The Lesson in the Hoax

Think Positive
A Healthy Glass of Optimism
April 22, 2013
Stephen A. Schwarzman
Scholarship Looking to the Future
April 25, 2013

The Lesson in the Hoax

Happy April Fools Day!

April Fools Day 2013 - now on the World Wide Web

Happy April Fools Day!

April Fools Day 2013 – now on the World Wide Web

Holidays can boost certain human inclinations. We like our holidays of giving that make us more generous. We enjoy ourselves more on special days of merriment. It also happens that other less pleasant tendencies can sometimes get freer reign. Giving can turn into crass materialism and merry-making just an excuse to end up with a hangover. This brings me to April Fools’ Day, the day of playing hoaxes.

The internet is virgin territory for pranksters. Some absolutely hilarious April Fool jokes were perpetrated online this year, and not by the usual suspects. What can we learn from these “case studies” in hoax-making? And do we really want this type of mischief-making invading the World Wide Web?

The winner of this year’s award for “biggest April Fools’ dupe” has to be The Atlantic, an unquestionably first rate magazine. They were taken in by a zinger of a hoax, and then it predictably went viral. The perpetrator: The French drone-maker Parrot that claimed the postal service in the town of Auvergne was planning on using app-controlled drones for package deliveries! An Atlantic blogger ran with the story as if it were true, and – voila! – a discussion thread with hundreds of comments and retweets galore.

The point isn’t that the egg is all over this poor blogger’s face. In fact, she owned up to the spoof in good humor: “Aaaaaand … if news-delivery-by-drone seems too good to be true, that’s because it is,” she wrote. Wouldn’t it be amazing if our non-April Fools’ mishaps could be retracted with such effortless aplomb? So maybe one day a year we can play our jokes, but learn even more from accepting them in a good natured way – the way we should try and acknowledge errors in judgment on any other normal day.