Truthiness and Stuff

This is a fake photo. You're welcome.
This is a fake photo. You’re welcome.
People are gullible. They see something on the internet and assume it’s true. This is called “stupid.” For example, many of you have been passing around the nice picture of Colombian torero Álvaro Múnera with the attenuate story of how he looked into the bull’s eyes and quit bullfighting. It’s a lovely story. It’s also complete bull. The sitting crying thing? That’s actually called “desplante” (defiance) and is used to taunt the bull. Also the guy named in the picture isn’t the guy in the picture. But, other than that everything’s dead on. Another fun one is the one that claims that Pope Francis claimed that “all religions are true.” He, allegedly, did this at the 3rd Synod. There is not now, nor has there ever been, a 3rd Synod. Nor does the Vatican have any plans for one. Another bit of fluffery making the rounds is contained in all the vitriol being heaped upon Coca-Cola. If you missed it they created and aired an ad called “America is Beautiful” that featured the song America the Beautiful sung in many languages. I found it haunting and wonderful. Some of the less enlightened were appalled, APPALLED I TELL YOU, that Coke had besmirched our national anthem. Where to begin? The National anthem is the Star Spangled Banner. America the Beautiful was written by Katharine Lee Bates, an out of the closet lesbian who loathed xenophobia. In other words, odds are she would have loved the commercial. There is no question she would have hated the haters.

And yet the stupid marches on.

Robin Warder, over at Cracked, tells the cautionary tales of 5 people who tried to create their own little diversions.

We as a people love nothing more than a nice, sensational crime story, even if it turns out to be a complete fabrication. A particularly juicy tale of illegal activity will be trending on Twitter before anyone remembers what the words “fact” and “check” mean when paired together.

It’s a shame, too, because sometimes these terrifying crimes turn out to be complete fabrications. And that’s when things get really weird …

#5. Man Courts Ex-Girlfriend With Staged Knife Attack and Fake Hate Mail

For years, Chris Cotter had an on-off relationship with Ashia Hansen, triple jumper extraordinaire and a clear gold medal favorite at the 2000 Summer Olympics.

A few months before the Olympics, the two had practically broken up, but still decided to have dinner at Hansen’s place. She was shocked when Cotter showed up at her doorstep bleeding and barely conscious, with a deep cut on his forehead and three stab wounds on his back. He had been attacked by a group of knife-wielding racists, who showed him in no uncertain terms what they thought of his interracial relationship with Hansen. Soon afterward, Hansen (and a number of other black athletes, and a Member of Parliament) started getting threatening letters, allegedly from the same racist hate group that attacked Cotter.

The situation sucked exactly as much ass as you’d imagine being stalked by a bunch of murderous racists would, but at least the attack helped rekindle Hansen’s relationship with Cotter. Surely they would conquer this obstacle together and live happily ever after.

Well, that was Cotter’s idea, anyway … right up until the police turned up and arrested his ass.

The Real Story:

Cotter had staged the entire thing to win Hansen back. Yes, knives in the back and everything. We’d like to think he did the whole thing for love, but since he was also heavily in debt at the time, we’re guessing a potential gold medalist girlfriend (and the chance to sell their sensational story to the media) probably seemed like a nice little bonus.

Here’s how it went down: Helped by two accomplices, Cotter first inflicted the injuries on himself — a project he took so seriously that he wound up losing well over two pints of blood. While he was in the hospital, his buddies mailed the racist letters to Hansen and the others in an attempt to give more credibility to Cotter’s white supremacist story. However, the goons’ Nazi letter writing skills proved inadequate and, after finding various inconsistencies in Cotter’s story, the police eventually arrested the whole trio.

Even if it had worked, Cotter’s little stab (sorry) at sociopathy ignored the fact that real people have feelings. Hansen was thoroughly devastated by the whole ordeal, and her performance suffered accordingly: She wound up finishing 11th at the Olympics, at least partly because of the ball of extreme stress her life had suddenly become.

#4. Family Fakes Son’s Murder to Get Back at Neighbors

Edward Mpagi had been living a perfectly normal, non-murderous life in Uganda when he and his cousin were suddenly arrested in 1981. They were charged with the robbery and murder of Mpagi’s neighbor, George Wandyaka, and sentenced to death. For Mpagi, this was a particularly crappy scenario for several reasons. In Uganda, condemned prisoners aren’t given any notice about the time of their execution. They just have to sit there and wait for the call. For years. The generally accepted term for this is “total bullshit.”

But that wasn’t the thing that pissed Mpagi off. What really got under his skin was that he thought he’d seen George Wandyaka standing in the courtroom during his trial.

