Sunday, January 27, 2013

Every Celebrity Dies in a Swiss Skiing Accident

Celebrities don't fade away, they just die in Swiss snowboarding accidents.

At least that's what some enthusiasts of the Web site would have you believe.

 You go into the site, type in the name of the celebrity you "want to kill" and Voila! A news story about your celebrity having a bad end to their wonderful Swiss winter vacation.  The news article appears to come from something called "Global Associated News," which to the untrained ear sounds legit, like the Associated Press or something.

As you can see if you clicked the link to mediafetcher, you would have seen that Denzel Washington met his end snowboarding, but in reality, he's alive and well, and extremely likely is not  snowboarding or in Switzerland as we speak.
Tony Danza has been reported to have died in "news" stories
several times, but at last check he was alive and well.

You can also kill off celebrities by other means, such as having them fall off a cliff, as Jeff Goldblum supposedly did a few years back. (He's alive and well, too, and reportedly is not hanging out near cliffs at the moment.)

Lots of celebrities are dying. Tony Danza, for some reason, "dies" all the time, but of course he's alive and well. Justin Beiber is another expert in death, apparently.

The idea for many of these death "news" stories came from somebody named Rich Hoover, who thought it would be a hoot to create these fake stories, according to E!online.

Says E!online, quoting Hoover:  

"It started off as a practical joke machine seven years ago," says Hoover. "People can just plug in anybody's name so then they'll prank their friends. But people don't read the fine print, and sure enough, it spreads like mad."

Hoover said most celebrities don't complain, theorizing that any publicity is good publicity. It gets their name out there, he reasons.

Of course,  all these fake obits are view generators for Hoover's site, which in turn generates him money.

So why do people invent fake celebrity deaths. Basically it's a cheap thrill, according to a New York Times article on the subject.

“People like to lie,”said Mark Bell, an adjunct professor at Indiana University-Purdue University, as quoted in the Times article.  “They get a thrill from it. There is a little hit of dopamine when you lie, especially a lie that is believed by somebody else.”

“There’s not a lot of cost, either financially, morally, legally or criminally in doing this,” Mr. Bell said in the Times article.

But maybe there is another cost.  To somebody. Maybe us, in a way. 

Writing for Forbes last September, Dave Thieir  says that beyond the suspect page views, the whole thing can be in bad taste, plus understandably sows distrust among the public of anything they read.

Says Thier:

"While it seems funny for a moment, it is really a symptom of a dangerous world of new media. Truth and fiction can be equally valuable for a few hours. On a day when a real, wonderful actor actually passed away, it's hard not to see these sorts of stories as poor taste. But it is, of course, the Internet."

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