I’ve been saying for while that fake news is a dangerous thing. And it turns out that it has been killing people for over a century.
And I have the proof.
While going through some old family genealogy, I came across this story about a great-uncle of mine from three generations back. His name was Sylvester Odell and he was a fairly well-to-do farmer in Central NY who was about 77 years old in 1903. Like the Britney Spears item from earlier this week, a rumor began and spread through social media that Sylvester had died. Of course, social media at that time consisted of the mail, telegraph, an occasional telephone and yelling out to your neighbor.
But even so, the rumor spread quickly.
Friends and family gathered and headed out to Sylvester’s farm where they found him alive and well. In fact, he was doing his normal chores in his barn. Everyone breathed a sigh of relief then shared a big laugh. A few hours after everyone in the party had left, a still surprised Sylvester sat in his chair and passed away.
He just couldn’t take the news of his own death.
Damn fake news!
The news of his actual death after the false report made all of the newspapers around the state. Even when reporting the facts, some of the newspapers still got parts of the story wrong. For example, the item above is from the Syracuse Telegram. It gives the location of the story as Dresden when in fact Sylvester lived ( and died!) in Dryden. False or not, we seem to have trouble getting the story straight.
So there you have it, proof positive that fake news kills. Be careful out there, folks.