A series of memos known as the Killian documents were released by an "expert" (take note of quotation marks, they'll become important later) to CBS News officials, who used them to put together a potentially politically devastating story critical of George Bush's service in the Air National Guard right before the 2004 Presidential Election. CBS thought they had it all. This is the kind of story that takes down careers. This is the kind of story that knocks the reigning power on its ass and changes things forever. And it did exactly that. It just did it to Dan Rather instead of George Bush.
CBS's problem was that the documents in question were what is politely referred to as "a pack of barely concealed lies." Where previously it could have taken months to discount the validity of said documents, thus allowing the damage to be done for the impending election, Internet forums and bloggers were able to call bullshit within mere hours of its release.
While there were all sorts of problems with the document, the one that played to the Internet's strengths was the typography: The formatting, which was supposed to have been from an early 70s typewriter, looked suspiciously like the default settings in Mircrosoft Word.
The "original" document compared with the default settings in Microsoft Word. FAAAAAAAAKE!
CBS eventually admitted to shoddy journalism once they realized their only other option was a Bill Gates time travel conspiracy. Several people lost their jobs, and one of the most esteemed news anchors of all time had to live out his remaining days knowing that a bunch of Internet Cowboys derailed his entire career, probably without ever putting on pants.
It seems the prevalence of (you guessed it) Twitter is putting pressure on Hollywood's age-old tradition of green-lighting any script that's title ends in a number or that can be described using the words "heart-warming" or "Will Smith." It used to be that if a movie sucked, word of mouth would get out in a week or so and your movie would tank... after the public had bought a few million tickets on opening weekend.
Word of mouth, much like herpes in a hot tub, inevitably spread. But it took time. And that buffer zone used to allow even the crappiest of Police Academy sequels to survive through their opening weekend, before everybody met at the water cooler on Monday to talk about how this one didn't even have Steve Guttenberg. And that was still long enough for the movie to rake in more money than you will ever see in your lifetime.
If you could harvest the fury generated from that statement, you could use it to power a city.
Now, Twitter users are changing all that. Because no matter how omnipresent your ad campaign is, armchair reviewers can now gauge the level of "fail" or "gay" in your movie and have it out to the masses in a matter of hours. Some of them probably have their 140 character reviews up before the opening credits have finished.
As a result, movie studios are seeing a massive drop in box office of crappy movies, not after the first week, but after the first day. The disappointing Jack Black/Michael Cera comedy Year One is a great example. When it hit theaters in June of 2009 critics hated it, but fans lined up on opening night to see it anyway. It's Jack Black! It's Michael Cera! How can it not be awesome?
The numbers tell the story: First night, $8.5 million. Second, $6.5. Third, $4.7. It just kept plummeting from there, as vigilant tweeters spread the word Paul Revere-style, to keep their fellow citizens from getting screwed out of eight bucks.
Jesus Christ, has this... has this been an entire article about the Internet being used for good? What is this, Jaynestown?
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