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Morgan Freeman’s media-bashing proved false; how many other internet lies exist?

The recent tragic events at Sandy Hook Elementary, Connecticut, have sparked the spread of a bizzare internet hoax regarding Morgan Freeman, writes The Daily Shift’s Grace Treston

Actor, Morgan Freeman

Actor, Morgan Freeman

The horrific shooting in the USA, which resulted in the death of 26 people, occurred on Friday December 14. It sprouted countless internet remembrance and condolence pages, on sites such as Facebook and Twitter. Thousands of people flock to the internet, as is tradition in this day and age, to express deep anger, distress, and other immeasurable emotions. However, the internet being what it is, rumours and false accusations often begin to root themselves deep in the virtual worldwide community.

Shortly after the Connecticut shooting, Facebook became ablaze with a ‘direct quote’ from esteemed actor Morgan Freeman that spread across ‘Newsfeeds’ like wildfire. The post, entitled ‘Turn off the news’, was shared from profile to profile, and consisted of a word of warning from America’s favourite smooth-voiced actor:

You want to know why. This may sound cynical, but here’s why.

It’s because of the way the media reports it. Flip on the news and watch how we treat the Batman theater shooter and the Oregon mall shooter like celebrities. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris are household names, but do you know the name of a single *victim* of Columbine? Disturbed people who would otherwise just off themselves in their basements see the news and want to top it by doing something worse, and going out in a memorable way. Why a grade school? Why children? Because he’ll be remembered as a horrible monster, instead of a sad nobody.

CNN’s article says that if the body count “holds up”, this will rank as the second deadliest shooting behind Virginia Tech, as if statistics somehow make one shooting worse than another. Then they post a video interview of third-graders for all the details of what they saw and heard while the shootings were happening. Fox News has plastered the killer’s face on all their reports for hours. Any articles or news stories yet that focus on the victims and ignore the killer’s identity? None that I’ve seen yet. Because they don’t sell. So congratulations, sensationalist media, you’ve just lit the fire for someone to top this and knock off a day care center or a maternity ward next.

You can help by forgetting you ever read this man’s name, and remembering the name of at least one victim. You can help by donating to mental health research instead of pointing to gun control as the problem. You can help by turning off the news.

These words hold some undeniable insight into the state of global priorities, whether you agree with them or not. There is truth in the writer’s accusations about the world’s insatiable obsession with scandalous news stories.

However, it’s been confirmed by Freeman’s representatives that he has nothing to do with the viral sensation. They are currently eager to discover who exactly attributed Freeman’s name to the message that blatantly attacks global media broadcasters. The message received attention from many different parts of the world, with thousands of shares and ‘likes’ on Facebook.

Freeman himself was also a recent victim of a ‘Celebrity Death’ hoax earlier this year. This kind of viral spread that has no basis in any truth begs the question; why do so many people blindly believe whatever ‘fact’ is pushed under their nose when it comes to the internet? Whether carefully constructed or crudely thrown together, it appears that the internet is rampant with rumours, urban legends, and hoaxes that gain momentum through the anonymity and contagiousness of the web.

Facebook is a breeding ground for hoaxes such as this. This year alone has seen countless attempts by ‘keyboard warriors’ to scaremonger users into posting invalid and nonsensical paragraphs on Facebook copyright issues. An example of one such paragraph will most likely include the phrase:  Facebook is now an open capital entity. The writers claim that: All members are recommended to publish a notice like this. If you do not publish a statement at least once, you will be tacitly allowing the use of your photos and the information contained in your profile status updates. 

No. You won’t. Trust me.

Some people relentlessly use Facebook as a platform for the creation of disturbing trends. I’m surely not alone in that I see dozens of honestly heartbreaking images flood my own Facebook Newsfeed every day, complete with horrific back-stories with an often recurring theme of cancer patients who are in desperate need of financial aid. Facebook friends  ‘share’ these photos, and that would be wonderful if it were to advertise a charity or provide a link to donate money. However, these photos are so often entitled: Share this and Facebook will give a dollar to help with cancer treatment. Thousands of people willingly and eagerly share with enthusiasm, without stopping to check whether or not Facebook has agreed to any such form of endorsement. Unfortunately, it has not been confirmed that any story being publicised on Facebook is receiving financial assistance corresponding to the number of ‘shares’.

This kind of dramatisation of illness may seem relatively harmless since the stories are so often totally untrue. However, these attention-grabbing stories are faintly reminiscent of the mental disorder, Münchausen Syndrome. This involves the feigning of illness in order to gain sympathy from others, with a deep obsession to gain more and more recognition. Of course not all of these Facebook trends are associated with the disorder, but it is unnerving to discover that impressionable young people could be encouraged to falsify claims that illness is affecting their life.

Check the validity of these claims before you share them.

Professional slander is also an issue with internet hoaxes. Tommy Hilfiger’s designer reputation was bruised after a heated email spread across the internet in 2003, claiming that Hilfiger made racially offensive comments about who was entitled to wear his brand. The email quoted Hilfiger:  “if I had known African-Americans, Hispanics, Jews and Asians would buy my clothes, I would not have made them so nice. I wish these people would NOT buy my clothes, as they are made for upper class white people.”

Obviously, the claims were false. The comments, which were apparently made on Oprah Winfrey’s show, were disregarded thoroughly by Hilfiger’s representatives. He had never even met Oprah Winfrey before, let alone attended her show. A simple Google search could have cleared that one up nicely for those who forwarded the email.

There really are countless websites available that can snuff out those ridiculous rumours. They give sources, references, and general facts that haven’t been tainted by internet excitement. I personally found that Snopes.com is a particularly reliable way of discovering the truth regarding urban myths such as these.

If you’ve fallen victim to any of these hoaxes, have a think. Before you read, believe, click, and share, just stop. Try investigating things for yourself, and you won’t get swept away so easily.

Finally, Mike Tyson is not now known as Michelle. There was no sex change, despite some newspaper reports. That too, was a hoax.

Lead image courtesy of filmsplusmovies.com
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About Grace Treston

From Mayo, studying Media with German and Irish in NUI Maynooth

One comment on “Morgan Freeman’s media-bashing proved false; how many other internet lies exist?

  1. [...] of Another …MstarzVancouver man's Morgan Freeman misquote goes viralMetroNews CanadaMorgan Freeman's media-bashing proved false; how many other …The Daily ShiftinsideTORONTO.com (blog)todos os 7 [...]

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