Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Burger King Bacon Sundae Reportedly Causes Marital Discord in Muslim Couple, Fight at Restaurant

On April 17, a person identifying himself as Dave from Newark called the Len Tillem show, with a rather incredible story: he was in the employment of Burger King, promoting their new Bacon Sundae, when he was assaulted by a man. Dave then claimed he was subsequently fired by Burger King, and to add insult to injury, Dave was now being sued by the same man who assaulted him:
About 2 months later, June 14, Burger King formally introduced its new Bacon Sundae, and news of the introduction reminded me of this call. I tried to find out more about this purported incident, and discovered an apparently real Facebook user, by the name of Casey Foster, commenting on Dave from Newark with a degree of certainty and authority, indicating that the call was fake:
Casey Foster on Facebook
Now, Casey Foster's claim that the call was a joke could be false, and not necessarily because the man is a bad actor or acting maliciously; Casey's information could be incomplete or simply inaccurate, leading him to believe in a conclusion based on incorrect assumptions. Which brings us back full circle: is this story true? The jury is still out. Either scenario is plausible: someone who has a dietary restriction on pork for religious reasons might become very upset if this stricture of faith-based adherence has been violated, even unknowingly. People who like to play pranks sometimes successfully insert themselves into media events covered and broadcast by radio, television or newspaper, and the payoff is they become the topic of Internet chatter. Or the story could be fake, but the motivation may be more than the satisfaction of some joker, but that Dave from Newark could be part of a clever product placement or guerrilla marketing campaign, paid for by Burger King.

Whether the story comes from a credible witness or not, we have to be aware of the real possibility that a news story can be manufactured. A recent example of fake news making its way into the global consciousness came from the LA Times, published on May 10, 2012:
On May 1, The Times and a number of other media organizations followed the outrageous story reported in a British newspaper of a vengeful dentist in Poland who pulled out all of her ex-boyfriend’s teeth
Unfortunately, MSNBC.com reported Wednesday, the story was a hoax.

MSNBC did some digging into the story and found:
  • Police in Wroclaw, Poland, had no record of such an incident.
  • Poland’s Chamber of Physicians and Dentists also had no record of any such incident, nor of the dentist named in the article.
  • The Daily Mail could not recall where the story came from.
  • And the American Dental Assn. said [that] such a case was highly improbable.
MSNBC (now NBC News) reports that the source of the news story, the Daily Mail, provided the following non-explanation for how an unverified story became world news:
The article, which has been shared on Facebook more than 75,000 times since it was published on April 27, appears under the byline of staff reporter Simon Tomlinson.

But Tomlinson said he does not know where the story came from and distanced himself from it when questioned about its origins.
"I've drawn a bit of a blank," he said in an email. "The (Daily) Mail Foreign Service, which did the piece for the paper, is really just an umbrella term for copy put together from agencies. My news desk isn’t sure where exactly it came from."
Beware of fake news!