The other day we watched TV reports about the poor balloon boy whose daddy hid him away and released a flying saucer balloon to fool reporters into putting the family on TV. "It was for the show," the kid explained, shining a light on poppa's reality show ambition. But the dad had manipulated government services in this fraud, and cops weren't amused.
How hard is it to fool the reporters? It didn't take them too long to figure out the balloon boy hoax, but apparently it's not too hard to get reporters to go along with a hoax.
A Welsh View points us to Starsuckers celebrity hoax dupes tabloids about some documentary makers who searched through tabloids for stories they could prove were false. That grew tiresome, so they decided to create the fake stories themselves.
They called "Got a story?" phone lines that newspapers advertised and gave them false stories about celebrities, stories outlandish enough that the editors should have checked them out, the pranksters alleged. Exerpt:
A story about singer Amy Winehouse's hair catching fire from a faulty fuse spread across the world after it was printed in the Mirror on 21 March under the headline "Amy Winehouse in hair fire drama". The Starsuckers researcher gave the newspaper fictional details of the story, which she said she had "heard" from an unnamed friend who was at the singer's house. //snip//
Atkins defended his project, saying the onus was on the newspaper to corroborate what it publishes. "Had those fake stories been fact-checked by the newspapers before they were printed, they would have realised – I think within minutes – that they were about to publish complete and utter babble."
Sometimes a story is too juicy to check out. And when they relate to flagrant behavior of a boozing celeb, the stories are entirely believable.
But here's where it gets serious. Another victim of fake news was Sarah Palin. The perpetrator of the fake news is now out hawking his book, I Am Martin Eisenstad. Eisenstadt is the pseudonym of the guy who, after the '08 election, conned MSNBC and L.A. Times, among others, into believing he had been a McCain/Palin campaign staffer who had to expose how terrible a person that stupid Sarah Palin was. That it was all fake probably meant little to the people who would later spout lines from Tina Fey and believe they were quoting Sarah Palin.
The huckster's skill is in tricking people into believing something they want to believe. Anyway, for those wanting to read that particular huckster's book, here's a friendly review, and an excerpt:
What’s consistently funny about the book is that for all that Martin Eisenstadt is an obvious parody, there is a striking similarity between his character and demeanor and those of many of the people you routinely encounter in green rooms and cocktail parties around Washington. This time, like the last time, the joke goes both ways. That’s why I intend it as real praise when I say that I Am Martin Eisenstadt is the best fake memoir of the campaign season.
Be on guard, people. There are prevaricators out there.