Monday, August 13, 2018

Fake News and the Horse They Rode In On

stilton’s place, stilton, political, humor, conservative, cartoons, jokes, hope n’ change, trump, 100 papers, fake news, editorials, advertising, spin

You can expect to see a lot of editorials like the one shown above on Thursday, August 16 (not that they're hard to find any other day) when over 100 newspapers have announced plans to simultaneously publish editorials attacking President Trump for suggesting that they lack integrity and (ahem) independence of thought.

Specifically, they're sick of being called "fake news" just because they publish stories which aren't even remotely true, and additionally incensed that Trump has declared that news organizations which knowingly lie to America's voters are "enemies of the people" because they're attempting to (ahem) meddle in our theoretically sacred voting process.

In this case, we completely agree with Trump. Mind you, neither we nor Trump is saying that every reporter and/or news outlet is like that. But the majority? Well, sadly...yeah.

And while some Fake News really does depend on inventing outright falsehoods (like any story that mentions piss, prostitutes, and Putin), most of it consists of playing sleazy word games to suggest and insinuate things which sound plausible but aren't true at all.

Calling it "spin" may sound cute, but it won't keep you from throwing up if you're spun hard enough and long enough.

Which is why we're going to digress at this point (bear with us - this will take awhile) and share an idea we've had for a long time. One which we'd actually like to see put into place somehow.

As backstory, we'll note that we worked professionally in the advertising industry for decades, and learned a lot about how to make anything - even a product's shortcomings - sound good. All without lying, but with careful word choices to suggest and insinuate. And of course the process works equally well in the other direction - you can make something great sound absolutely awful without lying as long as you're good at spin and misdirection.

First, let's make something bad sound good. How about "circus peanuts" - those bizarre, chalky foam candies that are shaped like a giant peanut, but colored orange, and flavored with banana? They're horrible, right? But what if we told you - truthfully - that they're "more fun than the Barnum & Bailey circus," "99% natural," "super for quick energy," "a great choice for healthy eaters," and "may aid in weight loss?"

But what are the facts behind those implications?
• They're more fun than the circus because that circus has gone out of business.
• They're 99% natural because they're 99% sugar...and 1% toxic chemicals from Hell.
• "Super for quick energy" translates to giving you a blood sugar "spike," which you'll soon crash from.
• "A great choice for healthy eaters" because unhealthy eaters - or diabetics - could be killed outright by these suckers.
• "May aid in weight loss," or may not. Because "may" is a magic weasel word.

Turning good to bad without lying is just as easy. If Trump invented a cure for cancer, here's what the media might say:
• Trump drug to put thousands of specialists out of work.
• Social Security in financial turmoil as Trump drug causes millions to live longer than expected.
• Trump drug was tested on adorable animals who could have gone to petting zoos.
• Despite praise, Trump drug still does nothing to curb gun violence.

See how the game works? Which finally brings us to our actual idea: we'd like to design a class for school kids in which they learn all of this - how to recognize it ("circle the weasel words in this paragraph") and how to do it themselves ("Find 10 good things to say about a maggot infested wound"). Our goal would NOT be to create more and better liars, but rather to teach kids a new way to look at the information being crammed down their throats.

Mind you, adults could benefit from the same training, but we think more good could be accomplished by letting kids know the actual rules of the persuasion, dissuasion, and misrepresentation game as early as possible.

Because if they're going to live in a media-saturated world, their best defense against "fake news" is going to be real and conscientious skepticism.


Mike L said...

The two newspapers I used to get(unsubscribed at least 10 years ago) keep laying off people, selling buildings and property and one cut there days a week. Blame it on everything but their own left handed bias.

REM1875 said...

60 years of turning the other cheek to the media and being nice has left us with nothing but red cheeks.
So we have nothing to loose by calling em out on their long term outward bias....they are never going to like us but we can hold them accountable.....

Phoebe said...

