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Hate Crimes/Terror
A couple of stories about writers receiving visits from the Secret Service have been getting a lot of attention in the blogosphere, and a lot of people have been wondering if they're real or fake. The first case involves fanfic writer Annie Sewell-Jennings who posted an entry on her blog in which she satirically prayed that Bush would die. A couple of weeks later, according to her, "the Secret Service showed up on my mother's front door to talk to me about what I said about the President, as what I said could apparently be misconstrued as a threat to his life. After about ten minutes of talking to me and my family, they quickly came to the conclusion that I was not a threat to national security (mostly because we are the least threatening people in the entire world) and told me that they would not recommend that any further action be taken with my case." There's a thread going about this in the Hoax Message Board, and Annie posted a follow-up here.

The second case involves an anonymous romance novelist (who refers to herself as Dilyn) who claims that her house was raised by agents from the FBI simply because she checked out some books from the library about Cambodia and the use of land mines there as part of some research she was doing for a novel. An interview with Dilyn appeared in a recent issue of Romance Writers Report, which isn't online, but the text of the interview has been copied and can be read here (scroll down to find the post).

Are these cases real? Well, in each case you only have the word of a single person to go on, and since I've never heard of these people before (and 'Dilyn' is even choosing to remain anonymous) I wouldn't place absolute blind faith in what they say. However, what they're saying doesn't seem that outlandish to me either. I know that cases like this have happened before and have been investigated and verified by the media. So I'd vote that the cases are real. But like I said, there's not much evidence here besides their word and your own gut instinct.
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror, Law/Police/Crime
Posted by Alex on Mon Nov 01, 2004
Comments (11)
image Here's something that brings back memories of the Nostradamus predictions that swirled around in the weeks after 9/11. Some guy is claiming that comic book artist Simon Furman predicted 9/11 in a Transformers comic book published on Sep. 14, 1991. His main proof: a picture of a transformer (rodimus prime) hanging between the destroyed towers of the World Trade Center. He's selling the comic book that contains this picture (as well as some other stuff) on eBay UK. He launches into some convoluted explanation of other ways in which his Transformers comic book predicted 9/11, and then he winds up his sales pitch with this startling, though rather garbled, claim:

wouldn't you like some glimpse into future events, these comics if used to predict events from week to week, they are currently around issue 230, this is august 1989 (2004), and they run until 18th feb 1992 (2007), that means there are over 100 more issues to go, thats almost three years of predictions, i can send you information of exactly what to look for in them, how to make sense of the vague and cryptic predictions, and will allways answer emails from anyone who wants to help understand these better.

