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Friday, September 17, 2010

Steve Jobs: Amateur Ninja?

Steve Jobs is a visionary and a billionaire. But is he also a ninja on the side?

According to an extremely unreliable rumor that's been sweeping the Web this week, the Apple CEO was caught packing ninja throwing stars at a Japanese airport (you know, just in case he gets into a tussle while traveling abroad). The story, sparked by SPA!, a Japanese tabloid, is just about the most absurd thing one could imagine, and has been refuted by Apple. And yet... because of said absurdity, the story will not go gently into that good night.

The original story — which, again, Apple has refuted  — claimed that Mr. Jobs was caught trying to sneak shurikens (metal throwing stars) onto a plane. After being nabbed by authorities, Jobs supposedly became upset and vowed never to visit the country again. Web searches on "steve jobs" are up 99% over the past 24 hours, and related lookups on "steve jobs ninja" and "steve jobs ninja stars" are both comically high.
Rumors like this are nothing new, but what's interesting this time is that this particular tall tale refuses to go away. The story was reported recently, but the incident allegedly took place in July, when Jobs was visiting Japan. Already, blogs across the Web have chimed in with snarky commentary, and there are even a few doctored photos of Jobs posing with his alleged weapon of choice. Apple calls it "pure fiction."

How did the rumor start? According to Bloomberg, someone (nobody knows who) was "stopped at the end of July for carrying "shuriken." This person, who wasn't identified for privacy concerns, "threw away the blades." So, there may be a small speck of truth, but the Apple CEO's involvement is almost certainly bogus. But don't expect the story to die. Rumors can endure forever on the Web, thanks in part to the feverish spread of buzzy stories through social networks, emails, and blogs — and the way they can quickly morph into Internet memes.

Of course, this isn't the first time a wild tech rumor has captured the imagination of Web searchers. There are still, to this very day, jokes and email forwards that claim Al Gore once said that he invented the Internet. Wildly untrue, but the rumor lives on. And let us not forget Bill Gates.According to popular legend, if you receive a particular email from the billionaire and then forward it, the Microsoft co-founder will pay you a nice bit of cash. Once again not true, people. Sorry.

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