Actor Patrick Swayze has only five weeks to live. How much more celebrity death can a serially grieving public take?

The story was broken by the National Enquirer and picked up by pretty much every Australian online news outlet. Said the Enquirer‘s source, all treatment has failed, “it’s time to start praying for a miracle”.

Consider it granted. Swayze’s doctor soon claimed that while he does have cancer, the rest of the Enquirer’s revelations are untrue. The prognosis is good, he is responding to treatment, his timeframe for living better — “we are considerably more optimistic.” So the story was both stark and catchy — but not quite right.

Though who knows? The Enquirer is sticking to its guns on this one, with a follow up story, and a heads-up: “The full details of Patrick’s fight for life are in the new issue of the Enquirer that goes on sale today.”

But it’s difficult to gong anyone for jumping the gun — headlines have magically converted from “Five weeks to live shock!” to the more sedate, “Swayze has cancer”.

In fact, the morphing story highlights the problem of history being re-written on the internet. Here’s the story as it originally appeared on news.com.au (which we only have because some bright spark did a screen grab):

And here’s the updated story, at the same URL:

Sadly, the doctor’s intervention wasn’t early enough to stop a Swayze retrospective from flooding the web. Presenting Patrick Swayze, a life in film.

(And click here for strangely prescient rumours of Swayze’s death on Melbourne radio’s 3AW, a month ago. A death not of cancer but oysters kilpatrick.)

But Swayze is merely the sideshow.

This week we’d like to present our Wankley to SMH blogger Jack Marx for “best use of hypothetical example to reinforce a point”. Lamenting the fact that Wayne Swan’s admission of smoking pot when younger was greeted with applause from both sides of the house, Marx wrote:

“I suppose if Simon Crean were to announce he killed the Beaumont Children he’d score a round of parliamentary applause for being so honest about what a daft youngster he once was.”

Perhaps Wayne’s not the only one on bong.  

Peter Fray

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