Hoax Museum Blog: Celebrities

29 (lip-synced) celebrity impressions in one song —

A video of musician Rob Cantor doing 29 Celebrity impressions in one song got over 7 millions views on youtube since July 1. But now Cantor has admitted that he was lip-syncing the impressions as a way to get people to listen to the song.

The process of creating the impressions that he lip-synced to turns out to have been quite elaborate, and he's released a new video showing how it all worked. And that video is also going viral. So this guy really knows how to use social media to his advantage! Thewrap.com has some more details.


When I posted this earlier on Facebook, there was a comment noting that one guy in Quebec called Andre-Philippe Gagnon used to do this legitimately as an act. He was known as the "Vocal Chameleon".


Posted: Thu Jul 10, 2014.   Comments ()

Celebrity Salami —

A new website has many people slightly puzzled. It claims to be producing artisanal salamis made from lab-grown meat from celebrity tissue samples. So it's kind of like a celebrity version of Manbeef.com (from way back in 2001) — except that it's celebrity beef and the human meat is grown using in-vitro meat production.

Salon.com got a response from "Kevin" on the BiteLabs team who explains that "the site is partly a commentary on food culture, the ethics of meat, and 'the way celebrity culture is consumed.'"

So yes, it's a parody site. However, Kevin also insists that they do actually plan to make salami from celebrity meat.

I'm not sure about the current state-of-the-art of in-vitro meat technology. But I'm doubtful that the technology is good enough to make salami that tastes appetizing. Even if it is meat from Jennifer Lawrence of James Franco.

The idea of celebrity salami recalls an idea PETA proposed a few years back of making George Clooney-flavored tofu.
Posted: Thu Feb 27, 2014.   Comments (1)

MediaMass.net—the site that debunks nonexistent rumors — 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.
Posted: Mon Feb 03, 2014.   Comments (2)

Posted: Thu Dec 26, 2013.   Comments ()


Kanye West quotation provokes outrage — Satire mistaken as news. Outrage in the Twitterverse as twitterers react to Kanye West claiming to be the "next Nelson Mandela." Full quotation: "I am the next Nelson Mandela. I'm only 36 years old, and when I look at everything I've accomplished, it's the only comparison that makes any sense. By the time I'm 95, I'm going to be a bigger hero than he ever was."

But West never said this. The quotation comes from the The Daily Currant, which is a humor site akin to the Onion.


Posted: Sun Dec 08, 2013.   Comments (1)

Paris Hilton denies confusing Mandela and ML King — Paris Hilton vehemently denies that she tweeted, "RIP Nelson Mandela. Your 'I Have A Dream' speech was so inspiring."

According to Gossip Cop, the screenshot of this fake post first appeared on a Twitter account named @DeletedTweets.


Posted: Sun Dec 08, 2013.   Comments ()

Fake Ed Asner tries to help Pittsburgh cinema — Yet another example of a celebrity imposter masquerading online. In this case, the imposter evidently thought their deception was for a worthy cause. Nevertheless, it's still a deception.

Fake Ed Asner Endorses Struggling Dormont Theater
CBS Pittsburgh

The Facebook post from the fake Ed Asner page reads "Help the Hollywood Theater! One of Pittsburgh's last historic neighborhood cinemas. I have found memories of visiting this venue as a much younger man while visiting relatives. I'll double every donation!" Theater manager Chad Hunter was excited but skeptical when he saw the post. He tried sending a thank you message to Asner via the social media website but never heard back. That's when he got suspicious. A representative for "Charles Sherman Public Relations" who represents Asner says the page is fake and that the actor has never had a Facebook page.


Posted: Fri Feb 08, 2013.   Comments ()

Posted: Wed May 23, 2012.   Comments (8)

Ridiculously Photogenic Guy vs. Gorgeous Guy — If you follow internet memes at all, you're going to be aware of 'Ridiculously Photogenic Guy'. The title has been attached to 25-year-old Zeddie Little of New York. A picture of him was taken while he was running a 10k race in South Carolina. He seemed to look upbeat and well-composed, while everyone else looked like they were suffering. Someone uploaded the picture to reddit, with the comment, "My friend calls him 'Mr Ridiculously Photogenic Guy'". The image and title promptly went viral, making Little an overnight internet celebrity.


Ridiculously Photogenic Guy

This immediately reminded me of the Gorgeous Guy phenomenon, from way back in 2001, in which a guy's picture was uploaded to San Francisco's Craiglist with the comment, "Gorgeous Guy @ 4th and Market at the MUNI/Amtrak Bus Stop (Mon-Fri)." The Gorgeous Guy's picture soon went viral, resulting in the real-life Gorgeous Guy being tracked down and invited to appear on CNN, The Tonight Show, etc.


Gorgeous Guy

The punchline of the Gorgeous Guy story, however, was that his initial burst of internet popularity turned out to have been artificially engineered. David Cassel of the San Francisco Bay Guardian discovered that the initial flood of messages promoting and gushing about the "Gorgeous Guy" all traced back to the same IP address — which was the address of the company where Gorgeous Guy worked. Cassel suspected that Gorgeous Guy had been promoting himself, though Gorgeous Guy himself insisted it had been his co-workers playing a prank on him.

