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This introductory chapter considers the concept of scrutiny, which is a concept that underlies the analysis throughout the book. Scrutiny is an essential element of the methodological practices of science and philosophy. It is also essential to being a consumer in a world in which one is assaulted by advertising every place one turns, or in determining the authenticity of a cultural artifact such as a novel or play. The politics of honest election and fair governance are also a place where scrutiny is important. Scrutiny is what ties together the topics covered in this book (debunking of urban legends, political fact-checking, truth-or-fiction television programming, grade B horror movies, and sites that protect one from computer viruses) that have been prevalent in the years 1990 to 2015. This chapter looks in particular at scrutiny in online settings.
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Ernest Hemingway has famously been variously quoted and paraphrased on his comment. Raised in Michigan in the early twentieth century, exposed to the horrors of war during the First World War in Italy as an ambulance driver, living in Paris as a young writer in the 1920s, visiting battlefields during the Spanish Civil War in the 1930s, reporting for American newspapers during the Second World War, and then living in Cuba in the 1950s, Hemingway had ample opportunity to hear falsehoods and to be flooded with much misinformation. No wonder he said that everyone needed a built-in “crap detector.” Neil Postman, a long-time commentator on media and other American cultural issues, heard this comment while interviewing Hemingway at the start of the 1960s, and that he repeated in well circulated speech, “Bullshit and the Art of Crap-Detection,” which he delivered on November 28, 1969 at the National Convention for Teachers of English (NCTE), http://www.smirkingchimp.com/thread/8863; Kompf ( 2004); reported on by Postman and Weingartner ( 1969).
Carl Sagan, The Demon-Haunted World: Science as a Candle in the Dark as quoted in Scrutiny Quotes on Goodreads, https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/scrutiny
“Vietnam War U.S. Military Fatal Casualty Statistics,” U.S. National Archives, accessed December 26, 2018, https://www.archives.gov/research/military/vietnam-war/casualty-statistics
“Number of U.S. Soldiers Killed in the Iraq War from 2003 to 2018,” Statistica, https://www.statista.com/statistics/263798/american-soldiers-killed-in-iraq/
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Corn, David. 2003. The Lies of George W. Bush: Mastering the Politics of Deception. New York: Crown.
Cortada, James, and William Aspray. 2019. Fake Facts Nation: The Long History of Lies and Misrepresentations in America. Lanham: Rowman & Littlefield.
Kompf, Michael. 2004. The Legacy of Neil Postman. College Quarterly 7 (1): 20.
Lord, C.G., L. Ross, and M.R. Lepper. 1979. Biased Assimilation and Attitude Polarization: The Effects of Prior Theories on Subsequently Considered Evidence. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology 37 (11): 2098–2109. CrossRef
Nyhan, Brendan, and Jason Reifler. 2010. When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions. Political Behavior 32: 303–330. CrossRef
Postman, Neil, and Charles Weingartner. 1969. Teaching as a Subversive Activity, 2. New York: Dell.
Silverman, Craig. 2007. Regret the Error: How Media Mistakes Pollute the Press and Imperil Free Speech, 6. New York: Union Square Press.
———. 2011. The Backfire Effect: More on the Press’s Inability to Debunk Bad Information. Columbia Journalism Review, June 17. https://archives.cjr.org/behind_the_news/the_backfire_effect.php.
- The Concept of Scrutiny
James W. Cortada
- Chapter 1
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