The 5 Ballsiest Lies Ever Passed off as Journalism
We're going to blow your minds twice right now, so get ready. First off, there are magazines and news sources other than Cracked.com out there. Second, and slightly more surprising, is the fact that a lot of these news sources, (unlike Cracked), don't hold themselves to a high ethical standard at all, by which we mean, they regularly make shit up. We know. Crazy. So, while you're recovering from the one-two realization that unethical, non-Cracked affiliated news sources exist, allow us to run down some of the most morally questionable examples.
Ben Franklin Really Fucking Hated the British (and Titan Leeds)
Of all the great things Ben Franklin was known for--lightning rods, bifocals, love of French prostitutes--journalistic integrity isn't on the list. But what he did have was a gigantic set he loved to show off. For one thing, Franklin wrote and distributed a supplement to the Boston Independent Chronicle reporting that American Indians were sending the British Royal Court hundreds of American scalps, the implication being that the British troops were using ruthless, child hating Indian-mercenaries to help them win the Revolutionary War.
The news outraged Americans, horrified British citizens and, when word reached the British Royal Court, deeply confused the monarchy, as they had yet to receive any scalps. Franklin wrote the supplement to garner support from European nations for the U.S., and it totally worked. The kicker? The last American Revolution battle ended in October of the previous year, which made the supplement unnecessary and balltuitous. (Balls + gratuitous. Look it up.)
Still, that's not quite as bizarre and dickish as what Franklin did to Titan Leeds. Publishing under his Richard Saunders pseudonym in his famous Poor Richard's Almanac, in between weather predictions and crop suggestions, Franklin predicted the death of Leeds, a rival almanac owner. When the predicted day arrived and Leeds, predictably, was still alive, Franklin decided to report and confirm the death anyway.
Leeds desperately published his counter-argument ("No I'm not.") but Franklin, an accomplished black belt in the subtle art of being a dick (or, "dickjitsu") pushed his lie even further and reported that, not only did Leeds die, but he was replaced by an impostor who was shamelessly hijacking the Leeds name to continue publishing almanacs. When Leeds eventually did die (five years after Franklin had predicted it), you'd think Franklin would come clean, but that's because you are, at best, a dickjitsu yellow belt.
Above: A dickjitsu master
Instead, in an act of unequaled dickishness, Franklin came out and congratulated the Leeds impostor for finally owning up to their lie and ending the whole charade (by dying). To reiterate, a guy's death is wrongfully reported, that guy tries to correct the mistake, Franklin calls him a shameless fraud and, at his death, congratulates him for dying. Textbook dickjitsu.
NBC Has a Grudge Against GM
In 1992, Dateline NBC aired an investigative report about the dangers of GM's pick-up trucks. Dateline showed unsettling videos of trucks exploding on impact in low speed collisions, presumably due to either faulty fuel tanks or wizards.
GM, of course rebutted the findings of Dateline, made a request to inspect the vehicles used in the footage and study the videos NBC released. Harry Pearce, GM's executive vice president at the time, gave an exhaustive press conference regarding Dateline's coverage, a press conference that involved what those in the legal field call "a shitload of evidence." One piece of evidence was a letter from NBC claiming that the vehicles used in the video were "junked" and, as a result, their inspection would be impossible.
Another piece of evidence was the fucking cars themselves, and they were astonishingly not junked. Before the folks at Dateline could get their act together and respond, "Oh, you wanted the cars we used in the footage, oh, OK, we thought you said cards, and we were like, 'huh?' Ah, but no, the cars are fine...," Pearce was ready to move onto Act 2 of Ruining NBC's Shit: The Musical.
Pearce also discovered that the explosion in the video wasn't caused by a faulty fuel tank, but was actually caused by remote detonation of explosives the producers rigged to the trucks prior to filming, and a person was standing off camera pushing a button a split second before the filmed impact. A lot of sneaky journalism scandals can be attributed to one scummy guy with delusions of blowjobs from big-boobed reporter groupies, but not this time.
Five different people were responsible for the idea. Three got fired, one resigned and one got the priest treatment--she was transferred to another station. We at Cracked like to think the best about people, so the only explanation is that they were drunk. For weeks. And a crazy ex-GM employee with an axe to grind was holding their daughters hostage.
It was a matter of weeks before GM initiated a lawsuit, pulled their ads and put out a two hour press release skullfucking Dateline into oblivion, all while cackling, "Who's exploding now, motherfucker?!" Jane Pauley read an apology on air, Dateline learned their lesson and moved on to more dignified reporting, and this also marked the last time GM ran into any trouble whatsoever, at all.
Mark Twain Had a Grisly Sense of Humor
In 1863, San Francisco newspapers reported endlessly on the cooked books and financial trickery of mining outfits, and the San Francisco news outlet Territorial Enterprise advised investors to instead put their capital consisting of plague-ridden blankets and Buffalo nickels into San Francisco utility companies. Not out of financial responsibility, or anything; the utility companies were paying several papers bribes for reporting the tips. Still, most people didn't realize what was going on, they just read story after story to the tune of "Oh my God, investing in utilities is so good, you guys."
Except one story.
One story told of a man named Philip Hopkins who invested his life savings in Spring Valley Water Company of San Francisco on the advice of local papers but unfortunately lost it all. And as what many of us have done after the news of financial hardship, Hopkins slaughtered his family, slit his throat from ear to ear and rode off onto the sunset carrying his wife's bloody scalp. Hopkins allegedly died from his injuries at the door of a saloon, and an old fashioned posse investigated the Hopkins household, finding only two daughters alive. The papers published this horrifying tale and the public put a little less faith in the "Put All Of Your Money In Utilities" financial strategy that they'd heard so much about.