In other words, he's saying that these old Transformers comics are like windows onto the future. But the question you have to ask is why, if this guy can see into the future via his comic books, isn't he taking advantage of that ability? Why wouldn't he use this power to enrich himself (or at least warn the world about upcoming disasters) instead of giving it away for a pittance on eBay? (via Metaphorge)
Categories: eBay, Future/Time, Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Mon Aug 23, 2004
Comments (15)
Today ABC News sent a camerateam around to my house to interview me about the hoax execution of Benjamin Vanderford. Vanderford used special-effects to stage his own execution by Islamic militants, then uploaded footage of the scene onto file-sharing networks, and waited for the media to bite. It took three months, but the media finally did bite, reporting it as an actual execution yesterday. At which point, Vanderford confessed to the hoax. I got a call from ABC this morning asking if I'd be willing to do an interview. I had only just read about Vanderford's hoax a few minutes before they called, but I said sure, why not. About an hour later the camerateam was there. I haven't seen the news segment yet, but from what I hear they use a soundbite from me saying something about how digital technology makes video and photo hoaxes much easier to perpetrate. It's always frustrating to be soundbited, because there's so much more one could say about these types of events: how Vanderford's hoax is representative of the 'moral crusader' genre of hoax in which people justify their hoaxes by claiming they serve a moral, educational purpose; how the media will always, always fall for sensational hoaxes because of the 'if-it-bleeds-it-leads' news model; how the case of Vanderford demonstrates that access to the media (and thus the phenomenon of hoaxing itself) has become democratized by the internet (in the old days hoaxes were mostly perpetrated by people with insider connections to the media). Oh well. At least I got my face on the news. So I can't complain.
Update: Robert Martin, the producer of Vanderford's hoax video, has placed a 'press release' online, explaining their side of the story.
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Sat Aug 07, 2004
Comments (11)
This should win some kind of award for stupidity. Government officials in Carter County, Tenn. were settling down to their meeting about property taxes when armed intruders burst into the room, fired shots into the air, and proceeded to take hostages. "There will be no new taxes, everyone here is going to vote no," one intruder shouted. People panicked and rushed for cover. But no need. Turns out it was just a "drill" orchestrated by the local Emergency Management Director. Problem is, while the Director had told a few people there was going to be some kind of exercise, he hadn't warned anyone about the nature of it. Maybe it's just me, but I can't imagine that the Carter County tax board would be a high-priority target for terrorists in the first place. But in the unlikely event that it is, this drill has now guaranteed that no one will ever be sure if future situations are real or just pretend.
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Thu Aug 05, 2004
Comments (2)
A story published on the Women Wall Street website about a possible new terrorist threat has been setting the blosophere abuzz. The story, written by Annie Jacobsen, describes her experiences on a four-hour plane ride during which a group of 14 Syrian men began to act suspiciously (in her eyes), whispering to each other and making frequent trips to the bathroom. After the plane landed, Jacobsen did some investigating and learned that authorities are worried about gangs of terrorists separately carrying aboard the parts needed to make a bomb, and then assembling the bombs onboard in the bathroom. However, the Syrians on Jacobsen's flight were apparently just a group of musicians. A lot of people are suspicious of Jacobsen's story... not that she necessarily invented it, but that she exaggerated it. Some details seem a bit unlikely. For instance, the stewardesses on her flight seem awfully willing to divulge passenger information as well as the location of federal air marshals. I guess people are suspicious because no one ever heard of Annie Jacobsen before this, and Women Wall Street is an odd place for an article like this to appear. But preliminary research by Michelle Malkin seems to indicate that the story is basically true. Though this doesn't mean that Jacobsen wasn't being a bit paranoid. Would it really require 14 terrorists to assemble one bomb?
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 16, 2004
Comments (19)
While I was away in Virginia I got behind on posting and didn't note some terror/war related hoaxes occurring in the news. So for the sake of completeness, here's a quick rundown of these stories.

  • First we had Marine Cpl. Wassef Ali Hassoun, a soldier in Iraq suspected of faking his own abduction (tip: if you're going to fake your abduction, don't call your family on your cellphone while you're supposed to be abducted).

  • Then there was the bizarre case of American soldier-of-fortune types in Afghanistan who set up a fake prison in order to interrogate people they grabbed off the street whom they thought might be al-qaeda members. Instead of going all the way to Afghanistan, these guys should have simply stayed in America and attended the Abu Ghraib Prison Fantasy Camp.

  • Finally, France has been shocked by the case of a woman (known in the media only as 'Marie') who reported that she was attacked on a train by a gang of Arab youths who thought she was Jewish. Marie later confessed that her report was a hoax.

Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror, Military
Posted by Alex on Fri Jul 16, 2004
Comments (0)
A lot of people in New York have been getting an email warning them not to ride the subways this Friday because terrorists may be planning a big attack. It's your typical I-heard-it-from-a-friend-of-a-friend nonsense, laced with a liberal helping of numerology (Friday being 6/11, WTC attack 9/11, Madrid bombing 3/11), plus bogus information (the city hasn't ordered a couple thousand extra body bags). You can read the full email over at Gawker. The New York City Police insist that they have no knowledge of an impending attack.
Categories: Email Hoaxes, Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Thu Jun 10, 2004
Comments (0)
image Something like this was inevitable, I suppose. It's the Abu Ghraib Iraqi Prison Fantasy Camp, situated in scenic Mountain Home, Idaho. I'm assuming this was inspired by Rush Limbaugh's recent comments about the torture scandal. According to the website: "Just want to 'blow off some steam' (as Rush Limbaugh so correctly put it)? Abu Ghraib Fantasy Camp is here for you! (actual opening date set for Summer '04). At Abu Ghraib Fantasy Camp... you'll find dozens of 'Iraqi prisoners' you'll be able to 'discipline.' Don't worry, they (and you) will be perfectly safe. Unlike in Iraq, we've taken every precaution to protect your safety."

Update: It turns out, according to Wonkette, that the Abu Ghraib Fantasy Prison Camp is the creation of Bob Pagani, aka Cranky Media Guy. Bob is quite well known to us here at the Museum of Hoaxes. I think you'll find a few of his other creations in the Gallery of Hoax Websites, such as Tom's Girl. Congratulations, Bob. This was a good one. Very weird. But good.
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror, Military, Websites
Posted by Alex on Tue May 11, 2004
Comments (7)
Here are a couple of news reports that are deeply disturbing on many different levels. First, a story from Macedonia where the police have admitted that seven Pakistani 'terrorists' they gunned down two years weren't terrorists at all. The seven men were actually completely innocent would-be immigrants who were lured to Macedonia with the promise of being granted access to Western Europe. The Macedonian police then killed them and created a phony story about how they were terrorists in order to win US support. Next, there were those photos of Iraqi prisoners being tortured by US soldiers that recently surfaced, prompting President Bush to remark how disgusted he was by what he saw. I haven't heard anything to indicate that those pictures were fake, but British authorities are questioning the authenticity of similar pictures that became public a day or two later showing British troops engaged in similar activities. The British government is noting that the prisoners in those pictures appear too clean and too unharmed, and the soldiers appear to be wearing incorrect uniforms.
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror, Military
Posted by Alex on Sun May 02, 2004
Comments (7)
The abduction of Audrey Seiler, and subsequent revelation that she had faked the abduction herself, has been generating a lot of media attention. But in an interview with the Newhouse News Service, Ben Radford, managing editor of Skeptical Inquirer magazine, points out that cases like this are far more common than most people realize. By his estimate, they occur about three of four times a month, but most of the cases slip under the media's radar. In the early stages of the Seiler case, when she was first found, Ben actually emailed me betting me $10 that the case would turn out to be a hoax. Luckily, I didn't take that bet.
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror, Law/Police/Crime, Psychology
Posted by Alex on Tue Apr 13, 2004
Comments (0)
On March 9 Kerri Dunn, a psychology professor at Claremont McKenna College east of LA, reported that her car had been vandalized and covered with racist graffiti. Now the police suspect that Ms. Dunn, who often spoke out against racism, may have staged the crime herself. Apparently some witnesses claim that the car was already covered with graffiti when she pulled into the college parking lot where the crime supposedly took place. She denies this, of course. So we'll have to wait and see how this plays out.
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Wed Mar 24, 2004
Comments (4)
image Back in February if you were shopping for a Valentine's Day card at Wal-Mart, you might have been able to pick up a card that showed a black 'Sambo' version of SpongeBob Squarepants. Wal-Mart officials report that it was quite a popular item. Amazingly only one person complained about the blatantly racist image. But when the manufacturer of the card found out about the card, they hit the roof, because a Black SpongeBob was definitely not what they had ordered from the printer. The mystery is how 'racist SpongeBob' ever got created. Who was responsible for it? Was it a joke by the printer in China? Seems unlikely, since all the cultural references are American, not Chinese. But if not the printer, then who? For now, it's a mystery. (Thanks to Alex Knight for the link).
Categories: Hate Crimes/Terror
Posted by Alex on Thu Mar 18, 2004
Comments (11)
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