If the New York Times' The Moment blog and its Twitter feed "hear" that Moz is dead, does it actually happen? Former Idolator editor Maura Johnston writes: "This inspired a lot of panicked e-mails to me late last night." Why?
When someone supposedly dies on Twitter, there are nothing but questions that aren't "Is this person actually dead?" Because who gives a shit if they're actually dead. There are issues here:
Do people actually trust Twitter?
Who do they trust?
Why? It's just someone with a Twitter.
But they do! And sometimes, that information is valid, and all it takes is one Tweet for Twitter to be the needle in a haystack screaming to be found. But Twitter, like the people who use it, is weird.
Which would explain part of the answer to the question, What do Kanye West, Lil' Wayne, Rick Astley, Britney Spears, Harrison Ford, Jeff Goldblum, Miley Cyrus have in common with Morrissey? They've all been "killed" by Twitter. But not the other questions they present:
Who starts the _____ is dead rumors? Anyone and everyone! It can be some high school junior, or, as is this case, the New York Times The Moment blog, trying to crowdsource information. If you suggest someone who isn't dead may be dead, you've started a ____ Is Dead meme.
Why did they start the _____ Is Dead memes? For all kinds of reasons! Said high school junior who, bored and stoned in his US Government Honors class, decides that John Bolton, who has a funny mustache, is dead. He can then raise his hand and start a discussion about John Bolton being dead! Or maybe someone hears something and decides that they need to know more, because they actually care about this person's impact in their lives (as is, possibly, the case with Moz and The Moment). But mostly, the impulse to declare someone dead who isn't has to come from a place of mischief. Having to explain that you're not dead, you're just waiting to be seated at Pastis, could be a serious inconvenience for you and your publicist. Or if you're not a publicist or don't have one, a "normal" person who has to go out of their way to call their parents and explain that the stress they just went through was for naught.
What would be considered a "successful" ______ is dead meme?
A+: Getting a mainstream media outlet to report on the death, or rumors of the death. Newspapers, newspaper's websites, breaking news websites or Twitter accounts (like Drudge or BNO), CNN, FOX, ABC, NBC, MSNBC, etc. If you can get someone to say something on the air about someone who's dead that isn't dead, without it being a denial, you've done an awesome job.
B+ to B: A personal denial. Get someone to admit that they're not dead through someone who isn't their publicist, either because their publicist's credibility was called into question, or because they weren't picking up the phone when they should've.
B-: A publicist denial. Fucking up a publicist's day isn't nearly as mischievous as fucking up Miley Cyrus' day, but still equally satisfying.
C+ to C-: High-profile news-denial. If a news outlet has to report and quell the rumor, at least you got it out there to the right people.
D+ to D: High-profile gossip denial. These people sort out death rumors professionally, and if yours is smart or obscure enough to make their job tough, decent, but otherwise, you're throwing them something slow and down the middle.
F: You get re-tweeted a few times. That's it.
So, how do you do it correctly?
1. Pick your target correctly. Find an obscure figure who isn't exactly "popular" amongst Twitter's celebrities. Make sure they're not on Twitter, or Twittering when you put the rumor out there. This would be an example of a "Twitter Death Meme Fail":
They can't Twitter their reaction, and they can't have people with them who could Twitter a denial. A really great pick is someone who you didn't even know was still alive. Marian Seldes would be decent, so would Kathleen Turner, because then, you can get a bunch of insane Broadway gays to start freaking out and asking questions. Which brings us to the second step:
2. Find someone to help corroborate your story. Make sure to find someone with decent cred and mix of followers with mixed interests.
You need someone to breathe on the burning embers to get a flame, right?
3. Stay silent. Don't say anything else, especially when people ask you where you heard that. Tip off a few gossip blogs, or blogs that are in the periphery of gossip and/or news blogs.
4. Wait. Teach a man to fish, he'll be set for life. But teach a man to fish without telling him that screaming "BE CAUGHT, YOU FUCKING FISH" won't help, and he's screwed. Stay calm. Wait for this thing to erupt. Once you've put it out there, unless you have multiple accounts with lots of followers to help corroborate your own story, all you can do is see what happens. You've set a line out there, enjoy the natural course it's going to take. Maybe go for a walk, work out, play with your dog. Enjoy the time you have before you get back to your computer to find out from P-Nasty himself that one of the Baldwin brothers had an aneurysm while grilling tandoori chicken skewers.
5. Celebrate correctly. Twitter provides for all. Once you've successfully "killed" someone via Twitter, you should respect and honor their not-dead-ness with a seance. A Twitter seance. Or, a Tweance.
Oh, and by the way: Morrissey isn't dead. We think. Nice work.