The really fascinating thing about the "missing cigarette" controversy [see two posts down if you missed it] is that the comments under Roger Ebert's article are still going strong, 224 in number as of this writing. Several commenters have by now mentioned that Roger was dead wrong, that the original photo didn't have a cigarette in it, and that therefore the entire "controversy" is imagined. They've linked to the photograph, several times. Yet, despite these corrections, most of the commenters are continuing to comment just as if Ebert were right and a cigarette had been removed. So, clearly, not only are the commenters not reading the previous comments before posting their own thoughts, but Roger Ebert isn't reading the comments either, because there's been no acknowledgment or retraction from him.
This is really interesting to me because of what it says about public knowledge. Here we have a case where an authority figure has framed an argument using premises which happen to be flat-out false; people are discussing the argument as it was framed; then other people step in and correct the false premises without having any discernible effect on the discussion. Others go one blithely talking about smoking and whether it was right or not right to remove the cigarette-that-was-never-there-in-the-first-place. Some are even "outraged" about it! That is, if you're still parsing this, they're outraged about something they were told was done even though it never was.
Meanwhile, "Angela, a spokeswoman for the US Postal Service," is quoted on boxwish saying: "In the original photo used as the basis for this portrait Bette Davis did not have a cigarette in her hand. What you are seeing is the effect of light and shadow."
Light and shadow? I emailed the artist, Michael Deas, asking for a comment from him. In moving and changing the hand on the stamp, did he deliberately mean to imply the presence of a cigarette without actually painting one? No answer as of yet....