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Dan Browned

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Martin Savidge: When we talk about da Vinci and your book, how much is true and how much is fabricated in your storyline?
Dan Brown: 99% of it is true. All of the architecture, the art, the secret rituals, the history, all of that is true... [A]ll that is fiction, of course, is that there's a Harvard symbologist named Robert Langdon, and all of his action is fictionalized. But the background is all true.
CNN Sunday Morning interview, aired May 25, 2003

Have you ever picked up a work by a creator who claims (or at least implies) that their product is based on thorough and careful research, only to discover what you're actually holding is a steaming pile of lazy assumptions or outright lies?

Congratulations, you've been Dan Browned.

Some authors and writers will admit that they take advantage of Acceptable Breaks from Reality, Artistic License, the Rule of Cool, the Rule of Funny, or any of the other Rules of Whatever. Some acknowledge freely that Reality Is Unrealistic, and admit that it affects the choices they make in their works. And the audience, in turn, will forgive a Necessary Weasel or two as long as the story is engaging and the contradictions aren't too farfetched.

Not these guys. They claim that their work is carefully researched and entirely accurate, so - with the exception of some fictionalized elements which will be obvious to the reader - what they offer is as factual as the encyclopedia.


Why they do this varies: perhaps a work which they can call nonfiction seems more serious than a work of fiction, or it will attract a "better" readership, or it will increase the author's standing among "real" experts in history, geology, religious studies, etc. Perhaps it's some kind of Stealth Parody on the chosen media in general, seeing how far our sociopathic Trolling Creator can get away with presenting lies as facts. Or perhaps it's to cover the fact that they haven't done any research at all, and Refuge in Audacity is less humiliating than admitting the truth. note 

Some genres and media tend to be free from Dan Browning by their very nature. Comic books, cartoons, manga, and anime very rarely make claims of authenticity. Advertising examples are rare, largely because of truth-in-advertising laws; companies are allowed to make all sorts of claims about their products as long as they avoid making clear statements of fact.


Named after Dan Brown, who is rather fond of asserting that most of the stuff that goes into his thrillers is actually true. Even though it's child's play to find errors of fact in them.

See also Conviction by Counterfactual Clue (formerly "Encyclopedia Browned"), Based on a Great Big Lie, Technobabble, and Shallow Parody. Compare Documentary of Lies, when the Dan Browning media is marketed as a documentary, and Mockumentary, where Blatant Lies is the whole point. Contrast Like Reality, Unless Noted, where what appears to be a research failure is actually due to Alternate History or Alternate Universe. Shown Their Work covers cases where the author has done their research, while Accidentally Correct Writing is where they put an accurate fact or statement in without knowing it was true. Also see Aluminum Christmas Trees, where the audience fails to recognize a real life object and assumes the author made it up for the story.



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    Anime & Manga 
  • In Bungou Stray Dogs, Dan Brown (a character based on the author; his name is used with permission) has a power called Inferno. Said power is just as bad as his books are in regards to reasoning, the only difference is that everyone can see through the hogwash in this work when they can't in real life.

    Comic Books 
  • Chick Tracts claim with 100% sincerity that they expose the truth behind D&D, the Vatican, evolution, Halloween, Wicca, atheists, homosexuality, and many other aspects of modern life. Needless to say, they're a source of Bile Fascination. He often tries to back up his claims by including quotations from books that he supposedly used to research the claims he makes in his tracts. Anyone paying attention will quickly notice that most if not all of these books have been published by Chick himself, making it pretty obvious that he only uses books that agree with his presuppositions. For a taste of how uniquely crazy this guy was, watch this. note 

