Home > A-to-Z Challenge, Critical Thinking, Geek > A-to-Z Challenge Day Six: False Trivia (For Everyday Situations)

A-to-Z Challenge Day Six: False Trivia (For Everyday Situations)

True or False?

So today, for the letter “F,” I have decided to talk about something that I had thrown around a few years ago with a friend. I had a habit of bringing up what I called “false trivia” that are essentially lies based on kernels of truth. These kinds of things tend to be believable because they play on stereotypes, or some bit of known facts about something.

I first thought about this when I was watching an episode of Psych in which Shawn tells Gus that Hitchcock was “obsessed with women’s Japanese household slippers…” Gus, of course knows that it’s baloney, and Shawn admits as much, but it got me thinking: how many untrue “facts” could you spread just by causally bringing them up everyday conversations?

This isn’t the same as, say, political advertisements that just spout lies (or the new Americans For Prosperity ads that don’t make any claims that can be called into question to avoid fact-checking). This is more like False Trivial Pursuit. It wouldn’t be something like, “Did you know Alex Trebek is an alien?” That’s not clever, is it? Here’s something that sounds somewhat plausible: “Did you know that Alex Trebek shaved his mustache because Sony Pictures Studios did a focus group and determined that mustaches were losing viewers?”

We all know that Trebek shaved that righteous ‘stache (it was big news!), but I don’t think that many people remember when that happened, or why. This give you an opening to make up a story. But you have to be careful not to overdo it.

For instance: “Did you know that Alex Trebek shaved his mustache because Sony Pictures Studios gave him an ultimatum? They wanted to give Jeopardy! a hip new look and mustaches were so ’80s. They threatened to hire Jimmy Fallon in his place unless he took a razor to the upper lip.”

Actually, that one seems kind of believable, too. I’m kind of curious how the internet would play a role in that as well. I’ve got a post coming up in this challenge (it’s for the letter “Z” actually) that addresses things on the internet that are just wrong that people believe that could be debunked by those people had they actually the interest in doing the research. You’d think that with all of the freely available information you’d be able to check your facts, but it turns out that the internet actually counters that with our own innate confirmation bias.

So I’m actually pretty certain I could start a blog or a website that reveals little-known trivia that starts to be believed by a large number of people.

But I’m not that evil.

  1. April 7, 2014 at 1:07 PM

    Oh, I hear you about lies behind kernels of truth. In some cultures superstition is the basis for this, in others … I don’t know. Had to laugh at the Alex Trebek story.
    Silvia @

    • April 7, 2014 at 4:03 PM

      Yeah, I’ve wanted to start a conspiracy blog that posted conspiracies and then debunks itself.

      Just because I think stuff like that is funny. But, you know, I have an oddball sense of humor.

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