Gather 'round, children, and let me regale you with a tale of that most whimsical of mistresses we call the internet.
Once upon a time -- on the evening of October 11, 2012, in fact -- a well-respected photographer named Charles Sykes snapped a photograph of famed cook and noted crazy person Guy Fieri, who was attending a roast of Anthony Bourdain at the New York Wine and Food Festival.
Here is that photograph:
The photo ran on a handful of websites and was soon forgotten, lost to the nether-regions of the world wide web.
But on June 27, 2014 at 11:09 am, a twitter user named Wrong Opinion Guy, with the handle @gewqk, tweeted an altered version of this photo. Gone were Fieri's trademark goatee and frosted spikes, replaced by a simple mustache and a coif of brown hair. For once, Fieri looked like a normal schlep -- a portlier, younger, more coherent, and hipster-looking version of New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman:
But our tale doesn't end there.
On August 1 at 6:44 pm, Wrong Opinion Guy, aka Gewqk, utilized his status as a BuzzFeed User to post this same altered photo in a listicle, along with several more altered photos of various celebrities with Fieri's blond hair and goatee superimposed on their faces. This was the only time Jennifer Lawrence did not look beautiful.
The post went largely unnoticed, racking up few views and zero comments. Until...
BuzzFeed, the great curator of information in that series of tubes we call the interwebs, curated itself.
On November 18 at 1:44 pm, -- exactly 36 years after the Jonestown massacre in which 900 people died after drinking a poisoned Kool-Aid substitute -- BuzzFeed staffer Dave Stopera curated images of Fieri for his own listicle, one of which is the photo altered by Gewkq. The post featured the not-at-all hyperbolic title, "Guy Fieri Without His Trademark Hair Will Forever Change You."
It does. In just 20 hours, the post notched more than 1 million views, prompting yours truly to wonder why he bothers anymore. It suddenly occurs to him the window is only a few feet away and the street is a full 12 floors down.
Because the internet is the least creative most creative place ever to exist, BuzzFeed's curation of BuzzFeed's curation of a tweet's curation and alteration of a photo of Guy Fieri -- who has 1.3 million twitter followers -- causes the internet to collapse into itself. The resulting inertial suck pulls in a slew of other sites past its event horizon and into the BuzzFeed black hole where they become part of the viral singularity. Among those sites who ran with the "story" were Uproxx, Brobible, The Daily Meal, Fansided, Foodbeast, the Facebook pages of a slew of FM radio stations, and for the love of god, TIME.
Two things make this development noteworthy: 1) the altered photo is five months old, which is about 2.7 billion years in social media time, and 2) the photo is altered, which is to say the thing it depicts in the manner it depicts it, did not even fucking happen.
According to Wrong Opinion Guy's twitter profile, he is the Editor-in-Chief of Viral Politics at BuzzFeed -- the position formerly held by noted plagiarist Benny Johnson, who has since taken his prolific Ctrl + Capabilities to the National Review. Wrong Opinion Guy's profile says he lives in "hell and jail," which is actually where we all live right now. Since his twitter account is anonymous (and apologies if his name really is Wrong Opinion Guy), it is unclear whether BuzzFeed actually employs this man, who as it turns out, isn't a man, but a sentient finger:
And so, children, that is how your internet works.
Or rather, how it doesn't.