    Films (Live-Action) 
  • 21 is supposed to be "Based on a True Story". The tagline was "The story of five students who changed the game... forever." Even aside from the various liberties note  they took with the actual people involved, they also make blatant errors about gambling and math in a movie that is about how a bunch of MIT students beat blackjack. Errors like Mickey Rosa lecturing about the Monty Hall Problem in a Calculus class. What's wrong with that? This:
    • The Monty Hall Problem is purely a matter of Statistics. Calculus has nothing to do with the math behind it.
    • One student gives the answer that is correct under the usual assumptions, without actually explaining how he got to that answer. Mickey then starts asking questions like "What if he would only give you the choice to switch if you picked the right one?" Possibilities like that completely destroy the standard solution to that problem, but the student says it doesn't matter, it's a strict math problem and is praised for it. (See a breakdown here, but the short answer is that the film is completely wrong. If Monty only offers the choice to switch when you pick the correct door, then of course switching always loses you the car.) In fact, this is a standard question in statistics about how reality is reality and mathematics is just a model of the real world.
    • In a later discussion, one of the players is talking about whether to split 8s against an Ace. This is a strict math problem, given that the rules of casino games are pretty standard, stated up front, and often enforced by law. The character then gives an intuitive, non-mathematical explanation and gets it wrong.
    • The character in question is close to graduating, and so should be in a fairly advanced Calculus course. They're being taught Newton's method, which is really some rather basic stuff covered back in the first month of Calculus 1. This one is possibly excusable as being for the benefit of audience members who are not taking advanced Calculus classes.
    • Anyone who has ever worked in a casino will tell you that if someone is caught counting cards while playing, they will simply be escorted out of the casino and blacklisted, not beaten to a pulp. This is because card counting isn't even illegal, while battery sure as hell is. Making this even less understandable is that the original book pointedly says that beatings only happen in movies.
  • Argo is supposed to be an accurate depiction of historical events. In reality, it takes considerable liberties and even tells outright lies.
    • During the opening credits, claims are made about the regime of the Shah of Iran that are based on propaganda from the 1970s and have now been denied even by the current Iranian government. In particular, reference is made to a large number of people that died in Iranian prisons. No evidence for the existence of such people has ever been found.
    • Although a fake movie production was used as a cover for the rescue operation, the reality only consisted of one person sitting by the phone and answering questions, rather than the elaborate hoax presented in the film.
    • Real-life contributions by other governments, in particular the Canadians, are ignored in the film.
    • The final chase at the airport, with armed vehicles pursuing the aircraft during take-off, is entirely fictional.
  • Despite Braveheart's claims of historical accuracy, there are historical falsehoods from the opening narration to the final scene. Just one example: if William Wallace fathered the future Edward III through an affair with Princess Isabella, it must have been the longest pregnancy in history; Wallace died in 1305 and Edward III was born in 1312. This is not to mention the fact that in 1305, Isabella was nine years old and living in France.
  • The Day After Tomorrow is doubly Dan Browned, in that the movie was widely publicized as being based on the factual book The Coming Global Superstorm, the book even gets a credit in the film, the typical tactic of playing on current real-world fears was employed, and at the time there were articles of the sort of Could Ice Age occur overnight? with quotes like "It may just be a movie. But to environmentalists, there is more than a kernel of truth in the catastrophic scenarios depicted in the upcoming summer flick The Day After Tomorrow." If you really want a solid night's entertainment, call your friendly neighborhood meteorologist and offer to treat him to a showing of The Day After Tomorrow. One group did; here's the result.
    Here's where the Double-Dan-Browning comes in: The Coming Global Superstorm, the "factual" book it was based on, was written by Art Bell (one of the hosts of Coast to Coast AM) and Whitley Strieber (who wrote Communion, an account of his own abduction by extraterrestrials). At one point, they reason that the latest Ice Age can be traced back to pre-historic High Tech. Damn those Atlantians and their carbon dioxide! The book's sole claim on any connection to reality is that there is a school of thought among climatologists that once CO2 emissions reach a certain critical tipping point, whatever is going to happen note  will happen fast... but not that fast.
  • Mission to Mars was supposed to have a physicist as a consultant to get the details right. It seems he was ignored. In other news, Terri says that the DNA sequence is missing the last two chromosomes. DNA makes up the structure of chromosomes -it doesn't have chromosomes.
  • Mulan (2020): Word of God is that the creators removed Mushu for cultural authenticity reasons, a claim that many decried as hypocritical after the released film demonstrated several more blatantly inaccurate takes on basic aspects of Chinese folklore:
    • The film replaces Mushu with a Chinese Fenghuang, but appearance aside it has nothing to do with the Fenghuang and all to do with the otherwise-unrelated Western Phoenix, such as as dying in fire and rising from the ashes.
    • The film also treats Qi as a form of Power Levels, and Mulan's central conflict involves the characters claiming that as a woman, Mulan shouldn't have this much Qi, and that her arc revolves around her learning to stop hiding her Qi. The issue is that Qi is traditionally understood as Life Energy - everyone has it on some level, and anyone can convert it to a form they can use with the right training, regardless of gender or age.
    • Word of God also states that the movie does not have songs because it would be unrealistic for soldiers to sing in a warzone. The problem is that military songs have existed to help raise morale among the troops; so yes, it would be realistic for soldiers to sing in a warzone.
    • The idea of a Chinese emperor, the Son of Heaven, accepting a duel from a barbarian leader, is nothing short of absurd. By doing so, the emperor not only endangers himself (the single most important person in the entire country), but also implies that a barbarian is the emperor's equal, an utterly unthinkable idea. In fact, duels in general were fairly rare in Chinese history (romanticized accounts like Romance of the Three Kingdoms notwithstanding).
    • Xian Lang being persecuted for being a witch is also noted to be a very Western-centric idea: women using magic in ancient China (like soothsayers and shamans) were actually noted to be well-respected and often held high positions in courts, and it was only using magic for selfish ends that would have caused them to be persecuted. It would have made more sense for her to be an evil spirit or demon instead of a mortal magic-user, especially since she uses abilities that such creatures are actually known to use, such as shapeshifting.
  • David Mamet's Redbelt gets very little correct in its portrayal of Mixed Martial Arts. There were a number of experts consulted on the film, and this fact was touted in promotional materials, but they were mostly old-school MMA fighters, and they have little interaction with the modern version of the sport. Overall, the film gets very little right about MMA or the fight business.
    • There are a great many reasons why the marble gimmick could never catch on or be legally practiced in the United States. The most glaring reason is that no athletic commission would allow competitors to fight handicapped that way. Even in Japanese MMA, which is known within the sport for enjoying the absence of a proper regulation body and being characteristically gimmicky, it would be really difficult to pull that out.
    • Chiwetel Ejiofor's character is offered an opportunity to make his MMA debut days before the event begins. There are numerous reasons why this would and could not happen.
    • Ejiofor is offered an outrageous sum of money for a debuting, unknown fighter on the undercard. The sum is also not divided into show/win purses. It's apparently a flat fee, whether or not he wins. Only on rare occasions do headliners work out special deals that do not include win purses, and it's usually in exchange for a percentage of the event's profits.
    • Given that Mamet is himself a Brazilian jiu-jitsu blackbelt, you'd expect the pure BJJ portrayed in the film to be accurate, but it's not without implausible sections to the trained eye. When Ejiofor fights John Machado, the BJJ technical advisor for the film, his character goes for a rear naked choke from a standing position, which is a very poor tactic with a low chance of success.
  • Director Ridley Scott made numerous public statements about his intention to make Gladiator as historically accurate as possible. To support this goal, he hired several historians to serve as advisors. Yet he made so many choices that were historically inaccurate that one advisor quit in protest and another (Kathleen Coleman of Harvard University) refused to allow her name to be put in the credits. The most irritating thing, to many historians, is that many of the inaccuracies were completely unnecessary - getting it right wouldn't have made the film any less interesting or exciting.
    • Marcus Aurelius wasn't murdered.
    • By the time the movie is set, the borders between Germania and the Roman Empire were firmly established as the Rhine and Danube rivers and had been for over 150 years. There were raids in both directions, but not an ongoing war of conquest. The Marcomannic Wars did rage for much of Marcus Aurelius' reign, and he was in the middle of a successful campaign in Germania when he died. This bit's really just an oversimplification rather than made up.
    • Even the name of the Colosseum, which Russell Crowe's character refers to multiple times, is wrong. At the time in question, what we now call the Colosseum was referred to as the Flavian Amphitheater. Although it could be due to Translation Convention.
    • Maximus' name doesn't even make a lot of sense. "Maximus" would more likely be a (somewhat grandiose) cognomen note , meaning it should come after the family name (e.g. Cicero being the cognomen of Marcus Tulius Cicero). "Decimus" might be a family name but more logically would be a given name (for the tenth kid), while "Meridius" is more like a name part very few had (having to do with place of birth - Roman males could in theory have up to eight parts of their names; Maximus' name is like a jumble of those without the most common ones, given and family). In an earlier script, Maximus was named Narcissus, sharing the name of the real Commodus's assassin, though he was a wrestler and Commodus's personal trainer rather than a gladiator.
    • The costuming starts out okay, and the men's outfits even stay okay, by Hollywood standards. But the leading lady's outfit, by the end, is basically "a modern dress designer's idea of what a Victorian would think a Roman dress would look like". Made with fabric that was commonly available in Jo-Ann Fabrics at the time.
    • A minor one, but as admitted by one of the movie's lead CGI artists, the fireballs launched from catapults in the opening battle should've flown about two times slower. The CGI team did their research, made a test scene, then deemed it not exciting enough and made the fireballs fly twice as fast.
    • In the same scene, the Germanic warriors confronting Maximus's army are heard emitting Zulu war chants, which were actually sampled from the 1964 movie Zulu. Ridley Scott admits on the DVD commentary that he included this as an homage to the earlier film.
    • That caption, halfway through the movie, that says "Zucchabar - Roman Province"? Not so. (This is particularly egregious since they could easily have said "Zucchabar - Roman Province of Mauretania".)
    • Real gladiators binged on high-calorie diets before their matches to make them nice and stocky. The increased fat made sword swipes less dangerous as they would cut through the increased fat instead of subcutaneous flesh. Stocky bears would not be quite as sexy as ripped hunks, however, though the latter would have been cut to shreds in actual bouts.
    • The movie's ending also implies that after the events depicted the Roman Republic was reestablished - something that never happened and by then was almost inconceivable. It was also never officially abolished anyway. So the monarchy was always de facto rather than de jure, because Romans had a strong dislike of kings, having violently overthrown their last one long before. In fact, Marcus Aurelius is the first emperor whose biological son succeeded him, quite unlike the film's depiction, where choosing Maximus as his successor over Commodus spurs the latter to kill him. Even then, this was done by making Commodus his co-emperor while he was still alive, and he thus simply took over when Aurelius died. Commodus did prove to be a terrible emperor, though for very different reasons than the film depicts - he renamed Rome, the Empire, and the Romans themselves after himself (Commodia, Commodian Empire, Commodians). While he did like to fight in the arena, his death actually occurred when a wrestler strangled him in the bath. Of course, that would not be dramatic enough for the movie.
    • The biggest lie of all, however, is the film's basic premise (shared as well by Spartacus and most gladiator flicks): many gladiators were not slaves, they weren't casually expended like cannon fodder (their training cost way too much for that), and they generally didn't die in the ring unless they were very unlucky. A volunteer could expect to fight around 30 bouts over the course of his five- or six-year contract, after which he could retire on his earnings, usually enough to buy a tavern or small farm. Gladiatorial combat was in fact something like modern pro wrestling, in that it was designed to look way more violent than it actually was. The slave-fueled bloodbaths were reserved for the naval shows (which do not appear in either film).
  • Mel Gibson hyped The Passion of the Christ as a totally accurate reenactment of the New Testament and then proceeded to make stuff up: the androgynous devil with the ugly baby Antichrist, the crow that attacked the criminal for mocking Jesus, and other bits of melodrama. Some of those extra details are not in the Bible accounts, but the Catholic Church in particular has a history of saints and mystics who claim to have had visions of the Passion, which Gibson used as source material for the movie. Some of it was just artistic license, of course. The film was also criticized for its use of languages. The "Aramaic" spoken in the film is actually a reconstruction because Jewish Palestinian Aramaic (the dialect it's supposedly based on) has been extinct for more than 500 years; the Romans converse in Church Latin; and Greek is not featured, even though it was the main lingua franca in the Eastern Mediterranean at the time (Gibson did admit that the decision not to feature Greek was deliberate, as there is no record of the Greek dialect spoken in ancient Judea available to base a reconstruction on).
  • In an interview with The New York Times, George Lucas took credit for the infamous scene in Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull in which Indy survives a nuclear blast in a lead-lined refrigerator, and insisted that his odds of surviving were about 50-50. This claim has been thoroughly debunked, and a scientific peer review concluded he couldn't have survived. While the fridge possibly could have protected him from the radiation, considering he was stripped and scrubbed down afterwards, he could not have survived being flung several hundred yards in the air in a metal box.
  • Any work that claims to be "the true story of King Arthur" - including the 2004 film King Arthur, which includes the claim in the damn tagline - falls under this trope. The film had medievalists and Arthur buffs in tears before it was ever released. For those who aren't historians or Arthurian buffs, here's what is known about "The True Story of King Arthur": there's lots of different stories; they were written at different times by different people; they're all popular; and nobody knows for sure if there even was a "King Arthur" for there to be a "true story" of. You can be totally sure the movie isn't the true story of real historical events, for the sole reasons the plot combines the Roman withdrawal from Britain (410) and the battle of Mons Badonicus (ca. 500.); in the movie, the latter closely follows the former and the story is explicitly set in 467.
  • The movie The Fourth Kind claims it was based on non-resolved cases of disappearance in a small village in Alaska, and used so-called archive footage of a psychologist who has done research on these cases, while in fact she never existed, and the police said the disappearances were probably related to alcohol and bad weather.
  • Hidalgo, about a horse race across the Arabian Peninsula, was billed as being based on a true story: that of Frank Hopkins, a self-proclaimed "three times winner of the title of 'World's Greatest Horseman'". Viggo Mortenson, the star, and John Fusco, the screenwriter, have both publicly proclaimed the story is largely accurate. Research indicates otherwise; here's a review of the factual accuracy of Hidalgo.
    • The Longriders Guild (an international association of long-distance riders) and the governments of Yemen, the United Arab Emirates, and Saudi Arabia have all been unable to find any evidence of a race like the "Oceans of Fire", despite the movie's claim that it was an annual event with a "1,000-year history" and was supposedly held as recently as the 1890s.
    • According to Dr. Awadh Al-Badi, director of research at the King Faisal Center for Research and Islamic Studies, "There is absolutely no record or reference to Hopkins, with or without his mustangs, ever setting foot on Arabian soil."
    • John Fusco has offered quotes from former distance-riders and friends of Hopkins, Walt and Edith Pyle, and Lt. Col. William Zimmerman, but these mostly amount to testimony about Hopkins' character and recounting of the stories as they heard them from Hopkins in the first place. The books Fusco cited are all largely discredited as they all used the same original source, Albert Harris' 1941 The Blood of the Arab. Harris' information came entirely from... Frank Hopkins. The film does do a good job of presenting the self-aggrandizing lies of a famous showman, at least.
    • Even Nina Heyn, Disney's Executive Director of International Publicity, admitted (quoted from this article, page 11) "No one here really cares about the historical aspects. Once a picture has been shot, people move on to others. ... If it transpires that the historical aspects are in question, I do not think people would care that much. Hidalgo is a family film. It has little to do with reality."
  • 300 director Zack Snyder stated that "the events are 90% accurate. It's just in the visualization that's crazy. I've shown this movie to world-class historians who have said it's amazing. They can't believe it's as accurate as it is." and observed that the film was primarily inspired by contemporary depictions and records of warfare, which, give or take some of the fantastic elements and "crazy visualisations", it did a fair job of representing. The problem is that the "90% accurate" statement is referring to his faithfulness to his source: Frank Miller's comic book. It is quite faithful to the comic, which was based in turn on sources that are known to be highly factually inaccurate, coming as they do from highly-biased authors. Honest Trailers summed it up the best: "A film based on a graphic novel based on an older film based on ancient Greek propaganda based on a true story!" It's the "world-class historians who have said it's amazing" part that causes it to be an example of this, as it implies that the film has a high level of factual accuracy.
    • Leonidas correctly talks about how the cohesion of a Spartan phalanx is vital to their combat tactics and gives this as his reason for not allowing the malformed Ephialtes to join them, yet the battle sequences show Spartans repeatedly breaking ranks to fight Persians in single combat, as their actual tactics are Boring, but Practical, which doesn't make for an exciting action flick.
    • Like any sane professional soldiers, Spartans wore armor in a fight, not leather speedos and capes.
    • The depiction of the fighting is only a small part of the inaccuracies: For example, Spartans, while known for their warrior culture, were not actually famous for "never retreating, never surrendering" - the battle of Thermopylae was an exception. The film depicts the titular 300 Spartans as being the only soldiers who stayed behind for the last stand, when the army actually consisted of a thousand men, less than a quarter of them Spartans. Some historians assume that the Greek army was almost 7,000 strong. The movie does at least show other Greeks aiding the Spartans early in the battle, but they retreat when it's clear how high the odds are stacked against them.
    • In fact not only did the Spartans retreat sometimes, they did it in this battle, twice. Admittedly, both times they were doing the "Run away until the enemy gets disorganized then reform and kill them." trick.
    • The depiction of Persians draws heavy criticism, due to the demonization that occurred in order to give the heroic, freedom-loving Spartans "proper villains". In truth, the Spartans held two-fifths of the Peloponnese as a slave-state ruled by an ultraconservative military elite, though Spartan women were given much more responsibility in society than other Greek women. The Persians, on the other hand, were known by their contemporaries for their highly enlightened rule and held far fewer slaves in comparison with Greece. One of Xerxes' predecessors, Cyrus the Great, has been revered by the Jews for freeing them from the Babylonian captivity and allowing them to go home, along with other exiled peoples. This was in fact general policy for them.
    • Some may see an undercurrent of Western reason and empiricism triumphing over Eastern religion and mysticism. The real Spartans were at least as religious and mystical as anyone else depicted in the movie.
    • Amusingly enough (and the reason why the comic book doesn't have an entry on this page), Frank Miller himself went on record saying that he had done extensive research... and then changed the facts as needed to tell the story he wanted to tell, and that if people wanted historical accuracy, they should read history books or watch a documentary.
    • There's a line where the Spartans call the Athenians a bunch of boy lovers, which is Frank Miller's homophobia popping up. In real life, Spartans had similar relations between men and young boys. A common theme of the movie is that the Spartans are heroes that defend democracy and freedom, while Athenians are wimpy poindexters. The Spartans were given a lot of positive qualities in the movie that they never had in real life. It's actually the Athenians who had a democracy, albeit it differed from the modern forms, and their society permitted far more personal liberty to people (inasmuch as either did, both being slave societies).
    • The scene where Leonidas kicks the messenger in the well is sort of based on a real-life event, but different context. Ten years before Xerxes came to Greece, the original Persian campaign was coming through. They wanted Sparta's loyalty, but one of the two kings kicked the messenger down a well instead. This shocked and horrified not only the Persians, who put Sparta on their destroy list, but also the other Spartans since hospitality was important back then. They ousted this king and replaced him with a new one.
    • Speaking of which, Sparta had two kings, while Leonidas in the film was the only one.
    • In the film, Leonidas claims the only reason the Athenians want their help is that they can't fight the Persians alone. In real life, Athens had not only fought and won against the Persians before but left the Persians they killed for the late arriving Spartan army-which Leonidas happened to be leading-to bury.
    • Funny enough, the ending reveals that it was all being related by the lone surviving Spartan, who'd been sent to act as messenger, which means the entire movie falls under Unreliable Narrator. Too bad Snyder didn't just say Sure, Let's Go with That.
  • In Jurassic Park III:
    • The Spinosaurus being able to snap a T. rex's neck; the third movie's "dinosaur consultant" went on record claiming this was actually possible. In reality, a Spinosaurus' jaws were too weak to do so and their hands and arms were anatomically incapable of holding on to the T. rex in the manner it does. In this case, the inaccuracies may be a result of the production crew actually listening to the technical advisor. The films' general consultant was Jack Horner, who is notorious in the paleontological community for his decades-long crusade arguing that Big T's badass reputation was overblown (specifically, he thought the animal was a big, lumbering, carrion eater rather than a relatively-agile active predator), a crusade that even he is reluctantly admitting turned out to be wrong.
      • The above is later explained in promotional material for Jurassic World: the Spinosaurus that appears in III is a secret, off-the-record creation of Dr. Wu that was made after The Lost World: Jurassic Park, and is implied to be a precursor to the Indominus rex that appears in the fourth film, from a genetic engineering standpoint.
    • Lampshaded by Dr. Grant's remarks at his lecture at the beginning of the movie: he does not consider the Jurassic Park creatures true dinosaurs, but rather genetically-engineered monsters. This is shown again by the completely impossible behavior of the Pteranodons. The actual inaccuracies and accuracies in the pterosaurs of the movie are too numerous to list here, but anyone who would like to actually look it up can read the Stock Dinosaurs (Non-Dinosaurs) page, which has a whole folder dedicated to describing pterosaurs.
    • Between The Lost World: Jurassic Park and Jurassic Park III, Velociraptors were discovered to have been feathered. To fix this, the raptors in III were given "quill-like structures" (see The Other Wiki on Velociraptor); apparently actual bird-like feathers would have disrupted the raptors' appearance too much. The third Jurassic World film is rumored to take this in an interesting direction, with the "theme park" Raptor Blue meeting authentic feathered Raptors created outside of InGen.
    • This is briefly touched on above, but everything here is justified, particularly in the novels: it's a theme park. Hammond and his team designed the dinosaurs to look exactly like what he thought people wanted to see as opposed to anything historically accurate. He's not too far wrong, either; not many would have paid the doubtlessly high entry fee to see a raptor that looks like an ostrich. In Jurassic World, Dr. Wu explains that the park's dinosaurs are modified in many different ways and thus were never the real thing.
      • Ironically, in the novel they had the opposite problem - Hammond was criticized by his scientists for insisting that the dinosaurs be completely unmodified. In particular, the dinosaurs are said to be fast, far faster than most people would expect, and they suggest slowing them down to meet people's expectations. Hammond disagrees, and (besides making them lysine-deficient) the dinosaurs are kept exactly as they were when they actually existed. This proves to be a mistake. The book version of Dr. Wu tried to explain that since they'd already patched in DNA from other sources to complete them this was ridiculous and they'd be different in all sorts of ways already but was ignored.
  • This appears to be the case about the movie China Cry: A True Story (yes, the words "a true story" are actually in the title). Beyond complaints about deserts being locations they aren't on a real life map, there's a claim that her child remained in her womb for 12 months, 52 weeks. Talking to a doula, OB nurse, or OB/GYN doctor, you'll find that at 42 weeks they'll start talking seriously about inducing labor, since at that point the length of the pregnancy is getting dangerous for mother and child.
  • Patch Adams, very much so. Not only is much of the real Hunter Adams' work about keeping good spirits to improve health flanderized into "do funny stuff to sick people", but Adams is given a romantic love interest who distrusts men due to being molested in her childhood and is later murdered by a crazed patient. Said love interest was actually a male coworker in real life, who Adams never had a relationship with and was never molested. Only the fact that they were murdered is accurate to real life.
  • Oliver Stone is notorious for this, unsurprising given the author's conspiracy-tinged worldview.
    • JFK's myriad inaccuracies and speculations invoked a storm of criticism from journalists and historians, and one website debunks the movie almost scene-for-scene. In his massive JFK assassination tome Reclaiming History, Vincent Bugliosi devotes 900 pages to detailing every single mistake, omission, and outright lie Stone and other writers made in their quest to prove a conspiracy to kill Kennedy.
    • With Nixon, Stone tried to deflect criticism by admitting to creative license onscreen, but the published screenplay is heavily laced with footnotes from books and articles on Richard Nixon, attesting to its goal of authenticity. The cited historians (notably Stephen Ambrose, author of a three-volume biography of Nixon) were mostly unimpressed.
  • El Cid: Famed Spanish historian Ramón Menéndez Pidal, considered to be the authority on El Cid back in the day, was famously hired as the production's historical advisor, something that was boasted in the Spanish print's credits... just to have about each and every of his notes completely ignored in favor of telling a story that's mostly fictional.

  • As the trope title shows, Dan Brown is so well known for this he gets his own example page. An alternate title for this article could almost be "Historians Hate Dan Brown" because of just how much he does this and how far off from the truth he goes.
  • Dale Brown, a writer known for rather "creative" interpretations of military aircraft innovations, also does this a lot.
    • Particularly notable was his Sky Masters which featured a wildly inaccurate portrayal of the Philippine government note  and the mention of the Philippine Air Force having F-4 Phantoms, which is not and has never been true. Made all the worse by having all the inaccurate facts presented alphabetically in a "fact page".
    • Dale has an orbital weapons platform parked over the North Pole, at shuttle-orbit altitude, in Flight of the Old Dog. Unfortunately, you can't "park" a satellite anywhere except at 22,300 miles altitude along the equator, where its orbital period is the same as Earth's rotation.
    • Any attempt to make a stealthy B-52 would be pointless, as the combined changes would have resulted in an entirely new aircraft with nothing in common with a B-52.
  • Swedish author Liza Marklund published two novels about a woman abused, beaten, and threatened by her Muslim boyfriend, subtitling them "true stories" and opening the books with a statement that only names and places had been changed, the rest were all fact. Like Dan Brown, she then proceeded to make this claim in countless interviews and articles and used the books as evidence in political debates. Then in late 2008, a woman named Monica Antonsson published a book pointing out the enormous factual errors in the book (for instance, the boyfriend wasn't actually a Muslim), proving that the book was almost entirely fiction. Marklund then stated that the book was never meant to be taken as true, only loosely based on truth. The Swedes had been Dan Browned. And were mad about it. Since then, the books have been presented and sold as fiction - after Liza Marklund became famous for her crime fiction. The first book was also published as not written by Liza Marklund at all. She had used a ghostwriter.
  • Gavin Menzies:
    • 1421: The Year China Discovered the World (followed by 1434: The Year a Magnificent Chinese Fleet Sailed to Italy and Ignited the Renaissance), on the Chinese discovering the world:
      • The problem is nearly every piece of supposed evidence in support of this thesis is mangled, misused, and thoroughly abused, including many whose history is not only known but in direct contradiction of any possible Chinese involvement - including a tower in Boston built by one of the founding fathers of the city which somehow became Chinese. Perhaps the strangest nonsense is that he relies on a major east-west Pacific current travelling the wrong direction, despite having been a submarine captain who sailed the area, and where such information is central to the job (though he was fired for incompetence). Seemingly he had submitted a non-fiction work that was reasonably factual but the publisher rejected it and asked him to rewrite it as fiction; too bad it was then marketed as historical non-fiction. Destroyed Gavin's credibility as a historian forever.
      • Menzies has determined through original research that the Chinese were the first to discover the Americas. Except almost all of his "evidence" is either patently false or ambiguous and the date he gives for the discovery, while before that of Columbus, is still after at least three other confirmed landings by different nations.
    • A later book, The Lost Empire of Atlantis: History's Greatest Mystery Revealed (2011) takes the "country maintains intercontinental empire" theme to its logical conclusion by claiming that the Atlantean-Minoan civilisation had a half-world-spanning-empire from India to the Americas - one which nobody in the historical or anthropological communities noticed before, apparently.
  • Go Ask Alice is presented, and was marketed for years, as the actual diary of a teenage drug abuser who died of an overdose, but is now known to be a work of fiction by its "editor", Beatrice Sparks. Sparks has since published several other books which she claims are the real diaries of troubled teens but, although the families of the people involved admit that some of her writings might be based on actual patients she's worked with, it's pretty much generally accepted that her books are works of fiction, if for no other reason than the "this is a work of fiction" disclaimer in the beginning.
  • Michael Crichton
    • In The Andromeda Strain, Crichton reveals that he doesn't know how a real-life recon aircraft would behave (his plane flies dangerously close to the ground instead of high up), but he Dan Browns it when he tosses in phrases like "don't look at the scenery" to suggest that he knows what he's writing about when he's plainly making it up.
    • Crichton's tendency to mix genuine research with made-up material makes his examples harder to spot. In The Great Train Robbery Crichton makes up a device for signalling that a recently-buried individual was still alive, but rather than mentioning that it was fictional, introduced a footnote telling the story of George Bateson, who designed "Bateson's Belfry" for this purpose and became rich as a result, but who became so obsessed with his own fear that he lit himself on fire with linseed oil to prevent his own live burial from ever happening. In a real-life research failure, this concept went on to be quoted by many historians who assumed that he had done the research, despite no evidence of the device or the man ever having existed.
    • Crichton gets a huge number of details in his 1996 novel Airframe blatantly wrong despite numerous instances of actually showing his work in the same novel. Employees of the fictional Norton aircraft company are shown investigating an incident when in reality the U.S. National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), not the manufacturer, is in charge of studying accidents and incidents (for obvious conflict-of-interest reasons), and Digital Flight Data Recorders aka "black boxes" are far more reliable and useful in real life than the novel implies (common sense - after all, if you rely on these to know about the causes of accidents, they'd better darn well be reliable). In addition, the story about the decline of the DC-10 used as a cautionary tale about media influence is both lacking in details note  and exaggerates the fate of the DC-10, which went on to sell pretty well and restore its reputation in real life.
    • Crichton's State of Fear is a much straighter example. A researcher cited actually wrote a letter to Discover magazine to complain about how the conclusions from his paper were misrepresented in the book, and several groups have said the same.
  • Tom Clancy is an interesting case. On several issues, notably regarding the US Armed Forces and their equipment, he has done meticulous research and it shows. On other topics... not so much.note 
    • His books tend to go into painstaking detail on lots of things like fighter jet steering and military technology, and Clancy had accrued a lot of "accuracy cred". The story goes that some of the descriptions of naval architecture and procedure were so accurate that the Navy interviewed him in an attempt to find out how he got those details. The interviewers left bemused that he'd apparently just made some very accurate deductions. Of course, back then he was writing the Tom Clancy brand himself, and was working closely with Navy buff Larry Bond of Harpoon fame. However, in Executive Orders where he described the makeup of an Armored Cavalry Regiment in action, his descriptions of the vehicles and unit TO&Es are insanely off-base. He had published a non-fiction book detailing the equipment, organization, and tactics of an Armored Cavalry Regiment two years before. This reveals a major problem with the "accuracy cred" the books get: Tom Clancy has licensed his name and the authors who hold licenses to use it vary widely in how much research they do.
    • In The Hunt for Red October:
      • The Soviet missile submarine's lack of amenities for its crew is a major plot point. In real life, the Typhoon-class boats are the closest thing to a luxury submarine that has been made by anyone. A mitigating factor is that most submarines, Soviet or otherwise, were and still are extremely Spartan in their accommodations, and an American civilian novelist in 1985 may or may not be reasonably expected to know that the Typhoons were different.
      • Jack Ryan's comparison of Soviet and American missile submarines ("theirs" and "ours") in the novel likewise leaves much to be desired. Most Soviet missile submarines had the same configuration as their American counterparts, it's the Typhoons alone that are entirely different both externally and internally and don't have a missile room either. As in the previous instance, Clancy can be excused for not knowing what the Typhoons are like but that doesn't excuse him from extending the goof to all Soviet missile subs, especially since a lot of material on the older subs was public knowledge by that point.
      • The description of the functioning of the titular Red October's "Caterpillar drive" and the Alfa-class submarine's so-called "revolutionary" reactor system combine this with a heaping of Art Major Physics. Submarines with impellers rather than propellers came into being at the time of Clancy's writing (1984), and none of them needed any fictional laws of hydrodynamics to function. And there's no way for the Alfa's reactor to work the way he describes it because water would cease to function as a working fluid at those pressures and temperatures - amusingly, Clancy dismisses the idea that the Alfas have a liquid-metal reactor, but that's precisely what the real-life submarine uses (using a Lead-Bismuth mixture rather than Liquid Sodium).
      • Ramius becoming disillusioned in the Soviet system because his wife died of a ruptured appendix as the drunk surgeon on duty was frantically trying to sober up, and the guy then escaped even the basic malpractice suit because he was a son of the Party official. To begin with, Gadzhiyevo, a main Northern Fleet boomer base, is a sizable town of 12,000 with more than one hospital and certainly has had more than a lone duty surgeon, being a Navy base and all. And even if real, such an accident was pretty damn certain to stink to the seventh Heaven, given the rivalry between the Party and the military, so in Real Life the doc's ass would be grass regardless.
    • In Red Rabbit, he gets dates of assassinations, sports events, and deaths wrong to a depressing degree. His description of the UK's National Health Service seems to have been taken out of some American conservative's blog not bearing any relation to the real-life NHS at all.
    • He plays with this in The Sum of All Fears. He describes the process and procedure to build a Hydrogen Bomb in detail... only it's quite deliberately the wrong way to do so. Clancy during his research into the book had sent a letter requesting information from a US nuclear weapons lab, expecting to be rebuffed, only to get tons of detail in the mail. He states that his subterfuge is to stop undesirable persons and nations getting the know-how to build weapons, though he admits that it will probably not stop them. Why? 
    • In Patriot Games Clancy for some reason thinks the Provisional IRA are Marxists and portrays the Renegade Splinter Faction of them he creates as antagonists that way too. However, the Provos had actually split from the Official IRA because they were strongly opposed to the latter group's Marxism. Ironically the Officials' successors, the INLA, are mentioned in the book, though only as "a bunch of cowboys" with no reference to their Marxism.
    • In Clear and Present Danger Clancy claims that the Dutch government allowed doctors to prescribe heroin for certain drug users. This is false, probably based on the use of methadone as a means to allow opiate addicts to detox.
  • Robert Crais is famous for the Joe Pike series of thriller novels which, he claimed, were all based on meticulous research. However, his novels are literally full of mistakes. For example, the second Joe Pike novel, The First Rule, tells the story of the Serbian mafia in the United States but gets just about everything wrong.
    • Despite the author's claims, the Serbian mafia does not follow the Russian thief code. The Russian thief code (Vorovskiy zakon) is in fact a series of extremely strict rules established by Soviet gangsters. Serbia was never a part of the Soviet Union and Serbian crime gangs never operated under such rules.
    • At one point, Crais mentions that Spetsnaz GRU (Special forces of the Russian military intelligence) were under KGB command (that is, under civilian command). How can a civilian agency command a unit of its military counterpart? Furthermore, the KGB had its own Spetsnaz units, and they were strong rivals with the GRU. For a detailed explanation, see Moscow Centre.
    • At one point, a former Spetsnaz commando says Serbs are tough warriors and that he knows it because "he fought them in Chechnya". This is a big research failure. Firstly, there was not a single registered Serbian fighter in Chechnya. Secondly, Serbs never fought against Russians; on the contrary, Russia is considered as Serbia's friend and ally. Thirdly, at the time the Russians and Chechens fought each other, Serbs had bigger worries.
  • Philippa Gregory, in works such as The Other Boleyn Girl, in which, among numerous other mistakes, she cuts out Mary Boleyn's promiscuous past and portrays Anne as an evil woman and the charges against her (such as sex with her brother) as accurate. Gregory tends to refrain from actually claiming that her novels are perfectly accurate and is open about the fact that she invents some things, but the inaccuracies in The Other Boleyn Girl are particularly glaring, and ironic given that Gregory actually does do her research. A Tudor nut can, when reading her novels, pick out plenty of scenes she took directly from historical record. Unfortunately, with The Other Boleyn Girl in particular she did the research and then threw half of it out the window.
  • Journalist Joe McGinnis rented a house next door to the Palin family and spent several months researching Sarah Palin, her family, her town, her governorship and mayoral run, etc., and in the end published The Rogue: Searching for the Real Sarah Palin. Based on the supposed amount of research done, you'd expect a massive exposé that would destroy whatever credibility she might have had left. Oddly, it did not, as the book was denounced even by the New York Times as a salacious collection of water-cooler gossip, much of which contradicted itself, such as that Palin's drug abuse history and promiscuity were "well-known" while also being "a well-kept secret". He hardly had any named sources, crediting "a friend of the Palin family" or "a former colleague" without naming names. He later had to admit that most of his sources were tabloids.
  • Don Quixote hangs an Older Than Steam lampshade on this situation. In the Preface of the Author, Part I, Cervantes first denounces authors who claim that the verses they use in the preface of their books commending that work (a common literary practice at the time) were made by people claimed to be famous poets when it is easily discovered they were not, or worse yet, they were illiterate. And then Cervantes proceeds to make some commendatory verses of his own, and attribute them to wizards, knights, and damsels of other books. The following quote from a friend to Cervantes advises him to use this trope (and to ignore the critics):
    "Your first difficulty about the sonnets, epigrams, or complimentary verses which you want for the beginning, and which ought to be by persons of importance and rank, can be removed if you yourself take a little trouble to make them; you can afterwards baptise them, and put any name you like to them, fathering them on Prester John of the Indies or the Emperor of Trebizond, who, to my knowledge, were said to have been famous poets; and even if they were not, and any pedants or bachelors should attack you and question the fact, never care two maravedis for that, for even if they prove a lie against you they cannot cut off the hand you wrote it with."
  • Ken Follett claimed he did a lot of research for his The Pillars of the Earth, but he appears to think medieval labor was capitalist (it was guild-based) and never to have heard about how various religious orders ran orphanages, and taking in neighbor's children was routine (hint: extended families and/or godparents), so there'd be lots of options for that baby one can't care for, apart from leaving it on its mother's grave. He also repeats the very old, long-discredited idea that Beckett's canonization was a political maneuver. He doesn't understand medieval manorialism (he seems to think rents were owed individually rather than by the village collectively, reading the Post-Reformation landlord system back into the 12th Century). Maybe we should amend his claim to "I researched the architecture."
    • The miniseries cuts completely the Spanish adventure, where Aliena walking the entire Way of St. James (with a suckling baby!) comes across as even less of a challenge than today, rather than the life-threatening event it was in the Middle Ages. And she manages by learning some Spanish, even though Spain was not unified politically nor linguistically in the 1140s note . Arriving in Santiago and not finding Jack, Aliena decides to continue traveling in what can be considered a Contrived Coincidence: the sea's to the west and the north, and she didn't see him coming from the east, so she will head south. By sheer miracle, she reaches the exact house he was staying at in Toledo (over 1,000 miles away... southeast) and misses him only by a hair's breadth.
    • The family Jack stays with identify as "Christian Arabs" and have names like Rashid al-Haroun (obviously inspired by Harun al-Rashid). Actual Christian Arabs (as in, those who are ethnically Arab but religiously Christian) possessing that name is possible, but it is evident that Follett confused the Mudejars (Moors under Christian rule, who kept Arab traditions including names) with the Mozarabs (Iberian Christians who adopted some Arab trappings while under Muslim rule, but were conscious about their Visigothic heritage, had Roman-Visigothic names, and spoke a Latin-derived language; they lost those trappings after the Christian conquest and were indistinguishable from other Christians apart from holding mass under the Mozarabic rite - which was of Visigothic origin). Ethnic Arabs who profess Christianity were never really present in Iberia at that time; their center of population was, and has always been, in the Middle East. In 1145 Toledo, 60 years after the conquest, there was no such thing as a "Christian Arab", nor any incentive for anyone to identify as one.
  • Jennifer Toth's book The Mole People: Life in the Tunnels Beneath New York City is listed as non-fiction (and its Dewey Decimal and Library of Congress classifications both place it in "Social Science" rather than "Fiction") and was released amid fanfare that it was an "expose" of the living conditions of the homeless living in abandoned and forgotten tunnels of New York City.
    • When a New York subway enthusiast named Joseph Brennan tried to verify the locations and descriptions of many of the tunnels Toth said she visited, he concluded that, aside from her description of the Riverside Park tunnel, "every fact in this book that I can verify independently is wrong." This includes the location of tunnels, the age of tunnels, the size of tunnels, and how many tracks there are going in and out of stations. He makes no judgment about the living conditions, or the existence of orderly communities with "mayors" that Toth said exist, but concludes that the physical descriptions are virtually all bosh. You could argue that Toth deliberately fudged the details to make it harder for the city authorities to forcibly eject the homeless communities from these tunnels, but if she did, it apparently never occurred to her that a single line in the introduction telling people about this would be to the benefit of her credibility.
    • Cecil Adams, in his The Straight Dope column of March 5, 2004, recounts talking to Cindy Fletcher, a woman who Toth herself put him in touch with when he asked her to identify someone who could corroborate her findings, who had lived in the tunnels in the early 90s (about the same time Toth was gathering the material for her book). Fletcher has this to say about the supposed Mole People: "I'm not saying the book is not true, I just never experienced the things [Toth] said she saw," and "There are no leaders down there." Adams' conclusion: "One draws the obvious conclusion: Parts of Toth's book are true, parts of it aren't, and you take your chances deciding which are which."
  • In his bestselling book Rich Dad, Poor Dad, Robert Kiyosaki describes himself as a very wealthy and successful real-estate broker. Several experts in real estate have pointed that the deals and businesses supposedly done by Kiyosaki in the book are either extremely unlikely or impossible to happen in Real Life, or even outright illegal. One of his critics, John Reed, did the research on some of the deals done by Robert and couldn't find any reference of them even existing. Some of his advice, like how to use an own corporation for deducting vacations, meals, travel expenses, etc. would get you into trouble with the IRS for tax fraud. He does explain that his examples are simplified in the book and you should consult lawyers before doing anything. Reed also doubts that Kiyosaki's "Rich Dad" even exists; he could find no record of any businessperson in Hawaii during Kiyosaki's childhood who matches his description. (Poor Dad, on the other hand, seems to be Kiyosaki's own father.)
  • Carlos Castaneda's books are supposedly derived from his PhD fieldwork with the Yaqui Indians. Skeptical researchers have concluded that practically everything about them that is subject to verification does not check out, and the academic consensus is that he invented most of his content. In fact, some of them think he never even met an actual Yaqui, with the only real "facts" being things he could have learned in a library.
  • A Million Little Pieces by James Frey was promoted as his true memoir of descent into alcohol and drug addiction and his amazing recovery. He said that only the names and other minor details were changed. It was a New York Times bestseller and an Oprah's Book Club selection. The story fell apart when a magazine wanted to print a mugshot from Frey's arrest depicted in the book. William Bastone of the Smoking Gun couldn't find it and stumbled upon the fact that there were no official records to go with any of the book's events. This led to a memorable Oprah interview where the Empress of Empathy called James Frey and publisher Nan Talese out as liars.
  • Memoirs of a Geisha. The author heavily insinuates the factual nature of the book, and then reveals it's all made up on the final page. That's not to say he didn't do his research - he just systematically ignored his findings to the point where the interviewee had to release her own book correcting all the misconceptions raised. Oh, and she contributed under condition of anonymity, which the author dutifully dismissed as a parting blow. Unfortunately, the interviewee, Mineko Iwasaki, did the exact same thing, albeit for a different reason: while Arthur Golden pandered to his audience's expectations, she whitewashed the profession both as a pardon to the geisha community and to salvage her reputation. She effectively stated that the entire academic community in America and Japan was wrong, and sex was never once involved in the geisha history... despite listing no research materials. And, while the Gion Kobu district is highly prestigious, she turned it Up to Eleven.
  • Michelle Remembers was a book published in 1980 by psychiatrist Lawrence Pazder detailing the Satanic ritual abuse of one of his patients named Michelle Smith. According to the book, a five-year-old Michelle was tortured and abused by her mother and a Satanic cult, witnessed several murders by said cult, all of which ended with an 81-day ritual that summoned none other than Lucifer himself and the intervention of Jesus, the Virgin Mary, and Michael the Archangel. Then people actually started checking the accuracy of the book and could find absolutely zero evidence that Michelle's mother was abusive or involved with any kind of cult. There was no record of a car crash that was mentioned in the book. There was no record of Michelle being absent from school for any lengthy periods, and certainly not for 81 days. Many people from Smith's past dismissed the book as "the hysterical ravings of an uncontrolled imagination" and the book itself has been criticized for helping spread the satanic ritual abuse panic aka "satanic panic" of the 1980s, along with the equally fictional The Satan Seller. To make matters worse, Pazder and Smith (his main and probably only source) were having an affair despite 1) both being married at the time; 2) Pazder being a practicing Catholic; and 3) a therapist sleeping with a patient being a huge violation of professional ethics. After their mutual divorces (again, a practicing Catholic), Michelle Smith became Michelle Pazder.
  • William Struse stated on his Twitter account that The 13th Enumeration is the same genre as Dan Brown's stuff "except the 13th Enumeration is based on true history. :)"
  • Maxine Hong Kingston:
    • According to her The Woman Warrior, Fa Mulan's parents carved their names and desires into her back. This has no basis in any existing version of Mulan's legend and was likely taken from a similar legend about Yue Fei, a male warrior.
    • Kingston also claims that the Chinese character for "woman" contains the character for "slave". While this is technically true, this is meant to indicate the character's pronunciation rather than to equate females with slaves.
  • Australian novelist Joan Lindsay suggests in the prologue that her 1970 novel Picnic at Hanging Rock (best known outside of Australia for the Peter Weir-directed film version) was based on actual police reports of a mysterious disappearance from 1900. But Valentine's Day that year was a Wednesday, not a Saturday, and no one has been able to find any evidence of the events depicted, or even that the girls' school in the story existed (it may have been based on Lindsay's real school). Some people have recalled the disappearances at Hanging Rock being part of the local folklore (true or otherwise), but researchers have been unable to find anything printed about it before 1970. In this case, it's not only the author claiming the book is based on true reports, it's also the audience cooking up urban legends about it being true.
  • Henry H. Goddard's 1912 book The Kallikak Family: A Study in the Heredity of Feeble-Mindedness was considered one of the key documents of the eugenics movement. Goddard worked with a mentally-challenged woman whom he gave the pseudonym Deborah Kallikak. Looking at her family history, he discovered that a Revolutionary War veteran (Martin Kallikak) had two families of descendants: his legitimate family, who were upper class, and the descendants of a son (Martin Kallikak Jr.) he fathered in an extramarital fling, who were poor with alleged criminal tendencies and mental deficiencies. Well-received when it was released, the book was eventually discredited along with eugenics itself. Goddard renounced it later in life. Even so, modern studies of the Kallikak family show that, eugenics aside, the book was, in one writer's words, "fiction woven from the fabric of half-truths and hearsay." Goddard exaggerated the good and bad qualities of the two families, and much of the research was based on vague second- and third-hand accounts and faulty memories. One genealogist has even suggested that the very core of Goddard's thesis was based on an error: Martin Jr. wasn't Martin Sr.'s son at all, but a cousin who happened to have the same name. Furthermore, Deborah Kallikak (who spent 81 of her 89 years institutionalized) showed plenty of signs of intelligence and the extent of her "feeble-mindedness" was probably what would now be called a learning disability.
  • This trope is parodied, played for laughs, or perhaps deconstructed by William Goldman in his book The Princess Bride. From the foreword to the ending, and the various afterwords in later editions, the author continually insists that the book is an abridged form of a much older literary work. He cites communications with the estates of the original author, S. Morgenstern, as well as with the governments and citizens of Florin and Guilder. Despite the absurdity of many of his facts, the glaring inconsistencies between the autobiographical information he provides and his real life, and the fact that anyone with a small knowledge of the currency of the Netherlands would very quickly catch his lie, there are still some who read this book and believe that these places exist.
  • Karl May:
    • Karl May is well-known today for having created mostly fantasy versions of the settings of his novels, be it Kurdistan or The Wild West in the Winnetou series. Needless to say that they're far from accurate. Back in his days, the U.S. Midwest was too far away both for him to do some research for his novels, and for most of his readers to discover how utterly wrong he was in many points by seeing the real deal. Karl May even took Dan Browning to the next level by claiming later in his life that his books were based on his own exploits in the Wild West and in Kurdistan, and that Old Shatterhand was actually him. He was later proven to be lying, but his fans believed him for quite some time.
    • Even at the time of publication, other parts of his work were easily discredited due to his lack of understanding of many of the subjects. For example, he often describes a "unique" rifle that can fire many shots. However, at the time repeater rifles such as the Winchester were already in use.
  • "A steaming pile of lazy assumptions or outright lies" is a good description of Kenneth Anger's classic gossip book Hollywood Babylon. Film historians and biographers of various Hollywood figures have spent decades debunking the numerous urban legends that Anger passed off as true. (Though, given Anger's background as an experimental filmmaker, the book was probably meant more as conceptual art than nonfiction.)
  • In An Instinct for War, the stories within are fiction, but the author says "Some of this actually happened and some of it didn't, but all of it is as true as I can make it."
  • An in-universe example appears in Gaunt's Ghosts when Gaunt returns to a planet he had helped to conquer over a decade previously to find memorials full of errors, including a chapel dedicated to him because a local historian mistakenly believed Gaunt had died during the battle. When he challenges a local about it, he receives a very sad rebuff, being told that the inaccuracies don't matter so long as the families of the dead have something to remember the lost by.
  • World War Z claims to be extensively researched regarding military equipment and doctrine, as well as puts forward what it claims is an entirely realistic and probable scenario regarding the military's response to a zombie apocalypse. While the part with the zombies obviously has an excuse for being as unrealistic as it wants since the exact nature and capabilities of zombiedom in his setting are entirely up to the author to decide, the parts that involve human beings and organizations and their capabilities and probable reactions remotely fail to put forward any realistic or believable portrayal of a real-world 21st-Century military in action. (There is an extensive entry on Hollywood Tactics if you want more details, that is far far too long to duplicate here.) One of the most notorious mistakes is the tanks of treads being tangled in human guts — the same things knives can pierce easily. There's no mention of the zombification process making their tissue extra tough to allow for this.
  • The Zombie Survival Guide has similar problems, especially the parts relating to weapons, where it seems the research was playing a lot of video games. Among other things, katanas being advertised as a perfect zombie-killing weapon, even WW2-era ones (katanas are notoriously fragile, especially from that era); armor being treated as impossibly bulky (even full plate armor simply wasn't that restrictive); shotguns being criticized for their short range (most shotguns have considerably longer effective range than shown in media, plus the ability to be loaded with slugs rather than pellets); silencers being advertised as a substitute for crossbows (silencers quiet the gun somewhat, but are mostly to disguise the gunshot as a different noise and make the shooter's position harder to pinpoint rather than effectively mute it completely); and so on. Notably, perhaps in a case of Self-Deprecation in response to this, World War Z has characters actually read the survival guide and bemoan that it got a lot of facts wrong.
  • The Eagle Has Landed: the blurb on the back cover says that "at least 50 percent of this novel is documented historical fact". In fact, it's complete fiction. At the time of the alleged events (an attempt on the life of Winston Churchill in November 1943), the Nazis were perfectly aware that Churchill was in Tehran, Iran, and not Norfolk, England, as the book suggests; they even (allegedly) sent a hit squad to Tehran to kill him (and Roosevelt, and Stalin!), but the team was intercepted and arrested by Soviet NKVD.
  • The Secret War: Spies, Codes and Guerrillas 1939-1945 by Max Hastings. Hastings has some harsh words about previous books in this field:
    "But intelligence generates a vast unreliable literature, some of it produced by protagonists for their own glorification or justification. One immensely popular work of Allied intelligence, Bodyguard of Lies, published in 1975, is largely a work of fiction. Sir William Stephenson, the Canadian who ran the British wartime intelligence coordination organisation in New York, performed a valuable liaison function but was never much of a spymaster. This did not prevent him from assisting in the creation of a wildly fanciful 1976 biography of himself, A Man Called Intrepid, though there is no evidence that anyone ever called him anything of the sort. Most accounts of wartime SOE agents, particularly women and especially in France, contain large doses of romantic twaddle."
  • The Second Assassin by Christopher Hyde is alleged to have its basis in a real plot against the King and Queen of the United Kingdom (and many other places under the British Crown) during their 1939 US visit. Many real people like Lyndon Johnson (though he's only portrayed as a minor player) are written as involved in this plot, with the aim of preventing a US entry into the coming world war on the UK's side. All this would be fine if the author said it was fictional. He insists it isn't in the epilogue, however, but only a very weak attempt is made to support this. A lot of it seems to based more on some conspiracy theories regarding JFK's assassination than anything else, with the author explicitly referencing this in the same epilogue. There is no evidence such a plot really happened, needless to say.
  • The Constant Gardener by John le Carré has a late-1990s Regina, Saskatchewan where wealthy Anglos live in the rich part of town while poverty-stricken discriminated-against East Europeans huddle against the cold in ghettos - ridiculous for anyone who has been there.
  • The Matarese Circle by Robert Ludlum
    • A Soviet fishing trawler engaged in espionage identifies itself as registered in Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia. PEI is an entirely separate province from Nova Scotia.
    • A spy going through Lebanese customs speaks to the customs officer in "perfect Lebanese". Granted, he might have been referring to Lebanese Arabic, the vernacular spoken in the country.
    • The author has an American and a Soviet spy encounter a member of the Italian Red Brigades active in Corsica, seemingly unaware it is part of France.
  • Patrick Graham, author of The Gospel of Evil, has claimed there are real-life proofs of a Satanist cult in the Church, Jesus Christ denying God on the cross (!), and Christian Satanist symbols being discovered in China and Pre-Columbian America, just like in his book. He also claims to have connections to the Vatican, in case you didn't have guessed it.
  • The first printing of Norges førstedamer ("Norway's First Ladies") had so many factual errors that it was withdrawn. The most embarrassing one was probably the claim that Norway was attacked by Germany in 1939 — practically every Norwegian can tell you that the correct year is 1940.

