This weekend’s Comic-Con in San Diego produced tons of great news for culture junkies across the nation.
The newest trailer for Ben Affleck’s Batman vs. Superman: Dawn of Justice was released.
We got a first look at Jared Leto as The Joker in Suicide Squad.
And we got an incredible behind-the-scenes peek at the new Star Wars movie.
But maybe the most buzzworthy story this morning was a report that Sylvester Stallone, at a surprise appearance, told a Comic-Con audience that Rambo would be taking on ISIS in the upcoming Rambo: Last Blood.
At least a dozen outlets including Business Insider, The Daily Mail, and Foreign Policy breathlessly posted the news.
Stallone is quoted in several reports as saying, “We have teams scouting Iraq and parts of Syria where ISIS have their greatest strongholds. We’re working with the locals there to help deliver the most intense and realistic Rambo movie experience ever.”
One of America’s greatest cinematic badasses taking on the worst terrorist scourge in the world where they live. Sounds amazing, right?
Too bad it’s not true.
“Sylvester Stallone did not attend Comic-Con 2015, and consequently there was no official remark from him regarding Rambo made there at the event,” a representative for Stallone told Rolling Stone. “This is not an accurate report.”
How did so many sites get fooled by this story when Stallone wasn’t even at Comic-Con?
The story originated with the National Report, a “satirical” site that posts fake stories in an attempt to fool news outlets and average readers into sharing them.
Here’s the front of the site at the time we published this post. It features a (completely fake) story about Michele Bachman’s husband Marcus being named a suspect in the (very real) disappearance of the ruby slippers from The Wizard of Oz.
“We have been targeting Tea Party types recently as they are the most gullible and are willing to spread misinformation across the internet with little/no research,” pseudonymous National Report publisher “Allen Montgomery” told the Casper Star-Tribune in 2013.
Essentially, the site is designed to trick conservative people into sharing false news on Facebook. To the National Report, Rambo fighting ISIS was low-hanging fruit.
“In general, people are eager to suspend critical thinking if what they are reading confirms their viewpoint,” Montgomery told The Daily Banter in 2014. “We like to think we are doing a public service by introducing readers to misinformation.”
This isn’t the first time The National Report has fooled news outlets, either. Fox News apologized for airing a segment based on a National Report story about President Obama using personal funds to keep a Muslim museum open during the government shutdown.