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.
There was no shortage of bad news in Indonesia this past week. There was a terrorist attack by ISIS sympathizers in Kampung Melayu, East Jakarta, that left three police officers and two suicide bombers dead—and eleven others injured.
And right there in the middle of another ISIS-linked tragedy, there were people adding fuel to the fire with fake stories. There is surely a special place in hell for people who spread hoaxes in a time of panic.
Thankfully, there were also some fake stories this week that were so bizarre that I couldn't help but smile. A haunted motorcycle in Southeast Sulawesi? That story was picked up by numerous local news sites without even the slightest attempt to verify its outrageous claims. Thank's for making my job easy guys.
I was wondering how long this column could continue. After all, aren't we getting more savvy in recognizing fake stories by now? But, thankfully, Indonesia keeps on delivering. So, without further ado, here's this week's installment of Can't Handle the Truth.
No, the suicide bombing wasn't conducted by a former police officer
Terrorist attacks have a habit of leaving the public disoriented. They're shocking, and violent events that can leave us all confused and searching for meaning. And the media, in its rush to cover a breaking story, often publish information before verifying whether it's true.
But sometimes these mistakes are so irresponsible that it damages people's lives. Take the bombing in Kampung Melayu. Two days ago, a message circulated on WhatsApp showing the photo of a man someone claimed to be behind the attack. The man was identified as Rinton Girsang, a former North Sumatra police officer.
The problem? It was all a lie.
Rinton refuted the story less than 24 hours later, posting "I'm currently in Pontianak, Siantan to be exact. I'm safe and sound," on Facebook. He later filed a report alleging defamation with the local police.
"We don't want fake news circulating and causing problems for my husband and our family," said his wife Elfira Rohdearni Butarbutar.
Enter Wiryawan Indra Praja, another man accused of the terrorist attack. Someone even edited his face to look like he was beat up before sending the message out over WhatsApp. They even claimed that his ID was found near the blast site.
Again, this was all a lie.
"That viral post on social media is a hoax since the person involved is well and alive at his house," Adjunct Senior Commissioner Rustam Mansur, of the Sukabumi Police, told local media.
Wiryawan said he lost his ID a few months ago in Bogor, West Java, after a motorbike accident. He was not OK with the hoax, he said.
"My family is not OK with this form of defamation," he told local media.
So who was actually behind the attack? Two guys from Bandung, West Java, who were apparently part of the Jamaah Ansharut Daulah terrorist network, which sympathizes with ISIS.
Were motorcycle gangs on the rampage in Depok?
Down in the satellite city of Depok, West Java, residents were fearful of a motorbike gang who was allegedly going around grabbing people by the throat. What is this, some Southeast Asian version of Sons of Anarchy?
The WhatsApp message (it's always WhatsApp, don't trust anything in your groups people) says that the gang had a serious problem with residents of Gandul, Krukut, and Grogol. So they planned to ambush any driver from those regions around midnight this week. The story urged motorists to avoid the Mampang Bridge or risk an attack.
Seriously, why would anyone believe this? First of all, who the hell has a problem with every single person living in three neighborhoods? What could they possibly do to inspire such anger?
"Don't buy int that story," said Depok Police spokesman Commissioner Firdaus. "It's all fake."
But the police had to double check so they went out to the bridge and guess what? No motorcycle gangs. And seriously, what kind of motorcycle gang could be based in Depok anyway? Do you have any idea how many speed bumps are in that city. It's every five meters. Who the hell wants to slow down an trade stares with the gorengan vendor on the side of the road every 30 seconds?
A haunted bike umm… haunts the highway
And this brings us to our most ridiculous hoax of the week. Several national media sites published a story about an unmovable "ghost bike" on the Konawe-Morowali highway. No one, the reports said, has been able to move the motorcycle for two years.
The abandoned Honda CBR has apparently been the source of much discomfort to local residents. The rumors state that every time the bike was moved, it would somehow reappear in the same spot—allegedly the spot its owner died in a traffic accident.
So, let me get this straight. A Honda CBR, an expensive bike for sure, has been sitting on the side of the highway for two years? And no one has stolen it yet? Talk about unbelievable tales.
But this story was shared so much last week, that the police were even called out to "investigate" the ghost bike. And guess what? There was no bike. And no reports of a fatal accident anywhere near the spot. But what about the Honda CBR you say?
"The owner of the motorbike is busy working in the plantation," Senior Commissioner Wisnu Putra, of the Southeast Sulawesi Police, told local media.
Whoever is behind this story apparently saw the motorcycle in the same spot day after day and just invented a whole backstory. Maybe they can be the person to finally save our dying horror movie industry.