By Garrett Stanczak
In his book, Trust Me, I’m Lying, Ryan Holiday describes a media manipulation technique called “feeding the beast” in which a story (which may or may not be true) is fed to an online blog and then spreads, eventually being picked up by major media outlets. Holiday describes several instances where he or others like him create news and controversy by “leaking” stories to blogs, but is it as infallible a technique as people believe?
Let’s look at a specific example. Pictured below is Masahiro Ito, a temporary Government worker in Japan, and avid player of the popular fighting game, Guilty Gear. Sato, from the popular gaming news website Silicon Era, describes a story in which Ito claims to have gone to Europe for two days (he posted various images of his sightseeing on social media) to participate in a Guilty Gear tournament called Autumn Stunfest, and came back a winner.
Thrilled by his success, his friends went and told the local newspapers. The story of Ito’s victory became huge news and even “Asahi, widely regarded for its journalism as the most respected daily newspaper in Japan, published an article about Ito’s feat.”
The article goes on to mention that eventually the internet got wind of this story, several Guilty Gear fans included. Many of them were confused by this because, as far as they knew, Autumn Stunfest was not an actual tournament, though Stunfest was. Eventually it was revealed that Ito made the whole thing up. Even the fact that he went to Europe was called into question when it was “found that the images from his Euro trip were actually from random blogs via Google Search.”
This is an interesting case in that, not only was the hoax exposed, but it was exposed by the internet that so many media manipulators rely on to spread their false stories. In fact, given that the story started as big news in a respected outlet and ended as a false rumor on the internet, it seems like this is a case of the beast being fed in reverse.
Ito has since become a minor internet meme (as seen below in the photographic evidence of him being present for Martin Luthor King’s “I Have a Dream” speech), but perhaps the funniest thing about this story is the reaction from the real Stunfest organizers. According to Sato, an organizer has gone on record saying that “they’re having the next Stunfest in May next year, and hopes to see Ito participate as a player.”
Trust Me, I’m Lying, Ryan Holiday (2012)
How A Little Guilty Gear Lie Got Too Big For This Japanese Government Worker To Dust Off, Sato (2016) (First three images from here also)
Fourth image link.