“…But You Can’t Make Them Think.”

Yesterday, I created a fun True News, or Fake? quiz (“5 questions, not easy. 🙂 ”), and introduced it in the free edition of the newsletter this way:

Before the Stories: Can you tell True news from Fake? The concept sure has been in the …uh… news lately! And you’ve had plenty of practice while reading True. So take my new (posted today!) quick quiz and find out your skills: True or Fake? [Note: no longer online.]

5 questions, not easy. Have fun with it! And note that you don’t have to subscribe to get your results: you are already a subscriber. Slow down just a tiny bit at the end and read!

Then Comes the Protest?!

I have to admit I didn’t expect a protest unsubscribe over it! I guess I should always expect the unexpected, since here you go:

Unsubscribe me. Your FAKE news item is a joke. Whose opinion of fake news? Someone else? Yours? I am moving on I cannot take the frigging insanity. I don;t need you or anyone else to tell me what is fake, because it will be skewed to your bias. I call bullshit.

That’s from “JTW” in Massachusetts, a reader for more than eight years of a newsletter called This is True.

But let me get this straight: when I clearly say exactly what I personally MADE UP in the This is True Quiz, that’s “BULLSHIT” because he doesn’t “need you or anyone else to tell me what is fake.”

Let that sink in!

He Had His Chance

Statue: Caïn by Henri Vidal, Tuileries Garden, Paris, 1896. Photo: Alex Proimos (flickr @proimos), 2009. Click to see larger.

So much for True’s mission to promote thinking! If “JTW” can’t grasp it in eight+ years, will he ever? Not if (as I suspect) he uses chemicals to alter his thinking process. As I’ve said before: “You can lead an obliviot to knowledge, but you can’t make them think.”

True is about critical thought using examples of true news stories to, yes, entertain, but also to provoke thought. Part of the idea is to show the huge variety of ways that people are obliviots, unthinking, or just plain silly. (And, sometimes, amazingly awesome, and not just in the Honorary Unsubscribe.) So yeah: the stories in the quiz are all at least believable, and demonstrate how hard it is to tell real human behavior from the made-up (“5 questions, not easy.”)

But boo hoo! How dare a publication called This is True point out something totally made up!

I’m guessing he got a really bad score on the quiz. At least his unsubscribe is being counterbalanced by quite a few new subscribers coming in via the quiz! I’ll take thinkers over obliviots every time.

Update: Quiz Closed

A year later, the software vendor warned my “license” was about to expire, so I pulled the quiz rather than pay them again. Lesson learned: don’t use “pay every year” software for something unless it supports itself with income.

– – –

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45 Comments on ““…But You Can’t Make Them Think.”

  1. So they can’t tell siccum from c’mere then blamed you for the fakery that you based your test on. It’s your fault!

    Clearly! -rc

  2. I enjoyed the quiz, I got four out of five as my score. It would be interesting if you would let us know, in a few days, the distribution of scores by people taking it for the first time each.

    Yes, I’ll be reporting on scores in the newsletter next week. Needed to get some traffic through it to get the stats. Though I won’t be able to track “first time” vs retakes since that would require logins to track, and I’m just not going to go there. -rc

    • I’ll settle for that. Is the test identical every time? If so I won’t take it again, but if there’s a variety, I might try it again.

      Meanwhile, I did share it on my page, and I should share it with The Triple Nine Society, as I’m sure some of their members will enjoy it.

      It’s the same every time, except that the Fake or True response buttons are randomly set as first choice. Thanks for sharing! -rc

      • That randomization of the position of the “Fake” and “True” buttons almost got me — they didn’t flip on me till the last question. 🙂

        Yeah, random is random! -rc

  3. I managed 4 out of 5. Now, just so I’m clear on this, he unsubscribed because you offered (didn’t force him to take it) a test of his ability to discern true new from fake news?

    I copied the introduction — and his reply — verbatim. Don’t have more than that! Though indeed I don’t force anything on anyone. -rc

  4. That quiz wasn’t easy. I got 2 outta 5. Hum. But those situations don’t surprise me, no matter if they’re true or not. Wonder why…?

    I figured most long-time readers such as yourself would choose True on all of them! -rc

  5. I did miss one, even though I now remember it from just after the incident, when I was living in Denver. I’m sharing it on my FB timeline….

  6. Getting 2/5 told me that I have missed a lot over the last many months. Reading your updates and True needs to be a priority again!