    Live-Action TV 
  • CSI: At least they've stopped trying to claim it's accurate. In fact, the technical advisor invoked the MST3K Mantra (not quite in so many words) in an interview, saying essentially that the show focuses more on the character drama than the tedious, painstaking, underfunded work that is real-life forensics. One of the most notorious was DNA analysis being presented as a few-hours thing; at the time the show ran, it was a multi-week procedure in real life, before you got into the backlog.
  • Bones: After a few biological anthropology and forensic courses, the science portion of the show just becomes too ridiculous and outright silly. Sadly, this has led to quite a few hopeful forensic anthropology undergrads taking the show's "facts" as, well, fact, when most of the storylines are exaggerated for drama. What makes this a Dan Browning rather than simple research failure is that the fact that Kathy Reichs (a former respected forensic anthropologist) is a producer of the show and her presence was highly touted as an implied mark of accuracy. In this case, there's evidence that it was the marketing department that did the Dan Browning, and it wasn't intended by the creators: An executive producer, responding to a question about Kathy Reichs's involvement in the show, said this: "Somewhere we got rated as the most accurate of the forensics shows—it was Popular Mechanics or Popular Science... We just laughed." and Reichs has acknowledged that forensics shows in general are usually incredibly misleading about what actually happens and about how reliable existing methods are.
    • The low standards for science in the show are obvious when, during the Sleepy Hollow crossover, Dr Brennan actually accepts Ichabod Crane's explanation that he and his "ancestor" have identical handwriting because it was passed on genetically.
  • Criminal Minds:
    • Criminal Minds has made some pretty big goofs. In one example, one of the characters claimed the Principle of Double Effect is essentially an argument that the ends justify the means. Which is completely wrong from start to finish.
    • The Spin-Off Criminal Minds: Beyond Borders was advertised as researching the foreign locales to the point of making viewers believe the show was really shot in them. Two seasons later, it is almost impossible to not find an internet rant about how many things every given episode got wrong.
  • NUMB3RS: The show often forgets little things like uncertainty, noise, statistical significance, common sense, and the most important problem with statistics: interpretation of the results.
  • House's Dan Browning is notable because of all the obscure medical information they get right, but then they make basic mistakes like shocking a flatline. The blog Polite Dissent devotes an entire section to Medical Reviews of House. Probably the best Take That! was when it was pointed out it was far, far more likely for unusual symptoms to just be a common illness displaying unusual symptoms rather than being some obscure disease that no one has ever seen before. House has gone both ways, depending on the episode.
  • Lucifer made a mistake that frankly boggles the mind in S1:E6. Linda states that one of Lucifer's other names, Samael, means "Lightbringer". That is what Lucifer means. Samael means "Venom of God". This would be more forgivable if the man didn't own a nightclub named Lux - the Latin for 'light', and the root word of 'Lucifer'.
  • Doctor Who script editor Donald Tosh once went on record as claiming the story "The Gunfighters", set around the 1881 Gunfight at the OK Corral, was historically accurate. Even though it gets such minor details as who was killed during the shootout and who was there wrong, along with making up fictional family members for the real-life participants.
  • Deadliest Warrior and its many accusations deserve mention here since it boasts the presence of "experts" to justify the experiments, and because it claims that the computer simulations are sound. Questions have been raised about the level of expertise the experts have; the validity of the weapons testing procedures (especially using two different scenarios to test comparable weapons, for instance, using a pig carcass to test the Bowie knife and a ballistics gel torso to test the stiletto in Jesse James vs. Al Capone); how much weight is assigned to the weapons as opposed to the tactics the various warriors used; and whether the simulation-program algorithm produces results that would translate accurately to Real Life. The last is a big of the most important principles in science is repeatability, and the program is a "black box", so by definition, nobody knows how it works except maybe the guy who runs it.
    • One of the hosts is known to have lied about his background in the military, leaving the show as a result. This puts into question the rest of the show.
    • The level of Dan Browning was at its worst in Season 1 (for example, 75% of William Wallace's arsenal wasn't invented until centuries after he died), and they tried to avert this trope more and more as the show went on. That said, Season 3 does have one glaring case: Joan of Arc was a Badass Pacifist, not an Action Girl note .
  • Some of the History Channel's programs (ones dealing with conspiracy theories and such) are notorious for this.
    • Ancient Aliens:
      • The pre-Columbian "golden flyers" are known to be stylized depictions of flying fish. The program only showed the most stylized, leaving out those that were undeniably fish.
      • Another example of an "alien spacecraft" that looked vaguely birdlike, it could never be a bird because "no bird has a vertical rudderlike tail". Behold, the Greater Antillean Grackle found all throughout South America and the Caribbean islands. (Sure, this bird may not be native to the network's home country, but do you know what is? The ruddy duck. Its stiff tail can be adjusted to stand vertically and it can be found in many parts of North America and the Andes Mountains in South America.)
      • The series repeatedly claims that it's impossible to cut granite without power tools, when in reality it can be cut by rubbing sand against the granite with a copper saw (like the Ancient Egyptians did) or with a stone (like the Amerindians did).
      • The episode on Pumapunku asserts that it was made of granite and diorite when in reality it is made of much softer sandstone and andesite.
      • Tiwanaku/Tiahuanco is 1,400 years old, nowhere near the 17,000 they claim. They pull the same trick talking about the similar Pumapunku ruins, claiming the ~2,000-year-old site is actually over 17,000 years old by referring to a poorly-researched paper published a century ago.
      • The oldest Sanskrit document is 1,700 years old; the oldest work (the Rig Veda) is roughly 3,400 years old. Sanskrit as a language didn't even exist 6,000 years ago; the precursor language Proto-Indo-European did, but it would be just as accurate to call that language "Old English" or "Latin" or "Bulgarian" as "Sanskrit" - they're all about equally removed from it in the family tree.
      • The episode on Ezekiel claims that mainstream scholars regard what they claim is a description of a spaceship as metaphorical of Israel's enemies. No remotely-credible Biblical scholar will tell you anything like this, as the text explicitly says that it was a vision of the glory of God.
      • The show claims that the Trilathon stones at Baalbek are a landing platform when in reality they are laid in a line that would be very difficult to land on.
      • One show argued that a carving of a flying bird found in an Egyptian tomb was really a model of an ancient glider, and "proved" it by taking a flight simulator, programming in the aerodynamic characteristics of the model, and demonstrated that it did have some flight capability. Think about it: because the model of a flying bird in a gliding position showed some gliding potential, it therefore wasn't a bird at all but an aircraft. Because apparently gliding birds can't fly, or something (vultures' existence must be confusing to the people behind the show).
      • The series insists that Harry Houdini had real magical powers that they push as science-based. The real Houdini was a notorious skeptic in the supernatural and would be outraged at the idea of being presented as a real magician.
      • The show claims the House of Windsor is "one of the oldest and most powerful families in English history." This will be a surprise to the British considering the House didn't exist before 1711 and has undergone several shifts since then.
      • The series pushes how the Royal Family of England and the Emperor of Japan are "meant to rule" due to alien DNA...ignoring how both England and Japan have prevented the royals from having any real power over government for centuries.
    • America Unearthed host Scott Wolter could be Dan Brown's Spiritual Successor.
  • In the 2012 episode of Brad Meltzer's Decoded, they frequently refer to an "ancient Hopi prophecy" that's "thousands" of years old. Said "prophecy" was never even heard of before 1959, and the Hopi have even stated that it's not theirs. Also, the Hopi are maybe 700 years old as a distinct people, and probably only about 500.
  • Both Roots (1977) and Roots: The Next Generation are supposed to have been based on the true biographical and autobiographical works of Alex Haley who claimed to have written the two books (later turned into mini-series) about his family. In one part, Alex himself travels to Africa and finds a Griot (storyteller) who connects him with his past. After some research, it's discovered that much of the information about the original African slave, Kunta Kinte, is "borrowed" from another book called The African and the Griot who confirmed the story was not genuine and changed details of the story in retellings. Also, the area where Kinte is supposed to have come from was notable because its king would not allow his people to be made slaves without his permission. Europeans had long contact with the Africans there too, unlike the depiction of them being new. The records which Haley used are spotty and contradictory, with the oral history he relies upon having no independent corroboration.
  • Played for humor in Arrested Development. The documentary narrator insists some facts as true: Gob's chicken dance is an offensive gesture in Mexico, the word pussy means "kind person" in the UK, and naming media that doesn't actually exist.
  • Star Trek: Voyager producers turned to Native American culture "expert" Jamake Highwater to develop the background of Chakotay. However, the very white Highwater was a fraud who knew approximately nothing about Native American culture that he hadn't learned from cowboy movies.
  • Parodied in That Mitchell and Webb Look with two TV writers who outright state that they can't be bothered to do any of the research that their work needs, whether it's a medical drama, courtroom drama, or science fiction.
  • M*A*S*H was known to get a few things wrong.
    • In "What's Up, Doc?" Hawkeye uses Radar's rabbit for an old-fashioned pregnancy test (without killing her). The trouble is, the rabbit is fully grown. The test is done by injecting urine from a woman into a juvenile rabbit. If the woman is pregnant, the hormones in her urine will cause the rabbit's immature ovaries to rapidly mature and enlarge. As you can see, if the rabbit is mature, her ovaries will already be an adult size regardless of whether the woman is pregnant or not, making the test useless.
    • In "The Yalu Brick Road", the entire camp (including Potter, a doctor who should know better) blames Klinger when everyone comes down with salmonella after eating Thanksgiving turkey. They blame him because he was the one who got them the turkeys, but even back then it was common knowledge that one gets salmonella from eating improperly-cooked turkey.

