From the files of the Fedora Squad

Editor’s note:?This column, originally published May 24, 2015, is from the Wes Burns collection.

Working in a newsroom, such as I do, gives you a front row seat to history … for better or worse.

Ok, maybe not the front row; but definitely somewhere towards the front … the kind of seating where the chairs are higher quality and you get to walk in before the throngs of “general admission” folks storm the gates.

So on April 15, 2013 those of us in the newsroom watched the events unfold following the bombing of the Boston Marathon and the citywide manhunt that ensued.

The Boston Marathon Bombing has the infamous distinction of being the first national tragedy to happen on U.S. soil during the social media age; this means that instead of watching a live TV feed from Boston, the few of us who remained after the paper was printed had many, many options.

We had the police scanner tuned to the Boston P.D, we had the Associated Press feed, we had Facebook, and we had Reddit.

Misinformation was flying around the country and the police had the unenviable task of trying to coordinate a manhunt for a suspected terrorist while contending with the deluge of fake-facts coming from all corners of social media.

That night I remember reading the Reddit discussion for hours, and finally Reddit’s “Fedora Squad” had leveraged their considerable, decentralized resources to discover the name of the second suspect, which they promptly got wrong.

In fact, the Fedora Squad was SO wrong, and in many ways detrimental to the actual manhunt, that Reddit retired from the detective business for good.

Well, a new mystery has arisen and Reddit has decided to dust off their fedoras and solve a conundrum worthy of their keen detective skills:

(It would help if you turned on the theme to “Serial” at this point)

I want you to think about something. I want you to think about the things you can’t see, and how much those things can change your life.

How can one moment pass, and the next your world is turned upside down by something you never saw coming … by something you couldn’t see but only experience?

On the night of May 16, the National Broadcast Corporation began broadcasting a live television program. Live TV hasn’t been the standard for decades, but this program, “Saturday Night Live,” always was and continues to be sent out live, seemingly ignoring the potential for disaster.

Well, the disaster refused to be ignored.

“Saturday Night Live,” or SNL, began their program with a skit about summer, but mostly making fun of Hilary Clinton’s recent campaign ad announcing her run for the presidency.

Kate McKinnon played Hilary Clinton, replete with pants-suit at the beach and tone-deaf political talking points.

Joining McKinnon were Bobby Moynihan, Cecily Strong, Leslie Jones and Kenan Thompson.

The sketch was funny; all the players were at a picnic table on the beach, singing about how excited they were for summer. Then Clinton shows up during their song to “share” their excitement via droning political statements.

The sketch is working fine, until we hit the 1:32 mark, when everything falls apart.

Someone farted on Saturday Night Live … but who?

An audible expulsion is heard 1:32 into the sketch, but their is almost no reaction from the actors. They carry on with the sketch and it is never mentioned again.

And before they let an embarrassing mistake made on a live television broadcast go unexamined, Reddit came out of retirement for one last case.

Do you think no group of people would devote this much time to uncovering the secrets of who broke wind at SNL? Then you have clearly never bore witness to the awesome power of crowd sourced insanity.

First step: Break down the broadcast feed like it was the Zapruder film.

Progressing frame by frame starting at the 1:30 mark all of the players facing are seen clearly, facing the camera, and apparently free of intestinal distress. At 1:31 is when it starts to get interesting.

Second step: Examine the suspects.

Kate McKinnon, an up and coming star in this latest SNL cast and carrying the comedic weight of the sketch on her shoulders, shifts slightly in her standing position. Was this merely an in character direction? Was she shifting to draw comedic attention to Hilary’s noted discomfort in her ad? Or was she shifting for some reason more sinister?

Kenan Thompson, an old hand at live television following his 12 years on SNL, drew suspicion from Redditors as well. Before … the incident … Thompson is relaxed and aloof. Perhaps TOO relaxed? Then, following the mysterious playing of the trouser tuba, Thompson is still relaxed, but only for a moment. Within seconds his face takes on a look of shock, surprise, and maybe … shame? Was he reacting to the sketch, or was it something more?

And then there is the curious case of Leslie Jones.

Jones, a recent cast addition and therefore often uncomfortable in the spotlight, is seen moments before the incident with her eyes darting around the room. Was she in a panic? Did she know what was about to happen? And if so, why did she do nothing to stop it?

Cecily Strong and Bobby Moynihan were eliminated as suspects early on as neither of them shows any visible reaction whatsoever and we don’t live in a world where Bobby Moynihan is that good of an actor.

As of Wednesday morning a Redditor named FreedomAndTruthiness claims to have the answer.

According to him/her/it the true culprit is Kenan Thompson. FreedomAndTruthiness claims that Thompson’s demeanor immediately following the roar from the rear, and continuing for the rest of the sketch, is one of fear. Fear that he would be called out for his transgression, fear that he would break character, or just the fear of farting in public and hoping no one heard.

I should say there is a strong contingent supporting the claim that it was McKinnon all along, mostly due to her opportune shifting. But these people aren’t looking at all the evidence! They need look no further than the face of Thompson’s bench mate: Leslie Jones.

Jones’ reaction, originally interpreted as sign of her guilt, should be viewed as a matter of disgust; disgust that could drive someone to unknowingly incriminate themselves with a shocked expression that was immediately misinterpreted by social media.

Hopefully the truth has come out by the time you read this. If it has not then I suggest you examine all the evidence yourself, then head over to Reddit to make your thoughts known.

Because so long as the Fedora Squad keeps investigating the case of Smelt It vs. Dealt It, actual crimes can be solved by actual detectives.


Copy Editor Wes Burns is a Sunday columnist for the T-R.