A beautifully told story with colorful characters out of epic tradition, a tight and complex plot, and solid pacing. -- Booklist, starred review of On the Razor's Edge

Great writing, vivid scenarios, and thoughtful commentary ... the stories will linger after the last page is turned. -- Publisher's Weekly, on Captive Dreams

Monday, April 3, 2017

Fake News Redux

The recent revelation that bomb threats directed to Jewish Community Centers in the United States and two Canadian provinces originated in Ashkelon, Israel, by an Israeli hacker "with a medical condition" raises once again the theme by Gilbert and Sullivan:
"Things are seldom what they seem
Skim milk masquerades as cream"
Scientists know -- or used to know -- that a fact is not self-demonstrating. What the fact means depends on other things and what seems to support one theory may in fact support another. So that bomb threats called into JCC centers seemed to mean a rise in antisemitism in Canada and the USA, but might mean instead a mentally disturbed hacker acting out. 

In the ever popular category of Fake News there was an item that popped up four months ago (2 December 2016) in the New York media. It was first reported in DNAinfo, a neighborhood newspaper.
MANHATTAN — A Muslim woman wearing a hijab was harassed by three drunk men on a Manhattan 6 train who called her a “f---ing terrorist” before trying to pull off her head scarf Thursday night, DNAinfo New York has learned.
The 18-year-old boarded a northbound 6 train at Park Avenue and 23rd Street after attending an event at Baruch College when three young white men approached her yelling "Donald Trump," sources said.
One of them screamed, "Look, there is a f----g terrorist! Get out of this country, you don’t belong here!”
The story naturally went viral, with other news outlets reporting her allegations and Yasmin Seweid [the young woman in question] giving interviews to local news stations.

Unlike other shocking stories, this article is not attended by the usual flotilla of "alleged" or "unsubstantiated" or "offered no evidence."  This is because any story that tends to reinforce a dominant paradigm is accepted with little question, as Thucydides noted a long time ago:
For the usual thing among men is that when they want something they will, without any reflection, leave that to hope, while they will employ the full force of reason in rejecting what they find unpalatable.
-- Thucydides IV, 108
We can see this in the media reactions to various stories regarding this vs that public figure.

The media did carry the follow-up story: viz., that the young woman, Yasmin Seweid, had made the whole thing up "because of problems she was having with her family," namely that she had missed a curfew.

A spokesman for the Council on American-Islamic Relations said that incidents like this were indicative of the "tremendous psychological stress and pressure" that Muslims are under. IOW, even if it was a false report, it darned well should have been true because Trump. Or something.

Her sister blamed the media for covering the story and blamed the NYPD for investigating the hate crime claim, apparently not aware that in the USA this is what these two institutions do. She wrote on Facebook:
“The NYPD should have never been involved in the first place
even if the incident did happen.”
But of course that is just what NYPD should have done if a crime has been reported. The police grew suspicious when no witnesses or surveillance footage could be found. The sister complained that:
"Things snowballed out of our control." 
which indicated a peculiar attitude toward the purpose of crime reporting. She wrote further:
"I’m deeply concerned about the mental state of young Muslim women who feel that they have to lie so intensely to survive."
To survive? Survive what? What was going to happen to her for staying out past her curfew? Why are we reminded so strongly of Tawana Brawley, who also lied about staying out from fear of consequences at home?

And why is one of the tags on the story "Donald Trump"? 


  1. Speaking of fake news, and Muslims, when do we get the next installment in the thrilling saga of the Christian West fights back?

    1. I sure hope the lesson of history isn't: Christians spend 300 years fighting each other while Islam takes over 60% of their territory before finally getting it together enough to fight back. And then does a half-*ssed job of it.

      Paging Charles the Hammer!

  2. I'm a sucker for a good Thucydides quotation.


Whoa, What's This?

adam amateur theology anthropology aphorisms Aquinas argument from motion Aristotelianism art atheism autumn of the modern ages books brains breaking news captive dreams cartoon charts chieftain clannafhloinn comix commentary counterattack crusades culcha dogheads easton stuff economics eifelheim evolution factoids on parade fake news fallen angels Feeders fir trees in lungs firestar flicks floods flynncestry flynnstuff forecasts forest of time fun facts gandersauce gimlet eye global warming glvwg headlines henchmen high frontier history home front how to lie with statistics humor Hunters Moon hush-hush hypatia in the house of submission irish Iron Shirts irrationalism january dancer jihad journeyman kabuki kool letter lion's mouth lunacon maps mayerling medieval metrology miscellany modern mythology moose zombies music new years nexus odds odds and ends paleofuture passing of the modern age philosophy philosophy math poetry politics potpourri psyched out! public service quality quiet sun quote of the day razor's edge redefinition of marriage religio reviews river of stars scandal science science marches on scientism scrivening shipwrecks of time shroud skiffy skiffy in the news skools slipping masks some people will believe anything stats stories stranger things the auld curmudgeon the madness continues the new fascism the russians are coming the spiral arm the writing life thomism thought for the day thread o' years tofspot topology untergang des abendlandes untergang des morgenlandes up jim river video clips vignettes war on science we get letters we're all gonna die whimsy words at play wuv xmas you can't make this stuff up