2551: Debunking

Explain xkcd: It's 'cause you're dumb.
Jump to: navigation, search
Debunking
Mark Zuckerberg has only neutral feelings toward Peppa Pig, who he understands is a fictional character, and he blames the coronavirus pandemic on other factors.
Title text: Mark Zuckerberg has only neutral feelings toward Peppa Pig, who he understands is a fictional character, and he blames the coronavirus pandemic on other factors.

Explanation

When writing a news article that "debunks" a claim (shows why it is false), writing its headline in the form "X is false" is discouraged. The reason is that just repeatedly seeing "X", even if negated or followed by "is false", can make readers subconsciously believe it.

To avoid this, Randall as a journalist has worded his debunking articles in a positive sense. This makes for a confusing read if the reader has not heard of the original claim. The "original claims" allegedly being debunked here don't actually appear to have been made anywhere, and can only be inferred from the debunking.

Much of the debunking relies on setting simple facts straight, making for bizarrely banal headlines.

Table

Article Headline Possible claim being debunked
AP photos show that Dr. Fauci's office contains a normal number of microwaves That Anthony Fauci's office is subject to excessive microwaves, possibly an attack against Dr Fauci or as a weapon employed by him against visitors. Fauci is the head of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases in the US and is seen as the public face to the COVID-19 response in that country. US diplomats have been altering their lives due to an unexplained Havana syndrome, an early theory for which has been use of a microwave weapon. Microwaves can be part of a number of conspiracy theories ranging from health problems or manipulation of the public. However, because the headline references photographs to debunk the claim, the news article is apparently talking about the number of microwave ovens in his office. Either there is some miscommunication between the conspiracy theorists and debunkers, or the original claimant was fixated on Fauci's office appliances for some reason.

The vague phrasing also implies that the number of microwaves pictured may be larger than most people would consider "normal" for an office, and that the article is defending that large number as "normal". Since microwaves are not office equipment, the "normal amount" is zero, with perhaps one or two in a break area.

Fact check: Singer Billie Eilish was born years after the TWA Flight 800 explosion A conspiracy theory linking Billie Eilish (born December 2001) with the TWA Flight 800 crash in July 1996.
Vaccinated people can remove their hats without trouble by tugging upward, say doctors Vaccination has long been the subject of many, many conspiracy theories about potential side effects; this article could be commenting on any number of such, from claims that vaccines magnetize people (popular in June 2021), that vaccines cause one's head to swell thus making hats become tight, that vaccination makes one's head sticky or fuse to one's hat, that vaccination causes hats to become tighter, that vaccination causes one's inability to raise one's arm high enough to tug one's hat upward. Alternatively, vaccinated people may have been asking for permission to remove their masks in public (as of this writing, the CDC still recommends people vaccinated against COVID-19 stay masked in public) but this somehow got mixed up in a request to remove their hats in public.
Physicists say Dorito powder is affected by gravity A claim that Doritos powder is not affected by gravity. For example, an anecdote around a local businessman discovering that objects levitate when sufficient powder is applied to them, or people misunderstanding dust floating under atmospheric turbulence as evidence of "antigravity".
Steering wheels will work normally on Dec 12th; make left and right turns as usual Faults (perhaps due to failures in the power steering system), triggered for example by solar storms or latent software bugs or a deliberate software hack, will cause cars to steer erratically on that date. December 12 is in fact "doomsday", but only in the sense of the doomsday rule for determining the day of the week.
CNN investigation: Santa's skin is dry and healthy this year, with the same amount of oil as before Santa Claus is suffering from oily skin, which can cause acne.
(Title text) Mark Zuckerberg has only neutral feelings toward Peppa Pig, who he understands is a fictional character, and he blames the coronavirus pandemic on other factors. That the founder of Facebook (Mark Zuckerberg) has strongly negative feelings toward the cartoon character Peppa Pig, believing her to be a real talking pig and the cause of the COVID-19 pandemic, or maybe that he is a fan with some out-of-control behaviors towards "her". May be a reference to a recent speech by UK Prime Minister Boris Johnson in which he expressed admiration for Peppa, much to the bewilderment of journalists.

Transcript

[Several news headlines are shown in boxes.]
[Box 1] AP photos show Dr. Fauci's office contains a normal number of microwaves
[Box 2] Fact check: singer Billie Eilish was born years after the TWA Flight 800 explosion
[Box 3] Vaccinated people can remove their hats without trouble by tugging upward, say doctors
[Box 4] Physicists say Dorito powder is affected by gravity
[Box 5] Steering wheels will work normally on Dec 12th; make left and right turns as usual
[Box 6] CNN investigation: Santa's skin is dry and healthy this year, with the same amount of oil as before
[Caption below the panel:]
I don't know whether the "Don't repeat the claim in the headline debunking it" thing works or not, but it definitely makes reading the news weird.


comment.png add a comment! ⋅ comment.png add a topic (use sparingly)! ⋅ Icons-mini-action refresh blue.gif refresh comments!

