It’s one thing to debate taking down statues of Confederates, quite another to dig up genuine Confederates, mouldering in their graves these many years.
But that’s what readers of a range of dubious sites were told was happening this week. Separate fake news stories claimed that:
- Confederates in a cemetery in Delaware, Ohio were being dug up, “molested,” and dumped in a nearby lake. The report appeared in delawareohionews.com, one of a string of fake news sites named to sound legitimate to people outside the community. Why folks in Delaware, Ohio would want their lake filled with skeletal Confederates wasn’t fully explained.
- The report appeared to be given further context by another claiming that Ohio governor John Kasich (a Republican who is publicly critical of U.S. President Donald Trump) had signed an order allowing other Ohio cemeteries to dig up their Confederate dead. The order “says nothing about how the bodies must be handled or discarded, opening the door to … bizarre forms of desecration,” the report warned.
- Another claimed that Confederate general, slave trader and Ku Klux Klan Grand Wizard Nathan Bedford Forrest was already being dug up from his grave in Memphis, Tenn.
Since you’re reading about it here, it won’t be surprising to learn that none of these things have happened, are happening or are likely to happen in the future; real Confederates are only disturbed symbolically.
The tiny grain from which the idea started seems to come from a campaign in Memphis to take down a statue of Forrest. In 2015, protesters removed a small piece of grass near, but not on, his grave. (Forrest was originally buried in a cemetery, then was moved in 1904 to an elaborate tomb in a park that was named after him. The park has since been renamed ‘Health Sciences Park,’ and local councillors have voted to move Forrest, perhaps to the cemetery where he spent the first 28 years of his interment, but nothing has actually happened.)
In any case, it seems there already are enough issues keeping the ghosts of the Confederacy buried without borrowing further trouble.
In fake news news:
- NPR looks at Ukraine’s experience with fake news, and what the West can learn from it. “Do not ignore this problem because it allowed Russian media to influence local people to kill each other,” one Ukranian reporter warns. (We’re reminded of the Wired story in June about Russian hacking attacks on Ukraine’s power grid, which were presented as a ‘training ground’ for something more ambitious.)
- St. Louis-based journalist Sarah Kendzior, whose razor-sharp Twitter feed deserves your follows, looks back at the Bernie bots of 2016, which are still churning out identical tweets. (After she wrote about them, they started putting @sarahkendzior in all their automated tweets, making it hard for her to interact with anyone on Twitter.)
- White House chief of staff John Kelly is trying to filter what information reaches Donald Trump, Buzzfeed explains It sounds like the news version of less-junk-food-more-vegetables: ” … no Infowars, no Daily Caller, no Breitbart.” (The subtext is that the president of the United States doesn’t have the sense to apply these filters himself, so the grownups have to do it for him.) It sounds like a necessary chore under the circumstances, but also a thankless one, since 1) Infowars is predictably furious and 2) Don Jr. and Melania slip the president dubious news despite Kelly’s best efforts.
- ProPublica probes the role of companies like PayPal in the economics of hate sites. “Where to set the boundaries between hate speech and legitimate advocacy for perspectives on the edge of the political spectrum, and who should set them, are complex and difficult questions,” ProPublica acknowledges. (The story was followed by attacks on ProPublica reporters’ e-mail accounts.)
- Salon traces #PunchWhiteWomen, supposedly an antifa Twitter meme, to a hoax organized on 4Chan. “In the original post … an anonymous user instructs others to find stock imagery depicting domestic- and child-abuse victims that can be emblazoned with the antifa logo and a slogan apparently justifying the physical violence depicted,” the Daily Dot explains.
- The LA Times looks at the ‘permanent campaign’ that Trump’s rallies and online videos are parts of. The strategy has been around for a generation, but the current U.S. president is more — crass, or straightforward, depending on how you choose to look at it — than his predecessors.
- Fast Company looks at Twitter bots are used to manipulate or shut down political discussion (by spamming a hashtag, for example).
- All news sources, from real to fake, look much the same on Facebook. Legitimate media organizations can now look visually distinctive in Trending and Search, a change the social platform plans to roll out to the whole system.
- Brennan Gilmore, a witness to the fatal vehicle attack two weeks ago in Charlottesville, Va., describes the abuse that came his way after being interviewed and sharing video of the incident. It included death threats, claims he had staged the attack, and a mysterious white powder mailed to his parents.
- Andrew Feinberg, an optimist, hoped that he could bring editorial independence to his new job as Sputnik’s White House reporter. Five months later, he was sadder and wiser. “I thought Sputnik wanted me for my skills as a journalist, but what they wanted was to use the veneer of journalism to push their own agenda.”
- And, the New York Public Library points out, there’s nothing really new under the sun: