Pierre Salinger Syndrome


Pierre Salinger Syndrome refers to the inclination to believe or spread false information or rumors, especially through the internet, without verifying its authenticity. The term originated from former U.S press secretary, Pierre Salinger’s claim that he found evidence on the internet suggesting TWA Flight 800 was accidentally shot down by a U.S. Navy missile. This information was later proven false, thus etching the term in internet folklore.


The phonetic pronunciation of “Pierre Salinger Syndrome” would be:Pee-air Sal-in-jur Sin-drohm

Key Takeaways

<ol><li>Pierre Salinger Syndrome refers to the conviction of possessing correct or classified information that contradicts mainstream understanding or official reports, based solely on internet-sourced materials. The term is named after Pierre Salinger, JFK’s press secretary, who claimed to have proof that TWA Flight 800 was shot down by a missile, based largely on information he found on the internet.</li> <li>The syndrome emphasizes the critical importance of verifying, cross-checking, and critically examining online information. It cautions us about the risk of misinformation that comes with the ease of accessing data online. Situation awareness might be distorted if one relies solely on such unchecked and unofficial sources, leading to false beliefs and conspiracy theories.</li><li>Lastly, Pierre Salinger Syndrome invokes a greater understanding of the pitfalls of the information age, where the volume of easily accessible information can lead to the paradoxical issue of misinformation. It emphasizes that the ability to evaluate the credibility and reliability of sources is crucial in this digital age.</li></ol>


The term “Pierre Salinger Syndrome” is significant in technology and Internet culture as it refers to the phenomenon of believing or promoting false information or rumors spread on the internet. It was coined after Pierre Salinger, a former press secretary for President Kennedy, proclaimed he had evidence that TWA Flight 800 was accidentally downed by a U.S. Navy missile, based on documents he found on the internet. These claims were later debunked, and thus, this term has come to highlight the importance of verifying online information before treating it as factual. It underlines the risks involved in placing too much trust in unverified data and the dangers of misinformation in the digital age.


Pierre Salinger Syndrome refers to a phenomenon in which an individual firmly believes in false or erroneous information, typically found on the internet, and maintains this belief even when presented with evidence to the contrary. The term originates from a situation involving Pierre Salinger, former Press Secretary to President John F. Kennedy, who in 1996 made a public claim about the cause of the TWA Flight 800 explosion based on erroneous information he encountered on the internet. This incident exposed the risk of internet information integrity, often portraying as a reliable source but can just as well be a conduit of misinformation or falsehoods.The purpose of using the term Pierre Salinger Syndrome offers us a schema to underline and critically examine the problems associated with improper validation and verification of information sourced from the internet – a problem that has compounded with easy access to social media and other digital platforms. It serves as a cautionary reminder about the importance of critical thinking and the need to validate sources, especially for sensitive information. In a broader context, it is also often used to discuss the bigger societal and political implications related to false information spread, like baseless rumours, conspiracy theories, and disinformation campaigns – things that can potentially affect public opinion and even democratic processes.


“Pierre Salinger Syndrome” refers to the phenomenon of individuals believing false information without verifying its source or validity, often spreading it further, particularly on the internet. It started in 1996 when Pierre Salinger, a former press secretary for President Kennedy, claimed he had “proof” that TWA flight 800 was shot down by a U.S. Navy missile, based on a document he received via the internet, which later proved to be an email hoax. 1. COVID-19 Misinformation: An immediate real-world example of Pierre Salinger Syndrome is the spread of misinformation concerning the COVID-19 pandemic across the internet. People shared false news about the source of the virus, its prevention, and potential treatments, causing confusion and panic.2. The Pizzagate Conspiracy Theory: This conspiracy theory suggested a pizza restaurant in Washington D.C. was a front for a child trafficking ring, led by high-profile names in the Democratic Party. Many people treated the conspiracy theory as fact and it resulted in dangerous real-world consequences when an individual stormed the cited pizza restaurant with a firearm.3. Misinformation in 2020 U.S. Election: In the aftermath of the 2020 US Presidential Election, unverified claims about widespread voter fraud circulated on social media platforms and other corners of the internet, often without credible evidence. Some people accepted and shared these claims without verifying the information, further contributing to the post-election tension.

Frequently Asked Questions(FAQ)

Q: What is Pierre Salinger Syndrome?A: Pierre Salinger Syndrome refers to the phenomenon where someone believes something to be true based solely on false information found on the internet. The term is named after Pierre Salinger, President Kennedy’s press secretary, who in 1996 announced he had proof that TWA flight 800 was accidentally shot down by a US Navy missile, based on documents he found online.Q: How did the term Pierre Salinger Syndrome originate?A: In 1996, Pierre Salinger claimed to have seen classified government documents on the internet that proved TWA Flight 800 was accidentally shot down by a U.S. Navy missile. These documents turned out to be fake, but Salinger had already publicly made his theory known, leading to the coining of this term.Q: Why is recognizing Pierre Salinger Syndrome important?A: Recognizing Pierre Salinger Syndrome is crucial in the Digital Age where misinformation spreads easily. It reminds users to fact check and verify online information from credible sources before accepting it as the truth.Q: Does Pierre Salinger Syndrome apply only to internet information?A: Although the term originated from an internet-related incident, it can be applied broadly to any situation where unverified information is taken as truth without cross-checking.Q: What can prevent Pierre Salinger Syndrome?A: Pierre Salinger Syndrome can be prevented by always verifying online information from credible sources, using critical thinking skills when assessing this information, and by being aware of the potential for misinformation online.Q: What consequences can arise from Pierre Salinger Syndrome?A: Pierre Salinger Syndrome can lead to the spread of misinformation, can damage reputations, contribute to false rumors, and even cause fear or confusion. In some cases, it may also have legal or political implications.Q: Is Pierre Salinger Syndrome a common problem in today’s digital age?A: Yes, with the vast amount of information accessible on the internet, it’s become easier for false information to spread, making Pierre Salinger Syndrome a common issue. That’s why it’s increasingly important to fact-check and validate sources.

Related Tech Terms

  • Information Overload
  • Cyberchondria
  • Internet Hoax
  • Fake News
  • Digital Literacy

Sources for More Information


About The Authors

The DevX Technology Glossary is reviewed by technology experts and writers from our community. Terms and definitions continue to go under updates to stay relevant and up-to-date. These experts help us maintain the almost 10,000+ technology terms on DevX. Our reviewers have a strong technical background in software development, engineering, and startup businesses. They are experts with real-world experience working in the tech industry and academia.

See our full expert review panel.


About Our Editorial Process

At DevX, we’re dedicated to tech entrepreneurship. Our team closely follows industry shifts, new products, AI breakthroughs, technology trends, and funding announcements. Articles undergo thorough editing to ensure accuracy and clarity, reflecting DevX’s style and supporting entrepreneurs in the tech sphere.

See our full editorial policy.

Technology Glossary

Table of Contents

More Terms