I'm now retired from teaching at a major research university (or what passes for research these days), and when I first started teaching, we did teach about verbal manipulation and how to recognize it. Sometimes it was in a writing course, sometimes in a literature course -- e.g., look at what Iago is doing here to manipulate his listeners, or note how the persona in this seduction poem has shifted definitions and deployed logical fallacies as he's gone along. But by the time I retired, students were being taught at lower levels that there's no such thing as reality anyway, that we construct our own reality, and that the only "truth" is what serves one's purpose -- or, as it was called, a "moral truth," which is the academic version of fake news. Remember, even the reporters who invent stories come to believe the stories they've invented. They've literally constructed their own reality.

I tried my best to work with this kind of brainwashed youth, but after a while I realized it was hopeless. And I retired earlier than I'd planned. We can't reason with people who've rejected the use of reason as being (ahem) phallologocentric, patriarchal and/or heteronormative oppression, alt-right, or whatever the buzzword of the day may be.

Rod said...

This is a milepost editorial. Great idea.

Logical fallacies have been discussed here a bit as well. "Us" older boomers were formally educated about them in high school, and I remember realizing that additional formal subject matter (beyond common sense) was a significant step up in mental maturity. Our grown-up kids say they learned about logic fallacies from us; but it was not taught in school.

THIS proposed teaching would be another case like that. But you're right Stilt, for some it would indeed just teach them how to be better lairs. Basic good character development and integrity is the needed foundation.

And I've been meaning to investigate what exactly IS taught in schools of journalism now; just haven't gotten to that yet. I think breast enhancement is one of them.

Jim Irre said...

Problem is, they can't handle the truth. The so-called news is as false as the media wants to make it. And they've gotten very good at making it so.

Jay Dee said...

Sadly newspapers were doomed when the classified ads were lost to the Internet. The success of soon lead to more websites, spamming and social media taking over what had once been the moneymaker for newspapers. Worse yet was when the journalism schools began to neglect the teaching of journalism as a business and focused only on journalism as writing. I blame this on a lack of foresight and business acumen in the industry. Let's face facts. Newspapers and magazines have become the playthings of the indolent rich to promote the latest intellectual idiocy. As such, they have become irrelevant.

Michael Macray said...

Great commentary and well argued!
Some time after I grduated half a century ago, Education, especially at the upper levels switched from teaching HOW to think into teaching WHAT to think.

Bobo the Hobo said...

Great column and what a great idea, Stilt!

Moms Musings said...

Vance Packard told us all about spin 50 years ago in The Hidden Persuaders.

steve on the left coast said...

Love the commentary...but I especially love how President Trump is willing to stick it to the media. Lest we forget, the term "Fake News" was the brain-child of the media, an attempt to smear Trump. He quickly grabbed the term and turned it back on them and now they cry foul every day. The man has a spine of steel, and it's important that we back him at every step.

Fish Out of Water said...

The louder, more shrill, more self-righteous the scream, the closer the arrow has hit to the mark.

McChuck said...

We actually had this for a week in 6th grade English way back when. It was, obviously, memorable. I never looked at an ad the same way again.

Fred Ciampi said...

I remember 60+ years ago in high school Mrs. Johnson taught, among other things, 'quote pulling' and 'twisted questions' in the news. "If elected, I will make our country be powerful" is changed to "If elected I will be powerful". And the reporters asking "Do you still beat your wife?". One of my favorites. And then there's Animal Farm's famous painting on the side if the barn, "All animals are created equal". And the add on; "But some animals are more equal than others". I also remember (I'm on a roll today) a certain politician running for office 12 years' ago saying "This is the greatest country on earth and we're going to change it". Huh? WTF? Am I the only person on earth who caught that? And he still won. I think the problem is with the sleeping and under educated population. Oh, where's my moonshine?

Geoff King said...

Since 90% of media is owned by just 6 corporations, we will read and hear only what they wish.
Imagine if those corporations were conservative leaning instead of liberal. The Dems would be screaming monopoly and demanding an anti-trust lawsuit to split the media moguls up.

Judi King said...

Great post! Kids are not being taught to think and reason on their own. They aren't stupid but are being brainwashed by the "eduational" system. They need to be taught to honestly look at a statement and what it really says, not what it appears to say. This gradual manipulation has been going on for decades, on all levels of media, and it's now more blatant and obvious.

