Is Philip Seymour Hoffman Dead or Alive? You Decide!
Mediamass to state that today's report was a hoax, considering last month's hoax, which then led them to do a confusing retraction stating, "UPDATE 02/02/2014 : This story seems to be false" without telling us which report was false.
For a confusing few minutes on Twitter and the internet in general, it appeared as if everyone who'd learned of Mr. Hoffman's alleged death was following the same WSJ article that was the first to jump on it. Whether the WSJ piece is correct or not, it shows how easily an entire nation could be mislead by just one well-timed and well-placed article citing no links and no corroboration whatsoever. This is how echo chambers get started.
And we've been led to believe things much more important than the death of an actor that had turned out to be not so true, after all, because uncritical and careless media outlets jump on the first story they see and do not bother triple-sourcing it as they're supposed to do as media professionals. After all, this is how the Gulf of Tonkin "incident" gained traction in August of 1964 that dragged us into a needless war that lasted for 15 years. This is how "mushroom clouds" and "smoking guns" quickly became part of the national dialogue and dragged us into another needless war that dragged on for nearly a decade.
And if Mr. Hoffman has indeed passed away, just 24 hours after his own management said that he was "alive and well", and less than three weeks after a Twitter hoax out of many said he was dead, then I pass my sincerest condolences to Mr. Hoffman's family and loved ones (as well as a back-handed salute for being so obliging even if it is Super Bowl Sunday). But the way in which this story had been broken, with his Wikipedia entry updated to include his death before 99.9% of the media outlets had even reported on it, shows that after several centuries of doing this, we humans still cannot get the first draft of history right and even get basic facts correct.
Labels: Philip Seymour Hoffman