People Are Crazy (Fact Check Edition)

¯\_(ツ)_/¯

Perusing Google News, I see this in the sidebar:

The first story tells us,

Conspiracy theorists are attempting to connect the death of antivirus software entrepreneur John McAfee to the Florida high-rise building that partially collapsed on June 24.

McAfee was found dead June 23 in a Spanish prison, where he was awaiting extradition to the United States on criminal tax evasion charges. He was 75 years old.

The next day, a condominium in Surfside, Florida, collapsed, resulting in at least four deaths and more than 150 missing people.

The two events are unrelated, but some social media users say there’s a nefarious connection.

The second:

A post circulating on social media falsely claims actor Denzel Washington said he’s “had it” with the Democratic Party’s “lies” and now supports former President Donald Trump. The fictitious quote attributed to Washington originated on a self-described satirical website. A representative for Washington confirmed “this post is a complete fabrication.”

The third:

A conspiracy theory widely shared on Facebook claims that the partial collapse of an oceanside condominium building near Miami was actually an attack aimed at a “high-value target” — Ivanka Trump, daughter of former President Donald Trump.

The claim, posted on the same day as the June 24 collapse, stated:

“What’re the chances that the building ‘collapse’ is 5 buildings south of Ivanka? 50 ppl still missing.. yup more and more convinced they were targeting hvt, if not also destroying evidence and/or closing tunnel entrances. USING THE TUNNELS UNDER THE HOTEL FOR SEARCH AND RESCUE. ‘The building was in OK shape.’ The upscale condo near Miami Beach still collapsed Champlain Towers South Condo in Surfside near Miami Beach was completed in 1981. A recent condo sold for $710,000 at the oceanside.”

The post, which included photos of the collapse and a map indicating the proximity of Ivanka Trump’s residence to that building, was flagged as part of Facebook’s efforts to combat false news and misinformation on its News Feed. (Read more about our partnership with Facebook.)

The fourth:

A black plastic lid melts down the side of a dumpster, Salvador Dali-style. The wings of a ceiling fan droop toward the floor like a wilted flower. The rubber of a tire seems to drip down its hub.

These images are part of a viral Facebook post that claims to show the damage heat waves can do. As the Western U.S. continues to simmer under record high temperatures, over 80,000 users have shared the photos, which also made their way to Twitter.

“First big heat wave of 2021 arrived this weekend. This is damage done in the past by a heat wave. Enjoy whatever cold places you live because this ain’t for the faint of heart. #Arizonalife,” the creator of the post wrote.

But did a heat wave really cause the damage in the photos?

USA TODAY found that several of the photos actually show damage from fires or long-term exposure to dust and other weather conditions, not from heat waves. And the photos were taken from all over the world, not just Arizona, as the hashtag implied.

Finally,

“And I might add: The Second Amendment, from the day it was passed, limited the type of people who could own a gun and what type of weapon you could own. You couldn’t buy a cannon.” — President Biden, remarks on gun violence, June 23

The president offered this aside as he made a litany of his regular points about the need for background checks and what he says was the effectiveness of bans on assault weapons and large-capacity magazines that expired.

Parenthetical asides from a prepared text often trip up presidents, especially Biden. In this case, he repeated a claim — that Americans were prohibited from owning cannons — that has already been fact-checked as false when he made it during the presidential campaign.

So, we have four outright nutjob conspiracies and the President of the United States saying something perfectly sensible but technically untrue. (There were no laws in 1791, when the 2nd Amendment was passed, restricting canon ownership. But it’s probably a good idea not to sell artillery to ordinary citizens.)

Granting that the Internet amplifies idiotic ideas and makes them seem more common than they are, the mind boggles that anyone believes any of this crap. Or that people who do are likely dissuadable via FactChecks from the Lame Stream Media.

FILED UNDER: Media, Society
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Five is consistent for Kessler. He apparently needs to appear “balanced”. So he tends to come down hard on Dems.

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  2. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08: Yes, it’s truly bizarre. Rather clearly, the myth that needs to be debunked is the notion that Biden said something idiotic about guns, not the fact that, well, actually, there wasn’t a law against concealed carry for cannons.

