Posts Tagged ‘media’
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 16, 2014
Ebola is in the news, and unfortunately too many people are speculating and panicking about this terrible disease. And even more unfortunate, there are far too many media professionals who are reporting the news on Ebola in a completely irresponsible manner. In the spirit of lighting candles rather than cursing the darkness, I would like to share an example of very good reporting on this matter from Shepard Smith at Fox News. I don’t often agree with commentary on Fox News, but this just nails it. Folks, get your flu shot, and stop panicking about Ebola; get more facts here:
Posted in media woo, medical woo | Tagged: CDC, Centers for Disease Control, Dallas, death, disease, doctors, Ebola, epidemic, facts, flu, FN, Fox News, health, hospital, infection, influenza, Liberia, media, medical, medicine, news, panic, panicking, plague, radio, reporting, science, Shepard Smith, television, Texas, United States, vaccines, virus | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on July 9, 2014
For far too long, the media landscape has increasingly gone down the rabbit hole when discussing science-oriented topics. Often, the notion that journalists and editors should provide balanced coverage and diverse viewpoints has been abused to the point where pseudo-scientists, cranks, and charlatans are given equal time and (implicitly, at least) equal validity on various news shows and in print. And this gives the general public a false impression of what is and isn’t science.
This demand by pseudo-scientists for “equal time” is a real problem. Creationists have been at it for decades in the U.S. public school system, thankfully with little to no success, and many other pseudo-scientists are starting to employ the same tactic. For example, many news stories in recent years on climate change often include at least one token “skeptic” of global warming. In addition, this kind of demand for “equal time” pops up in other venues: on at least two occasions, when participating in skeptical and science panels at Dragon*Con and Convergence, our panel was challenged on “why we didn’t include a believer?” In one case, creationists were demanding a seat on a science panel about evolution and why creationism was problematic, and in the other case, believers in ghosts were demanding a seat on a panel of skeptics who were there to specifically discuss the scientific and cultural reasons why people still believe in ghosts.
The implication by believers in pseudo-science is, I think, that scientists and skeptics have an “ivory tower” mentality and are just trying to talk down to people when, in fact, we are simply attempting to educate them in science and good critical thinking. And, unfortunately, for far too long the media landscape has given folks like these way too much air and print time to spew their nonsense… until now.
Recently the BBC announced that they will no longer tolerate pseudo-scientific abuse of the idea of providing diverse viewpoints:
BBC Trust says 200 senior managers trained not to insert ‘false balance’ into stories when issues were non-contentious
BBC journalists are being sent on courses to stop them inviting so many cranks onto programmes to air ‘marginal views’
The BBC Trust on Thursday published a progress report into the corporation’s science coverage which was criticised in 2012 for giving too much air-time to critics who oppose non-contentious issues.
The report found that there was still an ‘over-rigid application of editorial guidelines on impartiality’ which sought to give the ‘other side’ of the argument, even if that viewpoint was widely dismissed.
Some 200 staff have already attended seminars and workshops and more will be invited on courses in the coming months to stop them giving ‘undue attention to marginal opinion.’
“The Trust wishes to emphasise the importance of attempting to establish where the weight of scientific agreement may be found and make that clear to audiences,” wrote the report authors.“Science coverage does not simply lie in reflecting a wide range of views but depends on the varying degree of prominence such views should be given.”
The Trust said that man-made climate change was one area where too much weight had been given to unqualified critics. …
Read the rest of the story here
This is welcome news indeed! It is my hope that this will be the beginning of a trend by more media outlets to do away with the facade of false “balance” on scientific matters and more good science will be presented as a result. Stay tuned and we’ll see.
**Hat tip to Tim Farley at Whatstheharm.net for the heads up on this story! :)
Posted in media woo | Tagged: abuse, balance, BBC, British Broadcasting Corporation, cable, climate change, cranks, creationism, creationist, deniers, diverse, diversity, equal time, global warming, internet, media, news, print, pseudoscience, radio, science, television, TV | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 19, 2013
As I mentioned in my last post regarding this past Monday’s Boston Marathon bombing, there has been a huge amount of rumor, misinformation, and innuendo floating all over the place, and we should do what we can to combat it.
