Over the last few days, an especially effective fake news story about Metallica’s James Hetfield quitting the heavy metal band to make a country record called “Hetfield Road” has been making the rounds. Saving Country Music headquarters has been bombarded with emails about the article, and according to the stats, it’s been viewed over 223,000 times since being posted on March 8th, and liked or shared on Facebook some 87,000 times and counting.
But of course it’s entirely bunk, despite being fairly convincing in nature, especially because it does not follow the unwritten fake news rules of 1) Denoting at least somewhere in the article that it is indeed fake and 2) Including at least one detail that’s so outrageous, nobody would ever believe it.
Fake news stories can be effective social commentary tools by either illustrating absurdity by being absurd, or by saying something that truth or intellectual discourse just can’t. Sometimes comedy is the most truthful expression possible. Fake news stories can also be massive traffic generators for websites as hoodwinked readers read and share the story, and help spread the false rumor.
Helping the story along is the fact that Hetfield actually does have a small history with country music. He appeared on the tribute to Waylon Jennings I’ve Always Been Crazy from 2003 singing Waylon’s “Don’t You Think This Outlaw Bit’s Done Got Out Of Hand.” He also performed on the program “CMT Outlaws” in 2004, which likely is where the screenshot of Hetfield in a wide-brimmed hat with a CMT logo in the bottom right corner came from.
Snopes.com has also officially debunked the rumor, and no, I ain’t linking to the article to draw even more attention than necessary to it.
Though James Hetfield would make an interesting specimen to “go country” in the future, it would be an even bigger surprise if he walked away from Metallica to do it. But who knows, a country metal side project from the singer would not be entirely unexpected down the road.