  7. I got 4/5. I guessed all were true trying to prove your point of having so much bizarre news out there. There still is, despite the one fake item.

    Still plausible though, wasn’t it? -rc

  8. Does he get an honorary unsubscribe for making us utterly bewildered. How often does that occur?

    No, there’s no honor in being an obliviot! -rc

  9. I was pleased to get 5/5, which I attribute to my many years of reading True, and of course, thinking for myself. It was a fun quiz.

  10. The thing is… so often truth is stranger than fiction, as they say. As evidenced by your newsletter. I am reminded of a 1970’s Canadian TV show called “This is the Law”. There would be a short staged video in which someone broke a law. The panel then had to guess what law was being broken. (Did you know that it is against the law to wash your car in your driveway in Toronto?)

    I did not! Though there are some weird laws in most U.S. states, too. -rc

    • Now you know. Or do you? Is what I said true or fake?

      Well, I didn’t accept it as fact, but neither did I check — not worth the time since I don’t plan to wash any cars in Toronto, let alone in “my” driveway! -rc

    • Yeah, that’s the great liberal bias — the assumption that if you present someone with the facts, (s)he will change her/his mind.

  11. Yours is a newsletter for people who think. That reader clearly did not belong. He just saved you a tiny sliver of bandwidth by dropping out. 🙂

  12. I got 5 of 5 but was unsure. I *almost* second guessed myself into thinking they were all true as part of a “point” regarding the weekly subscription but something in the story caused a red flag. Not sure what caused it. At any rate, I have been duped before by fake news and find it more and more difficult to get facts. Most pieces seem to be Op-Ed these days.

  13. Only got 4 of 5. I should have used the standard algorithm for guessing in multiple choice tests when no answer seems right: The shortest one is most likely false and the longest one is more likely true. That would have won the day!

    Not necessarily. 🙂 -rc

  14. 4 out of 5, although I did a fair any of research to see (one of the true statements I couldn’t find anywhere so I guessed it was fake). I figure that’s my usual approach to possible fake news so it was legit to use it here.

  15. Reminds me of the schlemiel who shot an arrow into the air … and missed.

    To be sure, drawing on my finely tuned thought processes, which I abandoned at the outset, and in view of the fact that they were all at least possible, I answered randomly based in part on the altitude of the previously checked box and disregarding which were marked “T” or “F”, except for your made-up “fact” which I did think about for almost a second before answering. I scored 5/5 anyway. Just lucky, I guess.

  16. I only got 3 of 5 right, but randomly flipping the order of True False got me on one of them. Clever! I’ll be sharing this.

    Thanks, Tony! -rc

  17. This was an interesting exercise, though sadly I only got 2/5: they all sounded dumb but plausible. But it doesn’t really cover the way your president uses the term “fake news” to describe any and every story that he doesn’t *like*, no matter how much video evidence there may be of him saying the very thing he is now calling “fake”. Unfortunately some politicians here in Australia now seem to be following his lead.

    That’s part of the point: it doesn’t matter what someone calls it — what matters to most of us is what is factual, what really happened. That’s what we need to focus on. -rc

  18. I also got 4 out of 5. When you reveal the overall quiz results (after a suitable length of time for folks to take the quiz), would you consider listing the questions in “missed by % of respondents” order?

    I’m pretty sure I can get that out of the software, yes. Then the question becomes, should I publish those results on the site, or just in the newsletter. Will ponder! -rc

  19. In what way does this quiz test my skills to detect fake news? I could have googled them but I thought that was not the point. What gave the fake story away? What’s in the true stories that makes them believable?

    You need to think about it some more. -rc

  20. I couldn’t believe I had only gotten 2 right, so I retook the test and realized I was getting thrown by the random position of the true/false buttons. I know that is often done to test people’s observation powers, but it still feels unfair, especially since you can’t go backwards to change an answer if you make a mistake.

    1) I did warn everyone up front that the software randomly positions the answer buttons, and 2) I wish the software had a setting to allow going back, but it doesn’t …which is part of why I warned everyone up front that the software randomly positions the answer buttons. -rc

  21. Actually, I didn’t pay attention to the instructions (the hot button moved) so I got 100% instead of the 80% I deserved. That said, yeah, the lack of a sense of humor is probably what drives a lot of these unsubscribes.

