September 18, 2018

"Today, in the internet age, anyone can be a Nigerian prince. In Mr. Abel’s time, however, the hoaxer’s art — involving intricate planning..."

"... hiring actors, donning disguises, printing official-looking letterheads, staging news conferences and having the media swallow the story hook, line and sinker — entailed, for better or worse, a level of old-time craftsmanship whose like will almost certainly not be seen again.... Mr. Abel’s first major hoax, the Society for Indecency to Naked Animals, or SINA — which sought 'to clothe all naked animals that appear in public, namely horses, cows, dogs and cats, including any animal that stands higher than 4 inches or is longer than 6 inches' — began in 1959.... Over the next few years, the organization’s activities (including a 1963 picket of the White House by Mr. Abel, who demanded that the first lady, Jacqueline Kennedy, clothe her horses) were faithfully reported by news organizations, among them The Times, The San Francisco Chronicle and CBS News.... Then there was Omar’s School for Beggars, a New York City institution founded amid the recession of the 1970s, which claimed to teach the nouveau poor the gentle art of panhandling.... the subject of credulous coverage by many news outlets, including The Miami Herald and New York magazine.... There were also the Topless String Quartet, with which, Mr. Abel said, an unsuspecting Frank Sinatra wanted to book a recording session; the Ku Klux Klan Symphony Orchestra, which, he said, the failed presidential candidate and former Klan grand wizard David Duke briefly accepted an invitation to conduct; Females for Felons, a group of Junior Leaguers who selflessly donated sex to the incarcerated; the mass 'fainting' of audience members during a live broadcast of 'The Phil Donahue Show'; his 'discovery' (he posed as a former White House employee) of the missing 18½ minutes from the Watergate tapes; Euthanasia Cruises ('For people who wanted to expire in luxury,' Mr. Abel’s website recounted); Citizens Against Breastfeeding....  To some observers, Mr. Abel’s antics were a Rabelaisian delight. To others, especially members of the news media who had been taken in, they were an unalloyed menace."

From "Alan Abel, Hoaxer Extraordinaire, Is (on Good Authority) Dead at 94" (NYT).


Darrell said...

Are they sure he is really dead?
Spray ether starting fluid under his nose to be sure.

robother said...

Tawana Brawley, Christa Mangum, Jackie Coakley and Christine Blasey Ford snort in collective contempt at this minor league hoaxer. Men bear the scars of their hoaxes: this guy caused minor consternation to a few reporters.

Michael K said...

His last successful hoax is in full flower right now in the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Rob said...

The New York Times and CBS News--serving up fake news since at least 1963. Pedigree is important in journalism.

mccullough said...

The Elite are the easiest ones to sucker. Elizabeth Holmes knew this. All those Theranos investors and board members were easy marks.

Elon Musk has also scammed a lot of people out of money. The Best and The Brightest.

buwaya said...

The problem is that by the 1960s the hoaxers found that they could easily make their jokes pay. One could spend time and money doing silly things while laughing yourself silly in private, or you could do the same plus getting the scam to pay for itself while making a profit (and maybe scoring with the chicks).

So the scam became ubiquitous as those with skill and twisted minds monetized it.

buwaya said...

I suspect the modern breed of professional hoaxter takes himself very seriously and doesn't even laugh.

The NXIVM sex cult for instance, silly as it looks from the outside, seems to have been carried on in an entirely businesslike manner on the inside.

traditionalguy said...

The real hoax experts are running CNN et al today. They made Hussein Obama our first Muslim President using nothing but white guilt and some great script writers.

Henry said...

I read a story somewhere about some bored pranksters back in the 40s who realized you could call in a college football score to almost any paper and get it printed.

Thank you Google:

“It was not uncommon,” Mr. Rosenthal said later in an article in The Times, “for the smallest schools to telephone their scores because of the lack of telegraph facilities. Also there were a good many small schools taking up football and dropping it continually.”
The pièce de résistance, however, was Johnny Chung, a 6-foot-3, 212-pound halfback who was half-Chinese, half-Hawaiian. Mr. Newburger had a dry cleaner whose name was Chung. Plainfield’s publicity mill ballyhooed Chung as a Heisman Trophy candidate. It claimed that, for energy, he ate bowls of wild rice during halftime.

