This real photo of Trump is irresistible to fake news purveyors

Donald Trump lies on the mat after receiving a hit from "Stone Cold" Steve Austin after a pro wrestling match in Detroit, Sunday, April 1, 2007. THE ASSOCIATED PRESS

The picture, from 2007, is real enough; the scenario was as real as pro wrestling is — we will leave that aspect of things there.

It had to do with a bet on a wrestling match between Donald Trump and wrestling mogul Vince McMahon, under the terms of which the loser’s head would be shaved. As it turned out, Trump won the bet, McMahon went under the clipper (wielded by Trump), and pro wrestling being what it is, the referee kicked Trump on the way out of the ring, apparently to even things up a bit.

It wasn’t much of a kick (just as well — the ref was very big). You can see it at 00:47 here.




(Don’t try this now, folks.)

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A decade or so later, the AP photo at the top of this story has taken on a new life.

It seems to have started last summer, when sites reported that Trump (then the GOP’s nominee) had died of a heart attack. Later versions Photoshopped a bullet wound, the Queen or Hillary Clinton with bloodstained hands into the shot.

Assassination stories abound; one features a female Muslim assassin in the headline, but a male one in the body copy.

One overheated site uses a shot of Trump lying on the ground in the past as part of a prediction of his assassination in the future.

h/t Snopes.

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My mouse hovered this week over a Snopes item about a report that venomous king cobras were found being smuggled into the United States in potato chip cans. It had a lot of classic elements of non-political fake news reports, but oddly, this one may be true, though it involves allegations which have yet to be proven in court. U.S. federal investigators searching the alleged smuggler’s L.A.-area apartment say they found a live baby crocodile in a tank in his children’s bedroom.

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In fake news news:

  • A lawsuit filed this week accuses Fox of fabricating quotes in a story about the 2016 shooting death of Seth Rich, a young staffer at the Democratic National Committee. The suit was filed by Rod Wheeler, a Fox contributor who says that Fox attributed the quotes to him.
  • And Andrew Feinberg, an American who for a few months was Sputnik’s White House reporter, says he was pressured to promote a conspiracy theory about Rich’s death by the Moscow-based agency.
  • Presidential son Eric Trump’s wife Lara Trump has started a weekly video about her father-in-law’s presidency; the first instalment was posted last Sunday. “I bet you haven’t heard about all the accomplishments the president had this week because there’s so much fake news out there,” she began.
  • Ars Technica profiles Hamilton 68, a tool for tracking Russian “influence operations,” or propaganda, on Twitter in real time, more or less. Late in July, the 600 accounts tracked started attacking special counsel Robert Mueller, the Oregonian reports. (Sputnik is not a fan.) One meme — firing national security advisor H.R. McMaster.
  • Trump leaves such a tangled trail of misinformation, disinformation and distortion that it’s a serious task to keep track of it all. The Washington Post recently counted 29 “suspect claims” in a 26-hour period in late July, and if you have the patience, you can read them all here. Mother Jones floats a theory, based on a RAND study last year, that there is a strategy at work here that matches characteristics of Russian propaganda: it is “rapid, continuous and repetitive,” “makes no commitment to objective reality,” and “is not committed to consistency.”
  • The Russian government is making extensive use of LinkedIn, Newsweek reports, using the service to gather information on and discredit current and former national security officials and aggressively trolling critics. It seems to have spilled over into in-person violence and intimidation.
  • USA Today interviews a fake news purveyor who is discouraged by Facebook and Twitter’s crackdown: “It’s hurt my wallet for sure,” he laments.
  • looks at pro-Russian “alternative media” in the Czech Republic, which a quarter of Czechs say they trust more than the mainstream media. One site gets over 600,000 hits a month. Fake news stories that are aimed at France or Germany often have Czech starting points, the site reported in April.
  • Danish soldiers due to be sent to Estonia are being briefed on Russian disinformation (the aim of which is to “create distrust among ourselves,” the country’s defence minister warns) as part of their pre-deployment training.
  • NPR looks at how the far right’s use of social media is becoming more sophisticated and successful.

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