Jack Shafer

Our appetite for fake Ebola stories and other bunk

By Jack Shafer
October 29, 2014

As if the genuine horrors of Ebola weren’t enough, a website called the National Report has taken to ginning up hoax “reports” about the disease. Over the past month, the site has published at least seven fake stories about Ebola, including one reporting that authorities quarantined the entire town of Purdon, Texas. It would be generous to describe the National Report’s treatment of current events as “satirical.” In addition to this bogus (and stupid) story, the site has published others about Texas kindergarteners getting Ebola from a Liberian foreign exchange student; the government’s plan to implant RFID chips in citizens during a pilot Ebola vaccination program; the president’s promise that Obamacare will cover the coming epidemic; and more.

Ben Bradlee, the last giant standing

By Jack Shafer
October 22, 2014

Ben Bradlee, a former Washington Post executive editor discusses about the Watergate Hotel burglary and stories for the Post at the Richard Nixon Presidential Library in Yorba Linda

One of the great payoffs of having lived a long life arrives on the day the newspapers publish your obituary. By out-lasting your competitors and foes, the storyline naturally bends your way. Time blurs precise recollection in favor of generous feelings, which we tend to bestow upon most famous survivors, no matter what sort of lives they lived.

GamerGate: We now know what evil lurks in the heart of man – or trolls

By Jack Shafer
October 17, 2014

A girl dressed in costume plays a video game at the PAX East gaming conference in Boston

For the purposes of this column, all you need to know about “GamerGate” is that it has earned writer Anita Sarkeesian, game entrepreneur Brianna Wu, and developer Zoe Quinn violent threats from anonymous Internet sources (here’s coverage in the New York TimesReason, the Washington PostVoxHuffington Post, the Guardian, and Gawker, if you want to know more).

How the White House intruder story came out and what we can expect next

By Jack Shafer
October 1, 2014

Members of the Uniformed Division of the Secret Service patrol Pennsylvania Avenue outside the North Lawn of the White House in Washington

No bungling bureaucracy will last very long once insiders start anonymously dishing dirt to the press, a lesson currently being taught to Secret Service Director Julia Pierson. Anonymous sources from the Secret Service, its alumni, and insiders who have been read-in on current investigations are taking the agency apart brick-by-brick this month with their leaks to the Washington Post about the White House fence-jumper and the White House shooter.

All in all, Eric Holder was just another brick in the wall

By Jack Shafer
September 26, 2014

U.S.  Attorney General Holder stands with President Obama after the president announced Holder's resignation at the White House in Washington

Attorney General Eric H. Holder Jr. first signaled his exit from office so long ago that every reporter and pundit who covers the Department of Justice has stockpiled enough copy assessing his tenure to fill a mattress. Like Derek Jeter, Holder announced his farewell tour this past February, telling the New Yorker‘s Jeffrey Toobin that he would depart in 2014. The admission prompted journalists to update and fine tune their critiques of the attorney general with emerging details, the way obituary writers tweak their pre-written obituaries of famous, old people to keep them fresh and newsy.

War without end: The U.S. may still be fighting in Syria in 2024, 2034, 2044 . . .

By Jack Shafer
September 24, 2014

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This must be what perpetual war looks like.

In a Pentagon briefing yesterday, Army Lieutenant General Bill Mayville called the cruise missiles and bombs flung at targets in Syria “the beginning of a credible and sustainable persistent campaign.” How long will the campaign last? “I would think of it in terms of years,” Mayville responded.

What do Miley Cyrus, Ricky Gervais and William Shatner have in common? Quitting Twitter.

By Jack Shafer
September 18, 2014

Singer Miley Cyrus poses backstage after winning Video of the Year for "Wrecking Ball" during the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards in Inglewood

Almost as much as celebrities love to tweet, they love to quit Twitter. And as much as they love to quit Twitter, they love to return to the social networking service.

Roger Goodell, the NFL’s judge and jury, becomes his own executioner

By Jack Shafer
September 11, 2014

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Oh, yes, let’s torch and pitchfork the NFL for its handling of the Ray Rice case and not rest until NFL Commission Roger Goodell pays for his incompetence or his bad judgment — whichever proves greater — with his resignation. Then, after a good night’s sleep, let’s ask ourselves why, after cementing his reputation across the league as a hanging judge, did Goodell pick the Rice case to appear insufficiently authoritarian?

Keep your frenemies list short and your enemies list shorter

By Jack Shafer
September 5, 2014

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Compiling an enemies list was a cinch for the United States during the Cold War, what with most of the Soviet Union’s nuclear arsenal targeted its way. Friends of the Soviets immediately became America’s enemies, and Soviet enemies became U.S. friends. That made China a U.S. enemy of the highest order, a ranking shared by the Soviet client-states of Cuba, North Korea, and North Vietnam, against which the United States fought. Muammar Gaddafi’s Libya rose to high-enemy status under President Ronald Reagan, a position it maintained until he surrendered its nuclear program.

Why we’re so blase about global warming

By Jack Shafer
August 29, 2014

Graffiti art is seen on a wall next to the Regent's Canal in Camden in London

If you don’t regard global warming as a serious problem, your company is growing. According to the survey jockeys at Pew Research Center, the percentage of Americans who think global warming is “very serious” or “somewhat serious” has declined since 2006 (from 79 percent to 65 percent). While a firm majority still considers global warming to be very or somewhat serious, the numbers show that public alarm over the topic has receded over a period during which the scientific, journalistic, and political consensus on the topic has surged the other way.