The art of the hoax seems to have taken a vacation recently after so many of them by celebrities in pop culture have backfired. And with The Onion being the supreme place to get your satire fixes, it seems that doing a hoax on the Internet has lost a lot of momentum. This almost changed recently when someone went on CNN’s iReport citizen journalism site and posted a report of an asteroid threatening earth. At first, CNN thought it was legitimate with the report of NASA saying they found an asteroid the size of Manhattan heading straight for our planet. Once CNN noticed the posting said it would hit us on March 35, 2041, they knew it was a hoax.
Perhaps the above date was just a slip of the fingers from the above hoaxer and he meant to say March 3 or 31. Had he or she done that, it could have fooled everybody for hours, if also spreading into the media throughout the day. Yes, it’s happened before, however not for a while. Even The Onion had such convincing headlines back in the earlier days of the Internet that cable news networks erroneously picked up on one or two of them as part of the hourly headlines.
Everybody knows better now, especially with The Onion logo being assimilated into pop culture. When you have citizen journalism being a victim of hoaxes, it’s a whole different landscape where anything could potentially happen. And it could be a new testing ground for how we’d react to certain things if you believe the idea that the original “War of the Worlds” radio hoax in 1938 was a social test by the government.
Could Another “War of the Worlds” Hoax Happen Again?
It’s possible the above hoaxer was attempting to start a new “War of the Worlds” type of hoax, and inadvertently ruined it with a typo. Then again, it seems likely the typo was deliberate as a way of stating it was a hoax and assuming CNN would leave it up as a piece of satire. Because CNN seems to take iReport seriously, they aren’t about to leave anything amusing there, even if you wonder about other reports brought in by citizens.
Are there still outlets where someone could send off a panic with a new hoax on the level of Orson Welles’ “War of the Worlds” production 76 years ago? I’ve written before about the rumors of that production being a secret government program to see how the American public would react if told aliens were invading earth. While such a theory has never been proven or disproven, you can see why the government would go such a direction without having to tell people outright. You can even imagine it happening with the story of an approaching asteroid to see how we’d react in the event NASA/the government knows something we don’t.
With numerous citizen journalism sites being around, you have to wonder if someone isn’t going to concoct an elaborate hoax to see how far they can take things. The next one may be something more believable to freak all of us out. Also, with Google Glass recently teaming up with CNN’s citizen journalism program, you could easily see someone creating a fake video and posting it up to give more of a sense of realism to the hoax.
We have to assume the government wouldn’t do anything similar, though we can’t count anything out with the knowledge of what they’re already doing to gain knowledge about all of us. Are we able to scope out a hoax better now than generations past? Don’t necessarily count out someone going to elaborate lengths to create a hoax just for the sake of giving everybody a rise. If they put a big budget into it, it may be tougher to tell where the slips are that gives the hoax away.
So far, hoaxers always leave breadcrumbs that allow an expert to scope out something amiss. But citizen journalism sites may be the only place now where a hoax could be placed and get the widest audience. It’s something CNN and other cable networks may be looking out for, even if you never know what to look for if it hasn’t happened yet.