While we have discussed Orson Welles’ famous radio broadcast about the ‘War of the Worlds’, and how it became one of the great pranks in modern media history, there have indeed been many other pranks. Perhaps the greatest (or, actually the worst…) of which was when the media conspired to give an asshole billionaire more than $2 billion in free media coverage to in turn bolster their ratings, and thus their advertising revenue, due to the controversial statements made by said billionaire. This massive media blunder has in fact become the greatest prank ever perpetrated on the American public, and stopped being even remotely funny when Donald J. Trump was elected President.
Shifting gears, I will discuss some of my favorite media pranks, which were in fact merely just political satire which was taken literally by people in power, and then consequently re-tweeted, published or shared as being fact. Since I was a young child, “The Onion” has been a favorite of mine, as I have long appreciated their sense of humor and found their articles to be very well written.
Two articles written by “The Onion” were believed to be fact, and were shared, republished and/ or re-tweeted. In September 2012, Iran’s FARS News Agency re-published an article written by “The Onion”, which stated that rural whites in America would rather vote for then-President Mahmoud Ahmadenijad over US President Barack Obama. And this year, on January 29, 2017, Donald J. Trump’s press secretary Sean Spicer re-tweeted an Onion article which stated that his job was to “provide the American public with robust and clearly articulated misinformation.” He then re-tweeted the article and added “Nailed it! Period!”.
This is my favorite form of media prank; when a satire news source writes articles so good that the people whom they are making fun of are literally so stupid that they re-tweet or share the article as fact, not knowing that the article was actually written to be defamatory to them.