Some viral stories spread across the Internet with such alacrity that it almost seems like people didn't even read them before smashing the "Share" button -- which would explain why so many of them are actually total bullshit.
So, before you show your vast array of fourth cousins and high school friends you haven't talked to in a decade that adorable/awesome/terrifying news item, please take a second to check it for lodged pieces of corn. Otherwise, you could end up disseminating tales as fake as ...
#5. That Dude Who "Schooled" the Lady on a Plane Made It All Up
When a mid-ranking Twitter user and H-list celebrity boasted an epic battle of note-passing between himself and a rude airline passenger named Diane, the Internet rejoiced, then immediately threw themselves into a debate about whether the dude they just called a "hero" was sexist.
The guy also wrote a blog post where he pointed out he's not a hero -- he's just super nice and awesome. But then, as allegations of bullying popped up, he admitted what Salon had been saying from the beginning: The whole story is fake as hell. He made it up, and media outlets went to town on it because Thanksgiving is a dead zone for news.
"Basically, Elan Gale is really good at his job."
Right -- that's kind of what you get for reporting exclusively from a reality TV show producer's Twitter account.
#4. That Viral Ping Pong Knife Throwing Video Is Extremely Fake
If you've gone on Facebook lately, you've probably seen people freaking out over that video featuring a knife thrower hurling kitchen cutlery at the pink Power Ranger in street clothes -- only to have her catch them with paddles of her own. All without losing a single finger.
Tumba Ping Pong Show
Sweden doesn't fuck around with their ping pong.
Both MSN and Huffington Post were impressed, with the latter even diving into their totally-not-made-up backstory of attending training camps in Thailand to hone their skills. And what skills would that be? According to a very thorough breakdown, it's the skill of using Adobe After Effects -- something you can determine by simply observing the fact that there's totally a knife sticking out of her paddle before actually catching it.
Or she moved so fast that the knife traveled in time.
Now seriously, stop sharing this on Facebook.
#3. The "Terrifying Cotton Ball Diet" Trend Is Actually Just Two Videos
Parents, talk to your teenagers now lest they fart like cartoon characters -- we're talking balls of fluff out the ass. All due to a deadly new diet:
More accurate headline: "Expert: All of YouTube is unhealthy for teenagers."
As both warned and instructed in detail, all you have to do is dip cotton balls in juice and eat them instead of food. Of course, we're not telling teens something they don't already know -- according to Boston.com, TIME, and ABC News, it's an epidemic!
Their proof? Two videos of girls trying this on YouTube, which may have been jokes, or something they did once and never tried again. We don't know, because no one talked to them. But no matter: simply show those to an expert, get them to say the obvious ("cotton isn't for eating"), and you've got a media panic. Next: "TEENS ARE USING SODA AND POP ROCKS TO CREATE EXPLOSIVES."
#2. No, Greeks Are Not Self-Injecting HIV to Collect Welfare
As everyone from Al-Jazeera to Rush Limbaugh reported, Greece has been so down in the dumps lately that they've resorted to injecting themselves with HIV to claim health benefits. Limbaugh in particular really went to town on this one, pointing out that this is what happens when you get socialized health care: You end up shooting AIDS into your balls. He then informs us that Greece is "like the gay capital of the world."
Ethan Miller/Getty Images Entertainment/Getty Images
The claim comes from a study by the World Health Organization, which Limbaugh mocks for a moment ("the U.N., and they're never wrong, right?") before remembering he's agreeing with them. Well, your first instinct was right, Rush: This flood of panic hilariously came from a single editing error in the WHO report everyone jumped on, reminding us of the importance of proofreading your studies and double-checking the shit you spout on the radio.
#1. There Was No Such Thing as the "Knockout Game" (Until the Media Invented It)
It turns out that everything we learned from The Warriors was true, because according to CNN, the Wall Street Journal, ABC News, Fox, and more, roaming gangs of teenage kids are mindlessly punching strangers that they pass on the streets, all part of something called "the knockout game."
"BREAKING NEWS: Violence exists in this world. See all of recorded history for more details as it unfolds."
According to CNN, this is totally a nationwide thing ... even though they can't name more than five times it happened in the last two years and police have no evidence of it being a deliberate game. The Daily News mentions that the kids are then posting the videos online -- no, you buttheads, those are security videos. You're posting them online.
So, to recap, some bored news editor collects clips of unrelated acts of violence and turns them into a game that doesn't exist -- at least until they fucking plaster the news with the idea. Yeah, thanks for that.