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Disinformation and how to spot it


The University of Oxford Future of Humanity Institute has a good blog called Overcoming Bias.


Sag Harbor-Basement Pictures presents Orwell Rolls in his Grave a film by Robert Kane Pappas.


The James Randi Educational Foundation is an educational resource on the paranormal, pseudoscientific and the supernatural. They are offering a one million dollar prize to anyone who can show, under proper observing conditions, evidence of any paranormal, supernatural, or occult power or event. To date, no one has ever passed the preliminary tests.


In my capacity as a DMOZ editor I had to review a long outstanding submission of a page on Philip Emeagwali's website. I rejected the submission because it was a deep link, out of date (by now) and of marginal relevance to the category. I had a look at the homepage and it smacked of shameless self promotion - could it really be that I had never heard of the "World's Top Scientist"? His Wikipedia entry confirms that he was one of two winners of the 1989 Gordon Bell prize, for which he received $1000 but all his other claims seem to be pure hype.


"Americans for Technology Leadership" have been spreading FUD (via Fox News) about OpenDocument (re the Commonwealth of Massachusetts' to use it). According to SourceWatch ATL is basically a Microsoft front group - figures.


On this date last month I was reading a London Critical Mass mailing list when I came across yet another thread about cyclists running red lights. Just for fun I decided to invent a story and post it as fact. You can read my posting in the list archive. My use of the name Luther Blissett was intended to be an obvious clue to the fact that LBOCC and indeed the whole story was a work of fiction.


If you are not sure about some far fetched story it might just be an urban legend - it might be listed on these Urban Legends Reference Pages.


There is a good introductory article in oe magazine called Photo Fakery which explains techniques which are used to identify falsified images.


I was reading something about a billboard campaign against PETA which was being run by the so called Center for Consumer Freedom - an organisation sleazy enough to merit this entry in SourceWatch.


I have just learned that Disinfopedia has re-branded itself as SourceWatch.


The View from Number 80 is a review of websites which "tread, and often stray over, the border into pseudoscience, flim-flam or irrational claims.


I just came across an excellent page about scams at sniggle.net.


There is a huge amount of information on the Quackwatch website.


Tim Lambert has created an excellent run-down of some of the Microsoft funded Think Tanks that have been attaching the Open Source movement.


The Union of Concerned Scientists is asking its members to Stop the Bush Administration's Abuse of Science which they claim is happening on an unprecedented scale.


As I have commented before, disinformation about AIDS is rife, but there is plenty of legitimate criticism too. In fact, nearly two dozen well-respected AIDS researchers are publicly questioning the U.S. backed vaccine trial in Thailand, saying it is a waste of money that offers little prospect of helping Thais.

The reactionary WorldNetDaily so-called news site which got my goat a couple of weeks ago has thankfully lost it's top spot in the Alexa traffic rankings and slipped to 5th place in the "Most Popular in Politics" category. The number one position is currently held by the Drudge Report.

Here is the blurb from a couple of useful sites:

The Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal CSICOP encourages the critical investigation of paranormal and fringe-science claims from a responsible, scientific point of view and disseminates factual information about the results of such enquiries to the scientific community and the public.

The Institute for Public Accuracy seeks to broaden public discourse. With systematic outreach to media professionals, the institute provides news releases that offer well-documented analysis of current events and underlying issues.


Check out The Memory Hole.


I just had the misfortune of stumbling into a steaming pile of crap called WorldNetDaily which has somehow wheedled it's way to the number one slot in the Alexa "Most Popular in Politics" category and purports to be an independent news site. An outlet for odious fundamentalist diatribe more like.

Another thing that has been pissing me off recently is seeing people taken in by some of the outrageous AIDS disinformation which seems to be taking hold of the Internet like a virus. This ranges from claims that HIV is a biological weapon created and unleashed by the Americans, to ones that it is harmless and has nothing to do with AIDS (and even that there is no such thing as AIDS). If you want to investigate these unconventional viewpoints for yourself I would suggest checking out AIDS conspiracy theories and AIDS reappraisal at Wikipedia. The best mainstream HIV/AIDS website I have found is AVERT.


Someone told me that David Copperfield once did a trick where he made the Statue of Liberty disappear. I know I have more important things to do but I couldn't resist Googling for this trick and I came across an excellent website called The Straight Dope which actually reveals how he did it (no, he didn't palm it!). The tag line of the site is "Fighting Ignorance Since 1973" - they are doing a great job.


This morning I was reading The Pagan Prattle Online where Feorag posted a quote from an article entitled "The Green Enemies of Progress" by some guy called Alan Caruba who claims that "Greens hate progress if it means a better life for everyone on Earth". So who is this Alan Caruba, and why would he say something so silly? Well, he seems to be a PR "guru" who runs The Caruba Organization and something called The National Anxiety Center (where you can find the article in question). His articles are distributed widely by Far Right and Fundamentalist Christian groups in the US so it took me a while to sift through search results and come up with some useful information but I got there in the end.

Alan Caruba has his own entry in Disinfopedia, the encyclopedia of propaganda. It seems that he is a public relations adviser to the pesticide industry - see this article for details.

www.zenatode.org.uk Ian Gregory 2010