Surprise: Twitter is outraged about something that probably never happened. The day’s horrible events in Japan and worldwide have resulted in a huge outcry of support for the victims online, but one that’s been punctuated by the strange Twitter trending of the term “Godzilla.” But many of the tweets, instead of the tasteless jokes one might expect in micro-blogging, are actually vitriol directed at a CNN anchor, Rosemary Church, who people think made an impolitic reference to the city-destroying fictional monster. It all seems to be a big misunderstanding.
Both Mediaite and Ad Age have great summaries of the misdirected anger, which illustrates a common risk of the Internet: the spreading of bad information through vague online sources and links, like a hyper-speed camp game of Telephone. Simon Dumenco traces the rumor thus:
Widespread complaining on Twitter about Godzilla jokes, of course, just helped “Godzilla” surge into the Trending Topics list. And at the moment, Twitter’s search engine is showing that the most-retweeted recent tweet mentioning Godzilla is from @maudnewton, literary blogger Maud Newton (full disclosure: Years ago, I hired her to do a bit of consulting for a media start-up I was running), who wrote: “For news of the disaster, you might prefer streaming Al-Jazeera to watching CNN anchor giggle about Godzilla.” She then linked to a post by blog pioneer Jason Kottke titled “Al-Jazeera’s Coverage of the Japanese Earthquake,” in which he wrote,
If you haven’t already heard, Al-Jazeera had (and continues to have) some of the best coverage of earthquake and tsunami in Japan … Contrast with CNN, which was apparently home to giggles and Godzilla jokes as the quake was being reported. [SNIP]
Kottke linked to an outraged tweet from @somebadideas: “Fuck you @CNN your anchor is giggling & talking about monster movies while you’re showing waves sweep entire homes away.” But no one on Twitter (or YouTube, for that matter) seems to have a link to video of the alleged CNN lapse in judgement. [SNIP]
Mediaite investigated the video archives, looking “into all of the possible times that Church could have made a monster movie reference, or making light of the disaster unfolding.” Though they never find Church speaking in bad taste, they did find what appears to be the source of the rumor: an American in Japan references that the scene was like a “monster movie” in the presence of Church, who handles herself with poise. Though it’s possible the clip has just been misplaced, Mediaite has a cut of multiple appearances by Church on CNN today, none of which include the offending comments.
And yet, a Twitter search of her name finds the proliferation of the misinformation, indicating one danger of the amazing technological tools we have: