Truthometer Final Post: Does music enhance the effect of pain relieving medications?

When I began thinking about what topic I would choose for my final truthometer post, no specific news stories came to mind. To spark my inspiration, I typed ‘recent study’ into the Google News search bar. After scrolling through pages of search results, I finally reached one that captured my attention. It was an article by Medical News Today titled “Music May Enhance the Effect of Pain Relievers.” This article was intriguing to me for several reasons. First, I had never heard of Medical News Today so I was interested to do some research into whether it was a reputable source. Second, the title seemed a bit hard to believe. I was skeptical about whether this headline was conveying a conclusion made by a study or if it was just clickbait. My third reason for choosing the article was more selfish. I use pain medications occasionally and so I was genuinely interested to read more about whether adding music really does help reduce pain.

Medical News Today Logo

Before I even began reading the article, I wanted to read laterally about Medical News Today. Since it was a source that I had not heard of before, I wanted to be sure that it was a trustworthy source for medical information. To do so, I first searched for the source’s Wikipedia page. When I got there, I immediately noticed that the Wikipedia entry was extremely short at only four sentences total. However, from checking the references at the bottom of the page, I was able to go upstream and find a link about Medical News Today being acquired by Healthline. When I clicked the link, I was led to a press release titled “Healthline Media Grows Digital Reach with Acquisition of #1 Website for Medical News Information.” This press release told me two important things. First, I learned that Medical News Today was the number one online source in the medical news category according to Google and Yahoo at the time of its acquisition in 2016. Second, I learned that Healthline, the company that acquired Medical News Today, is trusted by over 25 million readers for health and wellness information. Knowing all of this information helped me feel more confident about the reputation of the source that I was about to read from. Now that I felt the source was trustworthy, I clicked back onto the original article and began to read.

The article, written by Tim Newman, begins by stating the power of music. To do so they cite several studies that link music to reducing the painful effects of several diseases. For example, in the introduction he cites this study from the American Psychological Association that states that music can be beneficial to those with epilepsy. However, mentioning these studies only served as a transition into the main topic of the article which is that music may enhance the effect of pain medicine. Newman backs up this argument by citing this research study done by the University of Utah’s Health department. I went upstream and clicked on the link which led me to a journal called Frontiers in Neurology. The title of the study is “Music-Enhanced Analgesia and Antiseizure Activities in Animal Models of Pain and Epilepsy: Toward Preclinical Studies Supporting Development of Digital Therapeutics and Their Combinations With Pharmaceutical Drugs.”

To get a better understanding of the trustworthiness of the study, I wanted to read laterally about Frontiers in Neurology. I began by going to their Wikipedia page. The specific journal did not have its own Wikipedia page, however Frontier Media which publishes all Frontier journals did have one. What immediately stuck out to me was that the introduction and history sections were quite short yet the controversy section was rather lengthy. After reading the controversy section, I found that Frontier was placed on Jeffery Beall’s “Potential, Possible, or Probable Predatory Open-Access Publishers.” In a separate article, he warned researchers not to publish their work in Frontier journals because their review process is inadequate and leaves reputable research to be overshadowed by pseudoscience that is published in the journal. The article was in response to Frontier publishing articles regarding conspiracy theories like chemtrails and the connection between autism and vaccines. Another article found on the Wikipedia page, “Editor Sacked Over Rejection Rate,” talks about a former Frontier chief editor who was fired because she rejected too many papers. The article includes the chief editor’s experience in her own words where she details getting fired for rejecting papers which she truly felt had no scientific merit. Additionally, Frontier was mentioned in a book called Pseudoscience: The Conspiracy Against Science. In this book authors Allison and James Kaufman state, “Frontiers has used an in-house journal management software that does not give reviewers the option to recommend the rejection of manuscripts they receive. The publisher’s systems are set up to make it almost impossible to reject papers, perhaps to keep potential revenue from jumping to a rival publisher (292).” This means that three separate sources have questioned the reliability of Frontier’s review process. All of these sources also question the fact that Frontier has an extremely high acceptance rate, meaning that they are not particular about the types of manuscripts that they accept.

After doing this research about Frontier journals, I am a bit worried about the validity of this study. Reputable studies surely have been posted in Frontier journals, but so have pseudoscience articles and articles that lack scientific merit. Since I am not a scientist, I can not verify the reliability of this study and I am worried that I cannot trust Frontier to verify it for me. In fact, even the author of the original Medical News Today article questions the limitations of the study in the conclusion of the article. Tim Newman points out several flaws in the study. The researchers only used a small sample of mice and they only played specific snippets of Mozart’s music. Therefore, we are unable to draw conclusions or make generalizations about the term “music.” This study did not examine humans at all so it really serves as more of a stepping stone for future studies. All in all, I would take this study with a grain of salt. I would not regard the conclusions of this article and study as definitive fact but rather as a starting point for further questioning. To be completely satisfied with this argument, I would want to see additional more thorough studies published in other academic journals. For now, I conclude that music may enhance the effects of pain medicines, but I am not completely convinced.