There's absolutely no indication that Ridiculously Photogenic Guy's popularity was artificially goosed up in any way. In fact, Zeddie Little seems to be trying his best to avoid his unasked-for celebrity status. But it is odd how these internet memes echo and repeat themselves.

Incidentally, after I wrote about the Gorgeous Guy incident in the book version of The Museum of Hoaxes, Gorgeous Guy contacted me, and I continue to get updates from him every few years. Last I heard, if I remember correctly, he was working as a real-estate agent somewhere.
Posted: Mon Apr 09, 2012.   Comments ()

Beyonce Baby Bump Controversy — Singer Beyonce Knowles announced she was pregnant in August. But video of a recent interview with her on an Australian TV show has led to rumors that she's faking her pregnancy, because as she walked out and sat down for the interview her stomach appeared to bend and fold in a weird way.

beyonce

The theory is that she's wearing a prosthetic baby bump, while a surrogate mother carries the actual child. This way, Beyonce will avoid the stretch marks and discomfort of pregnancy — and she'll look fit and toned immediately after "giving birth".

I think the conspiracy theorists are reaching a bit here. And Beyonce, of course, has denied the rumor.

But one question the controversy raises is why do people like to come up with these conspiracy theories about their favorite celebrities? It recalls the Paul Is Dead debate, though the Beyonce theories are nowhere near as elaborate as the Dead Paul theories. At least, not yet. Maybe fans will start finding fake baby clues in Beyonce's albums.

One reason for the theories is that they have some entertainment value. They provide fans with something to discuss about the celebrity. Also, psychologists argue that those who tell such rumors gain status by appearing to be privy to special information. And perhaps, in Beyonce's case, some of her fans don't want her to be pregnant. They prefer the image of her as a youthful "single lady", so they're fantasizing away her pregnancy as a hoax.

Links: tmz.com, US Magazine.
Posted: Wed Oct 12, 2011.   Comments (3)

Matt Damon reacts to false rumors of his death — From The Globe and Mail:

"All my wife said was, well, that's weird," recounts Damon, shaking his head. "Then she reminded me that the same thing had happened to George [Clooney] a few years ago. What amazed me even more was that the calls we were getting were from [news groups] that were very reputable. I asked them did you even read the story on the Internet? It read like the lyrics to The Fresh Prince of Bel Air. The truth of the matter is all these mother [expletive] are lazy [and didn't do their homework to verify if the story was real]. There I said it."

Posted: Mon Sep 14, 2009.   Comments (11)

Jackson Video a Hoax Experiment — A short video that appeared on youtube a week ago showed someone resembling Michael Jackson getting out of the back of a coroner's van. Evidence perhaps that Jackson faked his death? Nope. German television station RTL subsequently admitted they faked the video as an experiment "to show how easily users can be manipulated on the Internet with hoax videos." An RTL spokesman said: "Unfortunately, many people believed it was true, even though we tried to create the video in a way that every normal user can see right away that it is a fake."

Hoaxes designed to demonstrate the gullibility of the public are an old phenomenon, going back at least to HL Mencken's 1917 bathtub hoax. The public invariably lives up to expectations.
Posted: Wed Sep 02, 2009.   Comments (6)

Michael Jackson in Clouds — New Michael Jackson pareidolia (jackodolia). A 43-year-old builder from Stafford "who happens to be a bit of a skeptic" took this picture of his car. He intended to send the picture to a car sales magazine, until he noticed the image of Michael Jackson formed by the reflection of clouds on its hood. (youtube)


Posted: Thu Jul 30, 2009.   Comments (8)

Jackodolia — More Michael Jackson pareidolia, or "Jackodolia".

The Edison family of Brazil prepared a roast last Saturday, but neglected to do the dishes for a day. Then they noticed that the face of Michael Jackson had mysteriously appeared in the roasting pan. Link: terra.com.br via ceticismoaberto
Posted: Tue Jul 07, 2009.   Comments (11)

Michael Jackson seen all over — The guy may be dead, but he's showing up all over the place. Michaeljacksonsightings.com has a few blurry pictures of the back of someone who vaguely resembles Jackson. They offer this as proof that Jackson faked his death.

A family in Stockton, California have noticed an image of Michael Jackson in a tree stump in their front yard. They swear the image only appeared on the day he died. (I'm not seeing anything at all.)


Then there's the ghost of Michael Jackson, which you can see in the video below. To me, it looks like someone's shadow.