Discussion

feels like we should address the factual accuracy of the headlines in this comic, ie point out which actual headlines/claims are being referred to by each, if any? - Vaedez (talk) 05:35, 7 December 2021 (UTC)

If CNN comments on Santa's skin situation, doesn't that implicitly mean they are claiming Santa to be real (Spoiler alert: he isn't)[citation needed]? 162.158.88.103 08:49, 7 December 2021 (UTC)

or else they're simply avoiding "giving away the secret" to younger readers; though yes, in that case why publish the counterargument at all? - Vaedez (talk) 08:53, 7 December 2021 (UTC)

i'm sorry I seem to have lost my place Arachrah (talk) 10:08, 7 December 2021 (UTC)

In the table it is mentioned that normal offices do not have microwave radiation. However, mobile phones use frequencies in the microwave band for communication. The same holds true for wireless networks (2.4 or 5 GHz is microwave radiation). 162.158.92.183 10:32, 7 December 2021 (UTC)

Is the 'number of microwaves' in the headline a reference to intensity of electromagnetic oscillations, or is it intended to be short for 'microwave ovens'? I had totally assumed the former (especially given the context). The idea that it could be referencing an appliance did not occur to me at all until reading the suggestion in the table that there would normally be "zero, with perhaps one or two in a break area," which took me a few beats to process. Personally I'm more fond of my original interpretation, but I'm starting to feel that it could be, uhm, debunked (although I suppose with digital technology and the right junction bandgap 'microwave photos' could be a thing).
Doesn't this have to do with the whole craze there was about COVID being caused by 5G towers? 141.101.69.104 08:56, 11 December 2021 (UTC)

The Dorito debunking may be related to a rumour you can find via the search term dorito-powder-hoax. 162.158.90.161 10:45, 7 December 2021 (UTC)

I'm thinking the headline would be along the lines of Doritos, the company, intentionally making powder that somehow defies gravity in order to cause irritation to consumers of the chips, in some kind of exotic mass social experiment about people's addiction to chips vs their exposure to unpleasant hygiene. I'm betting that most of the headlines here are some kind of 'extremification' of existing conspiracies. 172.70.114.105 11:37, 7 December 2021 (UTC)
I think the Doritos myth has simply to do with the fact that it's so sticky 😂 141.101.69.104 08:56, 11 December 2021 (UTC)

I think Randall missed an opportunity here to tie this into the Real Name of the Bear comics - refuting a conspiracy theory about bears while simultaneously refusing to name the theory or the animal involved. 162.158.75.97 11:39, 7 December 2021 (UTC)Pat

Is there any reason why the Peppa Pig/Zuckerburg headline is cut off? Kvarts314 (talk) 12:02, 7 December 2021 (UTC)

Doesn't seem cut off to me. Fabian42 (talk) 14:55, 7 December 2021 (UTC)
In the table with the possible original claims that are debunked162.158.90.161 15:52, 7 December 2021 (UTC)
Oh. Probably to not make that row of the table too high. You can edit it, if you want. Fabian42 (talk) 16:12, 7 December 2021 (UTC)
yeah, i was aiming to fit the headline on a single line; i wasn't sure how else to abbreviate it other than ellipses - Vaedez (talk) 18:00, 7 December 2021 (UTC)
Pff, it's easy to put it on two lines even! "'TT:MZuckHasOnlyNeutr.feel.tow.PeppaPig,whoHe u-st.isAFict.char.&heBl.t.cor-v.pand.onOth.factors." Totally understandable! Fabian42 (talk) 23:46, 7 December 2021 (UTC)

I see these kinds of headlines all the time recently: "Corona vaccine does not cause higher probability of [random obscure side effect I've never heard about]" Fabian42 (talk) 14:55, 7 December 2021 (UTC)

Since this comic was published in December 2021, "Dec 12th" is probably intended to refer to 12 December 2021, which I suspect might be a reference to 21 December 2012, the reported "end date" of the Mesoamerican Long Count (see 2012 phenomenon on Wikipedia). I wonder if someone's source had "21/12/12" or the like and this was misinterpreted... --172.68.246.57 05:42, 10 December 2021 (UTC)