Of course, one would hope that our media outlets, such as “The Most Trusted Name in News” CNN, would take such a task to heart, making certain to get their facts straight before they report the news. But, sadly, in the era of the 24-hour “news” cycle, it appears that getting it right takes a back seat to getting it first.
I can think of no other way to illustrate this point more clearly than to reference The Daily Show’s incredible smackdown of just how badly CNN botched some major news regarding the bombing:
Yup, that’s CNN… the most busted name in news.
Posted in humor, media woo | Tagged: 4-15, 4/15, accuracy, April 15, bomb, bombing, Boston, Boston Marathon, CNN, conspiracy, conspiracy theories, conspiracy theory, death, debunk, fact checking, facts, fearmongering, humor, information, Jon Stewart, killing, marathon, massacre, media, misinformation, news, Patriots Day, rumors, Snopes, Tax Day, terror, terrorism, terrorist, The Daily Show, The Most Busted Name in News, The Most Trusted Name in News | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 20, 2012
As I recently blogged, there was the all-too-predictable nutty and inhuman reaction to the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School from the religious zealots in our nation in the past few days… it’s the fault of gays and atheists, don’t ya know! Thanks to all who have reblogged (thanks to Phil at Skeptic Money :) ), tweeted, commented, and emailed me with feedback about that blog post. I wanted to share with you all a really good bit of correspondence I got from my online friend “Other Jesus”, because it goes to the root of some deeper questions related to religion and how people do/don’t think about it. Read on…
I liked your article. I was actually waiting for these groups to emerge. Most of the responses on all sides of the background debate have responded in predictable manner. I know the main characters are the anti- and pro-gun groups, the “more mental health” people, and the “we need more God in school…” religious folks. But some of the most annoying folks are the “prayers and hugs” crew in the periphery. Every tragedy like this evokes a “hug your kids and pray for the family of the victims”. How’s that working? (Don’t quote me on the above!)
The Huckabee premise deserves a more blatant study and response. So Mike thinks we need more God in school for protection. Meanwhile, some folks are calling for full-time armed security in schools (Sean Hannity, eg.). So what if God applied for the security guard job at a school? Well the principal would need to review His resume and he/she might ask for more explanation about the following:
1) Where was God during the murder of Able? Was it preventable?
2) Where was God during the murder of the Egyptian first born in the 10th Plague? What about His alleged
ties to the Angel of Death?
3) Wasn’t God in the land of His “chosen people” during Herod’s “murder of the innocents”? Did He take any steps to prevent the slaughter?
4) During the Great Flood, what did God do to protect the babies and young innocent children? Did he have any role in the cause of the flood?
Now these are events from long ago, so the principal might accept God’s excuse that “that was then, this is now”. So how about a more modern example? A school like Huckabee wants: With God fully in-place. Maybe God’s checkered resume can be redeemed.
5) Where was God on December 1, 1958? Was he watching a student play with matches in the basement of Out Lady of Angel’s Catholic school in Chicago? What did he do when the young man ignitee a trash barrel? Did he take any action to stop the fire before it killed 92 kids and three nuns?
I don’t think that the principal conducting the interview would have a hard time deciding whether or not God was qualified, despite the endorsement from Mike Huckabee.
(NOTE TO SELF: Be very skeptical of anyone Mick Huckabee refers.)
And here are some other good points brought up by various people who read my article:
What really irritates me are those who claim that shootings happen at schools because God is not allowed in schools. However, that does not explain why students at a Jewish school in France (earlier this year) were killed by a gunman. Does God only dwell in Christian schools? The point is, belief in God has nothing to do with these tragic events. Horrible things happen because horrible people cause them to happen – it is not the result of divine punishment.
So how is it that shootings have occurred in churches, religious schools and if no sin is greater than another; why all the child molesting and rape in churches? Has God been removed from there as well.
Also, I’d like to know how Mike Huckabee explains the fact that slavery and segregation were legal while much of that praying was going on in schools.
Hmm, good questions. Food for thought, folks… food for thought.
