That Time "Obituary Pirates" Fabricated Lies About a Friend's Cause of Death
An update on Gabe Hudson's passing.
Just a quickie today, before I take off for a week in Florida with my mom:
Last week, in the Los Angeles Times, Wendy Lee posted an update to the story of author Gabe Hudson’s passing. It’s the first time since he died on November 23rd, 2023 that I’ve seen an official cause of my friend’s death:
Hudson, 52, had undiagnosed diabetes and a contributing factor in his death was chronic kidney disease, according to the death certificate from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
This differs dramatically from the reports that showed up online right after Gabe died—news items on sites I’d never heard of, that sounded as if they were written by AI bots, with many erroneous details—his age, where he lived, where he was from—all of which incorrectly stated that the cause of death was suicide. I won’t link to any of them, but a couple went so far as to fabricate gory details, for instance saying that he’d shot himself in the head. Not true!
It was something of a relief to learn that Gabe hadn’t taken his own life, to know that it wasn’t loneliness and despair that ended him. Of course, that doesn’t bring him back. I still think of him often, and miss him. I’m sad he died, however it happened.
But it was utterly galling to realize he’d been the victim of “obituary pirates,” people who capitalize on other people’s deaths, posting sensational lies about them after they discover many people searching for information about the recently deceased, earning money on every click by a friend or family member desperately seeking information.
I don’t have the time or bandwidth to explain how it works. But other people have: In late January, Andrew Keh and Stuart A. Thompson wrote about this sick phenomenon in a helpful New York Times article entitled: He Died in a Tragic Accident. Why Did the Internet Say He Was Murdered?: Within a day of the death of Matthew Sachman, 19, on New York City subway tracks, so-called obituary pirates had flooded search results with false information. (Gift link.)
How very fucked up. I can’t even begin to imagine how additionally traumatized Gabe’s family must have been, in the midst of their grieving, when a bunch of jerks published lies about his cause of death. What a disgusting practice. Shame on them.
That’s all for now. Back next week…
P.S. Here are two earlier pieces I wrote about Gabe, in case you missed them: