Monday, February 18, 2013

Beware when quoting stories from the Daily Currant — or anywhere else on the Internet

Posted By on Mon, Feb 18, 2013 at 12:32 PM

Rush eats tacos? Never!
  • Rush eats tacos? Never!
A few weeks ago I made my first visit to SideBerns, where I was talking politics with a University of Tampa professor. The topic turned to immigration and about how Rush Limbaugh had recently made derogatory statements about Latinos on his syndicated radio show.

The UT professor then asked me if I had heard that Limbaugh had been kicked out of a Mexican restaurant in South Florida? I had not, and immediately went to my smartphone to look it up. An embarrassing story like that would no doubt be all over the Internet, right?

I was able to find the story, but quickly deduced it was false. How did I know? It came from the Daily Currant.

Though "Daily Currant" sounds like the conservative website run by Tucker Carlson (that would be The Daily Caller), it's actually a satirical news site (think The Onion but with more believable headlines) that clearly states its intentions in its About section:

The Daily Currant is an English language online satirical newspaper that covers global politics, business, technology, entertainment, science, health and media. It is accessible from over 190 countries worldwide - now including South Sudan.
Our mission is to ridicule the timid ignorance which obstructs our progress, and promote intelligence - which presses forward.

Too bad Washington Post blogger Suzi Parker didn't know what she was reading before writing on the Post's site last week that Sarah Palin was joining Al Jazeera as a commentator. Cue the correction, now permanently affixed to the top of the post:

An earlier version of this post and the post’s URL incorrectly reported that Sarah Palin had signed on as a contributor to the Al Jazeera America news network. The blogger cited a report on the Daily Currant Web site as the basis for that information without realizing that the piece was satirical.

It's easy to blast Parker for not calling around and getting a second source (a fair criticism), but this flap also serves to illustrate that anything can go up on the Internet, and it's up to "responsible" reporters not to go hog wild tweeting or writing their own original post quoting a story, when it may in fact be bogus … or satire, as in this case.

One reason I was quick to check the Limbaugh story was I had just experienced for myself the thrill of finding an amazing story online only to realize it was a parody only moments later.

That would be a Daily Currant post about conservative firebrand Ann Coulter getting off a plane in Miami when she saw that a black female pilot was at the helm.

Of course, the reason I knew the story was false before I wrote a post and embarrassed myself was that I looked for other stories confirming it. Upon Googling, I immediately found the story debunked by Snopes.com, the self-appointed guardian of fact vs. Internet fiction.

In any event, some of the Daily Currant's recent blog posts are close enough to credible that it's not surprising that intelligent folks would actually believe them. (For example, this recent post claiming Dick Cheney is calling for war against Iran, or this one about President Obama claiming in a White House press conference that Ron Paul is to the left of him.

Other posts, like the one claiming that the Catholic Church is considering Jerry Sandusky as the next Pope, or that Lindsey Graham and John McCain had been spotted sharing a room together at a Washington D.C. motel, will probably only confuse the lowest of "low information voters," but never doubt the power of a clever satirist to trick you into believing the unbelievable.

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