(CNN) — In the aftermath of dramatic events like Monday’s bombing attack at the Boston Marathon, it’s a truth of our times that millions of people will get early bits of news via social media.
To be sure, sites like Twitter and Facebook were used extensively by police, relief groups and governments to share important information about the bombings. But there’s also a more unfortunate side to how the Web responds to sudden bad news.
Sometimes accidentally and sometimes maliciously, false information gets loose. And in the rapid-fire digital echo chamber, it doesn’t take long to spread.
“On days like this, Twitter shows its best & worst: loads of info at huge speed, but often false & sometimes deliberately so,” said Mark Blank-Settle, of the BBC College of Journalism, in a post on the site.
As always, news discovered online (or anywhere else, really) should be double-checked before it’s passed along — especially in times of tragedy.
Here are some of the most widely shared untrue news items we’ve found on social media in the past 24 hours.
Man planned to propose, girlfriend killedReal photo, fake story
Among the many gripping images to emerge from the bombing’s aftermath was one of a man in a red shirt, kneeling on the ground cradling a woman in his arms. It went viral — with a heartbreaking, but fake, story attached.
“The man in the red shirt planned to propose to his girlfriend as he crossed the finish line of the Boston Marathon, but she passed away” it reads. “Most of us will never experience this amount of emotional pain.”
The image is, in fact, real. It comes from the Boston Globe and was shared through Getty Images. But the agency’s caption merely describes the scene as a man comforting an injured woman at the finish line.
That didn’t stop it from making the rounds in a big way. A somewhat misleading Facebook account pretending to represent actor Will Ferrell (it calls itself a “parody” but has 385,000 likes) shared the post. By Tuesday morning, the picture had more than 448,000 “likes” and had been shared over 92,000 times.
Various quotations, attributed to famous people, are frequently cited on The Internet in support of this or that popular cause. This in itself is a logical fallacy, the “Appeal to Authority.” The argument is, “This famous person supports our cause! So how can you not support our cause? Do you know more than this famous person?” The argument fails if the famous person being quoted is not an acknowledged authority on the subject, or if there is disagreement among authorities, or if the famous person’s quotation is taken out of context. The argument certainly fails is the famous person never even said what is attributed to him.
Here is a sample of some of the bogus quotations that are being circulated, mostly on Twitter and Facebook, attributed to various of the United States “founding fathers” on the subject of gun control.
1. “Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.” Attributed to Thomas Jefferson (spoofed above in LOLCat.)
Monticello.org has this to say:
Earliest known appearance in print: No appearances in print found.
Earliest known appearance in print, attributed to Thomas Jefferson: See above.
Other attributions: None known.
Status: We have not found any evidence that Thomas Jefferson said or wrote, “Those who hammer their guns into plows will plow for those who do not.”
The pro-gun website SAF.org sourly has this to say about the fake Jefferson quotes:
“Thomas Jefferson has many confirmed quotes on our website. Why anyone felt it necessary to make up a quote is ludicrous. Maybe an anti-gunner did it to discredit all the real quotes.”
2. “A free people ought not only be armed and disciplined, but they should have sufficient arms and ammunition to maintain a status of independence from any who might attempt to abuse them, which would include their own government.”—George Washington.
This is the Zombie Fake Quote that can’t be killed! What makes it so pernicious is that Washington did say something very similar, but the Fake Quote has been manipulated in order to give it a meaning that is quite different from the original context. Here is the authentic Washington quote:
“A free people ought not only to be armed, but disciplined; to which end a uniform and well-digested plan is requisite; and their safety and interest require that they should promote such manufactories as tend to render them independent of others for essential, particularly military, supplies.”
The original quotation shows that Washington clearly intended a country to have industrial independence. The bogus, manipulated quotation attempts to insinuate that people need to have weapons in order to resist their own government, a sentiment that Washington clearly did not share when he forcibly put down the Whisky Rebellion and Shay’s Rebellion.
3. “Firearms stand next in importance to the Constitution itself. They are the American people’s liberty teeth and keystone under independence. The church, the plow, the prairie wagon, and citizen’s firearms are indelibly related. From the hour the Pilgrims landed, to the present day, events, occurrences, and tendencies prove that to insure peace, security and happiness, the rifle and the pistol are equally indispensable.”
—another bogus George Washington quote.
Guncite.com, a pro-2nd Amendment website, warned its supporters to avoid using this fake quote. Of course nobody listens to them, this bogus quotation is all over the Internet.
This quotation, sometimes called the “liberty teeth” quote, appears nowhere in Washington’s papers or speeches, and contains several historical anachronisms: the reference to “prairie wagon” in an America which had yet to even begin settling the Great Plains (which were owned by France at the time), the reference to “the Pilgrims” which implies a modern historical perspective, and particularly the attempt by “Washington” to defend the utility of firearms (by use of statistics!) to an audience which would have used firearms in their daily lives to obtain food, defend against hostile Indians, and which had only recently won a war for independence.
