Spotting fake news
People I know well, people I follow, and people I generally respect, fell for a bit of fake news in the middle of February this year. It was in the form of a tweet that circulated quoting Ted Cruz “I’ll believe in climate change when Texas freezes over,” dated September 2016.
You might have seen it. You might have shared it, too. Ted Cruz never said it.
Why was this so shareable? Ted Cruz was in a position to earn ridicule. He was in the spotlight when a snowstorm left millions of Texans without heat, water, or electricity. Senator Cruz’s response to the storm: fly off for a warm-weather vacation at an expensive hotel in Mexico!
What should have made you look twice at this, before sharing?
I saw the fake post. It made me smirk. But, then these things struck me:
- Ted Cruz would not say “climate change.” At best, he’d say “global warming.” More likely he’d say something derogatory about liberal ideas that there’s something wrong with the environment.
- Being cold is not what conservative people like Ted Cruz think of as proof of climate change. They expect heat, because of the term “global warming.” Conservatives use freak snowstorms as proof that there is no climate change. Whenever there’s a snowstorm in cities where they are unlikely, it is a climate change denier’s free lunch.
- On September 3, 2016, President Obama signed the Paris Agreement (United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change). This was a loss for climate change deniers. Cruz would not be tweeting about his losses; it’s not his style. PS, I had to look up the date, but I knew Paris was fall of 2016.
Those were what made me go to Snopes to check the tweet. It was never posted by Cruz in 2016, or any other time.
The truth sandwich
- Don’t repeat the lie. Repetition makes it stronger.
- Say the truth without room for argument or debate.
- Repeat the truth twice to any reference to what the lie was about.
What not to do:
- Don’t repeat the lie. That just advertises the falsehood.
- Don’t try to refute it, fact for fact. This doesn’t work. Human brains question facts that don’t match our worldviews. (I’ve written about this). When you try this, it often comes off as defensive.
- Don’t take the high road and ignore it. Then the lie goes unchallenged. Your silence can be read as agreement. If you are a journalist, use a truth sandwich whenever you are repeating false stories.
My truth sandwich involving Ted Cruz’s fake tweet, climate change, and the snow crisis in Texas:
Many of you saw the tweet about climate change and snowfall in Texas, which was attributed to Ted Cruz. It was sort of funny, but it was fake. (Had I shared it, this is where I would apologize).
What happened in February 2021 was that millions of Texans were without heat, water, and electricity for several days during a severe snowstorm. Senator Cruz did not really write that fake tweet, but he regularly opposes efforts to curb climate change. Senator Cruz’s response to the snowstorm and the utility crisis in Texas was to leave the state to go to a resort in Mexico.
Climate change involves the increase in the frequency of storms and changes in the location of storms. This includes low temperatures and snowfall in Texas, which are becoming more frequent in the last six years. Senator Cruz is a vocal opponent of climate change reform.
Here’s another truth sandwich on the same topic by Arthur Waskow.
Arthur published a blog that week, leading with the fake Cruz tweet. He was informed by someone that it was fake, and swiftly published the retraction below. He also edited the post that you’d see now.
His retraction was a modified truth sandwich. He starts with the falsehood, but doesn’t repeat it. Instead, he repeats his content from his own blog: Cruz is guilty of contributing to the pain of his constituents and acting selfishly. The Shalom Center is working to help solarize Texas:
“The Shalom Report
Dear folks, I hasten to correct my last message. CNN reports, with detailed evidence, that despite its circulation on social media to hundreds of thousands of people, the “Cruz tweet” was a fake. Everything else in my message was true. Senator Cruz did spread false assertions that there was no climate crisis, he did so at the bidding of Big Oil, he did waste the years we could have saved lives through solarization, and he did use his money to run away to Mexico and warmth when his own home was “freezing” like the homes of millions of Texans that his falsehoods endangered.
It is also true that we are pursuing a major effort to solarize 30 million American homes, and that we can supply you with more information on how to work for this if you write [email protected]
I apologize for my mistake. Shalom, salaam, paz, peace, namaste — Arthur”