They called Chung the Celestial Comet.

Yancey Ward said...

Mr. Abel sold his business to Glenn Simpson in 2011.

I swear on my mother's grave- I am not making this up.

robother said...

Yancey:"I swear on my mother's grave"

We're gonna need to see a an ex-FBI agent polygraph on that. (I understand Peter Strozk is available.)

tim maguire said...

This one is hard ot top: The Berners Street Hoax

"a fleet of carts carrying large deliveries of coal began to arrive, followed by a series of cakemakers delivering large wedding cakes, then doctors, lawyers, vicars and priests summoned to minister to someone in the house they had been told was dying. Fishmongers, shoemakers, and over a dozen pianos were among the next to appear, along with "six stout men bearing an organ". Dignitaries, including the Governor of the Bank of England, the Duke of York, the Archbishop of Canterbury and the Lord Mayor of London also arrived. The narrow streets soon became severely congested with tradesmen and onlookers. Deliveries and visits continued until the early evening, bringing a large part of London to a standstill"

Big Mike said...

Modern hoaxes:

1) Martha McSally is not a true Republican; there is no real difference between her and Kirsten Sinema.

2) Brett Kavanaugh assaulted Christine Ford.

3) Democrats care about “the little guy.”

Big Mike said...

4). Keith Ellison did not assault his girlfriend.

Freeman Hunt said...

I think I'll hang his portrait on a wall.

Gospace said...

But if everyone goes along with it- is it a hoax? Norton I, Emperor of the United States was treated like an an emperor. Met with dignitaries. Communicated with heads of states. If you declare yourself Emperor, and everyone treats you like one.... He even stopped riots by apparent sheer force of personality.

The Crack Emcee said...

Those were innocent times.

FullMoon said...

These guys scam the scammers.Pretty good at it, too.

"Welcome to the world of Scambaiting!
Get the latest Anti Fraud News and Information here.

Does somebody want to transfer millions of dollars into your account?
Does someone want to pay you to cash cheques and send them the money?
Met a new friend/penpal on a friendship/dating site who's asking you for money?
Has a dying person contacted you wanting your help to give his money to charity?
Have you sold an item and are asked to accept a payment larger than the item amount?


Don't fall for common scams like this - fight them!"

robother said...

I suspect the need of reporters to feed the daily human interest story Beast meant Abel didn't have to go all that for to conceal his hoaxes. (Human interest stories were the clickbait of print journalism.)

Stephen Glass (like Mike Barnicle et al.) figured out that anonymous sourcing eliminated the middle man, so Abel was out of a job since the 80s.

Gospace said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Earnest Prole said...

For sheer elegance and eloquence, there is no match for the hoaxing of San Francisco television journalists in the crash of Asiana Flight 214.

“KTVU has just learned the names of the four pilots who were on onboard the flight. They are:

Captain Sum Ting Wong
Wi Tu Lo
Ho Lee Fuk
Bang Ding Ow

The NTSB has confirmed these are the names of the pilots onboard Flight 214 when it crashed. We are working to determine exactly what roles each of them played during the landing.”

StephenFearby said...

Alan Abel used to have a small office on 5th Avenue in a building opposite the main New York Public Library.

From my recollection, there had been some break-ins in the building and Abel decided to do something about putting a large official-looking Slomin's Shield-type decal on his door.

Abel's DANGER decal didn't inform burglars about a security alarm. Instead, it warned that there was a cobalt bomb behind the door. And it could go off.

Of course, some of the other tenants thought Abel really did have a cobalt bomb and complained to building management.

glenn said...

“The Elite are the easiest ones to sucker. Elizabeth Holmes knew this. All those Theranos investors and board members were easy marks.”

Besides there was the prospect of getting in her pants.

mikee said...

Nobody has commented on the dog wearing pants. Therefore, I shall.
My comment: Dogs can wear pants many different ways.