WTF Fun Fact 13250 – Posting Uninformed Comments

We all know that the comment section is a black hole that attracts uninformed comments. It’s the place where dignity and informed debate go to die. But a 2019 study by researchers at York College of Pennsylvania gives some insight into why these comments are so prevalent.

However, the authors distinguish between being uninformed (recognizing one’s own ignorance) and misinformed (confidently holding inaccurate beliefs). In this case, we’re talking mainly about misinformation. But not all researchers use these words in the same way.

Why are there so many uninformed comments and misinformed commenters?

In a nutshell, it’s because people just don’t read enough. If they do, they skim previews of most content. This is especially true when it’s about something that riles them up – like politics. They don’t take the time to really try and process what an article is about before they comment on it. In fact, skimming makes them highly confident that they do have something worthwhile to say. Never mind that this is correlated with having less reliable insight.

According to ScienceAlert’s coverage of the research (cited below):

“By glancing through article previews, instead of reading the full piece, many users overestimate their understanding of an issue, and this is especially true for those whose knowledge is guided by strong emotions – and, therefore, strong opinions.”

The research on uninformed comments comes from the academic article “A little bit of knowledge: Facebook’s News Feed and self-perceptions of knowledge” published in the journal Research & Politics.

There, the authors note:

“We argue that Facebook’s News Feed itself, with its short article previews, provides enough political information for learning to occur. However, this learning comes with an additional consequence: audiences who only read article previews think they know more than they actually do, especially individuals who are motivated to seek emotions.”

Emotions over data

You’ve probably noticed that people with strong opinions like to throw out information they seem confident about. But it’s worth considering how much it matches their desire to seem smart.

The researchers noted, “Those who are more driven by emotion allow the positive feelings associated with being right to override the need for actual accuracy, thus coming away from limited exposure to information falsely overconfident in their knowledge of the subject matter.”

Sound like anyone you know on social media?  WTF fun facts

Source: “Didn’t Read The Article Before Commenting? Science Says It Really Shows” — Science Alert


WTF Fun Fact 13233 – History of the State of the Union Address

The U.S. presidential State of the Union address wasn’t always given as a speech to a joint session of Congress. Starting with Thomas Jefferson, presidents delivered the State of the Union as a written report to Congress. It wasn’t until Woodrow Wilson’s presidency in 1913 that the address resumed as a speech delivered in person to Congress.

The history of the State of the Union address

While the U.S. Constitution mentions the President’s duty to “from time to time give to the Congress Information of the State of the Union, and recommend to their Consideration such Measures as he shall judge necessary and expedient,” it does not specify how this duty should be fulfilled.

George Washington gave the first State of the Union address to Congress in 1790. This practice was followed by his successor, John Adams, and continued until Thomas Jefferson took office in 1801.

Jefferson believed that the Constitution’s requirement for the President to report on the state of the union was too formal. He thought it would make the President appear too much like a monarch. As a result, Jefferson chose to deliver the State of the Union address as a written report to Congress. This practice continued until 1913 when Woodrow Wilson re-established the tradition of delivering the State of the Union as a speech.

According to the U.S. House of Representatives website (cited below):

“There have been 98 total in-person addresses from 1790 to 2022…The address was formally known as the Annual Message from 1790 to 1946. Since 1947, it has officially been known as the State of the Union Address.

How the report became an address

The State of the Union address has evolved over time and become an important event in American politics. The speech provides the President with a platform to outline their legislative agenda, discuss important policy issues, and set the tone for the coming year.

The SOTU is also an opportunity for the President to respond to current events and other pressing concerns.

The role of the SOTU in American politics

The SOTU address has also been a platform for Presidents to address controversial issues and push for legislative changes.

In his SOTU address in 2002, George W. Bush called for the creation of the Department of Homeland Security in response to the 9/11 terrorist attacks. In 2010, Barack Obama called for the passage of the Affordable Care Act.

