Antiviral: Here's What's Bullshit on the Internet This Week
Here's a fun fact: 60 percent of all stories on the internet are created in a Hollywood studio by Jimmy Kimmel. Sorry, no, that's a lie—just like the little boy crossing the desert, the the sad Putin hockey photo, and the wolf in the Sochi hotel room. All of these stories took over the internet this week, and all of them were misleading—or outright bullshit.
No, this little boy is not crossing the desert alone
One of the many images that's captured people's attention around the world this week is a photograph of United Nations staff encountering a tiny boy, grimacing and lugging a plastic bag, the empty desert stretched out behind him.
CNN anchor Hala Gorani provided heartbreaking context:
UN staff found 4 year-old Marwan crossing desert alone after being separated from family fleeing #Syria. pic.twitter.com/YdCt7gZrcN
— Hala Gorani (@HalaGorani) February 17, 2014
But that's not quite what happened. The boy had been temporarily separated from his family, but he wasn't actually alone in the desert. A staffer with the UN Refugee Agency clarified:
Thanks to Jared 4 this shot showing Marwan at the back of this group of @refugees. He is separated - he is not alone. pic.twitter.com/vq2JpxjT8j
— Andrew Harper (@And_Harper) February 18, 2014
Harper says the little guy was reunited with his mother soon after being carried across the border from Syria to Jordan. Gorani's original tweet has been retweeted nearly 10,000 times. She has since updated her feed with clarifications about what actually happened.
No, Putin and Medvedev aren't sad about Russia's hockey loss
Okay, well, they're probably sad. But not like this.
Putin put out as Russia crash out of Olympic Ice Hockey. Hey Vlad, wasn't this the one you *really* wanted to win? pic.twitter.com/ZMQC2YP77x
— Daily Mirror (@DailyMirror) February 19, 2014
That's not a photo of Russian President Vladimir Putin and Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev reacting to their country's quarterfinal loss to Finland in Olympic men's ice hockey. As PunditFact points out, the photo was snapped Feb. 16—three days before the Feb. 19 loss.
From PunditFact: "It does not appear that either Putin or Medvedev even attended the Finland game. Putin was in Moscow for at least part of Feb. 19, and Medvedev was 6,500 miles from Sochi in the city of Mirny, where he toured a government space facility."
And since we're on the subject of Putin, it's worth mentioning that the New Yorker story you probably saw all over Facebook about Sochi hotel rooms featuring shirtless photos of the Russian president is fake. (It was published as part of The Borowitz Report, the magazine's regular installment of satire that nobody gets.)
No, this isn't a wolf roaming the halls of a Sochi hotel
Repeat after me: Jimmy Kimmel is lying to you. The late-night host's latest viral hoax is a short video of what looked like a wolf (or large dog) roaming the halls of a Sochi hotel room. U.S. Olympic luger Kate Hansen tweeted a link to a short video of the animal:
Wolf in my hall?!? #SochiProblems #SochiFail http://t.co/ZMqZFC40jp
— Kate Hansen (@k8ertotz) February 20, 2014
The video has racked up nearly 2 million views on YouTube since it was posted Wednesday.
Outlets like The Wall Street Journal, BuzzFeed, and NBC News ran with the story — based on Hansen's tweet — before Inside Edition confirmed the whole thing was orchestrated by Kimmel. "The media went nuts, which is what I was hoping for," Kimmel said on his show last night. (It was an actual wolf, says Kimmel, who is probably lying because, seriously?)
USA Today, which copped to getting duped by the hoax, explains how it worked: "Instead of shooting the fake video in some random dorm hallway, Kimmel had Hansen take a photo of the hallway outside her dorm room, then had his art department work 15 hours to recreate a life-sized replica of the Sochi dorm in his studio."
Here's Kimmel's montage of lame TV-anchor banter about the original video:
And about those Back to the Future power laces...
Look. Believe me when I say I love Back to the Future. There's a model DeLorean sitting on my desk. I had Secrets of the Back to the Future trilogy on VHS. But I'm not yet sold on the widely reported news that Nike's developing sneakers with power laces by next year. (As everyone obviously knows, 2015 is the year the future officially begins because Marty McFly time-traveled to 2015 in Back to the Future II.)
This story is everywhere. It's based on an exchange reported by the website Sole Collector involving Nike designer Tinker Hatfield. (Hatfield's the man who designed the limited-edition Nike Mags that looked almost exactly like Marty McFly's futuristic kicks—sans power laces—and raised nearly $4.5 million for parkinson's research through the Michael J. Fox Foundation):
"During an appearance at the Jordan Brand's Flight Lab space in New Orleans earlier today, designer Tinker Hatfield was asked about the possibility of seeing power lacing next year, and his answer may surprise you.
'Are we gonna see power laces in 2015? To that, I say YES!' said Hatfield."
Okay, that's nice. But is he serious, or having fun? Nike won't say.
The company is getting a ton of press since Hatfield's latest comment, but it won't confirm whether the power laces will actually hit retailers next year. "We don't have anything to add to the story," spokesman KeJuan Wilkins told me in an email. Asked for clarification on what's accurate, Wilkins again declined to say: "I'm sorry but we don't have any comment on the story." (Hatfield didn't respond to an email.)
It's not as though power laces are technologically out of the question. Blake Bevin successfully raised $25,000 on Kickstarter for a project to develop them in 2010. ("I have my doubts that Nike will be releasing anything close to Power Laces in the near future," she said at the time.) Nike filed a patent for footwear with "automatic lacing system" and a charging dock back in 2008. Here's the sketch Nike filed at the time:
And in 2011, Nike filed a new sketch of the automatic-lacing design to the U.S. Patent Office — this one a bit more familiar:
So maybe there's hope. And maybe Mattel will make a hoverboard that actually hovers. I'll believe it when I see it.
Antiviral is an occasional column in which we run down the worst hoaxes, pranks, Photoshops and straight-out lies blowing up on the internet.