Sorry, Kuwait Isn't Going to Foot the Bill for Your Wedding
Ilustrasi nikah gratis oleh Ilham Kurniawan.
Can't Handle the Truth

Sorry, Kuwait Isn't Going to Foot the Bill for Your Wedding

After a short break we're back (because the hoaxes just don't stop).

Welcome to Can't Handle the Truth , VICE Indonesia's summary of the most popular and most talked about hoaxes and fake news circulating this week.

You might notice that this column took a long Lebaran break this year. That's because the number of fake stories and hoaxes circulating online actually dropped during the holiday. Isn't Ramadan great?

Unfortunately, it didn't take long before the insane messages started to hit my WhatsApp groups again. What's that? Your family doesn't do that? Well, here's a Twitter account collecting just the stuff I'm talking about. Take a break and have a good laugh.

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So maybe Indonesia's hoax writers and fake news "journalists" had a long break as well. Or maybe their stories just didn't have the same traction. After all, who needs fake news when the real thing is already absurd enough?

The police arrested a man in Mamuju, West Sulawesi, who said he wanted to "mutilate" some martabak, out of what we can only assume was concern that some crazed murderer was on the loose. So remember, dear readers, no matter how hungry you may feel, watch what you say. You may want to just "annihilate" a plate of nasi goreng later, but keep it to yourself, please. The news is already crazy enough.

So I've been doing this column for a while now, and this is what I've learned. Hoaxes can be lumped into two schools: 1) blatant lies and 2) fake stories that claim to expose some "facts" purposely left out by the mainstream media. It's the second one that's way more dangerous because it appeals to people's sense that the media is lying to them. Shame the real liars somehow catch their eye instead of the real news.

This is where we're starting, with three of the most-troubling Indonesian hoaxes to hit the internet this week.

Jokowi sent out an email asking the employees of all state-owned to support him in the next presidential election

Do you know the president's email address? Me neither. But I'm pretty damn sure it isn't jokowiriana@gmail.com. I mean I know our president likes to keep things modest, but a gmail account for the president? I think not.

But that's the address sending out this fake-ass email allegedly from President Joko Widodo. The email, which was from the Federal Government Administrative Centre (which doesn't exist), was addressed to the heads of state-owned companies asking them for their "support and loyalty" in the coming election. It's the same trick Gen. Suharto used to use during his 32 years in power (require the loyalty and votes of all civil servants). But in this instance, it's a total fake.

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Let's start with this letter. Here it is:

The presidential spokesman was quick to issue a statement saying the whole thing was a fake.

"The president doesn't have a working email, or a personal one under the address jokowiriana@gmail.com," Spokesman Johan Budi told local media. "That email was a hoax."

You don't say…

The letter ended with Jokowi's "private WhatsApp number." I sent him a message. Still waiting for a response though…

Hermansyah was attacked by government agents

Here's a weird one. Hermansyah, the IT expert out there saying the whole Habib Rizieq Shihab sex scandal is a hoax (the police think otherwise), was the subject of a bunch of hoaxes himself this week.

So here's what happened. Someone stabbed Hermansyah a few weeks back during an altercation on the Jakarta-Bogor Highway. And then the internet lost its mind. Hoaxers wanted this to be politically motivated so bad they had to just make it up.

It wasn't. The whole thing was over an accident on the road. Yeah, road rage is a real problem here. Apparently Hermansyah's car was bumped by another vehicle, which happened to be driven by some armed debt collector types. Of all the people on the road, huh? He then chased after them, got into a fight, and ended up seriously injured.

Now, normally, this story would be a short piece in the metro section. But since Hermansyah is a public figure, and he's connected to an even bigger, and more controversial public figure, the fake news came fast and swift.

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At first, Hermansyah had died in the attack. Then he was alive, but missing an arm. Turns out he was injured pretty bad, but he pulled through and had all his limbs intact.

Then the stories decided to "uncover" who was behind the attack: government agents. Nope. Wrong again.

The stories tried to make themselves more believable by including some gory photos of a man who maybe looked a bit like Hermansyah. Turns out it wasn't the same guy at all.

"Those aren't photos of the victim," Commr. Firdaus, the spokesman for the Depok Police, told local media. "They were posted to muddy up the waters."

The East Jakarta Police weighed in on the matter too, saying that the attack had nothing to do with Hermansyah's television testimony calling the whole sex scandal a fake. The police, who have the whole thing on CCTV, said it was definitely a traffic accident turned violent.

"[The stabbing] wouldn't have happened if he didn't chase after the other car," High Commr. Andry Wibowo told local media. "Maybe he [Hermansyah] let himself get carried away by his emotions."

Kuwait will pay for your wedding

This is the worst fake story of the month, not because it's all that disturbing, but just because it's so cruel. There was a story going around saying that there were free marriages at the Bandung Hotel Trans Studio. The free weddings were thanks to the government of Kuwait, who, for some reason, donated a bunch of money to pay for random people's weddings.

According to the messages in my WhatsApp groups, the event organizer promised to use the donations to cover the dowry, marriage expenses, banquet, makeup, and even hand out some allowance money to the bride and groom. How nuts is that? You get money instead of spending it on your wedding.

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Who wouldn't be excited about this? Young lovers are constantly worrying about the skyrocketing costs of marriage in Indonesia. The requirements were simple: bring a copy of your IDs and your husband or wife to the mosque at Trans Studio. And then bam! You're married and slightly richer to boot! What a start to a (hopefully) long and happy marriage.

Of course this "good news" was everywhere almost immediately. But remember, when something is too good to be true (like a wedding that pays you), it probably is.

"We didn't publish that information," said the head of the mosque at Trans Studio. "We're sorry it went viral."

Apparently, the mosque was receiving hundreds of phone calls from interested parties. Turns out the mosque did once offer free weddings, and the bill was indeed covered by someone from Kuwait (go figure?). But that was a limited offer, it was in 2015, and it isn't happening again.

Sorry young lovers. There's only one way to have a cheap wedding: don't invite anyone. Reception dinner for two? What could it cost?