The “99 99/100 percent” is also an odd phrase for 18th century America, which tended not to use fractional percentages. It’s clear that “Washington” is addressing “gun control” arguments which wouldn’t exist for another couple of centuries, not to mention doing so in a style that is uncharacteristic of the period, and uncharacteristic of Washington’s addresses to Congress, both of which exhibited a high degree of formality.
4. “1935 will go down in History! For the first time, a civilized nation has full gun registration! Our streets will be safer, our police more efficient and the world will follow our lead to the future!”—Attributed to Adolf Hitler IM”S.
From our friends at SAF.org:
This passage sometimes features different punctuation and slight wording changes including a beginning of, ‘For the first time in history, a….’ Various citations include: Adolf Hitler, April 15, 1935, in address to the Reichstag; Adolf Hitler 1935 ‘Berlin Daily’ (Loose English Translation) April 15th, 1935 Page 3 Article 2 by Einleitung Von Eberhard Beckmann -“Abschied vom Hessenland!”. “Adolf” is sometimes misspelled as ‘Adolph’ on the Internet.
While the above ‘quote’ makes a nice T-shirt, there are numerous problems with this alleged statement. (1) It violates the rule of not beginning a sentence with a number. (2) It isn’t phrased in Hitler’s style. (3) Major changes to the German gun laws occurred in 1928 and 1931 (under the Weimar Republic) and in 1938 (under the Nazi’s). No significant changes happened in the gun registration laws in 1935. Furthermore, the changes in 1928 and 1931 were designed to disarm the Nazis and Communists and therefore it is doubtful that Hitler would trumpet the success of any law aimed at his goon squads.
Until then, please click here for some proven Nazi Quotes. (Coming soon)
[Link never provided!—VB]
5. “It’s not the people who vote that count, it’s the people who count the vote!”—attributed to Josef Stalin.
This one is obviously bogus for a number of reasons. First, Stalin did not speak English, and would not have made a pun in English, but which makes no sense in Russian. Second, votes were not counted in Stalin’s Soviet Union. All votes were for the Party, Stalin always received 100% of the vote.
A similar quote was actually said by William M. “Boss” Tweed, a corrupt 19th-century New York political lord. “As long as I count the vote, what are you going to do about it?” Why don’t right-wingers quote “Boss” Tweed? Maybe they don’t even know who he was.
6. “You cannot bring about prosperity by discouraging thrift.
You cannot strengthen the weak by weakening the strong.
You cannot help small men by tearing down big men.
You cannot help the poor by destroying the rich.
You cannot lift the wage-earner by pulling down the wage-payer.
You cannot keep out of trouble by spending more than your income.
You cannot further the brotherhood of man by inciting class hatred.
You cannot establish sound security on borrowed money.
You cannot build character and courage by taking away a man’s initiative and independence.
You cannot help men permanently by doing for them what they could and should do for themselves.”—attributed to Abraham Lincoln. Frequently quoted by those who would deny government benefits such as food stamps to poor people.
These silly little aphorisms were actually composed by William John Henry Boetcker, some dude that nobody ever heard of. He seems to have been a 19th-Century Bryan J. Fischer. One of those to mistakenly attribute this collection to Lincoln was none other than everybody’s affable granddaddy Ronald Reagan. Snopes has the whole story. Other conservative politicians and pundits (Rush Limbaugh, Walter Williams, Thomas Sowell, Sean Hannity) have also done so.
The Master Forger of Fake Quotes is revisionist fantasist David Barton, who has created many bogus quotations which he pulled right out of his lower orifice and attributed to the “Founding Fathers” in order to create the myth that they were evangelical Christians instead of rationalists. The David Barton Fake Quotes that Refuse to Die!
How can you tell if a quote attributed to a famous person is fake?
Generally speaking the rule to identifying Fake Quotes is:
1. If it’s on The Internet it is probably fake. (however real quotes have occasionally, although rarely, been found on The Internet)
2. Fake Quotes show up frequently on Quote Aggregate sites which do nothing but collect “Quotes from famous people” but never check them for accuracy or authenticity. Sites to stay away from: BrainyQuote, ThinkExist, Wikiquote, TheQuoteFactory.
3. If it’s in a book, it is probably authentic. However fake quotes have also appeared in print before there was The Internet.
Here is a page complaining about Fake Quotes attributed to Mark Twain.
If you come across any quotes that you think might be bogus, please share them!
Feel free to Tweet this page to anyone on Twitter you think is spreading Fake Quotes.
