The Snake Oil Bulletin: Fact Checking for Morans


Welcome back, peasants and noblemen alike! It's time once again for the Snake Oil Bulletin, brought to you weekly by Dr. La Volpe's Skull Drilling Kit FOR KIDS!, celestially designed to keep your humours free of insidious brain sprites threatening to cloud your wee one's mind with impure thoughts. As mother always said, a trepanning a day keeps the apothecary away.

First up this week, we'll take a look at an unusual case in which skeptics didn't skeptic hard enough, but fortunately it only led to an innocent woman being drawn and quartered, so not a huge loss. Get your pitchforks and torches ready, we got us a mob to round up!

Newspapers burn teacher alive for sinister bias, neglect to actually do their jobs

An Oklahoma preschool is under fire after one of its teachers allegedly tried to force a 4-year-old to use his right hand because she believes his left hand is evil.

Or DOES she? No, not really, no.

If there's one thing we at Yr Wonkette love to bash more than Morans, it's Morans who work in the news. Despite ready and available access to this newfangled Internet doohickey, no source we could find on this story even attempted to fact check it, which led to it being shared along skeptic wires, ironically devoid of skepticism. So let us take a break from our usual hornswoggle and balderdash and have us a good old-fashioned debunking, shall we? Also too, any opportunity to tell the morally indignant child crusaders to chill their tits is an opportunity we'll gladly take. Let's examine this story as adroitly as we can.

Alisha Sands noticed that her four-year-old son Zayde, who had always before colored with his left hand, was suddenly forcing himself to use his right hand to do his homework (the real crime is a four-year-old having any homework harder than "Don't shove marbles in your nose"). When Sands tried to ascertain why her son had suddenly tried to switch his handedness, her child enlightened her to the scourge of the sinister path:

I just asked is there anything his teachers ever asked about his hands. And he raises [his left hand] and says, "This one's bad."

Sands confronted the boy's teacher asking why she was teaching something so off the curriculum, and the teacher responded by sending the mother an article about left-handed development. Reports of this story have all summarized the article like so:

When the concerned mom asked the unnamed teacher at Oakes Elementary for an explanation, she was allegedly sent an article describing left-handed users as evil, unlucky, and sinister. The article cites the devil as one of the worst offenders of using his left hand. What more proof do you need?

That does sound awful, doesn't it? Incensed, Sands went to the superintendent of the elementary school and demanded that he discipline the teacher. To her utter shock, the superintendent refused to do anything of the sort, and Sands left heartbroken. Now the young mother is on a mission to bring the teacher to justice for her pernicious attacks against the left-handed and make the world safe for her son again.

Or at least that's the impression you would get if you read any of the standard coverage of this story. The only problem is that all of that coverage is wrong. Almost libelously wrong.

Sands' complaint against the school hinges on the content of the article her teacher shared, an article which purportedly condemns left-handers as evil and Satan-born. Very few of the sources for this story seem to have actually read the article in question, but rather just did a Ctrl+F for the words evil, unlucky, sinister, and devil. Now, do those words exist within the article? Yes, yes they do. Does the article in question believe those things to be true of left-handers? No, no it doesn't.

The article in question is this blog post by Dr. Donna M. D’Alessandro, professor of pediatrics at University of Iowa Children's Hospital, entitled "When Will I Know Which Hand She Will Use?" hosted on a site called Pediatric Education. PE is an educational resource for pediatricians (duh) that collects case files from contributors in order to answer commonly asked questions that a pediatrician might not know off the top of their head. If Doc McStuffins is unsure about a good course of treatment for a severe case of tickle flu, she could look on this site and see how many CCs of hugs other doctors prescribed.

This particular case concerns a three-year-old who demonstrated cross-dominance: when drawing, she would freely switch between her right and left hand with no clear preference either way. Her mother asked the pediatrician when she would start to favor one side over the other, so the pediatrician came to PE in order to find out. In the discussion portion of the article, Dr. D'Alessandro lays out some basic information about handedness, including relative rates of left-handedness and a little history about cultural beliefs about lefties. Here's where all our sources did their jobs dead fucking wrong.

Dr. D'Alessandro does say that people have historically believed lefties were evil and that Satan is often portrayed in art as left-handed. Does Dr. D'Alessandro believe these things to be true? BIG FUCKING NO. See for yourselves:


Most children and adults do develop a hand dominance. Right-handedness is more common (70-90%) than left-handedness (8-10%).

In many western cultures, right-handedness was/is considered the “correct” or “right” hand to use, and left-handedness was unlucky or inauspicious. The word “sinister,” meaning left-sided, derives from various sources as early as the 15th century. There are numerous cultural examples of left-handedness being associated with the idea of wickedness. For example, the devil is often portrayed as left-handed, and people throw salt over their left shoulder to ward off the evil spirits that dwell there.

Many left-handed people report being able to use their right hand very well for certain tasks because of needing to adapt to tools which are usually designed for right-handed people such as scissors, golf clubs, etc. Some people are also mix-handed, where they perform some tasks with one hand and other tasks with the opposite hand. Some people have true ambidexterity where they can perform tasks equally well with both hands.

The offending paragraph may be out of place and may lack proper transitions (DRUDGE SIREN! A doctor don't write not good!), but at no point in the article does the author actually agree with these cultural stereotypes. Being offended by a history summary like this paragraph is like being upset that a teenager opened their senior speech by defining a word from Webster's. Sure, it's tacky, but it's not offensive. Now, maybe Zayde's teacher does believe lefties are wicked and sinful and are responsible for bringing the rock and roll devil music into her good Christian home. However, she sure as hell isn't getting that belief from this article.

