#2. Canada's National Post Claimed Iran Was Going to Color Code Their Jews
A lot of alarms went off in 2006 when prominent Canadian newspaper the National Post announced that the Iranian government had passed a law requiring Muslims to follow a national dress code and non-Muslims to wear special colors somewhere on their person that proudly displayed their non-Muslimness. Because, you know, that kind of thing's never gone wrong before, has it?
As soon as the story ran, major right wing figures jumped on it and rode it like a prize bull, because it gave them the chance to do two of their favorite things at the same time: talk themselves into a lather about Nazi Germany and swing their Iranian hate-boners like flags in the wind. Jewish rabbis wrote angry letters to the U.N. demanding that something be done, and Canada's prime minister verbally pissed on Iran for this outrage.
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After a long day, it's nice to relax with a big pile of international tension and Nazi war crimes.
But Actually ...
Amazingly, though, Iran wasn't planning a re-enactment of World War II era Poland, much less Holocaust 2.0. The law in question, it turned out, had to do with Ayatollah Khamenei proclaiming that fashion designers should make more Islam-friendly designer clothes, instead of assuming that all Iranians wanted to imitate the cleavage-first-ask-questions-later style of the West.
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We're gonna go ahead and agree to disagree with Iran on this one.
The color codes for other religions bit, on the other hand, was a complete fabrication. Iran called up the Canadian government to demand a correction, and the National Post issued a retraction of the story, apologizing for trusting one guy's word on the matter and not fact-checking his sources. As for the journalist himself, he handled the situation with as much tact and grace as you'd expect, stating: "As much as being accurate is important, in the end it's important to side with what's right. What's wrong is siding with the terrorists."
Which is a very flowery way to say "Fuck the truth; those guys are dicks anyway."
#1. New York Newspapers Fell for the Old "Conscription for Gold" Routine
It was 1864, and since the American Civil War looked like it might not wrap up over the weekend, news went out that President Abraham Lincoln would be conscripting 400,000 more soldiers for the Union Army, as well as asking everyone else to take a day for "fasting, humiliation, and prayer."
That's about as dismal a statement a wartime leader can make, short of shouting "The prophecy has come true!" and fleeing over the hills.
"There are some horsemen here to see you, Mr. President."
And since the tip had come from urgent dispatches sent by the Associated Press that arrived in the dead of night, you knew it was legitimate, important news.
But Actually ...
The big tip didn't come from a courier sent by the Associated Press; it was forged by two guys looking to make a quick buck. Joseph Howard Jr. and Francis Mallison knew that sudden bad news on the war front would cause gold prices to rise, because gold and ammo are the two things people most want to hoard when they think the world is ending (hence why golden ammo is such a recession-proof business).
"Fasting and prayer? Better deck myself out like a heavily armed Mr. T."
As newspapermen, Howard and Mallison also knew that papers sent their staff home at about 3:30 a.m. and there was a gap before the daytime staff arrived in the morning. When a big story hits the office during that gap, it's one lone sleepy dude's judgment that decides if it will run the next morning. On May 17, Howard made a big gold investment. On May 18, he and Mallison forged the fake conscription announcement and sent it via courier to a few New York City newspapers.
Two major papers fell for it, the price of gold went up 10 percent, and Howard sold his shares and patted himself on the back with his new golden gloves. Of course, the only difference between an idiot and a genius is how far ahead they look for consequences. The fake story made it all the way to the Capitol, and the Union Army came to shut down the newspapers that published the report. Both Mallison and Howard were arrested for the scheme, but released after a few months.
Hey, three hots and a cot ... oh, and a shit-ton of money when you get out.
Howard and Mallison got the last laugh, though. Two months later, Lincoln put out a call for more troops, exactly as they said he would. In a Shyamalan twist, Lincoln had been planning to issue a conscription call all along, but the hoax forced him to postpone those plans. Howard and Mallison were not released in light of the news, however, because fraud isn't like horseshoes, where you get credit for landing close to the pole.
We have some bad news: Paul Revere is only famous because his name fit the rhyme, Abraham Lincoln was a terrifying giant, and your favorite book sellers are now taking pre-orders for a textbook written and illustrated entirely by the Cracked team! Hitting shelves in October, Cracked's De-Textbook is a fully illustrated, systematic deconstruction of all of the bullshit you learned in school.
It's loaded with facts about history, your body, and the world around you that your teachers didn't want you to know. And as a bonus? We'll also explain how Ulysses Grant was kind of a wuss.
You know why journalism is screwed? Dinosaur sex. And NBC's insane war with GM sure isn't helping. Have you heard those crazy stories about Internet Explorer users having low IQs, or Santa being to blame for childhood obesity? More lies from Journalism's ugly step-cousin.