Fake News for the Week Ending September 3, 2021

This has been a fairly consequential news week with the impact of Hurricane Ida, the Afghanistan pull out, the Supreme Court’s decision on the Texas abortion ban, the continuing increase in COVID-19 cases, and more. Not surprisingly, there was a lot of news about fake news this week, as well, so let’s get to it.

  • Debunking decades of climate change denial, a new report by the American Association for the Advancement of Science claims that the ongoing climate crisis is likely creating extreme winter weather events. The report’s authors say that accelerated warming in the Arctic increases the chances of tightly spinning winds above the North Pole (the so-called “Arctic stratospheric polar vortex“) being stretched, which leads to more extreme winter weather events in the U.S. and around the world. This report contributes to the growing evidence that global warming contributes to more extreme weather events of all kinds, including droughts and heatwaves fueling the current spate of wildfires, as well as significantly stronger hurricanes such as the recent Hurricane Ida that pounded the Gulf Coast and resulted in record-breaking flooding in NYC and throughout the northeast. Read more in The Guardian.
  • According to research from the Pew Research Center, the percentage of Republicans who say they trust the media has been cut in half over the past five years — corresponding to the Trump era and the former president’s well-documented distrust of facts and constant lying. This lack of trust in traditional media creates a breeding ground for conspiracy theories, misinformation, and fake news. Axios has more of the story.
  • Freshman Representative Madison Cawthorn (R-NC) was spreading disinformation and conspiracy theories at a GOP event in his home state this week. He claimed, falsely, that the 2020 presidential election was “stolen” and “rigged,” called the rioters arrested after the January 6 Insurrection at the Capitol Building “political prisoners,” and warned that all this would lead to “bloodshed” between Americans. Read about it USA Today.
  • Disgraced former president Donald J. Trump is claiming that the Taliban seized $83 billion worth of U.S. weapons when our military withdrew from Afghanistan. Trump’s “83 billion” number comes from the estimated $82.3 billion spent by all U.S. security forces since the start of the Afghanistan invasion in 2001. While it is true that much military equipment and weapons fell into the Taliban’s hands, the value of those assets is considerably less than the $82.3 billion spent on all operations over the past twenty years. (In addition, much of the equipment has either been disabled or will become nonoperational due to the lack of spare parts in the future.) The Washington Post does the fact checking on this one and gives Mr. Trump three Pinocchios for his false claims.
  • Some conservatives claim that a photo floating around the various social media shows an Afghan man being hung by a Taliban-operated helicopter, which would be horrific if it were true. Of course, it isn’t true; the photo actually shows a man in a harness dangling from the helicopter as he tries to install a Taliban flag. Things aren’t always as they appear, as confirmed by Reuters.
  • Conservative media and politicians, including the aforementioned Rep. Cawthorn, are all up in arms about photos that purport to show American service dogs abandoned by the military in Afghanistan. Except that’s not the whole story. The military denies that they left any service animals behind, instead pointing out that the canines in question were owned by contractors and were under the care of Kabul Small Animal Rescue. The ultimate fate of these dogs is unclear, although KSAR is trying to find homes for the animals outside of Afghanistan. The Defense One website does the reporting on this one.
  • Donald Trump Jr. has been sued for libel by coal baron Don Blankenship for calling Blankenship a “felon.” Blankenship, while previously tried for a felony, was not convicted of such. (He was, however, convicted of a misdemeanor for his role in a 2010 coal mine disaster.) Trump Jr. tried to get the case dismissed, but this week a federal court ruled that the case can proceed, delivering a significant blow to Jr.’s case. The judge noted “there is a plausible inference” that Jr. knew Blankenship was not convicted of felony, citing one of Jr.’s own tweets to that effect. The case proceeds, as reported by the Law & Crime website.

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