Emmentaler Limburger said...

It may be my depressed state of late, but when I read "Atlas Shrugged" and "1984", I saw them as cautionary tales rather than instruction manuals. All around me I see implementation of the concepts which were the villains within those books (implemented by human villains, yes: but the CONCEPTS in those books were the evil). @Phoebe's post, in particular, brings this realization back to the fore. Our little dystopia was foretold. And prior to Trump it's progress was on rails.

God! I hope he can and we can keep it up. And I really want to know who is in the wings to continue carrying the flag when his two terms are up (because I really doubt they'll drum him out before he is re-elected). Start hardening him or her up now because as @Steve on the left coast notes: like Trump, they'll need a spine of steel and whatever personality armor it is that keeps him moving forward among so much hatred, and so much violence against what he stands for - what most of us reading this stand for.

Frank Levine said...

in todays email you called newspapers 'fish wrappers'... well, you should know that they also make GREAT Bird Cage tray liners too.
i love watching my parrots crap all over the LA Times

FlyBoy said...

@Frank Levine- A few years ago I got a phone call from a gal selling subscriptions to the NY Slimes. “No thanks,” says I, “My dogs are already housebroken.”

Will Hepburn said...

A high school course on critical thinking, with your suggestion included could be as game changing as reinstating civics classes that, disturbingly disappeared. Wouldn't the teachers unions go apeshit as they withered and died?, he said hopefully.

She’s A Beauty said...

Our local rag (the Plain Dealer) has laid off so many that it is now simply a WaPo/NYT cut-and-paste outlet. There are a few local columnists left (and the cartoonist!) but they’re so unhinged they almost make Maxine/James Brown seem hinged (I said almost). The “editorial board” consists of one lone moderate conservative surrounded by yapping far-left sheep. It’s like watching The View on 4 TVs at once. The paper is SO self-unaware that it actually passes for morning comic relief. Another coffee, please!

Dick Lowman said...

Well written.

Quail said...

Something like one of these?

I posted the link on a home schooling FB group in Crazyfornia and only got one like and no comments. I think they do not want to know how to think critically.

Personally, I'd love something more exciting visually for younger kids.

Linda Fox said...

I'm also a retired teacher (science and History), and would love to get in on this.

May I suggest: start a group on Yahoo (why Yahoo? They have not censored as much as the other media), or on Gab. Limit it to vetted people.

From that, the members can create a shared place to put documents, ideas, meet online - a moodle might work - I have some experience with them. Or, we could use Google or a similar platform (except that Google, like many other platforms, is prone to shutting down non-approved groups).

I remember having an old moodle, that I could resurrect, if you think that better. That would better allow us to go under the radar.

rickn8or said...

Newspapers and magazines have become the playthings of the indolent rich to promote the latest intellectual idiocy. As such, they have become irrelevant.

And broadcast news looks on in horror, knowing it's next up on the platform.

Linda Fox said...

Just checked - I'm updating the software now, if it's wanted (either for the people planning and designing the lessons, or for the students, later). It's actually not that difficult to use it.

TrickyRicky said...

Think about this bombshell from CTH. How deep and putrid the swamp truly is.

Unknown said...

Thank you for telling the truth about public education. Students graduate with heads full of facts (hopefully) but cannot string those facts together to reach a logical conclusion

Whoopie said...

One of my favorites: (This or that) "Raises speculation." Like "Melania's absence raises speculation that (insert conspiracy theory)." That's just a fancy way the media tries

to hide the fact that THEY are the only ones doing the speculating. They're not reporting on something factual, they're just fantasizing.

"Questions have been raised..." What questions and by whom?

"There's a growing chorus..." Who are these supposed singers? And who wrote the tune?

"Word has it..." In other words, rumors and supposition.

"Sources suggest..." Once again, who exactly? And since when is making a "suggestion" news?

"Twitter is abuzz..." Oh, some troll said something inflammatory and everyone is re-tweeting it, so it must be newsworthy?

