The "reblogging" culture we live in has made it such that people will believe any story with a photo and a caption, like an asshole quoting trivia from a cocktail napkin as if he just read it from a science textbook. And disturbingly enough, this trend has been steadily seeping into websites that are supposed to report actual news, not just whimsical Photoshops.
#4. Time Magazine Doesn't Think to Question Lamborghini Bear
Recently, a photo of a bear in a Lamborghini made it to the front page of Reddit with no official sourcing or documentation explaining how or why this came to be.
The explanation is simple -- that bear is obviously too drunk to drive.
But because at some point Reddit became the holy gospel of the Internet, Time decided one anonymous photo and caption was enough for a headline:
"Sorry, but we used up all of our journalistic willpower resisting the urge to call it a 'Lambearghini.'"
And they weren't the only ones -- Metro, a U.K. news website owned by the same paragons of journalistic integrity responsible for the Daily Mail, also boldly turned the photograph into a front-page story. Bear in mind (weee!), there is literally nothing to this story. It's just an anonymous picture someone posted on Reddit. We really can't stress the word "anonymous" enough. These news sites are essentially taking several hundred words to tell the world "Look at this thing we saw on Reddit."
Unsurprisingly, the photo is tap-dancingly fake -- it was part of a prank some guy did to promote his Internet series, and the bear is stuffed.
#3. People Fall for a Ridiculous Space Jam 2 Poster
Hey, here's one of the most obvious Photoshops any of us has ever seen:
We mean the whole poster, not just LeBron's hairline.
That's a (clearly) fan-made poster for Space Jam 2, a movie that in no way exists or is currently in production. The release date at the bottom even says 2013, and considering there are about five scant weeks remaining in 2013 and we have yet to hear anything about this movie until now, that's either the most optimistic production schedule in history or the worst marketing campaign ever created.
No, some exuberant fan slapped that together and threw it on the Internet after LeBron James made an offhand comment in an interview wherein he said he'd love to be in Space Jam 2. And because the current social culture demands that people hit the "share" button before doing a basic Google search, this happened:
It isn't real. You could've found that out by typing less than 140 characters into your preferred search bar and pressing ENTER.
And because the Internet news media believe that bears can ride around in Lamborghinis, we immediately saw this headline begin popping up:
Anyway, it would be tough to make a Space Jam starring LeBron, considering the massive gravitational pull from his giant swelled head would keep the Toon Squad from getting anywhere near space with him on the roster.
#2. A Regular Lunch Gets Turned into a Heartwarming Story
Speaking of completely unsourced photos posted by anonymous users, here's one from Reddit that the Huffington Post turned into an article:
According to the Huffington Post (who, in typical HuffPo fashion, admitted they were simply repeating what they had read on another website), what we are looking at are two North Carolina State University football players who saw a wheelchair-bound student sitting alone in the cafeteria and decided to sit down and have lunch with him so he wouldn't have to be by himself. That story went viral, and the Internet praised the students for their compassion, because there is literally no other possible explanation for that photo.
"Help, there's a bomb on my chair, and if I don't befriend 50 football players an hour it'll explode!"
Actually, there is. See, those guys eat lunch together all the time. Because they are friends. They didn't even know they were being photographed, or who took the picture. Somebody just saw two athletes sit down with a disabled person and assumed it must have been an act of charity, because we all know wheelchair people are only permitted to hang out with non-wheelchair people if money or the X-Men are involved.
#1. One of the Most Iconic Photos from the Shutdown Was Total Hogwash
When the U.S. government closed its doors a few months ago, one image seemed to perfectly encapsulate its effect on the nation:
A photo of a person eating ramen noodles in a studio apartment would have been much less compelling.
Just look at that. That little boy wanted to go to the zoo, but the government shutdown told him he couldn't. At least, that's what happened according to the Daily News and Metro, who snatched the photo off of Reddit with absolutely no context. The Wire, after declaring it the "defining image of the shutdown," even went on to philosophize that their complete lack of any kind of verifiable knowledge about the photograph was for "the best," like it was some mystical faerie painting that would lose its magic if we stopped believing in it.
As it turns out, that photo was originally posted on Instagram by a woman whose husband sent it to her over the phone while he was taking their son out for a walk. They just happened to be walking by the zoo (and, for some improbable reason, that kid just happened to be wearing a hood bedazzled with monkey ears), and the kid climbed on the gate. The dad saw how funny that looked and took a picture. That's it. That is literally all there is to the story. The rest of us turned it into a political statement, because a large portion of the population is still shocked to learn that people make shit up on the Internet all the time.