There’s an element of our society that I’ll never understand. Well, there are probably many, but specifically, it’s the people who cook up stories and post them online and wait for their falsehoods to spread. I’m not talking politics or scandals here, but just completely fake stories with no motivation I can understand, often with a photo that is something else altogether but appears to support their story.

There’s a never ending supply of these modern day tall tales. The page that posted this story is not entirely responsible; i.e. they didn’t manufacture it, but one would hope an entity followed by over 200,000 people would make some effort at fact checking. Spreading fake stories doesn’t exactly raise my opinion of such an organization.

Screenshot of a photo posted on Facebook

This blotchy photo (obviously saved and re-saved a number of times, a sure tip off for a questionable story) is purported to be of window washers at a Children’s hospital in London. Note all the missing details – what hospital for instance?

As far as I was able to deduce in a grand 5 minutes of web searching is that this is actually a Shanghai Sheraton Hotel! Granted this is taking the word of another website that could be equally misinformed, but the fact that this story appears back in 2008 and the only time I find this photo associated with the children’s hospital story is this year makes me question the more recent version.

I’m surprised for a change that a little more digging shows there’s a kernel of truth. I found this article on a Southwark newspaper’s site from 2010 showing a completely different photo with far more details about a superhero duo of window washers at the Evelina Hospital. Ladies and gentlemen, those are the heroes you’re looking for!

The original post above, though illustrates how quickly faked news spreads. Last night when I took that screenshot, 70k people had liked it, 10k had shared it, and there were nearly 1500 comments! Real news and not-so real news travels faster than ever these days and it deeply bothers me both that there are people who will concoct stories for their own amusement (why aren’t they writing fiction?) as well as a great segment of our populace who makes no attempt at discerning the real from the not.

5 Responses

  • I just saw where you’d posted this on FB after George Takei (amongst others) shared this picture with the now ubiquitous “Window Cleaners At A Children’s Hospital” in ‘motivational-style’ lettering.

    I received a certain amount of abuse from others for pointing out that this picture wasn’t actually window cleaners at a children’s hospital. They failed to realise that I think the idea of doing this at a hospital is wonderful. I was merely pointing out what you have here – putting your own words to a picture creates more mass-hysteria than posting a real news story. What I particularly love about some of those who left comments is when they state with absolute certainty WHICH hospital this picture was taken at (and there have been at least half a dozen such claims as I post here, each one referencing a different hospital where this picture was ‘definitely’ taken!)

    It seems the old adage needs to be updated. Apparently you CAN fool all the people all the time. All you need is a Twitter and/or Facebook account.

    • Billy – I’m always amazed at how angry people can get when you lift the curtain on a hoax. I didn’t experience it on the Takei post, but I also didn’t look back to see if anyone else commented. Given how fast the comments move there, only a few people would have probably seen it anyway.

      And yes, I agree, it does seem like we need to change that old adage. It hardly seems appropriate in today’s age.

    • Interesting! Though the point still remains that the photo in question is from Shanghai, and the hospital in Memphis appears to have been after I posted this altogether. Or at least the story aired on ABC months after.

      My issue remains that people in general believe whatever story is attached to a picture without question. We all need to employ more critical thought. The online world is a torrent of information and there’s no gate keeper checking facts. This is great and awful at once.

  • Yup, I posted this in July 2012. The window washers in Memphis were in October of that year. Although the guy is quoted as saying he came up with the idea, I wonder if this was really inspired by the photo that was circulating months before on Facebook, etc.? Hmmm…. It had clearly been reported in Southwark years before.

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