Charlie Tonne 1st April 2018
April Fool’s stories might seem like a bit of fun, but misinformation can be dangerous.
April Fool’s day pranks by news outlets are a tradition that goes years back. It’s a chance for reputable, august and serious bodies to let their hair down. And whilst the likes of The BBC Panorama documentary about spaghetti farmers in Italy in 1957 or The Guardian’s ongoing exploration of the semicolon shaped island state of San Serriffe are still enjoyable hallmarks of pranksterdom, joke stories can have very serious and sometimes very tragic consequences.
With fake news on the rise, a number of liberal, conservative and centrist journalistic bodies have called for a ban on made up stories on 1 April. The debate has even reached the House of Commons with prominent backbenchers from both parties citing the following real fake stories as examples of what can go wrong when people are duped on April Fool’s day.
Prince Harry’s secret wedding – Daily Mail
You may not know this but to perform any legal function for a member of the royal family is punishable under the 1969 Treasonous Administration Act. Only last year The Daily Mail staged photos of a Prince Harry and Meghan Markle secretly getting married in Las Vagas under the warm gaze of a blonde, female pastor.
And while the photo was obviously a photoshop job, it was enough to convince Special Branch. They then arrested the pastor in the photo, detaining her for questioning for 10 hours. The actress and model Faye Cadmin, whose one-woman show about the forgery, “Faux Weddings and a Funeral”, goes on tour this August, was only released from questioning when Special Branch signed her over to a psychiatric ward after her steadfast denial that the secret royal wedding ever happened and the whole thing was set up.
She tells The Overtake: “I can joke about it now but I still have flashbacks. Anytime anyone says the word ‘Markle’, I inexplicably start screaming ‘I won’t go back there!’.
“This next year is going to be absolute hell,” she adds.
Polar Bears in Scotland due to global warming — The Telegraph
This cheeky story from The Telegraph was seemingly making fun of the plight of Polar Bear rather than their more gullible readers but for one such individual, it had dire consequences.
An avid hunter and amateur taxidermist, Dolton McChaft of Tongue, Lairg, believed the story in its entirety, and after downing several pints in his local saw an opportunity to add the world’s largest land carnivore to his collection.
Sadly, because of his inebriation, rain and high winds, he fell from a nearby cliff face into the North Sea. McChaft’s body was never recovered, while his widow struggles financially to store his collection of more than 4,000 stuffed animals.
Sweden’s instant colour TV
One from the archives. In 1962, Sweden’s Sveriges Television hosted a how-to segment that demonstrated to the viewers how to turn their black and white television sets into a colour set by draping nylon — know for its prismatic qualities — across the front of the set and shaking their heads from side to side.
Viewers would have looked quite the fools in front of their families – especially fighting the fires that resulted in the primordial life hack.
Back in ‘62 television sets were stuffed with tubes and diodes and became incredibly hot. This led to 452 officially documented fires in which 14 people perished. The result was so devastating that “nylon usage” lessons were made a permanent part of the national school curriculum and televisions were banned in Sweden until 1986.
Swedish nylon academic Bör Ingjjob says many older Swedes are still afraid of synthetic fibres, which is why so many wear woolly jumpers.
“People think our jumpers are a fun tradition, but they do not know they have a dark history,” he says.
Tigris bovis — University of South Carolina
Full-time researchers and part-time pranksters at Clemson University announced they had successful bread a tiger and a bull to produce the new species Tigris Bovis, a stripy cow that has to be kept away from chickens. It’s a story so unbelievable it’s obviously not true — at least in English.
Several translations across the planet only included the research section of the university’s mock finding, missing out or mistranslating the obvious jokes. Reports from Laputa, Madripoor and Isla Sorna reveal horrific incidents involving apex predators and chattel being forced to mate. More often than not, these turned into bloodbaths resulting in the death of one or more of the participants.
Vee Gann, head of drama at PETA, says the animal rights organisation has since taken up the cause to prevent such an idiotic tragedy and vows to “cock-block any further breeding attempts”.
She adds: “If carnivores must eat meat, they shouldn’t even play with it, let alone fuck it.”
No hole Polos – Nestle
Back in 1995, Polo mint manufacturer Nestle announced Polos, affectionately known as the mint with the hole, would no longer be allowed to be produced with holes and that kits would be distributed to fill in Polos that had made it into public circulation.
Nestle claimed the regulation was enforced by the European Economic Community under Council Regulation EC 613/95.
What should have been an obviously silly but ultimately forgettable joke about mints you occasionally find in last winter’s coat had a deeply profound effect on the British public, revealing a jingoist pride and outstanding gullibility of, let’s say 51.9% of the population.
Many have cited the Polo gag as the single biggest factor that allowed the unimaginative and painfully obvious fictional characters of Bojo Johnson and Jacob Rees, from the terrible and unbelievably long-running live theatre piece The Tory Party, to lead Britain into it most destructive and self-owning prank called Brexit, due to take place around the start of April 2019.
Charlie Tonne 1st April 2018