Why do people perpetrate death hoaxes? Why would someone deliberately set out to spread rumors of a famous person's demise that they know simply aren't true?
Is it some kind of Munchausen-By-Proxy thing, where they hope to absorb some of the residual sympathy and outpouring of goodwill? Is it a madcap pranksters' desire to watch the gullible and hasty panic and run around while spreading the fake news like a plague? Are they just assholes doing normal asshole things?
Rocks Off doesn't claim to know the motivations behind it, only that it happens from time to time, and way more often than in the old days thanks to the Internet and the multitude of social media sites thereupon. Frequently they target our rock stars, from those as obnoxious as Gene Simmons to those as sweet and harmless as Taylor Swift -- and this, just recently.
They're always annoying and classless. Let's read about them!
In October 2009, someone tweeted that Kanye West had died, and before anyone could verify this, it had already become a worldwide trending topic -- a term Twitter uses to describe words and phrases which appear in tweets more often than others, or else are placed there by paid sponsors.
It was the top search term on Google, too, until West's girlfriend-at-the-time Amber Rose tweeted that it wasn't true, that Yeezy was in fact alive and well. Before the fervor died completely down, however, spam artists used Search Engine Optimization to push malicious sites loaded with spyware and malware onto those searching the term "Kanye West RIP." Yet another reason to keep yourself a little more well-informed, right there.
Starting in 2001 and every few years since, the erstwhile Marshall Mathers has "died" in a car accident. We prefer our hoaxes to be at least somewhat original, but this one just rips off "Stan."
Just a few months ago, singer and actress Cher was targeted in a death hoax; we're not even sure what she supposedly died of, since the bigger story immediately became how popular, wealthy oaf Kim Kardashian tweeted the hoax out to her 12.8 million followers.
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At least she was asking if it was true, but Kim, Twitter is not Google. Hopefully at least a couple thousand of her followers linked her to LetMeGoogleThatForYou.
Jon Bon Jovi
Last year around the holidays, a rumor started that Jon Bon Jovi had died of cardiac arrest in a hotel room. Instead of your usual Twitter hoax, this rumor was started by a Pennsylvania musician named Jeffrey Goho.
Goho's motivation: bitterness towards Bon Jovi's non-music-related enterprises, but also because people from Pennsylvania are born hecklers -- watch any concert or sports game set there for proof of that fact.
Bon Jovi nipped the rumor in the bud by posting to his Twitter and Facebook a picture of himself holding a piece of paper with the date, time and the message "Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey" written on it. As for Goho, he was last seen begging Bon Jovi fans to stop harassing his band's Facebook page.
The Beebs has "died" a few times since he gained popularity a few years back, and it usually starts on Twitter. Sometimes it's a car accident, sometimes an overdose, sometimes it's nothing more than some guy tweeting "RIP Justin Bieber" and inciting the whole obnoxious snowball.
The best thing about Bieber's many hoax deaths has always been the reactions from people who don't seem to be all that fond of the young singer. "I don't find this 'RIP Justin Bieber' trend funny at all," tweeted one objecter; "Nobody should wish death on a harmless teenage girl."
Garth Brooks (and Others)
Sometimes people make up goofy ways for their celebrity of choice to buy it when they begin planning their hoax. Thanks to the authentic-looking but fake news site Mediafetcher, anyone can plug their celebrity of choice into pre-existing obituaries.
Travis Barker, Gene Simmons and Garth Brooks all had Mediafetcher-related jet-ski accidents that bumped them off at one point or another. This became such a popular death trope that when former astronaut Alan "Dex" Poindexter really did die in a jet-ski accident in July, Rocks Off had to double- and triple-check to be sure it wasn't yet another hoax.
So there's yet another reason to be irritated with the shitbirds who start these things: crying wolf at the expense of our astronauts. Get bent, hoaxers.
Britney has been killed in so many car accidents, she could conceivably collect a fortune from Progressive. The original hoax took place in 2001 and was started by two "shock-jocks" called -- really -- Kramer and Twitch. The two deejays reported that Spears, along with then-boyfriend Justin Timberlake, had been killed in a car accident.
The two jokers offered a fake article with a BBC logo Photoshopped onto it as proof. Ever since then, Spears has continued to "die" every couple of years, most notably in 2007 by offing herself while in rehab. Yeah, remember when that was news you would kind of halfway buy? Don't judge, we've all had a 2007 in our lives at some point.
This is the original big daddy of all death hoaxes, and it wasn't even a hoax, really...more of an urban legend. People originally started saying Paul was dead around 1967 when his car was involved in an accident, but the rumor really picked up steam in 1969 when the Beatles were on the verge of breaking up and Paul had retreated largely away from public view.
Popular theory was that Paul had died and been replaced with a look- (and sound-)alike, and the rest of the Beatles, understandably unhappy with this arrangement, left clues in their album art and in their songs for stoner detectives to find.
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There's the cover of Abbey Road, which supposedly depicts a funeral procession, and the backwards-masked words at the end of "Strawberry Fields Forever" in which John Lennon supposedly confesses "I buried Paul." What he really said -- "cranberry sauce" -- is as nonsensical as the rest of the many, many clues people have turned up over the years.
Some folks whose lives just aren't interesting enough still believe that the real Paul McCartney died in 1969. Guys, it's been more than 40 years. Time to let it go.