The little bit of recently very-much-maligned-and-justly-so fake news, I’ll admit (the one alluded to in the headline here), almost got me. It appeared on the handy-dandy little news aggregating application on my Android smartphone. Big screaming headline: “6 Dead After Truck Collides With Anti-Trump Protesters On Freeway”!
The phone, apparently, isn’t smart enough (go figure) to separate what’s real and what’s not.
The story’s following viral spread around social media is clear evidence that, apparently, neither are about a gazillion people on Facebook, where I’ve since seen this thing shared and debated and expounded upon in very holier-than-thou terms innumerable numbers of times, both from folks in my professional and personal circles, the supposed dead defamed as a bunch of libtards and the supposed trucker who crashed into them as the moral equivalent of a knuckle-walking goon with no sensitivity to the right to free speech.
Let’s stop. Couple of dead giveaways, as some commenters under these innumerable threads have noted, and as I did after my initial read of the piece last week raised more than few questions. Here’s the first couple paragraphs (and I won’t link to it and thus give the site on which it was published credibility in Google’s algorithm, but if you must, search the big screaming headline and you’ll find it on a sad excuse for a website called the “Seattle Tribune” — the real major newspaper in Seattle is the Seattle Times):
A 32-year old man driving a Waldrum Brother’s delivery truck is responsible for the death of 6 Anti-Trump protesters that were blocking traffic while chanting “Dump Trump” in the middle of a Seattle freeway.
Pretty lurid sounding, for sure — a little too lurid, to my ears. Plus, the company name — it’d take an internet search to confirm it doesn’t exist, but the ‘s possessive on Brother’s, rather than what would make loads more sense, Brothers, draws my immediate skepticism. Then the clincher in the next graph:
The accident occurred near an I-15 off-ramp today around 5:15 PM.
In Seattle? Hold up. Now, I doubt any Pacific Northwest truckers would fall for that, but you don’t have to look far on Facebook to find some based elsewhere who did. I-15, of course, is in no way a Seattle freeway. It’s just one number away from I-5, however, so close that maybe you think, Oh, it’s just a typo, and read on. And that’s what these folks — the writers behind these misguided efforts — are counting on.
There’s a definite fear- and bias-validation going on in the attraction of fake news. It’s no secret the blocking of highways has been happening with greater and greater frequency by protestors of a variety of stripes the last several years — the debacle in Charlotte, following the police shooting of Keith Lamon Scott, on I-85 15 minutes north of the town in S.C. where I grew up, comes to mind. In the wake of that, there’s been no shortage of real and justifiable worry over what many considered inevitable: the potential for an eventual accident, or something worse, where lives were lost.
This quote unquote piece of news above attempted to confirm an eventuality that many were worried about. Problem is, as I’ve said, it never happened.
So … as Wendy’s noted in other contexts, let’s read before we share. If it sounds a little too real to be real, it’s probably not.
Let’s not validate this stuff any more than we already have. Stay safe out there.