Debunked: Furious American Citizens In San Bernardino Burn Down Radical Islamic Mosque

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member


On December 11, 2015, 23 year old Carl James Dial Jr., of Palm Desert was arrested for the firebombing of mosque of the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley earlier that day. The lobby of the building was damaged, and nobody was injured. Dial seems to have acted alone, and the mosque was 75 miles away from San Bernardino. Yet the story was reported as "Furious American Citizens In San Bernardino Burn Down Radical Islamic Mosque".

This is bunk because of the facts stated above. It was just one young man (as far as is known), it was not in San Bernardino, the mosque was not burnt down. The photo used in the story is that of a Mosque in Sweden, burned in 2014.

The Coachella mosque does not seem to be "radical" either - after the attack the Iman, Reymundo Nour, held a community meeting:

http://www.desertsun.com/story/news...am-speaks-out-true-islam-after-fire/77505946/
Interestingly, the father of the alleged attacker described him as struggling socially:

http://abcnews.go.com/US/wireStory/authorities-detain-person-interest-mosque-arson-fire-35734024
This illustrates a very real problem. People are increasingly getting their information from a very narrow set of sources that tend to reinforce each other. Things that are false spread within those social media groups because the members of the groups want to believe. They want to believe stories about radical mosques, because they strongly believe in such stories. They then participate online in discussion of the stories with a very specific world-view.



The comments above come from the same site that the "Furious American Citizens ..." headline came from. It's a site called "US Herald", which got the story from "American News". Both sites exemplify a recent trend of promoting fear based stories for advertising revenue. It's a type of fear and anger clickbait marketing that was described by Caitlin Dewey of the Washington Post, when she explained why she's changing her approach to fighting fake news:
https://www.washingtonpost.com/news...ernet-this-week-why-this-is-the-final-column/
Look at the "American News" version of the story to see this in action.



The "story" itself is a tiny inflammatory and highly inaccurate retelling of what happened, spiced up with a Donald Trump quote, and ending with a leading question designed to get people commenting:
And it's totally surrounded by advertising.

This is exactly the type of thing Dewey described, a pile of clickbait designed to exploit the fear and anger of a specific subset of American culture. According to Carl Dial's father, this seems to have been the very thing that led to the attack in the first place. A vicious cycle of hate that seems to be self sustaining, the flames being strongly fanned by internet advertising.

Can the situation be improved? Dewey has given up the whack-a-mole approach to debunking, where she would try to collate lists of "what was fake on the internet this week". There's an endless stream of such bunk, and Dewey notes that the true believers will simply ignore debunking from sources like the Washington Post.

But as I've said several times, my debunking is not aimed at true believers, but on helping people who are more on the fence, or who are attempting to get out of the rabbit hole. Debunking of individual claims is very helpful to these people, and it's also helpful to people who are friends or relatives of true believers.

But I think that more can be done. I think that the echo chambers and walled gardens of social media need to hear the voice of reason, and that can't be done just by posting on Metabunk. We need to actually go in there and politely talk to people. There needs to be a grassroots approach to debunking.
 
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Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
The fear and anger clickbait sites seem to be a conservative phenomenon. But maybe that's just me being in my own echo chamber as a liberal American. Obviously there are liberal leaning sites that have somewhat misleading headlines designed to get people to click on them. Sites like salon.com, huffingtonpost.com, alternet.org. But are there liberal equivalents to "US Herald", or "American News"?
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
The fear and anger clickbait sites seem to be a conservative phenomenon. But maybe that's just me being in my own echo chamber as a liberal American. Obviously there are liberal leaning sites that have somewhat misleading headlines designed to get people to click on them. Sites like salon.com, huffingtonpost.com, alternet.org. But are there liberal equivalents to "US Herald", or "American News"?
I'm pretty sure American News is a satire site. Theyre the ones with the "Obama renaming Thanksgiving" story. Some of their stuff is too much. I have decided its a liberal news station designed to make conservatives look stupid for falling for it.

upload_2015-12-22_11-17-29.png

some examples of their headlines
http://realorsatire.com/americannews-com/

add: see this guy thinks so too
 

Trailblazer

Moderator
Staff member
I'm pretty sure American News is a satire site.
The lines are increasingly being blurred between satire and news, as the quote from Caitlin Dewey above illustrates. Some sites that were previously "satire" are finding that they are more successful if they get shared as serious news. So rather than inventing out-and-out fake stories, they take real ones that will pass a cursory fact-check (ie mention real people and events) and put the clickbait spin on them.


