Thank You Huffington Post
Let's begin with a pop quiz. Here are two news stories that came out of Bolivia yesterday. Which one is the April Fools Day joke?
A) In a World Cup qualifying match Bolivia's national soccer team beat Argentina (the most recent winner of the Olympic gold medal in soccer) 6 to 1.
B) President Evo Morales accused the U.S. embassy of a conspiracy to force his country to adopt Daylight Savings Time.
Correct answer: b
Yes, it's true, our farcical annual April Fools offering (see below), featuring cooked up e-mails between U.S. Embassy staff and a Photo Shopped image of Morales with a large clock was taken by some as actual news. That includes the usually credible Huffington Post, which ran it as a news story. That in turn tripled visits to the Democracy Center Web site, to more than 8,500 people yesterday. The HP has since been alerted and altered the post to note that it is an April Fools joke, not in time however to prevent the spread of it as real news across about 100 Web sites.
Thank you Huffington Post. Now could you please review our new book?
Note to the Media: For 364 days a year the Democracy Center is, in fact, a reliable source of analysis and information. But on April 1, beware; we are out to get you. We just never thought we actually would. Really, anyone who knows Lindsey Phillips at the Embassy knows she sounds smarter than that. [Good luck to you and Ronnie if you read this. Sorry for getting you kicked out and have a safe trip home.]
Also, all those who clicked on the "more information" link at the bottom of our post were treated to the icon above.
A Democracy Center Tradition
Our annual April Fool's Blog began four years ago, an innocent offering entitled, US and World Bank Push Bolivian Rock Export Program:
The US Embassy and the World Bank announced joint plans today to help Bolivia launch a program to export the nation’s rocks to other countries. Under the plan, “The Andean Rock Export Initiative”, the US and the Bank hope that Bolivia can begin exporting as many as 750,000 rocks by the end of this year, doubling that figure in 2006. “It has been noted in the research for a decade that each nation needs to integrate itself into the global economy based on its particular competitive advantages,” said a Bank spokesman, Richard Fuller. “In Bolivia’s case that is rocks. Bolivia has a lot of rocks.”
It brought the following rebuke from a reader: "You are a bitch. I read that entire blog for a paper i'm writing on Bolivia only to find out that you crafted some hoity-toity false-blog disgusts me. You ought to be ashamed of yourself. This paper is sorely lacking citations, and even though I'm sure your blog has many more well written, intensely informational information, I will not read them."
Some people have no sense of humor. But I hope his paper on rock export initiatives turned out okay.
The next year we went with, Evo Morales to Marry Woman from US:
The news that Morales – who during the elections referred to himself famously as, “The US’ worst nightmare” – would marry a US citizen provoked a variety of public reactions. “We knew that the new government was seeking cordial relations with the US,” joked US Ambassador David Greenlee. “We just didn’t know how cordial.”
That brought this comment: "Arrrrg! I was half-way through emailing friends at the Jackson school (at UW) too! You'd think with all the other 4/1 stuff going on I would have picked up on it sooner."
In 2007 we ran what was a very popular spoof, Bolivian Government Announces New Visa Rules for US Visitors, which featured a lovely cooked photo of then-U.S. Ambassador Phillip Goldberg wearing a red, white, and blue striped "Evo Sweater." The article reported that the new visa requirements for U.S. visitors would include purchase of the iconic sweater:
To be honest, when we heard about the sweater we were taken aback. To our knowledge no other government in the world requires visitors to purchase a specific garment on entry or to be photographed wearing it," Goldberg said at a US Embassy new conference. "But, if you think about it, it's actually a good deal. Bolivians seeking an entry visa to the US have to pay $114 just to be interviewed and most of them only get a DHL receipt, a cold wait in line in front of the Embassy and a rejection slip. And the sweaters really are attractive."
Some readers were taken in by that one: "Jim...damn good!! I read it late Sunday and then called my local Bolivian consulate this morning.. in a panic as I am coming in 48 hours. Once they informed I was insane, it dawned on me....."
One Embassy staffer told me later that it quickly made the e-mail rounds there as soon as it was posted.
Last year we dipped into the always-humorous territory of the U.S.' former Vice-President with, Morales and Cheney Announce Halliburton to Takeover Santa Cruz. It featured a very fine doctored shot of Cheney with Morales:
Santa Cruz governor Ruben Costas appeared side-by-side with the President to endorse the plan. “Santa Cruz is a hard working region and a prosperous one. We believe that by merging that eagerness to work with Halliburton’s well-established management expertise, we can bring new growth and efficiency across the department.” Under the agreement the position of Governor will be abolished in Santa Cruz and Costas will assume the title of “Regional Director” under the supervision of a Halliburton management committee based in Houston.
That one provoked mixed reactions, including these two:
Nice photoshop work! Texas will love Las Magnificas.
retarded waste of time. get a life, loser
Like I said, some people just don't have a sense of humor.
April Fools Day Lessons
It's a great holiday, really, April Fools. My oldest daughter, when she was little, used to call it, "Madeyoulook" Day. It was because the kids at school were always telling you that you had a spider or other bug on you and would then squeal, "made you look!"
Jokes within a family are more touchy. Here is a word to the wise: Make the joke about bad news that isn't true, not about good news that you will have to take back.
A few years ago I sent a note to my entire family announceing that we were moving back to California, making up some mumbo jumbo about getting a teaching job at UC Berkeley. I followed it up a few minutes later with notie that it was an April Fools joke. Not long after I got a rare long distance phone call from my older brother: "Smooth move bro'. I just got off the phone with our mother who was in tears."
So this year I sent my family and e-mail with the subject line: It was scary for all of us, but I am okay.
I just spent two hairy days in a Bolivian jail. It was mostly my fault. I was in town on my way back to my office Monday morning and sort of distracted. I jay walked, as I sometimes do, across the big street around the corner and managed to do it right in front of a Bolivian cop who must have been having a crappy day. Anyway, he stopped me and asked to see my identification. But it was in my backpack in my office. When he made a fuss about it I made a fuss about it back (wrong move). Next thing I knew he waved over a police car parked a half block away and another cop grabbed me on the arm and pushed me in.
No one fell for it this time. But my nephew in California has a sensible reaction: "You have way too much time on your hands!!"
Okay, that's all for this year. But next year (you too Huffington Post), be on guard. But Bolivia really did squash Argentina yesterday. That's no joke.