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Can't Handle the Truth

The Truth Was Stranger than Fake News this Week

If real events involving orbs and body-slams weren't enough for you, there was plenty going on in the world of BS.
Lia Kantrowitz
illustrated by Lia Kantrowitz
Edited photo by Lia Kantrowitz

Welcome back to Can't Handle the Truth, our Saturday column looking at the past seven days of fake news and hoaxes that have spread thanks to the internet.

Who needs fake news when the real news seems like a bad TV show? Donald Trump touched a weird glowing orb in Saudi Arabia, Montana elected to Congress a candidate who body-slammed a reporter, and on Friday night the Washington Post reported that presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner attempted to open up a secret line of communication between the administration and the Russian government.


But fake stories continued to chug along parallel to reality, and as usual, the hoaxes, lies and nonsense provided insight into the country's feelings. Here's what you (hopefully) scrolled past without clicking this week:

Ariana Grande loves to wipe her ass with the American flag

As details about the nightmarish attack at an Ariana Grande concert in England on Monday poured in, one really fun wrinkle in the story was that people started demanding that Grande apologize for wiping her ass with an American flag—something she never did. In short order, the good folks at the extremely good website investigated this thoroughly, tracing the hoax back to a Facebook user named Joe Abrahamson who posted the photo ostensibly for the benefit of those who had "forgotten" who Grande was. (It's not clear if Abrahamson was the originator of the photo or just spread it.) It was actually photoshopped (of course), and the original—which was a picture of a lady wiping her ass with the American flag—had nothing to do with Ariana Grande.

What may have helped make this fake photo go viral is Grande's previous unpatriotic behavior. In 2015, TMZ posted a video of the singer looking at some donuts and then, for some reason, feeling moved to say, "I hate America." The social media impact of the photo might have also been amplified by a bunch of other criticisms this week from dickheads like Milo Something-or-Other, and the redditors at r/the_donald, who apparently found Grande insufficiently red-pilled to be the central feature in a story about terrorism.


Watch: How ISIS claims responsibility for an attack

The Rich Family Is Defaming Kim Dotcom

Let's not spend too much more time talking about the vilest conspiracy theory in the world. Suffice it to say, the grieving family of Seth Rich, the murdered Democratic National Committee employee at the center of this fake news firestorm, largely succeeded in calming the waters this week. First they wrote a Washington Post op-ed begging Fox News host Sean Hannity to knock off his paranoid TV shenanigans, which he did. Then they told the Post that it looked like internet publicity hound Kim Dotcom may have been trying to tamper with email in order to make it look like Rich was in touch with him before he died.

Despite all that, Jim Holt's right-wing blog Gateway Pundit and the conspiracy fans of Reddit were still pushing. Those folks eagerly posted Dotcom's bizarre response to the Rich family: a thinly-veiled threat of litigation. "If these statements do not cease, it will be necessary for me to take further action," Dotcom told the murder victim's family. By that time, not even the gang at r/conspiracy thought Dotcom had much credibility left.

And now, unless there's a real break in this case, let's never talk about this again.

Ben Jacobs attacked Greg Gianforte

According to Montana Congressman-elect Greg Gianforte's official statement issued just after he body-slammed Guardian journalist Ben Jacobs on Wednesday, it was the reporter who was at fault. That statement alleged Jacobs grabbed Gianforte by the wrist and pulled him to the floor. Despite this statement having all the trappings of something known as a "lie," Gianforte hasn't retracted it. (He did apologize, though not until he both won the election and got charged with misdemeanor assault.)

But a blog called, owned by notorious far-right gadfly Charles C. Johnson, seems to have taken Gianforte's version as gospel. The GotNews article accuses Jacobs of lying and cites a now-unavailable tweet as a source in order to make the claim that "eyewitnesses to his unprovoked aggression are already calling [Jacobs] out."


If reactions from people like Rush Limbaugh—who praised Gianforte as "studly and manly"—are any indication, culpability doesn't matter to Gianforte's supporters at all.

Hillary Clinton is Still Dying

The #HillarysHealth hashtag was back in full effect on Friday!

In case you weren't around during the 2016 presidential campaign, Clinton coughed a lot during the late summer, and then passed out while trying to get into a van when she was trying to hide her pneumonia, and Trump fans like Mike Cernovich fixated on her health as a disqualifying issue.

Well, Clinton gave a commencement speech at Wellesley University on Friday and coughed a lot, so the Daily Caller and the Washington Free Beacon ran articles about it. The Washington Free Beacon noted that was "a familiar problem from the campaign trail." This provoked internet randos to return to their claims that she's "literally dying."

And yeah, she is. We all are.

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