"Un-named sources." Which means nobody, actually. Or, nobody in a position to know for sure.

"Scientists say..." or "Studies show..." Strongly hints that fake or skewed science may be involved in reaching whatever conclusion.

"If history is any guide." Means something that hasn't actually happened yet is being given credence by something that has.

"Serious allegations." Unsubstantiated accusations.

"Growing outrage." Only the usual suspects are outraged, nobody else gives a shit.

Shelly said...

Back in the day fake news was known as yellow journalism, and the namesake of the vaunted Pulitzer Prize was one of its most egregious purveyors.

james daily said...

Yea, the real story is that 128 newspapers are still in business. They are dying faster than the do-do bird. Quite frankly, I doubt they will covert one President Trump supporter with wild tirades, innuendos and lies. The aware people are not affected by fake news, like me, just sad that journalism has come to the same apex as fake science and political correctness. When we lose our tolerance for those that think differently from us, we lose our culture and country. To counter such actions, we vote with our wallets and our feet. Why would anyone want a country that inhibits free thought, speech and religion? Are they so stupid to not understand that if they succeed, they will be the first to get hammered by the benevolent government? And MM , et al has it right on modern education (or lack thereof.)

Stinking Bishop said...

Man, I haven't thought of circus peanuts for years. I actually kinda liked them then, because, well, I was a kid.

For me, the analogues of the circus peanut were those little wax bottles that were filled with liquid of a hue not found in nature, said liquid also probably being 99% sugar but curiously tasteless at the same time. To make it worse, you had to chew through the wax to get at this unsatisfying cordial. Even as a kid, I never liked them. And don't get me started on Pixie Stix.

The wax bottles could be some kind of metaphor for modern journalism, but I'm too lazy to figure it our.

Linda Fox said...

I set it up here:

John the Econ said...

Another fine example of Progressive irony impairment.

Just who is going to be convinced of anything by this? It will certainly be a rallying cry for the anti-Trump crowd. But on the other hand, it will just further infuriate those on the right who already for decades have rejected the mainstream media as little more than the PR arm for the Democrats. As for the supposed "undecideds", it's hardly a convincing argument. After all, those who retain any memory beyond yesterday are fully aware of the short attention span media, and how after a month or so it usually turns out that Trump was right.

As for @Stilton's idea about educating children as to how advertising works, I couldn't agree more. In fact, I've been an advocate of that sort of education for decades. Unfortunately, we have an educational establishment run almost exclusively by Progressive government employees who were themselves educated by Progressive-controlled universities. With this level of near total control of both education and mass media, it's hardly in their interest change anything; certainly any curricula that would encourage people to question the establishment they've spend decades fortifying against such an insurrection.

So that leaves such education up to us. I do what I can.

An aside, I was a high school journalist and newspaper editor. (I never really considered it a career direction; just something I enjoyed and people thought I was good at it. It also looked good on a resume) Also, one of the best and memorable classes I ever took in high school was "symbolic logic". It taught how to think about and process arguments mathematically. Unfortunately, that class disappeared the semester after I took in in the late '70s.

@Phoebe said "They've literally constructed their own reality."

Yes, they have. And that's why Trump happened. Realities finally collided.

Emmentaler Limburger said...

@Stinking Bishop: Can't be worse than those Candy Cigarettes. Remember them? Sweetened chalk dust flavored with the dried-up crusts from around the lid of a Pepto-Bismal botte, pressed into a stick suggestive of the real thing. Ugh...

Colby Muenster said...

So, these "news" outlets are all going to publish anti-Trump editorials at the same time? That is different how?

Great idea to teach school kids how to spot BS, Stilton, but haven't our liberal schools already partially implemented it? Not that I've audited any school classes lately, but I imagine the liberal schools are more than happy to instruct students on how to "fact check" conservatives or Republicans. "Fact check" meaning to assume anything a Republican or conservative says is a lie, and counter it by any means necessary, up to and including lying and making shit up.

