Exposing Internet Frauds
This has been a very busy week for gay news, so much so that all the news that is fit to print can’t fit in this paper.
Every week we have to make decisions on what to actually lay out on the printed page, and with a thriving LGBT community locally and nationwide, the decisions become tougher and tougher.
We search the Internet for news, and with Google search engines capturing gay news worldwide, there are ample and diverse choices. But with any blogger that has a computer and publishing his own writing, you have to separate the wheat from the chaff carefully.
We try to fill our Gayvine section with cute entertainment news that is not too deep but nevertheless appealing. Last week, our new managing editor, Jason Parsley, read that Britney Spears won a poll conducted by the Orange County Equality Project as America’s greatest gay icon. He saw it on a gay news Google search in the Washington Post.
My first reaction was ‘What the hell is a gay human rights organization doing spending its limited resources doing a poll on the Lady Gagas of the world?’ Anyway, you figure if it is in the Washington Post it has got to be real. But Parsley went ahead and tried to speak to the people who conducted the poll. What he found was that there was no there there. Yet here was this poll that had now been referenced in fourteen publications worldwide, including the Times of India, the Toronto Sun, the Orange County Weekly, as well as the Washington Post.
We did a little investigating and not to our surprise, the poll was the fictional creation of a singular blogger on a free WordPress blog, which was then picked up by an unemployed blogger writing on Examiner.com — best described by Broward New Times as a ‘tawdry site’ with no credibility. But this is how the world gets its news today — instantly, half-ass, and often, not credible.
Just yesterday, a release came across our desk announcing that a same-sex couple in Kentucky was told at the Creation Museum they could not attend a ‘date night’ which was reserved for heterosexual couples. Purportedly, they were refused a refund for tickets they had paid for. The story is on the front page of Advocate.com. But I was not buying into it. I have a hard time believing that a 70,000 square foot museum would empower a security guard to summarily remove two people from entering solely because they were gay. So I checked out the story, and sure enough, the news that has gone viral has a tad bit of a virus.
Were these two men a same sex couple? No. These were two men that had pre-publicized and orchestrated a visual protest on a specifically planned ‘Date Night’ at the museum. Blogger Joe Sonka had stated in advance he wanted to send the ‘most flamboyantly gay couple possible’ to the event. When he appeared, his name was known to museum officials, who had in advance determined they were not going to let him in on that night.
Mark Looy, the communications director for the museum, stated that based on his blogging posts, “We feared Sonka might be purposely disruptive. We do not summarily remove same-sex couples.” Accordingly, the Museum was forewarned and knew Sonka’s name and they chose to deny him entry.
It was probably a bad and foolish choice, because if the creationists can handle dinosaurs, it can handle a flamboyantly gay couple. Still, that issue we can address at another time.
What is clear is that the story going viral now in many media sources has not disclosed all the facts available to journalists. The impression some stories are creating — forgive the word — is that a couple of gay men showed up at the door of the Creation Museum, paid their money and were told to go home because they were a same-sex couple. That is not the way it went down at all.
The moral of both stories is that in this day and age of Internet and instant journalism, where CNN could report a month ago that a Congresswoman was killed, while she was still alive and in an ambulance on her way to a hospital, we have to be more cautious than ever. We should not be in such a hurry to tell the news that we sacrifice the truth, the full truth, and nothing but the truth.
The Internet has the ability to spread a lie half way around the world before the truth can catch up with it. We all owe a duty to ourselves and others to be the kind of journalists who record the truth before we are saddled with words we can’t ever take back. An unemployed gay blogger in Orange County, California may have learned that lesson this week thanks to a real journalist doing his job the way it is supposed to be done.