    Do NOT unsubscribe me. I paid for it. I’m going to mutter in irritation under my breath for every blog, newsletter, and Randy’s Random that you post.

  22. I only got 1/5 right on the quiz. I guess I had too much faith in humanity for some of the stories in the quiz. I only got the one with Caller ID displaying “THIS IS A SCAM” right.

    But, as mentioned, the whole point of the quiz was to determine the real (or, at least, actually reported by a news source) from the completely fictional stories. And also, to the person who unsubscribed with that comment, one main problem with today’s world, is that the term “fake news” has gotten to mean “any suggestion of fact that doesn’t fit within my personal world view”, instead of news items that are factually incorrect. If something can be documented and confirmed by an independent source, it’s very likely not “fake news”.

    Bingo. -rc

  23. What really scares me: Obliviots vote. I’m a bit surprised no one else mentioned it.

    They didn’t need to: that’s why we’re constantly in a mess! -rc

  24. Maybe work’s network blocked it(?), but would of been nice to see which I got wrong.

    Due to the way the software works, you pretty much have to remember what you choose until you get to the the results page, which outlines all the correct answers. -rc

  25. You may be giving too much credit in the unsubscriber JRW having taken the test. My assumption is it is someone who assumed your quiz question would be about political stories and didn’t want to read that anything they believe is fake.

    Could be. If his political beliefs are that fragile, though, s/he shouldn’t be online at all! -rc

  26. I think I got 2 right. Could not tell you which 2. So Randy, we have proved that:
    a. RC warned us it was hard in advance. This IS True.
    b. RC has an awesome imagination. This is 89.5% True!
    c. I am not the brightest fake news finder in the jar!

    I admit I did not take things too seriously. It is hard to determine any “patterns” on 5 queries. Maybe I would have done better with 10. Dunno. And I did not cheat and google anything.

    But, in TODAY’s world, all of them are plausible. It is not 1950’s Kansas anymore, Dorothy! Sigh. Besides, us old guys can hardly face the world as it is.

    Hang in there, Randy. I wish I had money to donate to the cause. Instead, I use “Obliviots” in everyday speech and writing, and ALWAYS tell the source. I hope it garners the odd subscriber. Maybe even an even subscriber!

    I want to stay subscribed, because this helps a lot with my depression and Fibro. I would guess over the last 8 (?) years, Randy has cheered me up innumerable times. And one reason I hang around in this world is to see what he posts next. I miss the videos you used to do. But I know why you had to stop, so that is ok, too.

    What a weird world. An ex-deputy, and EMS guy saving lives. Who’d a thought??? Well, at least it is not fake news.

    Take Care, LLAP, and Thanks a Lot for all your help. I mean that. And keep up the good work. Should I ever be able to afford it, I intend to make it up to you.

    I was wondering where all the odd subscribers were coming from! -rc

  27. A difficult task, this quiz — intuition can carry you only so far. The conclusion would be to only trust credible news sources and block out the gossip mongers and rumor pushers, even if it means you have to pay for your news. On the political level, I believe we are flooded with so much b.s. it is overloading our mind and causing a decline in general intelligence.

    This is sadly True…. -rc

  28. I did not fare well on the quiz — 2 out of 5. HOWEVER, the criteria I use in judging true or fake in real life were not available on the quiz. Just the story, no source information, no dates. As we all know from reading THIS IS TRUE, almost anything is possible. To judge whether a story is true, you need to know the credibility of the source and verifiable details — who, where, when.

    You, a trusted source, told me which were true. I’ll go with that rather than fact-check them all. 😀

    Now there’s a smart reader! 🙂 -rc

  29. Great quiz. Missed two, but one of those was because I didn’t want to believe a Chamber of Commerce would basically brag about having such a crime occur there! Wow, I’ll settle for peace and love any day!

    BTW, can *you* unsubscribe *us* for being obliviots? You clearly said to slow down and read at the end of the quiz, and yet I dutifully entered my name and email and then clicked right as I saw an option to get my results without subscribing…which, if I had slowed down to read, I would have realized I was doing. Hopefully the system just bounces that out, so you don’t have to bang your head against the keyboard yet again! Thanks for putting up with those of us still on the journey.

    I don’t keep track of who comes and goes. If you used an address that’s already subscribed, it’ll bounce out anyway. If it’s a different address, then you don’t have to click the “Confirm” link. Easy! -rc


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