Editorial License

Rob Hammerton, music educator etc.

¡Inocente Para Siempre!

I never went in for that whole April Fool’s Day thing.

Yesterday, my online world displayed practical jokes and other minor hoaxes perpetrated by friends of mine and by people in the larger (“real”) world, and as I watched them go by, I was struck by how I could spot the “hoax-ness” of some of them right away, and others took me a moment.

Of course, the way the news has been going lately, it’s increasingly difficult to tell what’s an April Fool joke and what’s not. Press releases from the Laboratories of Democracy have been murky.

Reading up on this curious tradition, I discovered a couple of details about April Fool’s Day that got my attention.

In the United Kingdom, did you know?, the April fooling stops at noon, and if a UK person plays a joke after that, they become the April Fool. This applies in all countries with traditions derived from the UK, except Australia. I think this must be a significant exception somehow. It may even explain why Australian Rules Football referees look like they do, and why the field looks like it does.

In Poland … and please do not fill in your own punchline about Polish jokes, since this is serious and interesting!! … Poland’s anti-Turkish alliance with Leopold I, emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, was back-dated to March 31, 1863 to avoid the perception that it might be a joke.

In Sweden and Denmark, most news media outlets traditionally publish exactly one fake story on April Fool’s Day. It’s your job to figure out which one it is. I can imagine that this, again, is getting more and more difficult to accomplish.

I’m reminded of my absolute favorite example of media participation in hoaxes: during my years at UMass-Amherst, the April 1st edition of the student newspaper became something of a polar opposite of the Danish media (fill in your own pastry punchline here, if you wish). Everything was a joke. Although most of it was on the ham-handed side … with respect to all my college-student friends, this was college-student humor … one year in the mid-1980s, the Massachusetts Daily Collegian published a photograph which may well have inspired the invention of Photoshop software, and was right on the edge of brilliant. On a set of steps that led from the rear of the Fine Arts Center down to the edge of the Campus Pond had been mounted a piece of artwork which resembled a narrower version of the monolith from “2001: A Space Odyssey” laid down on its side. Many students referred to it privately as the Black French Fry, and not in charitable tones of voice. In the doctored photograph, the Black French Fry had obviously worked loose from its mooring, slid down the steps, and was sticking up halfway out of the Pond. Ah, we mused … would that it were so.

In 1997, thirty inches of snow fell on the Boston area on April Fool’s Day. To me, that wasn’t the joke. The joke was: three days later, it was all melted and gone. My memory is not faulty, or an exaggeration: this was during the time in which I had to achieve on-street parking while being a grad student in Boston. I remember it very clearly indeed.

More recently, there was this (not on April Fool’s Day itself, but what a ton of work went into it!).

So yesterday, there were the requisite Facebook status posts announcing Rick-rolls … band students pretending to quit their instruments … ads for new bacon flavoring in products that would not naturally support that … not-real engagements … plans to move to Caribbean islands … and my personal favorite was a Facebook page created by a friend and colleague of mine who was pretending to announce a run for Congress, although given the current state of national politics, the joke might well have ended up being on him.

For the most part, again, I don’t much care for pranks. Schadenfreude is only fun for the perpetrator. The “War of the Worlds” radio broadcast is a grand example of a hoax that caused all kinds of problems for people in the name of entertainment. And nobody likes to be humiliated – regardless of their protestations to the contrary, I can’t believe anyone enjoys turning to the dictionary to the page with “gullible” on it and not finding their picture after all.

Ironic as that sentence may be.

So instead, here’s an April Fool’s Day joke that I can get behind. Perhaps we can start a new custom: “prank it forward.”

And Happy April 2nd. The silliest thing about today is that it’s the birthday of Dr. Demento.

(That’s no joke. You can look it up.)


April 2, 2014 - Posted by | current events, Facebook, humor, social media | , , , , , , , , ,

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