This blog covers everything except sports and gardening, unless we find a really good link about using dead professional bowlers for mulch. The author is a StarTribune columnist, has been passing off fiction and hyperbole as insight since 1997, has run his own website since the Jurassic era of AOL, and was online when today’s college sophomores were a year away from being born. So get off his lawn.

Today's Internet Hoax is . . .

Posted by: James Lileks under Technology Updated: June 24, 2014 - 2:23 PM

. . . not surprising at all. It was Upworthy-ready: this little girl was ostracized in a KFC because she had facial scars, and what happened next will warm your heart-cockles, or something.

Well, no. The Laurel Leader-Call:

The heart-wrenching story of a badly disfigured 3-year-old child being asked to leave a Jackson KFC because her appearance was scaring other customers was a story generated out of whole cloth and resulted in the family bilking the public and professionals for more than $135,000 in cash, as well as gifts and free surgeries, sources with deep knowledge of the investigation said exclusively to the Laurel Leader-Call.

Says the family's  “Victoria’s Victories” website today:

I promise its not a hoax, I never thought any of this would blow up the way it has. The article circling the web calling this a hoax is untrue. The article it self say the investigation is not complete. It is not over until KFC releases a statement. The media outlet running this story is not connected with KFC. The family has not asked for anything, a attorney is handling all the media publicity for the family pro bono. Please do not believe untrue media. I have personally watched this family go without to provide for Victoria. They have not and would not do anything to hurt Victoria in any way.

Over 4,500 comments on that one so far. Read 'em all! A pattern does tend to emerge.

The newspaper article notes that the local KFCs have surveillance video of the days in question - although they don’t have video for the store the child’s aunt says they visited. Ah hah! you say. How convenient! Well:

The family initially told KFC the incident happened at the location on State and High streets, a claim backed by a Facebook post by Victoria’s Victories, a page run by Teri Rials Bates, the girl’s aunt that read: “Thank you for your support for Victoria. If you would like to file a complaint its the KFC on State Street in Jackson MS.” That store is not in operation and has been closed for several years.

The family retracted that claim after that was pointed out, insisting that the event did happen, but it was somewhere else.

The newspaper article, by the way, is not a model of objective reporting.

Mullins welcomed television cameras from Jackson while peddling the tale of deceit in an effort to bilk a public who lapped up the story with little regard to its validity. By the time those TV interviews had aired, the story had taken on a life of its own.

National and world media such as CNN, Nancy Grace, Huffington Post and The Today Show jumped on the story, lambasting the employees, KFC and YUM! Brands, KFC’s corporate owners.

“What, did they walk over to the table and say ‘hey, you’re ugly, you have to leave.’ What happened Dave?” wailed Grace, the (Headline News) hysterical talk show host, which was answered by little-known talk radio host Dave Maxson.

“No, Nancy, it was even worse than that. It wasn’t ‘you’re ugly.’ It was ‘you are scaring people. You must leave.’”

Wailing and hysterical are rather subjective. Accurate, but still.

Since the story went “viral,” people have been throwing sodas through the drive-through window and yelling at employees. Even though the original story seemed “fishy” in the sense that a trawler coming back to the docks after a week of dragging the ocean with enormous nets is “fishy.” An employee would ask a seriously injured little girl to leave because she was scaring customers? Does that really seem likely?

Speaking of social media: The WSJ yesterday had a piece about companies rethinking their social media strategies, a subject of almost boundless boredom to consider, but interesting in a cruel, cold way. It turns out that LIKES mean nothing. Who knew. It turns out that people don’t go on Twitter to learn about brands: the feather, it lays me low. It seems that most people go on Twitter to natter about things they did or ate or heard about second-hand through the usual uninformed sources.

Not to say it’s not a great news source; I check it constantly. But when you enter the parallel world of Twitter, where people who cannot spell and have the sense of history that makes a fish’s experience look like the recollections of Methuselah, you know that it’s not an inherently wise medium. Which one is? Right.

Survey says: 94% use social media to connect with friends and family. Twenty-nine percent use it to “follow trends / find product reviews and information.” That last one conflates two different objectives. Same with the next one: Twenty percent use social media “to comment on what’s hot or new / to write reviews of products.” But the big one: 62% say that social media has NO INFLUENCE AT ALL on their purchasing decisions. Millions upon millions spent to insert ads in your timelines, and while you may follow Campbell’s Soup, and may have signed up to get the “What’s Soup?” update email (I made that up) and might have liked the post about Andy Warhol’s birthday, the end result is diddly and/or squat compared to television ads. They’re more impressive because they have moving pictures and catchy songs and pretty people.

Compared to which, a social-media entry is a postcard. I nod and feel a cruel smile spread across my face, because I don’t like Facebook. I use it to post links to real work. Same with Google Plus, but every day I go to Google Plus to add the link, I have the same thought: oh, right. Google Plus. And this is something I use every day. I practically forget about while I’m there. Facebook is a many-headed hydra with a firehose in every mouth. But I don’t disengage from Twitter or the news, because I want to know what’s going on. Depending on who you follow, and who you learn to trust or respect, you can get a sense of events from Twitter stream if you treat it like Professor X using Cerebro

This Leon Wiseltier piece, written by an admitted non-Tweeter, sums up the perils of disengagement.

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