When Internet satire gets passed off as "truth"
Sometimes a story is so outrageous, the old journalist’s saying goes, that it’s "too good to check."
There’s been a lot of that going on recently.
Today, we checked the claim — made on the Mr. Conservative website and then elsewhere in the blogosphere and on social media — that the Obama administration is handing out a pamphlet titled, "What To Do When The Veteran In Your Classroom Attempts A Mass Shooting."
It sounds shocking — but some quick Googling enabled us to find the source easily, a website called the Duffel Blog that offers satirical articles to servicemembers and veterans.
This is only the latest claim we’ve checked that began as satire but was transformed by social media into "truth."
In September, a headline flew around the conservative blogosphere that, "Obama Declares November National Muslim Appreciation Month." The fact that it came from a website, National Report, known for Onion-like satire, didn’t stop some bloggers from reporting it as news.
A chain email claimed that Obama once said, "Nobody made these guys go to war. ... Now they whine about bearing the costs of their choice?" But the post was originally published by Arizona-based satirist John Semmens.
Other satires by Semmens that went viral as "truth" included one thatclaimed in a hearing, Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., had suggested to Gen. David Petraeus that the Army "put more emphasis on less environmentally damaging methods, like stabbing or clubbing enemy forces in order to minimize the carbon output."
Semmens’ work was also turned into chain emails claiming that Obama wants to redesign the American flag "to better offer our enemies hope and love," and that he thinks the national anthem should be "I'd Like to Teach the World to Sing."
Another satirist who saw his work go viral is Matthew Avitabile, who has blogged at Jumping in Pools. One satirical Avitabile post claimed that Obama wrote a thesis at Columbia University in which he criticized "plutocratic thugs" and said the Constitution gave Americans "the shackles of hypocrisy." Another was that the Obama administration "wants to have soldiers and officers pledge a loyalty oath directly to the office of the President, and no longer to the Constitution."
And in 2012, the Hawaii Reporter, an online publication, published a satirical column that people took too literally. It said that Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie had made a late-night visit to Kinko’s to forge President Barack Obama’s birth certificate.
If anything, the practice may be increasing.