Newspapers.... Like others here, I stopped subscribing years ago. I used to get the Charlotte Disturber because it had good comic and sports sections, and I used the paper to start fires in my wood stove. Not it's to the point where there is so much liberal crap, I refuse to pay for it anymore. Not only that, it's about 1/4 as thick as it used to be... not much fire starter there. Too bad snowflake tears aren't flammable.

Great list, and ain't it the troof!

Stinking Bishop said...

@Emmentaler Limburger: I'd forgotten about Candy Cigarettes. Traumatic amnesia, probably...

Velveeta Processed Cheese Food said...

Candy corn was the worst. Sugar turned semi glutinous with the addition of I don't know, glue maybe.

Alfonso Bedoya said...

Additionally, children should be given a basic course in how statistics can lie, merely by using percentages, e.g. Saw a clip on Varney & Company this morning on how illegal immigration from Canada had increased by over 142%. After having taken a year of statistics in college as part of my BizAd requirements, I immediately had to question just what 142% meant. 142% of what?

For instance, say that the drumming instructor in a college music class experienced a 100% increase in his student load, and should therefore be considered for a pay raise. Sounds impressive? Looking deeper, if the instructor had one student, then accepted only one more student, he would have experienced that very impressive 100% increase. This is why I shake my head and perk up my ears when I see percentage figures dangled before me in conversation, on TV, on the internet or anywhere else.

Without actual numbers being mentioned, percentages don't mean a damned thing. Statistics can be bent into pretzel-like nonsense by fake news charlatans; as such, the uninitiated can often easily be fooled.

Fred Ciampi said...

Alfonso, figures don't lie ... but lairs figure....

Stoneager. said...

! Maggots eat the dead flesh in a wound.
2 removing dead flesh flesh in a wound makes it harder for bacteria to take hold.
3 over use of antibiotics has caused some microbes to become resistant to them.
4 Maggots clean wounds so that resistant antibiotic ar less needed
5 wounds cleaned by maggots heal faster.
6 Maggot breeding industry provides thousand of new jobs
7 Maggot packaging industry provide even more jobs
8 Studying maggots provides jobs
9 FDA da approved them as a valid “medical device.” Helps justify FDA
10 This challenge amused me.

Old Cannonballs said...

Another quirky aspect of advertising worth examining is the way that commercials that insult the viewer's intelligence tend to be enormously effective. Apparently the mechanism behind this phenomenon is that viewers dismiss those commercials because they regard themselves as far too clever to be influenced by them, thereby lowering their guard and leaving themselves wide open to a karate chop to the medulla oblongata (or was that the cerebral cortex? One of them funny-sounding brain parts, anyhow).

I wonder if there's a parallel here to the way the lamestream media shamelessly insults the public's intelligence? Could it be by design?

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Mike L- Not too many years ago, I couldn't have conceived of NOT taking my daily local newspaper. But over time, the paper lost more and more local content and what was left was unacceptably biased. I currently subscribe to the Wall Street Journal which I hold in high regard - but don't always agree with. That being said, I find their actual reporting to be genuinely fair and balanced.

@REM1875- I agree. Plus, it seems like the media has been playing a game of "how much can we get away with?" for a long time, and has gotten worse and worse as a result. They should, by all means, be held accountable - and I think the marketplace can handle it.

@Phoebe- What a great comment! Bless you for the work you did on this while you were doing it professionally. And I'd like to think that the situation isn't hopeless, but it wouldn't take much work to convince me that it is.

@Rod- I think teaching about logical inconsistency in schools would be like a meeting of matter and antimatter - the whole system would go KABOOM!

And I think you may be right about "breast enhancement" being a current topic in journalism schools. Pardon my sexism, but I'm pretty sick of "news babes" who look good on camera but don't really have much to say.

@Jim Irre- No question that the liars in the media are good at what they do. As a former ad man, I have to sometimes offer up the slow clap in appreciation of particularly effective weasel wording.

@Jay Dee- Very, very well put. I agree with every word!

@Michael Macray- Exactly!

