Fools’ Day used to be so much fun. We could get up a
few minutes early, set all the clocks ahead an hour and
then watch as the rest of the family panicked because
they thought they had overslept. Or we could hide a
plastic spider in the bottom of a bowl of breakfast
cereal. And there was always the classic prank of
coating the eyepiece on a pair of binoculars with shoe
were the good old days. Before the Internet.
Web has taken all the steam out of April Fools’ jokes
because tricking people has become an everyday
occurrence online. Thanks to the Internet’s anonymity
and lackadaisical fact-checking, jokesters, con men and
even well-meaning but confused Web surfers are fooling
us all the time. Here are some notable examples:
bogus story created in England popped up all over
Minnesotans’ Facebook and Twitter accounts in
mid-March after a supposed local wrinkle was uncovered.
According to the yarn, which appeared on News-hound.org,
a British woman named Gemma Sheridan was stranded on a
remote island for seven years when the boat she was
sailing to Hawaii was hit by a storm. She finally was
rescued after she spelled out SOS on a beach and the
sign was spotted "by some kid from Minnesota"
who was noodling around on Google Earth. The story
turned out to be an inside joke between the owner of the
website and a friend named Gemma Sheridan.
blogger Linda Tirado posted a heart-wrenching story
about how her family was struggling to make even the
simplest of ends meet. She wrote of feeding her kids,
"You have to have a working stove, and pots, and
spices, and you’ll have to do the dishes no matter how
tired you are or they’ll attract bugs."
Sympathetic readers started an account to donate money,
a fund that grew to $61,000 before a newspaper reporter
caught up with Tirado and discovered that it was a sham.
She said that she was using her blog to test the theme
for a book. She also made it clear that she had no
intention of returning any of the donations, although
she did promise to use the money to get her book
YOU READY TO ORDER?
Dayna Morales stirred up a hornet’s nest when she
posted a picture of a receipt on which she claimed the
diners wrote a homophobic slur and stiffed her on a tip
for a $93 bill. The New Jersey restaurant where she
works set up a tip fund for her, collecting $2,000
before the customers came forward with their copy of the
receipt, which clearly showed them leaving a 20 percent
tip and no nasty comments. Morales came up empty on the
deal: Not only did the restaurant give the $2,000 to
charity, it also fired her.
the past year, Kevin Bacon, Celine Dion, Tom Cruise,
Cher and rapper Lil Boosie all have been the subjects of
erroneous online reports of their deaths. And they keep
coming. Last week, sports Twitter feeds carried the news
of the untimely demise of retired pro basketball player
Quinton Ross. A man with that name did die in New York
City, where the hoopster spent part of his career, but
the NBA’s Ross was alive and well and living
comfortably in his hometown of Dallas. Alas, that didn’t
keep his family from being inundated by phone calls from
anguished friends and relatives.
for a way to amuse himself on a cross-country flight, TV
producer Elan Gale started tweeting about a passenger
arguing with the flight attendants. By Gale’s account,
he tried to mediate the dispute, but the cranky
passenger slapped him. Like an old-fashioned serial, the
tale was spun, 140 characters at a time, for hours,
eventually catching the attention of the major news
outlets, including ABC, Gale’s employer. Two days
later, he confessed that it was all fiction but refused
to apologize, saying, "I never claimed it to be
January, the Internet hummed with the report that Rep.
Michele Bachmann had been arrested in Colorado for
impaired driving after getting high on marijuana. The
Minnesota Republican, who wasn’t even in Colorado at
the time, was the butt of a spoof posted by the satiric
Newslo.com, which tends to have a marked slant toward
Democrats. The organization argued that its reputation
should have kept readers from taking the report
seriously, but people who had never heard of Newslo
quickly reposted the story as fact.
Bachmann parody wasn’t the only one that surfaced when
Colorado legalized pot. DailyCurrent.com ran a story
under the headline: "Marijuana overdoses kill 37 in
Colorado on the first day of legalization." A
doctor was quoted as saying he expected hundreds of more
deaths. Like the Newslo spoof, this one was picked up
and re-sent by people who thought it was true, but the
story didn’t get the traction of Bachmann’s. The
giveaway: The doctor being quoted was Jack Shephard,
whom many people recognized as a character from the hit
TV show "Lost."
To be determined
Dame football player Manti Te’o became the epicenter
of a bizarre series of events in which he was both the
perpetrator and, he claimed, the victim of a hoax. It
began with him announcing that his girlfriend died from
leukemia. Under questioning by suspicious reporters, he
finally admitted that the girlfriend never existed. But
he claimed innocence, saying that he was the victim of
"a sick joke" in which he was tricked into
falling in love with a woman he courted through the
Internet but never met in person. Now playing for the
San Diego Chargers, he refuses to talk about the
incident. We likely won’t know the whole story —
until he writes his memoirs.