Betty White Is Not Dead, The Internet Is Awful

| September 3, 2014 | 57 Comments
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A rumor about the death of Betty White has been making the rounds today, started by a “satire” website called Empire News (think The Onion, only not at all funny). Apparently, they thought it would be hilarious to produce a post about how Betty White “dyes peacefully in her Los Angeles home,” as in colors her hair.  

notfunny

Granted, the internet is not a place known for empathy, but joking about death in this way, as if the subject of the hoax isn’t an actual human being, just an idea that exists solely for our amusement, is troubling and borders on sociopathic. With the recent deaths of Robin Williams and Lauren Bacall, and reports of Joan Rivers fighting for her life, the idea of celebrity and death have been intertwined more than usual in recent weeks.

Williams was so beloved that the reaction to the news was raw and emotional…for the most part. While some got together to watch marathons of his movies or leave flowers at the Mrs. Doubtfire house, others took the time to bully his daughter off Twitter. Reactions to Joan Rivers’ medical situation have been just as devoid of compassion. Commenters on popular gossip website Oh No They Didn’t gleefully wished for her death (everything from “LMAO did she die? I hope she died” to “die you old bitch” to “take her satan. just do it”). 

There are a few things at play here. First, words are losing their meaning, cheapened by the blather found in places like YouTube comment sections and aided by anonymity. Second, bullying has traveled from the middle school hallways of our pasts into our daily digital lives, becoming the unofficial language of the internet. And third, we no longer acknowledge the humanness of celebrities; they are larger-than-life and fair game for a death hoax. Instead of consoling the daughter of a famous comedian, we bully her on the day of his death. Instead of disagreeing with a comedian’s style of humor and moving on to something more agreeable, we wish her dead. It’s as if we’ve traded our sensitivity chips for all of the ones in our gadgets.

The internet isn’t all bad: you can take a class you maybe couldn’t afford in the real world or keep in touch with loved ones continents away. It’s a tool that can be used for good or evil, like the lamp Robin Williams’ genie lived in. Let’s stop leaving negative comments on things we didn’t even read. Let’s stop tolerating death hoaxes. Let’s be better. Oh, and let’s watch more Golden Girls. Deal?

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About the Author ()

Emmanuel Hapsis studied creative writing at University of Maryland, College Park and went on to receive his MFA in the field from California College of the Arts. After a few years of odd jobs, he landed at KQED, where he worked his way up from an intern to being the lead producer of a literature podcast and then the creator and editor of KQED Pop. In his free time, he teaches yoga and sings his heart out at karaoke.
  • tvgord

    There’s no bigger Betty White fan than I am, but if this “story” makes some people read a little more carefully the stories they skim or scan online, I “get” the joke. The internet may be awful, but the people who read very little beyond the headline are just as much to blame.

    • tvgord

      Besides, I’m sure Betty, given her love of words–think Password–would think this is hilarious!

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    • Silent Hunter

      This, so, so much this.

    • poonlarp

      What tvgord said. ^^^^^

    • Dan Reed

      Agreed, it was nothing more than a joke meant to show how many people don’t take the time to actually read anymore. That’s what makes me sad.

  • Denise Figueroa

    Whoever posted the UN TRUE demise of Miss Betty White should be fired. This big ass creep has no soul and needs to be cut down.

    • poonlarp

      Denise, thank you for exhibiting your ignorance to the world wide web.

      • Denise Figueroa

        Hey POOPLARD, get a life, tah, tah………

        • poonlarp

          Witty comeback, Denise. Very witty.

          • JesseDavis

            Whoa, man, she called you a Tah Tah, you gonna let that slide?

          • Stephanie Lehr

            tah tah means “goodbye”. She called him pooplard.

          • Jeff McLeod

            Excellent, Stephanie! That made me lol.

    • Endless

      They didn’t post about the demise of Betty White. They posted about hair dye. Obviously you, like the author of this article, have absolutely no idea what you’re talking about.

