On International Fake News Day, see which spurious storymongers have won The Fakers Awards
Today, 1 April, is International Fake News Day and to mark the occasion we are handing out The Fakers, our special new awards for the leading practitioners of cock-and-bull stories.
Fake news has emerged as one of the dominant topics in modern media and public life in recent times, and so to help our readers separate the facts from fiction, we believe it is about time we shine the brightest possible spotlight on the top exponents of make-believe journalism.
The cherished Fakers award
Naturally, given our own high ethical standards, we've excluded ourselves from consideration to preserve the dignity and integrity of these important awards.
So join us as we now give recognition to the czars, wizards, moguls, outlets and poets conjuring the world's most creative, effective and entirely false news.
The President's Award: Donald Trump
For such a high-profile category, there could only be one winner. So step forward none other than the fibbing father of fake news, president Donald J Trump. The most powerful man in the free world is the grand master of the genre, with a rap sheet that includes helping to perpetuate phony stories about his predecessor Barack Obama's birth certificate, the size of his inauguration crowd and that the Chinese invented climate change.
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Trump is so attached to "Fake News!" that he has even turned it into a catchphrase to direct at others, namely – as he puts it – "failing" mainstream news outlets CNN and the New York Times. This is the man who put fake news on the map.
Best story cited by Donald Trump as fact: 'Sweden, who would believe this?'
A month ago, Trump vaguely referred to a nonexistent Swedish terror attack in an assault on Europe's immigration policy.
Former Swedish PM Carl Bildt responded: "Sweden? Terror attack? What has he been smoking?"
The Gospel Truth Prize: The Pope
The Pope was reported to have come out in support of both Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump during the US election in a duo of tall tales so dizzyingly improbable that they could actually feature in the bible.
The truth is he urged his followers to build bridges, not walls and warned them against succumbing to fear: "Fear—as well as being a good deal for the merchants of arms and death—weakens and destabilizes us, destroys our psychological and spiritual defenses, numbs us to the suffering of others."
Worst conspiracy theory: PizzaGate
PizzaGate had it all: action, political intrigue, a ring of child smugglers, Italian Cuisine... the epic story was missing only one thing: even the slightest grounding in reality.
Conspiracy theorists claimed to have cracked a code in Hillary Clinton campaign manager John Podesta's emails, after they emerged online via Wikileaks, suggesting that the two political heavyweights were implicated in unspeakable activities operating out of a pizzeria in Washington.
Spread by Infowars' Alex Jones, this tasteless tale spread widely on social media, and was of course entirely false. Jones himself has even rowed back on the claims in a mealy mouthed statement.
“We relied on third-party accounts of alleged activities and conduct at the restaurant,” Jones said. “We also relied on accounts of reporters who are no longer with us.”
Best Porky at the Pictures: 21st Century Fox
The movie house was behind credible-looking sites entitled the Sacramento Dispatch, The Indianapolis Gazette, the Salt Lake City Guardian, Houston Leader, NY Morning Post which spread sensationalist fake news stories involving a fake water brand, a Donald Trump vaccination ban and a Lady Gaga Super Bowl Muslim tribute.
When readers got there, they not only saw nonsense stories but – who'd have thunk it – an ad for Cure for Wellness. The company has since apologised.
Most Pointless deception: Richard Osman on Kanye West
Pointless, a quaint British quiz show where contestants are tasked with providing the most obscure answers possible, caused something of an out of character stir after co-host Richard Osman proclaimed that Kanye West was a huge fan of the show and would be appearing as a contestant.
"Ok! I’m not supposed to say this ’til Saturday, but it’s too much fun to keep to myself," Osman wrote on Twitter. "Kanye West is booked on #PointlessCelebrities!"
Known as one of the most trusted men on British television with his encyclopedic knowledge of obscure trivia, Osman was really knowingly testing just how easily people could be duped as part of Channel 4's Fake News Week, but that didn't stop some outlets treating Yeezy's imminent Pointless debut as fact.
“Kanye’s not really coming on Pointless Celebs (though if he’s reading this, call me)," Osman said.
Most awkwardly debunked fib: Jeremy Corbyn Vs Virgin Rail – Traingate
Last August Labour leader Jeremy Corbyn made a labored point about the state of British trains by planting his socialist bottom on the floor of a purportedly busy Virgin service, on which he recorded a video stating that he couldn't get a seat – rocket fuel for his drive to re-nationalise the railways.
The video, recorded by his staff, was published on the Guardian as a genuine news item, before the paper later admitted it did not apply the requisite scrutiny to Corbyn's claims. That's because a delicious twist in the tale saw Virgin Trains release CCTV footage from the so-called “ram-packed” train showing plenty of empty seats
Fake news may be creative, but it's no match for the power of rudimentary CCTV.
Social stinker of the year: Women arrested for defecating on boss’ desk after winning the lottery
Canadian comedian Weasel conjured one of the year’s most viral fakies – all in the name of lols. His fake news site, Valley News, told the tale of a women who left a pile of excrement on her boss’ desk after striking it large and winning the lottery. Some 1.7m Facebook shares, comments and reactions duly followed.
Weasel reflected that most of the people who shared the story on social media did not read the piece and as a result, probably didn’t wise up to the fact that they were being had. It remains an inspirational and creative demonstration of the power of fake news – and one we wouldn't put past coming true in the years ahead.
If you think we've missed a faker, get in touch with us on Twitter using the hashtag #FakeNewsDay.