    Tabletop Games 
  • Earlier editions of the roleplaying game Ninjas and Superspies and later supplement Mystic China had great detail about a large number of martial arts, claiming to have come from exhaustive research. Much of this information was either wrong or changed radically to serve the goals of creating interesting plot hooks in the game world; nonetheless, to this very day, the descriptions from the original game appear verbatim in discussions of real-life martial arts styles. This includes such pieces of fallacious trivia as the "fact" that Wing Chun, one of the more popular kung-fu styles available and one of the original/core styles first studied by Bruce Lee, is only taught to women. The Revised Edition, Eighth Printing copy of Ninjas and Superspies has as Quiet Disclaimer number one that the martial arts described therein are not to be confused with those of the real world and that the author has made stuff up. This disclaimer is found on the first page after the table of contents.
  • F.A.T.A.L. claims to be "the most difficult, detailed, realistic and historically/mythically accurate role-playing game available" (emphasis added). That was followed by this statement from the author of the game, Byron Hall: "The odds in FATAL are that if you attack a character with a weapon, then they are likely to die. By the way, this is an obvious attempt at realism", because, of course, most attacks with any weapon in real life are likely to be fatal. Except that, statistically, they aren't now, and they weren't in the Middle Ages either. Or, again, the author's own words: "I searched for information on sexually transmitted diseases in the Middle Ages. Although I did not search with vigor, the few times that I have searched, I have failed to find any information." A Google search on ["sexually transmitted disease in the Middle Ages"] (including the quotes but without the brackets) produces three sites directly addressing the subject in some detail on the first page of results, including one that was a review of a book on Sexuality and Medicine in the Middle Ages. Hall certainly "did not search with vigor" if he missed those references. Let's not even go into the "mythologically accurate" claim.
    • Women in FATAL are arbitrarily worse than men at some things and better than men at others. Hall uses Aristotle as backup for these shifts, which include morality changes that make women more toward the Chaotic Evil end of the spectrum. He might have gotten away with it if he hadn't then said "these are our justifications assuming Aristotle isn't wrong." Further Aristotelian insights upon which you might like to base your own highly realistic RPG: Flies have four legs. Men have more teeth than women. Oh, and the brain's purpose is cooling the blood - it's the region around the heart that's responsible for thinking.
    • FATAL characters of low intelligence get to roll for bonus "Retard Strength". Hall answered criticism of this mechanic with anecdotes about nursing sourced to "some females I knew in college".
    • FATAL also claims that the medieval diet consisted almost exclusively of bread and beer, completely omitting the critical nutritional role played by legumes. The importance of legumes is mentioned in the very first page found when searching "medieval diet" on Google. The equipment section lists prices for food, again completely leaving out legumes of any sort.
    • Anything that is thoroughly disproven gets retconned (like the original name) or tossed into the "controversial humor" bin (which is an increasingly large list of things).
    • The "most difficult" claim is based on the game's system where the difficulty of any test is randomly rolled for before the test. Far from being difficult, this makes everything a 51% chance.

