"Smile, you're on Candid Camera."
Lately, there has been a sharp rise in a phenomena known as the internet death hoax.
I have been on this planet for almost 49 years. I watched Candid Camera growing up. I am very aware of what a hoax is and how it can be funny if executed properly and using the right subject matter and people.
An internet death hoax isn't that. Lets call it what it is. I will make that statement at the end of the blog.
First things first.
Paul Walker was reported to have died over the weekend. I admit I didn't know who he was. I have never seen a Fast And Furious movie and I likely never will. Not really my thing. Car chases and MTV styled images to fuel a likely weakly written script are not my thing. But I know they are popular, and he was. When I saw his face he did look familiar.
Certainly, he and his movies appealed to a generation that also gets most of its news via the internet and sites like Facebook and Twitter. Many do that on their phone, which isn't really a phone anymore, and have no way of verifying the information.
In this way, they don't know what is a hoax and what is not.
Was it a hoax, like so many others? In this case it wasn't. Paul Walker did die in a fiery car crash on an L.A. roadway. A bit ironic considering how he made his name.
But until a legit news source confirmed it, I wouldn't believe it. It is a sad commentary on our society that you can't trust a news item about someone dying, because people are so far removed from reality that they think it is okay to make that up.
It sounded like a hoax. Fast and Furious star dies in fiery crash while driving too fast. So, your first inclination was to not believe it. But that isn't always the case.
Like most people, I get much of my news first from Facebook and what others post. I don't have cable and I don't listen much to the radio. I do read lots of blogs and watch the news at night online, but the first mention of anything usually comes seconds after it breaks on the internet and then Facebook.
But what to believe? How many phony death notices and items have we seen on the internet? Van Morrison. Yup. Owen Wilson. Yup. Many others. Yup.
So, I am very skeptical until I see it from a very reliable source, which is usually backed up with a comment from someone who actually knew the person day to day.
About 3 weeks ago, a person I play at Lexulous mentioned in our game that Celine Dion died in a car crash. But, Celine Dion did not. This person had read it on the internet and believed it.
What is the real issue here? For me, the issue is that we forget that beside their big media persona these are real people with families. Mothers, Fathers, Brothers, Sisters and all kinds of connections. Any of these people could see a story posted like that and be very sad very quickly. Lets not forget that these people have children--and in Dion's case very young children--who might not understand an internet hoax. And further, Dion's husband almost died from a heart attack years ago. Imagine the pain that would cause her child. Who would want to be responsible for something like that? Only someone who really has no compassion, common sense or class.
Real people are being taken advantage of and being hurt.
And for what?
The amusement of some attention seekers losers who have nothing better to do with their time than trying to gain some hits on the internet.
So, lets call it what it is. It isn't a hoax. It is a lie...and a crime.
Candid Camera was funny. A harmless prank that amused us and almost always those that were being duped. Making up a news story and posting it online that someone has died when you know full well they have not is not a prank. It is a crime. If it isn't, it should be.
Right now, nobody is smiling at these internet punks and what they do.
Death is never a joke, nor should it be. There are plenty of ways to execute a hoax. Death isn't one of them.
Back in the days before the internet, if you said something inflammatory in the public sphere that you had no real source to back it up with, you got sued. And you lost.
Just ask the National Enquirer and Carol Burnett how that goes.
Today's National Enquirer is a bunch of wannabe journalists who don't have the talent to make it, so they write blogs, set up websites and make up lies. Like they are some kind of insider. In fact, they are just trolls and punks who probably live off my a taxes and yours.
They are committing crimes and should be charged. All it will take is one punk like this to go to jail and do real hard time to send a message to the rest of the weasels out there.
And then, the joke will be on them.