The Real Story:

No, the supposedly murdered man wasn’t haunting Mpagi to avenge his death. George Wandyaka was in fact perfectly alive and didn’t give a damn who knew it.

Over the next few years, there would be numerous sightings of the “dead” man throughout Uganda. Evidence started piling up, Mpagi’s case was reopened, and by 1989, investigators confirmed that Wandyaka was totally alive. Still, authorities were reluctant to admit their colossal fuckup: Despite overwhelming evidence of Wandyaka’s continuing corporeal existence, Mpagi was not released from death row for another 11 goddamned years. When a presidential pardon finally set him free, he had been locked up for two full decades and lost his cousin — who, of course, was also innocent — to malaria.

The whole fake murder thing had been an elaborate scheme by Wandyaka’s parents, who held a massive grudge against Mpagi’s parents. For some reason, they decided that the best way to get revenge was to fake their own son’s death and frame Mpagi and his cousin for the crime. They bribed a pathologist to give a false statement of Wandyaka’s postmortem. This was all it took to get Mpagi and his cousin convicted.

Today, Mpagi spends most of his time as a hardcore activist against the death penalty, traveling the world and soiling his opponents’ pants with his patented 20-years-on-the-row glare. As for Wandyaka, he died in 2002, presumably for real this time. As far as we know, his family didn’t frame anyone.

#3. Preacher Skips Town and Accidentally Fakes His Death

The year was 1908. Reverend James Smith was the veteran preacher at a church in Virginia when a younger priest called Ernest Lyons was brought in to help him. Smith immediately became suspicious that Lyons was going to replace him, and the two men grew a hearty dislike for one another. One day, witnesses even overheard a heated argument where Lyons threatened to kill Smith.

After this, Smith mysteriously disappeared, and then an unidentified, badly decomposed body was found in a river near the church, killed by a blow to the head. Since the corpse’s clothes resembled Smith’s attire, it was pretty clear he was the victim. Lyons was promptly arrested and sentenced to 18 years in prison for second-degree murder.

Shortly after his conviction, Lyons revealed that there was more to the case than a simple rage-murder: He not only confessed to the crime, but named three other people as his accomplices, insinuating that Smith was murdered as part of a larger church conspiracy.

The Real Story:

Reverend Smith was alive and well all along, hanging out in North Carolina with the church funds he had stolen. Yeah — remember that argument where Lyons threatened Smith’s life? That fight was about many things, including the fate of $45 of the congregation’s money. After Lyons left, Smith decided to steal the money (a king’s ransom of $1,153, adjusted for inflation) and run, accidentally faking his death in the process when, by pure coincidence, a completely random body floated ashore and was mistaken for his corpse.

Smith’s absence was a complete mystery to Lyons, especially as murder accusations suddenly started flying his way. That whole thing about a church conspiracy stemmed from this bewilderment: The three people Lyons specifically named as a part of his conspiracy clique had coincidentally just testified against him in court. They were arrested just because he said they were guilty and released the second it became apparent that Lyons was lying his ass off and basically just framing people out of bitterness. See, that’s what most movies get wrong — the fact that you’re wrongfully convicted doesn’t automatically mean you’re not a total dick.

Speaking of total dicks, James Smith always knew that an innocent man was serving time in prison for his “murder.” He had read the papers and knew Lyons was charged with the crime, but never bothered to do anything because he was worried about the consequences of revealing that he was alive. Smith would probably have let Lyons rot in jail for the entirety of his sentence if a circuit court clerk had not discovered he was still very much around. Three years after Lyons’ conviction, the man he had supposedly murdered finally returned to Virginia to prove that he was not dead and the body in the river (which was never identified) belonged to someone else. Reverend Lyons was immediately pardoned and released from prison, presumably after agreeing to give Smith a 30-minute head start.

#2. Two Police Officers Fistfight, Fabricate Assault to Explain Injuries

In the early morning hours of March 1, 1993, Yonkers, New York, police officer Thomas Drogan was taken to a medical center because his face was a mass of bruises and cuts. He had been brutally attacked and beaten up by a huge, unidentified black male.

Since a cop had been assaulted and Drogan’s story of the incident was backed up by other officers, a police alert was immediately issued and the area was thoroughly searched. At least one person was detained and questioned, but no arrests were ever made. It looked like the Case of the Giant Cop Puncher would forever remain a mystery.

The Real Story:

Drogan’s injuries had been sustained in a fistfight … with another cop.

Drogan had gotten into a scuffle with one of his fellow officers, Louis Papaleo, who had responded to the same alert about a burning car. The two men could not agree on whose duty it was to file the paperwork after the incident, so they decided to solve the situation like the valiant officers of the law they were: by beating the ever-loving snot out of each other. Although they were initially restrained by the other officers at the scene, their animosity remained, and the fisticuffs continued on to their precinct. Yes, we’re saying they kept punching each other in the face right there in the police station.