Truthometer Draft: Did counties that held Trump rallies see an increase in hate crimes?

To begin my search for a piece to fact-check, I typed ‘recent study’ into the Google search bar. After six pages of news articles, I stumbled upon Washington Post’s article “Counties that Hosted a 2016 Trump Rally Saw a 226 Percent Increase in Hate Crimes.” I picked this article for several reasons. First, it is an interesting and relevant concept. I have always wondered how Trump’s rhetoric has affected US cities and towns. Another reason I chose this article was because of its vague and possibly misleading headline. Without reading the entire article, I could not wrap my head around what exactly this headline means.

Before I read the article, I wanted to briefly read laterally about the Washington Post. Learning about the source that published news is important because it helps the reader judge the accuracy and bias of the information that is presented. First, I went to AllSides to check on the source’s bias. The Washington Post is rated as leaning left and a majority of AllSide’s viewers agree with that rating. Next, to continue reading laterally, I went to the Washington Post’s Wikipedia page found here. After going upstream on some of the links on the Wikipedia page, I found that the Washington Post endorses mostly Democratic candidates although they do occasionally endorse Republicans. For example in this article from 2006, the Washington Post endorses a Republican Virginian Congressman. This article states that the Post has endorsed many Republicans over the years for roles in the House, Senate, or as governor. However, they have only ever endorsed Democrats in presidential elections. As a reader, this shows me that the Post is fair and willing to look at both sides of the argument, although they do lean democratically when looking at the big picture.

With all this information in mind, I went back to the article. In this article, authors Ayal Feinberg and Regina Branton make the argument that Trump’s words and actions may be contributing to a rise in white nationalism in the country. Although Trump has publicly opposed these claims in the past, Feinberg and Branton claim to have research that backs up their idea. In fact, they are presenting their own research which they cite here. I went upstream and clicked the link they provided which took me to Western Political Science Association. Looking further, I found that Feinberg and Branton presented their research at the Western Political Science Association’s panel on Trump and Race which took place on April 18, 2019. However, this link that was meant to cite their research provides no link to an actual paper or transcript of the presentation. What I could find from this link was the name of their paper which is “The Trump Effect? Political Rallies and Hate Crime Contagion.” Despite several Google searches, I could not find a copy of the paper anywhere. This could mean that the paper has not been approved to be published in any well-known online journals yet or they have no intention of doing so. Either way, I felt it was a bit odd to not cite the full paper anywhere in the article.

Since I do not have access to the actual paper, I still want to work with what I do have. I do not want to discredit the fact that they were able to present their research at the Western Political Science Association’s 2019 panel. Given that I do not know anything about that organization, I wanted to read laterally to find out how reputable it was. To do so, I went on their Wikipedia page found here. From reading that page, I found that

Post #4- Credibility Check

When I began this post on research studies, I had no studies in mind so I searched ‘recent study’ on Google until I found something that caught my attention. After scrolling through quite a few pages of results, I found this Forbes article called “New Study Shows That There Is No Link Between Violent Video Games And Aggression In Teenagers.” I chose this article because the headline was a little shocking to me. I had always thought that violent video games did correlate with aggression in teens but I had not done much research on it. This article allowed me to learn more about something I was interested while also checking the credibility of the study mentioned.

The Forbes article, written by Ollie Barder, labels this particular study as “one of the most comprehensive studies on the subject to date.” Barder backs up this claim by saying that this study is different because it ranked the violence in the video games by their PEGI ratings rather than on a subjective perception of the amount of violence. In addition, this study obtained information from parents instead of the teenagers themselves to report aggression levels. The population of the study was approximately 2,008 British fourteen and fifteen year olds and their parents. Barder concludes his article by stating that the study found no link between teenage aggression and violent video games. Not much else was said about the results, so I clicked the link to the full research study.

The link that Forbes says will lead you to the study actually leads you to this page which is another article published about the study. This article is from the University of Oxford and appears on their news page. This was considered newsworthy at Oxford University because the lead researcher who created the study, Andrew Przybylski, is the Director of Research at Oxford. At the end of this news article, which like the Forbes article focuses on the methodology and results of the study, the author links a copy of the full study which can be found here.

