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Femion » Anatomy of a Stupid Rumour

Anatomy of a Stupid Rumour

August 17th, 2006

August 3rd, 10:57 PM (Timezone unknown): Celebrity Fan makes a post about Jessica Simpson being quoted as saying that ex-husband Nick Lachey had a small penis in something called “Times Magazine”. The post has the fact that these quotes are only rumours highlighted, though this might be a post-rumour edit. The post begins with “Can this be true?” and it is obvious that the rumour is only hearsay and speculation. Times Magazine sounds a lot like Time Magazine, but Time Magazine has never interviewed Jessica Simpson.
August 15th, 10:55 AM (Timezone unknown): Ohnotheydidnt copies the post on Celebrity Fan almost word-for-word, minus the lead in “Can this be true?” and the rumours. Ohnotheydidnt puts Celebrity Fan as the source.
August 15th (time unknown): The same day, What Would Tyler Durden Do? posts a re-edited version of the Celebrity Fan post, with no mention of the fact that it may be a rumour. Still, no source on the actuall origins of the quotes.
August 16th, 10:00AM (Timezone unknown): The blog of VH1’s popculture TV show Best Week Ever reports the rumour as fact, pointing a source back to the WWTDD post. I can’t watch the show because I’m in Canada, but I would bet that this has a fairly good chance of making the TV show.
Do I care if the rumour is true? No. It’s stupid. What I am trying to demonstrate is that within a twenty-four hour period, an old post calling doubt to a speculative rumour on a non-mainstream website has become the source for ‘fact’ on the website of a national, widely watched TV show. The number of people who now believe this rumour could be in the tens of thousands, probably much more.

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