Thursday

Thursday 3/04/2003Last week a friend far saner and more far-sighted than I sent me an email from Fiji, where she'd gone to live. Among the usual happy tales -- in which she pointed out the weather, the standard of living, the people, the distance of Fiji from anything likely to nuke, infect or poison me...

Thursday 3/04/2003
Last week a friend far saner and more far-sighted than I sent me an email from Fiji, where she'd gone to live. Among the usual happy tales -- in which she pointed out the weather, the standard of living, the people, the distance of Fiji from anything likely to nuke, infect or poison me... OK, Christine, I get the message, I'm coming over -- she asks whether I'd heard the rumour that Bill Gates was dead. Shot, she said, during a charity event. The gunman had been killed subsequently. She'd read it online, but couldn't find the news report and had to rush away to do some serious partying. But as I was a journalist, perhaps I could help her out? Quite clearly, nobody had shot Bill Gates. Why would she think they had (well, unless she'd recently had to patch Windows, in which case it's a fair assumption)? I mention this to superscooper Graeme Wearden, who immediately reminds me that this was the plot of an independent movie. Indeed it was, as a quick check on www.billgatesisdead.com proves. I send this site back to Fiji and think no more of it. But the rumour is stronger than that. South Korean TV picks it up this week, and broadcasts it. Other outlets follow, the Korean market slumps by 1.5 percent, panic sets in and there is much wailing and gnashing of tech stocks until a comprehensive "He's not dead yet!" message is issued by Microsoft. It's as if someone came across an old tape of Orson Welles' "War Of The Worlds" and decided it was a current news report. When you think what else is lying around on the Web for future repurposing, it's enough to make you want to run away. Shame even Fiji isn't safe...

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