April, fools

How can you do an April Fools’ Day prank when every day, reality surpasses satire? “Vice President Dubs Health Care Reform ‘A Big Fucking Deal.'” “Oscar Winner for Heartwarming Film about Inter-Racial Friendship Dumped for Neo-Nazi Mistress.” “Thousands of American Refuse to Answer ‘Invasive’ Census Questions While Posting Drunken Pictures of Selves on Facebook.” “Rod Blagojevich to Be Contestant on ‘The Apprentice.'”

As they say, you couldn’t make this stuff up. So I’m sympathetic, overall, to people who fall for hoaxes or rumors at first. (No sympathy for those who run to e-mail everyone they know about it without first checking on snopes.com.)

But today, I thought I’d share my favorite with you, and this, I promise, is not made up. I’m not messing with you.

Back in 2000, The Onion — a satirical newspaper parody — published an article entitled “Harry Potter Books Spark Rise In Satanism Among Children.”

Shortly after, Readers’ Digest published an article about J.K. Rowling. Reader response was positive, except for one woman who wrote:

“I am shocked that Reader’s Digest would put someone like J.K. Rowling on the cover without more investigation about what she really believes. Harry Potter is doing much to further the evil in this world through spells and incantations. It saddens me that parents prefer to look the other way when something is ‘popular.'”

This is where it gets awesome, though. Because a few months later, this same woman — Laurie Rice of Athens, Georgia — wrote back to Readers’ Digest with this gem:

I was angered you did not print my entire comments on Harry Potter (“You Said It”, February) and left important points out. I made these comments because I read an article from theonion.com quoting J.K. Rowling. These concerns need to be publicized. She is an admitted Satan worshipper. There has been an increase in 14 million children into the church of Satan as a result of these books.

The editors responded:

We hope you’ll be relieved to learn theonion.com is actually the website for a satirical newspaper, with a readership of five million. The article you read was a spoof — unfortunately passed along as a fact by countless people. Even Christianity Today calls the Harry Potter series “a Book of Virtues with a pre-adolescent funny bone,” containing “wonderful examples of compassion, loyalty, courage, friendship, and self-sacrifice.” — Eds.

I hope you agree with me that the editors’ response was a perfect blend of snark and politesse. Because you know perfectly well that Ms. Rice would not be relieved to learn this. It’s not as though you or I thought that our laptops were being recalled, and then found out that in fact, they weren’t. Ms. Rice wanted to believe that Harry Potter is evil, and I’m sure she was very, very disappointed to have her “evidence” debunked.

What do you think the odds are that she found some brand new “evidence” right quick-like to support that which she wanted to believe anyway?

Happy April! Fool the day!

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7 Responses to April, fools

  1. Dmajor says:

    This Ms Rice sounds like Emily Litella, but without the “Never mind!”

  2. Shulamuth says:

    I’m trying to decide what boggles my mind more — believing in in the first place or citing The Onion as a reliable source!

    On the other hand, the other day my Dad forwarded some email about some evil, dangerous computer virus which included the “snopes.com confirms this” and a link, which if you bothered to follow it said “vaguely true but not dangerous”. People do NOT think about what they read, or don’t read!

  3. Kate says:

    Not about April Fools, but worthy nonetheless (I think).

    Bought your book. Read it. Liked it very much. Will read it again and recommend it to others. Two typos (both in footnotes) and most recipes have garlic, which I cannot eat. WAAAA! POOR PITIFUL ME! Any ideas for substitutes?

  4. Robin says:

    Thanks, Kate! And you don’t have to use garlic in the recipes. Just skip it. They’ll still be fine.

  5. EA Week says:

    I find myself having to constantly (gently) remind my mother that not everything she sees on-line or receives in her in-box is true. Since getting on-line (at the age of about 60), she’s forwarded at least a dozen panicky emails to me about one horrible thing or another, and as many times as I’ve told her about Snopes, she always forgets. I usually end up checking out the story myself (a couple of things she’s sent me are urban legends that I remember from back in the late 90s!) and sending her the link.

    With that in mind, I actually can believe some very literal-minded person might read a story at The Onion and think that it was true. Also, my perception is that a lot of people have no sense of irony or just don’t “get” satire/ parody. Combine this with the media’s tendency to sensationalize just about everything, and is it any wonder that people hit the panic button?

  6. Eager Ears says:

    That is really funny — I love how Readers’ Digest handled it. It reminds me of a humor sketch from the Bob and Ray show. In the sketch, a man calls into the show to disagree with the Save the Whales movement, saying that it’s just not realistic for most people to save whales — that the average low- or middle-class apartment doesn’t have room for even one whale (let alone a whole collection), and that the expense of keeping them, especially if they’re still alive, would be prohibitive for most people. Bob and Ray then explain that Save the Whales means “help preserve the species from extinction,” not “Have a Whale Collection.”

    Listening to it, I was highly amused, but thought, “No one is that clueless!” But on the above evidence I guess it’s closer to reality than I thought.

  7. Bearfoot says:


    I’m sure she thought that readers digest and/or the onion was covering up for her.

    there really is no way people like that will admit they’re wrong.

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