an Obama supporter’s picture was photoshopped and passed around the internet portraying him as A) a subversive, and B) a supporter of a candidate that he doesn’t support, isn’t funny. In fact, it’s pretty much just stupid.

I can Photoshop shit too, you know. Look at this, I put it on Reddit yesterday:

This is totally true and not ‘shopped at all.

It’s even more true of inspirational (vom) stories.

Remember Herman Rosenblat? I first read his story in Reader’s Digest in middle school, and had no reason to doubt its authenticity. And it was a very sweet story. Here’s the short version (stolen from Wikipedia):

…beginning in the Winter of 1944, a nine year old Jewish girl posing as a Christian from a local farm, met him at the electrified perimeter fence of the Schlieben concentration camp and tossed him an apple over the fence. She continued passing him food for seven months until he was transferred to another camp. According to Rosenblat, they met in 1957 on a blind date at Coney Island, New York, and, while relating their personal histories, discovered their shared past. Shortly afterwards, they married.

This story was to be published in a book called Angel at the Fence … until it was discovered that it was made-up bullshit.

Rosenblat was a Holocaust survivor, but the claims of the little girl throwing him apples were not only fabricated — they weren’t even possible, based on what is known of the layout of the concentration camp.

Even Rosenblat’s kids knew the story was false.

But though the book was canceled, the film was still going forward last I heard (and last the Wikipedia page was updated.) Why?! This story’s inspiration requires it to be true. It isn’t!

So here’s the real question: Do you care if the things you propagate and believe are true? Does it even matter?

If you do care, do you retract falsehoods with the same enthusiasm with which you announce them?

If you don’t care… well, here’s a couple of brontosauruses fucking: