'Onion' spoof on Zimmerman winning lottery fools news, social media
Fake Onion news headline picked up by news outlets.
By Rich Maloof
The headline was literally unbelievable: "George Zimmerman Wins Florida State Lottery." Before any quick-clicking news mongers verified the source, this spoof from The Onion had been picked up by freelance outlet The Examiner and was rapidly making the rounds on social media yesterday.
The Onion is well-known to people — but apparently not enough people — as a satirical site. Their Zimmerman story runs online alongside other eye-catchers such as "Gummi Bear Emerges From Digestive Tract Unharmed" and "Impatient Nation Demands Supreme Court Just Get To The Gay Stuff."
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Nothing takes the funny out of satire like an explanation, but clearly the Onion was comparing Zimmerman's longshot chance of being exonerated to a $37 million state lottery windfall. Perhaps the readers who bought it were still so steeped in disbelief at the outcome of the Trayvon Martin case that they lost touch with reality in the same way they feel Florida's justice system has.
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The Examiner pulled down the story, but not before the Tampa Star had posted a link to their report. Bloggers and social media users on Facebook and Twitter, where every piece of Web chum gets gobbled up, also swallowed the story whole. Some users were appalled by the news; others were appalled by the rampant gullibility.
It's not the first time and won't be the last that Onion articles have been picked up as real news by legit media outlets. The Zimmerman spoof marks at least the 18th time it's happened.
For crying out loud — check a source, people. They even call it The Onion. Doesn't something smell funny?
Photo: George Zimmerman / Pool/Getty Images
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