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Online newspaper warns against becoming an April 1 fool

April 01, 2004

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With the annual prank-pulling day on the horizon again, The Christian Science Monitor newspaper has posted a warning on its Web site -- in the form of a PDF-based feature article -- to all would-be April 1 victims: Even more than usual, and especially if you're the gullible type, don't believe everything you see and read on April Fools' Day.

The online newspaper's "Historic Hoaxes" [PDF: 172 kb] article highlights several recent examples of fiction camouflaged as fact, intended to confuse and/or amuse. They illustrate that new digital tools, such as Adobe Photoshop software, make it easier than ever to create faked images that appear (at least to non-skeptics) realistic and thus believable.

Historic hoaxesFor example, there's the apparent photograph of "The Amazing Giant House Cat," in which a man appears to be hoisting a cat of large-dog proportions. According to an Internet rumor in 2000, 'Snowball, the Monster Cat' had been abandoned near a nuclear lab. Due to radiation exposure, the rumor went, the grew to an outlandish size. The man later revealed on a national TV show that he'd created the faked feline -- really a 21-pound housecat -- on a computer in about 20 minutes, then emailed it to some friends.

Other highlighted hoaxes include "Pasta that grows on trees" and the infamous "Internet Cleaning" email from 1997, which notified Netizens that the global network would be offline for a day for some cyber-housecleaning. That date of the alleged clean sweep should have been a clue: April 1.

The article points to several anti-hoax resource sites, such as MuseumOfHoaxes.com, TruthOrFiction.com and UrbanLegends.About.com.

At the Museum of Hoaxes, we ran across one creative worthy of special mention due to its use of PDF. A November 2001 news item providing an update on the so-called "National Economic Security and Reformation Act" (NESARA) details the supposedly delayed announcement of a "debt forgiveness" bill -- there's even a detailed 75-page version [PDF: 564kb] -- that had been sidetracked because of the September 11, 2001 terrorism attacks. An update on NESARA [PDF: 28kb] explains that:

" ... on September 11, 2001, at 10 a.m. Eastern Daylight Time, Alan Greenspan, was scheduled to announce the new Treasury Bank system, DEBT FORGIVENESS for all U.S. citizens, and abolishment of the IRS as the first part of the public announcements of NESARA. Instead, at just before and after 9 a.m. EDT, planes attacked the World Trade Center. The attack on the WTC served to stop the announcement of NESARA because a crucial banking computer center on the first and second floors of the WTC was prevented from carrying out a computer system download to U.S. banks which was scheduled to begin at 9 A.M. EDT."

Now comes the call-to-action:

"All citizens of the United States have great financial benefits OVERDUE to them. I'm BREAKING the SILENCE and BLACKOUT on the TRUTH about why some people in Orange County, California have MORE CASH in their hands this last month! I'm breaking the BLACKOUT because our PEOPLE NEED the economic boost that is ALREADY DUE to Americans! Could you use more money? U.S. households and citizens HAVE a significant disposable INCOME INCREASE DUE to them RIGHT NOW. A 15 minute announcement out of Washington, D.C. is ALL it takes! MASSIVE personal debt forgiveness and abolishment of federal income tax are OVERDUE to EVERY citizen of the United States! Mainstream media has cooperated in the blackout on this historic news, but the blackout has helped stop these benefits from reaching us. It's time to end the blackout and demand our benefits."

A skeptical person might wonder why such too-good-to-be-true news for U.S. taxpayers was being hosted exclusively on a Web site based in Tasmania, Australia.

But what would April 1 be without a few fools, who should be Reader-savvy in order to be fully hoax-enabled.

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