Diary

RedState's Water Cooler - April 1, 2018 - Open Thread - "The Very Best Fake News"

watercooler-620x413-620x413

Today is the day where we not only accept fake news, we celebrate it. As such, as soon as the RedState Department of History got home from church this morning, it set to work celebrating the one day where people not only generate fake news, they expect it.

Some efforts are better than others. But some survive the test of time.

TIME magazine lists some of the better pranks played this year, including:

Burger King’s chocolate “dessert Whopper”
The American Museum of Natural History’s “Cyclops skull”
Sam’s Club’s new cryptocurrency, “Bulkcoin”
eHarmony’s “Furever Love” dating service for dogs

There are others:

Head and Shoulders’ new bath gel, called “Knees and Toes”
Lego Corporation’s revolutionary new brick-sorting vacuum cleaner
And, if you’re not a Facebook fan, Snapchat has a new filter that makes it appear that Russian bots are liking your posts.

For the Department staff, though, there are three April Fools’ pranks which they regard as the best of all time. In no particular order, here they are:

The Taco Liberty Bell – in 1998, Taco Bell announced that it had bought the Liberty Bell, both to restore it and to rename it:

“In an effort to help the national debt, Taco Bell is pleased to announce that we have agreed to purchase the Liberty Bell, one of our country’s most historic treasures. It will now be called the “Taco Liberty Bell” and will still be accessible to the American public for viewing. While some may find this controversial, we hope our move will prompt other corporations to take similar action to do their part to reduce the country’s debt.

To say that the company’s prank worked would be an understatement. The National Park Service had to call a news conference to deny the story. Congressional aides contacted the company to see what was going on.

The company’s ad campaign cost $300,000. But it generated $600,000 in new sales the very next day.  As an advertising ploy, it was almost as good as new Coke:

“More than 650 print outlets and 400 broadcast outlets covered the Taco Liberty Bell story, featuring mentions of the “Nothing Ordinary About It” ad campaign. More than 70 million Americans were exposed to the media event, through radio, print and television coverage, including NBC “Nightly News,” “The Today Show,” CBS “This Morning,” CNN and USA Today. Additionally, more than 50 newspapers nationwide utilized a whimsical AP photo of the Taco Bell CEO next to a replica of the Liberty Bell. Free publicity surrounding the Taco Liberty Bell story generated the equivalent of $25 million in advertising for Taco Bell.”

The Curious Case of Sidd Finch – on April Fools’ Day 1985, readers of Sports Illustrated were treated to a story about Hayden “Sidd” Finch, a righthanded pitching prospect for the New York Mets. Finch had learned the  art of pitching while studying in the mountains of Tibet and had a fastball that was off-the-charts good. Writer George Plimpton, who made a career out of writing books like Paper Lion, described how fast Finch was:

“On March 17, the (radar) gun was handled by Stottlemyre. He heard the pop of the ball in Reynolds’ mitt and the little squeak of pain from the catcher. Then the astonishing figure 168 appeared on the glass plate.”

Plimpton built a detailed backstory for Finch, including his one year at Harvard and decision to travel to Tibet in the aftermath of a plane crash. But astute readers noticed the story’s subheadline was worded in a curious fashion — almost as curious as Finch himself:

He’s a pitcher, part yogi and part recluse. Impressively liberated from our opulent life-style, Sidd’s deciding about yoga—and his future in baseball.

The astute reader will note that the first letter in each word of the subhed spells “Happy April Fool’s Day.” It’s regarded as one of the great sports pranks of all time.

The Ticino Spaghetti Harvest – on April 1, 1957, the BBC pulled off what is arguably the greatest broadcast prank of all time. Their “Panorama” show broadcast a piece about a family in southern Switzerland harvesting its annual spaghetti crop, and the advances made in production through the elimination of the spaghetti weevil, which is the scourge of the modern spaghetti farmer.

Narrated by legendary presenter Richard Dimbleby, the piece drew an amazing reaction. The BBC fielded calls from all over Britain from people wanting to know how they could get their own spaghetti bushes, while others castigated the program for running a farcical piece on what has always been known as a reputable show.

Happy Easter to all, enjoy your Sunday, enjoy today’s open thread … and celebrate some fake news!