The online world, especially the social media world has been increasingly invaded by satire. Virtually all news sites have a “satire” section and American News X is no exception. Some of the satire on the web is good stuff being so absurd or just so funny that it serves an entertainment itch that people want to scratch. Other satire is just tasteless garbage that basically suckers people in with a lie of a headline. In the online journalism world, the latter is known as “clickbait.” I won’t bother “advertising” the rogue sites that pretty much live on such stories ( **coughnationalreportcoughdailycurrantcough** ) but let’s just say that some days they make reporting legitimate stories much more work than it should be.
Sometimes the damage done by clickbait sites goes far beyond just outraging some person or group that “fell for it.” Sometimes, like in the case of Pamela Downs, 45, of Kingsport Tennessee it can lead to much bigger problems.
Downs read a story on the internet (so it must be true, right?) that told her President Obama had declared “printing your own money” legal now. He apparently did this in an effort to help out poorer Americans.
I can’t be 100% sure without verification, but in doing some research I could only find one story on the internet that claimed Obama had said such a thing. It was from 2009 on a site called “The Skunk.” Below the “corporate banner” it says (in tiny print, relative to the rest of the page) that the site is satirical. In fact it boldly states that it is “tasteless american satire for the ill informed.”
Apparently Ms. Downs falls into that category of the ill informed. Surely, however she is not alone there.
I won’t defend Downs here. She is obviously not only very ill informed but acts in knee jerk responses apparently. The fact is though, even if this article was where she got her information, she may not have read it directly on the site as often people copy and paste articles, or parts of them on their social media pages or in chat groups and other online discussion formats. She may never have seen the disclaimer on the Skunk’s site especially if she didn’t actually read it on that specific site.
That still doesn’t excuse her not at least checking up on that outlandish claim before allegedly heading to the store for printer supplies then literally “gluing” her fake currency together.
After agreeing to have her purse searched, police discovered a fake $100 bill printed in black and white with the backside glued on upside down. Police also found receipts in her purse showing she had purchased a printer and copy paper at a local Walmart.
After being handcuffed and placed in a cruiser, Downs reportedly said, “I don’t give a ****, all these other bitches get to print money so I can too.”
In an interview at the jail, Downs admitted to printing the money in her apartment, stating that she read online that President Obama had made a new law permitting her to print her own money because she is on a fixed income.
A search of her apartment uncovered printing supplies including copy paper, scissors, glue and a printer.
Several more counterfeit bills, both cut and uncut, were also found with police estimating the total to be around $30,000 to $50,000.
Some of the “satire” online has gotten out of hand though. While I can’t excuse people like Downs I can’t totally blame them either. The “putting things out there just to see who will fall for it” has gotten outrageous because people make money from it. Where there is a con artist making money, unwitting people will be suckered. It will be interesting to see if Downs will be able to use the source of her information, especially if it was fake, as a defense.
Imagine if someone simply read the text and never saw (for whatever reason) the small satire disclaimer …
DENVER (TheSkunk.org) — The way out of the country’s economic woes is to let citizens print their own money, said President Barack Obama to a cheering crowd of unemployed construction workers in the Mile High City.
“This financial crisis is just too big for our resources in Washington,” said Obama. “The government printing presses literally cannot keep up with the demand for new currency.”
The White House put forth a plan to distribute 375 million printing presses to every man, woman and child in the nation, so they can print their own U.S. currency. “For those who have lost their jobs and are behind in their mortgage payments,” said Obama, “when this legislation passes you’ll be able to crank up your own printing press and create the cash you need, right from your own living room.”
Pretty believable stuff that is presented AS news. Where I or my colleagues might read something like that and research it to determine its validity, I don’t expect every reader out there to do the same on everything they read. Readers are readers, they don’t research every tidbit they come across. Unfortunately for them, it is just too easy to make things look “legit” in the digital age.
Downs was charged with counterfeiting and other charges by Tennessee authorities. She was caught after trying to use the fake money in a gas station where a clerk spotted the bill, which had been literally glued together to create both sides of a bill, as a total forgery. Downs must have known she had done something wrong as at first she denied any wrongdoing claiming another gas station in a nearby town had given her the fake bill.
After she was arrested, she went into the tirade described above. Whereas when she was confronted, it seems she knew counterfeiting was a crime and she had done something illegal, her statements after her arrest speak to her still thinking whatever article she read was legitimate information.
Doesn’t some of this responsibility have to fall to the people cranking out such garbage and presenting it as much as they can as “fact.” Then throw in the countless people out there who just like to use such things to “punk” others into believing its true. At some point, someone has to take responsibility. Again, I’m not saying that people like Downs should be absolved, as she decided to do something illegal based of some sort of scant and obviously wrong information and never checked it out. That is a bit beyond just sharing something that is false on facebook — and who hasn’t put up a fake quote, story or whatever on facebook at some point? I know I have.
It is easy to just laugh at her and poke fun at her ignorance. I say, however that we can’t just lay the blame all at her feet.
beyond all that though, her story should serve as a warning to all to always check things out that you read online — from whatever the source, before you act. Especially if your actions are like Downs where you are performing an act that has always been (and surely always will be) illegal.
Even top newsmen like Anderson Cooper can get fooled by these click bait sites ….
We often talk about “freedoms” in this country. Freedom of speech and a free press are certainly part of that and something I obviously endorse. Those freedoms do require responsibility with them also, in my humble opinion. Words can be powerful things and even weapons. Sometimes us in “the media” forget that. Some people in the media need to learn that apparently as well.