The Week in Fake News #1

Last week we gave you a crash course in spotting Fake News on the internet. Whether it’s a bogus story, a pile of half-truths, or a misleading headline designed to enrage the masses, Fake News can take many forms. In a noble mission to ensure you’re forever wise to all the rubbish that isn’t fit to print, we’re going to keep you updated with a weekly rundown of the best incidents of online garbage.

We’ll find the most outrageous stories and make the case for their fake-ness. Then we’ll figure out why the internet weasels responsible decided to take the truth and lob it through the whirling fan of alternative facts; to feed it through the web 3.0 woodchipper; to dump it into the backfiring gritter of gratuitous social media sensationalism.

As these metaphors are wearing very thin, let’s get going right now. Welcome to the first edition of The Week in Fake News©™®.

EXHIBIT ONE

What is it? ‘Racist Muslim Threatens an English Girl on a Train!’

What Website? BREXIT WATCH, 5 March 2017

What’s the Story? In Britain’s great theatre of racist confrontations, public transport, a Muslim man threatens an English girl as part of the ongoing Islamisation of our green and pleasant, non-EU land.

Is it Fake? Yes

Why? 

While the video that serves as the BREXIT WATCH story does show a confrontation between a Muslim man and an English girl, it’s a bit steep to say the former is threatening the latter, and even steeper to call him a racist. When you watch the clip, it’s obvious that the man is upset because the woman feels it’s within her rights to put her feet on the seat of the train because she’s ‘tired’.

Call us old-fashioned, but you really must be an entitled brat if you think being tired means you get to treat a train like your living room. This is the London Overground, and anyone who’s been on this line knows that to put your feet up entails turning to the side and sitting on it like a sofa. If anything, more people should be called out for having such disregard for common decency.

Verdict: The woman filming the clip was obviously hoping to turn it into a slice of viral notoriety, in the grand tradition of racism+train=internet success. BREXIT WATCH was more than willing to fuel this narrative. In reality, the man wasn’t racist at all, he was just calling her out for being an unhygienic, inconsiderate commuter. Fair enough.

EXHIBIT TWO

What is it? ‘Pair of American Muslim brothers divorce their wives via WHATSAPP by simply sending them the word ‘divorce’ three times’

What Website? Daily Mail, 6 March 2017

What’s the Story? Cold-hearted bros divorce their wives on Whatsapp by sending the word ‘divorce’ three times in a row, taking Whatsapp savagery to levels unseen in even the most ruthless group chat roasts.

Is it Fake? Quite possibly.

Why? This is one of those stories where it’s better to err on the side of ‘fake’ if there’s no way to prove it. According to the Daily Mail, brothers Mohammad Abdul Aqeel and Syed Fayazuddin Hussain, who live in New York, sent their respective wives, who both reside in India, the word ‘talaq’ three times via Whatsapp. This, as described by DM, results in ‘instantaneous’ divorce in accordance with Sharia law. One more thing: Aqeel’s real name is Usman Qureshi. Still with us?

The original story appears on India Today. Various other websites also offer tidbits of info – notably that both brothers work in tech. According to Hindustan Times, Qureshi AKA Aqeel is a senior analyst at ‘Seven Heaven Medical Agency’ in New York, a company that doesn’t appear to exist in any context outside of this story.

Verdict: While it’s a somewhat plausible report, it’s very hard to verify any of the information included in it. Unless any UmmahSonic readers can confirm this Whatsapp-heartbreak, we’re calling this as a fake.

EXHIBIT THREE

What is it? ‘FROCKS AWAY! RAF women face being BANNED from wearing skirts on parade thanks to PC ‘madness’ of push to be more ‘inclusive’’

What Website? The Sun, 28 February 2017

What’s the Story? Thanks to political-correctness gone mad, the Royal Air Force bans servicewomen from wearing skirts while on parade. This is reportedly due to an increase in transgender personnel.

Is it Fake? No. But it is extremely sensational.

Why? Of all the sure-fire subjects that cause political correctness to go completely mad, the introduction of gender-neutral clothing has to be right up there with health & safety and not being a bigot. For most of the population, the prospect of RAF servicewomen marching in trousers, as opposed to skirts, is no big deal.

But military traditions are important to many, including one (totally anonymous) contributor to The Sun, who offered her own remarkably quotable take on the news: ‘We’ve all been told woman can no longer wear skirts on parade. Everyone’s livid. We’ve been wearing skirts since World War II. It feels like political correctness. The world’s going mad.’

The RAF defended the move, saying ‘It’s about including people and encouraging diversity.’

Verdict: This is not a fake story. However, the RAF hasn’t implemented the move yet, stating ‘no decisions have been made to make any changes.’ They’re basically just thinking about a minor outfit switch, and to take this as a sign of the world going mad is a bit much.

Check back next week for the next edition of The Week in Fake News.