Nothing fuels clicks like outrage. So when fact checking an outrageous story, you don't want to try too hard. Anger is the news aggregator's friend, and thinking is the enemy of anger.
Just as laughter is the first cousin of tolerance.
So for instance, the rise of the "99 Percent" movement brought about a lot of public rage toward Wall Street bankers and the rich in general, and the media was quick to fall all over any story that revealed the wealthy to be the scheming, Snidely Whiplash-esque villains the public had cast them as. So when an affluent banker with money to burn racked up a huge bill at a local restaurant and decided to embrace his douchebag reputation by leaving a 1 percent tip -- and to scrawl "GET A REAL JOB" on the receipt -- the Huffington Post jumped at the chance to fire up the Occupy movement's base. They ran the story without verifying it, with the only evidence being an anonymous photo posted on the Internet. After all, how could such a thing be faked?
futureexbanker via Huffington Post
That sort of technology won't exist until years ago.
But Really ...
It was left up to the restaurant at the heart of the scandal, True Food Kitchen at Newport Beach in California, to do the research that journalists didn't bother to do. They dug up the actual receipt that was pictured in the article and found that it had been Photoshopped, not only to alter the tip and add the snide remark, but to add an extra hundred bucks to the bill (which had actually only come to $33.54).
Then there's the fact that the whistle-blower (who turned out to have no whistle to blow) mysteriously shut down his WordPress blog and vanished when the digitally altered bill started getting traction in the mainstream news. It shouldn't have been that difficult to contact the restaurant and follow up, especially since the server who took the order is named right there on the bill. Then again, conspiracy theorists would probably say that the obvious forgery was planted in the media by Wall Street bigwigs who wanted to make themselves look better.
Burke/Triolo Productions/Brand X
"$33.54 is what I spend on a cup of coffee."
Ulet Ifansasti/Getty Images News/Getty Images
Readers tend to love stories that portray foreigners as so primitive and backward that they have a child's understanding of sex. These stories go viral on the Internet all the time -- you'll go to Fark.com and see a story about a pastor in Brazil who convinced his congregation that his sperm was sacred, and it will spread to thousands of sites before somebody finally tracks down the Spanish-language parody site it originated from. But that's the Internet -- you'd think actual news outlets would have a slightly better bullshit filter. But not even they can turn their back on a good "LOL naive foreigners!" story.
Christopher Furlong/Getty Images News/Getty Images
"Guys, we have Internet access. We aren't fucking cavemen."
For instance, The Daily Record reported in 2009 that a man in India was suing the makers of Axe Body Spray after he failed to attract swimsuit models who would carry pitchers of beer to his apartment (as Axe's advertising seemed to promise). Silly foreign people! Why don't they understand hyperbole?
But these stories are even better when they involve Muslims, like when the Fox News show Fox Nation reported that Pakistan's Islamic clerics had put a fatwa on women wearing padded bras, labeling them "the devil's cushions." According to the story, the nation's Council of Islamic Ideology claimed that the colorful appearance and sensuous purpose of these bust enhancers ran contrary to the prudish, sex-hating nature of Islamic faith.
Goodshoot RF/Goodshoot/Getty Images
"This must be breaking some law."
But Really ...
As for the Axe lawsuit, according to some responsible reporters who actually tried to find a source for this story, India's judicial system doesn't seem to have any such case on its books. Media reporter Tommy Christopher went straight to the Axe company and managed to find a spokesperson, fighting for air from underneath a pile of half-naked beach volleyball players, who said that they traced the story back to a parody news site.
So which website was clever enough to fabricate a story that could fool The Daily Record? Was it those tricky folks at The Onion again? Actually, it was this article from FakingNews.com. That's right: It has "fake" right there in the title. They couldn't really do more to prevent this kind of thing unless a hand actually came out of the monitor to slap anyone with journalism credentials who visits the site and hits CTRL + C.
"Oh yeah, this is a rock-solid source."
And the padded bra fatwa? Well, there's something oddly entertaining about the original article that Fox used as its source for this story. Particularly the part where one protester is quoted as saying, "I will not wear these sinful, men-attracting padded bras that make my jugs look juicy," before ripping her bra out and stomping on it in front of a crowd of cheering supporters.
That's because RoznamaJawani.com is, yes, a comedy news spoof that also runs headlines like "Area Man Prefers Time When It's Raining Normally to Time When It's Raining Men." Then there's the photo taken of the supposed conference that you don't exactly need to be a graphic arts student to see has been digitally altered:
Even if you forgive them for this oversight, we're still left with the depressing notion that Fox Nation's fact checkers stumble across a site like this and merely think, "Wow, foreign nations really are hilariously bizarre and terrifyingly stupid!"
When not staring dreamily at pictures of Kim Jong Un, Kier frequents the Twitter.
For more big dumb idiots in mainstream media, check out 7 Clearly Fake News Stories That Fooled The Mainstream Media and 5 More Clearly Fake News Stories That Fooled the Media.
If you're pressed for time and just looking for a quick fix, then check out The 4 Most Baffling Career-Themed Barbie Dolls.
And stop by LinkSTORM to discover which columnist fooled Anderson Cooper into interviewing him..
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