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Beware the big lie.

I am the editor of a satirical magazine called the Nose, and every other month we publish a compilation of bizarre, offensive and true news occurring west of the Mississippi. Other than obvious jokes such as a California state execution application form, the lone fictional exception has always been "The Big Lie," a regular mock investigative feature exposing a subject which is completely false.

Written primarily under the byline "Hans Rodeo," each Big Lie is identified as exactly that. These phony conspiracies have been, to our staff, fairly obvious fabrications: Silicon Valley's voodoo sex club, giant killer rats living beneath San Francisco's Chinatown, sports cars that go so fast they inhibit sperm production, and other nonsense.

Maybe it's our increased distribution during recent months, or better art direction, but lately the national media are giving the Big Lie far too much attention. A year ago, one Lie addressed the proliferation of UFO activity in the southwest United States. The reason for this regional boom of sightings, the article revealed, was the night-blooming cereus cactus, which mutated an extra proton in its molecular structure to create a radical stable "element 115," the rumored fuel of alien spaceships. Thus, aliens were buzzing New Mexico, Nevada and Arizona primarily because they needed to refuel their ships with cactus.

Amazingly, a representative of Harper's called me to factcheck this:

He: "I'm calling from Harper's Index, and we're wondering where you got some of your information."

Me: "It's all fiction. That's why we call it the Big Lie."

He: "But some of the facts are real."

Me: "Yes, some are."

He: "But where did you get the fact that 70 percent of UFO sightings occur in the southwest?"

Me: "I just made it up. I needed a high number."

Needless to say, the Nose has not been quoted in Harper's lately.

Our most recent Big Lie was an exclusive discovery of "Hatecore," a hot new music trend. Hatecore bands are based in Idaho and made up of children of KKK members who don't share their parents' views but still wear white hoods onstage. One "live" concert photo of Boise's 1992 Burning Cross Music Festival was actually the famous shot of the Rolling Stones at Altamont, with a hooded KKK member and microphone scanned into the image. Band members were named after the high school friends of Nose staffers. Sidebars listed phony bands with names like Aryan Can Cook, Bubba, Klear Kult and the the Sheets.

Eager to obtain more information for an upcoming segment they were doing on skinhead "hate" bands, an MTV News producer called our offices and left a message. Could we provide some phone numbers?

Now the moment of reckoning: Do we mess with MTV or not? I called famed prankster Paul Krassner, editor of the Realist, for advice. "Do you really want to spend that much time promoting the KKK?" he asked. Still, the temptation was excruciating. We could ask the owner of some bait shop in Idaho to answer his phone, "Nightscope Records" and pretend he's Jonathan Grimm, the son of a KKK member who runs an alternative music label that just signed a band called Alice Chalmers. Fed Ex him a script, quickly coach him through phony hatecore trivia--the whole prank quickly seemed more trouble than it was worth.

I called the producer back the next day, but she had figured out that the article was a joke.

When I tell these stories, it always piques people's interest. First, it's further proof of the reading public's gullibility. People will believe anything if it's typeset in columns, even if you tell them it's lie. Also, as our society grows more chaotic, it seems impossible to dream up something that isn't actually out there. After the Hatecore issue was shipped to distributors, our office received tapes from Idaho bands named Treepeople and the Dirt Fisherman. We also got letters from readers pointing out that the bands Bubba and Alice Chalmers already existed.

Boulware recently reported in his San Francisco Weekly column, "Slapshots," that a new process allows shrunken fans to be injected directly into Madonna's flesh. KDBKFM called for details.
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Title Annotation:satire column from The Nose periodical
Author:Boulware, Jack
Publication:American Journalism Review
Date:May 1, 1993
Previous Article:E-mail: land of 1,000 sources.
Next Article:Jack Kemp's free ride.

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