May the facts be with you – How a fake news about Star Wars fooled our media

The seventh installment in the Star Wars series got released on 24th December in India and on 18th December in the rest of the world. Star Wars series had won itself a humongous fan base across the world and its characters was a hit among the masses. It is no wonder when there were so much expectations and frenzy among its fans when its latest movie in the series “The Force Awakens” got released.

Combine that frenzy with the lack of attention for details and the laziness to do a basic research, you get our beloved Indian media having a facepalm moment. Recently, I chanced upon an article published on December 20 in IndiaTimes about a man being assaulted by Star Wars fans for shouting a spoiler after coming out of a movie.

IndiaTimes

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I read the full article and was initially shocked, though I could fathom that this cannot be a real story. Fans assaulting in a frenzy mood had happened in the past, but the police force allowing it to happen and justifying it is something preposterous. I double checked the article and the author, but there was no claim that this was a fake article or a satire. So, I checked whether the story appeared in some other news websites and found out it to be fake within few seconds. All it needed was a basic Google search. Snopes had classified it as a hoax on the very same day versions of this article started appearing on other Indian news websites. This fake article first appeared on a satire website run by the same person(s) who runs the God page on Facebook. There is no timestamp in the article displayed in the website, but the same person(s) had shared it in his famous Facebook page on early hours of December 19.

But why let facts come in the way of a juicy news?

Free Press Journal carried the same news, without any disclaimer that it might be a fake or hoax.

FPJ

 

Business Standard known for its sharp criticism and ‘research’ based articles had published a fake article.

BStandard

Hindustan Times had shared it but it was clever enough to remove the article.

Economic Times too fell for the fake news and had posted it without any basic warning that it might be a fake story.

ETimes

To be fair to the above Indian media houses, all their stories were based on an IANS report, which they probably believed blindly.

Andhra’s Sakshi Post, Nepal’s Himalayan Times and UAE’s Khaleej Times were others newspapers which fell for this hoax. So, this disease of spreading unverified news is not just restricted to a particular geography. The funny thing is, all of these reports had mentioned the source ‘thegoodlordabove.com’ but none of them had the time or energy to access the website and check its ‘About’ page, which Snopes and a Malaysian newspaper did.

But not all news sites had turned a blind eye to the fact. Malaysian Digest had also mentioned the story, but had the intention to do a basic research and tracked the news to its fake news website and reported it. Another news website named Inquisitr had also done a basic research on this hoax news and yet another similar hoax news which was doing rounds.

Media spreads two kinds of lies – lies that are intentional,which might propel their agenda further and lies that are unintentional, not meant to cause any harm. While the first category of lies involve a deliberate denial of facts and research, the second category happens when there is laziness to do research before publishing. OpIndia had previously stripped naked the lies of Indian media which falls under the first category of lies. Hoax articles which gets passed as real news like the one highlighted here fall under the second category of lies.

Similar to the title of the latest Star Wars movie ‘The Force awakens’ , let us hope that ‘the fact awakens’ in our media. Let me sign off with a famous dialogue from this movie slightly twisted to serve as a free advice for our Indian media – ‘May the Facts be with you.


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