Any claim without a URl should be treated as suspicious

I've recently seen lots of people tweeting this supposed newspaper clipping. An olde-timey warning about wearing flu masks.

"Many a man who wears laughable clothes from neckties to socks is afraid to put on an influenza mask for fear it might hurt his personal appearance."

But is it too good to be true?

The first thing to do with any image of a text quote is to search for the text.

Hundreds of Google results - all pointing back to tumblr.

Look, I'm not saying tumblr isn't great, but… I wouldn't exactly trust it as a primary source!

That said, tumblr has a neat feature which makes it easy to see where a popular image originally was posted.

In this case it appears to have originated at Yesterday In Print

Tumblr website with a citation.

There's nothing on the site which screams "spoof" or "fake". The site FAQ claims it posts genuine newspaper clippings.

In this case, from "The Evening Star, Washington DC, October 16, 1918"

The USA's Library of Congress has a good collection of old local newspapers. They're all scanned and OCR'd.

Here's The Evening Star, Washington DC, October 16, 1918.

Rather than labouriously read through each thrilling page, it is possible to search for the "many a man" phrase directly.

Hey presto! There's the quote on page 6

The quote in the middle of a newpaper column.

Is the trail complete? Perhaps.

You can argue whether you think the Library of Congress is a trustworthy source, and you can contact Louisiana State University to see if the original paper is in their records, and you can believe the Illuminati have rewritten history. But you'll do so from a place of informed knowledge - rather than from a graphic which could have been manipulated.

The whole investigation took me 5 minutes. A Web search, a few clicks, and some ctrl+f'ing.

These are basic skills, and you should use those skills before you share something which sounds too good to be true.

Treat any claim without a URl as suspicious.

10 thoughts on “Any claim without a URl should be treated as suspicious

    1. Valentine Liberace says:

      I agree. What is tragic, is that just doing the first part of this exercise would probably prove or disprove memes like this. Just an investment of 5 minutes Googling would short circuit so much internet nonsense.

      Also, along with teaching this in school, extra vigilance if the posting/meme seems to be supporting something that the poster believes strongly. Our bias is strongest when our beliefs are supported.

  1. says:

    Pretty good. I wasn’t expecting to end up with an actual source though. I thought you were going to point out that the newspaper clipping was fake.

    I like the twist that it was real!

  2. Sam Hall says:

    This is exactly how I approach such ‘novelties’ as well.
    Everyone should be taught how to do basic validation searches.
    Unfortunately (and somewhat amusingly), when you post correct information – some on social media seem to shoot the messenger.

  3. ron says:

    The subtext for your article could be, to paraphrase the old russians, and ronny ray-gun,
    "Verify before trust"
    Definitely a habit to be encouraged in all internet users, especially young children.
    Oo-oo! Cool !
    Just saw your archive grid. Unique. I really like it. Too often I have an old article that is part of a series and I want to the rest of the series. But to get to the other articles I have to page dozens of times to get to the appropriate date range. Nice innovation.

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