To be an April Fool in the Age of Bulls***
Edmontonians of a Certain Age can still remember an April Fool’s Day joke played by 630 CHED in the early 1970s.
It was reported that the phone company, Ed-Tel, was going to blow all the dust out of the phone lines at precisely 7:30 am on April 1, so citizens were advised to put plastic bags over their phone receivers or dust would get all over their houses. Because CHED was on in every kitchen in Edmonton on a school morning, thousands of citizens fell for it.
Could such an epic prank ever happen again? Is anyone else having trouble getting that Google Map Pac-Man game to work?
Every day is April Fool’s Day in 2015. It’s hardly worth citing examples from the steady stream of bullshit being spread on a daily basis: buzzkillfeed.com, rongstory.com, upchuckworthy.com, viralnada.com, puffpost.com and foxnews.com are some of the worst clickbait offenders, often playing on human tragedy just to collect page views. Hoax deaths, real deaths passed off as hoax deaths, anti-vax hooey, chem trail hysteria, 9-11 conspiracy theories, and so many other imaginary hobgoblins from the fantasy world. You don’t know WHAT to believe anymore!
The world before the Internet was a golden age of gullibility, said the old man who doesn’t have to shout at the kids to get off his lawn because they’re all on inside on their smartphones. Newspapers used to carry a lot of weight, believe it or not it. They were the voices of truth – which is why April Fool’s pranks in newspapers worked so well. The Edmonton Sun came up with some doozies. Before Kerry Diotte went into politics – as an Edmonton City Councillor and now the Conservative Party of Canada candidate for Edmonton-Griesbach – he was the paper’s designated April Fool.
“My favourite was a story I dreamed up that Alberta was going to invent its own time zone called Alberta Advantage Savings Time,” he says. “It was going to be the same time as Ontario so we could get an early start on the business day.”
Another story played on former mayor Jan Reimer’s allegedly over-taxing reputation and her proposal to charge families that flushed the toilet more than 12 times a day.
In 1993, K-97’s Terry Evans – who was on the Bear at the time – got star Winnipeg Jets’ winger Teemu Selanne to play along with a hockey prank that caused mass outrage. It was the year he scored 76 goals. Because of the Finnish Flash, the Oilers just narrowly missed the play-offs that year.
Evans recalls, “I got Selanne in on it, saying that he had immigration issues and if the Jets won a game in which he scored, they would not receive the two points. That way the Oilers would squeak in. Teemu was great, in his broken English explaining how disappointed he was and how he felt bad for letting the Jets fans down.”
Similar outrage came from a Sun story about new city law that made super-sensitive smoke detectors mandatory in every home to curb cigarette smoking. Readers believed it because city council had just passed tough anti-smoking bylaws. The paper received so many complaints that additional staff were asked to come in to help. It even fooled Canada’s national TV news service at the time, Broadcast News – think of it as the Huffpost of its day – which reported the story as if it were real.
They called to complain, “You can’t make up the news! That’s typical Sun tabloid journalism!”
The complaint lines lit up again from the tall tale of a “Mount Ralphmore,” revealing a plan to have Ralph Klein’s face carved upon a mountain in Banff. And did you hear the one about Alison Redford ordering the construction of a personal luxury suite in a government office building?
Which brings us to the other problem with April Fool’s Day in the Age of Bullshit. Bad ideas spread so quickly that any outrageous whim is doomed to come true – because there are so many people crazy enough to try it. The Sun once ran bogus full page ad for “Molsun Dry,” for powdered beer, long before the real (not powdered) brand came along. A fake story about unearthed Doors recordings pissed off a lot of people – at least until Doors: Essential Rarities came along in 1999. There was another whopper published in the mid-‘90s about the Banff Hot Springs getting bought by Japanese investors.
As Number 2 once told Dr. Evil: That also … already … has happened.
Last one: This story is a RERUN! Ha, ha, April Fool.