Papaleo eventually claimed victory by bloodying Drogan’s face. At that point, both men realized they had just made the stupidest move of their lives. Actually, the second stupidest — the most stupid move came a couple of minutes later, when they decided to explain Drogan’s injuries by blaming it all on a nonexistent black dude and getting their co-workers to verify that story. You know, because fabricating a report about a fictitious assault and making sure every single eyewitness keeps their story straight until the end of time is much easier than, say, saying you fell on the stairs and just filling out the paperwork on that damn burning car.

In the end, one of the witnessing cops had enough of Drogan and Papaleo’s shit and revealed their shenanigans to their superiors. The two fighters and the officers they had gotten to sign official reports of the “attack” were promptly caught and punished. Papaleo received a 60-day suspension, and Drogan was fired from the force.

#1. Actor Fights Fascism by Terrorizing a Country With Nazi Hate Crimes

Dutch actor Jules Croiset is a prominent thespian, with a career spanning over 50 years. In his spare time, he enjoys throwing his considerable weight around in various anti-fascist movements, which may have something to do with his mother abandoning his Jewish father to marry a Nazi collaborator when he was 2. Shit like that leaves scars, man.

A rare time when calling your step-parent “a total fascist” is completely accurate.

In 1987, a German play called Garbage, the City, and Death was scheduled to open in Rotterdam. The controversial piece featured prostitutes, pimps, and a powerful character named “the Rich Jew,” which caused Croiset’s activist instincts to flare right the hell up. He single-handedly managed to build up such a strong backlash against the production that it had to be cancelled. However, that wasn’t the end of the story.

A little later, Croiset was visiting Belgium when he was kidnapped by three young neo-fascists in retaliation for getting the play cancelled. The theater-loving trio of teen Nazis dragged the actor into a sewer, where they ripped his Star of David pendant from his neck and smeared a swastika on his chest (he didn’t specify what they smeared him with, and frankly we’re fine with this). Croiset was held captive and abused for hours before he managed to escape.

“I found a pair of nunchucks next to a pile of old pizza boxes and fought my way to freedom.”

This happened during a time when the Netherlands was going through an oddly heavy bout of fascist activity. Apart from the incident with the play, several prominent Jewish citizens had gotten threatening letters. There was even a bomb threat against one predominantly Jewish event. Croiset’s kidnapping was the last straw — his ordeal made headlines. Demonstrations were staged, political speeches were given, everyone was angry. But not as angry as they would soon be … at Croiset.

The Real Story:

That wave of neo-Nazi activity that had been plaguing the country? It had a name, and that name was Jules Croiset.

Things started unraveling when it turned out Croiset’s kidnapping story was complete horseshit. He made up the whole incident and gave such a convincing performance describing it that everyone — from cops to media to politicians to the adoring public — believed him.

One month after the alleged kidnapping, the police started noticing inconsistencies in the story, so they decided to question Croiset more thoroughly. That’s when the actor finally broke down and confessed that the entire incident was a hoax. Once his facade cracked, it soon became apparent that a lot of his activism had been tainted with the same “anything goes” attitude. Remember that Nazi bomb threat we mentioned earlier? In an attempt to prove that a certain play called Garbage, the City, and Death was in no way anti-Semitic despite what some people say, its producers had arranged a private performance for the Jewish community. Said performance was abruptly cancelled due to an anonymous bomb threat call. Guess which famous actor was behind that shit?

Croiset also confessed to writing a bunch of threatening letters using a fake group called the Dutch Fascist Youth Front as an alias and sending them to prominent members of the Jewish community, including himself. One of the letters went to his wife and threatened the lives of their two children. Smooth, Jules, real smooth.

In the end, Jules Croiset managed to get away with little more than a slap on the wrist (he is still acting today), since his entire message was “Nazis are bad,” and apparently that excuses any behavior, no matter how batshit (including, again, threatening the lives of his own wife and children). We’re betting he still sleeps on the couch, though.

Just as with the whimsical examples I cited to start this blog each and every one these could have been avoided had anyone even tried looking for the truth.

That little bon mot holds true more than I care to think.

So, before you condemn or laud someone based on a single piece of evidence, do us all a favor and look into it.

I’ll even give you a helpful tip; if you go to four different web sites and they have the same story verbatim, or very close, then you are reading propaganda not news. You can keep that shit to yourself.

And if anyone tells you not to vaccinate your child, ask them – in a very firm tone – to move far away from you. You don’t want to get infected with that level of stupid.

Ukulele Sweetheart behind the scenes_uncensored NSFW version from Porphyria Suicide on Vimeo.

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