Posted in religion | Tagged: Adam Lanza, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, children, Conn, Connecticut, conservative, crazy, CT, demographics, evangelical, fags, God, God hates fags, gun laws, gun violence, guns, homosexuals, mass hysteria, massacre, media, mental health, Mike Huckabee, Newtown, prayer, religion, religious, religious right, right wing, school, school violence, secular, secularism, separation of church and state, shooting spree, shootings, students, teachers, United States, victims, Westboro Baptist Church | Leave a Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on December 18, 2012
You’d pretty much have to be living underneath a rock to not have heard about last Friday’s tragic shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT. All told, 20 children and 6 adults were killed by the shooter, Adam Lanza, before he killed himself. Understandably, people all over the nation are numb and puzzled about how something like this could happen. I know that at the high school where I teach, it has certainly been a topic of much debate and conversation. One of the most asked questions is “Are our schools safe?” – in general, the answer is yes.
In addition, at a time like this people are looking for answers and asking “Why?” In answer, some are talking about the issue of gun control (the shooter had easy access to guns), while others are talking about mental health issues (society doesn’t pay enough attention to mental health); what seems to be common to these, and other, analyses is that they are based mostly upon media-fueled speculation at this stage. Speculation runs rampant, and facts are frustratingly few and far between…
… Enter the God Squad. These are the dim-witted troglodytes whom you could have easily predicted would crawl out of their caves spewing the usual disgusting, vile-filled claptrap about how this is all somehow “God’s punishment”, and how they know God’s feelings on the matter! Here’s just a sample of the putrid idiocy pouring forth from the fundamentalist faithful…
Former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee suggested Friday that the absence of God from the nation’s public schools may have contributed, in part, to the deadly school shooting in Newtown, Conn., that killed 26 people, including 20 children.
Appearing on Fox News, Huckabee, an ordained Southern Baptist minister, was asked by host Neil Cavuto how “God could let this happen.” Here’s his response:
It’s an interesting thing. We ask why there’s violence in our schools, but we have systematically removed God from our schools. Should we be so surprised that schools would become a place of carnage? Because we’ve made it a place where we don’t want to talk about eternity, life, what responsibility means, accountability — that we’re not just going to have be accountable to the police if they catch us, but one day we stand before a holy God in judgment. If we don’t believe that, then we don’t fear that. And so I sometimes, when people say, ‘Why did God let it happen?’ You know, God wasn’t armed. He didn’t go to the school. But God will be there in the form of a lot people with hugs and with therapy and a whole lot of ways in which he will be involved in the aftermath. Maybe we ought to let him in on the front end, and we wouldn’t have to call him to show up it’s all said and done at the back end.
… My mother, atheist Madalyn Murray O’Hair, fought to make the public schools the armed camps they are today by removing prayer, the recognition of the authority of God. In 1962 and 1963, I was attending an all-boys public high school in downtown Baltimore, Md. The school was a magnet school before the term even existed and was intended to prepare young men for college, majoring in science and engineering. There were 1,800 teenage boys in the school, and there was not a cop in the building – ever. The doors were unlocked and often the un-air-conditioned rooms had open windows. There were no metal detectors, no picture IDs, and students went in and out the doors on the honor system.
What happens when you’re raised by America’s most famous atheist? Read William Murray’s riveting and redemptive new book, “My Life Without God”
The authority of God was present, even though I am very sure many of those young men, including myself, had some pretty vile thoughts that were not in the least way moral. The presence of the authority of God, vested in the teachers by His recognition every morning, was reinforced by the churches and the families of the students.
That high school has since merged with a girl’s school in another location, for purposes of political correctness. The last time I checked, the old building itself was the headquarters of the Baltimore City Schools Police Force, something that did not exist when Baltimore’s population was nearly double what it is now. Every kid at every school now has a photo ID. All the doors of every school are locked. All doors have metal detectors and drug-sniffing dogs roaming the corridors. I am told that every school in Baltimore has at least one armed “safety officer.”
