Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Culture: April Fool's Day 1994

TORONTO, ONTARIO - Those that knew me during my undergraduate years know what has to be posted on this day. Throughout my freshman year, during dorm meetings I would provide an oral summary of the news of the week for people who didn't bother to read the newspaper or otherwise stay informed about what was happening beyond our campus. The first dorm meeting after spring break just happened to fall shortly before April Fool's Day, prompting me to take advantage of the situation, hoping to make a point that people didn't question my credibility enough. Most sound clips had been recorded since the last report (a few were from somewhat earlier in the year), but obviously were taken way out of context. A transcript of the report follows:
"There was quite a bit of discussion between the RAs and I about what kind of report I should give: a summary of spring break news, just the last week, or whatever. They basically gave me a time constraint and I was going to put it to a vote, but clearly...the events of earlier today just made it really...obvious what I should report. I'll try to stay positive. On the bright side, we do have a new news theme."

[News theme: "Would I lie to you?..."]

"The top story...clearly, today occurred just this evening. President Clinton was giving a speech in his home state on health care...Perhaps the best way to do this is to play the live coverage on NPR:"

[Clip from state of the union: "For too many families, even with both parents working, the American Dream has been slipping away. In 1992, the American people demanded that we change. A year ago I asked all of you to join me in accepting the responsibility for the future of our country." Clip turns to gunshots, taken from the Johnannesburg riots earlier that week.]

"Clearly, there were multiple gunshots. Apparently, the first did not hit Clinton, but later ones did...he was transported to a Little Rock Hospital where vice president Al Gore gave a press conference about half an hour after the incident, naming a prosecutor to look in to the shooting:"

[Clip on Whitewater taken from the January 9th Face the Nation program: "He's a career prosecutor, an official in the justice department, who is a Republican incidentally, who came in on the Nixon and Ford administrations; he's a man of unquestioned integrity, Donald McKay, who came back as part of the Bush justice department. He's being given every single shred of information about this. Uh, there has been no specific allegation of criminal wrongdoing. What there has been is a series of political attacks. Frankly, you know, the opposition has watched this past year as President Clinton has done everything right, put our country back on the right track; economic indicators are up; the economy is recovering. They attacked his policies all year long, to no effect. I think there's a little bit of political panic about the fact that everything's going so well. So, they're unleashing these attacks on him."]

"It should be noted that there is NO evidence that the Republicans were involved in this attack....What vice-president Gore didn't know at the time was that Clinton would die as a result of his wound. That occurred at 8:46 pm tonight. However, the man you just heard, Al Gore, is not president of the United States. The big news last week that you may have heard about was that the constitution was amended by Congress so that first lady Hillary Rodham Clinton was first in line, so she has been sworn in as president. Here's what Al Gore had to say about that:"

[Clip from same interview: "So, it seems to me that it's politics."]

"Tributes are already coming in. Here's attorney general Janet Reno. I've edited out some tears:"

[Clip from her announcement of the resignation of William Hubbel from the March 14th All Things Considered: "But of the former I can say, unequivocally, he gave fully of himself to make America a better place, and I'm going to miss him."]

"And Dallas Cowboys owner Jerry Jones:"

[Clip from press conference announcing the end of coach Jimmy Johnson's contract: "He has done everything in his power, and he has done it successfully."]

"I apologize for placing this last, but it came over the radio late. Here's the president's last words, recorded in the hospital."

[Clip from the Clinton Whitewater press conference as reported on the MacNeil/Lehrer Newshour on March 15th: "No, no, no, no, no, no, no, no, no!"]

"Uh...there is one other story I should mention, since we are students. Surgeon General Jocelyn Elders announced this week cigarettes will be banned as a result of nicotene being declared a controlled substance. So, stock up now before June 1st, because they'll be gone. Here's her explanation from last week's Face the Nation program with Bob Schieffer:"

[Actual clip of Elders: "Bob, I feel that there is much evidence to say that nicotene is a drug. We've considered nicotene a drug for a very long time. And I think the way the FDA classifies drugs is based on their intended use. So, if they're just using what's in cigarettes already, and what comes in the form that they use, I think that's how they've escaped regulation."]

"In light of the other stories, I don't think a kicker would be appropriate tonight. But, read your e-mail for real news tonight, and remember, April Fool's Day is just around the corner."

[End news theme.]
Apparently the performance was too good, as people took it seriously, and some left the room before it became obvious that that the reports were not accurate. A passionate war of e-mails started on the dorm list. A number of people defended my actions and an apology that was issued that evening, but an equal number were upset and questioned the sincerity of the apology. That chain seemed to end a couple days later when a forged e-mail from "" issued a pardon for my actions. However, not until years later did I find out that an application had been filed based on Stanford's Fundamental Standard to have me expelled from the university, and only the withdrawal of faculty sponsorship of that application had prevented it from reaching then-Provost Condoleezza Rice's desk for action. For the remainder of my time at Stanford, my April Fool's editions featured only true stories--very weird true stories, but true stories nonetheless.

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