@Bobo the Hobo- I'm perfectly serious about the idea. My idea is that such a school program would last about a week, and it would be designed to be fun and interactive. Another comment further down actually links to a school program that address the subject, but describes it in terms of how to process "propaganda." That's way too off-putting a word for what I've got in mind. I'd rather introduce kids to the idea of "word weasels" (complete with a cartoony representation) and how we can spot the little rascals in their hiding places and thwart them. Where's a genius grant when you really need one?

@Cathy Monroe- You're right! Sadly, I think we need a simplified (and enjoyable) update.

@steve on the left coast- Great point that "fake news" was originally invented to use as a slam against Trump (who, granted, was saying some pretty wacky things) but that Trump absolutely owns the term now and uses it as a very effective cudgel. I don't always agree with The Donald, but I do support him. At the point I finally threw in my lot with him on these pages, I opined that he was a bull in a china shop...but that was exactly what we needed. I haven't changed my mind.

@Fish Out of Water- You're right, and that's why the fake news media hates the term "Fake News Media."

@McChuck- I'm glad to hear that it was being done somewhere and I'd be delighted to find out that it's still being taught today. And by "delighted" I mean "shocked."

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Fred Ciampi- We need more Mrs. Johnsons! I have no idea if kids are being taught - really taught - the lessons of "1984" and "Animal Farm" these days, but they sure should be.

And to give the Devil his due, I've never seen anyone better at speaking eloquently and saying nothing (or implying everything) than Barack Obama. Like you, I'd listen to the man and go slack jawed. Clearly, there weren't enough of us really listening.

@Geoff King- Excellent point. Control of the media is so politically one-sided that it's something of a wonder that ANY of us still know (mostly) what's actually going on. Part of that is due to the Internet, and part of it is that the Left has badly overplayed their hand and much of what they say just obviously conflicts with reality.

@Judi King- "Brainwashed" is right. And I wonder how many on the Left would be supportive of my idea to teach kids how to spot lies and misleading statements? Note that I would NOT want to teach ideology...I'd want kids to be able to spot lies wherever they're coming from. You'd think such a notion could get bipartisan support.

@Emmentaler Limburger- Great comment. I completely agree, and I wonder who can eventually fill Trump's shoes? He is clearly his own phenomenon at this point.

@Frank Levine- I applaud your method of celebrating the First Amendment and recycling at the same time!

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@FlyBoy- Well played, sir!

@Will Hepburn- I'd love to see it happen. Although I'd actually like to introduce my program to school kids much younger than high school age, with perhaps a more nuanced version available to those older kids.

@Section147- That's pretty much what happened with our "local" paper; suddenly almost everything was just syndicated content from big liberal outlets. And if I wanted to subscribe to the NYT, I'd just do that. Although, and I hate to admit this, I actually do pay a subscription fee to the NYT to get access to their crossword puzzles. I'm not proud of it, though (wry grin).

@Dick Lowman- Thank you, sir!

@Quail- I referenced your post above. I'm glad to see this course even exists, but I feel like the word "Propaganda" lands with a resounding THUD. It just sounds heavy and off-putting and no fun to study. My idea would be exactly what you describe - something "more exciting visually for younger kids." I actually have some experience (dare I say "expertise?") in that very area. I'm a bit barnacle-like to kickstart it myself, but I'd love to get involved with a well-funded group that could make it happen.

@Linda Fox- I like your conspiratorial enthusiasm, but I have no idea what a "moodle" is...though it sounds cozy. I'm an absolute ignoramus when it comes to social media. Or social interaction in general (grin). But I'll give this some thought!

@rickn8or- You're right about broadcast news. Terrifyingly, the future is going to be individualized streaming of (ahem) "news" directly to consumers, with content tailored to please the tastes and beliefs of each individual. Confirmation bias will be the norm, effectively bringing real communication between people about issues to an end - they'll be operating from entirely different "facts." Scary, scary stuff.

@Linda Fox- Thanks for that update. "Not that difficult to use" is one of my favorite phrases.

@TrickyRicky- Well, Holy Crap. That's one hell of a story. Thanks for calling it to our attention!

