Ever since Elvis Presley hit the scene, opponents of rock and roll have accused it of many things — including corrupting the morals of teens, being part of a Communist plot, encouraging Satan worship and, in the case of heavy metal, causing listeners to commit suicide and/or murder.
In 1988, a teenager named David Brom killed his mother, father, brother and sister with an axe. According to the testimony of five psychiatrists, Brom was suffering from depression, but it was not reported whether or not he was on antidepressants, which have been linked to many mass murders.
The news reports of the slaughter mentioned that this was a very religious family from nice suburban neighborhood in Rochester, Minnesota. Noticing this, and recalling the long history of anti-rock hysteria, members of the experimental music collective Negativland got an idea for a sociological experiment. They created a press release explaining that the FBI had asked them to cancel their upcoming tour while authorities investigated the possibility that a Negativland song called “Christianity is Stupid” had provoked the mass murder. However, everything in the press release was a lie. Regardless, one newspaper published it almost verbatim, and then other newspapers, magazines and TV stations picked up the fake story, repeating it without bothering to check any facts.[1, 2]
“It was intended as really an experiment of seeing what happens to information when you send it out into the media,” explained Negativland member Mark Hosler. “We figured that they would check up on their facts, and they would discover very quickly that there was no basis to the story. What happened was that they didn’t check out their facts. We never even really said it was true. In our original press release we said there was a rumor that there was a connection between our song, ‘Christianity Is Stupid’ and the quadruple axe-murders in Rochester, Minnesota. So we never even said it was true ourselves. What happened is the media kept re-reporting the story and the language slowly changed, it got distorted. So by the time it was getting on TV and in the chronicles they weren’t saying it was a rumor anymore, they were just saying it was true.”
As Hosler summed up, “It’s now abundantly clear that a major source for news stories is often other news.”