It used to be that you could pull a really good hoax on people and it would take a long time to be figured out (if it was figured out at all!) And then everyone would have a good story and maybe be a little embarrassed, but not for too long. You know, like those great old stories about people like Clifford Irving faking a Howard Hughes book and Alan Conway who passed himself off as Stanley Kubrick for a while. I guess people were less cynical back then, and weren't always terrified of getting duped. "Trusting," I guess is the word. Well, not anymore. Everything gets figured out so quickly! Is it the quality of the hoaxes, or the cynicism of the hoaxed? Well, probably both. Take a look at some recent examples:

There was that fake New York Times thing that declared the Iraq War over and the dawn of a new lefty utopia. I guess that jig was going to be up pretty darn soon (though, it wouldn't have been if the group had distributed in other cities, I don't think), but even so some crappy old blog had to go and ruin it. The reporting was there to be done, because the information was just too damned accessible.

And what about Martin Eisenstadt, that silly fake Republican guy who despite our warnings a couple of weeks ago, was treated as a real McCain adviser by MSNBC laughing stock David Shuster. So, OK, ha ha... But then the New York Times ran a whole expose like a coupla days later. It could have kept going! Why won't anyone allow fun anymore?

A couple other recent, easily-debunked snoozers have been that Disney Channel Cheetah Girl nude pic foofaraw that involved a laptop computer falsely reported stolen (or something) and the worst blogger/publicist/friend in the world, Jonathan Jaxson. I don't even know where to start not caring about that, other than to marvel at Jaxson's inanity. Plus why on earth did the Cheetah Girl and her publicist tacitly admit to semi-staging the whole thing?? They had gotten away with it (sort of)! A victimless crime! And then, I dunno, there was some lame thing about Jay McCarroll from Project Runway and a dress. Which is to say, there have actually been a lot of hoax-y things in the past couple weeks, and yet... they all suck. It's probably because, well, people are so quick now—because of ulceric cynicism and a crushing worry about seeming not in-the-know, and because of information becoming available with increasing ease—to dismiss something as fake right off the bat, or soon prove it false, or just come forward to take credit for it so they can get big 'n famous. (And some people are just dumb.) So how does one actually orchestrate a great scheme that will enthrall and mystify, dupe and hoodwink? Well, in some ways the more outrageous the better. The more fearless the better. And, if it's a long con, the more detailed the better. As much as the New York Times trick/protest statement was a nice and funny idea, it didn't really work for long enough because they didn't do it all the way. The paper stock was way off, there weren't enough pages, etc. You really have to work for these things to stick and hold national attention. You have to go whole hog. Or, you know, whole monster.