In the vast majority of America’s public schools, the authority of God has been replaced with the authority of the iron fist of government. Morals? Without the authority of God, there are no morals, and none are taught in the public schools today. The ethics that are taught are situational, perhaps the same situational ethics that led to the logic that caused the tragic shootings in Newtown. …
and (of course it wouldn’t be complete without these assholes)…
The Westboro Baptist Church, the controversial group known for protesting outside funerals of slain U.S. service members, announced that it will picket a vigil for the victims of Friday’s Sandy Hook Elementary School shooting, the second-deadliest school shooting in American history.
Shirley Phelps-Roper, a spokesperson for the group and, like most members of the organization, a relative of the group’s founder, Fred Phelps, announced on Twitter on Saturday the group’s plan “to sing praise to God for the glory of his work in executing his judgment.” …
So what are we to take away from this incredibly frakked up display of asshattery? Apparently, we are to all repent and come to the realization that God’s pissed off at us (“us” being the United States) for not forcing children to pray in public schools (and by “pray” I mean “pray to Jesus Christ”, because that’s what these morons really mean), or because our nation actually has the audacity to recognize and respect the rights of atheists and gays, not to mention in the United States we actually acknowledge the separation of church and state.
Yee-haw… Fun with Fundamentalism. Image Source
So what are we to make of this reaction on the part of the ultra-religious to the Sandy Hook massacre? As I’ve noted before, the fundamentalist right-wing segment of our nation is starting to slowly dwindle, and there is a more secular demographic rising in this country. I think part of what we may be seeing here is the gradual, but inevitable, unhinging of the religious right as they start to see their power over the rest of us who don’t share their twisted worldview slowly slipping away. They cannot handle the fact that their worldview isn’t THE worldview which is forced upon the rest of society through the power of the culture and the government, and that is making them nuts.
I predict more of the same in the future: every time there is a hurricane, earthquake, or other natural disaster; every time there is a man-made disaster (such as the Sandy Hook massacre); every time anything bad happens, these self-described servants of the Almighty (who, of course, have the message straight from God himself, you know) will scurry in front of the TV cameras to spread their message of doom and judgement in a vain attempt to appear relevant. And as time goes on, they will get ever more extreme with their message, as they marginalize themselves even more.
And that’s the key thing right there… what these preachers, prophets, and fundamentalist believers really fear is exactly what’s happening to them: they are slipping into irrelevance. Let them, I say, because civilized society has no need for their sociopathic mythologies.
Posted in religion | Tagged: Adam Lanza, agnostic, atheism, atheist, belief, children, Conn, Connecticut, conservative, crazy, CT, demographics, evangelical, fags, God, God hates fags, gun laws, gun violence, guns, homosexuals, mass hysteria, massacre, media, mental health, Mike Huckabee, Newtown, prayer, religion, religious, religious right, right wing, school, school violence, secular, secularism, separation of church and state, shooting spree, shootings, students, teachers, United States, victims, Westboro Baptist Church | 3 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on October 27, 2011
My favorite time of the year is almost upon us: Halloween! :D
I love Halloween not just because of the candy, the costumes, and the decorations (when else can you be a complete freak and it be socially acceptable?) but also because of the wonderful potential for promoting skepticism and critical thinking about various paranormal claims. Let’s face it: at this time of the year, ghosts, witchcraft, psychics, and various other kinds of woo are on everyone’s minds, so why not take advantage of that fact and use it to inject the skeptical viewpoint on things? I have found this to be a very effective teaching technique over the years, so that’s why I pass it along to you.