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  3. Gustopher says:

    So, we have four outright nutjob conspiracies and the President of the United States saying something perfectly sensible but technically untrue.

    The melting of things in a heatwave isn’t an outright conspiracy — we have buckled concrete on our highways, after the 110 degree heat in Seattle, and Portland has similar damage.

    That post of pictures of melted things was false evidence of real problems. Not a crazy conspiracy theory.

    And the fine folks at USA Today completely misunderstood what “welcome to #ArizonaLife” meant — it was welcoming the rest of the country to the joys of living in Arizona.

    I’d give their fact checking on this a C-minus.

    1
  4. CSK says:

    Speaking of crazy:

    “Jesus Christ would have to come down and tell me that Biden won before I would believe it.”
    — Pam Niner, Trump rally attendee, June 26, 2021

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  5. mattbernius says:

    So, we have four outright nutjob conspiracies and the President of the United States saying something perfectly sensible but technically untrue. (There were no laws in 1791, when the 2nd Amendment was passed, restricting canon ownership. But it’s probably a good idea not to sell artillery to ordinary citizens.)

    Complete aside, but one of the more delightful quirks of Lawfare’s Benjamin Wittes are his videos of him shooting fruit with a baby canon. I for one am prepared to battle to protect this type of content.

    For example videos see this fan twitter feed:
    https://twitter.com/babycannonade?lang=en

    1
  6. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @CSK:

    “Jesus Christ would have to come down and tell me that Biden won before I would believe it.”

    The funniest part of that is if JC did show up, she wouldn’t listen to him because he would look like a Palestinian Jewish man living in Galilee during the first century; NOT lily white like herself and the modern evangelical depictions of him. And so there is no way that she would ever believe him.

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  7. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    Considering that, in order for Washington to finally control the City of Boston in early 1776, Henry Knox was forced, in a herculean effort, to drag some 60 tons of cannon, in the dead of winter, from Fort Ticonderoga to Bunker Hill (some 300 miles including the Berkshire Mountains)…I would say cannon ownership was pretty fuqing restricted.

    But seriously…the pretzel-like effort to both-sides the issue of conspiracy theories is downright laughable.

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  8. CSK says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:
    JC was a carpenter by trade. She might go for the pick-up truck.

    4
  9. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    It is true that from the late 1600’s to the early 1700’s many individual cannon ownership was common.
    William Kidd
    Jack Rackham
    Edward Teach
    Charles Vane
    Anne Bonney
    All the cool kids had their own cannons.

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  10. Stormy Dragon says:

    There were no laws in 1791, when the 2nd Amendment was passed, restricting canon ownership. But it’s probably a good idea not to sell artillery to ordinary citizens.

    Buying a bunch of canons was actually a quick way to get yourself to officer rank in the early army. A bunch of the big Revolutionary War artillery officers (e.g. Henry Knox and John Lamb) got their start that way.

    Similarly, a lot of early naval officers got started by just buying a warship to get a commission.

    Not really relevant to what we should be doing today, now that we have a standing professional army, but interesting from a historical trivia standpoint.

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  11. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    Considering that, in order for Washington to finally control the City of Boston in early 1776, Henry Knox was forced, in a herculean effort, to drag some 60 tons of cannon, in the dead of winter, from Fort Ticonderoga to Bunker Hill (some 300 miles including the Berkshire Mountains)…I would say cannon ownership was pretty fuqing restricted.

    You’re confusing the Battle of Bunker Hill (June 1775) with the Fortification of the Dorchester Heights (March 1776). The Knox expedition occurred during the winter between the two and was to replace all the canons they lost at Bunker Hill.

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  12. Daryl and his brother Darryl says:

    @Stormy Dragon:
    Yes, you are correct. Dorchester Heights, not Bunker Hill…all part of the Siege of Boston.

  13. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius: Baby Cannon isn’t all that formidable; the last egg didn’t even break. It was only pushed off its stand. 😉

  14. Nightcrawler says:

    In the 80s, I knew this dude who had a grenade launcher. He was a weapons nut, not just guns but things like swords. He had enough weaponry in his house to defend a small developing nation.

    He died over 15 years ago, so he won’t appear in any January 6 photos, heh.

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  15. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl: I suspect that MOST people would have had to MAKE a cannon if they’d wanted one as well.

