Citing only anonymous sources, UK tabloid newspapers are today reporting that Russian premier Vladimir Putin is suffering from Parkinson's disease and will step down. As the Daily Mail put it:
Vladimir Putin 'will quit as Russian President in January amid fears he has Parkinson's disease'.
Putin, 68, is being urged to quit by his former gymnast lover Alina Kabaeva, 37
Recent footage of Putin's legs swinging as he clutched a chair raised eyebrows
Russian president's odd 'gunslinger's gait' has been noted by medics in the past
Comes after law to ensure Putin will be made senator-for-life emerged this week
This story is bullshit. It's not a lie, because the unattributed and unaccountable guess/insult/game might coincide with reality. But it doesn't matter whether it's true. It's a great example of a type of writing that was once specific to UK reporting on current affairs, but is now what everyone reads day-in and day-out on Facebook.
Such stories used to be obvious to UK readers (who understand that the tabloids have a "right to play")1 but the internet dissolves shared jokes just as it dissolves shared truths.
In this way, stories like this are the alpha and the omega of fake news, the egg of the phenomenon at large and its well-fucked chickens.
1. cf. "prolefeed".