Fake news isn’t necessarily fact-free. Context is everything, and it’s the lack of it that can turn facts into fake news, as this week’s tabloids demonstrate.
“Royals New Nazi Shame!” screams the ‘Globe’ cover, showing a blurry black-and-white photo of a seven-year-old future Queen Elizabeth II giving a Nazi salute.
Let’s ignore for one moment the fact that this is not new, but lifted from a Royal home movie filmed in 1933 or 1934, and first made public three years ago.
The Nazi salute today is redolent of the atrocities inflicted under its shadow over the following decade, but at the time this was filmed the gesture was a curious novelty that would have seen on newsreels, and a child mimicking it in the early ’Thirties could not possibly know what it would later come to symbolize.
Britain’s Royal Family certainly had some Nazi apologists, and even early sympathizers in their ranks, but the Queen was never one of them, and framing a seven-year-old’s gesture as fascism is turning facts into fake news.
“Cops Find JonBenet’s Killer!” proclaims the ‘National Enquirer’ cover, returning to its favorite murdered child beauty pageant queen. “Case Closed.”
There is a minuscule factual nugget at the center of this air-filled soufflé: police apparently spent two hours interviewing a blogger who reported on JonBenet Ramsey’s neighbor, Glenn Meyer, allegedly keeping a shrine to the slain child.
Yet the blogger had only been posting allegations made elsewhere originally . . . in the ‘Enquirer’ in February.
Meyer’s widow, Charlotte Hey, aged 86, claims that she asked her husband if he had murdered JonBenet.
“He would just smile at me,” she recalls. “He wouldn’t deny it.”
It’s about as far from a confession as one can get, but the ‘Enquirer’ blithely reports that Hey “courageously confessed her ex-husband was responsible” for the slaying.
No, she didn’t. Nor did police “find” JonBenet’s killer. Case closed? I don’t think so.
“Owen Wilson - Secret Baby Mama Found!” reports the ‘Enquirer,’ in another story that contains the merest factual sliver.
Fact: Owen Wilson has been approached by a woman whose identity has not been made public, claiming that he is the father of her unborn child.
Fact: Wilson has volunteered to undergo a paternity test.
But has the ‘Enquirer’ “Found” this mystery woman? The tabloid publishes a grainy security camera photo of a man who could possibly be Wilson, standing next to a blonde woman. It’s impossible to identify either from the blurry image shot from a considerable distance.
“Surveillance footage caught the two whooping it up in the wee hours of Feb 28,” reports the ‘Enquirer,’ allegedly using CCTV footage from the Hotel Croyden in Miami Beach, FL.
How do we know that this is the purported mother of Wilson’s child?
An “insider” tells the rag: “There’s nothing to definitively say this woman is the one who approached Owen saying she’s pregnant.”
No kidding. She’s just a woman photographed with a man who may or may not be Owen Wilson. And that’s a fact.
Too often, however, this week’s tabloid stories are fact-free.
Robin Williams killed himself because he was haunted by the ghost of John Belushi, reports the ‘Globe’ with what must be assumed to be a straight face, under the headline: “Belushi’s Ghost Drove Williams to Suicide!"
“That’s the bombshell conclusion dropped by insiders and medical experts,” the rag continues. Medical experts blaming suicide on a ghost? Right.
“Goldie & Kurt elope after cancer scare!” claims the ‘Globe,’ after years spent claiming that the couple were about to split. Don’t hold your breath for proof of a marriage license.
Carrie Fisher “Died From AIDS!” reports the ‘Globe,’ basing its report on the fact that she had an affair with the Queen singer when Fisher was just 17 years old in 1973.
“He is the most likely candidate to have passed the AIDS death sentence on to Fisher,” claims the 'Globe’ source, private investigator Vincent Parco. But AIDs didn’t become an epidemic until 1981, eight years after Fisher and Mercury hooked up. And even if she had contracted the illness, by the final decade of her life AIDS was no longer a “death sentence,” but rather a disease mostly controlled by a drug cocktail. And as a vocal AIDS activist, it’s hard to imagine that the ‘Star Wars’ actress would not have gone public with the diagnosis if she had indeed contracted the illness.
Fortunately we have the crack investigative team at ‘Us’ magazine to tell us that Kendall Jenner wore it best, that Ozzy’s son Jack Osbourne’s favorite U.S. city is Jackson, Wyoming, that tennis ace Caroline Wozniacki carries candy, sunglasses and a phone charger in her Louis Vuitton tote, and that the stars are just like us: their cars break down, they feed parking meters, they jog, read on the beach, and shop at supermarkets. Who knew?
Finally, I can’t resist noting the excellent advice given by “America’s Top Psychic Healer” Tony Leggett, to the reader in the ‘National Examiner’ who writes: “Dear Tony: I see evil spirits and can’t sleep. They touch me, too. Do you ever see them going away?”
Leggett responds: “They are called incubus. Wear heavy clothing when you go to bed. Demand loudly that they go away. Put some sea salt in each corner of your bedroom.” Yes, that should do it.
Onwards and downwards . . .