*facepalm* Added emphasis mine:
People watching KRTV in Montana heard a man’s voice claiming that the “bodies of the dead are rising from their graves.”
The alert also claimed the bodies were “attacking the living”. […]
There are reports the hoax generated at least four calls to police to see if it was true. […]
Not to worry though! If there is ever an actual zombie apocalypse, the CDC’s Office of Public Health Preparedness and Response has it covered:
Wonder why Zombies, Zombie Apocalypse, and Zombie Preparedness continue to live or walk dead on a CDC web site? As it turns out what first began as a tongue in cheek campaign to engage new audiences with preparedness messages has proven to be a very effective platform. We continue to reach and engage a wide variety of audiences on all hazards preparedness via Zombie Preparedness; and as our own director, Dr. Ali Khan, notes, “If you are generally well equipped to deal with a zombie apocalypse you will be prepared for a hurricane, pandemic, earthquake, or terrorist attack.” So please log on, get a kit, make a plan, and be prepared!
Oh crap, did you notice that?? Look again—the guy in charge is a Muslim!!!
Someone get WND, Frank Gaffney, and Michele Bachmann on the phone, stat!!11!
More: Martin Luther King, Jr.
Martin Luther King would be spinning in his grave if he knew how he was being exploited by the bigots, Jew-haters, racists, demagogues he fought so hard against. If only those who so egregiously use him would heed his words and wisdom.
Martin Luther King, Jr., was an opponent of the jihad against Israel. While there are some disputed quotations circulating in this connection, here are some key and authenticated MLK quotes. Take them to heart today:
(a bunch of fake quotes)
Well, as it so happens, I own the website where Pamela (& her sidekick Poison Shorty) claims these quotes are “authenticated.” In 1999, back in the dawn of Teh Interwebz, “Letter to an Anti Zionist Friend” was circulating on Usenet and in SPAM emails. One of the very first debunkings done by CAMERA (before they turned into a propaganda spam machine) was proving that this “Letter” was never published in the Saturday Review, and never written by MLK.
Anyone clicking from Pam’s site, or Jihadwatch, or anywhere, will find this message:
It has been brought to our attention that this page is being linked by some questionable sites. Therefore we have removed all quotes and reminiscences that we have not been able to personally verify.
Jewish-History.com has attempted to track down the source of this Internet hoax and find out who could have composed this bogus letter, without success. There is no evidence that Dr. King uttered these words at a speech given at Harvard, and whether or not he may have said something like this to someone in a private conversation is impossible to verify.
The hoax appears to have originated with either Marc Schneier or Michael Salberg in spite of vehement denials from CAMERA and the ADL. Somebody obviously thought it would be cool to make up a bogus MLK quote in support of a cause that he may or may not have endorsed.
We warn everyone to be wary of “quotes” from famous people that they may encounter on the Internet.
Unfortunately, the communication from CAMERA, which we received in 1999, also contained a number of unverified, bogus quotes attempting desperately to link MLK to the cause of Israel. Look, we know that he had a bunch of Jewish friends, but he had his own battles. He did not have the time or the energy to embrace someone else’s agenda. We have removed those quotes from our website and apologize to anyone who may have been misled by them.
I am deeply sorry that I did not check my referer logs earlier, or correct the letter that I received 14 years ago from CAMERA which debunked the “Letter” but then included a bunch of other fake quotes.
UPDATE: Pamela is no longer linking to Jewish-history.com, but has replaced Authenticated MLK Quotes with three links to three different sites (all of which rely on the same sources which I removed from Jewish-history.com as unreliable). Musta done a bunch of frantic drunk Googling.
One-hundred years ago, on December 18, 1912, British paleontologist Arthur Smith Woodward introduced the world to a tantalizing fossil: England’s most ancient human ancestor, perhaps one of the world’s oldest hominids. Best known as Piltdown Man, the “discovery” turned out to be the biggest hoax in the history of paleoanthropology. It’s a scientific crime that researchers are still trying to solve.
Piltdown Man consists of five skull fragments, a lower jaw with two teeth and an isolated canine. The first fossil fragment was allegedly unearthed by a man digging in gravel beds in Piltdown in East Sussex, England. The man gave the skull fragment to Charles Dawson, an amateur archaeologist and fossil collector. In 1911, Dawson did his own digging in the gravel and found additional skull fragments, as well as stone tools and the bones of extinct animals such as hippos and mastodons, which suggested the human-like skull bones were of a great antiquity. In 1912, Dawson wrote to Smith Woodward about his finds. The two of them—along with Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, a Jesuit priest and paleontologist—returned to the Piltdown gravels to continue excavating. They found additional skull fragments and the lower jaw. The following year Teilhard de Chardin discovered the lone canine tooth.
