GSAN: Beware of conspiracy posts on food facility fires


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Beware of conspiracy posts on food facility fires

Note: The News Literacy Project staff is off next Monday for the Juneteenth holiday. Get Smart About News will return on Tuesday, June 28.

Viral rumor rundown

No, there isn’t a conspiracy to create a food shortage in the U.S.

A tweet that says, “In case you’re not paying attention I’ll help you out: This is one of the largest egg farms in the country. Mysteriously torched. That’s food factory #19 in 2022.” The post includes a photo of a large barn fire. The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “NOT A CONSPIRACY.”

NO: There is no conspiracy to use arson to disrupt the food supply or drive up food prices in the United States. NO: There also is no new trend of more frequent fires at agricultural and other food facilities. YES: A spokesperson for the National Fire Protection Association confirmed to that it has not seen anything unusual in the number of fires at these facilities so far this year. YES: Fact-checkers at Snopes found that other iterations of conspiratorial posts citing increases in recent fires include some that don’t fit the claim, such as one blaze at an abandoned building and another at a butcher shop, as well as a fire from January 2021.

NewsLit takeaway: Conspiracy theories often rely on baseless claims made without evidence or necessary context. The claim that there have been an unusual number of fires at agricultural and food processing facilities is entirely unfounded — but that hasn’t stopped influential figures on the far right from cherry-picking normal events to fabricate “evidence” of a conspiracy. This disinformation narrative might “feel” true when such fires are presented out of context due to a logical fallacy called the base rate fallacy. In this instance, the base rate fallacy causes people to mistake individual examples of these fires as “evidence” of something worthy of suspicion because they are generally unaware of just how many food-related facilities there are in the U.S. and how many fires tend to occur in such facilities (more than one each day on average between 2015 and 2019). It is likely that adherents of the food plant conspiracy theory will attempt to use future fires at food-related locations, and that the theory will mutate and evolve. For example, another recent viral falsehood that the USDA is predicting egg prices to reach $12 a dozen is, in some examples (screenshot here), tied back to the fire conspiracy.


Actor Dwayne ‘The Rock’ Johnson didn’t wear this anti-Trump t-shirt

A tweet that says, ““And I held firmly, To what I felt was right, Like a rock.” -B.Seger @TheRock.” The post includes a photo of the actor Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson appearing to wear a t-shirt with an American flag and the message “Keep America Trumpless.” The News Literacy Project has added a label that says, “DOCTORED IMAGE.”

NO: The actor Dwayne Johnson (aka “The Rock”) did not wear a t-shirt that said, “Keep America Trumpless.” YES: This is a doctored still of Johnson taken from the 2015 movie San Andreas.

NewsLit takeaway: Doctoring photos of celebrities to add political messages to their shirts is a common disinformation tactic. While it is sometimes used for ideological purposes, it also serves as a viral marketing ploy for internet t-shirt entrepreneurs.


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