We first posted the original RickRoll video above, but the one you see now ultimately seemed like a better choice.
Ah, yes, the power of Twitter. You can see it demonstrated in the screen cap here of trending topics on Twitter as they appeared at 2:45 a.m. ET on June 30, 2009. Rick Astley, the 80s pop star whose fame was resurrected by an Internet practical joke, was number 1 and the phrase “Berlin Hotel Room” was number 6. And here’s why – that font of doughy Internet nobodies pontificating airily into webcams, storm videos and bullshit known as CNN’s iReport.com [UPDATE: The story is no longer available. Go figure, huh?]. Due to something posted on iReport.com, many folks trawling Twitter in the small hours on the American East Coast thought Rick Astley was dead.
The article in question was published around 1 a.m. and supposedly came from the AP. The byline attributed the post to Liz Sidoti, a fairly prolific and sometimes controversial AP writer. The whole thing after the jump – reproduced in full because it wasn’t found on any other AP source and is surely a massive, steaming load:
Singer-Songwriter Rick Astley Found Dead in Berlin Hotel Room
By LIZ SIDOTI
The Associated Press
Monday, June 30, 2009 1:00 AM
Berlin — Known for his 80’s pop hit “Never Gonna Give You Up,” the 43-year-old Rick Astley has been pronounced dead today. Astley’s body was found at the Angleterre Hotel in Berlin after an ambulance responded to an emergency call from his hotel room.
Astley was found unconscious in his hotel bedroom and was unable to be resuscitated. He was pronounced dead on the scene.
Astley was in the middle of a concert tour that would have ended in late August of 2009. He was to return to the United Kingdom at that time.
© 2009 The Associated Press
This story couldn’t be found anywhere but on iReport or on pages where someone had copied it from that site. And, of course, on Twitter. Nothing on Google News, nothing from Reuters, the AP’s many feeds across the Web, you name it.
Rick Astley isn’t dead. The RickRoll that made him famous again last year has just been re-jiggered for this already-bizarre couple of weeks when enough celebs really did kick the bucket to get people primed to believe any story involving a star’s mortality. If you tweeted about Astley’s death on Twitter as if it was a done deal, well, pardner, you were fucking well RickRolled, and you deserved it.
As Inquisitr points out, you can post ANYTHING on CNN’s iReport: “I could submit a story saying Rick Astley is dead at the hands of an advanced civilization of alien music lovers and it would be published until such time CNN pulled it.”
CNN iReport articles are published inside what’s called a “div layer,” code-wise. Each text article begins with “div class=”jive-rendered-content”.” Jive is probably a publishing program, but in this case, it’s simply an accurate editorial statement about the iReport in question. Total jive.
There is a lot to be said about the power of Twitter to disseminate breaking news. But stories like this – and the spread of the same rumor about Jeff Goldblum the day Michael Jackson died – are the flipside of that coin. Twitter’s ubiquity and its ease of use are also its Achilles Heel. Rick Astley, after he opens his e-mails later today, will probably agree.
By the way, the chances are good that With a commenter’s help (see below) we’ve confirmed that this rumor was apparently begun by /b/ on 4Chan.org. The rumor likely started there, but it could have come from any other vast message board intent on fucking with everyone. Cutting and pasting this URL into your browser will take you to the thread where the Astley hoax took off, but you visit 4Chan at your peril:
ETA II, Electric Boogaloo: Once again proving the value of Philip Anschutz’s Examiner sites, this Gay & Lesbian Issues Examiner seems inclined to buy the story – check out the 1966-2009 legend under the photo of Astley posted there.
ETA III, and this the last: Also via Twitter: if you bought the Rick Astley story and tweeted/re-tweeted, you were RIProlled.