The media landscape is becoming more and more fragmented. Conspiracy theorists love to say that the media are all controlled by "Them", pushing the same agenda. The reality is almost the exact opposite: people can now seek out their own media, tailored precisely to their own prejudices, were they are insulated from any dissenting opinions or facts. It's really quite scary, and the results are already being seen.
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
they take real ones that will pass a cursory fact-check
that site "American News", seems to post somwhat plausible sounding and plausible anti liberal articles most often. But then every tenth post or so they post some real obvious give aways -something like:
Oprah Winfrey Makes Shocking Announcement On Possibility Of her Running in 2016


It looks very likely like Obama's face will be added to Mt. Rushmore


and even these obvious fakes get thousands of likes. its depressing.
 

skephu

Senior Member
On December 11, 2015, 23 year old Carl James Dial Jr., of Palm Desert was arrested for the firebombing of the Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley earlier that day. The lobby of the building was damaged, and nobody was injured. Dial seems to have acted alone, and the mosque was 75 miles away from Riverside. Yet the story was reported as "Furious American Citizens In San Bernardino Burn Down Radical Islamic Mosque".
Mick, I have trouble understanding this paragraph because of missing information. First, you write that the "Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley" was firebombed. But then you write about "the mosque". Am I supposed to figure out for myself that "Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley" is a mosque? Also, I have no idea how "Riverside" comes in here. The article writes about San Bernardino. Looks like I'm supposed to know that "Riverside" is the same as "San Bernardino" or it is part of it or something like that.
 

Pete Tar

Senior Member
I'm pretty sure American News is a satire site. Theyre the ones with the "Obama renaming Thanksgiving" story. Some of their stuff is too much. I have decided its a liberal news station designed to make conservatives look stupid for falling for it.
Or alternatively, Occam's Razor... :p

But really we're all stupid when our naturally inlined biases are waved in front of our noses.
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
Mick, I have trouble understanding this paragraph because of missing information. First, you write that the "Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley" was firebombed. But then you write about "the mosque". Am I supposed to figure out for myself that "Islamic Society of the Coachella Valley" is a mosque? Also, I have no idea how "Riverside" comes in here. The article writes about San Bernardino. Looks like I'm supposed to know that "Riverside" is the same as "San Bernardino" or it is part of it or something like that.
Sorry, I've edited it to clarify. San Bernadino is the correct place, it's just to the north of Riverside. But I'm not sure why I wrote Riverside. Ah, I see, Palm desert, where the arson to place, is in Riverside county.
 
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This illustrates a very real problem. People are increasingly getting their information from a very narrow set of sources that tend to reinforce each other. Things that are false spread within those social media groups because the members of the groups want to believe. They want to believe stories about radical mosques, because they strongly believe in such stories. They then participate online in discussion of the stories with a very specific world-view.
The fear and anger clickbait sites seem to be a conservative phenomenon. But maybe that's just me being in my own echo chamber as a liberal American. Obviously there are liberal leaning sites that have somewhat misleading headlines designed to get people to click on them. Sites like salon.com, huffingtonpost.com, alternet.org. But are there liberal equivalents to "US Herald", or "American News"
Part of that, Mick, IMO, is that too many journalists HAVE grown lazy. Especially now, in the area of internet journalism.
Many times I have searched for the original source of some claim made in on-line conservative website article, only to be stymied by a pattern of similar websites running the same article, usually copied word for word with some additional commentary thrown in. Liberal websites are a bit better, though they usually rely on the same original source as well.

I have been searching for a great example of journalistic laziness that I know of, but can't seem to find any reference to it on the web (perhaps with good reason). This particular example involved a Chicago-area TV station reporter hitting the airwaves with a scoop about a local "hero" who, during the First Gulf War, supposedly had come home to recover after being involved in fantastic feats of bravery in Baghdad. A couple of more local TV stations ran small blurbs about the local "hero", but apparently some deeper digging into the story revealed that the first reporter had, as a matter of fact, naively reported on the exploits of the local Tall Tale Teller.
 

Hevach

Senior Member
Part of that, Mick, IMO, is that too many journalists HAVE grown lazy. Especially now, in the area of internet journalism.
Many times I have searched for the original source of some claim made in on-line conservative website article, only to be stymied by a pattern of similar websites running the same article, usually copied word for word with some additional commentary thrown in. Liberal websites are a bit better, though they usually rely on the same original source as well.
There's also an odd phenomenon I started seeing in the last 6-10 years. I'll start with a website like Fox News, click though to a source they provide and find a local news station or local paper. Click through to their source and I find a blog. Click that source for another blog, and another, and another, and then eventually click on a blog that links BACK to a blog I'd already seen, meaning after some point if I keep following cited sources I end up in a loop of three or four equally shady blogs linked in a circle like the philosophical chicken-and-egg problem, with no way of figuring out which was first or if they all were brought into existence together to ensure that every article had a source to cite without having to actually cite a source.

