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Seattle: When Fake News Became Real News

4 min read
Real-News fake news

Some reports made our residents panic like never before, and some made us laugh uncontrollably. Check this article to learn all about the fake news stories in Seattle that tricked hundreds of people and became real.

The Best Fake News Stories that People Actually Believed

The internet, local news outlets, social media, and even major media sites are full of hoaxes and fake news stories. We just cannot escape the hoaxes, and it’s safe to say that most of us became gullible victims of a fake news story at least a few times.

But, when hundreds of people fall prey to false stories, that’s when fake news turns into real news. Let’s check out the fake news reports that actually convinced all of Seattle, the Northwest, and the rest of the United States.

Underwater Billboards for Future Submarine Voyagers

Ivar Haglund, a popular figure in the seafood industry, was turned into a city legend due to creative marketing tactics and PR stunts. Once, he attached a fish to a windsock to celebrate the purchase of Smith Tower. Also, Ivar once saw a railroad tank accident. The vehicle released over 1,000 gallons of corn syrup. He then quickly ran up and started to pour the syrup on some pancakes. Ivar, who was a folk singer, passed away in 1985, yet his restaurants are still in business.

However, in the fall of 2009, the Seattle Times ran an even weirder story. The report claimed that, during the 1950s, Haglund installed billboards in the waters of Elliott Bay. The story claimed that Ivar had done this so that in the future, submarine travelers would see the underwater billboards. The article even “confirmed” that one billboard was fished out of the water, like a hidden treasure. But, the story seemed absolutely insane, and even though it was convincing, something didn’t add up.

Later on, the hoax was busted. Paul Dorpat, Haglund’s biographer and columnist for The Times, told the truth.

Dorpat said that the story was false. He stated that the story had a promotional purpose. However, the false story proved to be a success since it quadrupled the sales of clam chowder at Ivar’s establishments. The restaurants sold over 83,000 cups during the month when the story went to print. While the hoax had fooled a lot of Americans, it proved that fake news could sometimes pay off big time. The interesting thing here is that the media is full of similar stories even today.

April Fool’s Goes Wrong

Do you remember ‘Almost Alive!’ the classic comedy show from KING-TV?

It was incredibly popular in the region. However, there was an April Fool’s episode which supposedly made a lot of Seattle residents panic like never before. It’s often compared to the impact of Orson Welles’ groundbreaking radio show, “War of the Worlds” which caused mass hysteria.

Namely, in 1989, the show’s creators ran an April Fool’s scene which included a mock report, claiming that Seattle’s Space Needle had collapsed. The show included an “April Fool’s Day” banner on the screen, but it was not enough. A lot of residents were convinced that the story was real, and hundreds of people called the police. There were over 700 calls that day. The authorities even sent a team of Eastern Washington doctors to assist the public.

Ultimately, the hoax convinced everyone since there were lots of rumors about the fragility of the Space Needle. The prank took advantage of that fear. KING-TV later explained that their prank was among the most famous ones in Seattle’s history. The story is a perfect example of the power of the media. The show’s host later apologized publicly and advised aspiring pranksters not to include the possibility of death in their mischief.

The Secret Grunge Dictionary

During the 1990s, the grunge movement put Seattle on the map in many ways. The grunge craze spawned an entire subculture which was often targeted by the media. The movement combined punk rock, hard rock, metal, and pop sensibilities, and it contained a unique aesthetic. Of course, the true grunge fans were not the biggest supporters of how the media was portraying them. And this final story is the perfect example. Back in 1992, the New York Times wanted to explain the concept of grunge to the masses. The reporters from the Style section wanted to explain what those rebellious “youths” were actually doing.

The reporters contacted Megan Jasper, a receptionist for the Sup Pop independent label. Jasper, a true grunge fan at heart, was already annoyed by the hype created by the media, so she decided to mess with the reporters a little.

She claimed to be “over-caffeinated,” and when they asked some details about the movement, she told them that there was a secret grunge lexicon. The reporters bought it and published the story. The story said that the movement uses a special type of coded language: Here are just some of Jasper’s BS terms that ended up in the New York Times

  • “Kickers” — heavy boots.
  • “Whack Slacks” — ripped jeans.
  • “Cob Nobbler” — loser.
  • “Swinging on the Flippity Flop” — hanging out.
  • “Lamestain” — someone who was uncool.
  • “Bound and Hagged” — not going out during the weekends and staying home.
  • “Harsh Realm” — bummer.
  • “Big Bag of Bloatation” — a bloated drunk person.
  • “Rock On” — Happy goodbyes.

The funniest thing here is that the media and the people who read the story actually believed it. After all, it was the hippest vocabulary of the day. But, after a few months, Jasper confessed that all the groovy phrases she had used as examples were untrue and that she had made them up. But, many “lamestain” parents and “cob nobbler” seniors, and “big bags of bloatation” actually believed it. Today, Megan Jasper is “swinging on the flippity flop” in her Sub Pop Records office as CEO. You just won’t find awesome fake news reports like these in this day and age! Rock on!

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