Monday, May 30, 2011

Made-Up News

Blog chronicles Facebook fury over fake news

By Doug Gross, CNN
May 27, 2011 -- 5:46 p.m. EDT

A story that the final minutes of "Harry Potter" will be stretched to seven movies wasn't unbelievable to some on Facebook.

(CNN) -- Call them curmudgeons if you will. But some folks on Facebook were shocked -- shocked! -- to learn that the last four minutes of the "Harry Potter" series will be split into seven different movies.

They railed against a State Department official being fired for making a "perfectly valid, well-reasoned point" against Israel and were horrified to learn of Planned Parenthood's new $8 billion (with a "B") "Abortionplex."

Probably just as well, then, that none of it was even vaguely close to true.

Instead, they were all headlines from satire site The Onion.

Now, a new blog is capturing those moments of not-so-observant incredulity for the world to see ... and mock.

Literally Unbelievable is the brainchild of Hudson Hongo, a 24-year-old humor writer. He says that he heard about Facebook users not realizing that the Planned Parenthood story was a joke and that, when he started poking around last week, he found plenty of public Facebook pages were full of "Onion"-related confusion.

"When I found out that people were reacting the same way to many other Onion articles, I felt the phenomenon was worth documenting and put it up my blog," he wrote in an e-mail. "Y'know ... for science."

What's so amusing about these posts sometimes is the utter outrage. It's like watching a movie when you know something the hapless protagonist doesn't.

"Wow ... really? I guess it's one way to milk a franchise," one user wrote about the "Harry Potter" claim (spelling and punctuation tweaked here for readability). "Eh, I've enjoyed the last few, but paying around $70 to basically see the end of one movie is a little sad."

The disbelief of others forges boldly into irony territory.

"This is unbelievable," one person wrote about the "Abortionplex." "Can this be real?"

"THIS IS SICK ... really unbelievable that our taxes are paying for this!" wrote another.

"My favorite posts are the ones that express complete shock but not an ounce of doubt," said Hongo, whose work has appeared on McSweeney's among other sites. " 'I can't believe this!' is a pretty funny response to something you should not believe."

He said he hasn't heard from anyone at The Onion about his blog. But its pop culture site, The A.V. Club, had a blog post about it Friday.

"Let's save that anger for the real news, folks," writer Steve Heisler wrote. "As delivered by Ryan Seacrest."

While a big chunk of the fun is laughing at the naivete of others, Hongo says he is somewhat sympathetic.

"I think folks are willing to believe Onion articles because the real news so often seems unreal these days," he said. "Add to that the publishers who write articles that are designed explicitly to incite and the line between the sincere and the satirical becomes vague."

That being said, all of our reporting indicates that a giant, angry, rampaging Osama bin Laden did not rise from the sea this week to have his revenge.

Hear that, folks? We said did not.

Meanwhile, Anderson Cooper reported from Joplin, MO that he didn't make up any of the tornado stories that he is been reporting on -- let's watch the video he sent us after he heard of the Facebook rumors. Roll the video.

Anderson Cooper: "Oh no, these bastards... Are we allowed to say 'bastards' on CNN?"

Evidently the answer was 'yes' because he continued.

Cooper: "These bastard tornadoes are the real thing. Don't believe anything you see in Facebook, nor on that other blog out there which specializes in posting lies about me and Benj... I mean, about me and my mother; that she wants me to have babies -- and I am not even dating anyone who can produce me a child."

An anonymous source who goes by the name of Peter tells us that the blog Anderson was referring to is called "Thoroughly Anderson Cooper" at I've seen it, and it is a riot! The puns at Anderson's expense are hilarious; but the administration also has a lot of respect for what they call "the Silver Fox," for Benjamin Maisani (whispering: Andy's BFF), and for Anderson's Mom, Gloria Vanderbilt.

That last part about Anderson was added by the administration's anonymous source, me, Peter, for the sake of accuracy.

Not to hit the nail on the head to the point of exhaustion, but:

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