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Some place the origins of April Fool's Day with the Romans and their festival of Hilaria. Others fault the failure of certain Frenchmen to negotiate the calendar reforms proclaimed by Pope Gregory, which moved the start of the new year from April 1 to January 1.
But whatever its origins, April Fool's Day is a cultural fixture even in the secularism of the twenty-first Century. And on this day, the world is awash in lies.
The tradition seems innocent enough: on April Fool's Day, those "in the know" pit themselves against the "fools" by perpetrating hoaxes against the latter group. These hoaxes can take many forms, ranging from the mundane (unscrewing the tops of a sugar container so the contents spill when the "fool" tries to sweeten his morning coffee) to the elaborate (dangling a Volkswagen Beetle off the Golden Gate Bridge). But though shenanigans like these appear innocent enough when perpetrated by mere individuals against other individuals, they take on an entirely more sinister meaning when perpetrated by the Media against the entire world.
The Media occupy a privileged position in modern society. But more than simply seeking out truth and reporting it to an otherwise ignorant populace, the Media themselves have an active role in influencing and shaping public opinion. That is why it is so very disturbing that any Media, much less the entire aggregation of Media, might choose deliberately to mislead their consumers in full knowledge of the ramifications of that decision.
When the Media lie to consumers, they undermine a fundamental trust. This is not to say consumers and readers should be free to forego critical thinking and swallow whatever opinion the Media generate, but there is a fundamental difference between opinion mongering of the sort that goes on in the Op/Ed pages of every daily newspaper and the sort of abject lies that pass for "news" on April 1st.
The tradition is unfortunately as old as it is misguided. Alex Boese for the self-proclaimed Museum of Hoaxes has compiled an list of all-time best April 1st hoaxes, a list containing examples as old as the eighteenth century and all the more compelling for being a "Top Ten" list and therefore excluding numerous hoaxes that did not make the cut. And though it should come as no surprise, the ten "best" April Fool's Day hoaxes Boese has selected have nearly uniformly been perpetrated by Media organizations, since it is necessarily only mass Media who possess the reach to perpetrate these hoaxes on such a grand scale.
And in the age of the Internet, the excesses of twentieth-century chicanery have multiplied, as the decentralization of information proliferation has lowered the bar for journalistic integrity. With Media accountability at an all-time low and the urge to pander to marketable demographics all in the name of "humor", even "respected" Internet news sites have found it too hard to resist proffering their own hoaxes, stooping to levels that make even self-proclaimed satire sites blush.
Unfortunately, the risk is real that real news might slip through the cracks amidst the April-Fool's-themed pablum. World events do not cease while the Media frolic about, and the problem is doubly true in light of recent terrorist events. (One need only ask himself whether anyone would have paid heed if the World Trade Center attacks had been scheduled not for September 11 but for April 1.)
We seek to know the truth and to communicate it. Our God-given mission is to uncover it and shout it to the world-not a double-standard truth, not a distorted truth, not a self-serving, perverted truth. Just the truth.Today, you can count on seeing dozens of hoaxes pronounced by otherwise trustworthy Media who have forgotten their proper role in society. The hypocrisy would be laughable if it weren't so pervasive.
Today is a dark day indeed. We at Adequacy.org mourn for the truth.