In recent years, the State of the Union address has become a partisan event. Members of Congress are often divided along party lines in their response to the President’s speech. Despite this, the SOTU remains an important event on the American political calendar.  WTF fun facts

Source: “State of the Union Address” — United States House of Representatives


WTF Fun Fact 12817 – The 3-Year-Old Mayor

In 2012, Dorset, Minnesota had a 3-year-old mayor. He even “won” reelection the following year. And no doubt the townspeople were relieved since he ran on a no-nonsense platform of “Be nice and no poopy talk.” If only other politicians could take a page from his campaign strategy.

How does a town get a 3-year-old mayor?

According to TODAY (back in 2015): “James became the ceremonial head of this northern Minnesota tourist town of about 22 people this month as his name was drawn from the ballot bucket at the annual Taste of Dorset food festival. It cost $1 for each vote cast.”

James is not the only pint-sized mayor the town has ever seen. TODAY also reported: “He hit the campaign trail running, with an experienced political adviser close at hand. His 6-year-old brother, Robert, who made national headlines when he served two terms as mayor at ages 3 and 4, taught him how to shake hands and look voters in the eye.”

A ceremonial position

Of course, the position is ceremonial. The tiny town is run by a small group of business owners.

But that doesn’t mean the mini-mayors don’t take their jobs seriously. According to ABC 7 News (cited below): “Both James and Robert Tufts have long been contributing members of their community, even at their young ages. The two often volunteer their time to help the Salvation Army, plant gardens, and raise money for the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society.”

Robert said of James: “He doesn’t do too much mean stuff, and I taught him how to be nice.”

According to their mother, they “take it all in stride.” And neither has plans to go into politics long-term. Both boys wanted to be fishermen when they grow up last time they were asked.

 WTF fun facts

Source: “3-year-old James Tufts elected mayor of Minnesota town” — ABC 7 News


WTF Fun Fact 12441 – The National Hotel Disease

Once the poshest hotel on Pennsylvania Avenue, the National Hotel was at the center of a nationwide mystery after a disease outbreak among its guests in 1857. According to records from the U.S. House of Representatives, almost three dozen people died and 400 people were sickened by a mystery ailment that continued to plague guests (and lead to their deaths) years after their 1857 stays at the hotel.

Founded in 1827, the National Hotel was located between the White House and the Capitol, catering to Members of Congress. “Apart from the Capitol and the White House, there is no building in this city so historic as this,” remarked the Washington Post in 1930. “For more than half a century the history of the Nation was made there.” 

But in 1857, President-Elect James Buchanan was staying at the hotel prior to his inauguration, as were many other politicians due to attend the event. Even he was sickened but made a speedy recovery.

At the time, some reported that the outbreak was actually the result of arsenic poisoning in the water. Buchanan was from Pennsylvania but held so-called “Southern beliefs” at the time when it came to slavery. After sensationalized news stories were published, people suspected a murder plot by radical abolitionists, but there was never a speck of evidence that it was anything other than an infectious disease outbreak.

These days, we understand a lot more about how infectious diseases work, and those who have examined records of the symptoms think it was likely mild cholera or (more likely) dysentery.

Dr. D.H. Storer was a National guest and victim who shared his symptoms with the National Intelligencer: “A dreadful nausea has been, in my case, the very worst and most miserable attendant upon this complaint. I have felt it almost all the time from the first till now. If I were even to-day to take an ounce of beef steak, or that amount of any animal food into my stomach, my experience thus far is that I should suffer for hours from this horrid nausea.”

Most guests were infected in March, around the inauguration. However, that’s when the hotel was most crowded. It disappeared soon after guests from that event went home and never happened again. However, among those who died were Rep. John Montgomery of Pennsylvania and Rep. John Quitman of Mississippi.

The hotel continued to operate for years until it could no longer compete with the grander establishments being built around it. The building was demolished in 1924. – WTF fun facts 

Source: “The Mysterious National Hotel Disease” — United States House of Representatives Archives


WTF Fun Fact – Gary Hart

WTF Fun Fact - Gary Hart Womanizer

Gary Hart was a Presidential candidate in 1988 and an alleged womanizer. He invited the media to follow him around to prove his innocence. The media accepted his invite and he was caught having an affair two weeks later. WTF Fun Facts