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Pierre Salinger syndrome is a derogatory term for someone who believes everything they read on the Internet. This name was coined in reference to former White House Press Secretary Pierre Salinger, who incorrectly reported that the 1996 crash of TWA Flight 800 occurred as a result of friendly fire from the U.S. Navy. Incidentally, Salinger did not attain this incorrect information from the Internet; it was supplied to him by otherwise trusted security agents. At the time however, many believed that Salinger had acquired the incorrect information about friendly fire online. In fact, this was proved to be a hoax that was spread over the Internet. The Pierre Salinger Syndrome can largely be assigned to naive readers or those willing to believe in gossip even when it is considered questionable by common-sense standards.
Besides serving with the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, Pierre Salinger served as a U.S. senator and a television news journalist. He later moved to France, where he died in 2004. He will long be known for the claims he made about the TWA Flight 800 being shot down off the New York coast by the U.S. Navy. Salinger's critics contended that as a press secretary, he should have checked his sources as opposed to depending on the mere words of security agents who relayed the information. Instead, Salinger reported it as an actual fact, which had somehow been “verified” by eye witnesses. The investigation resulted in wasted man hours because the actual crash was purportedly due to a fuel tank explosion caused by a vapor-filled center tank. At any rate, it is largely believed that novice online users are most susceptible to the Pierre Salinger syndrome as they are less able to discern between legitimate news and urban legends.