Thursday, February 28, 2019

Web of Evil

Another day, another internet hoax.  I've been watching this whole 'Momo' thing unfold over the past few weeks, with all the lurid tabloid articles speculating wildly, but offering nothing in the way of actual evidence.  All the stories seemed to be second or third hand, based upon hearsay rather than fact.  Not once could they come up with an actual first hand account from anyone who had actually participated in this supposed online 'challenge'.  All of which meant that today's media statements that it was a hoax didn't surprise me - although it might have surprised local schools here in Crapchester who, just as the hoax revelations were rolling out, were busy warning parents about the supposed 'Momo' threat to their children.  All the time that the unfounded tabloid stories were unfolding, I had this nagging feeling that we'd all been here before, with reports of children committing suicide as a result of some sinister internet craze.  And, indeed, we had been here before - quite recently, with the whole 'Blue Whale' thing, which involved very similar stories and was also exposed as a hoax with no foundation.

But why does the British press keep on perpetrating these hoaxes with this sort of utterly irresponsible reporting?  Sensationalism is the obvious answer - scare stories always sell newspapers.  But it is also part of a pattern of demonising the internet: hardly a week goes by without some new new story as to how something online is encouraging school girls to go on the game, meek husbands to murder their wives or teenage boys to burn down churches.  It is the modern day root of all evil - peddling lies, scamming old age pensioners and pushing pornography into children's bedrooms.  It radicalises Muslims, facilitates fascists and encourages bullying.  If your neighbour goes mad and embarks on a chainsaw rampage during which he decapitates the local vicar, it is probably all down to the internet.  It's fascinating how the web gets blamed for all manner of stuff that actually originated with the print press which condemns it: fake news is far more prevalent in the pages of the average tabloid (the 'Momo' business, for instance), and the right wing press spends a lot of its time facilitating fascists.  Then there's the pornography -before the web you only had to look at Page Three to get an eyeful of sexually objectified teenage girls getting their knockers out.  As for bullying - well that's always been the British tabloids' stock in trade, harassing anyone they don't like and encouraging their readers to hate them.  And when it comes to these supposedly harmful intenet memes targeting children, well, I think the tabloids' coverage of this fake 'Momo' thing has actually scared more children and their parents than any real meme ever has.

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