Earlier this week, The Inquisitr carried an opinion piece on the misattributed Morgan Freeman Newtown commentary (written by me), one that was later revealed to be the work of a man named Mark from Vancouver.
Initially, the quote came across our desks as it appeared to most of you — purported to be commentary from Morgan Freeman about the horrific events at Sandy Hook Elementary. From the timeline of its travels through social media, it was a series of remarks made very soon after we began to learn the details of what occurred in Newtown on Friday.
Mark from Vancouver (who incidentally, we have confirmed, made no effort to claim the words were that of Morgan Freeman) wrote of his feelings at the moment as they were — frustrated, heartbroken, and sad.
In turn, just one night after the tragedy, I too was strongly reacting, as we all were. In my haste to point out that it was unlikely Morgan Freeman had made the comments, I used Mark’s words without first attempting to locate him and actually inquire about his original writing.
That was unfair, and I apologize to Mark for drawing him into a point/counterpoint to which he never consented. I made more than a few assumptions about the impetus behind the missive, many of which turned out to be inaccurate when contrasted with his actual replies. (Mark has also not complained about my use of his comment, and neither of us realized in our respective writings just how far the reach would span.)
Below, Mark (who, while “from Vancouver,” is actually a prior US resident) explains the Morgan Freeman connection a bit more deeply, and one of the aspects that troubled him about the piece’s impact was the inclusion of the word “hoax.”
(Mark adds: ” … to me the word implies both intent and deceit. I’m not a mustache-twirling mastermind who engineered the perfect troll quote to hoax the internet. It’s just an individual opinion.”)
Indeed, the misattribution was far from a “hoax” (as we have understood the word to mean in the past) and on the internet, the term has become a sort of shorthand for cases like this which involve unsourced, high-profile sharing and mistaken identity. The addition of Freeman’s name appears to have come from a response to Mark’s addendum that he would not mind the comments being shared, but never did he or any of his friends intend to actually misattribute the quote to the actor.
Unwitting web users, in turn, accepted the quote and attribution as correct and passed it on.
The fact that Freeman’s name and the quote became so quickly and heavily tied is perhaps less happenstance and more a reflection of the star’s place in our culture and consciousness. Often Morgan Freeman has been dubbed the “voice of God,” and we would be hard pressed to think of a famous person whose tones convey gravity so much as the beloved actor.
And it seems the prediction made by Mark’s friend was truer than anyone would have thought — when people believed it was Morgan Freeman “speaking,” they listened. (Several even added they heard the words in their heads as dictated by Freeman.) Ultimately, a representative for the actor responded and confirmed that the words were not those of Freeman.
To make an already long story short, Mark reached out to me to comment on my comments, and subsequently agreed to discuss the Morgan Freeman Newtown phenomenon with us. Below are a few questions, and Mark’s answers.
The Inquisitr: In our initial piece on the Morgan Freeman/Newtown viral misquote, a comment we kept hearing was that even though Morgan Freeman hadn’t said those words, they were meaningful. Others said that they were glad the piece you wrote got the attention it did.
Can you explain a little bit about what inspired you to write it originally?
It was absolutely a gut reaction. I hadn’t seen the news but I saw several people I care about distraught and asking why, so I looked it up. I immediately thought about the Aurora theater, the Portland mall, and incidents dating back to Columbine, and was angered at CNN and Fox News in particular for their reporting methods of chasing after little kids for interviews only moments after what is (hopefully) the most traumatic thing they’ll ever experience.
I don’t usually post commentary on current events on Facebook, but I just started writing off-the-cuff. I didn’t edit before posting, I didn’t read up on statistics, and I typed what I felt in the moment, for a relatively small group of Facebook friends. So, sure the argument isn’t perfect and it’s not nearly the only problem, but I was drawing attention to a very real symptom of a major social issue.
I genuinely feel that many people who would lash out like this are mentally ill in myriad ways, and that greater acceptance and public understanding of that illness would at the very least cause things like this to happen less often. I don’t want to armchair-diagnose anyone, but I can’t fathom that someone who kills a bunch of 6 years olds could be considered “healthy” by any standard.
The Inquisitr: Since you wrote it, have you seen anything that changes or reinforces your original observations?
Reinforces, absolutely. My main point was of course that the media takes attention away from the victims. So any story about Morgan Freeman, or me, or the viral spread, or the so-called hoax, also took attention away from them. Yes, I realize I’m part of that by granting an interview about this, but again, I wasn’t lambasting all news media. There are plenty of outlets I respect. I was very happy to hear that Anderson Cooper refused to mention or show pictures of the shooter, for instance.