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The recent death of actor Philip Seymour Hoffman has shone a light on the strange business model of the site Mediamass.net.

After the actor died, reporters googled his name and came across an article on Mediamass reporting that the actor had recently been the victim of a death hoax. So a number of sites (such as The Telegraph and Daily Mail) subsequently reported on what a strange coincidence it was that the actor's real-life death had been anticipated by a death hoax.


But the reporters had been fooled. What seemed to have been a prescient hoax was actually just Mediamass's anticipatory method of rumor debunking.

You see, the site tries to capitalize on the popularity of celebrity rumors by anticipating rumors that might circulate and debunking them... whether or not such rumors actually are spreading. It achieves this by using generic, automatically generated templates.

So, for instance, it's possible that a death hoax might circulate about any celebrity. So it has pages already generated for all the major celebrities debunking rumors of their death, in anticipation of the day when these rumors might come into existence. The name of the celebrity just gets inserted into the generic template.




Similarly, it has pages debunking possible pregnancy rumors, false marriage reports, etc.


I have to admit, it certainly takes the work out of debunking. Why bother scanning twitter, Facebook, etc. for false rumors, when you can simply generate templates that deny all such rumors before they even start to spread.

And when a celebrity really does die... then Mediamass simply replaces the pre-generated template with a short notice to the effect that this time the report of the celebrity's death was true.
Categories: Celebrities, Death
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 03, 2014
Comments (2)
The Fake Snow Theory goes something like this: The government is trying to slow down global warming by spraying chemicals in the sky. It's a massive "geoengineering" project. When you see a "chemtrail" in the sky, that's the government spraying these chemicals. And these chemicals have triggered the recent large snowfalls throughout the United States, including in places that normally don't receive much, if any, snow, such as Georgia. Oh, and HAARP is somehow involved in this.

But all that snow on the ground... it's not really snow. It's a chemically produced "snow-like substance." But it's not snow.


This can be proven by trying to melt the "snow" with a lighter. It doesn't melt. It turns black and produces a smell like burning plastic. OMG! What has the government done!

Amateur researchers are taking to youtube to demonstrate the shocking truth:





Scientific types might try to explain that the snow turns black because carbon from the lighter's flame is being deposited on the surface of the snow. And that the snow is melting, but because snow is mostly air the water drops get wicked into the surrounding snow. That is, the snowball shrinks until it turns entirely to slush. And that you can prove the snow is melting simply by leaving a bunch of it on your carpet and coming back in an hour or two. You'll have a puddle there.

But who are you going to believe? Those scientific types or youtube researchers?

Incidentally, it's not clear how this rumor got started. But it's all over the Internet now!

[via Robin Bobcat in The Hoax Forum]

Links:
Categories: Conspiracy Theories
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 03, 2014
Comments (0)
The Australian lyrebird has amazing powers of imitation. In his Life of Birds series, David Attenborough demonstrated that these birds can even imitate man-made sounds such as chainsaws, car alarms, and the click of a camera shutter.


The clip leads viewers to believe that lyrebirds in the wild have begun to imitate man-made sounds. But this turns out not to be true. Attenborough didn't explain that the lyrebirds he showed were not typical examples of the species. Hollis Taylor, writing for theconversation.com, explains:
Attenborough peers at the bird (and the camera) from behind a tree, whispering to us about the bird mimicking "sounds that he hears from the forest". We see compelling footage of a bird imitating a camera's motor drive, a car alarm, and a chainsaw.

This Attenborough moment is highly popular — but hold on! He fails to mention that two of his three lyrebirds were captives, one from Healesville Wildlife Sanctuary and the other from Adelaide Zoo. This latter individual, Chook, was famed for his hammers, drills, and saws, sounds he reputedly acquired when the Zoo's panda enclosure was built. Hand-raised from a chick, he was also known to do a car alarm, as well as a human voice intoning "hello, Chook!" He died in 2011, aged 32.

She goes on to say:
Do wild lyrebirds mimic machinery and the like? While I can imagine that in rare circumstances their vocalisations could reflect the human impact on their environment (and there are such anecdotes), there is no known recording of a lyrebird in the wild mimicking man-made mechanical sounds. Nevertheless, belief in such a phenomenon is now so well established on the internet that it even crops up on official sites.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Mon Feb 03, 2014
Comments (2)
I think this prisoner may have been telling a bit of a tall tale.


