Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

The fine line between insanity and madness

Posted by digglahhh on 12 May 2007

There’s a fine line between genius and insanity.
I have erased this line.
— Oscar Levant

There is a thin line between ignorance and arrogance, and only
I have managed to erase that line.
— Dr Science

So too, there’s a fine line between bad reality, bad journalism, and flat-out humor. Let’s see if we can erase it. Two of these stories were published by real-news organizations and the third was published in The Onion. Your task is simple: identify the fake news story.

Pa. teen wins text-messaging contest in New York :-)

NEW YORK – Thirteen-year-old Morgan Pozgar, of Claysburg, Pa., was crowned LG National Texting champion on Saturday after she typed the first two lines of the “Mary Poppins” song “Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious” in 15 seconds.

“I’m going to go shopping and buy lots of clothes,” the teen said after winning her $25,000 prize from the electronics company LG.

Morgan defeated nearly 200 other competitors at the Roseland Ballroom in Manhattan to become East Coast champion and then beat West Coast champion Eli Tirosh, 21, of Los Angeles.

She estimated that she sends more than 8,000 text messages a month to her friends and family.


Congress Launches National Congress-Awareness Week

WASHINGTON, DC—Hoping to counter ignorance of the national legislative body among U.S. citizens, congressional leaders named the first week in August National Congress Awareness Week. “This special week is designed to call attention to America’s very important federal lawmaking body,” Speaker of the House Dennis Hastert said. “At least three citizens in every state, and as many as 55 in California, presently have some form of congressional duty, whether it’s as a senator or as a representative.” The festivities will kick off with a 10-mile Walk for Congress Awareness, when blue ribbons will be handed out in honor of those who served in the first 107 congresses.

Parents Convicted in Baby’s Death

ATLANTA (AP) A Superior Court jury in Atlanta convicted a vegan couple of murder and cruelty to children Wednesday in the death of their six-week old, who was fed a diet largely consisting of soy milk and apple juice.

27-year-old Jade Sanders and 31-year-old and Lamont Thomas will receive automatic life sentences for starving the boy, who weighed just 3.5 pounds when he died.

Defense lawyers said the first-time parents did the best they could while adhering to the lifestyle of vegans, who typically use no animal products. They said Sanders and Thomas did not realize the baby, who was born at home, was in danger until minutes before he died.

But prosecutor Mike Carlson told the jury yesterday during closing arguments that they are “baby killers.”

Hopefully (if we see hope in not being able to differentiate real and fake news), some of you will be fooled. Answer will be posted Sunday evening.

7 Responses to “The fine line between insanity and madness”

  1. Jen said

    Well, the third has already made the rounds among the outraged on LiveJournal. I havne’t looked, but I bet #1 is also real.

  2. digglahhh said

    Well, I wish I would have gotten a better response and fooled some people. The second story is indeed the fake one.

    Disappointingly,. it is far easier to find real stories that might pass as Onion stories than Onion stories that pass as real.

    I guess that speaks to who is doing a better job…

  3. it is far easier to find real stories that might pass as Onion stories than Onion stories that pass as real

    Depends on the story, and who’s doing the reading.

    Years ago The Onion wrote a story about a woman who was “so psyched about [her] upcoming abortion” because “abortion is the best!”. Some anti-choice ass clown stumbled across it just recently, predictably failed to realize it was his own attitudes that were being parodied, and proceeded to display his own attitudes about the piece – quoting The Onion by name but never twigging that the story was fake. When it was pointed out to him, gently and politely (by my standards), that he was a gullible asshole, he then proceeded to defend the veracity of the piece and his own observations about it through a total fo 5 further blog posts, garnering enough derisive traffic that he finally had to close the blog. (My contribution to a better world.)

    In a somewhat similar vein, many people have commented that The Onion‘s recent anti-feminism issue was pitch-perfectly on-target (though of course they all realized it was satire).

    Sadly, art imitates life much too realistically, in these cases.

  4. Good point, Kevin. This blog probably isn’t the best magnet for the naive and gullible.

  5. digglahhh said

    Yes, Meta. In that sense I’m glad we did not fool people.

    I also agree with you, Keith. In a way, The Onion is somewhat like Juvenal’s poetry of our time.

    I think there’s an important distinction that you imply in your post. That distinction is the one between being “real” and being “accurate.” The Onion is a one of the most “accurate” news sources out there even though the stories happen to be fake. That is because it gets correct the important social elements of the world in which news is made – precisely what “real” news outlets go out of their way to not include…

    The Onion is aware that pointing out the elephant in the room is often the most important aspect of real news reporting. Completely making up the details of the room itself doesn’t change that.

  6. Then there’s this from the BBC Online:

    “Pope condemns Lat[in ]Am[erican] ‘autocrats’”

    I honestly did assume it was an Onion story when I saw the headline.

  7. Oh, wow, what a find, Kevin, I wish we’d had it. The Pope criticized those who are “‘wedded to old-fashioned ideologies’.” I’m not sure even Jon Stewart himself could have come up with that one.

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