  16. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Daryl and his brother Darryl:

    William Kidd

    Also, William Kidd doesn’t really fit with the others since he was operating under British orders and then got caught up in a bunch of political BS.

  17. KM says:

    Reality is scary and the idea that randomness can mean the difference between life and death freaks the hell out of people. There are some folks who missed being pancaked in their sleep by mere feet. A building just collapsing doesn’t happen in a functioning state and dozens of innocent renters dying (including their pets and any potential visitors) demands a *reason*. Add in that conservative-affiliated views like deregulation, climate change denial and crony capitalism likely played a huge role in this and it’s not surprising they’re out and about trying to “connect the dots”. Random things aren’t, it’s all a web of lies and it’s got to be X’s fault this terrible thing happened!!!

    Nobody cares about Ivanka. McAfee was crazy but sane enough to realize life in jail was gonna suck for a rich weirdo. Nobody’s tossing in their support for Trump now that he’s Random Citizen Nobody Who Can’t Shut Up. Bad things happen to good people, especially when you let greedy and stupidity run the show.

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  18. Mu Yixiao says:

    @KM:

    A building just collapsing doesn’t happen in a functioning state

    They do in China. Oh… wait. You said functioning state. Nevermind.

  19. Michael Reynolds says:

    The manufacture of cannon was extremely cutting edge tech through most of history. You didn’t just solder your old pewter-ware together.

  20. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @CSK: And just because Jesus was a carpenter doesn’t mean I can perform miracles.

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  21. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You didn’t just solder your old pewter-ware together.

    You don’t? Shit. Back to the old drawing board.

    2
  22. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    You can’t???? Damn, I am disillusioned.

    1
  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Well, if you happened to teleport to LA and could put a platform under my dishwasher and install same, replace the side door to the garage and fix the front door, I’d be willing to sing hosanna, hosanna in the highest.

    1
  24. CSK says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:
    Maybe you could practice changing pewterware into cannons. Or canons. The latter would give the process a nice religious tone.

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  25. Barry says:

    @Michael Reynolds: You didn’t just solder your old pewter-ware together.

    @OzarkHillbilly: “You don’t? Shit. Back to the old drawing board.”

    Oh, you could, but you might cause a bunch of Redcoats to laugh at the Rebel own-goal.

    1
  26. Matt says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Not really as casting a cannon is an easy process. There’s videos galore on how to do so in your backyard on youtube right now (with basic tools). What’s difficult is producing a cannon that is accurate, reliable, and can handle the rigors of combat.

    My favorite cannon related blog from back in the day.

    http://www.buckstix.com/howitzer.htm

    Hunting with a mountain howitzer.

    2
  27. Jen says:

    @KM:

    Reality is scary and the idea that randomness can mean the difference between life and death freaks the hell out of people.

    Yep. This is exactly what I was getting at the other day when I said that this is why people are willing to believe the lab-leak theory over animal origins.

    People are always going to search for “the explanation,” even when the answer is erosion, bad luck, and timing. That’s too random for them.

    3
  28. Kathy says:

    @Jen:

    Remember when Hugo Chavez died of cancer after years of receiving cancer treatments in Cuba and many instances of remission and recurrence of the cancer?

    Many of his followers claim he was murdered.

    To a point, we were lucky the Orange Ass didn’t die of COVID. See above.

  29. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: Teleporting to LA would be problematic, the rest is well within doable for any competent carpenter, of which I am sure there is a plethora in LA. As to how you find one there, I haven’t a clue.

  30. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Michael Reynolds: ETA: My bad: I could put the “platform” in for the Dishwasher but as far as installing it you’ll have to call a plumber.

    I don’t do plumbing. Which, funny enough, neither did Jesus.

    1
  31. Gustopher says:

    @mattbernius: I was expecting the baby cannon to be like a potato cannon, but with babies rather than potatoes.

    I am now disappointed.

    (I was expecting either dolls, or small plastic babies…)

    2
  32. grumpy realist says:

    @Gustopher: You’ve just reminded me of one of Stanislaw Lem’s robot fables where a war between two countries was won by one side sending thousands and thousands of (robot) babies over the border by using baby cannons….I think it’s in The Cyberniad.