    Video Games 
  • Music Quiz 2 on the iPod has at least two questions where the so-called "correct" answer is wrong:
    • "How many great composers called Bach were there?": the "correct" answer is 2, but according to That Other Wiki the correct answer is at least 3 - Johann Sebastian, and his sons Carl Philip Emmanuel and Johann Christian. The Harvard Dictionary of Music has six different Bachs listed and considering the whole family was full of musicians and composers, there may be more, but it depends on what the definition of "great" is. Heavy metal fans might consider Sebastian Bach to be a great composer.
    • "Which of these composers were not from the Classical era?": the "correct" answer is Strauss, which is okay as far as it goes (the two Johanns were from the Romantic era, Richard was from the Modern), but another of the possible choices is Bach, and the most famous Bach was from (indeed, almost defined) the Baroque, which predates the Classical. The Classical period is sometimes defined as from the death of papa Bach (1750) to the death of Beethoven (1827); it's followed by the Romantic.
  • In-Universe Example: Oblivion has Quill-Weave, a writer who claims to have found no magic in the Doom Stones, and is writing a novel about them. This, of course, is completely wrong, as they clearly use magic. The Elder Scrolls being the Elder Scrolls, a few hints scattered in-game and by developers on the official forum (before and after the game's release) indicate that Quill-Weave not finding magic in the Doom Stone might not necessarily be proof of her not having done research. Rather, the Doom Stones are implied to have a connection to prophecy and the Heroes of Events, to the point that they might only activate for such people - which the main character is, but Quill-Weave isn't.
  • The flight sim Sabre Ace: Conflict Over Korea advertised itself as having uber-realistic flight simulation modeling, but GameSpot's reviewer called BS on this, rightly pointing out that it was arcade-grade.

