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Fact Check: We Get Results as Digital Journal Quietly Amends Noxious Headline

David Klinghoffer

Korean War

When it comes to covering academic freedom bills, journalists feel free to outrageously mislead readers. Either that or they sincerely can’t tell the difference between truth and falsehood. A notable thing about our fact checking the media is how seldom reporters and editors bother to correct misstatements.

Rarely, an editor or writer gets wise, though, and fixes an errant statement in their reporting. It’s good to see that has happened with a headline we noted here from the Digital Journal. Well, sort of.

The headline stood out not only for inaccuracy but for noxious bad taste. “Republican ‘war on science’ targets children in four more states,” we read with some surprise. The subject is laws that permit teachers to challenge students with mainstream scientific information about the evolution debate. The reader, evidently, was supposed to picture military aircraft raining ordnance on high school biology classrooms.

Yesterday, Sarah Chaffee wrote about this, fact checking the article in general. The “war on science” meme is and always has been absurd, but the image of “targeting children” crosses the line to a sheer ghoulishness we had not previously seen.

Today, someone at the Digital Journal must have blushed at their own incompetence. Imagine, invoking the most horrific war crimes as a metaphor for teaching kids how to think critically! They changed the headline, marginally improving it. Though the URL remains the same and preserves the earlier headline, the new one now says, “Republican anti-science bills target schools in four states.”

At least laws that “target schools” is a hair less gruesome and offensive than a “war” that “targets children.” Unsurprisingly, there’s no mention in the article that the headline has been significantly amended. Or why.

All the other distortions, detailed by Sarah Chaffee, remain. That includes the accompanying photo. It depicts a scene from a creationist museum. The diorama features a dinosaur sporting about as a nearby human collects plants. But obviously such a thing, absurd and unscientific, would find no legal protection under academic freedom bills that expressly protect relevant scientific, not religious, instruction only. So it goes.

Photo: U.S. Air Force bomber over Korea, 1953, by USAF via Wikicommons.