24/7 news has created a culture where you have to post SOMETHING on intervals far too short to sort out stuff like the above - if there's even any way except to state that clearly these sites were set up in such a way as to create the illusion of an original source without any of them needing to stand up as the original.
 

skephu

Senior Member
But I think that more can be done. I think that the echo chambers and walled gardens of social media need to hear the voice of reason, and that can't be done just by posting on Metabunk. We need to actually go in there and politely talk to people. There needs to be a grassroots approach to debunking.
How? As soon as they sense that you do not fully share their beliefs they exclude you.
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
How? As soon as they sense that you do not fully share their beliefs they exclude you.
i debunk these type sites posts all the time. (well when they pop up on my wall) although i dont usually converse much.

i dont think these types of sites ban anyone unless maybe if you spam or are seriously rude. I think (personally) its best to
1. not post on every single topic, stick to the really over the top ones so people start thinking hmmm... maybe i need to check what this site says more.
2. state the debunk.. a post to the original story is best with little to no commentary.
3. dont get into a back and forth. especially if you are not a conservative!

The truth is on these type pages, yea youll see 389 posts being belligerant and sheepley, but there are usually a few conservatives in there already being level headed. But mostly it's a vent-fest. Not much can be done about that, which is why it best to only comment on really over the top "silly" posts..like Oprah running for president...to sow seeds that "this site is qustionable info".

But Micks post here can be posted to that original link. just post the debunk link then dont comment again.

The biggest problem i see is with 500 comments or 1,000 comments only a few people will even see the debunk link. You probably have to watch the sites non stop (they post like 50 stories a day) and get your debunk in there withint eh first half hour. baby steps i guess.
 

deirdre

Moderator
Staff member
How? As soon as they sense that you do not fully share their beliefs they exclude you.
heres an example American news has up now https://www.facebook.com/ThePatriotReview/posts/717990278391550

so all you would do is post this link with no comemntary at all http://www.theatlantic.com/education/archive/2015/12/fear-islam-tennessee-public-schools/420441/

some people will click it thinking ti reaffirms their belief..which, eh it does a bit, but its level headed and gives the skinny.

Now the photo the AN blurb uses is from a different story. its not in a school per se.. the kids were visiting a mosque. which less conservatives would have a problem with then if it was in the school itself, but i'd still maybe avoid pointing this part out. http://www.barenakedislam.com/2015/...ress-code-on-a-school-field-trip-to-a-mosque/
 

Mick West

Administrator
Staff member
How? As soon as they sense that you do not fully share their beliefs they exclude you.
That's certainly a bit problem. But the idea of grassroots debunking is something that I've warmed to over the last year since I moved from Los Angles to a small town near Sacramento. I joined a variety of local Facebook pages - including the local "Skywatch" (i.e. chemtrails) site. I was banned from there in less than two days.

But then I also joined some local discussion sites, as I'm always interested in local stuff - history, geography, photography, politics, chat, local happenings. People would occasionally post bunk, and I'd post and discuss the debunk. But where it was interesting for me was when I started posting in a page titled "Raw and Uncensored" - a page for people who were kicked off more regular pages for expressing their strongly held beliefs about topics such as immigration, terrorism, guns, "thugs", the confederate flag, Obama, welfare, etc. Basically the types who would believe half the stuff on "American News" and vote for Donald Trump. But it's still relatively diverse - including quite intelligent people with a range of political biases.

So I'd post on there, countering their memes with facts. Most recently this has been things about Muslims, where you would find storied like the one in the OP being repeated as fact, which can be corrected. But then there's little things like:

Where you can point out that the photo is actually of Egyptian women protesting for change in their own country, five years ago.

Over time, by being polite and consistent, I think I've become one of the "resident libtards" on the group. I'm not excluded, and I think I'm providing some useful perspective.
 
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Chew

Senior Member
One good tool in this battle is the Churnalism extension for Chrome. It doesn't work for Firefox anymore.

Video tutorial:

 

Graham2001

Active Member
The media landscape is becoming more and more fragmented. Conspiracy theorists love to say that the media are all controlled by "Them", pushing the same agenda. The reality is almost the exact opposite: people can now seek out their own media, tailored precisely to their own prejudices, were they are insulated from any dissenting opinions or facts. It's really quite scary, and the results are already being seen.
And not just online, the whole 'trigger words/safe spaces/disinvitation' phenomenon appears (In my opinion, which may be wrong.) an offline expression of the same behaviour, people are trying to control their external environment and sources in the same way they can self-censor their online environment.

As for liberal 'fake news' sites, I've no idea, but I suspect that something like that is driving the rage behind the Black Lives Matter movement, it may not be online though, we may be seeing the culmination of decades of conspiracy theories that developed in parallel to the 'white' conspiracy theories we are all familiar with.

Later: This CT covered on Wikipedia seems to be the only 'black' conspiracy theory to have reached the notice of the mainstream:

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Plan_(Washington,_D.C.)
 
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Efftup

Senior Member
There seem to be quite a few "Black" Conspiracy theories knocking about.
Like the one about how a Black woman wrote the Matrix (and Terminator) and won a lawsuit but "THEY" won;t tell you bout it cos they are all in cahoots to keep you from tfinding the truth.
 
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