"An Exact representation of a raft, and its apparatus, as invented by the French for their proposed invasion of England — from a drawing of a prisoner who has made his escape from France"

Source: Bibliotheque Nationale de France via Retronaut
Categories: Military
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 31, 2014
Comments (1)
Promoters of the Manoppello Image are hoping that it's soon going to be as popular as the Shroud of Turin. Like the Shroud, it's supposedly the actual face of Jesus miraculously imprinted onto a piece of cloth.

But I see a problem with their plan. The Shroud of Turin, say what you will about it, genuinely looks mysterious and creepy. But the Manoppello Image just looks like a bad painting.
U.S. Pilgrims Flock to Manoppello’s Shrine After Benedict XVI Visit
National Catholic Register

Pilgrims have flocked to see an image debated to be the veil of Veronica, the resurrection cloth of Christ or a centuries-old hoax...

Some believe the image is the storied "veil of Veronica," the cloth Veronica in the Gospel used to dry Christ's face as he carried the cross to his crucifixion. Others say it is the "Resurrection cloth," a sudarium that covered Christ's face in the tomb. Still others take it as a centuries-old hoax.
What is certain is that none of them can prove how the image — which is present on a fine mussel-silk cloth without the use of any pigments — was created.
Paul Badde, the German author of The Face of God, is convinced that the image is the one and only "Holy Sudarium," the "napkin" from Christ's sepulcher that St. John refers to in his Gospel. In revealing Christ's face at the moment of the Resurrection, he calls it "the first and authentic page of all the Gospels."
Categories: Religion
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 31, 2014
Comments (2)
Tah gave me a heads up about this 'Here There Be Monsters' shirt that was the deal-of-the-day at Shirt Woot!


It reminded me that I recently came across a foldout Storyteller's Map of American Myths in the Aug 22, 1960 issue of Life magazine. It's full of strange creatures such as the Arizona Ghost Camel ("once imported by the army, wandered the desert with dead riders), Michigan Tigerfish ("lurking around Saginaw Bay ate cabin boys"), and the New Jersey Mosquito ("as large as a swallow and fierce as an eagle, was trained by the Indians to hunt. One sting could stop a deer in its tracks.")


And the same issue also had a foldout guide to "Yarns and Whoppers and Practical Jokes" that depicts creatures such as the Goofus Bird, Upland Trout, and Shoo Fly.

Categories: Folklore/Tall Tales
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 31, 2014
Comments (0)
Stephen Glass can't catch a break. He burned his bridges in journalism, and now the lawyers don't want him either.
Stephen Glass, journalist fired for fake stories, denied law license
abclocal.go.com

SAN FRANCISCO (KABC) -- Disgraced former journalist Stephen Glass was denied a license to practice law in California in a state supreme court ruling on Monday. The court ruled unanimously against Glass, a magazine writer who was fired after 31 of 42 high-profile stories were determined to contain fabrications and falsehoods.

Glass, 41, was fired from the The New Republic magazine in 1998 after working there for three years. After being exposed, he continued to cover up his work by creating fake business cards, websites and notes supposedly culled from interviews with non-existent sources. Glass' reluctance to cooperate with the magazine in identifying false stories was a substantial reason for the court's decision, according to a court statement.
Categories: Journalism
Posted by Alex on Wed Jan 29, 2014
Comments (2)
Matt Novak, writing for Gizmodo Australia, notes that 100 years ago a news story circulated reporting that Frank Rockwell, the mayor of Akron, Ohio, had written a letter to Akron's future mayor in 2014:


Fort Wayne Sentinel - Jan 24, 1914

Mayor Rockwell wrote a letter yesterday to the person who will be mayor of Akron 100 years hence. The epistle tells the future mayor of the present debt, the names of all the city officials, the problems confronting the municipality and the political situation in Akron in 1914. The letter will be sealed, addressed to "His Honor, Mayor of Akron, 2014," marked with instructions not to be molested or opened until that year and placed in a bank vault to be held for a century. The salutation in the letter will fit whether a man or woman mayor.

However, Akron's mayor never did write such a letter. The report was a hoax. But the correction denying the hoax was only ever printed in Akron.


What was the point of this hoax? Who knows! But it does show that fake news stories are not a recent invention.
Categories: Future/Time, History
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 27, 2014
Comments (0)

The latest fake news story to go viral claims that, due to the legalization of marijuana in Colorado, Philip Morris has decided to start selling Marlboro Marijuana Cigarettes, marketed under the brand name "Marlboro M".

