Last year, the news was captivated by the story of a ring of deep-cover Russian spies that had been living among Americans for over a decade. It was exciting because it made us nostalgic for the James Bond and Tom Clancy and John Le CarrÃÃÂ© stories we used to churn out by the boatload, and we were like, "Remember that? Now it's all vampires and superheroes."
And vampire superheroes.
But now there were real life Russian spies, right under our noses, and at least one of them was hot. It was so exciting, especially for actors like Walter Koenig, who might be able to get movie roles again.
Unfortunately, it turned out they were shitty spies. They were so bad at their job that we couldn't even charge them with espionage, because they didn't have any secrets. It wasn't necessarily their fault. Their bosses back home told them not to get government jobs, because they didn't think their cover would hold up under a background investigation, so they got jobs as real estate agents, travel agents and financial planners.
The closest anyone got to a real "government contact" seems to have been Cynthia Murphy, who got to be friends with a venture capitalist who knew a Cabinet official, and you know how easy it is to get secrets out of your best friend's doctor or your co-worker's brother-in-law.
"Congratulations on your new house! Also, can you ask your friend what he knows about America's nuclear vessels in the North Atlantic?"
Also, they apparently put this information together the same way a procrastinating college student puts together his research papers -- when one spy complained to his lady spy companion that Moscow was giving him flak for not naming sources (because he was probably just reporting stuff he got off the Internet), she told him to just fill in a random politician's name, and he did.
"I'm not allowed to use Wikipedia ... I'll just say I got this information from Henry Kissinger."
After a swap with Moscow was arranged, the spies all went home to a heroes' welcome. The femme fatale (and therefore most potentially interesting) of the spy group, Anna Chapman, could have provided us with an appropriately intrigue-worthy ending where she died under mysterious circumstances or became an undercover assassin, but instead is hosting a weekly TV show where her tagline is "I will reveal all secrets," (because she was a spy, get it?) and she covers vital stories like babies with the Islamic version of stigmata.
Hoax Bad Parents
Just last month, people were going nuts over this awful, horrifying, yet extremely fascinating story of a mom that injected her eight-year-old daughter with Botox to help her compete in child beauty pageants. She appeared on Inside Edition and Good Morning America and horrified the entire country, or at least the portion of it that watches those shows.
And since that demographic likes to blog, soon everybody knew about it.
Naturally, some viewers called child protection agencies in San Francisco, where the mom claimed to live, and even though she had lied about that (and her name), the agencies managed to track her down in Los Angeles, where she really lived, and arrested her. That's when she admitted the whole thing was a hoax.
"Uh ... gotcha?"
It all started when The Sun, a British tabloid, paid her $200 to play a character named "Kerry Campbell" and say she injected her daughter with Botox. The American shows got a look at the Sun story, believed it for some reason and paid her even more money to come on their shows and say the same thing. Nobody had the foresight to follow this through to its natural conclusion (jail) and the natural result (the mom fessing up).
From The Sun online.
This publication radiates credibility.
People everywhere expressed anger at her for lying, but I don't think most of it came from genuine moral outrage so much as being deprived of a good story. Sure, she was still a bad parent, but bad parents who exploit their kids for attention are a dime a dozen, whereas a real Botox-injecting mom would have been a genuine freak. Bloggers everywhere were crushed that this was not a real person to yell at.
The truth is that it's probably much better that this story isn't true, and that a little girl's face not being full of toxins is probably more important than us getting our entertainment. It's probably better in general for everybody that most of these stories aren't true. But it sure is a lot less fun.
For more from Christina, check out 5 Reasons Parenting is One Place We Shouldn't Imitate China and The 8 Most Successful Politicians (Who Weren't Human).