With a few consecutive celebrity deaths this month, some people may be prone to believing a report of yet another. But when Twitter lights up with tweets that specifically Rick Astley is dead, your first response surely has to be that of suspicion. Some poor soul at Malaysia’s the TheStar.com.my was no suspicious enough.
Having made a comeback of sorts in the last couple of years thanks to the now-well-known internet phenomena, the Rickroll, Rick Astley although unintentional participant, is no stranger to successful viral campaigns. But good turned to evil as somewhere in a forum in the dark underbelly of the ether, somebody decided on this viral misinformation campaign.
And as every lover of urban legends know: nothing cements the reputation of an urban legend as well as a credible source.
And credibility to Rick Astley’s supposed death was given a ton of cement by one of Malaysia’s biggest national newspapers, when TheStar.com.my posted a report of his death, accrediting it to AP (Associated Press) no less. Don’t bother looking for it now, it’s gone.
However, as many teenagers who sent naked pictures of themselves to their friends know, once it’s on the Internet, it’s never really gone and in what must have been minutes on their website before TheStar.com.my realised they’ve been epically Rickrolled, someone savvy and knowledgable took a screen-grab of the ultimate in careless journalism.
When I saw the first tweet, I did what I usually do with urban legends – refer to Snopes.com. However, as this is fresh news, the official source was the only place to look, and in this case it was Rick Astley’s official website, which predictably said nothing of the singer’s death. And I bet this was one action more than what whoever posted the story on TheStar.com.my took.
Unsurprisingly, my friend tweeted shortly after that the story disappeared off TheStar.com.my’s website – unfortunately for the heavily dented reputation of TheStar.com.my, it’s still stuck on the Internet. Tsk. Tsk.
Although it’s gone from their website now, the result is also still stuck in Google. For the time being.
Oh, and if you didn’t get it: Rick Astley is NOT dead.