A good deal of the false Sandy information circulating on social media originated with one user: Twitter’s @comfortablysmug. Now that his identity has been made public, he’s being pilloried on the Internet.
While people tried to make sense of a deluge of incoming Sandy news, they might have heard CNN report that the floor of the New York Stock Exchange was flooded three feet deep. Maybe they read a Reuters brief about Con Edison employees being trapped in a power station. Maybe they scrolled past a panic-stricken all caps retweet announcing a preemptive power shut down throughout Manhattan. None of those reports were correct, and they can all be traced back to Comfortably Smug’s anonymous account, cultivated around the persona of a cocky, Romney-supporting 1-percenter.
Many people who consider themselves “skeptics” were taken by these rumors, fake photos and sense of panic. It was difficult to not react with emotion at the visuals. But much of it was fake. Not long into the ramping up of “wow” news and photos, I began to doubt EVERYTHING I saw. Who can we trust? We can’t trust people who make up stuff and who pass things along (even with the best of intent). How do you tell people, “Yeah, I know that’s distressing but it’s probably not true,” and not look like a heartless jerk?
He has apologized, but it’s not going over well, especially with the reporters who wasted time searching out the truth to find it was a lie.
Anyone who deliberately spreads falsehood for giggles deserves to be shamed and made an example.