This entire controversy has built itself on the idea that Sands was incensed by the article shared with her, but from appearances it seems that she either did not read the article carefully or has some other axe to grind. True, we don't know the context in which the teacher gave the mother the article, so we can't say she DIDN'T chisel the URL into Zayde's left hand using her sacrificial bloody goat dagger. But maybe, just maybe, we should take a step back and actually check our sources before we hop on the condemnation train. Next time, check to see if the man turned into a newt ever got better.

Religious Freedom in Action: Judge rules you CAN sacrifice a chicken on the streets of New York

After Kim Davis smashed the Supreme Court forever by bravely not doing her job, America has become a land of unprecedented religious liberty and freedom. All Americans everywhere are free to do literally anything they want, any time they want, so long as they wave a holy book around while they do it, just like the Founders wanted if you ignore all the deism. Already we're seeing religious freedom ejaculating all across this great nation, and nowhere is it more needed than in that dictatorship of single-minded religious orthodoxy, New York City.

Finally, Americans throughout the city are free to live their faiths unmolested by the tyranny of Big Government, whether that faith is praying to the ripped half-naked white Middle-Easterner of your choice, or in this case, slicing a chicken's throat open on the street corner of your Brooklyn brownstone.

Maybe Huckabee and Davis should have been more specific.

About two weeks ago, an animal rights group filed suit against a group of Orthodox rabbis and synagogues, claiming that the practice of Kapparot (or Kaporos) was inhumane. For the rest of us goyim, Kapparot is a ceremony practiced in the leadup to Yom Kippur that is meant to cleanse the people of sins by transferring them all into a chicken, or as the defendants in the case describe it:

The [Kapporot] ritual … involves the practitioners’ grasping of live chickens by their wings and swinging them above their heads three times and reciting prayers. The purpose of this act is to transfer the practitioner’s sins to the birds. After swinging the bird, the adherents slit the chickens’ throats with a sharp knife. The meat is then donated to the poor.

Delicious cruelty-heavy kosher chicken for everybody!

But Kim Davis's brave stand against basic human decency wasn't enough for the Alliance to End Chickens as Kaporos, the animal rights group that not only sued several groups of Brooklyn rabbis and synagogues, but also the New York City Police Department and the city of New York itself. Their suit claimed that not only was the practice inhumane, but that the slaughter and subsequent disposal of rancid chicken carcasses was an unsanitary public nuisance. We just ask the Alliance to see the faces of the happy Jewish children, laughing and playing as the squawks of hemorrhaging birds dance upon the wind. Only if their hearts remain unmoved by such a holy and precious spectacle can they still claim that dead chicken meat strewn across the sidewalk is a nuisance.

The case went before New York Supreme Court Justice Debra James who, rather than stepping on the toes of animal rights groups or religious freedom advocates, decided to bypass both issues and solely focus on the suit's public nuisance claim. In her words, the evidence provided did not demonstrate sufficiently that the holy chicken massacre (great band name) was enough to count as a public nuisance, and so she decided to dismiss the case. While the animal rights groups are devastated, the response from the Orthodox and Hasidic defendents might be one of the most ominous responses we've read in years. Imagine this statement read aloud surrounded by black-robed gentlemen holding candles:

“No one has the right to change our religion, and this ruling proves we can’t be touched,” Yossi Ibrahim, a member of the large Hasidic community in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, told Marsh.

"We can't be touched" is always comforting to hear from a recently emboldened fundamentalist, but we wish the gentleman all the best. Justice James's ruling came down right on Rosh Hashanah too, which means that this year's High Holidays were no doubt a sight to see in New York City.

To any readers who visited the chicken-strewn streets of Brooklyn to see their bubbes for Yom Kippur, L'Shana Tovah! We just hope you remembered to bring home a sweater on the way back, because Ruth down at temple said it is so cold where you live now, and the last thing your bubbe wants to see is you catching your death of pneumonia before you give her any great grandbabies. Ugh, you've gotten so thin. Here, have some chicken.

Flotsam, Jetsam, and Hokum

  • Chicken slaughter's legalization comes just in time for the annual rentboy sacrifice to Phyllis Schlafly's crusty tit, or as the press calls it, The Values Voter Summit.
  • The ongoing saga of the Wonkebago continues! This week we learn all about Brian Totally-Not-a-Moocher and all the ways he is the worst.
  • John Boehner, the last sane Republican left (Jesus Christ he really is holy shit we're fucked) has decided to abdicate his throne as Beggar King of Congress. The realm mourned their loss with the traditional tear bath in the reflecting pool.
  • Did Pope Francis's aura of communism force Jon Boehner to flee Congress like a hooker fleeing confession? It would be irresponsible not to speculate.
  • Even as a ghost, Dead Breitbart's bloated corpse still owes people money. Congrats, Shirley!
  • A Michigan rep. is on the case investigating teenagers' sinful relationships with sexy vegetables. Must have been paid off by the Warm Apple Pie lobby.
  • Kim Davis -- or as we've taken to calling her, Jolene the Plumber -- continues to exist, extending her fifteen minutes to a staggering twenty. We can't wait for the day that her porn parody is better known than she is.
  • Even reaching Enlightenment doesn't stop you from being a dirty old man.
  • Douchebag drug company scam artist not sorry for raising drug price 5,000%, except that now he is. Thank God he had such a fast change of heart completely unrelated to the threats of being throat-punched.
  • Doctor Carson is pretty sure evolution can be beaten back with some holy water and a silver bullet.
  • Arizona knows that religious freedom is for everyone, as long as everyone is Christian.
  • One Million Moms does not wish to see all this puppet bestiality on primetime teevee. They want to see it in the comfort of their own home, on their phone, hidden under the covers, at the sinful hour of 11:30.

[New York Daily NewsHuffington Post / KFOR / Pediatric Education / Smithsonian Magazine / New York Post / Forward]


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