‘Gay baboon rapes men in African village’ story just money-making ‘hogwash’

In April 2017, Zimbabwe News website published a story with a headline: “African village terrorised by a gay baboon who recently raped 5 men”.

The story claimed a baboon named Somizi had attacked “more than six men” in an unnamed “African village”.

The story popped up again on Pretty Cool Site, which said the baboon had attacked men in Tshaulu village in South Africa. In May 2017 the Daily Voice also picked it up. Another site, Pulse Live, said the attacks happened in South Africa’s North West province. Versions of the story have appeared on HIN News and New Soweto.

In January 2019 Facebook flagged the story as possibly false.

Satire repackaged as fake news

It is. US-based fact-checking site Snopes has traced it to a satirical South African Morning Post article published in April 2017.

“A cached version of the page shows that this article was filed under the ‘satire’ tag,” Snopes says.

“Furthermore, the description on the web site’s Facebook page states that the South Africa Morning Post publishes ‘Satire, Entertainment, Rumours and Bizarre stories from South Africa, and sometimes around the world’.”

The original story, meant to be a joke, was then picked up by several other sites, many of them false news sites. Snopes has rated it as false.

‘Satire’ and ‘hogwash’ earn the most money

In July 2017 the Mail & Guardian interviewed the journalist behind the South Africa Morning Post, in an article headlined The Zimbabwean journalist using fake news to fund real news.

The man, who wanted to remain anonymous, said: “There aren’t that many people interested in politics. I can earn a few hundred dollars a month from my news site, it performs so badly.

“But stuff about gay baboons, stuff about pastors saying they went to heaven, that goes viral.”

The journalist does take care to label his made-up stories as “satire”. While some are real satire, others he describes as “hogwash”.

“Take one, from April this year: ‘Gay baboon terrorises villages, rapes 5 men’.” – Africa Check (29/01/19)


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