I saw an article today about an Irish sociology student who fooled numerous media sources all over the world with a false quote that he made up and attributed to a dead French composer. Shane Fitzgerald was studying how quickly information is transmitted around the world and saw a perfect opportunity for an experiment when he saw a live report that the famous French composer, Maurice Jarre had just died. Fitzgerald, in 15 minutes, came up with an obituary-worthy quote which he attributed to Jarre and posted it on Jarre’s Wikipedia page. Immediately, newspapers across the globe were running stories and obituaries with Fitzgerald’s phony quote, “One could say my life itself has been one long soundtrack. Music was my life, music brought me to life, and music is how I will be remembered long after I leave this life. When I die there will be a final waltz playing in my head that only I can hear.” After a month, the student wrote to several of the papers informing them that they had been duped, and apparently only one responded and printed a correction and apology.
Here’s this article. I guess the pressure is that strong in the media business; Wikipedia is a go-to source for journalists with deadlines now. See, this was a great experiment because its two variables (to how low a source will journalists stoop, and how widespread will the stooping be?) were built in to its bait, an inherently unscholarly source with massive, wide-spread appeal. The ploy was perfectly executed and exposed exactly what it meant to. I think this excites me because I’ve always enjoyed the idea of subversively exposing unchallenged ridiculousness in the system, especially while sitting on the “receiving” side of a classroom. I’m not punk rock, I just like seeing the proud humbled and the oblivious educated. Props to you, Shane Fitzgerald.