AltMetric’s official logo

The original study was published in “Royal Society Open Science” and was conducted by Andrew K. Przybylski and Netta Weinstein. It was published on February 13, 2019. Their hypothesis was that there was a link between violent games and aggression however the results did not support that hypothesis. The study was published under open access so the entirety of the research is viewable by anyone. Alongside the research paper, Royal Society has provided details like the manuscript acceptance date, the publishing date, the volume and issue it was published in, and a list of all the references used in the paper. More interestingly though, they include a link to AltMetric statistics for the study. I clicked on that link and was led here. The AltMetrics statistics state that this specific study has been picked up by 104 news outlets, mentioned on Twitter by 103 verified scientists, and has received an ‘attention score’ from AltMetric that is in the top 5% of all research outputs that have been scored by the service. These statistics are not stated blindly, however. AltMetric lists all 108 news stories (from the 104 news outlets), and all the tweets that link or mention the research. I briefly read laterally about AltMetrics by first viewing their Wikipedia page found here. By viewing the Wikipedia page’s references, I found that AltMetrics is backed and utilized by many reputable sources like JAMA and Digital Science.

The first thing I wanted to do before accepting these results as credible was to read laterally about the publishing company that runs the journal that publicized this study. To do so, I went to Wikipedia and searched “The Royal Society Publishing” which led me to this page. The Wikipedia entry shows that the Royal Society has a long history. In fact, it claims that the Royal Society published the world’s first scientific journal in 1665. The entry also claims that the Royal Society originated the process of peer review. Unfortunately, when you click on the link that is the reference for that claim it brings you to this page, which is a broken link from the University of Southhampton.

All in all, I believe that this study is reputable. After going upstream and reading laterally about the sources it was published on, I have found that the study was published by a peer-reviewed source, conducted at a reputable University, and given a high impact score by respected data company.

Bias Check: The American Spectator

The American Spectator is a news site that was rated by AllSides to be Right-biased. According to AllSides, a resources that rates bias in the media, a right bias means that the outlet shows favor for traditional values, conservative economics, and a decreased role of the federal government. AllSides readers’ indicated that they strongly agreed with the rating for The American Spectator. To find out if they were right, I began to read laterally about the source to see what others were saying about it.

The American Spectator’s current Web Logo

To begin, I did a Wikipedia search for ‘The American Spectator.’ This led me to the Wikipedia entry for the site which can be found here. Wikipedia labels The American Spectator as a “conservative U.S monthly magazine covering news and politics.” Later on in the entry, they say that The American Spectator follows a tabloid format, meaning they put a lot of emphasis on sensational stories, gossip, and pop-culture. The Wikipedia entry also links to some criticism of the site from sources like the Economist, The Guardian, and the Atlantic.

I followed the link from the Wikipedia page to the Economist article called, “Conservative “Jackass.”” In this article, the Economist takes a shot at The American Spectator by questioning their journalist’s integrity. One of the American Spectator’s journalists had pretended to be a protester and stormed the Air and Space Museum causing them to shut down. The author of the Economist article states, “This isn’t exactly shocking; it’s a modest but clear violation of journalistic integrity, the sort that would get you disciplined at a mainstream publication but isn’t terribly surprising for a partisan cheerleading organ.” So, not only does the Economist criticize The American Spectator for this particular incident, but also for lacking journalistic integrity and being partisan. By reading laterally on The Economist, I found that AllSides rates them as leaning left but the public strongly disagrees and MediaBiasFactCheck found them as “least-biased” or center with 55% of their audience agreeing. This shows that The Economist is not hypocritical in their criticism of The American Spectator.

Other mentions of The American Spectator almost entirely focused on the aforementioned incident between the journalist and the protestors. The Guardian wrote a story on it here and within it they linked a story done by the Washington Post on the same event so I went upstream and found it here. Both news outlets condemn the story and the source for publishing it. Wikipedia also linked to an article by The Atlantic that also condemned the incident. The reporter calls the whole incident “an amateurish conservative media on display.”

From what I found out by reading laterally and going upstream, I can say fairly confidently that I do agree with AllSides right rating for the American Spectator. To be accused of being amateur, partisan, and without journalistic integrity shows that their bias is intense enough to be called out by other publications.

Fact Check #2- Viral 9/11 Photo

To find this photo, I typed ‘viral photos’ into the Google Image search bar. After a little bit of scrolling, I immediately felt connected to this image. A man standing on what appears to be a balcony of the World Trade Center seconds before one of the planes hit the tower. I have seen this photo before and was shocked by it, but I realized that I never took into consideration whether it was actually real or not.