The gruesomeness of that story is matched only by its total bullshittitude. Never missing an opportunity to embarrass other people while twirling his awesome mustache, Mark Twain made the entire thing up, deliberately writing a story that was so ridiculous and sensational that any paper would have to publish it. Shortly after the news brouhaha that followed, Twain confessed to his publisher, who was actually pleased by the increased paper circulation and didn't fire Twain. That just goes to show you: If you completely fabricate a gruesome story for the sake of destroying someone else, nothing bad can possibly happen to you.
Stephen Glass's Favorite Movie was Apparently Jerry Maguire
Before May 18, 1998, Stephen Glass was a 24-year-old reporter for The New Republic. His articles were funny and informative, and always pretty sensational. And, sure, there were plenty of subjects that screamed "Fraud!" after Glass had written about them, but no one likes the way they get represented in the paper. Especially when you lie about them, which Glass did, unabashedly. Despite all the complaints, what really brought Glass's downfall was a short article titled "Hack Heaven," which described both a hackers' convention and a business meeting between a teenage hacker and a "large California software firm" Jukt Micronics:
Another Hack Heaven.
Ian Restil, a 15-year-old computer hacker who looks like an even more adolescent version of Bill Gates, is throwing a tantrum. "I want more money. I want a Miata. I want a trip to Disney World. I want X-Men comic #1. I want a lifetime subscription to Playboy--and throw in Penthouse. Show me the money! Show me the money!" Across the table, executives from a California software firm called Jukt Micronics are listening and trying ever so delicately to oblige. "Excuse me, sir," one of the suits says tentatively to the pimply teenager. "Excuse me. Pardon me for interrupting you, sir. We can arrange more money for you..."
According to the story, Jukt Micronics was so eager to hire and please Restil because Restil hacked into their database, posted the salaries of every employee in the company on the company's homepage and garnished the entire hack with several pictures of naked ladies (also displayed prominently on the company's homepage). This was all, of course, total bullshit and, even though the story went through several fact checkers, no one noticed just exactly how bullshitty it was (so bullshitty, you guys). To be fair to The New Republic this was 1998, a time when many people actually did believe back-end mouth breathers were capable of taking down large corporations with just a few key strokes, presumably while listening to techno and posting pictures of boobs on the front page of the CIA website.
We guess the technology of '98 was so new and scary to the staff of The New Republic that they couldn't be bothered to club "Jukt Micronics" into a search engine. The article did, however catch the attention of Forbes Digital, and when word got around to Glass that those nerds at Forbes smelled a rat, he whipped up fake business cards, phony voicemail accounts in California, a dummy AOL members website for the software company and actually got his brother to pose as the voice of the CEO of Jukt Micronics. And he would've gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for those meddling Forbes fact-checkers, and also logic. Glass was fired within a day, and went on to write an unsuccessful novel based on his experiences.
Pulitzer and Hearst's Pissing Contest Started a Goddamn War
Stephen Glass and Dateline are opportunists. Ben Franklin's a Grand Imperial Dick Wizard and Mark Twain just likes screwing with people. But Joseph Pulitzer and William Randolph Hearst, ladies and gentlemen, are the fathers of yellow journalism.
Hearst and Pulitzer: total fuckbaskets.
In the late 1800s, Joseph Pulitzer (owner of The New York World) and William Randolph Hearst (owner of The New York Journal) were engaged in a vicious battle over who had the larger circulation. In an ethically questionable display of one-upmanship, the two media giants dick slapped moral reporting several times a day to out-circulate the other, each paper coming out with a story more sensational than the other paper published the day before.
When a rebellion in Cuba against the Spanish started brewing, Hearst and Pulitzer saw a golden opportunity; they'd report on the situation in Cuba to sell papers, and if the situation wasn't interesting, they'd make shit up because journalism is easy when you don't have a soul. Hearst and Pulitzer would take sensationalized, unverified stories of made-up atrocities, make those stories even more sensationalized and then feed the twice-baked-sensationalizations to the American people as the truth. And the people, thanks to the papers, believed that America had an ethical obligation to step in and save those Cubans.
Every John Q. Public with a paper assumed that the Spanish warlords were raping and murdering the poor, defenseless Cubans and leaving them in rotting piles on the side of the road, because that's the kind of story you write when you own a newspaper and are bored. When a Journal news photographer attempted to leave Cuba, reporting to Hearst that the situation wasn't as bad as Hearst had reported, Hearst sent a cable boasting, "Please remain. You furnish the pictures, I'll furnish the war." Then the USS Maine, an American warship, blew the fuck up under questionable circumstances.
Post-explosion, President McKinley demanded an immediate investigation, but Hearst and Pulitzer demanded even more immediate "THE SPANISH DID IT" headlines. Their reporting was so immediate, in fact, that word had reached the American people about Spain's involvement in the sinking before the investigation even started. To this day, we don't know why exactly the Maine exploded, we just know why it didn't: the Spanish. But that didn't get in the way of headlines! What a scoop!
The catchy rallying cry that resulted--"Remember the Maine! To hell with Spain!"--was just the propaganda tool a young and soon to be outstandingly mustachioed Teddy Roosevelt was looking for to satisfy his itch for a new war. Proving that no mere mortal can withstand Teddy Roosevelt, the war was over in a matter of weeks and Pulitzer and Hearst basked in the afterglow, all while continuing their reporting charades which included failing to mention that the iconic battle in the Spanish American War was actually thanks to an African American cavalry. Shine on you crazy diamonds!
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