Smith Woodward reconstructed the Piltdown man skull based on the available fossil evidence. His work indicated the hominid had a human-like skull with a big brain but a very primitive ape-like jaw. Smith Woodward named the species Eoanthropus dawsoni (Dawson’s Dawn Man). It was the first hominid found in England, and other anatomists took Piltdown as evidence that the evolution of a big brain was probably one of the first traits that distinguished hominids from other apes.
A hoax telling voters what to do while in the voting booth is spreading on Facebook; the best thing you can do is ignore it and whatever you do, don’t pass it on.
The post that’s being shared says for those voters who are Democrats to “not select the button ‘all Democrats’ first, because Barack Obama will be excluded from the vote. However, if we choose ‘Barack Obama’ first, and then ‘all Democrats’ he will earn our votes!!!”
The trouble is, this is the opposite of what voters should be doing, at least in certain very specific cases.
In some states, “choosing the party first on a voting machine can lead to all of the candidates of your preferred political party being chosen — including the presidential candiate,” wrote Graham Cluley, senior technology consultant for Sophos Security, on the company’s Naked Security blog.
“That could mean if you get confused and subsequently make a presidential selection for a second time, you could uncheck your vote for the president.”
A “typical” message Facebook users might see is this one, said Cluley:Facebook voting hoax targeting Obama voters
Despite the stress-inducing all-caps warning — “PLEASE PAY CAREFUL ATTENTION TO THIS!” — voters should in fact pay no attention at all.
Facebook, contacted by NBC News, declined to comment on the ruse.
It’s likely to be only one of many digital attempts to confuse voters on Tuesday, so keep an extra wary eye on any emails or text messages you receive, as well as on the social media sites, like Facebook, that you visit. And when you’re in the voting booth itself, take your time, follow the instructions, and double-check your choices as you go.
Sharmeka Moffitt, Louisiana Woman, Set [herself] on Fire and Confronted With ‘KKK’ Slur in Race-Related Attack (HOAX)
A Louisiana woman was the victim of a horrific attack during which she was reportedly set on fire and had her car defiled with the letters “KKK,” police reported Monday.
Sharmeka Moffitt, a 20-year-old African-American woman, made an emergency call to police on Sunday night claiming three men wearing white hoods or hats attacked her, doused her with flammable liquid and set her on fire at a park in Winnsboro, La., CBS News reports. Moffitt, who said she was unable to identify the race of her attackers, was able to extinguish the fire with a water spigot before police arrived.
Update: Police now believe Moffitt’s story was fabricated, The News Star reports. Scroll for additional information.
Officers found the letters “KKK,” an apparent reference to the Ku Klux Klan, written on the hood of her car, according to CBS News. “KKK” was smeared on her hood in a paste-like substance.
Franklin Parish Sheriff Kevin Cobb confirmed that “KKK” was written on the hood of Moffitt’s car with a racial slur underneath, WMBF News reports.
Moffitt is currently in critical condition at LSU Medical Center in Shreveport, according to the station. “Both of her arms, and they are third degree burns, down her chest and legs - one. Basically her arms are real bad,” her mother, Edna, told the media. Edna also denied initial reports that claimed her daughter was wearing an Obama T-shirt at the time of the attack.
Police currently have no suspects or motives in the attack, which occurred while Moffitt was walking on a paved trail in Civitan Park on Sunday at about 8 p.m., according to The News Star. Authorities do not know if the attack was planned or random but called the racial connotations “unsettling.”
‘My hope is we’ll all stand together while we determine the facts,’ Cobb told The News Star. ‘I’m asking the community to trust us to do the right thing.”
It seems that “racial/ethnic/homophobic slurs scratched on the victim’s body and/or belongings” is a particular characteristic of a hoax that is not usually found in real hate crimes, which also do not get the same media attention. It’s horrific that this woman injured herself so severely, what was going on in her life that she felt compelled to do this to herself?
Whenever I hear about “slurs scratched/scrawled on the victim” it just screams HOAX.
The Marine Corps is debunking an offer to provide bomb-sniffing dogs for adoption that has been published by numerous websites, blogs and e-mail lists.
There are currently no bomb detection dogs available for adoption, the Marine Corps Systems Command said in a statement.
An e-mail whose origin is not clear and that appeared to circulate widely said the Corps was looking for good homes for “incredibly well-trained” Labradors, Belgian Malinois, border collies, German shepherds and Rottweilers that served in war zones.
The e-mail went on to say that the approximately 400 dogs were “war heroes,” having saved countless American lives by sniffing out improvised explosive devices before they could blow up. Adoptive families were told they must go to Washington to pick up the dogs or arrange transport at their own expense.