Relax. Brad Pitt is alive and well. But this is exactly how rumors start … and before you know it, they go mega-viral. Adam Sandler, Eddie Murphy, Lady Gaga, and 50 Cent, are only a few of the stars who’ve been recently targeted by false death hoaxes.
Entrepreneur Rich Hoover is partly to blame.
Mr. Hoover created Fakeawish.com, which allows anyone to plug a celebrity’s name into an online generator that creates morbid celebrity headlines, from jet-ski crashes in the tepid waters off the Turks and Caicos to snowboarding accidents in the glacial Swiss mountains.
For him, “no publicity is bad publicity” isn’t just an adage, it’s a career ethos. False death reports harm nobody. It may even help them. After all, he says “it’s free press.”
And a media expert will back him up.
Mark Bell, a professor at Indiana University-Purdue University who studies deception in digital media, told the New York Times that there’s “not a lot of cost, either financially, morally, legally or criminally” in what Mr. Hoover does.
We weren’t sold on that theory.
Back in September, Jerry Springer was cruising down the highway when he heard the news of his death in a car crash. He had to pull over to call home and pacify his shaken wife, who, as he’d expected, had heard the false report, too. But what if his wife had been the one driving when she heard the report… and became so distraught that she crashed her car? Or, upon hearing the terrible news, took her own life?