You remember Street Sharks. Sharks on rollerblades, fighting crime, rock ‘n roll saxophone on the soundtrack, Jawsme, the episode where the sharks are called on to save the city from gang warfare, or the one where a long-lost sister shows up and causes problems for everyone. You remember Street Sharks. Or do you?
Yesterday, thousands of Bernie Sanders’ supporters began sharing what appeared to be a straightforward New York Times article—which you can read here—about Massachusetts Senator Elizabeth Warren’s decision to endorse Sanders for President of the United States. Attributed to Jonathan Martin and Alexander Burns, both of whom are real Times reporters, the piece was written in convincing Times-ese, down to the headline (“Warren Endorses Sanders, Breaking With Colleagues”), lead sentence (“In a potentially decisive turn...”), and perfunctory quotes from the Sanders campaign and several disappointed Clinton surrogates. There were two major problems with the article, though: It wasn’t a real Times report, and Warren has not in fact endorsed Sanders.
Yesterday, every school in Los Angeles was closed after the city received an emailed threat of a terrorist attack. Later in the day, the city of New York revealed that it too had received a “similar” email, but did not deem it “credible,” which necessitated that officials in L.A. explain why they decided to abruptly tell some 600,000 kids to stay home.
In the hours between the shooting spree at Umpqua Community College and the moment news networks were able to name Chris Harper Mercer as the alleged gunman, crowds on social media clamored for a name to fill the informational void. 4chan gave them two, both of whom turned out to be alive, and neither of whom has been named by authorities in connection with the tragedy. For a couple of hours, though, mobs on Twitter and Facebook believed these were the guys, and openly speculated about what drove them to do it.
As every website has been attempting to inform you since 2012, copy-pasting several paragraphs of dense legal voodoo onto your Facebook wall does not somehow exempt you from the terms of service that bind all Facebook users. If Facebook decides it wants to start using your content in some way you don’t like, your legal options include: don’t put that content on Facebook. Or: stop using Facebook altogether. If you won’t believe us, please believe John Oliver.
The annual ritual of everyone you know sharing a meaningless copyright disclaimer on Facebook has begun again. And, just in case you didn’t get the message the first half-dozen times this has happened, you can’t opt yourself out of Facebook’s terms of service or change what they’re allowed to do with your content by copy-pasting some pseudo-legal boilerplate into your timeline.
Art is whatever people think it is, and what people think it is depends an awful lot on context: For example, whether the work is being displayed in an art museum by a dapper bloke in glasses and a vest, or whether it's sitting alongside other copies of the exact same print in an IKEA, with a listed price of €10.
Apparently some people missed the memo that the I-can't-believe-it's-not-Idiocracy catchphrase "Fuck Her Right in the Pussy" originated with a couple of completely fake news bloopers before it spread rapidly, not unlike herpes, to actual TV broadcasts. Today, the creator of the worst meme that dominated the worst year cleared that up with a video officially confessing the hoax.