    • Bill Hicks

      “Whoever posted the UN TRUE demise of Miss Betty White should be fired.” Yes, they should, if in fact that had happened. It didn’t, though. Just thought I’d point out that tiny little detail.

  • Kevin Kuhenbeaker

    Opps fell for it! Ha Ha Ha! After I read the story I wasn’t Amused!

  • Endless

    Er, the joke isn’t about death. The headline is a play on words, and that’s it. The point here as that there are a lot of idiots who don’t read past a headline, and even when they read that, they’re too numb to even comprehend what’s going on. The article is hilarious, and I’m sure you’ll love all the ad revenue you suck up as you get traffic from Google when people search for the actual Empire News article.

    • cdnrailfan

      uh….. it was a horrible play on words, given her age if you read it fast youd jump to the wrong conclusions untill i saw DYE im like either this is a bad hoax or someone cant spell…. (and that too is believeable ive seen tons of local news stations not postread their facebook post for breaking news, theyd rather be first to report a breaking news item rather then make sure the post doesnt have bad grammar or spelling) then i read the article, i did get a chuckle out of the references in golden girls about roses natural colour……

      • Don

        Wahhh, people are stupid and don’t pay attention to the words they read so don’t use puns because it confuses them.

      • Jeff McLeod

        “…either this is a bad hoax or someone [can't] spell…”

        Nope. Wrong. If the author of the article misspelled “die,” it would imply a bad hoax, not the other way around. Intentionally using the word dye in its proper context as a play on words is not a hoax at all; it’s called satire.

        • cdnrailfan

          maybe i ranted too much in that post, but my point was, i noticed DYE pretty quickly and clicked the link and got the joke…. it was mildly funny

  • cdnrailfan

    it was still pretty shady, i did catch “dye” though. a split second after i read the title in the post (shared by a comedian i follow) though it was still pretty rotten, given her age, its believeable……..i almost bawled my eyes out….

  • Raejean

    Well the “story” seems to have been removed.

  • Shyanndee Ham

    That’s a crule thing to say I was starting up the tears I felt so bad.
    Your right tvgord I’m gonna be more cautious from here on end about what I read

    • Guy Threepwood

      “Crule”? Misuse of the word “your”? This might be the most hysterically ironic comment in this thread!

    • Jeff McLeod

      Indeed, Guy Threepwood, it is the Shyanndee Hams of this world at whom this joke was aimed.

  • Dick

    Come on it’s not a bad joke…. there’s a difference between ‘dyes’ and ‘dies’. Wordplay is fun.

  • Ingway

    So, it’s not really that the internet is awful so much as many people who saw the original article are illiterate.

  • James Gore

    Waaaaaahhh!!!!

    Another SJW author is mad because he fell for click-bait.

    You know, Emmanuel, you have a lot in common with the writers at Empire News….They aren’t real writers either. :D

  • Brian Stevenson

    Sociopathic? Let’s pump the brakes on the insanity bus, guys. It’s a joke, and unless you’re one of the grammatically-impaired morons that this joke targeted, it’s a very obvious one, as well.

  • Kevin

    People are freaking out about the news report only by the headline. the headline says she “DYES” Peacefully in your home, not DIES.

  • Deedee Arnold

    It didn’t say she died, it said she dyed as in hair.

  • Markie Hoover

    Seriously? I blame it on people’s arrogance that they can’t read past the headlines of articles and not have correct grammar themselves to realize it says “dyes”, asshats.

  • el_timbo

    First off, this “article” about this was obviously written by someone who fell for the joke of the original Betty White piece, hence them being so bitter about it.

    Second, the original article is the best piece of satire I’ve read in a long time, and a perfect mockery of the social media-obsessed morons out there.

    And lastly, isn’t a tad ironic that the writer here uses a re-appropriated gif of a dead celebrity in voicing his disapproval of another website mocking the whole social media cult around dead celebrities? Or is that just the same bad taste he accuses Empire News of using?