The first thing I decided to do was to try to go upstream by performing a reverse Google Image search on the photo. The result was many other 9/11 pictures and some news articles that contained the picture. Many of the headlines deemed that the picture was fake but none seemed to be credible or from the original source. Despite this, I clicked on one link from the search to see if the author provided any explanation as to why they believed the photo was fake. In this article, called “Viral Photos that Turned Out Fake,” the author claims that the man in the photo was eventually identified and he admitted the original photo was taken in 1997 and was manipulated after the 9/11 attacks. The article provided no sources to that information but at least that gave me somewhere to start.

For some more information, I typed “Tourist WTC picture 9/11” into Wikipedia and was led to this entry on the site. Wikipedia immediately states that the photo was a hoax. It links to this article, from the Museum of Hoaxes, as proof. This article provides many logical reasons that this photo is fake. There are some reasons that are more obvious, such as the fact that this man was pictured wearing winter clothing when it was sixty degrees and sunny on the day of the attack. Others are less obvious to the ordinary internet browser, like the fact that the planes that crashed into the WTC were both 767s and the plane in this mans picture is a 757. More notably though, this Museum of Hoaxes article links us to the original source of the picture. The article claims that the man in the picture is named Peter Guzli and he was a Hungarian tourist. The article then links us to a Wired News article which was the first American news outlet to talk with Guzli and officially break that this picture was a hoax.

The Wired News article, written by Jeffrey Benner in November of 2001, provides a full explanation of the source of the photo. Peter, who at the time did not want his last name shared, stated in an email to Wired News that “This was a joke meant for my friends, not such a wide audience.” He goes on to state that he visited the WTC in November of 1997 to see relatives. A few weeks after the attack, he decided to PhotoShop a plane into his photograph and send the picture through email to a couple friends. Before he knew it, the photo had gone ‘viral’ so he hid in anonymity. However, when other imposters started claiming they were the man in the photo, Peter’s friends outed him to a Hungarian news station. From there, Wired News got ahold of the story and brought it to the United States. To further the proof, Peter provided several pictures of himself taken on the same day.

So, in conclusion, it is confirmed that this viral photo is a hoax. Although this is pretty common knowledge nowadays, I still believe it is important to go upstream and research sources in order to find the truth behind an image. Anyone can say that an image is real or fake, but only those with real evidence can confirm or deny it.

Fact Check: Was Trump’s Response to Spike Lee’s speech accurate?

The article, “Trump Calls Spike Lee’s Oscar Speech a ‘Racist Hit on Your President,'” appeared on NY Times’ website and was written by Alex Marshall. I first came upon this topic by seeing Trump’s tweet about Spike Lee on my social media. Of course, a tweet does not tell the entire story so I googled the controversy and this article was one of the first to come up. I chose NYTimes out of all the options because of the source’s credibility.

Marshall’s article focuses on the controversy between Lee and Trump that was brought to the light during Lee’s Oscar acceptance speech on Sunday night. After Lee won ‘Best Adapted Screenplay’ for his movie “BlacKkKlansman,” he closed his speech by bringing up the 2020 election and urging the audience to be “on the right side of history” by choosing love over hate. Trump responded the next morning in a tweet which accused Lee of taking a “racist hit” at him. He also stated that he “has done more for African Americans (Criminal Justice Reform, Lowest Unemployment numbers in History, Tax Cuts, etc.) than almost any other Pres!”

This led me to wonder if the President’s not so humble statements had any truth to them. To begin, I inspected Trump’s claim that his administration has produced the lowest unemployment numbers in history. According to factcheck.org’s “Trump Takes Undue Credit on Black Unemployment,” Trump’s claim is technically true despite the context being not as clear. In Trump’s tweet, he is implying that his administration is the reason for the lowest unemployment numbers among African Americans. However, what he fails to acknowledge is that African American unemployment numbers have been in a downward trend since 2013. So, his administration did not create low unemployment, they merely did nothing to reverse the downward trend that African American employment was already following.

The next claim I wanted to fact-check was Trump’s record on criminal justice reform. Some research on this topic led me to the source NBCNews. In Ann Caldwell’s article, she analyzes Trump’s first major criminal justice reform action since taking office. In December, Trump was able to pass a criminal justice bill that focused on inmate education and mental health support so they are more prepared once they were released. The bill also included sentencing reform which was considered a positive step for Democrats. Even though the bill was considered a win for the Trump administration, many see it is as not enough. The bill did not at all mention the unfair targeting of black men in our system. Although it is hard to compare this reform to other administrations, this article did point out that Obama did not pass legislation on criminal justice reform in all of his eight years.

All in all, through some fact-checking I found that Trump’s claims are exaggerated but not false. He has overseen an administration that has allowed for low African American unemployment rates, but he cannot possibly receive all the credit for that since it has been in a downward trend for six years now. He did pass criminal justice reform and that is a step in the right direction. However, more must be done to create a system that does not unfairly target African Americans.