Etta James Death by Internet Hoax Makes Us All Dumber

etta jamesBack when Beyonce sang "At Last" at President Obama's Inauguration Ball, I swear, I thought, "So did Etta James pass away?" (I just figured that otherwise, they would have had James herself sing her most famous song.) I figured she must have died at some point, and I missed the news somehow. But no! Beyonce was just the performer of choice that night, and James was alive. Well, yesterday, James was said to have really died. But, SIKE! Those reports, which began circulating via a fake TMZ page that announced her death, are wrong, too! Like many celebrity "deaths" before, it was just an Internet hoax.

The truth is that the 73-year-old singer's health has been on the decline since she was diagnosed with dementia in 2009 and leukemia earlier this year. But she's still fighting.


The website reports receiving the death announcement from "a rather faceless email address with no contact information." So why did ANYONE think it was smart to spread this glaringly false info?

It's actually pretty disrespectful to James and a disservice to the credibility of the media and the Internet. Really, I think these Internet death hoaxes are more of a problem than they seem in the short-term.

It's no big deal until we don't know what's true from what's false! As it is, we've got serious news outlets jumping on whatever info is out there -- like what happened when there were reports from NPR (!) that Rep. Gabrielle Giffords had DIED. But add Internet death hoaxes into the mix, and we're practically drowning in potentially harmful misinformation. 

What's next -- Internet baby birth hoaxes? Internet wedding hoaxes? Internet funeral hoaxes? Hrrm ... actually, I guess that's actually just called Internet gossip. Ha!

Sure, some might see tabloid-y "news" stories done with ZERO fact-checking as harmless fun, but when the lines are constantly and further blurred between news and entertainment, fact and fiction, there's a problem. How many times can we "cry wolf" before we don't believe anything anymore?

What do you make of Internet death hoaxes?


Image via Derek Storm/Splash News

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