The other day I was trawling around the internet, looking for fresh content to serve up to you good people on a steaming silver platter of buzz, when I saw a friend in the electronic music world post a link to a story about James Blake. Apparently the oft-mocked UK producer was launching a clothing line with H&M, the story explained. Hmm, that seems interesting, I thought, and it definitely meets all of the criteria I look for in material to post here, relating to music, fashion, and centering around a celebrity I can churn out a few jokes about without breaking a sweat. But then I did the next, and too-often avoided step when it comes to sharing things online: I checked around to see if anyone else had posted about it since I’d never heard of the site in question, Equalizer Magazine. Weirdly, especially because it concerned two very well known brands, no one else had. The following move I made is the most important one that people seem to be unable to master: I did not share the link to the story on Facebook or Twitter. Weird, right? At least a thousand other people did.
After promptly forgetting about the site in question, it started showing up in my feeds again today with news about a couple of other UK producers. At long last the identity of the reclusive Burial had been uncovered! It’s Four Tet. (If you don’t follow this type of music, just trust me here, that would be a big fucking deal.) What happened next? Well, there have been about twelve thousands shares and six hundred tweets of the story in the last six hours. Like I said, a big deal.
It would be, except it’s not, because Equalizer Magazine is a “satirical” website in every sense of the word besides the one that actually adheres to the literal definition of satire, not to mention the part where it’s supposed to be funny. Essentially, it’s the EDM world version of The Daily Currant, the site you’ll remember for constantly fooling people into sharing made up stories that seem like they could be true and then, well, no one knows what happens next for people like this. Patting themselves on the back for being good at lying?
This is exactly the type of thing I was talking about when I wrote about “fake news” sites in The New Republic last month, and Equalizer, like The Daily Currant, represents the absolute nadir of internet comedy. Instead of writing an actual joke, what they do is take a premise that people could hypothetically believe, or, more importantly, would want to believe, and just write it as if it were true. Diagramming the anatomy of any joke usually drains even the funniest ones of all humor, but let me take a stab at the premise of this gem in question: One famous DJ is actually another famous DJ guy. LOL.
You’ll note that there isn’t even a JK affixed to the end of the joke. It’s told with a completely straight face. Why wouldn’t anyone believe it? Whereas an actual satire site would at least tip their hand in some small way to let readers in on the fact that they’re doing satire, they’ve actually mocked up fake supporting materials, like a Facebook post from Four Tet admitting that he is, in fact Burial, to support their case.
So what’s the solution to information polluters like this? It’s something very, very simple I proposed in the TNR piece: “If everyone you know is sharing an article from a website you’ve never heard of before, it’s probably a pretty safe bet that it’s fake.” In other words, don’t be so gullible.
In the meantime, here’s some news that I think we should all share around: The people behind Equalizer Magazine are good at their jobs.