“You can tell it’s real because it looks so fake.”
The words of space whiz Elon Musk, after he successfully fired a cherry red Tesla sports car into space and on an orbit of Mars, probably say a lot about modern news consumption.
The weirder the proposition, the more we’re inclined to believe it.
In case you missed it, the billionaire entrepreneur’s Falcon Heavy SpaceX mission saw the car with a Stig-like mannequin at the wheel blasted into an orbit of the red planet on a journey expected last, ooh, a billion years!
Cameras mounted around the vehicle showed the dummy at the wheel floating across a perfectly rendered planet earth while the words ‘Don’t Panic’ flashed up on the dashboard.
No-one batted an eyelid. It looked so ridiculous it must be real. We’re too trusting.
There were who believe the space landing in 1969 was faked. These conspiracy theorists refused to believe the Apollo moon landing actually took place, with many convinced the whole thing was shot on a movie set.
It’s a theory that could have gathered pace, but two years later NASA sent another rocket to the moon, only this time astronaut Alan Shepard pulled out a six iron and started playing golf, chipping balls into craters. At that point the conspiracy theories melted away.
The comfort of the surreal. It might explain how Donald Trump got to the White House.
The Elon Musk rocket story highlighted another worry about modern news. It doesn’t matter how big or spectacular the story, on the internet it’s got the longevity of a consumptive mayfly.
I told my 14-year-old son about the amazing sports car in space and clicked on a popular national news site to show him, only to find it had dropped off the front page.
Man landing on the moon had an entire planet gripped for days on end. A sports car careering through an asteroid belt on a billion year orbit of Mars ... barely six hours.
Poor old Elon Musk (even his name doesn’t ring true. Would he have been less credible had he been called Fred Smith instead of sounding like a new exotic line in Lynx deodorant?) must have been a disappointed with the coverage.
After celebrating his amazing feat and thanking everyone on his team for making the seemingly impossible possible he may have sat down and clicked on a popular UK news website to relive the glory. Top of the news agenda? Claims that Oscar winning big screen legend Marlon Brando and comic Richard Pryor were lovers!
I discussed my incredulity at such skewed news values with my wife. Surely this hugely significant space development which could be the first step towards colonizing another planet warranted more internet longevity than a clearly spurious and unverifiable tale of Hollywood tittle tattle? My wife’s response? “Well, they do say Marlon Brando was bisexual.”
As Elon might say: You can tell it’s real because ...