  • Stephanie Lehr

    FYI, Betty White is a comedian. This was comedic. If people weren’t so quick to comment on things or took a spelling/grammar class (and retained it) this would not upset anyone as dyes and dies are not the same word. Anyone who thought she was dead should brush up on their education.

    • Guy Threepwood

      The best thing about this is that if this story reaches Betty White, she’d probably find it hysterical.

      • Vermin F. Cockwolf

        I wholeheartedly agree.

  • lizhud

    I’m not sure how you can say words are losing their meaning when an average reader wouldn’t be alerted by “dyes” in the headline. Given that the “mystery” is solved in the first paragraph, perhaps it’s more of a statement about how quick many folks are to grab gossip and run rather than doing a little reading and research to understand what’s being said. NPR had a headline that was similarly “click bait,” and one had to actually read the article to learn the truth. How novel is that? Read an article to hear the whole story! (And that is sarcasm if you didn’t get it.)

  • Pachilles

    There are mean and evil people on the net.
    There are lots of stupid people on the net.
    A huge percentage of people are just simply negative.
    The rest are positive people, taking it all in stride.

    This article writer fits into the 3rd group in connecting this with the 1st group, when actually it should have connected it with the 4th group with maybe a pointer to the 2nd group.

    Please join me in the 4th group.

    Thank you.

  • new2saltlake

    Aww, cute! Grumpy Cat has learned to write articles for the interwebs.

  • Tristan Collicott

    It said that “Betty White Dyes”. It’s not a hoax, just a pun of grand proportions…

  • Tabatha Chachulski-Morgan

    The internet is awful because people don’t know the difference between the word DIES and DYES? How about your headline read “People are stupid and should go back to school.”

  • jenny886753309999

    who the hell said “take her to satan”????? friggin bastards!!!! betty whites the shit! great person,awesome personality n just an all around great and funny person! i hope someone says the same about you when u die u spineless prick!!1 wtf is wrong with ppl these days???She deserves to live well over 100! and you ppl making false claimsw and asshole remakes just shows how much of an ass hat you all are…friggin punks! She will have more talent than you will ever have to you ass faces making false claims about her demise..i would spit on you if i could

  • jenny886753309999

    sorry bout the mistakes on my last post…ppl really piss me off on here….love ya betty!!!!!

  • Karen Churchill

    Learn what an internet hoax is. Terrible people do spread rumors online about celebrity deaths. This is not one. The article was clearly a play on words in order to teach people to read carefully and not repost without doing do. Honestly, even if you only understood the article to be about her hair dying, and not a teaching moment, it was better than this one.

  • Jan

    I love her! 2014 had better stop right now before it even attempts to drag her down.
    I will kick it’s ass if it tries.

  • R_Bug

    The author of this article is from Generation (overly)Sensitive. Hey Emmanuel, easy on the Vagisil.

  • disqus_WcmaKZ86LB

    Well, Betty White really did die.

    • Pickinpackinmama1 .

      She did not!

  • David

    If people knew how to spell – MAYBE they’d get the obvious joke. And if THAT didn’t work – they could READ THE ARTICLE! What a bunch of freaking morons!

  • John Watkins

    C’mon. People who are angry at this joke are people who failed a spelling test in elementary school and are still raw about it. Anyone with half a brain should have realized by the headline alone that it was a hoax & a play on words.

  • Kimberlie Starnes Koenning

    Do you think they would have gotten it if it sid she was Lyeing in state

  • browniepoints

    Let’s see…if someone bothers to click through to the full story, they’d see it was a joke and then say “oh man next time, I should read more carefully” They didn’t say she’s dead, they said she dyes in her home. Not their fault people can’t read or be bothered to fact check.

  • Elizabeth Trent

    Betty White was gorgeous back in the day. Shes still just as beautiful. Love that woman. Its going to be sad when she goes, but atleast hopefully it will be of old age.

  • cemaginnis

    For those who criticize the article… It is what Joan Rivers would have wanted. :D