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  April 1, 2001
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HOMEPAGE U.S. FEATURE
The Fine Art of the Hoax
Some Say it's a Nuisance, Others Claim Activism

By Edward Mazza
ABCNEWS.com

April 1 — Sometimes, a story is just too good to pass up.

Like the time animal shelters began getting a most unusual request:

“We buy all dog, regardless of size or color. We prefer big, young strong dog, but we take all dog from your dog shelter,” the May 1994 letter, purportedly from a Korean businessman, said in part.

Kim Yung Soo, president of Kea So Joo, Inc., was trying to buy dogs for 10 cents a pound to sell as food.

'Lot People Eat Dog'

“Lot people eat dog,” he wrote. “Dog is healthy for you.”

Outraged, some of the 1,500 shelters that got the message called the media.

It was a great story, too good to pass up.

And too good to be true.

There never was a Kim Yung Soo, president of Kea So Joo, Inc. Instead, there was media hoaxster Joey Skaggs.

From Piltdown Man — a false “missing link” discovery — to ourfirsttime.com — two people who falsely claimed to be college students prepared to publicly lose their virginity — many in the media have been unwitting, if careless, accomplices in the attention-getting schemes of hoaxsters.

Many of whom were just looking for cheap thrills or a quick buck.

But some of those who perpetrate such foolery — like Skaggs, who has tricked everyone from The New York Times and Washington Post to CBS, NBC and ABC’s Good Morning America (twice) — claim their hoaxes help bring attention to various issues.

Skaggs — or someone claiming to be Skaggs, for he has been known to send others to do his interviews for him — has said that he considers himself both an artist and an “ethical liar.”

His hoaxes, he claims, are to draw attention to an issue — not a gimmick for raising money.

A “good” hoax, he told ABCNEWS.com, “attempts to shed light on an issue and to create social change. With the Korean dog prank, I was really trying to shed some light on racism. ”

Recognition Equals Death

But with success comes a price. Recognition equals death for the hoaxster.

Take, for example, Alan Abel, who claims to be the greatest media hoaxster ever. He even duped the New York Times into running his obituary.

But according to several reports, Abel was found out moments before his most recent hoax was to hit the international airwaves. CNN’s “Business Unusual” went through the time and expense of preparing a profile Abel’s latest venture, a doctor who performs plastic surgery on dogs.

In the segment, Abel — the “creator” of Omar’s School for Panhandlers — reportedly poses as a Beverly Hills doc, showing photos of doggie face-lifts, ear-piercings and fur-dyeings.

But a network staffer recognized Abel just before the segment was to air, no doubt saving significant embarrassment.

Of course, Abel’s notoriety presents another problem. When he does inevitably meet his maker, who will run the obit? After all, it’s already appeared in the Times.


Click here to win the lottery. … April fools!

 

No Hoax: This Link Is Good

Do you have a tough time with reality each April 1 and beyond?

If you suspect someone may be pulling your leg, or just want to check out a story you always suspected to be a fabrication, the Web offers a great place to turn.

The San Fernando Valley Folklore Society’s Urban Legends Reference Pages tracks myths, urban legends, rumors and hoaxes (http://www.snopes2.com).

But a word of warning: a trip through its pages may shatter some of your favorite stories. Like the one about the airline pilot who got locked outside his cockpit, and had to hack open the door with a fire ax as frightened passengers looked on.

The site keeps careful track of the many Internet hoaxes, from the chain e-mails to save dying children to the manbeef.com Web site, which does not, as a matter of fact, actually sell human flesh.

Yes, Skaggs’ dog prank is listed here.


 
Click here to win the lottery. … April fools!

 


For help, click here

No Hoax: This Link Is Good


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