In September 2014 a satire story about Betty White dying her hair went viral when people did not read the article and confused the word “dyes” with “dies”.
This satirical commentary came from Empire News, yet another distributor of fake news designed to draw in the wide-eyed masses. Occasionally, this scheme works and the susceptible public takes the bait and runs with it. Thus, viral memes are born…
Quite simply, the spoof write-up reports that the 92-year old Golden Girls star Betty White is really a brunette, yet secretly likes to dye her hair blonde in the privacy of her own home. This is the essence of the entire article, but the trick is in the headline/title, “Actress Betty White, 92, Dyes Peacefully In Her Los Angeles Home”.
“Dyes” and “dies” are homophones… two words that are pronounced identically, yet have different definitions. I believe that the writer(s) were well aware that the item had the potential to go viral due to the fact that many people would misinterpret the headline and pass the information along without really reading the article.
It only seemed to be a matter of hours before the story had become a viral meme that was being covered by major news outlets. Now weeks later, unsuspecting people are still Tweeting out condolences.
Over the last year and a half, fake news has become profitable, and Empire News is one of a dozen of these sites that have caught on. At the bottom of the Empire News website, there is an ‘About/Disclaimer’ link that informs viewers that the purpose of the site is satirical entertainment. Despite the disclaimer, the information is still sometimes perceived as truth.
Betty White did not die peacefully at her home in Los Angles. The article is meant to be satire, and is about hair dying, but many seem to have transferred the misrepresented headline while failing to actually read the article