Like all great internet hijinx, it started on 4chan's anarchic /b/ message board. Late Sunday—shortly after Bieber was photographed with visible nipples and Kim Kardashian—4chan users pushed "Justin Bieber Syphilis" to the top of Google Trends.
So they Googled it, and so it was. How it got there—and how the rumor continues to grow—is a study in the rumor-mongering power of Google Trends.
Around midnight, 4chan's Google Trend bombers pushed "Justin Bieber Syphilis" to the top of Google Trends' "Hot Searches" list. They did it with this message, posted in 4chan's infamous /b/ comment board:
Go to Google and search ‘Justin Bieber Syphilis'. Let's get this to be No. 1 searched phrase on Google Trends. Use an autoclicker or macro if possible and get others involved. Unlike a death rumor, this will be hard for him to disprove.
Obviously, Justin Bieber doesn't have syphilis. But if you trend it, they will come. When "Justin Bieber Syphilis" made it to #1, the blogosphere began to buzz. The logic went something like this: If it's trending, people must be curious about it. Thus, a rumor exists. Thus, I should take the phrase "Justin Bieber Syphilis," put a question mark at the end, and turn it into a blog post. Like so:
- Justin Bieber Syphilis? [Celebrity Smack Blog]
- Does Justin Bieber Have Syphilis? [Allie Is Wired]
- Justin Bieber Syphilis Rumors [Hollywood Dame]
- How Did Justin Bieber Get Syphilis? [Guyism]
- Justin Bieber Has Syphilis [Buzz Tab]
- Justin Bieber Syphilis: Are the Rumors True? [Trending Daily]
And therein lies the genius of a Google Trend prank: Web editors live and die by Google Trends, because they think they can use it to make their blog posts popular. (Give the people what they want!) The outcome, in this case, is a reverse-engineered rumor in the manner of the "Did Glenn Beck Rape and Murder a Girl in 1990?" hoax: Whereas most rumors start by people saying X is true, reverse-engineered rumors start with the message People are saying X. As it repeats, people eventually ask, Is X true? which is a message in and of itself. That a precious few will inevitably conclude, X is true, is icing on the cake.
"Justin Bieber Syphilis" stayed in Google Trends' coveted #1 slot until 2AM, when the death of a microwave breakfast impresario replaced "Justin Bieber Syphilis" with "Jimmy Dean." [PoliticallyIllustrated, 4chan, image via Insight News & Features]