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Reality check: When the lines between reality and satire become blurred

A round-up of news and oddities from left field by Dr Doug Witherspoon

I’ve touched before on the sometimes sensationalist approach to reporting on Covid-19 by some media sources across all platforms. Now, along with every other aspect of life, there must be an element of personal responsibility that applies and people should show some sensible discretion when it comes to what they put into their brains, as well as their stomachs.

However, the constant craving for coronavirus news among the general public has led to some bizarre news stories related to the virus, to the point where it has become hard to distinguish between fact and fiction.
Therefore, here’s a quiz involving some news stories that may either be true or satire. The answers as to whether the stories are fact or fake are at the bottom of this piece.

Story 1: UK police issue £200 lockdown breach fines to men for ‘looking at the snow’

During the recent snowfall in Ireland and the UK, British police threatened to issue £200 lockdown breach fines to people engaging in snowball fights or taking sleigh rides. Police officers in Swindon moved to disperse a crowd of people riding sleighs down hills and throwing snowballs, while in Surrey, fines were dispensed to men occupying two cars and looking out their windows at the snow for not social distancing.

Swindon police issued a statement via Facebook: “I don’t want to be dealing with sledgers and snowball fights. There’s still a lockdown on. Think about it, don’t be tempted.”

Meanwhile, Police in Kingston told residents to enjoy the snow “from the comfort of your own home… there’s a pandemic going on”, while Surrey police tweeted: “We are currently receiving lots of calls and reports relating to snowballs being thrown and people outside sledging. Enjoy the snow today, but please don’t involve other people, particularly more vulnerable residents.”

Story 2: Vaccination of pets against Covid-19 may be necessary

An editorial published recently in a journal warned that in order to help prevent further spread of coronavirus, pets may need to be vaccinated.
Experts from the University of East Anglia and the Earlham Institute in the UK and University of Minnesota, US, warned that coronavirus can infect a wide range of species, including cats and dogs. While there is as yet no evidence to suggest SARS-CoV-2 in cats or dogs can transmit to humans, it may be advisable to vaccinate them anyway.

Prof Cock van Oosterhout, Professor of Evolutionary Genetics at the University of East Anglia in the UK, said: “It makes sense to develop vaccines for pets, for domestic animals, just as a precaution to reduce this risk.

“What we need to be as a human society, we really need to be prepared for any eventuality when it comes to Covid. I think the best way to do this is indeed consider development of vaccines for animals as well.”

Story 3: Tourists in Bali caught not wearing masks forced to do push-ups
According to a number of news sources, non-residents of Bali who were caught without face-coverings and did not have the funds to pay the equivalent of a €5.80 fine were forced by police to do push-ups.

Those judged to be wearing the mask improperly were made to do 15 push-ups, while those with no mask at all were made to do 50 push-ups on the Indonesian resort island. Face-coverings were made mandatory in Bali last year. Meanwhile in Madagascar, those caught without a mask in public have been forced to sweep the streets and pick up rubbish as punishment.

Cornier abrasions

A few non sequitur one-liners to finish off this issue’s offering. As always, I’m most grateful for any higher-quality contributions at the above address.

  • I went to the zoo the other day. There was only a dog in it – it was a Shih Tzu.
  • I said to the gym teacher: ‘Can you teach me to do the splits?’ He said: ‘How flexible are you?’ I said: ‘I can’t make Tuesdays.’
  • Two aerials get married. The ceremony was rubbish, but the reception was brilliant.
  • I met a Dutch girl with inflatable shoes last week. I rang her up to arrange a date, but unfortunately she’d popped her clogs.
  • Police arrested two kids yesterday. One was drinking battery acid, the other was eating fireworks. They charged one, and let the other off.

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