As if to prove that this year is going to be a fun-packed thrill ride, the second week of 2017 has brought us closer to the repeal of the Affordable Care Act and the announcement of the Nintendo Switch. But those are still mere appetizers to the week’s main events. What has the World Wide Web been up to over the past seven days while you’ve been trying to dig yourself out from under the snow, both metaphorically and literally? Why, press on, dear reader. These are the highlights of the last seven days’ online chatter.

As If 2017 Wasn’t Strange Enough Already

What Happened: Yes, this was the week where reality apparently thought to itself, “What if it’s like The Manchurian Candidate, but with added fetish appeal?”
Where It Blew Up: Twitter, media reports
What Really Happened: Where to start with this particular story? Let’s begin with the CNN report from the start of this week that claimed that both President Obama and President-elect Donald Trump had been briefed by intelligence services that, not only had Russia influenced last year’s presidential election in favor of Trump, but that Russian agents also had “compromising personal and financial information” about the incoming commander in chief. That’s kind of a big deal, right? Twitter certainly thought so.

And then, things got more dramatic when BuzzFeed published the 35-page report that the intelligence briefings had drawn from. The report, as described by the site, included “specific, unverified, and potentially unverifiable allegations” against Trump, including claims that he had been cultivated and supported by Russia for “at least 5 years” and, as the report puts it in the summary, “perverted sexual acts which have been arranged/monitored by the FSB.” Again, these are unverified claims, but guess what Twitter went to town on?

Meanwhile, the principals in this story denied it was true.

(That last tweet, by the way, was demonstrably a lie.)

What BuzzFeed did by releasing the report was launch an ongoing conversation about journalistic ethics and the limits of journalism as a whole:

Was the site right or wrong publishing the report? Many will argue both sides. Meanwhile, while intelligence sources vouch for the credibility of the man who put the 35 page report together, the man himself has been forced into hiding as a result of being outed. So, you know, just another week of absolutely normal, not at all crazy, political science. You know what it’s like.
The Takeaway: Well, if nothing else, this whole episode could make for some really interesting television one day.

I Refer My Learned Colleagues to Exhibit A…

What Happened: In related news, Donald Trump gave his first press conference in six months this week. The Internet found itself very interested in his props.
Where It Blew Up: Twitter, media reports
What Really Happened: To the surprise of many, despite the “compromising material” reports, President-elect Trump didn’t cancel his much-anticipated first press conference since July 27, 2016 this week. Held the day after the Russian report surfaced, it was billed as a chance for Trump to announce how he would handle the conflict of interest inherent in his being both president and owner of many active businesses. (Spoiler! The answer turned out to be what the head of the Office of Government Ethics would call “wholly inadequate” and “meaningless from a conflict of interest perspective,” but what does that guy know about ethics, amiright?) What the POETUS said was, of course, fully fact–checked, but who had time for facts when there were props? Even before the press conference actually started, journalists present were distracted:

The folders, it turned out, were really, really important.

Well, maybe.

Soon enough, the story became whether the folders were empty. It’s all people were talking about:

Well, OK. Maybe not all

Hey, maybe the folders were all a false flag exercise! At least this year isn’t making people into crazy paranoid wrecks just yet.
The Takeaway: But who would really fall for that whole folders thing anyway?

Remote Controlled

What Happened: Of course, the Russian rumors are just scaremongering, it’s not like C-SPAN is being replaced by Russian state broadcasting or anything. Oh, wait.
Where It Blew Up: Twitter, media reports
What Really Happened: In what might be the strangest event of the week (and, really, that’s saying something), C-SPAN viewers got the rarest gift of all on Thursday: a surprise. Namely, C-SPAN getting temporarily replaced by RT, the Russian state-sponsored news network, for seemingly no reason. No, really:

As you might expect, the switch-up (which lasted about 10 minutes, and then switched back to C-SPAN, seemingly with no rhyme or reason) caught many off-guard.

Others, meanwhile, just jumped straight into full-scale paranoia.

But there was also the panic option, as well.

The unexpected interruption quickly became a mainstream news story, even though C-SPAN made efforts to downplay any wrongdoing:

Given everything else that had been happening this week, however, not everyone was impressed by the strange happenstance:

The Takeaway: If nothing else, people are talking about C-SPAN, which normally doesn’t have this kind of cultural cache.

Meanwhile, In The Current White House Administration

What Happened: Nevermind President Obama leaving the White House. Come January 20, he’ll be leaving Joe Biden, too.
Where It Blew Up: Twitter
What Really Happened: With just days to go until Barack Obama leaves office, the reality is finally setting in. In addition to his farewell address this week, the current President of the United States marked his final days in office on Thursday by honoring Vice President Joe Biden, presenting him with the Presidential Medal of Freedom and melting the Internet’s collective cold heart in the process:

https://twitter.com/DavidUzumeri/status/819653647818702850

The Takeaway: Obama wasn’t just giving Biden the Presidential Medal of Freedom, he was giving the Internet a gift, too.

That Joseph-Fiennes-as-Michael-Jackson Thing Really Didn’t Go Over Well

What Happened: In unrelated news, maybe having Joseph Fiennes play Michael Jackson wasn’t the best idea.
Where It Blew Up: Twitter, media reports
What Really Happened: At the start of this week, the first trailer for Sky Arts’ Urban Myths series debuted online, telling possibly true stories about celebrities and famous figures as performed by today’s recognizable faces.

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