Well, no. So why, when someone asked that question in the office this morning, did at least two people nod vigorously and begin to earnestly discuss the poor man’s demise?
I was bemused. Normally, the punchline to the question “did you know Neil Buchanan’s died?” is “yes, he had an Art Attack”. Boom, boom. Had someone misunderstood the joke? “No,” said my colleague, who’d heard the news from her sister. She shook her head gravely. “It was colon cancer. No-one even knew he was ill.”
I checked Google news. I checked the BBC. Nothing, anywhere. I checked Wikipedia, where I found a paragraph dedicated to the “death rumour”. Wikipedia’s source for the rumour pointed me to facebook.
Yes, it seems this current urban myth is down to a facebook group called RIP Neil Buchanan (the art attack guy), which has 9,218 members. The group’s homepage says that he died on 21st March 2008 after “a long struggle against cancer of the colon”. Eh?
But wait. A comment underneath, presumably by the groups’s admin Nick Hernshaw says: “It has been recently suggested that Neil is still with us, contrary to announcements on several radio broadcasts and on blue peter (bbc!). If you are in anyway offended or consider being disrespectful to this group, please bear in mind, that even if you do not necessarily believe, the sole purpose of this group is to show RESPECT for Neil, and this should be done whether he is alive or dead. It would be a shame for the small minority to ruin this opportunity for the majority.”
A bit of backtracking going on there. Sounds like he doesn’t really believe it himself. So was it a genuine misunderstanding? Or was it just set up to see how quickly and how widely a rumour can spread? Pretty damn quickly and widely, it would seem, when it’s on facebook.
Out of interest, I’ve just counted twelve facebook groups set up to debunk the myth, from the jolly sounding “Neil Buchanan is alive and well actually! lets get him back on tv!” (14 members), to the rather more angry “Nick Hernsahw [sic] is a sick cunt…..Neil Buchanan isnt dead” (32 members). However, even adding the membership of all twelve “it’s not true!” groups together, the naysayers have still only got around 300 people on board. The mysterious Nick Hernshaw has nearly 9,000 more. It looks like the rumour will be doing the rounds for a good few weeks yet.