This, especially now as we battle a pandemic, can be very dangerous. Just a few days ago, someone I know told me about the latest COVID-19 death in Việt Nam, which, if that person had bothered to fact check, was completely wrong.
“But I read the news on Facebook?” was the reply I got when I informed him of the truth.
No, no you didn't. You saw a post, put two and two together and came up with the answer: “Fish”. It wasn’t news, it was a rumour.
I’ve never heard of the Lebanese-born American investment banker Ziad Abdelnour, but he was pretty much spot on when he said:
“Always remember... Rumours are carried by haters, spread by fools, and accepted by idiots.”
This week after Liverpool FC slumped to yet another defeat in their poor run of form against Leicester City, the rumour mill swung into action, all guns blazing.
The latest codswallop doing the rounds after the defeat suggested that post-match, Liverpool’s Andy Robertson and Alisson Becker got into a punch-up in the dressing room which resulted in manager Jurgen Klopp walking out, not travelling back with the team, and eventually quitting as Liverpool boss.
But this rumour spread on social media faster than a severe acute respiratory syndrome virus and it was only days later during a pre-match press conference ahead of Liverpool’s Champions League match with Leipzig that Klopp dismissed the claims as nonsense.
But the damage, you could say, was already done.
One pal of mine was apoplectic with rage. He even suggested he would prefer if his wife left him rather than Jurgen leaving Liverpool.
Thankfully, his marriage seems safe, for now.
Klopp has been through a lot. On the pitch, the team has had a run of defeats not seen before during the German’s reign and off it, he has suffered his own personal heartache when his mother died recently.
Endless studies have been carried out to determine exactly why people spread false rumours or gossip. The overriding reason is rumours are spread out of jealousy, or a need for revenge. Sometimes it is to make the source of that falsehood look popular, or it is done to hurt the person the rumour is about.
Whatever the reason, it’s not right, but sadly it is something we are seeing more and more.
“My friend knows a woman, whose husband works with a man, who lives next door to a cleaner, whose sister works at the gas station where Jurgen Klopp buys petrol… and she said…”
Another problem we have to deal with is in this day and age, everyone thinks they are a journalist. A half-decent camera on your iPhone can be a dangerous thing.
Photos are taken out of context, videos shot without knowing the full story, and before you know it, boom. Fiction becomes facts.
Journalists have a massive responsibility to fact check and ensure the truth is found, but sadly for many ordinary Joes, all they care about is a quick hit and fun piece of tittle-tattle they can boast about online.
The truth is out there, but most of us tend not to care what that actually is. — VNS