Random weirdness for the week of Nov. 5, 2017


We’re launching an all “#fakenews” roundup this week with what we’ll call The Frightmare Before Christmas. Lot of charming drone footage of Barentsburg, interspaced with lots of animated maps and a narrating hypothesizing about Russia’s sinister Arctic ambitions, with bits of military propaganda footage mixed in at the end. All that’s needed is a shot of Longyearbyen at the end that fades to white while an explosion sounds and you’d have a North Korean snuff film.

Instead what exists is the mini-documentary “The Arctic: Russia’s Plans For The World’s Newest Ocean,” narrated by videojournalist Johnny Harris as part of a series titled Vox Borders. While he does a nice job of explaining in a few minutes how climate change is opening up more of the Arctic and Russia is the most aggressive player seeking disputed territory for oil drilling, etc., folks in Barentsburg seem a bit perplexed he’s there making it the centerpiece of the motherland’s ambitions. Lacking much in in the way of actual proof the villagers are plotting a sabotage from Svalbard, he wraps up the video with the military footage and the ominous comment “we can only hope Russia continues to play by the rules…”


King Roger: As regular watchers of the official North Korean news broadcasts for years (seriously, they’re operatic), we find it utterly plausible they paid tribute to the man who brought opera to Longyearbyen.

Speaking of North Korea propaganda, there are no words (or, perhaps, way too many) for this Absolutely Not Fake report during an official DPRK broadcast about the official Greatest Birthday Party Ever last week for local cultural director Roger Zahl Ødegård. Hat tip to Thomas Nilsen who posted it on the official Facebook age for the party and, since it’s really hard to keep up with those staccato lines, provided Norwegian subtitles. We’ve listened to the broadcast many times other and we can honestly say it’s entirely possible she’s hailing King Roger…except, there’s no mention of the Dear Leader inspiring the local icon’s contributions. A fatal indication of fakery? Say it isn’t so…


Denying reality: Because we’re really proud “polar bear predictions is an embarrassment to science” appears right above our reporting.

But before pointing any fingers, it turns out we may be helping make the most bigly fake news of all worldwide. Some scientists, doing one of those studies whose outcome was obvious in advance, analyzed 90 blogs about polar bears – half “pro-science” and half believing climate change is nonsense – and found there’s a “dangerous gap between climate-change facts and opinions.” It notes that while “45 ‘denier blogs’ claim to be based on science, they failed to overlap with the peer-reviewed evidence in the papers. Instead, they relied mostly on other denier blogs. And eighty percent relied on one blog in particular, whose author had neither conducted any original research nor published any articles in the peer-reviewed literature on polar bears. By contrast, 45 truly science-based blogs do match the evidence in the scientific papers.” The main denier is Susan Crockford’s polarbearscience.com and, since allegedly she doesn’t rely on science for her posts, we were curious what she does cite. Let’s just say the first two posts this year mentioning Svalbard were a revelation, since it turns out our reporting somehow is the basis of bloggery that’s getting millions of denialists to convince each other a warm day in December means climate change isn’t happening. And while we could reply to being a primary source for the voice of non-reason, we admit it’s hard coming up with an argument for how we’re a voice of sanity…