For the past week, rumors regarding the Miami Zombie attack have been going bananas on the Internet. In one version, face-eater Rudy Eugene was infected with something called the LQP-79 virus. A website and YouTube video devoted to the supposed outbreak racked up over 10,000 views in less than 24 hours. Hundreds of commentators feared that the Zombie Apocalypse had finally arrived.
It was all bullshit, of course. But that didn't stop hoax creator Alfred Moya from having some fun. "The whole underlying point of it was to make a statement about social media and mass hysteria," says the Ocala-based webmaster. "I spent about an hour and a half on the whole thing and now, five days later, people are still calling from around the world thinking that it's true."
Moya says he stayed up until 2 or 3 a.m. last Thursday night creating the website and video. He made sure to use his real name to register the domain just to see how long it would take people to figure out that he was behind the hoax.
The professional web programmer points out that someone else actually came up with the idea for the LQP-79 zombie virus. But when Moya saw how lame that person's website was, he decided to create his own and help spread the rumor.
From his website, LQP-79.org:
The Miami Cannibal now confirmed by local police to have been a carrier of the deadly LQP-70 mental virus was caught on video eating a man alive. If you have not seen the shocking video of the Miami cannibal eating his human victim you are to be WARNED this video is shocking proof of this deranged zombie like attack on an innocent bystander.
The LQP-79 virus is not a hoax but instead these claims of hoax and fake are being made by the popular media in order to keep the secret that many people are dying and eating each other in America.
Here is the video Moya uploaded to YouTube:
Moya says his intention wasn't to scare people, but to point out how gullible people have become in the age of social media sites like Facebook and Twitter.
"I have been working on the web for a long time," says the dreadlocked Rastafarian. "I've seen the way that the web has been moving and it's towards a group-think mentality. People think that if they see something on Facebook, it must be true."
He argues that his hoax should be "immediately recognizable as spoof to anyone who did even a minute's research on it." (The website is supposedly run by a Dr. Rastapopulos, a character from Tin Tin comics). And that's Moya's point: thousands of people gobbled up the rumors of a zombie virus hook, line, and sinker.
"The CDC had to come out and make a statement," Moya points out. "That shows you how ludicrous and assenine people are that they would call the CDC in the first place."
But not everyone thinks the joke is funny. A Massachusetts-based group called the Zombie Action Committee outed the hoax, but also slammed Moya:
The note of parody involved is not without merit... However, Moya's propagation of an internet hoax that has induced real fear in some, in which all roads lead back to his site, with its Google ads and prominently featured Paypal widget for donating to "fund research and broadcasting information of this deadly virus!" ... well, it doesn't exactly scream altruistic satire.
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Moya denies trying to make money off of the hoax, but he admits to being fascinated by the way it spread around the world in a matter of hours. He says he plans to write a case study about the experience.
His only regret is that the hoax didn't go on a bit longer before being exposed. But he doesn't feel sorry for scaring the public.
"Some people call me a genius, some people call me an asshole," he says. "But what prepped us for this? All those zombie movies and the media."