Skip to main content

Speaking of Jack Shafer and Bogus Trend Stories

Slate's Jack Shafer is letting his readers write the "bogus trend stories" this week: Interesting paragraph as he describes what makes a BTS:

"My partners in bogus trend-spotting have been Slate readers, who quickly picked up on how to identify them. Hardly a day goes by now that a reader doesn't e-mail me a bogus trend story discovery, often delineating the piece's essential bogosity in a couple of paragraphs in his correspondence. One marker of a bogus trend story is an abundance of such weasel words as some, few, often, seems, likely, and more, all of which allow a writer to simultaneously state a strong assertion and couch it. Another is an article with no data, just a string of anecdotes to support his thesis of a new or growing trend. The reliable marker of bogosity is a dodgy phrase like 'reliable numbers are hard to come by' in a news story."

Emphasis added. But with that emphasis added, let's return to Slate's story today about immigrant women faking domestic abuse to earn residency in the United States:

"But the law has a potential flaw, too: A small fraction of the time, it may also provide incentive for immigrant husbands and wives to fake domestic abuse."


No one knows how widespread the fraud might be, though it's probably a small portion of all the spouses who apply for immigration relief saying they've been abused. In 2009, 8,534 people tried to gain permanent residency through VAWA's abuse provision, and 73 percent succeeded. Government databases don't track how many of the 2,000 or so denials were turned down on suspicions of fraud, as opposed to another reason such as lack of evidence.

Slate's fake domestic abuse story, in other words, has all the hallmarks of a BTS. I'm nominating it to Shafer. Will he run it?


Popular posts from this blog


I've been making some life changes lately — trying to use the time I have, now that I'm back in Kansas, to improve my health and lifestyle. Among the changes: More exercise. 30 minutes a day on the treadmill. Doesn't sound like a lot, but some is more than none, and I know from experience that getting overambitious early leads to failure. So. Thirty minutes a day.

One other thing: Yoga, a couple of times a week. It's nothing huge — a 15-minute flexibility routine downloaded from an iPhone app. But I've noticed that I'm increasingly limber.

Tonight, friends, I noticed a piece of trash on the floor. I bent over at the waist and picked it up, and threw it away.

Then I wept. I literally could not remember the last time I'd tried to pick something off the floor without grunting and bracing myself. I just did it.

Small victories, people. Small victories.

Liberals: We're overthinking this. Hillary didn't lose. This is what it should mean.

Nate Cohn of the New York Times estimates that when every vote is tallied, some 63.4 million Americans will have voted for Clinton and 61.2 million for Trump. That means Clinton will have turned out more supporters than any presidential candidate in history except for Obama in 2008 and 2012. And as David Wasserman of Cook Political Report notes, the total vote count—including third party votes—has already crossed 127 million, and will “easily beat” the 129 million total from 2012. The idea that voters stayed home in 2016 because they hated Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton is a myth. We already know the Electoral College can produce undemocratic results, but what we don't know is why — aside from how it serves entrenched interests — it benefits the American people to have their preference for national executive overturned because of archaic rules designed, in part, to protect the institution of slavery. 

A form of choosing the national leader that — as has happened in …

I'm not cutting off my pro-Trump friends

Here and there on Facebook, I've seen a few of my friends declare they no longer wish the friendship of Trump supporters — and vowing to cut them out of their social media lives entirely.

I'm not going to do that.

To cut ourselves off from people who have made what we think was a grievous error in their vote is to give up on persuading them, to give up on understanding why they voted, to give up on understanding them in any but the most cartoonish stereotypes.

As a matter of idealism, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on democracy. As a matter of tactics, cutting off your pro-Trump friends is to give up on ever again winning in a democratic process.

And as a long-term issues, confining ourselves to echo chambers is part of our national problem.

Don't get me wrong: I expect a Trumpian presidency is a disaster, particularly for people of color. And in total honesty: My own relationships have been tested by this campaign season. There's probably some damage…