@Unknown- Wow, did you just hit another hot button of mine! No, kids can't string facts together to make a logical conclusion anymore. And they aren't being taught that this is an absolutely critical skill. Because of ubiquitous "smart" phones, every kid now has access to all the information in the world...but mistakes "access" for "mastery." Being able to summon up facts without understanding them is only slightly better than total ignorance. I don't mean to sound like too much of a Luddite, but damn these smartphones and what they're doing to our kids and society.

Stilton Jarlsberg said...

@Whoopie- What a great list! I think we need to get you on the staff of Weasel Words, LLC as soon as possible! (grin)

@Shelly- It's a pity that the term "yellow journalism" has fallen into disfavor, since it described such a real problem. These days, though, it would be accused of having racial undertones. Because people are idiots.

@James Daily- I agree right down the line. Very well said.

@Stinking Bishop- Those fluid filled bottles of noxious syrup were, if I recall, Nik-L-Nips. Which would probably be considered an offensive name now to both those of Japanese descent, and those possessing nipples. Yeah, they were truly bad - a burst of noxious flavor followed by the thrill of chewing candle wax. Good times!

@Linda Fox- Well look at you! Here I am jawing away and you're actually DOING things! (Ah, to be young again...)

@John the Econ- You make a fine point: who is going to be convinced of ANYthing by these editorials? Whose minds will be changed? And for that matter, DO people even change their minds anymore? For all of the time and effort I've poured into these pages, I don't kid myself that I've changed any minds. Although I absolutely ache for the chance to do so by engaging in real conversation with people who have opposing viewpoints but open minds.

In college, I took a logic course which drove me crazy because so many students just couldn't get it. If A = B and B = C, then A = C, right? I sat through hours of class time with kids arguing that it didn't make sense. Then hit 'em with something like "Some A's are B's, and some B's are C's, therefore some A's must be C's - true or false?" The debate would go on forever.

@Emmentaler Limburger- Yes, but the great thing about those candy cigarettes was that if you blew through them, a little puff of powdered sugar "smoke" would come out. At least, I think it was powdered sugar. Could have been flour or cocaine for all I know.

@Colby Muenster- One of the hardest things for me to give up was the comics pages in our local paper. I LOVE cartoon strips (duh, huh?) and followed my favorites for years. But I just had to let them go rather than put up with the company they kept.

@Velveeta Processed Cheese Food- I'm going to have to put in a good word for candy corn. For those of us with borderline OCD, it's a pleasure to nibble off exactly one color at a time. Mmmm!

@Alfonso Bedoya- Great point about making sure kids learn how statistics can lie! Plus, it would be fun to ask the kids questions like "If your salary is raised by 100%, but then your new salary is reduced by 50%, will you be making more money than you used to?"

One of my other favorite "bent statistics" cliches are the businesses that claim to be the "fastest growing" in their field. Well yeah, if you had one customer and now have two, you're growing at a 100% rate...which is pretty hard for a mega-corporation like Apple or Netflix to match. But without understanding numbers and statistics, people are just bamboozled.

@Fred Ciampi- And so do liars! ("Lairs" are where one brews moonshine).

@William Bartlett- Well done...and perfectly accurate! Maggot therapy for bad wounds and burns is actually being used again in medicine, and you can bet that any doctors using this technique are well versed in how to sell it. But it's true - with a little practice, one can make pretty much ANYthing sound good or bad.

@Old Cannonballs- That's an interesting angle and it makes perfect sense. I've also read that the reason scam letters claiming that a Nigerian Prince has left you a bajillion dollars ("all we need, dear, is your bank account information for purposes of quick deposit!") are so stupid and transparent is that the senders WANT to weed out everyone but total idiots to work the scam on. So what seems like ineptitude is actually wicked clever. What a world.

NVRick said...

