Monday, March 28, 2011

we will get fooled again?

Well, with April Fool’s Day just around the corner (or if you will at the end of the road this week) I figured I would try and make up for the lack of updates this month with a look at five highly impressive, far reaching pranks played on this day. The world is getting far, far too sensitive for its own good these days, so the chances of any really brilliant ones being implemented again without lawsuits and what have you being thrown about are somewhat limited. Oh well, that’s life I guess, let’s rather just look at some classics rather than bother about the lack of them in the present day.

the best one us kids ever did was probably back in Australia in the early 80s, where we woke our Dad up very, very early to tell him that the swimming pool was on fire. he fell for it, grumbled and went back to bed!

I’ve limited this to hoaxes pulled on April 1st; ones that the world at large should have perhaps clocked were not exactly true but the majority fell for anyway. This means that I’ve rather sadly had to exclude some brilliant hoaxes, such as Orson Welles’ brilliant War Of The Worlds broadcast, the sale of the “Hitler Diaries” and, leading into my first one, the Beatles “Paul McCartney Is Dead” prank. Well, prank or cover up, depending on what you want to believe.

The Beatles : Together again as far as possible

This one I include as I fell for it, but according to the internet it seems to have never actually happened, no matter how well I remember it. This, then, would be an appeal to any reader who recalls this incident too – please post a comment or link to more info!

All I can tell you is that it was in the mid-80s, and it was on the front page of one of England’s (ahem) “celebrated” red top tabloid papers. I am almost certain it was the Daily Mirror, but it could have been The Star. I am pretty certain it was not The Sun, so watch it turn out to be that particular (ahem) “newspaper”.

The front headline was something like “look who’s back!” and had pictures of the at the time three surviving Beatles, namely George, Paul and Ringo, in the studio “together”. In retrospect, the pictures used looked a touch manipulated, but this was all before computers and “photo shopping”, so you kind of tended to believe pictures printed must be true.

I remember excitedly rushing home with a copy of the newspaper (I was doing a newspaper round in the morning at this time) to show my Mum & Dad. I remember my Mum giving me and the story a rather funny look, with her (gently) pointing out that it was the first day of the fourth month to me.

Of course this reunion “did” happen a decade or so later for the “Anthology” thing the band did, but as I said, anyone else who remembers this, or perhaps even has a link to a picture of the newspaper cover, please post the details!

The Spaghetti Incident

Arguably the greatest ever April Fool hoax ever pulled? This one takes some beating!

Back in the 1950s, television was still very much in its infancy, and was viewed as a tool for the education for and provision of information to many. The widely held view was that if it was on television then it must be true, a philosophy which over the last decade or so has come to be said of the internet. This view was particularly true of the prestigious BBC channel, in particular their “flagship” news, current affairs and documentary programme, Panorama. What better place, then, to launch an April Fools’ joke?

In 1957 Panorama ran a brief documentary on the “bumper crops” being expected that year by the Swiss spaghetti farmers. The documentary was mostly footage of ladies examining sprigs of spaghetti hanging from trees.

OK, if you somehow haven’t gotten over the hurdle of the idea of spaghetti growing from trees, surely at the least the fact that the pasta “growers” were Swiss, rather than say Italian, might have given the game away? No, it did not, and apparently the BBC was inundated with calls from viewers very anxious to know how they could go about growing their own crops of spaghetti!

So convincing was that story that, to this day, I still meet one or two people who are blissfully unaware of the fact that it was a hoax. One, who shall remain nameless, even refused to believe me when I said it was a trick, and they remain convinced that pasta comes from trees.

This may well explain why the BBC are able to get away with it again and again…..

Planetary Bounce

Sir Patrick Moore is perhaps one of the world’s best known and widely respected astronomers. His radio and TV show, The Sky At Night, has been going just about as long as the BBC has, and no one has ever had reason to doubt any of the fascinating astronomical insights Sir Patrick has shared on the programme. No reason to doubt him, then, when he announced a planetary alignment on one April 1st in the 70s would cause a disturbance in the Earth’s gravity and people would, if they jumped at a very specific time, experience weightlessness.

Considering the stature of Sir Patrick Moore in the nation’s eyes, and the fact that he, along with anyone else who spoke of space, was implicitly trusted (there really weren’t even all that many decent “fake moon landing” theories at the time), it is little wonder that most who heard it happily accepted this occurrence as fact. A little more difficult to explain would be the many phone calls the BBC received from people confirming they had experienced the promised weightlessness, the most spectacular being a claim from a lady that she and a dozen or so friends had floated out of their chairs at the time.

Mind over matter, as they say.

Digital Ben

Making it a trilogy, or if you will hat trick, for the BBC would be the story from the 80s of how one of London’s most recognizable landmarks, Big Ben, was to be modernized and the familiar clock face was to be replaced with a digital read out.

Now, whereas you couldn’t get away with anything of this sort today due to the establishment of listed and protected buildings, there seemed to be nothing like that back then, and thus the BBC were bombarded with shocked, angry calls, complaining about this decision to the fullest extent possible.

It wasn’t just people calling in to complain, mind. The BBC also announced that they had acquired the now discarded four clock faces of Big Ben, and offered to sell them to the first four people who called them. Perhaps the single most spectacular person to have fallen for this aspect of the prank was a Japanese sailor, who took the time to radio in an enquiry to buy from somewhere in the midst of the Atlantic Ocean.

Where The Truth Lies

Finally, a kind of eerie one, but one that caused some waves at the time and might (note might) have helped an election result go the way that it did.

On April 1 1997, the UK newspaper The Independent ran the startling story that Tony Blair, the leader of the main opposition Labour party, had engineered a “deal” with Margaret Thatcher, the former Conservative Prime Minister and arguably the greatest “enemy” that the Labour Party has ever faced or had in terms of political outlook. Apparently, under the deal, Thatcher would endorse Blair as the right choice for leading Britain, and in return Blair (or if you will, Bliar) would make Thatcher Britain’s ambassador to America.

The story, at least as far as the time it was published, was utter nonsense. “Socialism is fantastic until it runs out of other people’s money” was Thatcher’s view on Labour policies and she was known to see Blair as nothing more than a “boneless wonder”. I do wonder, however, how many people heard of “the Thatcher endorsement” without it being qualified as a hoax in the month before the 1997 General Election, which saw Blair sweep to power with a landslide victory that not even the most optimistic of “Blairites” anticipated. Could it be that the idea of their beloved, much missed leader approved of this Blair fellow swayed so many dedicated Conservative voters to switch allegiance?

The eerie, or perhaps plain disturbing, part of all of this was that Blair became the kind of Prime Minister that Thatcher would undoubtedly have approved of. After coming to power with so much promise, he gradually came to treat the office as some sort of quasi-dictatorship, doing things in a very Thatcher way – limiting Union power and using war to distract from domestic concerns, for example.

Well, there you go! If you see or hear of any great April Fool’s stunts this Friday, be sure to let the world know of them! Just remember to treat everything you see, read and hear on that day with a healthy dose of suspicion.

be excellent to each other!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!11
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