So in the spirit of the season (pardon the pun), allow me to share with you some links to various Halloween-ish skeptical resources that you can use, including a few of my earlier blog posts on the subject…
Posted in aliens & UFOs, education, ghosts & paranormal, humor, magic tricks, physics denial/woo, psychics, skeptical community | Tagged: 1938, AAPT, aliens, American Association of Physics Teachers, broadcast, cartoon, critical thinking, delusion, detectors, education, electromagnetic fields, EMF, equipment, esp, extrasensory perception, Flim Flam, ghost hunter, ghost hunters, ghost hunting, ghost meter, ghosts, Halloween, Haunted Physics Lab, high school, hoax, humor, hysteria, infrared, invaders, invasion, James Randi, Lake Forest, lesson, magic, mars, Martians, mass hysteria, media, Mercury Theater, meters, NOVA, orb, Orson Welles, Ouija, Ouija board, panic, paranoraml, paranormal, PBS, physics, pseudoscience, psychics, radio, Randi, science, Secrets of the Psychics, skeptic, Skeptic's Dictionary, skepticism, Snopes, South Park, spacecraft, spirit, spirits, TAPS, teacher, teaching, temperature, The Amazing One, The Amazing Randi, The Atlantic Paranormal Society, UFO, war, War of the Worlds, waves, woo | 4 Comments »
Posted by mattusmaximus on August 25, 2011
In a welcome break from some of the usual credulousness that seems to permeate the modern media landscape regarding all things paranormal, recently ABC News did an episode of “Beyond Belief” on the topic of psychics and mediums. Titled “Can Psychics Really Talk to the Dead?”, the episode focused upon famed dead-talker James Van Praagh. The interview of Van Praagh by Josh Elliot is excellent, as Elliot is respectful but appropriately skeptical of Van Praagh’s claims, especially when he conducts a bit of a deeper investigation beyond simply swallowing Van Praagh’s parlor act whole. In the interview, Elliot even nails Van Praagh for using time-tested tricks such as cold reading…
Another well-done segment in the show focused on the James Randi Educational Foundation’s Million Dollar Challenge to anyone who can display, under a properly controlled setting, evidence of supernatural or paranormal abilities. It is important to note that in the following video, all of the claimants agreed to the conditions of the tests they underwent before the tests took place. After agreeing to these conditions, it is telling that upon seeing their obvious failure, the psychics still insisted they had legitimate psychic powers and also complained about how the test “wasn’t fair” (even though they agreed it was fair before they failed). Take a look at this segment at this link (it’s the video at the bottom of the article).
So, even though they agreed to the test ahead of time, were fully informed of the conditions of the test and what was required to declare success and the million dollars, and the fact they were predicting (quite confidently in some cases) that they were “sure to win the money”, they all failed – and failed spectacularly. But then they turn around and blame the skeptics for not making the test fair; I’m sure that if they had won the million dollars they’d be saying the test was fair!
To read more about the entire show and get a skeptical perspective on how it went, check out the JREF’s blog post on the matter.
Posted in psychics, skeptical community | Tagged: ABC, ABC News, Banacheck, belief, Beyond Belief, cable, Can Psychics Really Talk to the Dead, cards, cold reading, dead, James Randi, James Randi Educational Foundation, James Van Praagh, Josh Elliot, JREF, media, mediums, Million Dollar Challenge, million dollars, news, Nightline, palm, palmistry, Prime Time, prize, psychics, reader, reading, show, talking to the dead, tarot, television, trick, TV, Van Praagh | 1 Comment »
Posted by mattusmaximus on April 15, 2011
I just wanted to post a follow-up to my earlier posts on the Fukushima nuclear power plant crisis (for reference, those earlier posts are here and here) and the related ideologically driven, anti-nuclear hysteria that is being pushed by far too many people. An excellent example of this kind of zealotry is on display on the comment sections of my two previous posts, and I just want to focus on a few particular comments made here by people who are misrepresenting facts at best and engaging in some pretty despicable fear-mongering at worst. I think it serves as a pretty useful exercise in critical thinking to examine such claims…
Comment #1: Here is the first comment I want to examine, regarding my blog post titled Japanese “Nuclear Fallout Map” is a FAKE!!!…
Well, I’ve been keeping track of all this fallout business from the beginning and I have to say, it’s not looking good. There are reports from Arkansas and several other states concerning elevated radiation levels in milk and municipal water supplies, as anyone who’s been keeping track of this has probably heard by now.
So if this is all B.S. then why is radiation showing up all over the U.S.? And most importantly, why isn’t the media talking about it?