    Web Original 
  • A frequent problem with open wikis is that anyone can edit them regardless of their actual knowledge or intent. Blatant misinformation once presented as "fact" on The Other Wiki includes a claim that Abba's "Mamma Mia" is a "cover" of Queen's "Bohemian Rhapsody" (apparently on the grounds that the Abba song immediately followed the Queen one to the UK number 1 slot, and that both include the phrase "Mamma mia"). More appear (and are caught) every day, with the speed generally correlating with the popularity of the topic/article in question.
  • The worst thing is how many people are prepared to believe what's on Wikipedia without question - even people who should know better. One of the worst examples was the 2007 death of British TV composer Ronnie Hazlehurst, where many supposedly respectable sources, including several national newspapers and even the BBC itself, reported he'd written an S Club 7 song, based on nothing but a joke Wikipedia edit made a couple of days before his death.
  • Babe Ruth: Man-Tank Gladiator: In-universe, Throckle No'Goor maintains that the story he's telling is completely accurate.
  • Fact-checking website gently lampshades this trope with a joke section called The Repository of Lost Legends, to remind readers not to believe everything they say even though it's supposedly based on research.
  • The Comics Curmudgeon had a running commentary on the Popeye newspaper strip and put forward a theory that it was a commentary on the Iraq War. The trouble is that the strips were reprints. When faced with this information, The Curmudgeon put forward the highly unlikely theory that it was still about the Iraq War, but before it happened. This theory gets exploded as well because the strips were even older than he thought (he assumed they were from around 1996, but in reality, they were from the late 1980s).
    • In another instance he was bizarrely angry at Zits for making the lame pun "hanger management" (regarding clothes hangers), insisting that "hanger" and "anger" in no way sound alike, ever. It is true that in many American Accents, presumably including that of the Baltimore-born Angeleno The Curmudgeon, the words are parsed differently (HANG-er vs. ang-ER). In other accents however they do rhyme, at least enough for slant rhyme; cue confused comments.
  • During one of Rerez's reviews of knock-off consoles, he finds a Balloon Fight rip-off (made from a modified ROM of the original game) and takes note of how the game lacks a two-player mode (because the console lacks the Select button to select it) yet has a blue version of the game sprite for Player 2 to use which can be seen in the game's Attract Mode. He decides the creators did that on purpose to taunt their customers by explaining that the alternately colored sprite is "not just some automated thing that would have happened" and therefore they must have deliberately made a sprite for the second player. Except it is something automated that would have happened. Game sprites from that era actually had no colors and were instead assigned colors from palettes: for example, in Super Mario Bros. Mario and Luigi share the same sprite but are assigned a red palette for Mario and a green palette for Luigi, Luigi shares a palette with Lakitu and the Hammer Bros (just to name a few), and the game could actually be altered quite easily to assign any available color palette to any sprite to make (for example) a Goomba-colored Mario or a Bullet Bill-colored Luigi. In other words, the modders didn't make a two-player sprite as Rerez claims, but simply drew a new sprite for the player character, the ROM file is automatically assigning a different palette to the two-player version of said sprite, and they simply neglected to disable Attract Mode.
  • TierZoo is a YouTube channel that discusses zoology in video game terms. For the most part, the information presented in these videos is accurate once you get past the use of gaming terminology. However, as with any show of this type, there's bound to be an occasional slip-up.
    • The cheetah was placed in the F-tier in the Cat Tier List video because it lacks the physical strength to fight more powerful players trying to steal their kills and has a staggeringly high noob death rate (just 5% make it to late-game). It is not true, however, that cheetahs frequently lose their kills to lions or hyenas - they lose only about one kill for every ten made, can recoup such losses by simply hunting again, and can even kill jackals on occasion (which were listed as D-tier in the Dog Tier List). They're best played not as brawlers, but as high-mobility rogues who avoid losing kills simply by not making any when competitors are around. This has been acknowledged by the creator on the Reddit, though he still views cheetahs as bottom-tier in terms of PvP due to their Fragile Speedster nature. An updated video on Cheetahs does address these inaccuracies, straight-up mentioning that they avoid making kills when competitors are around.
    • "Cat vs Dog - Best Support Class", Tierzoo argues that cats do nothing to actually support humans and are only tolerated because they infect humans with Toxoplasma gondii. This completely ignored the fact that cats were domesticated to keep pests such as mice and rats from human territory and food stores, a role they performed very efficiently and still play in the modern age in some places.
    • The Spider Tier List claims that social spider colonies are held back by having to deal with freeloaders. "Freeloader" spiders are actually colony members who focus on rearing young rather than hunting, and colonies without them have been consistently shown to be less successful than those with them.
    • In the Ice Age Tier List, chalicotheres are said to be a D-tier mimic of the giant ground sloths despite predating them — the chalicotheres first appeared in the Oligocene and the sloths in the Pleistocene.
    • He put nocturnal builds in his "Top 5 Worst Animal Designs" video, justifying it since "in most servers, the day lasts longer than the night." Except the day only lasts longer than the night during the spring and summer, and the night lasts longer than the day during the fall and winter. He later corrected this mistake in the comments section.
    • He listed the presence of gut flora (which he framed as providing bonus XP) as yet another of the reason humans are a invokedGame-Breaker. In actuality, gut flora are the rule rather than the exception in the animal kingdom.
    • "The Time Earth Glitched" states that griffinflies quit the game at the end of the Carboniferous expansion when they actually went extinct at the end of the Permian. Also, TierZoo suggests that if they were still playable today, they'd be able to hunt domestic dogs and cats, which is unlikely given they were actually smaller than modern-day crows.
    • In the Rodent Tier List, rodents are described as one of the builds that survived the K-T extinction patch, when in fact they didn't evolve until later.

