The question is, who is getting suckered? And the answer is…journalists. Or maybe I should say “journalists”. Maybe “newsreaders” would be more accurate?

I have seen so many so-called news stories that are basically reporting that TikTokkers said “X,” as if it’s news. TikTok is the babbling of attention-seeking children who will say anything to get a rise out of you. No, really — I got a TikTok account when I heard how popular it is, and I watched some of these videos, and believe me when I say that they skimmed the bottom-most slime from YouTube, Instagram, and Twitter from those sources and made them Tik-Tok superstars. I have not been tempted to actually use that account since.

The media have been painfully credulous, though. Don’t journalists get training in research and evidence anymore?

It seems to happen over and over again, and the mainstream media always makes it worse. The mainstream media hears about a “TikTok challenge,” reports on it like crazy, and people freak out that TikTok is destroying the children or some such.

And every single time, it turns out that the media got the story wrong. Often ridiculously so. There was the “devious licks” challenge, which at least had some basis in truth, but which TikTok cracked down on almost immediately. But when good reporters scratched the surface they found that it was mostly kids pranking adults, making them think that something bad was going to happen.

But, even worse, there was a big moral panic about the “slap a teacher” challenge that the media got up in arms about. Only, that one turned out to have been literally made up by some random adult and then spread by a school cop on Facebook, claiming that it was an upcoming TikTok challenge. Or the “school violence challenge,” which was reported all over the media, causing many schools to shut down entirely for the day, where there is no indication that it was ever actually a thing. And, if it was, the news was spread much more widely by TV news anchors freaking out about it without any evidence that it was real. And, no, the NyQuil chicken challenge was never actually a thing.

And now there’s been another one. At the Washington Post, Taylor Lorenz highlights how the Today Show did a segment about “the boat jump challenge” in which kids were allegedly jumping from moving boats into the water for clout on TikTok. Only problem it was all made up.

Remember the “Tide Pod challenge” from a few years ago? That was nothing but a moral panic. In 2018, the height of the craze,

Last year, U.S. poison-control centers received reports of more than 10,500 children younger than 5 who were exposed to the capsules. The same year, nearly 220 teens were reportedly exposed, and about 25 percent of those cases were intentional, according to data from the American Association of Poison Control Centers.

In 2018, there have been 37 reported cases among teenagers, half of them intentional, according to the data.

TikTok lured maybe a dozen or so teenagers to stupidly chomp down on a Tide Pod. If you’ve seen any of their videos, what then happens is gagging and spitting the thing out. The real danger is not the seductive allure of TikTok, which got a few idiots to do something idiotic, but that a lot of young children were tricked by the candy-like appearance of the pods to bite down on them. That’s what the story ought to have been — about bad, dangerous marketing by a gigantic corporation. Instead, a few attention-seeking twits got what they wanted, and Tide sailed on as the responsible adult in the room.

Learn to roll your eyes when someone says TikTok challenge, OK? It’s always just clickbait.


  1. Dunc says

    Don’t journalists get training in research and evidence anymore?

    Lol. The two main objectives of modern “journalism” are 1: attract eyeballs, and 2: fill space. Accurate reporting so as to make their viewer/readership more informed about the world doesn’t make the top 10.

    I suspect that the vast majority of the people reporting on this bullshit are fully aware that it’s bullshit.

  2. George says

    I like Tiktok. There’s a lot of good stuff on there. But, as with any platform, there’s also a mountain of crap. So, you have to look for the good stuff.

  3. chrislawson says

    This has been becoming more common over several years now, the clickbait headline that leads to a story rehashing one or two anonymous tweets by angry idiots. It’s so common at the murdochs that I assume they have a template.

  4. wzrd1 says

    Dunc @ 1, “The two main objectives of modern “journalism” are 1: attract eyeballs, and 2: sell advertising space.”. There, I fixed it for you.

    George @ 2, that’d be fine, save that I need equipment for deep mining to find quality content. Otherwise, I’m inundated with “Yellowstone erupting!” and “Betelgeuse went supernovaaaaaaaaa!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” incessantly.

    Feralboy12, don’t bother. I did that one, accidentally left my head partially exposed and the results totally turned off the audience when they learned that I’m still having to pay for the destroyed train.

  5. birgerjohansson says

    Maybe have a high-grade AI filter the worst of the worst before you read it?
    Sadly, much of the stuff claiming to be archaeology on the Internet quickly turns out to be bogus content.

  6. birgerjohansson says

    Hey Donald! Did you know that if you stick your fork into an electric outlet, cool stuff happens?

  7. wzrd1 says

    Hold on and I’ll check, just as soon as I can get my tongue out of the electric outlet.