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HOLMBERG: April fooling around fading?

Ok, there’s still some pranking going on.

And I’m not talking about gubernatorial candidates Terry McAuliffe and Ken Cuccinelli using the 500-and-some-year-old tradition to take political potshots Monday.

The neighborhood blog OregonHill.net announced today the plan for a skyway over the James, which does sound like a grand plan, come to think of it.

And the Fan of the Fan blog announced an upcoming graffiti contest in a neighborhood that would lean towards torture for so-called graffiti artists.

But the internet, increasingly rich with hoaxes and other outrageous disinformation, has also made almost every day April Fools’.

Plus, pranks can all too easily backfire – even land you in court. Not only does it seem many people have lost their sense of humor, too many are prone to panic, which is why any forecast for snow turns into an All Fools’ Day joke.

April Fools’ Day 21 years ago, the morning team for Chesapeake radio station WNOR announced that former landfill Mount Trashmore was about to explode due  to a methane build-up, which is fairly believable.

That joke blew up in their faces, and contributed to a federal law that could fine broadcasters up to $25,000 for  a hoax that causes an emergency response.

One of the better April Fools’ pranks was more recent, in 1999. WRVA radio warned commuters that a truckload of genetically altered chickens had overturned in the James River Tunnel, snarling traffic. They had a live interviews with the chicken company’s owner – B.K. Fryerson – and even the driver came on to stammer an explanation of what happened.

Of course, there is no James River Tunnel, even though one worried caller noted that she used it every day, the Times-Dispatch reported at the time.

And April Fools’ hoaxes can turn all too real. In 1864, Harper’s Weekly published a collage of Thomas Nast’s April Fools’ drawings on April 2, one of them showing the fall of Richmond – the capital of the Confederacy.

Exactly a year later, Richmond fell.

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