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October 14, 2014

We Must All Do Our Part to Fight Viral Stupidity

I saw an article linked at the Daily Telegraph.

The Telegraph is a pretty respectable paper, I thought.

But this stupid "Viral" mentality is making fools of everyone.

At the Telegraph, I read this tale.

Not their own report, but a rereport that a "Spanish website" is reporting:

A bride-to-be employed the services of a dwarf stripper on her "hen night" (which I take to mean "bachelorette party.")

She became pregnant, and the baby was born with dwarfism.

She has now fessed up that she slept with the dwarf stripper.

The story, as reported by the Spanish website, is here.

Okay that's a Viral Story, I guess.

Except: Is it true?

Looking up the source for this story: It's a Spanish website called "LasCinqoDelDia," or "The Daily Five."

One of the stories listed there has the headline: Massive orgy ends with 7 dead elderly

Another viral story! A 200-strong orgy of oldsters -- minimum age, 65 -- resulted in the deaths of seven of the aged libertines.

They say another website called "Nord Presse" reported this, but then say:

We agree that the news is a bit shocking, so inquiring, we found some means to ensure that the news of the orgy seniors is false. So says the website RT , who says that data collected Nord Presse are implausible and that this orgy has ever taken place.

Who do you believe?

Pardon the spotty, computer-generated translation. You get the gist.

So they're kinda saying, we don't know if this is true, seems implausible. "Who do you believe?"

But still, they throw on that headline.

Getting back to the Dwarf Pregnancy story, they source their story, "We're told that..."

No names, no citations.

My problem isn't really with silly stories with very spotty sourcing like this. They've always existed.

My annoyance is that respectable newspapers are basically "laundering" nonsense like this, uncriticially re-reporting stories that sure seem like perfect nonsense, and just saying "a Spanish website reports..." without alerting readers to the fact that this Spanish website just seems to be a Viral Story site with very little sourcing for some of its most virally stories that you'd credit as remotely solid.

So this site -- and God bless 'em for putting out silly stories to make people laugh and get hits -- puts out very dubious tales. Fine, I'm not complaining.

I'm complaining that the Telegraph now puts this out into the world as if this is an actual story. As if this actually happened.

People take the Telegraph brand as meaning something, as implying the story has been checked and verified to maybe be true.

Let me just say: I have my doubts.

This Viral mentality is driving me crazy. It's bad enough coming from bloggers and Twitter and certain websites which just crib together Listicles.

I should say that before I discovered how very weak the sourcing is here, I was completely willing to link it myself! I'm not too proud.

But I became increasingly annoyed at having my time wasted when I saw there was, as far as I can tell, no actual story here at all.

Shouldn't newspapers, at least -- which are supposed to abide by a code of professionalism which marks them as "news professionals" -- be at least somewhat above this?

Now, no one's actually harmed by this, exactly. No one is defamed. And maybe people will get a chuckle.

But we're chuckling over a story that, in all likelihood, simply never happened.

So what's the point? What is the entertainment value in a story that is almost entirely made up? (Fiction is different; this story is only "amusing," to the extent it is amusing, because we're intended to think it's real.)

And way too much of the news day is given over to nonsense like this.

It's a waste of my time.

It's a waste of your time.

It's a waste of all of our time.

I know times are tight in the news media. I know this kind of thing sells. And maybe that the Telegraph does not consider its website to have the same standards as the printed paper.

I know that these guys are in a major fight every day to draw eyeballs.

I know that Viral Nonsense gets linked.

But come on, there are limits. There must be limits.

Oh, by the way, here's a Viral Story that at least seems to have real names of people attached to it: a man's lost parrot is found again, and now it speaks Spanish, for some reason.

The Daily Mail Also Reported This. The Daily Mail seems far too credulous to me, but at least they quote a dwarf stripper saying that he has friends in the area where this is alleged to have happened (Valencia), and says he hasn't heard anything about it.

So, there's at least some skepticism shown.

If you google this story, you get quite a few hits.

The dwarf in the Daily Mail story says he got a call from a radio show in Uruguay, hoping to ask him about the Dwarf Stripper Pregnancy story. (He said he couldn't help them, given he'd not heard about it.)

So this is a story which is being reported in many corners of the world.

That's a lot of time being wasted, isn't it?

I have to stress: I like fun stories. I like light-hearted stories. I like odd news.

I like all of these things.

But... they're not really interesting, and they don't count as being news of the odd, unless there are some indicators that they are actually true.

If this is just an urban legend, what are we doing talking about it?


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posted by Ace at 02:49 PM

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