The fake news story was posted on the satire site "Abril Uno" on January 21st. From the article:
Phillip Morris, the world’s biggest cigarette producer, announced today that they will join the marijuana legalization bandwagon and start producing marijuana cigarettes. Marketed under the brand “Marlboro M”, the cigarettes will be made available for sale through marijuana-licensed outlets in the state of Colorado, and the state of Washington when it becomes commercially legal there later this year...

Since only tobacco products are currently banned in advertisements and promotions in the United States, Phillip Morris also has set aside a huge $15 billion advertising budget just to promote the new “Marlboro M” and are now negotiating with major networks and publishers, to start marketing the product to consumers in the beginning of 2015...

Phillip Morris shares hit an all-time high on the marijuana news and shot up to $998.00 from $83.03 just a few hours after the announcement went public.

It seems like more and more fake news sites are popping up every day. For instance, Abril Uno (which is Spanish for April 1st, i.e. April Fool's Day) only came into existence on January 14, according to the whois data. And less than two weeks later, they've already got a viral story.

On the subject of marijuana cigarettes, the Legends & Rumors site notes that back in the 1960s and early 70s a rumor circulated alleging that the big tobacco companies were eagerly anticipating the day when pot would be legal, and that many of them had already registered names for their planned marijuana cigarettes. In March 1971 tobacco-company executives sent letters to Rolling Stone magazine denying these rumors.
Categories: Business/Finance, Products
Posted by Alex on Mon Jan 27, 2014
Comments (0)
Mysterious ways of Dave Fanning hoax;
2fm DJ passes off song by obscure English band as the latest single from U2.

The Sunday Times (London)
January 26, 2014

DUE TO a long friendship with U2, his radio show is always the first to play any new songs from the Dublin group. Earlier this month, however, U2 fans didn't find what they were looking for when Dave Fanning, the 2fm DJ, promised to play their new single - but instead spun a track from an unknown British band...

What listeners actually heard was a song entitled Bad Machine by Dark Stares, a virtually unknown band from St Albans in London...

Last week, Fanning dismissed the transmission as a hoax and insisted the joke was on listeners and not him...

For some listeners "Fanning-gate", as it was labelled on one U2 forum, was not quite so funny. Taking the broadcast seriously, posts initially hailed the fake U2 song as "an ancestor to The Fly", and how "it makes sense" that U2 would permit Fanning the first play from their new album because of their tradition of doing so.

When it transpired the transmission was a hoax, emotions ranged from relief that it wasn't U2 because the song was "awful", to sympathy for Fanning who some presumed had been "duped".

Categories: Music
Posted by Alex on Sun Jan 26, 2014
Comments (2)

Scare stories about how governments are going to force us all to be "microchipped like dogs" have been circulating for well over a decade. Mixed in with these stories have been Christian fundamentalist claims that implanted microchips are the "Mark of the Beast".

The latest scare story to surface is an article (written in broken English) recently posted on topinfopost.com, claiming that "On May 2014, through Europe newborn children will be compelled to take in a subcutaneous RFID chip."

Nope. Ain't happening.

The photo accompanying the article actually shows a flexible "Biostamp" recently developed by the Massachusetts-based firm MC10. But don't worry. The fundamentalists are convinced that these "E-Tattoos" are also the Mark of the Beast, and that those who wear them will receive the Wrath of God.
Categories: Technology
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 24, 2014
Comments (2)

An Italian newspaper has reported that firefighters near Naples recently discovered a giant larva of a Red Palm Weevil (Rhynchophorus ferrugineus). The larva, which was as big as an adult pig, was still alive, and as the firefighters approached it, the thing emitted a shrill cry similar to the whinny of a horse.

The larva appears to be a result of "radioactive gigantism" caused by toxic waste in the so-called "Land of Fires" region of southern Italy. It has been taken to the Naples Museum to be studied by entomologists.

At least, this is what I could understand of the story with help from Google Translate. (Any corrections/additions from Italian speakers would be appreciated!) The entire story, of course, is baloney. But I like the photo.

Wikipedia offers this information about the Red Palm Weevil:
The red palm weevil, Rhynchophorus ferrugineus, is a species of snout beetle also known as the Asian palm weevil or sago palm weevil. The adult beetles are relatively large, ranging between two and five centimeters long, and are usually a rusty red colour - but many colour variants exist and have often been misidentified as different species (e.g., Rhynchophorus vulneratus;). Weevil larvae can excavate holes in the trunk of a palm trees up to a metre long, thereby weakening and eventually killing the host plant. As a result, the weevil is considered a major pest in palm plantations, including the coconut palm, date palm and oil palm.
Categories: Animals
Posted by Alex on Fri Jan 24, 2014
Comments (0)
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