The power of seemingly insignificant stories like these to sweep through the media has precedent in the pre-internet era. To wit: Years ago, a good friend of mine, Justin Martin (who went on to become a prominent journalist and author of the seminal biography of Alan Greenspan) had an unusual living arrangement: he rented an apartment in Manhattan from a man who used it as an art studio during the day. Since the artist was a retired executive for whom art was a hobby, the arrangement worked out on both ends, though Martin did have to keep the apartment fairly neat.
Well, a friend who was a reporter at The Wall Street Journal did an article about the unusual arrangement. Which was picked up by a few other newspapers around the U.S. A few weeks later, however, Martin came home to find a Japanese TV crew parked in front of his apartment. They were there to do a segment on him and needed him and the artist to re-enact a few scenes for the camera, which took the better part of the following day. (So much for authenticity.)
But the best was yet to come.
A few weeks after the Japanese TV crew left, Martin got a call from a reporter at The National Enquirer. Who asked a few seemingly innocent questions and promised that the story would the following week.
It did. With a 72-point type headline "Naked Women Are At My Apartment All Day, But I Can't Be There!" (The artist, it seems, had painted a few nudes over the years.)
Meme and fuzzy tails, indeed.