Category Archives: Logical Fallacy

False assertion and False choice: Tesla versus Edison poster

The following poster has appeared many times in my social media feed. The conclusion you are intended to draw is also false.

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Another variation:

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TL; DR Summary

  • These posters imply that Tesla cared about people more than making money versus Thomas Edison, who he once worked for as an employee (or another version of the poster, the evil person is George Westinghhouse) who only cared about making money.
  • In reality, Tesla’s nearly 300 patents made him a very rich man. However, he invested in many bad projects and died a pauper. George Westinghouse, who adopted Tesla’s AC electrical system design, personally made sure that Tesla was cared for in old age.
  • While Tesla may have cared about people, he was also a fan of eugenics or the selective breeding of people to eliminate “undesirables” from the population. Other fans of eugenics included the founder of Planned Parenthood and Hitler. Many people were caught up in that movement.
  • My own textbooks all mentioned Tesla; it is unclear why the posters imply we never heard of Tesla.
  • Bottom line: These posters make false assertions and reach false conclusions. The posters are false.

Read on for the details …

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Did attack dogs bite a little girl in the face at pipeline protest in North Dakota?

girl-attackedTL;DR Summary

  • Graphic photo of a little girl with bite wounds to her face was presented online as proof that attack dogs were unleashed on Native American and other protesters at an oil pipeline construction site in North Dakota.
  • This photo was then passed on social media, including online comments at “news” sites, as proof of the vicious attacks by dogs.
  • The photo, however, first appeared in a June 26, 2012 NY Daily News report about a dog attack that occurred in Texas. This photo has nothing to do with the events in North Dakota.
  • This is a classic example of social media propaganda used to incite riots based on false information. Social media almost instantly descends into mob mentality, lynching everyone in their path, including the innocent.

Read on to discover the fascinating history behind this false social media meme and how this became an established “fact”, in spite of it being an outright lie.

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Did a Court ban Native Americans from protesting on their own land?

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TL;DR Summary

  • Native Americans and others are protesting oil pipeline construction in North Dakota.
  • This “news” item says the “U.S. government bans Native American Tribe from Protesting on their own land – send in police to remove protesters”.
  • The graphic image looks scary. Except that is not a Native American and this photo is from 2012, in Rio de Janiero, Brazil and has nothing to do with the events occurring in North Dakota. That is a first clue that this may be a very poorly produced news report or possibly straight up propaganda.

Source: http://countercurrentnews.com/2016/08/u-s-government-bans-native-american-tribe-protesting-land-send-police-remove-protesters/ (Update: Countercurrentnews has been identified as a for profit fake news web site).

For background on the story, please read ABC News, the Bismarck Tribune and the East Iowa Gazette.

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Social Media is a stupidity amplifier

The news that big insurance companies are dropping out of the exchanges doesn’t mean Obamacare is broken, writes Tim Mullaney. The problem is easily fixable once we realize it’s really about a few specialty drugs.

Source: How Gilead ‘broke’ Obamacare

This article, from a Marketwatch.com reporter says insurance companies are dropping out of ObamaCare due to expensive “specialty drugs”. This assertion does not pass the giggle test.

This article, and its sharing on social media, demonstrates how social media amplifies stupidity. Marketwatch publishes a lame column – and people share it with their friends on social media. Most people are unlikely to be familiar with the subject matter. Those that might understand are unlikely to post corrections – remember, friends don’t correct friends on social media.

Sharing of logical fallacies, factually incorrect articles, and outright propaganda go on every day on social media.

The result is social  media is an amplifier of stupidity.

There is little to stop this onslaught except to stop reading items shared by others on social media. For the past few months, I’ve largely ignored my social media news stream but made the mistake of reading it again last night and ran across this item. All of us are being tricked into sharing nonsense (yes, I’ve done it too).

How can we stop it? If we do not find a solution, our society becomes dumber and dumber and incapable of rational discourse because much of what we know is not true. Social media propaganda trains us to view “the other side” as a low form of life, scum to which we should not interact. Just look at the implicit name calling lurking in social media posts.

Sadly, most people are not learning to think for themselves but are instead regurgitating the opinions (not even facts) of others. Few look at original sources. Few understand core issues at the basis of the beliefs and opinions spouted online. Literally, people are giving up on thinking. If you don’t go along with the popular meme du jour, you are an outcast, probably a member of “the other side” (whichever side that may be), and worse. Facts and logic no longer matter in the new world order of social media.

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