Posted: Mon Jul 06, 2009.   Comments (10)

The Great Death Rumor Craze of 2009: An Analysis — The glut of celebrity death hoaxes during the past week has been a textbook case of how rumors spread. It's a great example of collective behavior in action. As such, the death rumors provide an opportunity for journalists to discuss some of the things scholars have learned about the spread of rumors during the past fifty years of research. Unfortunately, the insights of social psychologists don't seem to be getting much coverage. Instead, journalists are focusing on the rumors as an internet phenomenon. See this CNN article as an example. It warns us that:

The situation is calling attention to the changing state of the news media: As information online moves faster and comes from more sources, it's more difficult to verify what's true and what may be shockingly false...
Others say the fake deaths, or "death pranks," show an inherent problem with the decentralization of news on the Internet.

This seems like a non-issue to me. Rumors are an ancient phenomenon. The internet is simply the technology people are using to communicate them nowadays. And while the internet does allow information to spread faster, from more sources, it also allows misinformation to be debunked faster. Before the internet people found many other 'decentralized' ways of spreading rumors: fax, telephone, college radio stations, letters, corner drugstores, or word of mouth. The technology has changed, but human behavior remains the same.

If I were a journalist, these are some of the points about rumors I would try to highlight:
  • Rumors spread most during situations that are confusing or ambiguous and in which there's a mood of collective excitement. People want more information, and that information isn't available. So they look to alternative sources.
  • There are always alternative sources of information. The supply of information is never centralized. Social groups (such as teenagers) tend to establish their own communication networks, and they'll turn to those if they're not getting what they want from mainstream sources. In 1969, when the Paul is Dead rumor was spreading, young people relied on college radio and college newspapers to spread the rumor. Today they rely on twitter.
  • Rumors don't spread randomly. Instead, they tend to follow along social lines. The recent rumors have spread among young people using twitter.
  • Status seeking is an important motive in why people spread these rumors. Being able to pass along new information makes people feel important in the eyes of their friends, even if the information later turns out to be bogus. Similarly, pranksters like to make up these hoaxes to gain approval from their social groups.
  • Rumors often serve as a form of entertainment and emotional release. It gives people a way to project their anxieties onto the world. In fact, rumors often spread without being believed, which seems to be the case with the recent death hoaxes. An Australian news station fell for the Jeff Goldblum rumor, but the majority of twitter users seem to have expressed doubt about the rumors as they simultaneously repeated them. Ironically, those debunking the rumors have spread them far further than have those who actually believed them.
All of these are standard observations about rumors that you can find in most social psychology textbooks. But like I said, it's not what journalists are focusing on.
Posted: Wed Jul 01, 2009.   Comments (3)

Is one of the Michael Jackson rehearsal photos faked? — Holymoly.com suggests that one of the rehearsal photographs of Michael Jackson, said to have been taken the night before he died, is fake. They point out that "the backdrop mysteriously disappears in between Michael's legs." They describe this as a "classic photoshop blunder" and suggest "this could be a fake composite, with Jackson's image being super imposed on top of another pic."

It does look unusual, but I wouldn't be so quick to label it as photoshopped. That may just be how the backdrop looks in that area. (You would need to see an unobstructed view of the entire backdrop to be sure.) And what would be the point of photoshopping the picture? Is holymoly.com suggesting that Jackson didn't actually attend the rehearsal? That seems unlikely as there are other pictures of Jackson at the rehearsal, and (presumably) witnesses.


Posted: Tue Jun 30, 2009.   Comments (10)

More Celebrity Death Hoaxes — It's been the week of the celebrity death hoax, triggered by the real-life deaths of a string of celebrities (Ed McMahon, Farrah Fawcett, Michael Jackson, and Billy Mays).

The recent celebrity death hoaxes have included: Jeff Goldblum, Harrison Ford, Louie Anderson, Ellen DeGeneres, Britney Spears, and Miley Cyrus.

In the case of Jeff Goldblum and Louie Anderson, the fake deaths were simply old rumors that were recycled. But in the case of Britney Spears, Ellen DeGeneres, and Miley Cyrus, pranksters hacked into their twitter accounts to post false death announcements.
Posted: Mon Jun 29, 2009.   Comments (2)

Jeff Goldblum isn’t dead, nor is Harrison Ford — In the wake of the news of the death of Michael Jackson and Farrah Fawcett, a rumor that Jeff Goldblum had also died began to circulate. Reportedly he died when he fell off a cliff while filming a movie in New Zealand.

Then a rumor surfaced that Harrison Ford had died on board a yacht cruising off the coast of St. Tropez.

Both Ford and Goldblum are still alive. In fact, the Goldblum rumor was simply a rehash of a three-year-old rumor that originally involved Tom Hanks falling off a cliff, and later Tom Cruise.

Maegan has posted more details in the forum.

Some links:
Harrison Ford not dead either
Goldblum NZ death hoax latest in a trail 
Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2009.   Comments ()

Michael Jackson Dies… For Real — It appears that Michael Jackson has died, which is only worth mentioning here because in addition to being the "King of Pop," he was also the King of the fake death rumor. Even The Onion satirically predicted his death back in 2005. But this time, it seems to be for real.

Now the "he faked his death" rumors can start.
Posted: Thu Jun 25, 2009.   Comments (10)

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