    Western Animation 
  • In Central Park, Season 1 "Squirrel, Interrupted", The Squirrel Quarrels, Cole's favorite book series, is stated to be set in Central Park yet during the scavenger hunt Owen is thrown off by the directions based on series trivia not lining up with the actual locations they're supposed to be referencing, which he lampshades.
  • In the My Little Pony: Friendship Is Magic episode "The Maud Couple", Mud Briar identifies a plant as a Quercus Castaneifolia. The specificity of the name and the appearance of the plant make it clear the writers and animators did research the plant... except they picked the wrong name: the plant he holds up is a hybrid of the Castaneifolia and Quercus Cerris, while the actual Castaneifolia looks much different. In fact, many of his "corrections" were inaccurate or outright false.

    Real Life 
  • Christian comedian Mike Warnke claimed to have been a satanist, a satanic high priest with his own coven, and to have participated in several satanic rituals involving rape and possibly murder. Warnke's claims first reached a mainstream audience when he published The Satan Seller, purportedly a true story of his satanic involvement, in 1972. His testimony was featured prominently in his speaking/comedy tours, and for a time in the mid-1980s, he was considered one of the foremost experts on satanism in the US and worked as a consultant for a number of law enforcement agencies. Then in 1992, Cornerstone Magazine did some digging and found out that Warnke's stories and dates simply didn't add up and found major discrepancies between different tellings as well as several witnesses who flatly denied Warnke's claims. Not to mention that there is, to date, no evidence whatsoever that any of the wildly hedonistic satanic rituals claimed by Warnke have ever taken place in the United States.
  • In 2009, numerous German newspapers reported the full name of the newly appointed Minister of Economy as Karl-Theodor Maria Nikolaus Johann Jacob Philipp Wilhelm Franz Joseph Sylvester Freiherr von und zu Guttenberg. In reality, Guttenberg has "only" ten given names, and the name "Wilhelm" was misinformation planted on Wikipedia on purpose. After Wikipedia users got suspicious and removed "Wilhelm", someone cited press coverage as source, making a full circle and leading to the wrong name getting (temporarily) re-added to the Wikipedia article. note 
  • Lawrence David Kusche, a Bermuda Triangle author who did do the research, showed that many Triangle authors just plagiarize earlier books, so that the same errors (including accounts of "incidents" which are partly or wholly fictional) keep being repeated throughout such books. The most notable is probably the tale of the Mary Celeste (one of the few genuinely mysterious stories associated with the Triangle, though it did not in fact take place there), reports of which in Triangle books usually have few if any of the details of the real incident, instead substituting details from Arthur Conan Doyle's "J. Habakuk Jephson's Statement" (a fictional story based on the real episode), starting with the name of the fictional ship therefrom—the Marie Celeste.
  • Thanks to an inaccurate description given by a 19th-Century English source, the Italian card game Calabresella ended up having a simplified description in virtually every English source up to the end of the 20th Century.
  • New Scientist is similar. Supposedly it's a magazine presenting simplified science for the layperson, but it frequently contains everything from sensible but as-yet-unsupported theories, through fringe claims and crackpots, all the way to complete gibberish. No attempt is ever made to distinguish the good science from the bad.
  • Immanuel Velikovsky is interdisciplinarily guilty of this trope.
    Carl Sagan: Velikovsky has called attention to a wide range of stories and legends, held by diverse peoples, separated by great distances, which stories show remarkable similarities and concordances. I am not expert in the cultures or languages of any of these peoples, but I find the concatenation of legends Velikovsky has accumulated stunning. It is true that some experts in these cultures are less impressed. I can remember vividly discussing Worlds in Collision with a distinguished professor of Semitics at a leading university. He said something like "The Assyriology, Egyptology, Biblical scholarship and all of that Talmudic and Midrashic pilpul is, of course, nonsense; but I was impressed by the astronomy." I had rather the opposite view.
  • Cosmopolitan magazine whenever they give advice about men is often hilariously inaccurate, adding unnecessary psychology as to what men want in bed. It's worth noting that it virtually never ever mentions the importance of communication regarding relationships and sex. This is understandable, of course - if the magazine's readers actually talked with their lovers about what they were thinking about or what they wanted, instead of secretly reading about it in Cosmo, they'd probably lose sales figures. And some of the advice is downright dangerous - and in some cases, flat-out illegal and psychotic. Also of note are their "signs your man is cheating on you" columns, which almost always come in pairs of "he does something or does not do the same thing" so that any possible behavior is a sign he's cheating.
  • Chatoyance claims that her stories are perfectly accurate hard science fiction. Critics have pointed out numerous inaccuracies, misused technical terms, and wholesale fabrications in her stories. This review is a pretty good example.
  • After the publication of Dan Brown's novel Angels and Demons, which featured an attempt by the Illuminati to destroy the Vatican with an anti-matter bomb utilising anti-matter stolen from CERN's storage facility, CERN installed an option on their answering machine to handle all the enquiries from anxious readers, assuring them that: Anti-matter does exist, in fact CERN creates some every day; No, they don't have any in store, because it is difficult to store and currently impossible to transport.
  • The YouTube video Romance Languages Explained. Oh boy, where to begin?
    • According to this video, there are only five Romance languages: French, Italian, Romanian, Portuguese, and European Spanish (apparently, Latin American Spanish is not a Romance language because it's "a different dialect"). This claim is made all the more bizarre by the fact that we're later shown a list of many more Romance languages.
    • Romanian is supposedly much closer to Latin than to the other Romance languages. This claim is already heavily debated and it seems most who promote it as true are Romanians, but the example given is that "Salut, ce mai faci?" (Romanian for "Hello, how are you?") is obviously much more similar to the Latin translation "Salve, quid rerum geritis?" than to its French counterpart "Bonjour, comment allez-vous?" True, the Latin "salve" is quite similar to Romanian "salut", but the word "salut" also exists in French. You may also notice that the Latin phrase doesn't make much sense because the creator of the video uses Google Translate for everything.
    • The video goes on to say that Vulgar Latin is "difficult to untangle". Why? Well, the author simply shows us a tree of the Satem branch of the Indo-European languages and goes "Look at how complex this is!" What the Satem languages have to do with the supposed difficulty of untangling Vulgar Latin is anyone's guess.
    • The real kicker is the claim that German is "derived from a contraction of Greek and Latin" (it's not - they're all distinctly related, but German doesn's come from either of them) which is apparently the reason that German words are, according to the narrator, "abruptly harsh" (ironic, as French can be argued to be a "contraction" since it lost many final consonants, and you'd be hard pressed to find anyone who says French is harsh). Oh yeah, and "German languages" are also difficult to untangle, which, apparently, we "can see". No explanation beyond that is given.
  • There's an entire industry built around selling people merchandise with their family crest. These can be online, at state fairs, and even at the Disneyland Castle. All of these companies claim to be vigorous researchers, but they're misleading and capitalize on most Americans' ignorance of heraldry. First of all, there's no such thing as a "family crest"; in heraldry the crest is a helmet or crown above the shield to indicate the holder's rank. The only legitimate thing similar is the clan crests of Scotland, but these look totally different and the custom is only about 200 years old. Secondly, coats of arms are granted to individuals, not families (this isn't Westeros). The children of the bearer usually modify their arms to differentiate themselves and only a firstborn son may inherit it unmodified. Thirdly, these companies claim that every last name in Europe has a coat of arms when in reality only noble families and a few exceptional commoners do; plus the entire business is built on the false assumption that everyone with the same surname is related. Often these businesses will say that they used legitimate sources like Burke's Peerage, and perhaps that's true. Whatever design you see presented as your family arms was probably taken from the first person with that last name they could find with arms, which would be akin to using the Golden Arches as the symbol of everyone named McDonald. Read this for more info. (Note that if you do happen to be related to people who were granted arms, whether or not you could inherit them, a more reasonable place to discover this would be genealogy sites, though they sometimes suffer from Dan Browning of their own.)
  • The Christian anti-rock documentary Hell's Bells: The Dangers of Rock and Roll that promotes the "backmasking" conspiracy makes some major errors, such as claiming that the singer Robert Palmer and the musicologist and critic Robert Palmer were the same person, as well as using an unreliable biography on The Beatles, among other things. It also claims that vibrations from a speaker at rock concerts can cook an egg.
  • In 2000, Michael Bellesiles, a history professor at Emory University, came out with his book Arming America: The Origins of a National Gun Culture. It purported to show that America's "gun culture" was of much more recent origins than has been claimed, and that very few people in pre-nineteenth-century America actually owned guns. At first, this was hailed rapturously by many people, and Bellesiles got the prestigious Bancroft Prize. Unfortunately, it came out that Bellesiles had claimed to consult records that did not exist or had been destroyed, his mathematics was flawed, and had made numerous other errors. The backlash against Bellesiles and his book forced him from his university post and cost him his prize.


Video Example(s):

Alternative Title(s): Dan Browning


Loose With the Facts

The Squirrel Quarrels is stated to be set in Central Park yet during the scavenger hunt Owen is thrown off by the directions based on series trivia not lining up with the actual locations they're supposed to be referencing, which he lampshades.

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Main / DanBrowned

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