Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The rise of the Bon Jovi myth

Twitter, my favorite social networking site, recently became the conduit for a fake story that Jon Bon Jovi had died.

Bon Jovi responded to the false reports by posting a photo of him with a sign that read, “Heaven looks a lot like New Jersey.”

I’m not sure how he got Heaven and Hell mixed up, but that’s not the point.

Think about how many fake things have shaped and influenced our world. Devious tweeters have also posted fake death announcements for Mick Jagger, Will Smith, Bill Cosby, and Justin Bieber. Colin Powell became the vehicle for a fake story about weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. “The Girls Next Door” and “Kendra” on the E! channel became vehicles for Kendra Wilkinson’s fake boobs.

I follow various news organizations on Twitter – thus creating a personalized news feed – but the thing that bothers me about the social networking site is how quickly it can deliver false information. A few people decide to “re-tweet,” and before our national debt can jump another billion, everyone on the planet knows the news.

Imagine this scenario: Someone tweets the false news of Bon Jovi’s death, and just after that, terrorists hit power grids across the United States.

For hours, days, weeks, perhaps even months, everyone believes Bon Jovi is dead.

The nation, already in severe withdraws from television and Internet, trudges through the additional burden of knowing Bon Jovi would never sing “Livin’ on a Prayer” around a post-electricity campfire.

This mass deception further dispirits the struggling millions who don’t know how to cook over an open flame – no freezers plus no microwaves equals no meals. Livin’ on a prayer, indeed.

So while most Americans believe that Bon Jovi is dead, the man himself begins appear to groups of people and proclaim he really is alive, never died, and the death announcement was just a hoax on Twitter.

This only complicates matters.

Some claim to have seen the ghost of Bon Jovi. Others claim he has become a zombie. Still others claim that he has risen from the dead, adding that it kind of makes sense because Bon Jovi concerts were religious experiences.

But at least without Twitter, these rumors take longer to move around.

Then again, that makes the rumors into taller tales.

As the months pass, news of Bon Jovi spreads. Now some are saying he touched a darkened television set in Sayreville, N.J., and the tube illuminated with re-runs of VH1’s “Pop Up Video.”

Others now say he levitated above a crowd under a New York City bridge and proclaimed, “You live for the fight when that’s all that you’ve got.”

Many copied down those words on their tablets – paper tablets that required pencils.

But some copied down, “You live for the night,” not “fight,” so divisions form among Bon Jovi’s followers. Most people feel obligated to choose a side, so one’s beliefs about Bon Jovi become the central matter of identity in the U.S.

The "night" side and the "fight" side come up with various rituals and institutions to memorialize their founder and instill proper beliefs in their youngsters (how are those youngsters going to rebel? Become religious fundamentalists?).

Entrepreneurs invent hand-tooled leather bracelets that read, "WWBJD?" All the kids wear them.

So even in the post-electricity apocalypse, Twitter creates a new myth, a new religion, and Bon Jovi’s name lives on in a blaze of glory.

-Colin Foote Burch
(This column originally appeared at and was re-posted here in July 2014.)

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