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Seven years after the publication of Sue's Les Mystères du peuple, a French revolutionary named Maurice Joly plagiarized aspects of the work for his anti-Napoleon III pamphlet, Dialogues in Hell between Machiavelli and Montesquieu, which in turn was later adapted by the Prussian Hermann Goedsche into an 1868 work entitled Biarritz, in which Goedsche substituted Jews for Sue's infernal Jesuit conspirators. Ultimately, this material became incorporated directly into the notorious anti-Semitic hoax, The Protocols of the Elders of Zion.

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A hoax is an attempt to trick an audience into believing that something false is real. There is often some material object (e.g., snake oil) involved which is actually a forgery; however, it is possible to perpetrate a hoax by making only true statements using unfamiliar wording or context (see DHMO). Unlike a fraud or con (which is usually aimed at a single victim and are made for illicit financial or material gain), a hoax is often perpetrated as a practical joke, to cause embarrassment, or to provoke social change by making people aware of something. Many hoaxes are motivated by a desire to satirize or educate by exposing the credulity of the public and the media or the absurdity of the target. Political hoaxes are sometimes motivated by the desire to ridicule or besmirch opposing politicians or political institutions, often before elections.

Governments often perpetrate hoaxes to assist them with unpopular aims such as going to war (e.g., the Ems Telegram). In fact, there is often a mixture of outright hoax, and suppression and management of information to give the desired impression. In wartime, rumours abound; some may be deliberate hoaxes.

There is often considerable controversy about whether a given factoid is true or a hoax.

The word hoax is said to have come from the common magic incantation hocus pocus. "Hocus pocus", in turn, is commonly believed to be a distortion of "hoc est corpus" ("this is the body") from the Latin Mass. Many etymologists dispute the latter claim.


List of hoaxes

Great Moon Hoax, The Balloon-Hoax

The following are lists of hoaxes:

Proven hoaxes

These are some claims that have been revealed to be deliberate public hoaxes. This list does not include hoax articles published on or around April 1, a long list of which can be found in the "April Fools' Day" article.





Proven hoaxes of exposure

"Proven hoaxes of exposure" are semi-comical or private sting operations. They usually encourage people to act foolishly or credulously by falling for patent nonsense that the hoaxer deliberately presents as reality. See also culture jamming.

Possible hoaxes

Practical joke hoaxes

Accidental hoaxes

"Accidental hoaxes" are not strictly hoaxes at all, but rather satirical articles or fictional presentations that ended up being taken seriously by some.

  • Ghostwatch, a BBC television play broadcast on Halloween in 1992, was on its surface a live outside broadcast from a haunted house presented by well-known television personalities. Despite appearing in a drama slot and having a credit for a writer, viewers afterwards complained about being fooled.
  • The Masked Marauders, a non-existent "super group" supposedly consisting of Bob Dylan, Mick Jagger, John Lennon, Paul McCartney and George Harrison. Their supposed "bootleg album" was listed in a mock review in the 18 October 1969 issue of Rolling Stone Magazine. An album entitled The Masked Marauders was shortly released, but the sound-alike musicians were later exposed to be members of The Cleanliness and Godliness Skiffle Band.
  • The Necronomicon, a fictitious occult book quoted by writer H. P. Lovecraft in many of his stories.
  • Orson Welles's Mercury Theatre on the Air radio broadcast on October 30, 1938, entitled The War of the Worlds has been called the "single greatest media hoax of all time", although it was not — Welles said — intended to be a hoax. The broadcast was heard on CBS radio stations throughout the United States. Despite repeated announcements within the program that it was a work of fiction, many listeners tuning in during the program believed that the world was being attacked by invaders from Mars. (Rumors claim some even committed suicide.) Rebroadcasts in South America also had this effect even to a greater extent.
  • Drake's Plate of Brass a practical joke that backfired into being taken seriously.

Religion related hoaxes

List of religious hoaxes

Known pranksters, scam artists and impostors

Journalistic hoaxes

Deliberate hoaxes, or journalistic fraud, that drew widespread attention include:

See also

Unless indicated otherwise, the text in this article is either based on Wikipedia article "Hoax" or another language Wikipedia page thereof used under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License; or on research by Jahsonic and friends. See Art and Popular Culture's copyright notice.

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