Hoax Execution and ABC News

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.

Hate Crimes/Terror

Posted on Sat Aug 07, 2004


yet another example of the media using dirty tricks to get their point of view across and no one else's.
Posted by john  in  NH  on  Sat Aug 07, 2004  at  08:39 PM
Hey, just saw you on the news here in Oz! (literally about 5 minutes ago...)
You were right... they did just use a tiny part of the interview where you talk about how digital stuff makes haoxing easier... what threw me off (unless I just missed it) was that they didn't actually mention your name, but I saw the webpage and recognised you from the pictures you've posted here recently. Maybe I just misconstrued it but for a second I thought it was implying that it was you that had posted the video. Hence the reason I jumped on here to check. Glad to find out you're not in strife smile
In any case you got your face on the TV in Australia, so that's a plus wink
Posted by Nefertari  in  Australia  on  Sun Aug 08, 2004  at  05:15 AM
Wow, I've talked to a celebrity! You're in lots of magazines and stuff, and I can point you out to my friends and say "One time he posted one of the hoaxes I sent in!" (I sent in the one about the fake lion.) and they're all impressed. smile
Posted by Rita  on  Sun Aug 08, 2004  at  11:27 AM
Nefertari, they didn't mention my name. They just suddenly cut to me after interviewing the hoaxer. Though if you looked real close you could see that they put my name at the bottom of the screen. Then they cut to Ashcroft. So I definitely was in strange company.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Sun Aug 08, 2004  at  11:51 AM
Nice typo: Vanderberg
You must have been thinking of Nick Berg.
Posted by Paul  on  Mon Aug 09, 2004  at  10:11 AM
Oops. Must have been.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Mon Aug 09, 2004  at  05:10 PM
We do what we can...It's all for the children....
Posted by Paul  on  Mon Aug 09, 2004  at  05:51 PM
Your last comment is especially interesting. Do you really think the ability to hoax was more restricted in past eras?

Mary Toft (the 18th-century Englishwoman who claimed to give birth to litters of rabbits)comes to mind as an example of a (temporarily) very successful hoaxer who was definitely plebian. It seems all the self-proclaimed geniuses of the early 20th century who said they'd invented cars that ran on water and the like were mainly working-class types too.

One thing that is certain is that hoaxes can now spread faster and more widely than ever before-- but hasn't the ability to perpetrate a hoax always been open to any clever person?
Posted by big gary c  in  Dallas, Texas, USA  on  Tue Aug 10, 2004  at  06:47 PM
I definitely think that the barriers to entry for hoaxers (so to speak) were definitely higher in the past than they are today. 200 years ago you had to do something really outrageous or really clever to attract the attention of a mass audience. You had to put a lot of effort into it... unless, that is, you worked at a newspaper or were similarly connected. Common people simply didn't have access to the media.

It was only in the 1830s that newspapers even began to regularly report on 'local' news stories... i.e. stories relating to the affairs of the lower class. Mary Toft attracted the attention of the King of England as a one-of-a-kind medical curiosity, and that was why she became so celebrated.

Today you have people who whip up something in photoshop, email it to a friend, and a week or so later their creations have been seen around the world. So yeah, today the average person has to put far less effort into creating a hoax that can reach a mass audience than would have been the case two hundred years ago.
Posted by The Curator  in  San Diego  on  Wed Aug 11, 2004  at  11:42 PM
just as an update, this idiot benjamin vanderford has started his own punk band, penis genius . check out the website here
Posted by c xv  on  Wed Apr 26, 2006  at  11:58 PM
This thing says to submit a comment and i thought about it and i think i might if this is about Osama... then i would like tosuggest tooo you that in the picture of him when he was young and he looks !@#$ing GAY!
Posted by Your MUM!  in  Everywhere!  on  Wed Feb 06, 2008  at  09:56 PM
Commenting is no longer available in this channel entry.