First of all, this commenter is equating the detection of “elevated” radiation levels with “dangerous” radiation levels, and they are not the same thing. As has been pretty thoroughly reported, radiation from Fukushima has in fact reached various parts of the United States (as well as other nations); however, what this commenter is not saying is that such levels of radiation have been detected in trace amounts. In the context of radiation, “trace” essentially means “so small that you don’t have to worry about it.” And whether or not the amount of radiation detected is higher than the normal background isn’t as relevant as whether or not the amount is near the danger level – and, in all the cases of such radiation detected in the U.S. the danger level is no where close to being reached.
What this commenter also neglects to mention is the fact that, as I’ve stated before, there are other (natural & artificial) sources of radiation around us all the time! As this link to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency shows, there are sources of radiation everywhere – from the sky, the ground, your house, your food, etc. Hell, chances are that you have received a higher dose of radiation from reading these words on your computer screen than you’ve gotten from the Fukushima power plant.
As for the last comment: “why isn’t the media talking about it?” – I have no idea where this innuendo of conspiracy comes from, seeing as how the media has been going on and on about this story for well over a month now, and all along most media outlets are screwing up the science just as is this commenter.
The comment continues:
Telling the public that radiation levels are only “slightly elevated” and causes no health hazards. Just like our Government “experts” told the natives living around the Atoll islands out in the Pacific the same line of nonsense after they tested twenty-three nuclear devices including the first hydrogen bomb between 1946 and 1958. 10 years later 90% of them had died from cancer.
Again, this smacks of blatant conspiracy mongering. Also note the outlandish claim that 90% of the inhabitants of the islands within the Pacific Proving Ground had died of cancer within ten years – there is evidence that those people were negatively affected (through higher rates of cancer & birth defects) by the related fallout, but nothing to support the claim of a 90% death rate within 10 years time. This is precisely the kind of hyperbole which displays zealotry trumping facts & reason.
Also it has been announced that Fukushima will most likely surpass Chernobyl as far as radiation emission levels are concerned.
Now, if radiation from Chernobyl was detected all over the northern hemisphere (and that is a fact)and the Fukushima event is supposedly far worse, what fool in their right mind would question whether or not radiation from the Fukushima event would make it to the U.S.?
It has and it will continue to do so.
While Fukushima has been upgraded to a level-7 event on the International Nuclear Event Scale (INES), the same INES rating as Chernobyl, to claim that it is just as bad – or even worse! – than Chernobyl is simply laughable. First of all, it has been clearly documented that the total amount of radiation released from Fukushima is only about one-tenth that of Chernobyl, and that radiation release is much more localized & less lethal than Chernobyl ever was. In fact, the Chernobyl accident resulted in a direct death toll of 56 (due to immediate radiation sickness) as well as estimated 4,000 additional cancer fatalities among people exposed to elevated doses of radiation. As a result, the city of Chernobyl (pop. 14,000) was largely abandoned, the larger city of Pripyat (pop. 49,400) was completely abandoned. It should be noted that, so far, there has yet to be a single death confirmed to be related to radiation released at Fukushima.
So, despite the similar INES rating of 7, comparing the two events – in terms of severity of radiation release & dispersal as well as human fatalities – is like comparing apples and hammers.
As for the rambling about radiation reaching the United States, see my previous notes on that. Once again, “detectable” does not equal “dangerous”.
Last, but not least:
Now to say this is “fear mongering” is ridiculous, I have checked my facts and I suggest everyone else does the same. Because it doesn’t seem like the people we pay to keep us informed concerning such things, are doing their jobs very well. As far as hair and teeth falling out, I don’t think it will get anywhere near that bad but, the long term health effects of low level exposure should be considered at least.
More conspiracy mongering. I think this section of this person’s comment can be best summed up as follows:
Read the rest of this entry »
Posted in conspiracy theories, environmental hysteria, physics denial/woo | Tagged: anti-nuclear, Chernobyl, core, damage, danger, disaster, earthquake, energy, engineering, environment, explosion, exposure, Fukushima, half life, health, hype, hysteria, INES, International Nuclear Event Scale, Japan, Japanese, know nukes, media, meltdown, misinformation, news, no nukes, nuclear, nuke, nukes, physics, plant, power, quake, radiation, radioactivity, reactor, science, sensationalism, tidal wave, tsunami | 3 Comments »