@Stinking Bishop: Ah, the good old days when kids ate a lot of crap and enjoyed it!
I remember everything mentioned so far, as well as wax lips and mustaches. Back in the '50s, there were two candy stores within a block of my house. You could go in with a dime and come out with a small paper bag full of great candy. Anyone remember those "flying saucers"? They were circular and hollow and had tiny granules of candy inside. To me, the "saucer" itself tasted like a communion wafer.
As far as those small wax soda bottles, you could actually get a six pack of them.
And as a diet enhancer, remember when Baby Ruth bars weighed a quarter pound?
I think all the crap we ate kind of immunized us against many of the childhood maladies. I think that viruses took one look around and said "I'm outta here". (although in my case they didn't fight off the polio epidemic in the early 50's--I was lucky and have no after effects.)

Linda Lee said...

I like it! Great idea.

Dan said...

Yummy. Candy cigarettes, bubble gum cigars, baby ruths, clark bars, salt water taffee, candy corn!!!.

No wonder I have a BMI of three million.

Emmentaler Limburger said...

@Stilton: I, too, am a great fan of Candy Corn - especially Brach's. But, alas! I only vaguely recall the "puffy" candy cigarettes. In later years - the years of my misspent youth - they were simply equal-length extrusions of the crap, very obviously pinch off at each end and left to dry. Crimony! They didn't even bother coloring the ends anymore. I think I saw the last of them in the late 70s or early 80s when, due to social(ist) health consciousness, they were no longer packaged in cigarette pack-like boxes named after herbicides (yup! The "Cowboy" ones - think Marlboro - were literally called "Round Up"...) rebranded "candy sticks", and all the cool drizzled away from letting them stain your lips white. (By then , it was of no consequence, though: I had moved on to the real things.) I actually loved the damned things. And, like smoking cigarettes, couldn't figure out why...

I also remember the chocolate ones: paper wrapped to look like the real thing, with red tip and mottled brown base. The interior more like the candy lips than actual chocolate - kind of like Palmer chocolate Easter bunnies: waxy with just a HINT of cocoa. And the highly desired and much vaunted chocolate cigars...

Ah, life! Ah, youth and innocence - to whence hast thou fled...

@Dan: No wonder I have a BMI of three million.


Mr. Bits said...

I've been reading your columns for years, and like most people I just read them, smile, and then it's on to my next saved favourite. (Canadian eh?) I never miss your posts except sometimes I save up Johnny Optimism and read several at once.
Anyway, I rarely comment but I thought I'd drop by and say hello. Your cartoons, characters & commentaries seem to always hit the nail on the head.
Good luck with your endeavours (Canadian eh?) and congratulations on your renovations. Been there, done that
Mr. Bits

Pete (Detroit) said...

@Whoopie - Brilliant!

Joseph ET said...

Like many others, we unsubscribed from our small home town newspaper 10 yrs ago. I think they went down to one part time reporter 15 years ago, local news is thin and they don't even carry the crime reports from the local PD or any reports from the fire department. This year they went from six days a week to two days a week.
We get more news from our local internet Chet Chat Facebook groups, the county incident group, Auburn PD page,the county Sheriff page, the CHP page, on and on. And don't forget Twitter too.
I do really like my comics, I find the them here.
and there's more if you search. ☺
And don't forget the "Hope & Change" group of great people. ☺

JustaJeepGuy said...

@Emmentaler Limburger, the "puffy" candy cigarettes were actually chewing gum.

@Stilt, maybe home-schoolers will take up your idea. At least there will be some small number of people who will see through the lies.

Pete (Detroit) said...

worst candy ever - Necco wafers..
I think they made them from left over goo from the cigs, and it seemed that all the colors tasted like black licorice - gross.
Circus peanuts are a close 2nd... Mom loves 'em, I could never stand the things. Yep, remember nik-el-nips.
Anyone else remember 'Marathon Bars'? a bout a foot of chocolate covered caramel, presented as a braid? Tag line of 'lasts a good, LONG time'...
Had the munchies once, got one. OMFG, trying to eat that thing w/ cotton mouth was a Herculean task...

Agreed, some candy corn is MUCH more edible than others.. I suspect Brach's has a better suger / HFCS ratio than some others.
DEFINATELY a color nibbler...

Did you know that blue M&Ms taste different? It's true, eat about 10 in a row, then a different color, and it will taste different..

Old Cannonballs - Also possibly related to the 'pick up' concept known as 'negging'.