Faking the News (and Informational Chaos)

Logo for Frontline, a PBS program

I read in the paper this morning that some hackers successfully (?) broke into the PBS website on Saturday night and posted a story that is untrue. According to multiple sources, the fabricated article stated that Tupac Shakur, a rap performer who died in 1996, is alive and living in New Zealand.

Fox “News” (quotations added by ES) reports a group claiming responsibility was annoyed by a recent Frontline show on WikiLeaks. I googled Tupac and readily identified what is said to be his official website, 2pac.com. There’s a page dated sometime in February 2011, on the Legend:

…Born on June 16 1971 in New York City, Shakur’s parents were both members of the Black Panther Party whose militant style and provocative ideologies for civil rights would come to influence 2Pac’s music. At an early age, Tuapc’s love for performance and the arts began to show, as he began acting at age 13 and later enrolled in the Baltimore School of the Arts before dropping out at 17. Shakur broke into the music business with rap group Digital Underground as a back-up dancer and roadie. Eventually Shakur released his first solo album in ’91, 2pacalypse Now. 2Pac’s music career began to grow as his second album, Strictly 4 My N.I.G.G.A.Z included 2 top 20 pop chart tracks: I Get Around and Keep Ya Head Up.

Shakur’s legal battles began after he established his rap career. In the early nineties Shakur faced a wrongful death suit which settled out of court, accusations of assaulting police officers where charges were ultimately dropped, and even an incident where Shakur sustained 5 gunshot wounds from unknown assailants. In 1995 2Pac was sentenced one-and-a-half to four-and-a-half years in prison for sexual abuse. However, not even prison could slow the success of Shakur’s career.

While incarcerated 2Pac’s latest album, Me Against the World, was number one in the pop charts and would later go double platinum. Shakur became the first artist to reach number one in the pop charts while serving a prison sentence. Making the most of his time in jail, 2Pac became a passionate reader. Among his favourites were the works of Niccolò Machiavelli, an Italian Renaissance writer whose works were in part the foundation for western political science. Shakur’s appreciation of his work inspired the nickname: Makaveli.

After serving only eight months of his sentence, 2Pac was out on parole thanks to a 1.4 million dollar bond paid by Suge Knight, CEO of Death Row Records. Now signed with Death Row Records, Shakur went on to create All Eyez on Me, which featured hits How Do You Want It and California Love.

2Pac’s life was cut short in September of 1996 when Shakur became the victim of a drive-by shooting while his car waited on a red light. While Shakur survived the surgery that followed he was pronounced dead almost a week after the attack.

Even today, 2Pac’s influence is wide-spread…

album cover, "all eyes on me"

I have no idea how much of the legend is true, or if the 2pac website is really sponsored by the Tupac Amaru Shakur Foundation. Based on my limited education, I can confirm that Niccolò Machiavelli was an Italian philosopher of the Renaissance period whose writings influence some political scientists today. I might also confirm that guns really do kill people, here and elsewhere. This statement is based on my general knowledge and life experiences as a physician and citizen of the U.S.

In addition, I now know with certainty that at least one of my sons is familiar with Tupac’s music. He identified the artist in passing, while he walked by as it streamed from my laptop. He wondered why I was listening. In truth, I’m not sure about this. Curiosity, I suppose –

You can find some Tupac songs on YouTube. Based on a limited, first-time review this morning, I’d half-recommend Keep Ya Head Up. (You can send a ringtone to your cell phone, through this website with the lyrics.) In another video, he performs a song called Makaveli the Don. You can buy his CDs at Amazon.com, or elsewhere, or read one of several biographies.

My conclusion: It’s an information jungle out there.

The Medical Lesson: It’s hard to know your sources, especially when hackers can pretend to be a public broadcasting service. The only protection, as with health info that might come from a journal or doctor or a textbook in Texas, is having a good education and breadth of knowledge with which to assess the credibility of whatever you read or hear.


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