Category Archives: Facts

Bitter almonds were banned by the US government because they can treat cancer?

TL; DR Summary

  • This appeared in my Facebook news feed yesterday.
  • Many of the commenters to it, believed this to be true.
  • A few noted that perhaps this ban was because bitter almonds contain hydrogen cyanide (this is true) but pointed to other “nuts” like Apricot pits, that also contain similar levels of cyanide – and those are not banned. Therefore, say the conspiracy theorists, this poster must be true!

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APA sees sharp rise in anxiety among Americans-why? Social media?

“The results of the January 2017 poll show a statistically significant increase in stress for the first time since the survey was first conducted in 2007,” the APA said on Wednesday in a report on the survey of 1,019 adults living in the U.S., conducted from Jan. 5 to Jan. 19 by Harris Poll.

….

“I don’t think it can be just be boiled down to the side that won vs. the side that didn’t,” Wright said. “There is something going on across the aisle.”

Source: Americans Just Broke the Psychologists’ Stress Record – Bloomberg

Yes, there is something – it is everyone’s attachment to social media and its culture of perpetual outrage, anger and hate. I continue to hear from more and more people who have chosen to leave the outrage behind, by reducing or eliminating social media from their lives, or “unfriending” and “unfollowing” those who are a daily source of outrage.

Unusual use of data in a propaganda poster

TL;DR Summary

  • Propaganda poster distributed on social media notes that the number of Americans killed annually by “Islamic jihadist immigrants” is very small.
  • The numbers in the chart appear to be approximately correct (depends on year and who is counting).
  • The poster uses data, which may invoke System 2 rational thinking, yet the numbers and layout are simple enough that many people may process this with their quick, intuitive and emotional-based System 1 thinking style. In that regard, this is an effective propaganda poster.

I checked some of the numbers in the table and they were approximately correct. This does not mean the data is accurate as I did not check all of the items, nor did I look in detail at how the tally was made in each category. The point of this post is to illustrate the use of data in a propaganda poster. Most propaganda is designed to appeal to emotions and is typically devoid of data. However, the data here is simple enough that it may be engaging a System 1 emotional response rather than rational, analysis response.

Accurate quote, but the quote itself is false

CaptureTL;DR Summary

  • Good, simple design, good eye contact, simple message, easily processed.
  • Former President Bill Clinton really did say this in a speech in 2013.
  • The Washington Post, however, says the claim is not true: Three Pinocchios.
  • As a propaganda poster, this uses  the “Appeal to Authority” method.
  • The poster was shared on Facebook.
  • I like the poster design – clean with a simple message.

Bertrand Russell noted that facts are either true or false, and their truthfulness is independent of who is making the claim. Bill Clinton’s saying this does not make it true. However,the “appeal to authority” format is common in social media propaganda as we tend to trust “experts”, “authorities” and “officials”.